As a famed destination for relaxation and culture by travellers worldwide, Bali is home to many new sights and experiences to discover.
But as the saying goes, “behind every shiny glow, lies a shadow”.
Also read: The ultimate guide to where to stay in Bali
With that, we suss out the 10 tourist traps to avoid in Bali that you definitely need to know, so you can have the best trip yet!
1. Phony commission drivers
Aside from taking taxi rides, some people may choose to hire a personal driver to take them around Bali.
Getting a driver in Bali is cheap and reliable, while the cost of of getting a driver and a huge passenger car will most probably set you back by $40 to $50 a day. If you do hire a personal driver, you may want to keep an eye out for bogus commissioned drivers.
Say no to creepy drivers
These drivers will bring you to restaurants or shops where they have an on-going deal with the owners, where they bring tourists over in order to get their commission. These places where you are brought to will most probably try to rip you off by both the price and quality of products/service that you will get.
Taxis are a convenient way to travel across Bali to visit the many places of interests in comfort. However, there are some unscrupulous drivers that may take advantage of unfamiliar travellers and impose exorbitant surcharges and rates.
For example: if you are travelling long distances, such as from Kuta to Ubud or Amed, some taxi drivers will try to charge you a “surcharge”.
This is because they may be based in Kuta, and would have to travel from Kuta to Ubud and back to Kuta again (which will take at least three hours in total), and hence may request for a surcharge from passengers.
Make sure he doesn’t give you this face
3. Be careful when you change your money in Bali
Some of the money changers will indicate a high exchange rate on their whiteboard to attract victims.
One of the dodgy money changers in Bali (Photo via travelgenes, OthCasa1)
Once the victims enter, they will deliberately pretend to be trustworthy by using a calculator to calculate the actual amount of rupiahs, according to the exchange rate. And here’s the trick they will usually employ – they will claim that they only have $10,000 rupiah notes and do not have any bigger notes.
However, after showing the stack of notes to you, they will lower it behind the counter and drop a few notes before handing it back to you. (imagine counting a stack of a few hundred $10,000 rupiah notes)
4. Tour guides at Goa Gajah (Elephant cave)
Similar to Besakih Temple, there will be a few Balinese tour guides that will offer to guide you through Goa Gajah and to tell you the history of this fascinating landmark.
When asked, the guides will say that the tour is free, which will entice many deal-loving tourists to take them up on the offer. However, at the end of the tour, the guide will eventually ask for a donation in a pitiful manner that makes it hard to refuse.
5. Experience an authentic Balinese market
Ubud market has long been a popular go-to location for tourists looking to experience the lifestyle of the Balinese people, as well as shop for interesting souvenirs and knick knacks.
However, thanks to Ubud market being a tourist hotspot, it has unfortunately evolved into a tourist trap over time. The shops sell overpriced items like wooden trinkets and t-shirts that can be found in every other shop.
Expect this when you shop at Ubud market
6. How to deal with temple touts – Besakih Temple
Across the many temples in Bali, there will be touts who will try to earn some money off you with a myriad of ways. One such example can be seen at the majestic Besakih temple entrance, where a few men may ask you to pay an exorbitant price ($15 per pax) for the entrance fee.
Their reasoning for the outrageous charges? That there are religious ceremonies going on, and you’ll need to be guided by one of their guides, even though such religious ceremonies happen daily.
7. Touts at Kuta Beach
Located at tourist hotspots around Bali – more so at the beaches, there will be “ibus” or aunties that will offer you their services. They will offer to braid your hair, give you a massage or do a manicure/pedicure.
Photo via bumfuzzle
They charge their services or products at outrageous prices, which are usually neatly covered up with lies to make the deal much more enticing.
We have even heard of stories where tourists get tempted by a cheap deal of 30,000 rupiah for a manicure (nail-clipping and buffing), and nail design with a simple flower pattern.
However, after the second coat of nail polish, the tout asked to be paid, and told them if they want the flower design, it will cost an additional 5000 rupiah per finger!
8. Seafood at Jimbaran
Jimbaran is a fishing village and seafood market located at the south of Bali, made popular amongst tourists for the famed seafood dinner by the beach, accompanied by the setting sun.
Photo via Flickr by Kenny Teo
However, we came by some bad experiences of restaurants ripping tourists off with expensive and bad seafood. Furthermore, when dawn comes, the famed beach where the restaurants are located, were covered with rubbish, and washing into the ocean. (Not very romantic, by our standards)
9. Drinking Arak, a traditional Balinese alcohol
If you’re looking for a traditional Balinese drink, look no further. Arak is a traditional Balinese spirit made from toddy palm trees, that is a popular drink among locals during festivals and ceremonies.
Photo via Southeastasiawanders
Legal and extensively sold around the island, arak can be found in many places from local drinking holes to bars in high-end hotels and restaurants. In recent years however, occasional cases of methanol poisoning have been happening, due to the consumption of arak.
This problem is caused by unscrupulous vendors that mix methanol in the arak, as it is cheaper than alcohol. Do note that consuming this mixture may cause blindness or death.
How arak will make you feel
10. Police corruption
Corruption is rampant at the more popular tourist hotspots in Bali, where the traffic police are constantly on the lookout for tourists on rented motorbikes or cars.
They will very efficiently slap a fine on you for the most trivial of transgressions, like neglecting to wear a helmet.
These ‘fines’ are mostly in the form of bribes, which you can settle immediately with the traffic police, by paying an amount ranging from 50,000 to 100,000 rupiah.
At the end of the day, it helps to be prepared and vigilant in any situation, to prevent being caught off guard in an unfavourable situation. The best way to enjoy your trip is to practise good travelling habits, and be friendly with the locals!
After all, Bali is a beautiful place on earth, with many sights to enjoy and experiences to talk about. Here’s 25 reasons why Bali is so much more than you think.