10 Bali Scams to Avoid
So you want to visit Bali, Indonesia- great choice! We moved here with our three kids and adore the island, for more reasons that we can count (although our top 10 reasons to move to Bali can be found here).
Bali is a friendly, safe and welcoming island and a great first destination for people who haven’t visited Asia before. However, wherever there are tourists there will be a few people who unfortunately seek to take advantage of them, so we’ve outlined 5 scams to be wary of when travelling to Bali, Indonesia.
The ‘not included’ Bali excursion scams.
If you book a Bali excursion during your travels, be sure to book with a reputable provider. Booking from stalls on the street often lead to awkward situations where you get to an attraction only to be told that entrance fee is not included in the tour price, or that there is a new ‘tax’ for entry. Often fees will be in small amounts, around £1, to stop people complaining, but entrance fees to attractions can be a lot more so make sure you book an all-inclusive tour. We always use get Your Guide for our day tours- to see what they offer in Bali click here.
In certain areas of Bali, especially Ubud, Canggu and Kuta, the taxi system is controlled by organised groups who hike the prices up and ban cheaper cab drivers like Grab or Uber from entering the area. If you are taking a cheap taxi to one of these places be sure to arrange a return journey- simply ask the driver to meet you somewhere later- or you’re likely to be stuck paying around 300% of the actual cost of the journey.
The broken safe.
We spoke to a couple in Ubud who had stayed in a budget beach-front bungalow earlier in their vacation. The safe in their room was questionable, and the door didn’t appear to shut tightly. They asked the front desk about it and were told that it was fine and that the staff on reception would keep an eye out for anyone trying to get into their room. For some reason beyond my comprehension they left £800 in cash in the safe, went out to dinner and came back to find the bathroom window open behind their bungalow, and the cash gone. If the safe doesn’t look right, don’t use it- whether the hotel staff were in on this or not I don’t know, but either way it leaves a bad taste in your mouth. If the safe isn’t an option carry your belongings on you in a slash-proof belt or day bag, or do what we did and get a portable safe from Pacsafe so you can leave heavier valuables chained up in your room. I assume most people wouldn’t leave their belongings in a broken safe but the reassurance of smiling faces can give us a false sense of security, make us second-guess ourselves and lead us to do silly things.
The boat-and-bus ticket to Lombok.
When travelling to Lombok from Bali, do not buy a ticket that includes your boat trip as well as transport from the port to your hotel on Lombok. We’ve spoken to many people who have been taken to Lombok and told to wait in a cafe at the port the other side for over two hours. When they ask to go to their hotel they are told that they have to wait for the next boat-load of people to come in to fill up the bus, or pay extra for transport now. This is obviously a several-man scam and will include whoever owns the cafe at the port, as they are making money from people stuck there. We recommend these transfers from Get Your Guide, with a generous luggage allowance and bottled water for comfort. Our friends at Our Globetrotters have a great guide on where to stay to avoid the crowds in Bali, so check it out to find somewhere you won’t want to leave!
The ‘Zeros’ confusion.
It can be overwhelming getting to a new country and trying to figure out the local currency conversion- Indonesian rupiah is in the thousands, so 20,000 rupiah is around one pound, for example. Market holders, (especially in Ubud, we found) will take advantage of this and the hustle and bustle of the busy market to try and charge ten times the price of an item by adding a zero on the end. One stall holder tried to charge us £30 for a tiny kid’s wooden frog, and there were other incidences like this throughout the market.
Not so much a scam but they operate in busy markets, especially in Ubud and Kuta where the majority of tourist are. Keep your phones out of your pockets and in a sealed slash-proof bag, and cash in a money belt or on your front somewhere. Be wary if anyone tries to put something on you like a watch or sarong, as it could be a front for checking your pockets for valuables.
This is another reason we only take day tours with a tour platform we trust– drivers are often given commission by shops or restaurants based on how much they can get people to spend there. Drivers will often take a detour on your trip to stop at their friend’s craft shop or restaurant, where prices will be hiked. Be very clear with your driver at the beginning of the day where you want to go, and be prepared to tip as drivers don’t earn a lot of money, especially if they forego their commission.
Money Changing Scams
Always, always be the last one to touch your money after having it counted at a money changing place. Unscrupulous dealers will sometimes claim they only have 10,000 rupiah notes (a small denomination) and count out a few hundred when you make your purchase of currency. They’ll then go to ‘get an envelope’ or simply lower the stack quickly below the counter and drop some out before handing it back to you. Get it counted out in front of you and then take it. Another way to recognise places who will short-change you is that they offer too-good-to-be-true conversion rates. Go to authorised money changers only.
Some unscrupulous officers will be looking to take advantage of foreigners, especially those on rented scooters. They will look for anything they can suggest you have done wrong and then impose a ‘fine’ in lieu of the threat of court. These are not legitimate fines, they are bribes. In order to avoid this situation ensure that you wear a helmet and carry your international driving licence on you at all times.
Arak is the traditional Balinese spirit, similar to vodka and popular with visitors who wish to try the local drink. However there have been cases of methanol poisoning caused by dodgy vendors mixing methanol with the drink to save money. Only purchase arak from proper restaurants, bars and hotels, never from a local joint or street seller.