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4 Tourist Scams in Bali: What to Lookout For

Bali, a popular tourist destination, is not only famous for its breathtaking tourist sights but also infamous for a variety of scams that target unsuspecting visitors.

Such incidents occur frequently, with tourists often being misled into paying more than necessary.

 

To navigate Bali safely, it’s essential to be aware of these scams, use reliable apps like Google Maps to locate official sites, and count money meticulously when you change money, as Bali dispenses denominations that may be unfamiliar to many.

This article delves into the specifics of such scams, offering valuable advice to ensure a safe and enjoyable visit to Bali’s famed sights.

 

1. Rideshare Scams in Bali

 

In Bali, the public bus system is notably limited, leaving tourists and locals heavily reliant on taxis and rideshare services for commuting between various destinations on the island.

 

This dependency has given rise to various scams associated with these transport methods.

 

Issues with Rideshare Drivers Overcharging or Demanding Extra Fees

 

Rideshare services like Grab and Gojek, Southeast Asia’s counterparts to Uber, have become essential for transportation in Bali.

 

However, in certain areas like Ubud and Uluwatu, these services face restrictions, yet they remain the most affordable and convenient option for many.

 

Despite their utility, there’s a significant issue with some rideshare drivers setting their own prices, often charging double or even triple the rate quoted in the app.

This problem is exacerbated because payment is typically made in cash, especially for tourists without an Indonesian bank account. This method of payment makes it easier for drivers to demand additional fees.

 

Corrupt police officers in Bali also target tourists, particularly those on scooters, for minor traffic violations. They often focus on issues like the absence of a certified helmet or the lack of an international driver’s license. This practice places additional pressure on tourists to opt for rideshare services instead of renting scooters.

 

Tips for Dealing with Rideshare Scams

 

     

      1. Confirm Price Beforehand: Before boarding a rideshare vehicle, confirm the fare quoted in the app with the driver to ensure both parties are in agreement. This step helps prevent unexpected demands for additional payment at the end of the journey.

      1. Avoid Conflict by Being Informed: Being aware of the common scam where drivers charge more than the app’s quote can prepare you to handle such situations calmly. Opting to pay the extra fee to avoid conflict only perpetuates the scam, so standing your ground is essential.

      1. Stay Updated on Local Restrictions: Be aware of the local restrictions on rideshare services in different parts of Bali. This knowledge can help in planning your travel and avoiding areas where rideshare services might be problematic.

      1. Keep Documentation Handy: In case of any disputes or confrontations with corrupt practices, having documentation such as your international driver’s license and a record of your rideshare transactions can be helpful.

    If you want to reduce your risk of a bad experience, consider approaching “Blue Bird” taxis scattered throughout the island. Here is how they stand out:

     

    Identification of Genuine Blue Bird Taxis

     

     

    The Blue Bird Taxi Group stands out as the most reputable taxi company in Bali. To ensure you are getting into an authentic Blue Bird taxi, look for the following identifiers:

     

       

        • Color and Logo: Genuine Blue Bird taxis are painted light blue with dark blue writing.

        • Bird Logo: They have a distinct bird logo on the top and side of the vehicle.

        • Windshield Sticker: ‘Blue Bird Group’ is printed across the windshield.

        • Identification Number: A clear taxi identification number is displayed.

        • Driver’s Uniform and ID: Taxi Drivers wear blue uniforms and have their ID mounted on the dashboard.

        • Meter Usage: Genuine Blue Bird drivers use the meter without being prompted.

      These features are crucial in distinguishing real Blue Bird taxis from the fakes, which often mimic the appearance of Blue Bird taxis to deceive tourists.

       

      Strategies to Avoid Fake Taxis and Ensure Meter Usage

       

         

          1. Meter Agreement: Before getting into any taxi, ensure the driver agrees to use the meter. If there is reluctance or refusal, it’s better to find another taxi.

          1. Watch the Meter: Be vigilant about meter speeds, as some may be tampered with to run faster, especially in slow-moving traffic.

          1. Fixed Price Option: In some cases, agreeing on a fixed price before starting your journey can be a safer option, particularly for longer distances where the meter might not be the best choice.

          1. Use the Blue Bird App: Download and use the official Blue Bird app for booking taxis. This method is similar to using Uber and helps avoid hailing fake taxis on the street.

          1. Hotel Assistance: Have your hotel call a taxi for you. Hotels typically have contacts with reliable taxi services.

          1. Know the Surcharges: Be aware of potential surcharges for long-distance trips. If a surcharge is reasonable, it’s acceptable, but exorbitant extra fees should be a red flag.

          1. Alternative Online Taxi Services: Consider using online taxi services like Uber, Gojek, or Grab. These platforms allow you to see the price beforehand and track the route the taxi is supposed to take.

          1. Stay Informed: Keep yourself updated about the prevalent taxi scams in Bali. Being informed helps in making better decisions when choosing a taxi service.

        By following these strategies, tourists can navigate the taxi services in Bali more safely and avoid falling victim to common taxi scams. Remember, vigilance and preparation are key to ensuring a pleasant and scam-free travel experience in Bali.

         

        2. Corrupted Police in Bali

         

        In Bali, the issue of corrupt police officers and the emergence of fake police is a significant challenge for tourists, especially those using scooters for transportation.

        These officers often target tourists for minor traffic violations as a means of extorting money. Key areas, like the intersection where Jl. Petitenget meets Jl. Batu Belig, are notorious for such incidents. Tourists are frequently stopped and coerced into paying fines for supposed violations.

         

        The strict enforcement of helmet policies in Bali is justified for safety reasons. However, tourists must be aware that only helmets with an SNI sticker, certifying compliance with Indonesian standards, are only accepted. Additionally, international driver’s licenses, even if valid in other countries, may be deemed invalid in Bali if they lack a Bahasa Indonesia translation.

         

        The situation is further complicated by the presence of fake police officers. These imposters, often seen on the roads to Mount Batur, may appear somewhat official but give themselves away with exaggerated attire, such as aviator sunglasses and leather jackets. Their motorbikes, marked with unofficial “Police” stickers, are a giveaway, as genuine police bikes are more technically equipped and professionally marked.

         

        Strategies for Handling Police Stops and Fines

         

           

            1. Helmet Compliance: Always wear a helmet while riding a scooter and ensure it has the SNI sticker for Indonesian standards.

            1. International Driver’s License: Carry an international driver’s license when driving in Bali. Be aware, however, that officers may still challenge its validity.

            1. Identify Real Police: Learn to distinguish real police officers from fakes. Real police will have more professional attire and equipment, including properly marked bikes.

            1. Do Not Hand Over Your Passport: If stopped by someone you suspect is a fake officer, never hand over your passport. This can lead to extortion to get it back.

            1. Stand Your Ground: If you are confident you have not violated any rules, politely but firmly stand your ground. Often, fake officers will back down if they realize they cannot easily intimidate you.

            1. Separate Your Money: Carry only a small amount of money in your wallet. Corrupt officers may set fines based on how much cash you have on hand.

            1. Avoid Known Hotspots: Be aware of and try to avoid areas known for police targeting tourists, such as the Jl. Petitenget and Jl. Batu Belig intersection.

            1. Document the Encounter: If possible, discreetly document any encounter with the police, especially if you suspect foul play. This can be useful for reporting the incident later.

            1. If Possible, Ask Them To Bring You To Their StationTo Pay The Fine

          By understanding these challenges and adopting these strategies, tourists can better navigate the complexities of dealing with corrupt police and fake officers in Bali, ensuring a safer and more enjoyable travel experience.

           

          3. Currency Exchange Scams in Bali

           

          In Bali, especially in tourist hotspots like Kuta and Legian, numerous “official” money changers claim to offer favorable exchange rates with no commission or fees.

           

          However, these offers are often too good to be true. Many travelers have reported being shortchanged at these establishments.

           

          The staff are skilled in sleight of hand techniques, where they may subtly pocket some of your money during the transaction, or ‘accidentally’ drop bills behind the counter.

           

          There’s also a risk of receiving damaged or invalid banknotes that are not readily accepted elsewhere. Such practices are common in these informal exchange booths, making them a risky option for tourists looking to exchange currency.

           

          Tips for Safe Currency Exchange and ATM Usage

           

             

              1. Use Authorized Money Changers: Always opt for authorized money changers and ensure that their exchange rates are current and fair. Avoid kiosks that claim no fees or commissions, as these are often deceptive.

              1. Count and Inspect Money: After exchanging money, count it carefully and inspect the notes before leaving the counter. Ensure that you haven’t been given damaged or invalid banknotes.

              1. Avoid Distractions: Be vigilant and focused during the transaction to prevent falling for any sleight of hand tricks.

              1. Prefer ATMs for Better Rates: ATMs generally offer better exchange rates compared to most money changers. ATM fees in Indonesia are also comparatively lower than in other Southeast Asian countries.

              1. Choose the Right Denominations: In Bali, ATMs usually dispense 100,000-rupiah notes, but some ATMs with “50,000” stickers dispense smaller denominations, which are more convenient for daily transactions.

              1. Be Realistic About Rates: Understand that while some rates may appear higher than the international rate, this is often a lure to attract customers. Realistically, profits from currency exchange are unlikely.

            By following these tips, tourists can navigate the tricky landscape of currency exchange in Bali, avoiding common scams and ensuring they get a fair deal on their transactions.

             

            4. Entrance Fee Scam at Temples and Attractions in Bali

             

            Tourist attractions in Bali, particularly temples and photogenic sites, are often targets for various scams.

             

            One common tactic involves individuals falsely claiming that an attraction is closed and then offering to take tourists to alternative sites for a fee.

            These scammers may be motivated by commissions from the alternate locations or simply seeking payment for the transportation.

             

            Another frequent scam occurs at the entrances of temples, where unauthorized individuals demand entrance fees.

             

            These scammers often position themselves close to the actual entrance or on the approach roads, misleading tourists into paying them instead of at the official ticket counters.

             

            Additionally, there are instances where locals pose as guides and attach themselves to tourists, only to demand money for their unsolicited services later.

             

            Tips for Identifying Official Temple Personnel and Avoiding Unauthorized Guides

             

               

                1. Look for Official Ticket Booths: Almost every attraction in Bali has an official ticket booth near the entrance. Always head directly to these booths for entry tickets and ignore anyone asking for money outside these points.

                1. Beware of ‘Closed Attraction’ Scams: If someone tells you that a temple is closed and offers to take you elsewhere, be skeptical. Always check for yourself whether the attraction is truly closed.

                1. Avoid Unofficial Guides: Be wary of individuals who spontaneously offer to guide you around a temple. If you need a guide, it’s best to arrange one through an official or reputable source.

                1. Free Sarong Borrowing: Be aware that in many temples in Bali, sarongs are provided for free to cover your legs, as per the dress code. Refuse offers from vendors trying to sell or rent sarongs at the entrance.

                1. Walk Confidently and Politely Decline Offers: Carry yourself with confidence and politely decline any unsolicited offers or services. Scammers are less likely to persist if they see you are not an easy target.

                1. Dress Modestly: To respect local customs and avoid unnecessary attention, dress modestly, especially when visiting religious sites.

                1. Stay Informed About Entrance Fees: Do some research in advance to know the expected entrance fees for various attractions. This knowledge will help you discern unofficial requests for payment.

                1. Trust Your Instincts: If a situation at an entrance feels off or if the person demanding money does not seem affiliated with the site, trust your instincts and seek out official personnel for clarification.

                1. Avoid Paying for Unwanted Services: If someone insists on providing a service you did not request, like a tour or guidance, remember that you are not obliged to pay for it, especially if it was not agreed upon beforehand.

              By staying alert and following these tips, tourists can navigate Bali’s temples and attractions more safely, avoiding common entrance scams and unauthorized guides.

               

              5 More Scams To Watch Out For

              1. Accommodation Scams

               

              Fake Listings: Be wary of accommodation deals that seem too good to be true, especially on less reputable websites or social media platforms. Scammers may use fake listings to lure tourists into paying deposits for non-existent rentals.

              Safety Tip: Book through reputable platforms or directly with established hotels. Always check reviews and verify the property’s contact information.

               

              2. Tour Package Scams

               

              Non-existent Tours: Some agents sell tours that don’t exist or greatly exaggerate what’s included in the package.

              Safety Tip: Book tours through reputable agencies, and check online reviews and ratings before paying.

               

              3. Scooter Rental Scams

               

              Damaged Scooters: Renters may be accused of damaging the scooter and charged exorbitant fees for repairs.

              Safety Tip: Take photos of the scooter before using it to document any pre-existing damage. Rent from reputable companies only.

               

              4. ATM Skimming and Fraud

               

              Skimming Devices: ATMs may be fitted with skimming devices to steal card information.

              Safety Tip: Use ATMs in secure locations, such as banks or inside shopping centers. Shield the keypad when entering your PIN.

               

              5. ‘Helpful’ Strangers

               

              Misdirection: Locals may offer unsolicited help or guidance, leading you to overpriced shops or restaurants where they receive a commission.

              Safety Tip: Politely decline offers from strangers and use a reliable map or GPS app for navigation.

               

              Takeaways

              Navigating the scenic landscape of Bali requires awareness and vigilance to avoid falling prey to common tourist traps.

               

              Being informed about the prevalent taxi and rideshare scams, the tactics of unauthorized money changers, and the ploys at tourist sites is crucial.

               

              Tourists should always aim for official ticket windows, be wary of free tours that might end up costing more, and count their money carefully after each transaction, especially when using ATMs or exchanging currency.

               

              It’s advisable to use apps like Google Maps for reliable directions and avoid relying on local guides who may mislead. Additionally, when dealing with Bali’s police officers, it’s important to know your rights and avoid paying unnecessary fines upfront.

               

              By being prepared and staying alert, tourists can fully enjoy the mesmerizing sights and experiences Bali has to offer, without the shadow of scams diminishing their memorable journey.

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