The Frugal Balinist

* Money changing basics

Money exchange in Indonesia is no commission – the rate you see on the signboard is the rate you get. Only use reliable authorized money changers such as, or BMC. These have teller windows where you can count/check your money safely. Don’t use a bank, hotel or a “man in a shed” to change money. Anybody can put up a sign saying “Authorized” Money Changer. *Money changers at Ngurah Rai Airport now offer competitive rates and even accept old bills and small denomination bills (but not coins). *Always be the last person to touch and count the money. Count, count and count again. A favorite con trick is to give you just Rp50,000 notes instead of Rp100,000 notes because there are a lot more bills you have to check. They then engage you in conversation whilst they touch/count the money again after you. *Each time you travel abroad from your home country, have your bank unblock your debit/credit card and tell them where you will be going. It can be a real inconvenience to get your card unblocked again. *Take cash and exchange it there or take a prepaid Visa card that you can reload through online banking. New large bills fetch a higher rate than smaller bills.

* Budget travel

The best known places in a county are the most expensive. Tokyo, Singapore, Oslo, London and Paris are famous for how brutally expensive they are and where it would be very difficult to spend less than US$50/day. This is why destinations like Nepal, Laos or Indonesia are better suited for budget travelers. *Getting to and from a destination is the single biggest cost of any trip. Google Flights is a handy app that can save hundreds of bucks. Though not a booking site, the tool gives you a range of options, including a way to see the very cheapest destinations from your closest airport and a calendar that indicates when it’s cheaper to fly between airports you select. *Certain seasons are far more expensive than others: Bali or Europe in August, when many Europeans take their vacations, is going to be a lot more expensive than in the Spring or Fall. The peak busy seasons for the destinations that you have in mind is easy to research. Go instead in the shoulder season right before or right after the busy season. The weather will be largely similar to that of the peak season. Thailand in April to June and in September to October, for example, is just as warm and beach-worthy, yet way less crowded and expensive than in Thailand’s peak season November to March.

* Wonder rub

Boreh refreshes the skin when you’re hot or warms you up after you’ve been out in the rain. Boreh consists of a spicy concoction of coconut oil, flowers, aromatic roots, nutmeg (biji pala), kunyit (turmeric), cekuh (kaempferia galangal), isen (alpinia galangal), kayumanis (cinnamon), cengkeh (cloves), kayu cendana leaves and lulur (a yellow paste made from turmeric) and red or white rice that has been soaked in water 10-15 minutes. All these ingredients are mashed together with a pestle in a stone mortar, then this dry mixture is mixed with water and the poultice rubbed and kneaded vigorously into the skin from head to toe. Boreh makes the skin tingle and its heat gradually diffuses throughout the body. You come out smelling like a flower. It is also used to overcome fever and make the patient feel fresher and fitter. An aging woman will apply boreh to her body to keep warm. A tired farm worker with aching muscles will have his wife rub him down with the poultice. Boreh given to adults is hotter and contains such ingredients as cabe jamu (piper retrofacThe Frugal Balinistum) cengkeh (cloves), merica (black pepper) and jahe (ginger). The boreh given to children is milder.

  * Cheap, cheap, cheap!

Prices on Tokopedia, Indonesia’s most visited local e-commerce site, are unbeatable. This online shopping site buys goods from different sellers but the money stays with Tokopedia and is only transferred to the seller when you confirm you’ve received the item and all is OK. Use the button in the right hand corner for the English translation, although it may fail to translate some essential words. An online tracking number is available when the order is shipped. You can see when the item leaves the seller, arrives at the Jakarta gateway, arrives at the Bali gateway and finally when it’s delivered to your location in Bali. It’s not unusual for an order to sit unconfirmed on the site for 24 hours, even after you’ve already paid. It may take as long as 30 hours for your order to be confirmed, well below the eBay standard. If your order never arrives, your money will be returned to my account. Delivery can be a bit of an issue the first several times until delivery companies learn where you live (delivery may be a problem if you live in the boondocks). You can always call the delivery company. and arrange to pick your item up or try to find out when they will deliver. J&T Express, for example, allows buyers to pick up from their office.

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Copyright © 2019 Bill Dalton

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