6 Common Scams to Avoid in Bali, Indonesia

Even a monkey might rip you off in Bali!

Even a monkey might rip you off in Bali!

As is the case in most poorer countries, there are many people out there looking to relieve foreigners of their “riches”.  Some honestly, and some not so honestly.  Being subject to one or two in our day, we thought it best to warn all of you planning a trip to Bali of some of the most common ones on the island.  If you know of any more, let us know about them in the comments!

Airport Porters – After 20+ hours of flying from North America to Bali, saying you’re tired would be an understatement.  After an hour or two of waiting in line to purchase your Visa and clear immigration, the porters at Ngurah Rai International know you’re tired and dying to get to your hotel quickly.  Lucky (or unlucky) for you, they’re there to help!  The baggage carousal is where these guys hang out to make their money.  Pulling bags off of the carousal and strapping them on their back or over their head, they wait for you to find them with your luggage.  Unsuspecting foreigners see this as gracious Balinese hospitality, and allow them to “help” you with your stuff.  Experienced travellers know that after kindly carrying all of your luggage on their back to a taxi, the porters will reply to your “thank-you” with “Tip? Tip? Tip?”.  They’ll look at you with those puppy dog eyes, and even give you the oh-so-familiar Balinese pout until you succumb to their request.  To avoid this scam, be prepared after clearing immigration to find your bag, thank who ever has pulled it off of the carousal for you, and insist on carrying it yourself.  It’s easy to avoid this one if you know it’s coming.

Timeshares – Walking the streets of Kuta, it’s near impossible to avoid running into a timeshare rep.  In fact, if you can go a week without an encounter, you should immediately run out and buy a lottery ticket.  It all seems rather innocent at the time.  The rep will very politely ask how you are, and if you have a moment to talk to them.  They’ll ask you your name, how old you are, where you are staying, and then invite you to a presentation at a hotel, only to receive a free “gift” for attending.  Even if you turn down their invite though, they’ve still got you.  You’ll soon be receiving calls at your hotel from an Australian national, saying you’ve won a free night (or more) at such-and-such hotel on your next visit to Bali, and that they just need you to attend a presentation at the hotel.  Easiest way to avoid this scam is to not give your info away to the reps on the street.  It’s incredibly difficult to avoid them though because they are so polite and incredibly insistent.  If you want to avoid a conversation with them entirely, politely tell them you’re not yet 27 years old, which happens to be the minimum age for people they invite to these presentations.

Money Changers – We tend to think this scam is a bit over-rated, as we have yet to experience it, but perhaps it’s because we have heeded the many warnings out there about Balinese money changers.  Money changers are big business in Bali, located almost everywhere you look, and easily found by their exchange rate signs blocking the already narrow sidewalks.  It’s usually the places that offer rates too-good-to-be-true that you should be most cautious of.  The scam here typically involves fast fingers, fixed calculators, and/or drunken foreigners.  First, to avoid the “fast fingers”, be sure to count what your receive…twice.  Second, fixed calculators can be avoided by double checking the amount you should receive on your own calculator.  Lastly, it’s easy to rip off an unsuspecting, drunk foreigner of a bill or two.  Wouldn’t you??  Our best advice to avoid this scam would be to stay sober when changing money.  If that’s not possible, use an ATM.

Police Pullovers – If you decide to rent a motorbike or car in Bali, this scam’s for you!  Balinese police are notorious for pulling over foreigners even if you’re doing everything right.  By pulling you over, they’re simply looking for a quick and easy excuse to issue you a “ticket”.  You’ll likely be told that the ticket will cost more if you decide to pay at a police station, but that if you pay it “now” it will cost much less.  If renting a vehicle in Bali, always be sure to carry some extra cash in a separate pocket, in smaller denominations for “fines”.  To help avoid this scam, be sure to wear a helmet when riding a motorbike, and carry with you an International Driver’s Permit.  See the video below (not taken from us), of a hidden camera capturing a “fine” being paid in Bali.

Drugs – This one is definitely the most serious in nature, and should not be taken lightly.  Indonesia is known for very strict laws and punishment around possession, use, and of course, smuggling drugs.  If you look remotely young, and especially if walking alone, you’ll undoubtedly be offered “something”.  As Indonesia is swarming with secret police and those with connections to police, it’s really in your best interest to avoid drugs altogether.  Some people believe that these secret police will target selling to tourists in order to hit them with outrageous fines, as a source of income to the government.  A simple “no thank-you” is really all you need to provide those who offer to sell to you.  If you so choose to avoid this warning about drugs in Bali, be prepared to face the consequences.  Read up on Schapelle Corby.

Paying Too Much – This is nearly unavoidable, especially if you’re a first timer to Bali.  Read our newest post: How to Bargain Like a Pro in Bali!

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Categories: Bali, Destination Guides, Tips For Travellers

Author:Thomas & Katherine

A love for travel, adventure, and photography. We just can't help but write about it!

9 Comments on “6 Common Scams to Avoid in Bali, Indonesia”

  1. buddhabelly
    May 13, 2012 at 12:27 am #

    I am waiting for the monkey scamming story!!!


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  3. May 8, 2013 at 2:14 pm #

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  4. melissa
    May 15, 2013 at 8:25 pm #

    We’re in bali now and I wish I had seen this blog earlier. . We too have been pulled over by the police for not wearing helmets but managed to get out of it as we had very little money “visible” (the rest we hide in a secret compartment) in my purse… no licence or passports… we apologized profusely and the policeman, after some hesitation, let us go… we were very lucky.
    We have also been bailed up out the front of our hotel no more than 5 minutes after arriving in seminyak. We were given a card each to rip open to see what prize we had won. I won 2 tshirts and my partner won either a 7 night holiday, an ipad or an iPhone. We were then taken down to this hotel where we were met by an australian guy who took us in and sat us down for the presentation. There were alot of other groups of tourists here as well and each group had their own australian rep talking to them about this exlcusive offer. That will be almost 2 hours of our first day we will never get back. We politely said no, as we have a baby on the way, but thanked him for his time. We were still given our prizes and my partner ended up getting the 7 nights accommodation.
    theres one other scam that I think you might want to check out. We went to the uluwatu monkey temple and paid our admission fee to get in but before we went in we were stopped by a lovely indo man who said he will guide us as it is his job. We assumed this was part of the entry fee. He escorted us around. we noticed a few other tourists didnt have guides – that’s when alarm bells started ringing, and sure enough, right before the end he said you pay me now, he was asking for $20 australian money which we didnt have.. we couldnt even pay in rupee as we only ever carry little amounts on us. He snatched our sashes off us so we couldn’t go back around and we left. It made us feel horrible, but I think just a warning to everyone else that if you get a guide be prepared to pay.


    • May 15, 2013 at 9:10 pm #

      Your story made us laugh so hard! You definitely needed to read this article before hand. We’re so surprised that you still got the 7 nights accommodation. Worth it then??

      Oh yes…the tour guide scam! We totally need to add that one! What did you end up giving him?

      Don’t worry, you’re not the first that’s not willing/able to pay. The Balinese are famous for their pout, which really is more of a guilt trip than anything. Don’t take it too personally. :)


  5. Ann
    July 24, 2013 at 6:59 am #

    Always make sure a Taxi has the meter on if they say its broken get out find another one. I took a short trip and he tried to charge me three times the cost as his meter was broken ??? I then had to barter my fare and of course paid more than I should


  6. SurferBuddy69
    October 22, 2013 at 2:55 pm #

    A very charming waiter at The Chillhouse in Bali calling himself Nunung. He is very charming and nice and is popular with all the tourists. We fell for his charm and he keep in contact with us after our stay at The Chillhouse. He was the one who ask for our contacts etc. He then lurred us into a scam. From our home country we sent him money for an investment in bali he promised he could help us with. Money is gone.


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