10 Common Tourist Bali Scams (And How To Avoid Them)

10 Common Tourist Bali Scams (And How To Avoid Them)

Bali is one of the most sought-after vacation destinations in the world. It has beautiful beaches, a vibrant night life, indulgent spas and a great food scene all at a price that is almost too good to be true. We spent two weeks in Bali and if you follow our amazing two week Bali itinerary it is enough for your first trip to the beautiful island. However, like every other popular destination in the world, a lot of tourists have been a victim of scams in Bali.

Also, check out the following blog posts to convert a good trip to Bali to an EPIC trip to Bali!

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Please take note that the locals in Bali are some of the most hospitable people I have come across in my life. However, it’s a bane of all popular tourist destinations in the world to be subjected to a group of people who are looking to take advantage of the unsuspecting tourist.

Luckily, most of the tourist scams are common in all those places. Hence, even if this blog post particularly addresses the tourist scams in Bali, you can use the remedies provided here almost anywhere else in the world.

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Common Bali Scams No. 1 – Airport Taxis

10 Common Tourist Scams in Bali - Airport Taxi Scam

It is common knowledge that a tourist is most clueless, and hence most vulnerable, at the airport. That is why a lot of currency exchange businesses and network sim providers have their little kiosks at airports. However, those are legit businesses and not scams.

The scam is waiting for you outside the arrivals gate. The moment you step out of the gate, approximately 20 cab drivers will flock you and ask you to about your destination. 

If you tell them (in some cases even if you don’t) they will start quoting outrageous amounts for a small ride.

I was quoted $40 for a ride to my resort in Seminyak and an additional $10 for my bags. (which is stupid because obviously I want my bags with me at the resort and I won’t leave them there at the airport).

Normally, I wouldn’t consider this a scam as they’re taking advantage of a certain situation for business.

It becomes a scam because of the following:

  • Most of these taxi providers are unregistered
  • They mock you, and most of the times even yell at you if you decline their offer.
  • They will follow you and pester you even after you have refused.
  • They have created little groups or cartels that will beat up an honest cab driver if he comes to serve customers in their area.

How to Avoid this Bali Scam:

  • The easiest way to avoid this scam is to book an airport pick up with your hotel or resort. Of course, they shall charge you for a round trip but it’ll be cheaper than the options at the airport. My resort had quoted $20 for airport pick up (as compared to the $50 quoted by the airport cab drivers).
  • Another sneaky option is to catch a Blue Bird Taxi that has come to drop someone off at the departures terminal. The departures terminal is just a short walk and is not flocked with the scamming cab drivers. We recommend Blue Bird taxis as they are the most trusted Taxi service in Bali. Our trip to the resort would have cost us $10 by this route.
  • The best option is to book a ride with Grab/Gojek. Uber is banned in Indonesia. Instead they have Grab – a Singapore based company and Gojek – an Indonesian Company providing a similar service.

You can get a sim card from the airport or pre-book your card here like we did to download the app and book a cab.

In recent years there have been fights between grab taxi drivers and regular taxi drivers. Because of this fight, the regular drivers at the airport beat up any Grab/Gojek taxi drivers that enter the airport premises.

So, book your cab while inside the airport and walk straight across the car parking to reach the main road where the Gojek driver shall pick you up. Our trip with Gojek cost us $8 to reach our resort which is less than the price quoted by the airport driver to transport just my bags!

Common Bali Scams No. 2 – Fake Blue Bird Taxis

10 Rampant Tourist Scams in Bali - Fake Blue Bird Taxi Scam

I mentioned above that the Blue Bird group is the most reliable and the most honest taxi service in Bali. As this information has become common knowledge, a lot of independent taxi operators in Bali have started replicating their taxi designs to fool tourists.

As a result, an unsuspecting tourist might get in the taxi thinking that it is a Blue Bird taxi and on reaching the destination, the driver demands for unreasonable amounts of money.

Your only option would be to either pay up or waste precious time on arguing with the driver.

I’ve witnessed one altercation like that in Seminyak and it got got ugly.

How to Avoid this Bali scam:

  • Use Gojek or Grab. Unlike in airports, these services are readily available in most parts of Bali. Get a local sim card and book your cabs without worrying about being ripped off. 
  • If you’re in an area with poor network connection, you won’t be able to use Grab or Gojek. In that case, you’ll need to do some research. Visit the Blue Bird Taxi website to see and memorize what their original logo looks like. All Blue Bird taxis carry the company’s name and logo. Get into a cab only if the logo and name is an EXACT match.
  • Hire your own transportation. There are lots of places in Bali where you can easily rent a scooter for like $4 per day. This not only keeps you away from scamming taxis but also gives you the independence to roam around the island at your own convenience. There are certain risks associated with riding a scooter in Bali and that brings us to our next point.

Common Bali Scams No. 3 – Hired Scooter Damage

10 Rampant Tourist Scams in Bali - Hired Scooter Scams

Exploring the island on scooter is one of the best experiences you can have in Bali. It gives you the comfort to explore the island at your own pace, it’s a lot cheaper than hiring a taxi and it also allows you to explore places unreachable by car. If you follow our popular Nusa Penida Itinerary for 3 days, you will definitely need a reliable scooter.

However, there are some agencies that indulge in malpractice to overcharge the tourists for pre-existing damage to the scooter.

I’ve heard stories of tourists being asked to pay $100 for a couple of scratches that existed even before the tourist hired the scooter.

There are also certain agencies that cause minor damage to their own scooter when the tourist has parked it outside a temple or restaurant. When the tourist goes to return the scooter, he’s asked for unreasonable amounts of money to ‘repair’ the damage.

How to Avoid this Bali scam:

  • If you’re staying in an Airbnb (recommended) your host shall have a scooter that they’ll be willing to rent. Hire from them as they’re very unlikely to damage their own property for a little extra money. Price of scooter rental at your Airbnb shall be more or less the same.
  • Make sure you hire from a credible business. Don’t hire from a person selling it on the street without a shop or office. If a guy walking on the street approaches you and tells you that he’ll get you great deal, walk away. That’s the kind of guy you want to avoid.
  • When you hire from a proper business, click pictures or take a video of the entire vehicle before finalizing the deal. If a vendor doesn’t allow you to do it, walk away and find another vendor.
  • While finalizing the deal, point out the pre-existing damage to the vehicle and make sure that the vendor acknowledges it. 

Common Bali Scams No. 4 – Over Priced Fuel

10 Rampant Tourist Scams in Bali - Over Priced Fuel Scams

Due to the popularity of hiring scooters, lots of little shops have racks full of bottled gasoline.

Almost everyone from street food stalls to little grocery stores have these reused liquor bottles bottles filled with fuel.

The store owners get these bottles filled from the gas pumps, adulterate them with a cheaper fuel like kerosene and sell them at twice the price.

Also, they will charge for 1 litre but the glass bottles might have a capacity of only 0.8 litres. 

How to Avoid this Bali scam:

  • Your scooter rental shall not include fuel but you can negotiate with them to include a litre of petrol in the price. This will allow you to reach a nearby petrol pump.
  • Always keep your fuel tank sufficiently filled especially when visiting North or Central Bali. We saw a lot of fuel stations in the Kuta/Denpasar area but very few in the Ubud or Bedugul area. Make sure you fill up at a fuel station before commencing your trip for the day.

Common Bali Scams No. 5 – Corrupt Police

There are frequent checks on popular tourist roads by the traffic police of Bali. The police shall stop random people and check their documents. If something is not in order according to them, they shall ask you to pay a fine.

A lot of other tourists have told me that this fine is just a ruse and the money goes in their pockets. 

Some locals also said that the receipt that they provide for the fine is also not original and tourists won’t know this as it is written in Indonesian.

When you’re stopped, you’ll be asked to pay the fine either on the spot or at the police station.

Pay the fine then and there, as a visit to the police station shall entail more cost and more vacation time wasted.

How to Avoid this Bali scam:

  • The best way to avoid this scam is by abiding by the law. Always wear a helmet, don’t operate the phone while driving and carry all your documentation.
  • Make sure that your documentation esp. International Driving Permit (IDP) is in the local language. A person traveling with us had an IDP in English but was still fined as the IDP was not in Indonesian.
  • While hiring a vehicle, ensure that helmets are included with the scooter. Not wearing a helmet while driving is like inviting the police to fine you.
  • Always keep two wallets. One with very little cash and another deep down in your bag with the rest of your cash. The policeman shall ask for say 500,000 IDR (about $40) as a fine but if you show him that you have only 50,000 IDR ($4) in your wallet he will ask you to give him the entire amount and will let you go.

Common Bali Scams No. 6 – “You’ve won a Lucky Draw”

This is something we experienced first-hand.

While exploring the shopping streets of Seminyak, we were approached by an overtly friendly man. He gave us a flyer that mentioned an extravagant party in a luxurious resort in Uluwatu. 

He said that the party is for winners of a lucky draw only and you cannot pay to be invited to the party.

To participate you have to open a sealed envelope, if the letter inside says “Congratulations” (or something similar) it means that you’ve won your chance to be in the free party. (you always win)

We did open the envelope because he was very persistent but declined the free invite because something looked fishy.

Later that day, our hotel manager told us stories about how certain tourists fell for this trap and got ripped off.

The ‘free party’ would be free only to enter and food and drinks are later charged to the tourist account. Needless to say, these charges are way higher than regular charges. The tourists are not allowed to leave without making the payment and there have been incidents of physical fights between the tourists and the resort guards as well.

How to Avoid this Bali scam:

The only and the most obvious way to avoid any such incident on your trip is to not fall for such practices. Ignore the person who approached you with this “lucky draw”.

A firm no is generally sufficient but if someone is a bit too persistent, you can create a scene by raising your voice a little. These people like to be sneaky and nothing scares them more than public attention.

Common Bali Scams No. 7- Adulterated Alcohol

10 Rampant Tourist Scams in Bali - Adulterated Alcohol Scams

In the last few years, Bali has witnessed a widespread adulteration in spirits and hard liquor.

Locally produced Arak, a strong and extremely cheap liquor, is mixed with original liquor to increase the supplier’s profit margin.

As this cheap Arak is a very loosely regulated drink, there’s no control of quality and there are increased cases of methanol poisoning among consumers.

In recent years, many tourists and locals have suffered blindness, organ failure, coma and even death in some cases.

The issue with this scam is that we don’t know the extent to which it is spread. I’ve read news where a couple of girls suffered from methanol poisoning after having cocktails at a famous club in Seminyak. There was also an incident last year when an imported bottle of liquor, bought from a supermarket, had been adulterated with arak. It has become increasingly important to become aware and cautious of this scam.

How to avoid this Bali scam:

Stick to beer. Since we don’t know how deep this issue goes, it’s best to stick to consuming something that cannot be adulterated. Beer is cheap, readily available and safe. Bintang beer (widely available in Bali) is already one of my favorite beers in the world.

If you must consume hard drinks, get them from the duty free at Bali airport. You’ll be allowed two litres of hard liquor per person.

There’s a whole list of souvenirs you can buy in Bali, but alcohol is not one of them. Avoid at all costs.

Common Bali Scams No. 8 – Magic Mushrooms and Drugs

10 Rampant Tourist Scams in Bali - Drugs Scams

Drugs are a scam in any part of the world, not just Bali.

However, possession of drugs- whether medical or recreational is a punishable offence in Bali. There are numerous incidents of tourists caught with something as small as a marijuana cookie, spending their days in an Indonesian prison.

In certain clubs or in the party streets of Bali, you shall be offered magic mushrooms or weed or even ecstasy in some cases. Get away from that person as soon as possible.

There’s a pretty good chance that the one who’s offering you drugs is working with the police or is an undercover police officer himself.

How to Avoid this Bali scam:

Well, say no and walk away. It is as simple as that.

Your little tryst with weed in Indonesia might just ruin not only your vacation but also your life.

Common Bali Scams No. 9- Forced Temple Donations

10 Rampant Tourist Scams in Bali- Forced Temple Donations Scams

If you follow our detailed list of Things to do in Ubud in 3 days, you shall be visiting a lot of beautiful temples. To enter these temples you might have to follow certain rules like covering your knees. If you’re not wearing full pants, a sarong shall be offered to you at the temple gates free of cost. Certain guides may ask you for some donation for renting the sarong.

Once inside, you might come across certain monks/priests doing their daily prayer.

There might be a little donation box where the priest sits. Some priests or your guide may ask you to put some money in that little box.

They shall give long explanations for why you NEED to donate to maintain the temple or how if you don’t donate bad luck shall follow. These “compulsory donations” are a new method of scamming people in Bali and a lot of tourists are forced into making hefty donations.

How to Avoid this Bali Scam:

Always remember that donation is a voluntary act. Nobody can force you to make a donation.

You can explain this to the priest insisting on you sparing him some money. If he’s a genuine priest, he’ll understand. If not, well he’s a mere fraud. Walk away.

Sarongs at the temple gates are free. They’re provided by the temple authorities free of charge to maintain the sanctity of their traditions. You can politely decline if you don’t want to donate.

If somebody says that you cannot have the sarong without a donation, he/she is just trying to make a quick buck. Walk to the gate and you shall get your free sarong.

Keeping the above in mind, please note that only the people strongly insisting on donations are frauds. There are other genuine temple funds that accept donations but never insist on them.

We encourage you to donate (if you want to) to these temples as they can really use the funds but do it out of compassion and not compulsion.

Common Bali Scams No. 10- Money Exchange

10 Rampant Tourist Scams in Bali - Money Exchange Scams

Bali is not very credit card friendly. You might be able to use your credit card at hotels and big cafes or beach clubs but everywhere else, cash is king. You need to convert your dollars to Indonesian Rupiah for that.

Money exchange is a very common scam across the world but Bali scamsters are a little different.

You will see numerous shops across Bali displaying forex boards with rates. There is a general confusion among tourist about the exact rate of exchange because of the whole “we buy” rate and “we sell” rate confusion.

Just to clear it once and for all, you have to look at the “we buy” column as the exchange place is buying your currency from you. 

As a lot of people don’t know this, they end up getting a bad rate and the exchange is irreversible.

Another common trick that unregulated money exchangers play, is they casually drop a few currency notes off the counter while counting your cash and you end up a 100,000 IDR short.

How to Avoid this Bali Scam:

  • Always exchange your money at banks or other regulated money exchange businesses.
  • Do not exchange money from small kiosks on the road or shops that sell souvenirs on the street.
  • Confirm the rate with the cashier before handing over your Dollars/Euros to avoid any confusion.
  • Make sure you count your entire money on the counter itself in front of the cashier. This method helped me twice in recovering 100k IDR from two different cashiers.

So, those are the 10 most ubiquitous scams tourists face in Bali.

Make sure you share this article with your friends and family who are planning a trip to Bali.

Hope you have a safe and memorable trip!

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