Discover the most common scams in Bali and how to avoid them, so you can enjoy your trip to Indonesia.
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.
I’ve been scammed on some of my trips 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 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 better 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.
How to avoid scams in Bali
Below, I’ll share some useful tips on how to avoid scams in Bali. Knowing the common scams and the methods used by scammers can help you to be better prepared and more aware of your surroundings during your trip.
- Always agree on a price before you buy something, get into a taxi or drink/eat something in a shop
- You are not required to be polite to someone who won’t leave you alone or demands a donation
- Don’t let anyone bully you into giving them money. It’s your money, just tell them no.
- Hold on to your belongings in crowded places to avoid pickpocketing
- Don’t provide personal information (hotel, name, etc.) to strangers
💸 Bali travel insurance
I highly recommend having travel insurance because let’s be real — the last thing you want on your trip is for accidents to get in the way.
I recommend Safety Wing — they offer affordable prices, great coverage, and a reliable 24/7 on-call service.
The most common Bali scams
Now, let’s take a look at some of the most common tourist traps in Bali to watch out for. Awareness is key to staying safe and avoiding bad experiences – so let’s dig in and check out the worst scams in Bali.
Read next: 10 common travel scams and how to avoid them
1. Airport 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.
Another typical airport scam in Bali is overcharging the taxi fare outside the airport terminal. My advice? Pre-book an airport pickup.
That way you’ll avoid the hassle with taxi drivers and different companies trying to sell you their services. Your driver will stand in the arrival hall holding a sign with your name on it. Most hotels also offer airport pickup as a service.
2. Corrupt police pull-overs
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.
You deal with it by carrying a 50,000 rupiah note in your pocket, and if you get stopped by the police, don’t show them your wallet – just hand over the 50,000 bill. Most times that will do.
3. Fake taxis
Like most other places in Asia, the taxi drivers are notorious for scamming tourists. You can find the most common taxi scams here, but in Bali they take it to another level.
Bali has one reliable and professional taxi company called Blue Bird Group taxis. They always display identification and use the meter. They also dress professionally.
However, other taxis and fake drivers know all about this, so they’re trying to look like them to scam you. They paint their cars blue and use a similar blue bird logo and sticker.
To avoid this, download the Blue Bird taxi app, which works a lot like Uber in Bali. If you’re hailing a car at the airport or the road, always ask the taxi driver to turn on the meter.
Again, I'm a huge fan of private drivers in Bali, because it's so cheap, convenient and hassle-free. With a private driver you can make your own itinerary - you decide when and where to go.
4. Unlicensed and overcharging guides
At the temples in Bali, hustlers will try to convince you to hire them as a tour guide. But the man approaching you is most likely not a licensed guide and he will overcharge you.
They’re not all straight forward. Some of them will walk next to you and just start chatting in a friendly manner, but then later they’ll demand a donation.
This particular scam is popular at Besakih temple, which I’ll share more about below.
5. Currency scams
This Bali tourist trap is known anywhere on the island.
This is how it goes: Most locals will say 10 when they in fact mean $10 which can easily lead to confusion. If you’re at a market, they will shout out “10 for this T-shirt”. You’ll ask if they mean rupiah, they nod, and if you decide to buy it, they will wrap it up and ask for $10. I saw this several times and tried it myself in Ubud.
The whole point of this is 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 pills.
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.
7. Dangerous arak drinks
This scam is particularly dangerous.
See, a common Bali scam is to switch clear spirits, like vodka, with arak – a local “moonshine” that’s cheap to make and therefore often contains methanol. Methanol is extremely dangerous as it can cause organ damage, kidney failure, blindness, and even death in some cases.
Several people have died from drinking arak-spiked cocktails in Bali and Gili Trawangan. As little as 10 ml can cause blindness.
So, my advice is to always ask if your drink contains arak (although bars are likely to just say no) or simply avoid mixed drinks all-together and stick to beer.
8. Temple scams in Bali
If you visit one of the temples in Bali, watch out for the notorious temple scams.
Most times, the scam is about donations. They will ask you for a donation, show you how much everyone else has paid (which are often huge sums!) and then intimidate or trick you into paying because you’re led to think it’s mandatory. If you refuse, they will shame and guilt-trip you.
I tried this and it was super uncomfortable, which you can read about below.
How I was almost scammed in Bali
I went to Bali as a solo traveler and visited Besakih temple with a private driver. I’d 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, they showed me to a small room with four local men and a so-called ‘temple guardian’. He informed me that I couldn’t 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 they had been tricked into it! I wanted to pay the guide for his time, so I put down 100,000 INR ($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….
THE SCAMVERSATION Scammer: [Looks offended] That is not enough, miss. You have to pay as much as everyone else. Me: Oh, I'm sorry. I thought you said this was a do-na-ti-on? Scammer: Yes, yes, miss. It is a donation. Up to you. Me: Fine. Then I will donate 100,000. Scammer: Nooo, miss. That is not enough. You are not very generous. But up to you. I don't want to pressure you. Me: [Slams the 100,000 note on the table] Then don't! [End of awkward dialog]
Obviously, these men and the small room was the perfect setup to intimidate me, and I can see how they could have scammed all these other people.
I was assigned a guide and when the tour was halfway through, he had the nerve to ask me for yet another donation, which I flat-out refused. I left Besakih temple early and unimpressed.
How to deal with scammers
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 scam – he tells me that I have to pay a donation, but as we all know: donations are voluntary. In other words: 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.
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.
Always use your intuition
Dealing with Bali tourist traps is a pain, and most times calling their bluff is enough for them to stop. However, you should always, always read the room before you react. Although scammers are after your money, you never know what type of person is standing in front of you; if he’s desperate or aggressive.
So, use common sense and your intuition to choose the best approach. If it’s a corrupt police officer, use extra caution.
Stay safe ♡
Have you been scammed in Bali? How did you react?
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