Have rupiah with you when going to Bintan

There is only one money changer at the Bintan Resorts Ferry Terminal, and resort operators say more are needed now that the law on local currency transactions is in place.
There is only one money changer at the Bintan Resorts Ferry Terminal, and resort operators say more are needed now that the law on local currency transactions is in place.ST PHOTO: CHEW SENG KIM

Indonesian law requires cash transactions in local currency

Packing your bags for a weekend getaway to Bintan? Make sure you have enough rupiah for your shopping and feasting.

This is because businesses on the Indonesian island are now required to conduct cash transactions in the local currency, following a countrywide law passed by the central government in 2011.

The legislation was enforced in Bintan only from July as businesses there were given time to adjust to the change, Bintan regent Ansar Ahmad told The Straits Times.

"If the change is sudden, it'll be very difficult for this area (to adjust)," he said.

He said businesses that do not comply may be given a warning or fined.

The change could encourage repeat visits to the island, Mr Ansar added. "We hope that if travellers have leftover rupiah when they go back to their country, they will want to come again."

Bintan is a 50-minute ferry ride away from Singapore. It is popular among Singapore residents and tourists who want a short getaway from the city.

Last year, 43.5 per cent of the 500,000 visitors to Bintan Resorts - the area covering the northern coast of the island - were from Singapore.

At places like Nirwana Gardens and Bintan Lagoon Resort, restaurant menus which previously showed prices in US or Singapore dollars now have rupiah prices. One Sing dollar is worth about 9,500 rupiah.

Shops at the Bintan Resorts Ferry Terminal have signs saying they accept payments only in the local currency.

In the case of visitors who have no rupiah, some resorts will take Sing or US dollars but converted to rupiah based on the daily exchange rate, and any change will be in rupiah, said Ms Iris Kok, marketing communications manager for Bintan Resorts International. The company manages popular tourist spots on the island's northern coast.

Resort operators say more money changers are needed. There is only one money changer at the ferry terminal and several more at shopping village Pasar Oleh Oleh, a 20-minute drive from the terminal.

While Nirwana Gardens, like most resorts, provides money- changing services, it worries it "will not have enough rupiah if everyone wants to change their money here", said its PR manager, Ms Erwina Lemuel, 24.

Some travellers, like marketing executive Jon Lim, 27, find the new law troublesome. "If I'm travelling there for a holiday, I don't want to deal with money exchange issues," the Singaporean said.

It remains to be seen how strictly the law will be enforced. Studio manager Joseph Victor Taguinod, 39, a Filipino who lives and works in Singapore, said he paid and received change in Sing dollars at Pasar Oleh Oleh while holidaying in Bintan last weekend.

Still, Ms Kok advises travellers to have some rupiah with them. "So that at least when you visit the local areas and small shops, you know for sure you will be able to purchase things. Don't take it for granted that they will still accept Sing dollars," she said.

mellinjm@sph.com.sg