Bali is a very beautiful island to spend holidays in. Beautiful beaches, amazing activities and very kind people. It is the perfect place to relaxe and have fun at the same time. However, economical difficult situation of indonesia, push some locals to use technics to trick you (scam you). In order to grab as much as possible money from you.
Being aware of such scams in advance, will surely help you avoid getting trapped and making you feel bad during your holidays. Thus, bottle of travel tells you today about 3 scams you should absolutely be aware of, before going to Bali, Indonesia.
Scam #1: Money changers
This one is a Classic!
Once you get to Bali, especially in Kuta. You will absolutely need to change your Euros, Dollars or Pounds into Indonesian Rupiahs: local Indonesian money.
Here will start a real headache if you don’t know how to do.
The intuitive approche is get outside, walk in the street, look at the tens of “Authorized” money changed all along and change your money with the guy who propose the highest price. But as you could expect, life isn’t always that easy.
First of all, as you can see in the picture, you should pay attention that for each currecy there is two prices :
- Buying price: The changer Buys currency from you. So for example according to the image, if you have US Dollar, for each Dollar you own, the changer will buy it from you for 9750 Rupiah
- Selling price: The changer sells currency to you. So let’s say you want to go back home and you still have some Rupiah. Money changer will sell US Dollar to you, so for every 9300 Rupiah you have, he gives you One dollar.
Okay, but I don’t see any scam in your story?
And you’re right! Until now everything is fine. You detected the changer with the best price and you run to get your valuable Rupiah. The problem is, there is big chance that the price showing on your changer board is a bit (or much) higher than changing price of the market that day.
Well, maybe this changer is just gentel and generous like most of Bali locals!
Or maybe he is just a scammer trying to attract you with such a tempting proposition?
Crap! But how could he scam me, I have my money on my hand!
Not all the time. As I told you the money changing scam is a Classic! So here is how it generally happens:
- You get to the shop, say hi and make sure of the exchange price for your currency
- The money changer answer with yes and ask you how much money you want to change
- Once you tell him he brings out his calculator, and show you how much rupiah you will have once you give him your nice dollars
- You give him your valuable currency, he count it twice to make sure of the amount
- He grabs the Rupiah you came for and start counting in front of you
- The count is good and here come the Funny part:
For some reason, he will need to do the count his Rupiah again. Sometimes it’s just to make sure… Other times he claimed to have a higher amount than what you came. Thus he asks you to add some currency or some rupiahs if you do own some.
Surprisely, when you get outside and start spending your money, you discover that you have much lower money that you tough you’ve had changed on the store!
Damn! What happened?
While the changer was counting the money again, you were thinking what you could buy from the mall this evening. Thus, you missed his magic trick show!
When counting back the money, your honest changer grab a few hundreds of thousands of rupiahs without you even notice.
And if you think that you can concentrate and catch him at this moment just forget about it! They’re so speedy!
But what can I do to avoid this?
To exchange your currency properly you are recommanded to follow these steps:
1- Get to know exchange price for the price
It is easy to know the actual exchange price for your currency the day you want to make the operation. By just doing a google search “dollar to rupiah” or “euro to rupiah” you can find the real time price of your prefered currency. Make sure to spell it right and not confound it with Indian rupees.
For a better user experience you can also use a mobile application to convert currencies.
2- Avoid exchangers with strangely high price
A money changer is like any seller. He is there to make money and not to make gifts. So an exchanger with price higher than what you found on the internet is probably a scammer.
3- Look for exchangers with the mention “No commission” on their board (very recommanded)
Some scammers, when they can’t trick you as you are very aware, They will try to use another technic. They will agree with you for the price shown outside but will try to charge you additional amount as commission. So always make sure to read the mention “No commission” on the pricing board.
3- COUNT YOUR MONEY! COUNT YOUR MONEY! COUNT YOUR MONEY!
This is the key to avoid all troubles. Make sure to first count your currencies in front of the money changer. So he can’t tell you that you didn’t give him such amount of currency.
Count your rupiahs before you leave the store. And never trust a money you gave back to the changer. Once the money leaves your hand, you have to make the count again. And always make a final count before you leave the store.
4- Ask for a receipt
It’s always good to have a proof that you make a changing operation in such store at such time. This will help you have a physical proof in case of problem and also helps you track your money spending in future.
5- Choose your money changer carefully
It is perferable to use official money changing stores. They may charge you more fees but at least it is more secure and safe if you don’t want any trouble.
Making the change inside the airport is also good especially in Jakarta Airport. Prices are really fair generally.
However, you should absolutely never make change with the changers next to the airport. Especially the ones next to denpasar airport. Their prices are really ridiculously low. Even if you have to take a taxi; you can tell him to stop next to a money changer on the road or even ask your hotel if they can pay him and you can pay them back later.
But do never make exchange with those changers next to the airport as you will loose a lot of money!
Scam #2: Taxies, cars and boats
Once you get to Bali, you only have two legs to move accross the island. But many times this won’t be enough. Thus, you will need a transportation tool: A car, a motocycle, renting a car or even traveling with a boat to go to the near islands. And here you have to keep your eyes open on few points, so you don’t pay huge amounts of money for no reason.
Taking a taxi
In Bali, there is two kind of taxies, the official ones and the others.
The non official ones have different appearances.
However, It is easy to distinguich official taxies, as they’re wearing a blue uniforme and ride blue taxies with a blue logo on top of it. Their name is Blue Bird Taxies.
But the most important point to take care of is the taximeter.
Once you jump into the car, turn your eyes to every corner in order to find this tool.
More important, make sure that the driver reset it once you get into the taxi and that it’s turning normally during your drive.
If you notice that the taximeter is not there or was not reset or maybe not working. You should immediately talk to the driver and if you find out that there is no taximeter, ask him to stop and get out directly without paying any penny.
If you have to avoid non officials taxies, you have to absolutely run away from those that you find next to the airport.
Renting a bike or car
Sometimes you would perfere to have freedom of moving. And renting a bike or a car could be a good deal for that. But before that you should know that Indonesia, like most Anglo-Saxon countries drive at the opposite side of most other countries in the word. When you should keep right in Belgium or USA while driving, it is the opposite side where you should be in Bali. For cars the wheel is located at the right side of the vehicle. In addition the circulation is particulary hard to drive in as locals have some convention that are really hard for European or American tourists to understand.
Thus, even it may sound good at the begining. It’s not really a good idea to rent a Bike or a Car in bali, especially if it’s your first time or if you’re not an expert driver.
However, if you finally decide to take this option, you should be aware of some points.
When you rent a Bike or a Car always make sure to verify the initial state of the vehicle. It highly recommanded that you take some photos using your mobile and maybe even send them to your renter through whatsapp if it’s possible. It could be a trusty proof of the initial state of the vehicle and the renter can’t ask you to pay for trouble you didn’t cause.
Finally always try to chekcout price of renting over the internet to have an idea of the real price of the market.
You may say: “No worries, I have international driver license”. But the reality can be really shocking in Bali when it comes to driving in Bali. Many guys have been arrested by the police and asked for huge amounts of money. They pretend that you’re not allowed to drive in Indonesia even with an international driver license. The reality is only one word: “Corruption”.
I wanted to add this here, as Corruption is also a form of scam. And my advice to avoid this problems is simple as: “Don’t drive in Bali. If you really have to, avoid police as far as you can”.
Car, bus and boat
Moving accross the islands can be a real headacke. Especially when you don’t know how you can go from point A to point B. should I go throught the Bus? Rent a car with driver? Or maybe a speed boat when you’re going from an island to another?
Well, first things first. You should know exactly your starting and finish points. There’s very high chance other people have already done the same travel. So try to see on forums and ask the question: How much to go from Kuta to Ubud? or How much to go from Kuta to Gili trawangan or Gili air?
This will gives you an idea about the average price of the travel. Thus, this will be your argument of negociation. When you negociate prices in Bali. You should be confident and show that you know what you’re talking about.
Negociation is a very important point in BALI and indonesia. As prices can really vary very much. And if you don’t negociate you can sometimes pay even 3 times the price for the same service or product.
Tourism information center are non official market boxes where you can find guys with really lot of contact and information. They sometimes have prices with very good deals (better than you can get if you go to the original store). Thus, you can buy Waterbom Bali tickets, reserve activies AND make reservation for short travel and this is what we came for now.
So you tell the guy your A and B points and the dates you want to go and comeback and see what he would propose you. You will compare his proposition with the prices you’ve already found on the internet.
Now where is the scam in all of this?
Well, the first thing is not really a scam but a golden rule you should apply on all fields when you’re in Bali:
NEVER MAKE A DECISION BEFORE YOU VISIT MORE THAN THREE MARKETS
Why? Because you wil simply regret it. As I told you before, prices in Bali can sometimes be unlogical. So you can find, for the same product or service many completely different prices.
Now the real scammy part here:
ONCE YOU PAY YOUR TRAVEL, DO NOT PAY ANY OTHER EXTRA
This is a common trick used by transporters (not the guy in the information center). And to illustrate the thing I’ll tell my own story:
“My project was to go from Kuta to Gili Trawangan, then to get Back from Gili to Ubud. I made lot of research and finally found a guy who sold me the round trip for about 420 000 Rupiahs (about $30). Which is just a great deal!
The trip contained, picking up from Hotel, direction Padangpai. Then on the fast boat go to Gili Trawangan. Finally fast boat from trawangan to Padangpai and a bus from there to my new Hotel in Ubud.
Everything was fine at the begining and I past some great days in Gili Trawangan. Then I took the boat to get back to Padangpai. Once we get there, a lot of strange people with badges on their nake came to me asking for my ticket and where I’m actually going.
So I never gave my ticket (just showing) and telling them where I’m going to ask where is the Bus I should take for the rest of my trip.
Here, there is a very important point I’d to signal: When I got the Padangpai port, everytime I told the guys that I’d like to go to Ubud, to this Hotel. They were telling me we do not make deposit in such or such hotel. We go to Ubud center then you find a way to go whatever you want. But this was a point I’ve negociated with the guy and paid for. But the guy was asking for extra in order to go there.
What helps me here is that the destination of my trip (the hotel) was specified in my ticket. So once I show them this part they couldn’t add anything. So alway make sure to specify such important details on your tickets, to avoid paying again for something you’ve already paid for.
At this moment everyone of those guys showed me the place of my Bus and was getting back to the port in order to find another “victim”. On my road to the Bus (far by few meters from the port) other guys came and asked the same questions. For them the problem was not the final destination but the fact that that day was very crowded, they pretended that there’s lot of traffic jams. In addition, they pretended that the Bus will be full of people. According to them, we will be like 20 person. Each one going to a different destination. So to get to Ubud it’ll take like 3 to 4 hours. So if I wanted to go to Ubud quickly, I had to pay 300 000 Rupiahs as extra 😆
Frankly, I don’t know if other people could belive in such fairy tales. But to me, it was an obvious scam. “No way to pay any extra penny. And it’s okay for me to spend even 5 hours to get to my destination. I’m in vaccations, and time; I have plenty of it” 😆
So after they knew that it was just impossible to get anything from me. Cause even I have money on me I told them that I paid my trip before and I don’t have anything on me as I wasn’t expecting such situation. At this moment they just asked me to wait next to the Bus. After about ten minutes, our driver came.
When the Bus was going to move, we were 5 in the Bus!!! and the best part, we were two separate groups: Me and my friend, and the other group was three friends going to a hotel very close to ours.
The morality of this history is the following:
- Never pay for something you’ve already paid for
- Always be persistant and make sure everything you paid for is specified on your ticket
Scam #3: Free gifts in the street
This one is has more fun than hurt. But it can be a real waste of time and maybe money if you don’t pay attention.
Where ever you leave in the world, you’ve already meet or see a flyer distributor. Guys who distribute advertising paper of different markets in the street.
In Bali, there is a specific kind of flyer distributors who will call you saying that they’re not selling anything and that they just want to give you something “for free”. Sometimes, they try to make jokes and be gentle to make you stop.
Thus, for some reason, you just decide to stop and see what it is all about. So these guy generally have two flyers:
The classic flyer: Just some random ads. So, polite as you are you take the flyer, say thank you while he’s trying to give you some information about the product on this flyer, and just before you leave, the guy tells you about:
THE SPECIAL FLYER: it’s a flyer that contains GIFTS. Yes, you are not dreaming you will get gifts. The flyer is half closed. You have to open it to discover your special gift. Once you do, our friend will start jumping applausing and do everything to make you feel happy about the Ipad or Iphone or whatever thing you have won. But it’s not finished yet! In addition to your special gift there is another one. And here is the fun part of the story.
There is 5 possible gifts to earn. Each one has a number of stars next to it (one star you get one night in a hotel, 2 stars you get a week in the hotel…). In order to know which gift is yours, you have to scratch a golden surface on the flyer. The number of stars you find will decide which gifts you get, plus the first gift. BUT! and of course there’s always a But (else I won’t be here telling you all this story). You can’t perform the scratch now. You have to go with the guy to the hotel where you will stay as a gift.
And naturally, you will waste time and effort go with the guy to the very far and bad hotel. At the reception you will make the scratch AND….surprise no stars! good luck next time! But it’s okay, we have promotion today and you can stay in our hotel only for X dollars.
Of course you just say no and leave. The flyer distributor just disappeared, he got what he wants from you (a commission). And you just waste almost a day from your valuable time of holidays.
What could I do to avoid this?
Ignore those guys. Whenever you see flyer distributors in Bali, just say thank you. Avoid staring at them or watching them face to face. Don’t bother to what they could say.
Simply: Do never stop next to a flyer distributor or start a conversation with him
The goal behind this article is not to make you feel that Bali or Indonesia is a bad place. Cause it’s not. But like any touristic place, scam invaders start showing up. So you just have to be aware and careful. Unlike theaf, a scamer is generally not agressive and won’t take your money by force.