The first time I went to Bali, credit cards had not yet hit the Island of the Gods…except at the one or two first class hotels there at the time. Times have changed. Today, if you stay in the tourist areas there are cash machines galore for you to use to extract local currency. This is probably the most convenient way to change money. Do notify your bank that you will be in Indonesia before you go, or you may find the card doesn’t work…Indonesia has an unfortunate reputation for credit card fraud. Never fear…even if you forget, you can still call the bank from Bali to tell them that it is truly you seeking to empty your account!
There are some shops and restaurants- generally the more expensive ones and those in the larger shopping centers – that will also be happy to take your cards. But using a card can put a bit of a crimp in your bargaining efforts. You will need cash for taxis and many of the small shops, markets and restaurants that you are sure to visit. Although tipping is not “expected” it is nice to reward good service.
You can also bring major currencies. US dollars remain popular and are accepted in most shops for larger purchases. If you do bring cash, change money at a bank. While the bank rate might not be quite as good as that advertised by the money changer, you avoid the risk of being ripped off big time. I am sure that there are some honest money changers here, but unfortunately many do not fit into that category. There is a good one a few doors down from the Jenjala main shop in Jimbaran- I will get more details and post the correct name and address. A dishonest money changer might take advantage of your unfamiliarity with the bills and hand you a huge pile of small bills that tend to confuse the neophyte.
As a tourist, you will probably find that the similarly colored bills and the huge long numbers will boggle your mind. At this writing, my rule is: Hold the bill and physically place your thumb over the last 4 zeros. The number left will tell you approximately how much the bill is worth in US dollars. This works for figuring out prices when you are shopping as well!
If you shop in more “local” shops you will find your money goes a long way. Bring a large pouch to contain all your rupiah and rearrange them throughout the day….a wad of cash takes on a new meaning here! The smallest paper denomination (IDR 1000) is worth about 10 cents US, so I don’t think I need to talk about the coins… Take a few minutes to familiarize yourself with your money, organize it and have fun!