Bali Tourist Scams-7 scenarios to watch out for - eNidhi India Travel Blog

Bali Tourist Scams-7 scenarios to watch out for

During my 4 day trip around Bali, I noticed several clever ways how tourists are made to spend more money in Bali. I am listing them below for your reference and benefit, so that you can go prepared and save a few dollars in the process. Some of these are common in almost all tourist places worldwide but few are unique to Bali.

1. Sarong purchase near temples: 
As you arrive at a temple in Bali, you might be approached by hawkers selling Sarong- a piece of cloth to be wrapped around lower body. They quote a price of about IDR 50000 for a sarong (USD 5 or INR 300 approx). But from what I have seen, below is the truth
- In most temples, Sarong is not needed if you are fully dressed till ankle. Sarong is usually required only if you are wearing shorts or such dress that reveals your legs.
- Most temple complexes offer a complementary sarong along with the ticket- you can wrap it and return it on your way out.

Thus, there is no need to purchase one at most temples, though vendors in parking lot try to convince you that you will definitely need one and you should purchase from them. When in doubt, just check at the ticket counter or just try walk-in with the ticket, temple staff will advise if you need one or you can proceed.

You can also try renting a sarong instead of buying it- in case you need it just for the visit. But then, Sarongs also make nice souvenirs should you wish to buy one.
Above: Myself at Tirta Empul...

2. Forex at roadside "Tourist Information Centres"
Bali has 100s of "Tourist Information Centres" all over. Particularly in Kuta, every 3rd shop is a tourist information centre. Almost all of these offer currency exchange services- at a conversion rate much better than banks and Zero commission. Sounds too good to be true right. Yes, these roadside forex shops operate on a rule that they can cheat their customers and make more money.

IDR is a weak currency- that is for 600 INR you get 100000 IDR. For every 1 USD, you get 12000+ IDR. 100 USD= 1.2 million USD. This means several bundles of notes- too complex to count. The Zero commission forex counters always attempt to trick you into believing you got good deal, while in reality they would divert your attention and skip a few bundles of notes.
Precautions to take:
  • Where possible go to bank counters
  • Exchange in small denominations- like 10 or 20 USD at a time-saves trouble of counting large number of notes and reduces chances of being tricked.
  • Else go with a friend or keep recording the transaction
  • Count again before leaving
All these tourist information centres are nothing but sales counters, to sell currency, tour packages etc. Trying to get some useful information or having sensibe conversation with staff there is difficult. They are only interested in selling you something.

Also IDR is hard to find in Indian Forex counters- you will be suggested to buy USD and convert it again in Bali. Thankfully one agency in Chennai-PKR Adyar managed to get me some IDR, so during my 4 day trip I didn't have to convert again.

3. Airport Taxi
Like any other airports, Taxis can be your first rip-off in the new city. If you don't plan your move, you might be tricked to lose lots of money at airport taxi. As soon as you come out Taxi Driver's harassment starts. They will go to any extent to take you on a ride. I was told that no bike rental person will be allowed inside airport, I was quoted 120000 IDR for my hotel 5km away.

Precautions to take/Alternatives to Airport taxi in Bali
  • You can rent a self drive bike or car and ask to be delivered at airport- eliminates the need for taxi altogether
  • Use Uber
  • Book at a hotel/resort that offers free hotel transport
  • Do your research before leaving- like how many kms from airport to hotel and what is the reasonable taxi fare
4. Guides
This can be subjective- but many people approached me offering to tell me about the place- be it waterfall, temple or just a mountain. I wasn't sure why I should hire a guide to visit waterfalls or what information he will share that is not already known/available. Of course it is good employment option for youth, but you decide the worth of such services depending on your interest.

I have written a separate post about Besakih temple where hiring a guide is mandatory, under the pretext that tourists won't know which part of the temple complex they can't visit.

5. Shopping at tourist spots
This is true worldwide. Any item costs more at a tourist spot than city stores. On my Day zero, I stopped on my way to hotel and had a nice big tender coconut for IDR 10000. So I knew the fair price for coconut. Next day, when I went to Tanha Lot, shops there were quoting twice the amount- between 15000 to 25000 IDR per coconut. This was true all over. I would try negotiating- few shops would eventually agree for 10000 to 15000 but most refuse- either because they believe some other tourist will pay more, or they would have transportation cost and other overheads to factor. Similarly any other item you buy at tourist spots will be expensive- from coffee to soveniers. It is important to have an idea of what is fair/normal price, what is extremely inflated price and what is reasonable premium.

I don't have to tell you about this- where possible buy stuff away from tourist places, you might save some money.

6. Drinking water in restaurants
In India, restaurants ask if you are fine with normal water or mineral water. In Bali, no drinking water is supplied in restaurants You need to mandatorily buy one, at inflated rates. Plus tax and service charge etc- you will be paying 2-3 times the MRP. So before entering a restaurant, buy a bottle of drinking water from nearby supermarket.

7. Mandatory Donations; 
Beware of "Mandatory donation counters" in various rice terraces- like the one I saw in Tegalalang Rice Terrace. It is fine to ask for donation, but what's not nice is the way donation check posts operate- Donation is mandatory, minimum is 5000 IDR and you need to keep paying every few hundred meters as there are just too many donation counters.
Anything else you wish to add to this list? Do comment below.

Despite all these, Bali is relatively cheaper and very scenic destination to visit. Don't let above factors deter you. Do enjoy your to Bali

Similar: Australia Trip planning on budget * Srilanka cost estimate


  1. Well most of these are true for any touristy place, one needs to be at guard. But overall I found people in Indonesia to be friendly. The rice field donation is something new for me and I did not see.

  2. I feel #1, #2, #6 and #7 are unique to Bali... rest are common

    Forex in most other countries are not as fraudulent as Bali- they have fixed operating hours and usually do not cheat

    Only one of the 3 rice terrace had this donation complex, so it is not common I guess.

  3. Why is normal drinking water not offered in hotels -its absolutely ridiculous ,almost against humanity.when my father travelled abroad even in airports if you go to coffee counters and ask for tap water-they oblige and give it without any questions even if you dont buy anything from them. this is the most bizzare thing i have ever heard unless there is a valid rationale.

    Did you end up paying at all the mandatory donation centers if so how much you ended up spending, if not how did you overcome them ?

  4. @I paid in one donation counter- about 5000 IDR, second counter was not staffed, so I could luckily bypass,at 3rd counter I decided to return and not to proceed further. I could see a fair bit within this range. There were minimum 2-3 more counters at different spots may be they could have offered more views if I had opted to pay and cross..

    About the drinking water I am not sure- no one seemed to be complaining- it only forms a small portion of overall bill- like a proper meal can add up to 100000 IDR, of which a bottle water would cost 10000-15000 IDR. Tap water in Indonesia is not drinkable as far as I know, unlike Singapore or Europe

  5. Never been to Bali so if I ever visit I will keep this list handy

  6. the List is precise with the key notes! quite helpful for people like me who have not visited yet.


Appreciate your efforts and interests to comment. Comments may be moderated due to increased spam. Will ideally respond to comments within few days.Use Anonymous option if you don't wish to leave your name/ID behind- Shrinidhi

Powered by Blogger.