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  • Writer's pictureAnna Genders

The 'Dos and Don'ts' of exchanging money in Bali

When travelling anywhere, you must be careful with anything surrounding money! In particular doing this in third world countries can bring a few more concerns, so it’s always important to be on you’re A-game. Bali is an amazing island with beautiful people, and a very safe place to travel. However, you must be aware of some common scams before you travel there. The money changer scam is one of them.

Here are some tips to avoid getting ripped off:

In Indonesia, the local currency is the Indonesian rupiah (IDR). Notes come in denominations of 1,000; 2,000; 5,000; 10,000; 20,000; 50 000 and 100 000 IDR, which can be very confusing if you are not familiar with the colours of the notes, and with all those zeros. Spend a little time before arriving in Bali, looking at images of the notes, or once you do arrive, practice and test yourself on what the denominations convert to. Generally speaking and how I will always remember what note is equivalent to AUD is to remove the zeros at the end. 100,000IDR equates to $10AUD, 50,000IDR is $5. Remove four zeros, and you’ll have a very close conversion comparison.

The money changer is a place where you can change a currency into another. The money changers can look like small offices or you can also find them inside shops, hotels and also supermarkets.

Money changer scams are most likely to happen in very touristy area such as Kuta or Seminyak. Usually the money changer indicates very appealing rates as a lure to get you in. Then after you changed your money, you realise that the changer gave you a smaller amount than owned. Keep an eye out on the exchange rate at a few different changers before deciding where to go. If the rate seems ‘too good to be true’ then it likely is!

The changers use different technics to trick you:

+They can give you fewer Rupiah notes than they should have by counting quickly so you cannot follow.

+ They can replace notes by others to give you a smaller amount of money. For example, switching 100K and 10K as their colours are a bit similar.

+ They also can simply do the multiplication incorrectly, show you the result in their calculator and then give you exactly that amount – which is often thousands less than it should be.

+ They can also show you the right amount on their calculator. Count the money, give you a smaller amount. And if you protest that money is missing recalculate and show you a different amount than the first time.

Here are a quick Dos and Don’ts list of what to do to avoid being ripped off:

+ Don’t use a money changer if the sign does not say “authorised”. And even if it does, still be very vigilant.

+ Don’t use money changers located in suspicious areas

+ Don’t use a money changer with a desk at the back of another business.

+ Don’t use a money changer with a rate that is suspiciously way better than everywhere else.

+ Don’t hand over your money until you are satisfied that the exchange is honest, and you have the rupiah in your other hand.

+ Don’t accept any smaller denominations than 50,000 and 100,000 notes. (usually using small dominations can be a way to rip you off)

+ Don’t allow anyone to touch the rupiah once you have counted it and are sure it is correct

If you follow the below process, you’ll never have a problem:

+ Confidently walk up to the money changer of choice

+ Tell them the amount you with to exchange and count it out note by note onto the counter. They will likely then re-count the money that you have counted. Just this simple process, shows them that you confidently know what you are doing.

+ They will then punch in the amount you have given them into the calculator and will multiply it by todays exchange rate.

+ Take the calculator yourself and then punch in the amount you have handed them and multiply it by the exchange rate they are advertising.

Hopefully the amount they came to is the amount you have.

+ The operator will then count the money back to you and this should match the amount on the calculator.

+ Always take the amount and re-count it back to make sure the amount is correct.

And finally:

+ If you find you have been ripped off, go back to that money changer and ask for the rest of your money. Even though the chances they give you money are very thin.

+ Do try to keep going to the same money changer, once you have found an honest and reliable one.

Happy Converting, Anna x

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