In so many ways, Bali is a dream island destination and heaven on earth. Nevertheless, as in any part of the world, tourists in Bali often fall victim to scams. Anyone who has been subjected to a scam knows the humiliating feeling that someone managed to fool you good while you can’t do anything about it. Well, maybe you can after reading this post! Below is a list with Bali’s most common tourist traps and how you can avoid them!
1. Taking overpriced taxi rides in Bali
In Bali, you will find plenty of taxis. Some drivers will try to charge you ridiculous rates or surcharges. If you travel a long way, for example from Kuta to ubud or from Uluwatu to Amed, some taxi drivers might charge you a surcharge.
Tip: make sure to ask the driver beforehand about the rates and possible surcharges. Furthermore, make sure to take a reliable ‘Bluebird’ taxi. There are plenty of fake (bluebird) taxis that charge incredibly rates. You can either call +62 361 7011111 for a Bluebird Taxi to be dispatched to your location or find one yourself. With these points, you can double check that you’re getting in a real Bluebird taxi:
– The car will be light blue with dark blue writing
– The car has a bird logo on the top and side of the vehicle.
– There is ‘Blue Bird Group’ printed across the windshield
– There is a taxi identification number clearly displayed.
– The drivers wear blue uniforms and have their ID mounted on the dashboard.
– The drivers use a meter.
2. Being scammed by commission drivers
In Bali, many tourists choose to hire a personal driver to take them around the island. They think this is a cheap way for exploring (usually around $30-40 a day, including petrol, entrance fees, and bottled water), but instead it is expensive. The drivers usually take you to restaurants or shops where products are overpriced and the driver will receive a commission for taking you there.
Tip: tell the driver before departure about the places you would like to visit, plan it yourself and don’t follow the driver’s itinerary. You can also rent a scooter and go explore yourself.
3. Being scammed by airport porters
At Denpasar airport, you will find plenty of porters to help you with your luggage. At the exit, a high fee is asked for their services.
Tip: the actual fee for a porter is 2,000 rupiah (€ 0,20) and the trolleys are free. If you want help with your luggage, make sure to agree on the price beforehand.
4. Getting accused by your scooter or car rental company
Sometimes renting a scooter can result in high bills. You might pay too much, get accused of scratches or other damages that have been on the scooter already, or you drive around without any scooter insurance and will be fined for it by the corrupted Bali police.
Tip: before you sign the renting contract, check the entire scooter. Check the scooter’s paintwork, brakes, lights, horn, alarm, lock, and gas tank. Make sure everything works probably and make some pictures of the scooter’s condition, so you always have proof about the scooter’s condition when you rented it. Also check if it has a number plate, with a valid date on it. This date shows till when the scooter is officially registered. When you rent a scooter, also make sure you rent a helmet that fits your head and has a visor and always keep the name and mobile number of the rental company with you. Read more tips via this post.
5. Buying petrol
Sometimes petrol is overpriced, especially at non-official petrol station or you get scammed with paying.
Tip: make sure to get petrol at an official petrol station and make sure to bring enough small money, so you can pay the exact amount.
6. Being stopped by unreliably and corrupt Bali police
Unfortunately, not everybody in a uniform is trustworthy. In Bali, many police officers are corrupt and unreliable. They are constantly looking out for tourist to earn some extra cash. They might wait at traffic lights, or follow you somewhere, and will stop you for any minor violation. You can either pay a small fine upfront, or follow them to a small police station, where you most likely must pay more and in worst case scenario; discuss possibilities for going to court.
Tip: if you’re driving in Bali, make sure to have an international driver’s license and to wear a helmet. This post will describe everything you need to know about driving scooter in Indonesia, including useful tips for renting a bike and handy traffic rules. If they stop you, always try to negotiate the ‘fine’ down and bring a second wallet with just a little money and no bank card. Usually the fines are between 50,000 and 100,000 rupiah.
7. Accepting ‘Free’ tour guides at tourist sites
At some tourist sites in Bali, some Balinese will offer you a free tour and at the end of the tour a donation is asked that is hard to refuse.
Tip: if you don’t want to spend money on a tour guide, just refuse the tour. If you are willing to be guided and learn more about the sight, accept the tour, and be prepared to pay a donation afterwards. Usually, the guides will give a better tour if they know beforehand that they will receive a donation. Also make sure to only accept a licensed guide. They often wear a pass with a personal photo on it.
8. Paying ‘overrated’ entrance fees at tourist sites
Next to the ‘free’ tour guides, you should consider how reliable the entrance fees at certain tourist sites are. Sometimes they might charge more, because a special ceremony is going on.
Tip: usually it is unnecessary to pay more during special ceremonies, because almost every day a special ceremony could be going on. If they really insist, google the normal fee, and try to bargain.
9. Being badgered into renting or buying a sarong
When going to a temple, always dress appropriate. You mainly should cover your legs, and sometimes your shoulders too.
Tip: bring your own sarong, when visiting a temple or other tourist site. I always had a sarong in my backpack, wherever I would go. They are handy for on the beach, at temples, or for when you are feeling cold. Yes, it is possible to feel cold at Bali, especially after rain in raining season!
10. Paying extraordinary rates at ‘authentic’ Balinese markets
When shopping, always make sure to bargain! At the typical tourist markets (Ubud, Kuta, Seminyak), you can find the same products all the time, and most of them are overpriced.
Tip: skip the well-known tourists’ markets and visit smaller unknown markets where products are cheaper and perhaps also more unique.
11. Being persuaded at the beach
At almost any beach, but especially Kuta beach, you will be offered many products and services by locals. Think about massages, tattoos, braiding your hair, buying sarongs, bracelets, or other souvenirs. These products and services are for sure overpriced and you will be ripped off for sure.
Tip: ignore the persuasion and go find something yourself in the fixed tourist shops or massage / tattoo places.
12. Drinking Arak and being poisoned
If you’re looking for a traditional Balinese drink, you should try Arak. This is a traditional Balinese spirit made from toddy palm trees. The drink is very popular during local ceremonies and parties. In recent years however, occasional cases of methanol poisoning have occurred, due to the consumption of arak.
Tip: only drink arak at reliable bars and check the source from the bartenders.
13. Eating overpriced seafood at Jimbaran
Jimbaran is a city in the southern part of Bali. The city has plenty of beachside cafés where fresh fish is served. You can find different fresh caught seafood, ranging from shrimp, clams, crabs, calamari, lobsters, and a wide assortment of fish. The beachside cafés are very cozy during the night and the different cafés which I tried so far, do offer an amazing quality of seafood with overpriced rates.
Tip: it is worth going, but be prepared to pay more than you will do at a small warung just across the street. It is definitely worth checking out the surrounding, before heading to the expensive common beach restaurants.
14. Paying for photo
During a holiday, it is always nice to take some photos. However, keep in mind that you might get charged for taking photos of people.
Tip: don’t make photos of people or ask beforehand if it is accepted to take a photo for free.
15. Paying for getting your items back
When visiting the Ubud Monkey Forest or temples with monkeys, make sure not to bring or wear any expensive belongings, because employers or little boys can help you bring back your stuff when stolen by a monkey in return for a crazy fee.
Tip: the monkeys are smart and will empty your pockets before you know. Make sure your pockets are empty, before you enter the park. Try to bring as less things as possible. So, no sunglasses, purse, camera case, food, drinks, money, flashy jewelry, or anything you might have hanging off you. I did bring my sunglasses and unfortunately one of the monkeys stole it and destroyed it by chewing on it. You can bring a camera or your phone, but make sure to hold it anytime. More tips for visiting the Ubud Monkey Forest? Read this post!
16. Doing groceries
You wouldn’t expect any scamming problems while doing groceries. But be prepared! Once I did groceries, and didn’t got the receipt after paying and receiving the change. I still asked the receipt, and got some extra change back, what otherwise would have been some extra cash for the employer.
Tip: always ask the receipt, otherwise you might receive too less change.
17. Getting an overpriced massage
In Bali, you can get at almost every street corner a massage. Also, hotels and resorts do offer different types of massages or pedicures. Usually these are overpriced and can be bought way cheaper at a local place.
Tip: don’t get any massage or pedicure at a hotel or resort. Still not when they offer discount! At almost every street you can find plenty of massage salons offering great things with affordable rates.
18. Buying a phone card or pulsa
You can buy a really cheap local sim card for around € 6,00 in supermarkets or at small street shops. With this sim card you can call, text and use the local 3G or 4G internet wherever you are.
Tip: know the prices! Make sure the local sim card or credit isn’t overpriced and still in the original package. When it is not in the original package anymore, you have the change to be scammed!
19. Changing your money in Bali
In Bali, you will find plenty of (authorized) money changers. Some money changers will lower the money behind the counter after showing it to you. ‘Accidentally’ they might drop some notes, before handing it back to you.
Tip: make sure to use an authorized money changer and that the exchange rate is up-to-date. Also check beforehand if they ask commission, and after receiving the money count it again in front of the money changer.
20. Using drugs
Just don’t do this please! In the night, at some bars and cafés, local guys will try to sell you some helium balloons, magic mushrooms, or other kind of drugs. Please remember that drugs, and so the mushrooms, are illegal in Indonesia!
Tip: just don’t do it. Just don’t…..
I hope these common Bali scams and tips on how to avoid them, can indeed help you to avoid these tourist traps and let you experience a more pleasant stay on Bali. If you have experienced any other scam on Bali, please share it in a comment, and warn other readers about it. Thank you!
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