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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.
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Table of Contents
HOW TO AVOID BALI SCAMS
First of all, read up on common scams in the area before you visit a new destination.
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
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.
Read next: 5 most popular temples in Bali
After paying the entrance fee of 15,000 Rupiah, they showed me to a small room with several local men and a ‘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 ($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….
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 other men and the small room was the perfect setup to intimidate me and I can see how they could have scammed all these 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 early and unimpressed.
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. 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.
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.
Read next: Where to stay in Bali
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. 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.
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.