MONEY in BALI - and Bargaining and Tipping tips.

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I. Money.

My old Grandmother used to say to me, 'Don't put all your eggs in one basket young man!' That was many years ago and she would say it even when I was not collecting the chook's eggs.
She was obviously looking forward to the time I would be travelling in Bali and was telling me not to take all cash or all Travellers Cheques or to rely totally on my credit card but to have a little each way.
We've always found it to be good advice. We've never been stuck for money when there's no ATM around and we've never been out of cash when my wallet's been lifted.

In money terms it means don't just take cash or just plastic cards or just Travellers Cheques. Have a bit of everything then if your cash gets pinched you still have the credit cards and if there is a power failure and the ATM's don't work or there are no ATM's where you are or your plastic has been skimmed and the account cleaned out (it happens regularly throughout SE Asia including Bali) you can fall back on your TC's which will be replaced in 24 hours if they get stolen.  

In Oz TC's are issued free at Post Offices and unused ones refunded free at the issuing office but generally they will not accept an order for all $100 values and these are by far the safest to cash in Bali. $5, $10 and $20 denominations i(n either TC's of cash) may not be accepted in Bali and if they are the rate may be low. Some banks also issue TC's free to top credit card holders, eg ANZ Gold Card holders. Failing that your travel agency, automobile club or even some health insurers will offer TC's as part of their service.
 

'Nope! Won't happen to me' I can hear some of you say, to which I can only say I hope you won't be sorry and I hope you won't get mad when I say, "I told you so!'

Check this post on http://www.balitravelforum.com/msg/12829.html to see what can happen in real life.

"Posted by ####### on Saturday, 3. January 2009 at 09:34 Bali Time:

I'm not the type of person to run anyone or anything down but I believe those of you intending to stay at the ######## ###### ### should be aware of what happened to us & think twice before doing so.

On a positive note the rooms where good for the price but the beds are extremely hard, the showers, aircon, pool etc all good.

The negative & most disappointing side is the room safes & that there is a THIEF among their staff, also that the Australian owner could not have cared less.

We arrived on the 23rd December & between the night of the 23rd & xmas night my friend was ROBBED $3,300 AUD, which consisted of his & his 14 year old daughters money."

 

That bit about eggs in the basket also applies to using your money in Bali. Don't carry it all onto the street at any one time. Leave some in your hotel safe and what you do carry with you split up between a bum bag, a purse and a pocket or wherever.

Carry your money in a ‘bum bag’ but keep it under your shirt if it contains a lot. Exposed bum bag straps can be easily cut and the offender away on the pillion of a passing motorbike before you can blink. (Before you condemn the Balinese for this sort of criminal activity just ask yourself if it could or couldn’t happen in your home town.) If you have large amounts keep it in several different places. I use a skin coloured cloth money pouch which hangs around my neck under the shirt as a less obvious and more secure device. That's also good for getting past Customs if they are looking for some cigarette money from you. 'Sorry', you can say, showing your bum-bag with nothing but TC's in it, 'No money!'

 

The local money is the Indonesian rupiah – (Rp.).
* Coins are Rp1,000 – 500 – 100 – 50 and 25. Supermarkets use lollies (candy) as small change for less than 25 rupiah.
* Notes are Rp100,000
(Ask for these when changing money as they’re easy for you to count and not easy for the tricky money changers to mis-count. The new Rp100,000 notes are made of plastic using established Australian technology.) - Rp50,000 – 20,000 – 10,000 – 5,000 (which in 2003 was valued at about A$1.00 or US50 cents.)Rp1,000 – 500 and Rp100 (which are usually VERY grotty and rarely seen these days).

 

THE SAFEST CHANGERS FOR ALL FORMS OF MONEY ARE THE WARTELS (Government telephoning shops) WHICH ARE OFTEN AUTHORISED MONEY CHANGING OFFICES ALSO.

 

 These changers will run by PT Bali Valas or PT Bali Masprint or something similar.
Their rates are the same as PT Central. Most importantly they will change Travellers Cheques with a photo copy of your passport ID page.
They are really authorised and you will get a computer print-out receipt.
Ask where the nearest one is at your hotel desk
WE DO NOT RECOMMEND ‘PT CENTRAL’ AGENCIES IN THE KODAK SHOPS (or in the larger Department stores) FOR CHANGING TRAVELLER'S CHEQUES AS THEY NOW REQUIRE YOUR ORIGINAL PASSPORT TO CHANGE THESE.
I will not take my passport out of the hotel safe until I’m ready to go home – then I know I can get home without days of hassle. If your passport is stolen on the streets your holiday will be ruined and it will take days to get it replaced.

Many travellers are less sure of the honesty of PT Central counter staff now too. Reports in 2004-2007 claimed regular and clumsy efforts to short-change. How many more that were not so clumsy went undetected? Of concern in one case was the Kodak office almost opposite the Kin Khao restaurant between the Dynasty and the Kartika Plaza which we had found very reliable for years.

 

Carry your money in a ‘bum bag’ but keep it under your shirt if it contains a lot. Exposed bum bag straps can be easily cut and the offender will be away on the pillion of a passing motorbike before you can blink. (Before you condemn the Balinese for this sort of criminal activity just ask yourself if it could or couldn’t happen in your home town.) If you have large amounts keep it in several different places. I use a skin coloured cloth money pouch which hangs around my neck under the shirt as a less obvious and more secure device, with only a 'ready to use' amount in my bum bag.
For ladies with shoulder handbags the best advice is to carry it over the shoulder which is furthest away from the edge of the road.

Tie your purse onto your bum bag with a piece of fishing line. That way you’ll never leave it on the shop counter or in a taxi. Just coil the line up when you want to put it all back again. If you have trouble tying fishing line use a length of that brightly coloured brickies cord that’s a few cents for a big reel at your hardware store

 

Yahoo has a great Currency converter with a graph of recent rates which you can watch for a week or so before you travel as it gives you some indication  of whether to jump in and change a lot of money early in your holiday (if the trend of the graph is downwards) or change only what you need immediately and perhaps get a better rate tomorrow (rising graph). It will also allow you to convert rupiah back into your home currency so that you can answer the question, “How much did I pay for that?”
It is at http://finance.yahoo.com/m3?u.

 

If you want to do accurate conversions via your pocket calculator follow these steps -
    - divide 1 (one) by the exchange rate for the day (remember this might change a couple of times a day.)
    - enter the result into the calculators memory.
    - enter the price of anything and multiply it by 'memory' (or the number you got when you divided above.)
    This will give the correct result in any currency you initially entered as the exchange rate.
            For example: Exchange rate is 7800 rupiah to 1 dollar
                                1 divided by 7800 = 0.0001282
                                0.0001282 multiplied by Rp200.000 = $25.64.

 

Don't be tempted to change money at home before you leave as the rate will be much better when you get to Bali.

 

Australian $100 and $50 notes attract a slightly higher exchange rate than do $20, $10 and $5 notes. The difference is only a cent or two but is often more if you try to use it on the street as the Balinese will get a lower rate when they try to change it or deposit it. Other currencies will probably be dealt with in a similar fashion.

 

The best note is the $100 as it makes it easy to calculate and keep count during exchange transactions. Eg. If the exchange rate is 6475 you should get 647,500 rupiah for a one hundred dollar note.

 

Take care that you don’t get Rp10,000 notes passed to you in the middle of a stack of Rp100,000 notes, or 5,000s in a stack of 50,000s and so on.

 

Take care also if you’re tempted to do business with any moneychanger on the streets who is offering a better than usual exchange rate. The only way he will make up the difference - between the official rate (at which they all buy their money) and the higher rate that he is offering - is to cheat you.
If there is a LEGITIMATE Security Guard in the shop it may be better than some of the others, but how do you know if he really is legitimate?

 

Take care also that NO-ONE touches the money after you have counted it, even to simply to pick it up from the table and pass it to you. If this happens you should count it again - and I’ll bet you’re short! If you’re quick enough you might find the missing notes on the floor behind the desk, or remember hearing the drawer closing over them as they were dropped over the edge of the desk.

 

Don’t believe the totals which might appear on anyone's calculator but your own and then only after YOU have entered the numbers. Recent complaints (mid '06) about some Kodak shops is that their calculator move the first zero in the result one place to the left. Instead of the Rp1,390,000  that you should get for $200 at a rate of 6950 you'll only get Rp1,309,000 (Did you even notice the difference between those two numbers?) which is Rp81,000 short. $9 down the drain!
The safest exchange is for $100 bills when you simply add two zeros to the rate: ie a rate of 6950 should give you Rp 695,0 00. If you want to change $200 do it over again with another $100 note.

 

There is a Shoppers Cheat Sheet you can print off and carry with you at this link. Just click on it to see the page and click on the back arrow to return here.   Shoppers Cheat Sheet.

 

As forgeries seem to abound in Indonesia moneychangers are reluctant to change different sorts of tender at different times. The most recent concern was over Travellers cheques (June ’02) and as a consequence an original Passport was required (rather than the much safer photocopy) for a while. Cash notes are always suspect unless they is in almost ‘as-new’ condition. The best bet is not to rely on only one form of money.

 

The 1996 US $100 note was the subject of massive forgeries a few years back and is often not accepted in Bali as it is believed that many are still circulating. If accepted it will probably be at a reduced rate only.

 

The small notes in local rupiah are very old and very sick looking, and certainly encourage hand disinfecting after handling, but they are essential for things like local bemo fares where the collectors never seems to have any change at all.
The banks and often traders will not accept dirty or damaged notes – or at least say they won’t. This will surprise you when you see the quality of the local notes that they regularly handle – but it’s all to do with the regular attempts at passing forged, high-value, foreign currency. The latest forgeries were American $100 bills dated 1996 and it was impossible to change them anywhere in Indonesia, even the banks played safe and would not touch them. This scare seems to have passed now (October 2002) but the risk remains for any notes that appear to have been ‘roughed up’ to remove their new appearance.
Occasionally, when someone has passed a forged or stolen travellers Cheque, and the money changer has been left ‘holding the empty bag’, the word gets around the money changers and for a while they won’t change that particular type of cheque. Early in ’03 Thomas Cook TC’s were being refused but Amex has had its turn also.

 

To see pictures of the Rupiah notes use this address to go  Mic's site.

 http://micbali.proboards21.com/index.cgi?board=infolink&action=display&thread=1086820305
 

You’ll find a lot of other good info there too, especially clear photos of many popular hotels in Bali.

Another address for pictures of all the Indonesian rupiah notes together is

 http://www.balitravelholidays.com/wp-content/uploads/2007/11/rupiah.jpg .

 

(Note that neither of these addresses is a direct link to the site. You'll need to copy the address and paste it into your address bar at the top of your page.)

 

South African currency (ZAR) is one of the very few world currencies that cannot be changed in Bali.  Best to convert to US$, TC's or notes, or Aus$ or British pounds – even Euros - before you leave.

 

Don’t purchase rupiah at you local home bank, as your exchange rate will be terrible.  Wait until you get to Bali.  If you intend to take cash then take your own currency.  You can change virtually any currency to rupiah in Bali.  If in doubt simply post the question on the Bali Travel Forum, http://www.balitravelforum.com.   Also changing it into some other currency only loses a bit each time.  You can change just about any world currency into rupiahs in Bali. 

 

When you arrive at the airport change about A$20 at the ATM's or with the moneychangers there.  You will find them after the Immigration check, along the wall of the baggage collection area facing the carousels, before you get to the Customs area.  The moneychanger’s rates may not the best but this will be enough to pay for a taxi to your hotel, buy a Bintang and a bottle of safe water to clean your teeth. 

 

Money exchange is both an art and a con in Bali.  You can exchange virtually any world currency via cash (large denomination, new notes are best – marked or damaged notes may be rejected – for US travellers the best rate is for pristine $100 bills but not ones dated 1996 just left of centre at the bottom of the face side), or traveller’s cheques (the rate will be less than for cash, but insignificantly so), or at the growing number of ATM’s.  The maximum amount that can be withdrawn at many ATM’s is usually Rp1.25K in Rp50,000 notes but there are more now ('08) that will give Rp2.5 million in 100 rupiah notes (look for the money sign pasted somewhere on the machine) and even a few where you can get Rp3 million if you hit the ‘Other Amount’ key on those machines which have it. This makes them a bit cheaper to use due to the 'per use fee' applied by most banks, commonly Aus$4-5 each transaction.  The 3 million machines that I know of are at:-

** Tuban about opposite the Bali Garden Hotel, near Waterbom Park. There are 4 or 5 machines in a row right on the edge of the footpath and the 3mill machine is the one on your far right - at the end nearest the airport.
** On Pantai Kuta at the Hard Rock corner. Walk towards Matahari from the Hard Rock and there are 2 machines on your left just before you get to the pool entrance. Use the first, often with a Security Guard outside.

** Look also for the Circle K store on Jl Legian a bit south of Jl Benasari.

** Outside the Bintang Supermarket on Jl Legian.** On Rum Jungle Road (Jl Werkudara) in the Permata Bank near the Jl Legian end.

** Also the Permata ATM on Jl Legian just walk a bit towards Kuta from the Bintang.

Some stores also add a surcharge to the bill if you pay with a credit card.

 Some ATM’s have been known to accept your transaction but not deliver the money.  Go to a bank straight away if this happens. 

Watch out for ATM's that don't remind you to take your card out first.  The next person in line will happily use it if you are careless enough to leave it there with your PIN already entered.

 

Credit card scams abound including a new one reported in '05 which uses the information gleaned by the older card machines used by shops in Bali. This information includes the full number and expiry date. In the finance office of any company that handles your card transactions, an employee can copy all the needed details and a new card with a new photo and signature even, can be made in a few hours and put to use anywhere in the world. Good advice is to advise your bank or Credit Union that you intend to travel in Bali and ask them to put a watch on your transactions. If you're in Bali and your card appears to be used in Poland they can put a block in it.

In '06 it was reported several times that using a credit card in Mataharis was (and still may be) a sure way to have it skimmed and a copy used in London or Jakarta or Berlin within 24 hours. Your bank will probably replace your money but up to 3 months after you lose it and the depleted balance available to you might be an embarrassment and a worry on your holiday. Similarly a card used only in a bank in Bali was skimmed and Aus$12,000 spent before the next statement arrived. It was suggested that this bank was opposite Matahari's in Kuta Square.

Perhaps the lesson is never to let anyone handle your card and restrict its use to ATM's only.

One simple thing to do is advise your bank or Credit Union that you are holidaying, where you are going and the dates that you will be there. They can then keep a check on your card transaction and contact you or put a stop on the card if it is used somewhere else or outside of the date frame that you have given them.

The Wizard Master Card has been recommended as the one to beat the cost of fees and charges that using cards and ATM's in Bali attracts. No fees at all, even for overseas use and 55 days interest free! Sounds good for a holiday card as well as an everyday card..

In 2008 there began what might be a growing number of reports of skimming devices being attached to ATM's. Look for a cover or extension over the card slot (the skimming device) and a brochure box at the side of the key pad which may contain a hidden camera recording your PIN. Photos of the device(s) can be seen at http://www.utexas.edu/police/alerts/atm_scam/.

 

Don’t take your passport onto the street to change Travellers Cheques.  Use a photocopy of the first (identification) page for this.  If you find an occasional moneychanger who won’t accept your photocopy then leave and go to the next one who won’t be far away or to a Wartel which is a government telephoning shop and often a safe and reliable moneychanger too.  Make at least one copy of your passport for each week that you will be in Bali as paper deteriorates rapidly in the humidity. 

 

Beware of bag snatchers on motorbike pillions.  Carry your bag on the side away from the roadway.  Don’t carry a lot of money in your bag, and never your passport.  Use a body belt or chest bag strung around your neck for large sums.  Large sums are any amount that you simply can't afford to lose or will spoil your holiday if stolen.  Don’t leave your bags in a vehicle unless you are very sure that the driver is reliable and that the vehicle can be securely locked – not just locked.  To have your bags stolen with all of your documentation in them must be a traveller’s greatest nightmare, and it happens not only in Bali but in Sydney and London and New York and - - - - .  

Hotels generally have the poorest exchange rates on the whole island.  The best rates are in the southern tourist areas. 

 

Avoid street front money changers. A safer place to exchange cash is at ‘PT Central’, at any of their agencies in Kodak shops (which are very common in the south and southeast tourist areas) and at the larger department stores.  They will not now, however, change TC’s without seeing you real passport and it is highly recommended that you DO NOT take your passport onto the street for any reason. 

 

The SAFEST way is to use a government Wartel (phone shop) to change TC’s or any form of money. 

Pt. Bali Maspintjinra are ones we always try to use and we've never ever had a problem here.
They are at 16 Raya Seminyak;
Jl Legian Tengah No438B;
Jl Sriwijaya No2, Kuta;
Jl Danu Tamblingan No18, Sanur
and also in Lombok on Raya Sengiggi, Km13.

Their rates are as good as PT and they are as honest.  You will get a printed receipt from the computerised service.

 

There are honest street changers I am told, who offer slightly higher rates, but beware and be warned – many, if not most, will not only try to cheat you but will succeed!  Even career bank tellers report that they have been done over! These street moneychangers are the experts in all of the tricks ever dreamed up anywhere in the world, including re-wired calculators and super slippery fingers.  You will be just the most recent in a very long line of suckers.  Dodgy money changing is their life and you are their lifeblood.  Always count your money without being distracted by an accomplice at your shoulder and always be the last to touch the money.  If someone else picks it up, even if only to hand it to you, then sit down and count it again!  Chances are you will be amazed.  A neat reversal of this con is to give you the right amount but when you hand over your 4 x $50 bills (which you’ve been smart enough to hang on to tightly until this time) he will find that you’re one short and you’ve only given him three.  The other one has been dropped on the floor at his feet or into his open money drawer which he smoothly closes with his stomach or thighs as he stands up.

Watch out for the ‘power of 10’ scam.  It relies on your confusion about so many zeros in the sums.  You wind up getting only a tenth of the correct amount when a zero falls off the end of the total, or you get 5,000 Rp notes instead of 50,000Rp or 1,000’s instead of 10,000’s. 
It might surprise you but many travellers have been caught by a temporary inability to count in the heat of the moment - the money changer counts out for you, "one hundred, two hundred three hundred, four hundred, five hundred, "OK sir?  Good" , seven hundred, eight hundred, nine hundred, one thousand."  So, what's the problem?  Where did six hundred go?

 

KNOWN CROOK MONEY CHANGERS.

Immediately suspect any street changer who offers a better exchange rate than the really authorised changers such as the local Wartel (the government telephoning shops) or PT Central which are generally found in supermarkets and Kodak shops. 
Be aware that these slick merchants will move from location to location on a regular basis as their dishonesty becomes known locally. 
* Beware of the moneychangers in Rose Tailor, opposite the Bali Aussie.  A well documented rip-off centre.  All of the tricks in the book will be tried and if you pick them all the supply of money will be ‘all gone’ and you’ll be intimidated and shown the door.  If you manage to change some money you’ll know you’ve been cheated but you won’t know how.
* Avoid the moneychangers at – Jl Dhyana Pura near Bestest Café in Seminyak and the one across the street in a post office type shop also.  Stick with the Kodak guys further towards the beach.
* Also avoid the moneychangers near the Aston Bali Hotel.  Great dropper of money into his lap, claims it is ‘commission’ if caught even though his sign clearly claims ‘No Commis.’.
* On Legian Street, in the alley between Mammas German Restaurant and the Fuji Film shop.  A first class note shuffler.
* Opposite the Restu in Legian.  Small notes (Rp5,000) in the middle of a stack of Rp50,000’s.
* Not quite a crook moneychanger but in the Bintang Supermarket in Seminyak/Legian do your own adding up to arrive at your total bill and calculate and check your change carefully unless you can afford to lose $10 in a 100.
* The changer next to Billy’s Bar on Jl Sahadewa is ‘a scumbag’.
* In Legian avoid the moneychanger opposite the Puri Raja in Jl Padma Utara.  He is in the centre one of three small shops, right in the back. 
* Kids Zone (children’s clothing shops near Timezone, the airport and Matahari's in Legian) and also a changer just opposite Kids Zone in Jl Legian.
* A deadly variation on the game of chance is played by a moneychanger on Legian street opposite the end of Poppies Lane I.  He will try to cheat you in the usual way and if you catch him he will, begrudgingly, give you back your $100 (or whatever) bills.  You will stomp out in high dudgeon, not realising that he has NOT given you back all of YOUR notes, but has given you at least one quite good forgery.  If you go back to complain later he will argue that you must have got them somewhere else – and how can you convincingly argue otherwise?
* On Melasti Street near Top Ten and Leong DVD is a unique cheat who actually keeps a written record of how much he’s cheated you.  If you get done for Rp300,000 and try to say it was Rp500,000 he will pull out his book and correct you.  He will also cheat you again when he gives you the refund!!
* On the corner of Poppies 2 and Jl Legian, at the back of a photo printing shop.
* On Jl Melasti about 30 paces from Jl Legian on the corner of a narrow lane there is an advertisement for ‘no commis’ and very good rates.  If something appears too good to be true you can bet that it’s not – and particularly if you choose to dice with this money changer you’ll learn that the hard way.

 

If you need to send money to Bali it can be an expensive exercise if done on a regular basis with most banks charging A$25 per transfer.  Telegraphic transfers attract a better exchange rate than a bank draft.  A better way might be a second credit card on your account with separate PIN (risky and app $5 per withdrawal) or best of all a separate savings account at a Bali bank in your name.  Give your friend the bankcard and the PIN.  They will only be able to draw money out after you have decided to deposit an agreed amount into the account at your home bank.  Withdrawal cost is only about A$4 this way.

 

If you use plastic Credit Cards for purchases do not let it out of your sight or you risk having it swiped a second time onto an open account slip. Also personally destroy the carbon copy of the impression or watch it done in front of you.  Do not trust it being tossed into the waste paper basket.  Fearful stories abound in S E Asia of credit card scams.  Your home bank might set up a traveller’s account for you with a specific and limited sum of money available in it.  If the card is then stolen or scammed the losses are minimised.  A number of single-use cards can also be issued, each with a different account number and even smaller maximum withdrawal sums.   The Master Card version is called ‘Shop Safe’ and can be accessed from their web site,  http://www.mbnashopsafe.com/ and follow the prompts.  Some travellers set up a new card account and put in it only the amount of money they intend to spend during the holiday.  If this card is used fraudulently the losses are not as bad as they would be if all of your savings were open to the card scammers. 

 

Watch out for ATM’s which hold onto your card until the very last minute and then require a key entry to release it.  It is very easy to forget it while you’re counting your money and leave it in the machine for the next customer to use without the need for your PIN to be re-entered.

ATM rates are not quite as good as Wartels and Pt Central offers, maybe Rp 100 less per dollar and there is a home bank fee of up to A$5 for every withdrawal to be reckoned with also.

 

Some stores add a surcharge when items are paid for with credit cards. 

 

If you are heading north (or east or west) be aware that the best exchange rates are offered in the southern tourist areas and get worse as you go out, even only as far as Ubud but certainly Bedugul and beyond. 

 

Keep Rp100,000 in local money for your departure tax to be paid at the airport.  Children occupying a seat are required to pay.  This raises around Rp 400 billion each year – all of which goes to the Indonesian Government in Java – none at all for Bali improvements. Make sure you don’t loose the white immigration slip you get when you arrive.  Keep it with your passport and keep that in your hotel safe at all times. 

 

Another reminder - You don’t need to take your passport onto the street for anything, including changing traveller’s cheques that you can do with a photocopy of the first ID page at a local 'Wartel' which is a local telephoning shop.

 

Also don’t forget to confirm your departure with the airline as required, and get to the airport with a couple of hours to spare to ensure you get your baggage checked in and seat allocation completed in time.  If you’re flying Garuda you can do your check-in and get your boarding pass (thus ensuring that you don’t get ‘bumped off’ the flight because of over bookings) by going to their offices the day before your flight.  They can be found in Denpasar and at the Hotel Sanur Beach or the Kuta Paradiso.  Also, if you do this ‘City Check In’ you wont be required at the airport until an hour before your flight.

 

When bargaining for goods with your newly acquired and mysterious money, keep a balanced perspective on what you are bargaining over. 
An extra Rp1,000 or Rp 5,000 is really just small change in your home currency.  Don’t risk high blood pressure to beat the last cent or pfennig out of someone who is just trying to make a living after all. 
Late in ’02 a kilo of rice cost about Rp3,000.  This would be enough to feed an extended family for a day – that is about 60 cents Oz or 30 cents US.  You wont miss this much but it is enough to keep them alive. 
Please think about it! Who can afford it most?

 

A Shoppers Aid or bargaining Cheat Sheet covering many currency exchange rates is available at www.filosbali.net (look for it in the left column). 

 

 

II. Bargaining.

An American tourist offers these hard-nosed suggestions about getting the best possible value for your money when bargaining in Bali.

FINDING OUT WHAT THINGS REALLY COST – or ‘The Impossible Dream.’

  1. Most important; you've got to be willing to walk away.  You'll never get the lowest price standing in one spot and discussing it.  Nine times out of ten, the seller’s price will drop closer to your last offer if you walk away.

  2. Method 1: Try and try again. 
    Pick something that is common throughout markets and set yourself a very low target price.  Try to bargain for it.  Fail?  Raise your price a little and try somewhere else.  Do it again, until someone agrees.  It's good practice, but remember that if the seller accepts your offer convention dictates that you must buy at that price. It's your reputation on the line in this circumstance.

  3. Method 2: Eavesdrop on other tourists. 
    Listen to them bargain, and find out what they paid.  Often, the shopkeeper will sell you the same thing for the same price but try to go a bit lower.  This really works best with two friends; it’s less effective but still possible with two strangers. 

  4. Method 3: Go on a day tour, and observe the hawkers at all the stops made on the tour. 
    You will find that these tour sellers are among the hardest on all of Bali (except perhaps those at Kintamani).  Here's where you'll get the "Ten thousand! Ten thousand!" sarong price offers right off the bat.  What they shout at you as you walk away, or the prices they quote while they're wedging their shoulder into your car door and preventing you from closing your door are often the lowest prices that the item can be had for anywhere. 

  5. Method 4: Go to a fixed price store (like Matahari in Kuta) and have a look around.  Set your target for similar goods in the markets at 30-50% off of those prices.  This is a way of at least getting within the ballpark range of a "real" price, especially if you have no idea whether something should cost Rp10,000 or 100,000. 

  6. Some things the vendor will nearly always do to unsettle you:
    1) - Laugh outrageously at your starting price
    2) - Invoke peer pressure, either by telling other shopkeepers what you've offered and having them laugh, or saying "but your friend paid .  .  ."
    3) - Say "Ten thousand? No, this quality (picks up other object) ten thousand.” They'll always drag in other cheaper examples of what you're trying to buy, to try to make your intended purchase look like the higher quality version and worthy of the price they want.
    4) - Never drop close to their lowest price until you start to walk away.  When come back you can haggle some more from a new starting point. 

  7. Things you should always do:
    1) - have a good idea of what an item should cost if it's a common item or  -  or what you're willing to pay if it's a harder-to-find item.
    2) - Calculate a goal somewhere between 20 and 50% of the shopkeeper's starting price (if you have no idea what it costs).
    3) - Start BELOW that price and come up only in small increments (like 5000, or even 1000 at a time, depending on the price).
    4) - Allow yourself four or five rounds of negotiation.
    5) - Say, "Ah, no thank you, too expensive.” Then WALK AWAY.  If they're willing to keep going, they'll say "OK OK" and wave you back.  Then they'll drop a little more, but not necessarily yet to the price you want.  It can still go several rounds after walking away. 

  8. Things that are handy:
    1) - Having exact change.  If you're tired of the transaction and you know you're offering a fair price, you can take out your money and say "This is all I have" or "Here, yes, 30,000" to speed the deal. 
    2) - Keep a couple extra thousand on hand, to sweeten the deal if necessary.  Do not show these to the vendor, or they'll try to incorporate them in the final price. 

  9. Things you should not do:
    1) - Get angry or shout.  It's just business, and the Balinese like to conduct it in a friendly, easygoing, "You funny! What a JOKE your price is!" sort of way.
    2) - Say how much you paid for something.  It will give away your knowledge of prices and what you're willing to pay.
    3) – Refuse to buy (or continue to try to bargain lower) when your last offer has been accepted.

 

 Finally, keep the value of the money involved in some sort of perspective.  If you find yourself refusing a deal because of a difference of a few hundred rupiah then stop and work out just how insignificant such a sum really is to you.  Then stop and think of how valuable this sum is to the seller.  Try the Shoppers Cheat Sheet at www.filosbali.net.  Look for 'Cheat Sheet' link in the left side column.

 

 

III. Tipping. 

Balinese do not generally expect tips but generosity is appreciated. 

It is sometimes difficult to tip an individual person, in a restaurant for example, as a tip included in the bill often simply goes into the open-ended bucket along with the “Service Charge” that you’ll find on almost every bill.  If you want to single out and show appreciation to a particular waiter then ask them to come back after the bill has been quite finalised, then give them something, ‘For you’.   Be careful that it is not the boss who comes and accepts the tip you intended for your waiter.

On the other hand it’s very easy to round up a taxi fare to the next 1000 or 5000 rupiah and thereby give a driver a reward for his (otherwise very cheap) services. Similarly in a local shop it is easy to give a little extra if the bargaining has been hard but good humoured.

Monetary donations to families are usually spent on family priorities rather than things that might be special to the individual you wished to reward. 

Women will inevitably spend extra money or their families rather than on themselves, which is why some practical gifts of appreciation, or 'oleh olehs' (gifts), become very personal and are appreciated so much.

A well known ex-pat who admits to being very generous but claims to be rewarded for it over time, recommends as follows – food and drink, 15% of pre tax bill; cabs – 10%; hotel staff Rp15,000; other services 10% if you’re happy with the service, but remember tipping is not expected.  If the service is not very good and worthy of a tip you're just making yourself appear a soft touch.

 

 

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