Show Me the Money


Indonesian money is a little mind boggling.  The exchange rate against the US dollar is hovering around  13,000 Indonesian rupiah.  That means that if I change US$100, I’m walking around with about 1.3 million rupiah in my purse.  One….point…three…MILLION!  Do you see what I mean by mind boggling?  Let me tell you, it doesn’t matter what the cost of living is, walking around with a million in any currency makes you feel rich.

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Indonesian bank notes…yup, that first one says one hundred THOUSAND

To be honest, stuff here is cheap.  During my first week, I bought a nice pillow (Korean Dreamy…don’t feel bad, I also LOL’d when I saw the name) for 40,000 rupiah, and that was after I bargained the guy down from 50,000.  Please don’t miss that I spent US$3 on a reasonably comfy standard-sized pillow.

As you know, we eat out almost every night.  At first, it was making me a little anxious because I felt like I was spending a lot of money on food –  between 20,000 and 30,000 rupiah for dinner every night!  Then I caught a clue and realised that I was spending on average about US$2 for dinner, which is adding up to about US$40 per month.  Since food is my only real living expense, I’ve relaxed about that.

Then there’s the coffee.  There’s a Starbucks-style coffee shop in the nearby mall where I can get a capuccino and a delicious ‘free’ donut for 25,000 rupiah.  That’s about US$2.  Then I found out that I could get to-go coffee from a little coffee shop around the corner for way cheaper.  Five thousand rupiah of to-go coffee is about 2 and a half coffee mugs.  And it comes in a plastic bag, like how we would buy a sky-juice in Jamaica (a sky-juice is a plastic bag of shaved ice and syrup). That’s less than 50 cents for coffee to serve 2 people!  My colleague A and I split a bag every few days.

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This is what 5,000 rupiah of to-go coffee looks like

We have 5-gallon bottles of water (those big cooler-sized bottles) delivered to the centre about every week and a half.  When we get to our last bottle we text the guy, who comes with a delivery within a couple of hours.  In each delivery, we get 5 of those 5-gallon bottles.  You wanna guess how much we pay in total for all 5 bottles?  Anybody?  Come on, take a guess…

Thirty-five thousand rupiah!  That’s less than US$3 for 25 gallons of water.  I pay US$1 for a half litre bottle of water in the West!

The most expensive thing I’ve bought is a 1 kg bag of Milo for 80,00 rupiah.  You do the math this time.

The point is, the cost of living in Aceh is fabulously low.  Of course, that also means that standards of living are lower than we are used to in the West.  Our centre is located in what I understand is the really nice part of town and I would say it’s lower middle class by western standards.

I haven’t been to the more touristy parts of the country, like Bali and Yogyakarta, but I expect that the cost of living is higher.  I’m thinking I’ll save up the money I’m not spending in Banda Aceh so I can afford to buy souvenirs if I get to those places.


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