Currency and Exchange
The rupiah is the basic unit of money, normally abbreviated to Rp followed by the value. Denominations of Rp 50 and 100 are in the form of coins, Rp 100, 500 and 1,000 are in either coins or bills, and Rp 5,000, 10,000, 20,000 and 50,000 are only available in bills. Values below Rp 50 are rarely seen except as change and are often substituted by sellers with sweets in lieu of change. In Bali, carry a handful of coins or Rp 100 notes and do not exchange large sums of money even if you plan to be there for a long time. Take note though, due to the volatility of the rupiah, most mid-range hotels, all top-end hotels and restaurants, and some tourist attractions, car rental agencies and tour companies list their prices in US dollar. The rupiah is still acceptable but the exchange rate is usually more advantageous to the vendor than the tourist. The postal service in Bali has a type of postal traveller's check called cek pos. You can exchange your cash for these checks at a main post office and use them throughout Indonesia as traveller's checks or cash them at any post office. However, these traveller's checks cannot be accepted by individuals.
Foreign currency, whether in banknotes or traveller's checks, should be exchanged at major banks or authorised moneychangers. Exchange rates offered by the moneychangers are generally better than the banks, they stay open longer and transactions are quicker. Look around for variable exchange rates advertised on boards along the footpaths or windows outside shops. Always ask about any commission imposed before the exchange as many moneychangers with better rates often charge a small commission.
Most major banks have branches in the main tourist centers and provincial capitals. But it would be difficult to find banks in smaller towns, and even if there were banks, the exchange rates may be woeful. Banking hours are generally from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday to Friday and until 11 a.m. on Saturdays.
Many shops, large and small, accept plastic cards with a 3-5 percent added to the bill. Cash advances can be obtained in all major tourist resorts - Denpasar, Kuta, Sanur and Ubud. Automatic Teller Machines are mushrooming all over the place, especially at shopping centers and bank branches. Most of them are connected to international banking networks, thus making it possible to look for machines that are affiliated with your own ATM network. Visa, Mastercard, and American Express are accepted by most of the bigger businesses. The amount signed for is in rupiah and the bill is then converted to your domestic currency.
To ensure security and convenience, bring most of your money in traveller's checks, despite getting better exchange rates for cash. Backing this up with a credit card for major purchases is a good idea. US dollars are the most negotiable currency, particularly in remote areas. It would be a practical way to change as much as you can and feel safe carrying before heading into more remote regions.
Weapons, narcotics, pornography, and radio-cassette players are prohibited in Bali. Yes, it is strange that cassette players are not allowed into the island but this law is rarely enforced. Anything with Chinese characters written on it is forbidden. The same rule applies to fresh fruits, plants, animals, exposed films, and videos. Pets are strictly banned to prevent the spread of rabies. But if you insist on taking your furry friends along, an official letter is needed from your veterinarian stating that your pet is disease-free but this would not guarantee a quarantine. Feel free to contact your local Indonesian consulate/embassy for details.
You are only able to bring a maximum of one liter of alcohol, 200 cigarettes, 50 cigars or 100 grams of tobacco, and a reasonable amount of perfume into Bali. Photographic equipment, typewriters and radios are admitted, provided that they are taken out on departure. All these must be declared via a customs declaration form that must be completed before arrival. Another subject is the import and export of currencies, one is not able to import or export the Indonesian currency exceeding Rp 5 million. In addition, export of national treasures are frowned upon - tortoise shell, crocodile skins, and ivory are not to be taken out of Indonesia.
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