For visitors to Bali who don’t want the extra hassle of applying for travel money cards, cash passports or traveller’s cheques, bringing cash in your own currency and converting it to local funds once you arrive is a very popular option. This alleviates the stress of trying to figure out how much money to convert before you leave home, saving you from the confusion of getting your head around the Indonesian Rupiah (IDR) and avoiding any inflated international exchange rates. You will get a much better exchange rate when exchanging your money in Bali rather than in your home country – but there are precautions to take.
Exchanging cash at Denpasar airport
After you’ve gone through customs at Denpasar airport and collected your baggage, you will enter the arrivals hall which houses about six or so cash exchange facilities. All these money changers are authorised and legitimate, providing a safe place to exchange your local cash into rupiah. The exchange rates offered by all of them will be very similar, so don’t spend too much time deliberating over which vendor to use. The rates are slightly higher in the airport, so it’s generally recommended you just change enough cash to pay for your taxi and meals for the first day, and then wait to change more money once you find a local vendor with better rates.
Best money changers in Bali
If you decide to exchange cash outside of the airport, it’s vital you do your research to make sure the money changer is authorised and not on a mission to rip you off. Money changers are everywhere – outside of your hotel, out the front of restaurants and down any busy tourist strip – and once you know how to identify the legit ones, changing money is a breeze.
Look for authorised money changers with an official looking façade, associations with official banks or ones that are manned by security guards. Dirgahayu Valuta Prima (AKA Best Bali Rate – look for the official green signs) has locations in Kuta, Sanur and Ubud and is a solid choice, as is BMC Money Changer with multiple locations across Bali. Most hotels also offer a cash exchange service which is a good choice for those who want to eliminate the stress of getting ripped off, but be mindful the rates charged by hotels are usually higher.
How not to get scammed when exchanging money
If you’re bringing cash to exchange once you arrive in Bali, you need to be smart about which money changers you use, as Bali has a bad reputation for money scams. There are plenty of dodgy money changers looking to scam unsuspecting travellers out of a few dollars, using methods like rigged calculators or taking advantage of the confusingly large sums of IDR (with notes starting at 1,000 and increasing to 100,000) and intentionally short-changing customers. The 10,000 and 100,000 IDR notes can look very familiar, and scammers will use this confusion to their advantage.
To protect yourself when changing money in Bali, always stick with authorised money changers and stay away from any vendors located down an alley, laneway or operating within the back of another business. Avoid money changers with an advertised exchange rate that’s considerably better than others, as they may be using this to lure you in and then scam you. Always check their calculations (use your own calculator if necessary) and count the IDR in full before handing over your own local money. Don’t let anyone distract you while the transaction is taking place, and remember if you feel uncomfortable or suspicious at any time, you are always free to take your money and leave.
Using ATMs in Bali
If you want to avoid money changers all together, or you underestimated how much money you would spent and need to dip into your bank account, ATMs are plentiful around the south of Bali and can be found in all major tourist towns like Kuta, Seminyak, Legian, Canggu, Ubud and Sanur, as well as the Denpasar airport. If you’re heading north or to the more remote areas, be prepared with cash as ATMs are not commonly found outside of the major tourist destinations.
Withdrawal limits apply to all ATM transactions and international transaction fees can be quite hefty, so this is not a great option if you intend to be making multiple withdrawals. If you do use an ATM to access cash in Bali, take the usual precautions like covering the key pad when you enter your pin number, and remember to remove your bank card after your cash has been dispensed.
Keeping your cash safe in Bali
Travelling with a large amount of cash can be risky, leaving you vulnerable to the chance of losing your money or having it stolen. If you do decide to exchange cash once you arrive in Bali, make sure you are staying in a secure hotel with a safe in your room (be aware that most hotels will claim no responsibility for theft). Loss of cash is not covered by travel insurance policies, so never take out more cash than you can afford to lose at any one time. Be sensible and have a backup option to fund your holiday in the unlikely event you lose your cash, with access to a credit card or travel money card for emergencies.