10 Tourist Scams in Bali and How to Avoid Them | Solo Female Travel
Bali is a beautiful island that attracts thousands of tourists each year. Be it, solo travellers or group travellers, the island has made its way on every traveller’s list. I mean, where else would you get everything you wish for in just one destination? Stunning beaches, breathtaking waterfalls, beautiful temples, rice terraces, adrenaline-pumping adventure activities – you name it, Bali has just got everything for a perfect vacation.
But as it is with every country or travel destination in the world, Bali has got a few flaws too. One of its flaws is the tourist scams. Yes, tourist scams take place in most countries, and Bali is one of them. If you happen to come across a scam and get trapped in it, chances are, it will spoil your mood for the day, or maybe, even the rest of your trip. And let’s be honest, you wouldn’t want something stupid as a tourist scam to spoil your much-awaited solo trip to Bali.
This is why I have come up with the list of top tourist scams that you may come across in Bali and a few tips to avoid them. Read on to know more.
1. Fake Blue Bird Taxis scam
Often seen in most Southeast Asian countries, the taxi drivers are quite the masters of hustling tourists. But with Bali, this has gone overboard. I’ll tell you how.
So, Blue Bird Taxis are the most reputable and trustworthy group of taxis in Bali. All the drivers have official identification cards, and they use meters in order to avoid overcharging the customers. But this is where the plot thickens. The taxi groups that are less reputable (trust me, there are many!) try to mimic Blue Bird Taxis to tarnish their reputation and trick customers into believing they are also the real ones. Once the customer chooses the fake Blue Bird Taxis, they scam them into paying extra.
One way to ensure you get the real Blue Bird Taxis group is by downloading their official Blue Bird Taxis app. This app works pretty much the same as that of Lyft and Uber in Bali!
But regardless of which taxi group you choose for your travel, always make sure the drivers use meters instead of charging you an amount as per their convenience.
2. Broken meter scam
To move around in Bali, you will be using a lot of taxis and cabs. Despite being expensive than public transportation, these are more convenient and safe. And as solo female travellers, I believe safety is of utmost importance.
If you opt for the local taxis for whatever reason, be it the unavailability of cabs in some areas or poor network connection, there are high chances of you falling into this trap. The local taxi drivers will tell you that their meters are not working and quote their price of travelling from one place to another. And in most cases, the price they quote will be way higher than normal. Sometimes even thrice of what the normal price is! If you are getting late or have no other visible means of transport, you will probably end up taking the local taxis and paying the quoted price.
To avoid this scam, I would say you opt for genuine cabs and taxis as much as possible. Downloading cab booking apps such as GoJek, Grab, and Quantum can be pretty helpful.
3. Beach hustlers
The stunning beaches in Bali are definitely a must-visit on your solo trip to Bali. Most of these beaches offer a wide variety of water sports. And if you are not a very adventurous person, there are other great alternatives to you, like sunbathing and witnessing the gorgeous sunset at the beach. But always remember to wear a good amount of sunscreen on your exposed body parts. Oh, and also, don’t forget to take your camera along with you to click some stunning pictures in your cute little dress against the backdrop of the sunset!
Okay, so your visit to the beaches will be a great one. But there’s something that can cause dents in your perfect beach experience – beach hustlers. Yes, the Bali beaches are home to a lot of vendors and sellers. While the women here sell trinkets, anklets, bracelets, and pedicures/manicure sessions, men sell fruits, handicrafts, and toys.
Usually, the things that you buy at the beaches are cheap in both price and quality. The women will keep following you everywhere you go till you agree to do their pedicure and manicure session. And more often, these women use cheap products such as nail paints that barely last a day in the water.
You may also see children selling things at the beach. In most cases, the children are forced by their parents or an illegal operator (if any) to work instead of getting an education. When you buy something from these children thinking that you are helping them, it will only be making things worse for them. I would recommend you don’t buy anything from these children, or even the grown-ups for that matter!
4. Entrance fees at religious sites scam
Most religious sites in Bali do not charge their visitors an entrance fee. This is where the hustlers and scamsters come in.
Individuals stand at the entrance of religious sites and temples and charge an additional fee. And these individuals will not be associated with the religious sites. This scam is more often used on tourists like you and me because the locals know there is no entrance fee to most religious sites.
To avoid this scam, I would suggest you always look for the ‘official’ desk in and around the temple.
Apart from charging an entrance fee, some women even force female tourists to buy a sarong or shawl. Although it is necessary for you to cover yourself up while entering religious sites, these women who ‘force’ you to buy sarongs or shawls are usually scamsters. In order to not fall for this scam, I would say you wear jeans or any knee-length dress to religious sites. Or, you can carry your own sarong and shawl to wear over your clothes before entering these places.
You can check out my blog on what to wear in Bali for a better understanding of the same.
5. Currency exchange scam
Well, the currency exchange scam is quite common among a lot of countries. In Bali, this scam takes place in popular tourist places such as Legian, Kuta among many others. People line the roads of these tourist places with their kiosks and a sign that says “official currency exchange.”
And, these people behind the kiosks are extremely talented at sleight of hand too. They will show you the money while counting and still be able to slip a currency note or a two behind the kiosk. Sometimes, they may even exchange and give you damaged or fake currency notes.
To avoid this currency exchange scam, I would suggest you get your currency exchanged at the airport only. Or, you can get your currency exchanged at banks.
Luckily, when I had visited Bali on my first solo trip, I got my cash exchanged at the airport. Because now when I think about the scamsters running the kiosks claiming official currency exchange, they did seem pretty convincing. If I hadn’t exchanged my money earlier, I guess I would have fallen for this scam too!
6. Parking fees scam
Bali is one such travel destination where you will find a lot of vehicles on the road. And this means that with so many people with their own vehicles on the roads, parking can turn out to be an issue. On top of that, if tourists rent out motorbikes or cars, it only adds to the parking problems.
Now, the problem here arises for tourists. When I had visited Bali, I rented a motorbike to ensure exploring different tourist places becomes easy for me.
But at many popular tourist places, such as Tegallalang Rice Terraces, I saw local opportunists sitting and asking for an additional parking fee. Now I understand with so many vehicles on the road, organisations would want to keep parking fees for their profits. But these locals were asking for huge parking fees, which honestly is not something you see in a budget-friendly travel destination. Since my motorbike was rented, I did not want to get into an argument with the locals over a mere parking fee, so I ended up paying them what they asked for.
If you want to avoid the parking fees scam, you must not rent a vehicle at all! You can use public transport instead. Although it may not be entirely convenient, it is much cheaper than renting a vehicle and paying a huge amount of parking fees at every tourist place.
7. Fake and corrupt police scam
The Bali police strictly enforce a ‘wearing helmet at all times’ policy. This is a good thing, and you should be wearing a helmet if you have your own vehicle or a rented one. The problem arises when the police target tourists on motorbikes, even when they are wearing a helmet.
The police stop the tourists and make them pay a fine. They start by asking for an international driving permit. Even after you show them your international driving permit, they will say that it’s not valid in Indonesia. Being a tourist, you will not have any option other than to pay the fees asked by the police.
Another similar police scam is the fake police. There are many scamsters who wear fake police uniforms with stickers on their shirts instead of emblems. Now, these fake cops stop people in certain secluded areas, such as the roads to Mount Batur. They will stop you on your way and ask for your documents, mainly the passport. Once you show it to them, they will refuse to give it back till you pay a huge amount.
One way of avoiding this scam is by not showing them your documents. Even if you do, show them a photocopy.
8. Dangerous Arak
This is the most dangerous tourist scam in Bali. Arak is a clear, home-distilled spirit, and locals even refer to this drink as ‘moonshine.’ The dangerous arak scam works by swapping the drink for other strong alcohol substitutes.
Since arak is produced cheaply, its batches become contaminated with methanol. And methanol poisoning has caused the death of a lot of tourists in Bali. Just 10 millilitres of methanol is known to cause blindness, and a little more than that can cause organ damage or even death.
Although it may sound scary, there is a very simple way of avoiding this scam. You can order your regular beer or buy bottles of packaged spirits opened in front of you. Or, if you are given welcome drinks at restaurants or hotels, you can always enquire first before taking one.
9. Vehicle rental scam
This is one of the most common tourist scams in most countries, even in Bali. The scam works in numerous ways. The worst-case scenario that can happen is that the owner of the rental company will use a spare key and get the vehicle stolen. Then, the owner will ask you to pay the amount for the vehicle. Or, he/she may charge you an additional fee for already existing damages or scratches on the vehicle.
To avoid this scam, I would suggest you rent a vehicle from reputed rental companies. Even with these, always get the documentation right. Before picking up the vehicle, take a good look at the vehicle for any possible scratches or damages and take pictures/videos.
You can check out kayak.co.in for vehicle rentals in Denpasar, Bali, at reasonable prices. They also have some discounts going on at most times! Or, you can even ask your hotel/hostel to recommend a good moped rental service in that area.
10. Room renewal scam
We all know that the prices of online room booking and walk-in booking are a little different. But in Bali, the difference is huge.
You may get a great deal if you book a room online at a very low price, but if you extend your stay by night or two, you may have to pay a significantly higher price than what you paid online or what you would have paid had you made a walk-in booking!
If you speak with the hotel authorities about the prices, they will literally ask you to pack up your stuff, leave the hotel, and check in again to book a room for lower prices or the price you initially paid. Everything here works in the favour of the hotel because most tourists are lazy to pack up, leave and come back to the same hotel!
To avoid this scam, I would say avoid extending your stay in a particular hotel as much as possible. Or, you can check out different hotels in the same area. Chances are, you might end up paying almost the same amount.
Be safe and scam-free
The tourist scams I mentioned in this blog are some of the most common ones that I have come across or heard about through my friends who visited Bali.
The chances of all of these tourist scams happening to you are quite low. But you can expect broken meter, fake Blue Bird Taxis, vehicle rental scams on your solo trip as they are pretty famous!
If you stay alert at all times and keep your belongings in check, you will be good to go! Happy travelling solo, ladies! I hope you remain safe and scam-free!
An introverted blogger who is looking to make unforgettable solo travel memories with one short life.