Anyone who has been subjected to a scam knows how it feels. That humiliating feeling that someone managed to fool you good and now laughs at your expense. And the frustration that you can’t do anything about it.
You feel like a moron.
No matter where you go, there will be scammers trying to rip you off. They are smart. They know all your weak spots. And while some scams have been around forever, others are new and so clever that you won’t even see them coming. Not too long ago, I was scammed myself because I underestimated the lengths these people would go for a few pennies. When I came to Bali alone however, I was laser focused and constantly on my guard, which helped me spot these scamming douchebags from afar.
No one wants to get scammed, but if you know what to look for, you can easily avoid it! I hope with this post to show you the most common Bali scams so you can be prepared and actually enjoy your vacation. Bali is a gorgeous island, but it’s surely not without its flaws.
THE BESAKIH SCAM AND MY RESPONSE
How I was subjected to a scam and how I reacted
We had been driving for 2 hours from Ubud and it was drizzling when my driver, Kumman, and I arrived at the parking lot at Besakih temple.
“I’ll see you in one hour, Miriam” he said as I walked towards the entrance. I had been looking forward to exploring this temple as it is one of the largest and most important temples in Bali and everyone had spoken highly of it.
After paying the entrance fee of 15,000 Rupiah, they showed me a counter where the ‘temple guardian’ told me that I wasn’t allowed to enter without a guide and that I had to pay the donation to him. He then showed me a book with names, nationalities and how much everyone had donated.
There were amounts of up to $100!
When I saw those insane figures, I knew it was a scam. No one in their right mind would donate that much to a tourist attraction unless tricked into it! I wanted to pay the guide for his time, so I put down 100,000 ($8) – the lowest amount – on the list. The temple guardian (whom from now on will be called The scammer) glared up at me and snorted his disapproval….
CALL THEIR BLUFF!
The best way to call a scammer’s bluff is to pay attention. Most times you can figure it out just by listening to what they say. Like the Besakih bluff – he tells me that I have to pay a donation, but as we all know: donations are voluntary. You don’t have to donate anything if you don’t want to!
Don’t feel intimidated. These people are trained to make you feel uncomfortable. They know that asking for a donation or tricking you to buy something will make you feel unease and they take advantage of it. You should never be afraid to walk away or say “no”. Don’t feel obliged to be nice. Be firm. Call their bluff.
Counter attack. If the scammer threatens to call the police, just beat him to it! Walk towards a crowd and raise your voice. He will be out of there in no time.
COMMON BALI SCAMS
Arriving in a new country can be confusing, and the porters at Denpasar airport know this all too well. At the carousel, they will take your bag and insist on carrying it for you through the airport. You’re tired and pleasantly surprised by the free help, but at the exit, they demand high amounts of money. The actual fee for a porter is 2,000 rupiah (20 cents) and the trolleys are free, so if you want help with your luggage, make sure to agree on the price beforehand.
The police in Bali is notorious for pulling over tourists to earn a little extra. Even though you haven’t done anything wrong, they will give you a ticket and tell you to come down to the police station or pay it on the spot which will be cheaper. Make sure to carry a 50,000 rupiah note in your pocket, and if you find yourself stopped by the police, don’t show them your wallet – just hand over the 50,000 bill. Most times that will do.
When you take a taxi in Bali, always ask them to turn on the meter. Don’t negotiate a price as this will almost never go in your favor.
Most locals will say 10 when they mean 10,000 rupiah ($1) which can easily lead to confusion. If you’re at a market, they will shout out “10 for this T-shirt”, and if you decide to buy it, they will wrap it up and ask for $10. They plan to make you feel uncomfortable and pay up, but you shouldn’t be afraid to point out the misunderstanding and walk away!
Wrong place to do this – not that there’s a right place. Indonesia has death penalty for drug traffickers plus huge fines and long jail sentences for those caught with as little as a few ecstasy tabs. Expect to be offered magic mushroom and other drugs in tourist areas and night clubs, but assume that such offers come from people trying to get you arrested. Street dealers are often working with the police.
Money Changer Scam
The most common Money Changer scam is after counting your money right in front of you note by note, just when they hand you the money the’re simultaneously flicking or dropping notes behind the counter, like magic your money disappears before your very eyes.
OR They distract you by looking at the exchange rate or calculator while they slip money from your already counted money.
HOW TO AVOID:
Avoid rates that are usually too good to be true.
Find out the general rate versus the advertised rates, verify whether they apply a commission. When ‘no commission’ and high rates go together, usually it is not a good sign.
Don’t use Dodgy-looking exchange kiosks down narrow gangs/alleys
Count your money again in front of them, and again if you need to, and again as well.
Just because the size says ‘Authorized’ doesn’t mean they are.
Usually once they know they have been caught “scamming’ you of your money, they will give you your money back and tell you to go away.
Most scams are pretty basic, no taxi meters, longer routes, no change and extra charges.
Ngurah Rai Taxi cooperative controls a monopoly of the taxis at the airport, which usually charge you more.
Porters outside of the airport will be quick to help carry your bags for a fee of cause.
HOW TO AVOID:
When at the airport – try to organise a shuttle service provided by your hotel.
Avoid Porters unless you really need them, and work out a price of $1-$5 before they help you.
Out side the airport use the BlueBird Taxis
Ask if the meter is working.
Always carry small Rupiah change. So they can’t say they don’t have change.
Refuse a ‘per person’ fare.
Be firm and agree upon fares before hopping into your ride.
Travel & Tickets to Nusa Lembongan
Selling bogus tickets to reputable boats, which isn’t so reputable.
The boat is “full”, “technical problems” or “sold out” but they have “friends” or another boat which is available and will cost you alot more.
HOW TO AVOID:
A return ticket Bali-Nusa Lembongan, including ground transfer from your hotel should cost you about USD 30.
The price usually starts out cheap but in the end you could be paying way to much.
Pedicures/Manicure – the price given was for 1 finger, not all. This colour costs more or that pattern costs more etc.
More than 1 person ends up massaging you, doing your nails or selling you stuff and you have to pay them all.
HOW TO AVOID:
Politely say NO, some will make you feel bad. But, once you say yes to one, they all swarm in like seagulls to a hot chip in the sand.
Make sure you set the price before any work is done, make sure its clear that there is no “extra” price.
Reasonable prices for a massage is IDR 25,000 and 100,000, depending on the length of the massage.
Sun chairs – be sure to shop around and try to get the cheapest, some have been known to charge by the hour not the day. A reasonable price for the day is about 50,000.