Winster Cavers - an adventurous perspective on our natural world.
Follow us on Facebook to keep up with our latest adventures Like our website?
'Like' us on Facebook...



Have you found this site useful? If so, why not make a small contribution to our running costs. Just click on the button below for more details:


Indonesia – a volcano and cave adventure on Java

Travelling in Indonesia - money & currency.

Read the numerous travel guides, look up your hotel prices, budget for your guides and entrance tickets, talk with the locals about the price of fish, and you get the impression that the $US Dollar is like a second currency in Indonesia. Wrong, wrong, wrong! Very few places, especially in Eastern Java, accept $USD, although there are a few situations where a few $USD are required - more on that in just a moment.

Indonesia uses the Rupiah (Rp). At the time of writing (2011), £1 Sterling would buy you between Rp13,000 and Rp14,000. Note, though, that you may have difficulty purchasing Rhupia before your travels, and that there are strict customs regulations about how much cash you are allowed to bring into the country - check before you travel. To put this into context, depending on where you go, a good feed in a restaurant might set you back Rp30,000 - just the wrong side of £2.00 A roadside snack may cost just Rp2000. Worthy of note also, is that when talking money, the locals tend to drop the last three 0's.

In Eastern Java, the Rupiah is the only currency accepted, with one notable exception - the airport. At the time of writing, visitors from the UK could buy a Visa on Arrival (for up to 30 days) at a cost of $25USD (or $10USD if you're staying in the country for 7 days or less), for which your Dollars are willingly accepted. $USD are also accepted at some of the main tourist attractions, such as Borobodur Temple, and as one moves towards Western Java and into Bali, some hotels etc. will accept $USD.

Changing money in Indonesia - a personal experience.

So having armed ourselves with a fistful of Dollars, we found ourselves seriously lacking in Rupiah, and decided to change some $USD to Rp. There are two places you can change money: at a "money changer", a private shop licensed to handle such transactions, or at a main branch of a bank (the small sub-branches you see everywhere are not authorised to change money). Changing money at the "money changer" is easier than at a bank, but you may not get as good an exchange rate. Another oddity is that used notes, especially ones that have been marked/written on are far harder to exchange than new ones, and many places will either not accept them, or will give you a lower exchange rate.

The obvious choice is to use a bank then?

Based on a true story (and only possible with the noble assistance of our guide, Agus) this is how changing $130USD at a bank works:

  1. Enter premises to be politely greeted by the security guard.
  2. Obtain a numbered ticket to see customer services (like you get for the deli counter at a supermarket) and wait for your number to be called up.
  3. Explain you want to change $130USD into Rupiah
  4. Wait for the lady at the counter to get exchange rate and fill in a form.
  5. Go to car and fetch passport, which has to be photocopied and presented with the form.
  6. Hand over dollars
  7. Wait for the lady at customer services to validate the serial numbers of each of your bank notes.
  8. Get told that, because your dollars are 'D' series serial numbers, they are not worth as much. Yes, really!!
  9. Wait for lady at customer services to get new exchange rate and fill out new form.
  10. Grumble a bit, and then realise the difference was ~50p so, begrudgingly accept.
  11. Lady at customer services takes form & dollars to main cashier desk, and gives you another ticket with a number on it... wait your turn.
  12. Go to main cashier desk, to be told the form is missing an official stamp and that you have to go back to customer services.
  13. Point out to cashier that the whole fiasco has taken over half an hour so far, and ask for the dollars back.
  14. When customer services lady comes to main cashier, argue with them (very politely, of course) - she then says she will get the official stamp, it will only take a few minutes.
  15. Insist on getting dollars back as a matter of principle.
  16. Go to cashpoint outside, insert credit card and just withdraw a bunch of Rupiah directly, which takes ~30 seconds.

To summarise then:

  • You will need some $USD - at least sufficient to pay for your Visa on Arrival (VOA)
  • Taking a debit/credit card that you can use abroad for cash withdrawals from an ATM is ideal - there are cards available that do not charge you for foreign withdrawals. Changing currency in a bank is, frankly, more trouble than it's worth!