If you are thinking Indonesia for your next holiday, Bali is probably your safest bet – but that doesn’t mean scam artists aren’t still lurking. To stay safe on your next island getaway, familiarize yourself with the top scams you may encounter while travelling in Bali.

The cash con

How it works

Money changers are prevalent in shopping malls and open air markets in Bali. While many of these are reputable businesses, some make money by pocketing your cash. Often shops running scams offer amazing rates and boast ‘No Commission’ on them. However, after the clerk counts out the notes in front of you, he will hand you the bundle and flick one below the counter. It is a precise and practiced trick that you likely will not notice.

How to avoid it

First, know any shop that offers too-good-to-be-true exchange rates is probably just that – too good to be true. Know the exchange rate (you can easily calculate it on any phone) and do not fall for exchangers offering more. If you do visit a questionable establishment, remember to re-count the money in front of the teller after being handed it, and before moving it off the counter. If there is a discrepancy, you will catch it right away.

The taxi trick

How it works

This scam can take a lot of forms, but usually ends with you losing your money to a scamming taxi driver. The taxi system in Bali is not ideal, as one company has a monopoly over all taxis driving out of Ngurah Rai International Airport and the majority of drivers in the city are independent.

How to avoid it

Always take metred taxis and, when possible, use mobile maps to ensure you are taking the ideal route. Always ask if there is a metre before stepping in the taxi and make sure it is physically present and turned on before taking off. Remember to carry small bills, as it is common for taxi drivers to claim they don’t have cash. Travel in groups and refuse when offered ‘per person’ fares. The key to successfully taking taxis in Bali is to be firm and agree upon fares before hopping in for the ride.

The timeshare shakedown

How it works

You are lounging on the beach when a friendly person approaches you and delivers a mild sales pitch. They present you with a little see-if-you-won card – and (surprise) you did. They then lure you in with a prize located in a nearby booth, office or hotel. They record your name and contact details. While the timeshare itself might not be a bad deal, if you decide you don’t want to purchase, expect a lot of pressure. Timeshare salespeople are notorious for getting reluctant travellers to purchase products they will never use, and are locked into for life.

How to avoid it

Just say ‘no’ to timeshare salespeople. The prize they offer you is not worth the five hours of wasted beach time.

The narcotics knockout

How it works

While there is no right place to get involved in a narcotics ring, Bali is certainly the wrong place. Accepting offers for drugs on the street can very well lead to a shakedown with the dealer getting a cut from the policeman. Men selling fake prescription drugs are also commonplace.

How to avoid it

Stay away from drugs, especially in Bali. We all remember the Bali Nine – a group sentenced for smuggling heroin through Bali and recently executed by firing squad. Drug control is a very volatile issue in Bali and is not anything to get mixed up in.

Of course, we hope you have a hassle-free holiday in Bali, but the unexpected can always arise. Be sure to book travel insurance before you leave home to cover you and your belongings in the event of a scam incident.

Image courtesy of Flickr user Wonderlane; cropped from original