Bali, Indonesia

Tourist-scams-BaliThe tropical island of Bali is the most popular tourist destination of Indonesia. This typical “bounty island” is on many people’s wish list to visit at least once in their life. Bali has been a tourist haven for decades, but its popularity was even further increased by the book “Eat Pray Love” by Elizabeth Gilbert and the subsequent movie with the same name.

Tourists come to Bali for its beautiful beaches with palm trees, where they can choose to simply relax and enjoy the sun or to go surfing the waves of the famous Kuta beach. Bali is also home to trendy clubs where travelers from all over the world can party together. But the Indonesian island has so much more to offer than just beaches and clubs. Bali-Tourist-scamsThe impressive volcanoes can be seen from every corner of the island, and its idyllic hinterland is covered in distinctive rice fields, while literally hundreds of magical temples are spread across the entire island thanks to its mostly Hindu population. The Balinese people are worldwide renowned for their friendliness and hospitality and for their characteristic arts, crafts and dances.

Bali tourist scams

However, as in every tourist hotspot, tourists need to be aware of people trying to take advantage of the “all is well” holiday atmosphere which causes the traveler to be off guard when it comes to being tricked or scammed. The differences in culture and habits can be a bit confusing, even to the experienced traveler, and that gives those with dishonest intentions an advantage, especially with travelers who have just arrived after a long and exhausting flight.

  • It starts with the baggage porters at Ngurah Rai International Airport, trying to make you believe they are official employees hired to carry your luggage, until they ask for a tip.
  • As in almost any country, be especially on guard when changing money. Always recount your money before walking out of the door, but even better: just change at a bank or hotel lobby, to be sure nobody is trying to rip you off.
  • If you take part in a scratch-and-win lottery on the streets, don’t be surprised if you win the “grand prize”, it’s just a scam to get you into a presentation for an expensive timeshare program with airtight contracts.
  • When renting a motorbike, make sure you wear a helmet, even if nobody else does. As a foreigner, you are an easy prey for corrupt police officers.
  • Carefully watch your belongings at the Ubud Monkey Forest, as the monkeys are trained to steal them so a trickster can get it back for you in return for a reward.
  • Make sure you buy an inexpensive sarong before visiting the major temples, so you won’t have to buy or rent an expensive sarong to be allowed to enter the temple.
  • Ignore people trying to sell you drugs. Sentences for drugs users and sellers are extremely high, and some may even be working undercover with the cops.
  • Not really a scam, but still: never pay full price. Always haggle, as it is part of the Balinese culture and you will be sure to pay too much if you agree on the asking price.

Most of these scams are pretty harmless and won’t cost you more than a handful of Rupiah, but they could still make you feel like an idiot as soon as you realize you’ve been tricked.

Keep in mind: local Balinese (or most Asian) people are generally very timid towards foreigners and will never spontaneously approach them or start a conversation. Even if they speak English very well, they’ll wait for you to make the first contact. Any local who is daring enough to approach tourists spontaneously will have an agenda of his/her own, even if they seem friendly and helpful at first. It’s that simple!

Bali-tourist-rip_offsBe on guard for these known scams and variations to them. If you happen to run into a new kind of scam, or if you have a story about how the swindlers work, make sure you tell us about it. That’s the best way to warn other travelers and to prevent them from falling into the same traps.

And most importantly: just enjoy your vacation. Don’t be discouraged by these stories, they don’t happen to everyone, and they don’t mean Bali is unsafe. On the contrary, 99.9 percent of the people are incredibly friendly, sincere and honest, and Bali is one of the most beautiful, but also one of the safest places to spend your holiday.

  • Airport baggage porters scam


    Most tourists will arrive in Bali at Ngurah Rai airport in Denpasar, after a long and exhausting flight. The long waiting line at the visa counter and immigration doesn’t help raise your spirits either, so when you finally arrive at the baggage carrousel, you won’t be fully on guard. Unfortunately, this is the first place in […]

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  • Scratch-and-win Timeshare scam


    Timesharing is a scam in which you buy a share of a holiday accommodation, together with other unsuspicious tourists. In exchange for an annual installment (sometimes called membership fee), you will be the owner of this accommodation for a certain number of days or weeks every year, allowing you to spend your holiday there. However, […]

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  • Money change scam


    Money change scams are found in almost every tourist hotspot across the globe. Most of them happen when a tourist changes money on the streets with someone who just approached them instead of at an official money exchange office. In Bali, tourists can get scammed at money change desks inside a shop, especially those with […]

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  • Corrupt police scam


    If you decide to discover Bali on a small motorbike, be aware that as a tourist you are very likely to be pulled over by the local police, even if you are doing nothing really wrong. They’ll almost certainly find some minor rule that you are breaking, just to be able to issue a ticket. […]

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  • Stealing monkeys scam


    You will see monkeys virtually everywhere in Bali except in the cities, but they are most present at the Ubud Monkey Forest and the popular tourist destination Uluwatu temple (also known as Pura Luhur Uluwatu), a century old Hindu temple and maybe one of the spectacular of the hundreds of temples across the island. But […]

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  • Expensive sarong at temple scam


    Every visitor of one of the many Hindu temples in Bali, whether male or female, needs to wear a sarong, even when they are already wearing long pants or trousers. It is insulting to the Hindu people in Bali not to wear a sarong when entering a temple compound. Just as women are not allowed […]

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  • Drugs dealers


    Tourists in Bali get approached by locals trying to sell them something all the time. Fortunately, unlike in some other popular holiday destinations, the Balinese people are not too pushy and most will back off at the first “No, thank you”. Not all of their merchandise is harmless, though. Especially in the most popular beach […]

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  • Paying full price


    Bargaining is part of Balinese culture, so it’s not really a scam or a rip-off, but it’s worth mentioning here as a preparation for your holiday. When buying from a street vendor, never pay the full price, no matter how cheap the item may seem. A reasonable discount off the original asking price is 30 […]

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