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One of the most common questions I get is about taking cash or credit cards to Bali on holiday. Many people are concerned that using a card at an ATM is dangerous because of the possibility of it being skimmed or swallowed, quickly ruining an otherwise great holiday. Bringing cash can also have its pitfalls unless you know how to navigate the wide range of options for changing money in Bali. Use this guide to manage your money during your holiday.
What currency is used in Bali?
The Indonesian Rupiah is the only currency accepted at all Balinese businesses. The larger hotels and tour operators may accept foreign currency but at an expensive premium. Indonesian Rupiah comes in 2.000, 5.000, 10.000, 20.000, 50.000 and 100.000 Rupiah banknotes.
IDR100.000 is equivalent to around AUD$10. So remember, carrying around $300 in cash means around IDR3.000.000 Rupiah, which is quite a thick wad of banknotes.
You will need local rupiah for a wide range of occasions where credit cards aren’t accepted, like paying for parking with a 2.000 rupiah note (which is around AUD$0.20) or buying street food like the famous babi guling (Balinese roasted pork) for Rp30.000 (around AUD$3).
You are also best off taking cash to the markets for buying some of those genuine fake t-shirts, bags, hats and shoes along with the obligatory souvenirs for the family and friends back home.
And taxis only accept cash. Don’t forget to read my guide on how to catch a taxi in Bali and how much to pay.
Is it better to take cash or credit cards to Bali?
Short answer, both. You can use credit cards in Bali at most hotels, restaurants and tour operators. However, getting around and experiencing Bali will mean you need local currency (Rupiah) as most smaller local businesses and markets don’t have EFT-POS machines.
Definitely bring cash with you. It’s best to bring large-denomination banknotes for exchanging into Indonesian Rupiah at one of the many money changers found all over Bali, but mainly in the tourist destinations of Kuta, Legian, Seminyak, Canggu, Ubud, Sanur and Nusa Dua.
Most major currencies are readily exchanged at money changers, including but not limited to AUD, CAD, EUR, GBP, HKD, MYR, NZD, SFR, SGD, THB, USD and YEN.
Can I exchange cash at hotels?
Yes, you can at most hotels, but the premium for changing money at a hotel is usually very steep. Changing currency is a profitable revenue stream for hotels and bargaining for a better exchange rate is usually out of the question.
They often charge a transaction fee or commission on top of the uncompetitive exchange rate, so changing cash, particularly small amounts, is prohibitively expensive.
I highly recommend exchanging your cash for local currency at a reputable money changer.
Are money-changers safe to use in Bali?
Yes. Using money changers in Bali will get you the best exchange rate and value for money than any other method. The problem is that there are still many unscrupulous money changers looking to take advantage of unsuspecting tourists.
There are several reputable and trustworthy money changers in Bali and I highly recommend you read my article on how to exchange cash using local money changers.
There are many people who, unfortunately, do get ripped off because they use dodgy money changers in the many side streets and alleyways of Bali, particularly in Kuta, Legian and Seminyak.
If you follow my guide the risk of being ripped off is virtually nil.
Where is the best exchange rate in Bali?
Without doubt, the most efficient and recommended method for exchanging your money for local Indonesian Rupiah is using the money changers. You can find money changers pretty much everywhere in Bali, although I recommend only using those who are on the trusted list of Bali Money Changers. In that article, I also cover which money changers to use and how to avoid the bad ones.
Exchanging cash for Indonesian Rupiah at a money changer will get you a better exchange rate than using a bank, withdrawing from an ATM, changing at a hotel or using the exchange booths at your departure airport.
Are ATMs safe to use in Bali?
Generally, yes. There are ATMs all over Bali, although there is a continuing problem with skimming machines being used by criminals to capture your card details and either on-sell them or use the cards for purchases.
Knowing how to spot an unsafe ATM is easy enough, and I have written an extensive guide for withdrawing cash at ATMs in Bali. Using this guide your chances having your credit card skimmed while using an ATM is virtually nil.
What credit cards are accepted in Bali?
For businesses that do accept credit cards for transactions, Visa and Mastercard are universally accepted.
Expect to pay a 3% surcharge for using a credit card at businesses in Bali, as the practice of passing on the transaction fee charged by the banks for processing credit card transactions is very common.
There is a growing trend to not charge a credit card fee for purchases, but these are still the exception and not the rule. The very popular Bintang Supermarket in Seminyak recently ceased charging a 3% fee for using a card.
The practice of adding a credit card transaction fee is not regulated in Indonesia (and therefore Bali), so it is unpredictable which businesses will charge extra for using a credit card.
Can Debit Cards be used in Bali?
As a rule of thumb, Visa and Mastercard Debit cards are processed exactly the same as Credit Cards. However plain debit cards not linked to one of Visa or Mastercard are not accepted.
It’s the same for using ATMs — accounts linked to a Visa or Mastercard can access savings and checking accounts if these are enabled by your home bank.
It’s an easy thing to verify. If you can access your savings and checking accounts in your home country using your Visa or Mastercard then you can do the same in Bali at ATMs.
The exception is that most restaurants and hotels only accept a credit or debit transaction linked to your credit card.
Are US Dollars accepted in Bali?
US dollars are not generally accepted at Balinese businesses. Some larger hotels and tour operators may accept US Dollars as payment but the exchange rate will be terrible, so I don’t recommend using them to exchange your foreign currency if it can be helped.
You are much better off visiting a money changer and exchanging your US dollars for Indonesian Rupiah at a far better rate than you will get from a hotel or tour operator.
Is American Express accepted in Bali?
No. American Express is not generally accepted in Bali. Some international hotel chains will accept American Express but outside those few places, Amex is not accepted in Bali. Stick to Visa and Mastercard, both of which are generally accepted everywhere that takes credit cards.
Are traveller’s cheques accepted in Bali?
Yes. Money changers, in general, will exchange traveller’s cheques for local currency, but the rate is not as good as exchanging cash for Indonesian Rupiah.
Outside the international hotels, no businesses will accept travellers’ cheques as payment. You will need to exchange your traveller’s cheques for Indonesian Rupiah at a money changer. Most shops and businesses don’t accept them as payment.
What’s the best travel card to use in Bali?
Without a doubt, the Transferwise Debit Card is the best card for travelling anywhere, not just in Bali. I have been using Transferwise to transfer money between different currencies for several years, and they have the best exchange rates of any financial institution, and definitely far better than your bank or even your bank-issued travel card.
You can move money from your home bank account into your Transferwise account and move it between 59 currencies at the most competitive exchange rates I’ve ever seen for foreign currency transactions.
You can then spend in those currencies when on holiday. For example, while in Bali, you can move money into Indonesian Rupiah within your Transferwise account, and spend in Rupiah while in Bali with no fees or transaction charges, exactly the same as if you were using a local account.
You can read more about the Travel Debit Card here.
This really has helped me plan my family's holiday so much Michael. I used to just change traveller's cheques or cash at the hotels I stayed at and I knew it was expensive but I didn't trust using money changers or ATMS. Now I know! I'm sending this to all my friends. Thank you again, it really is a wonderful resource.