Bali is a beautiful place and has become a very popular holiday destination in the past few years. I mean, why wouldn’t it be. With so many Instagrammers posting epic photos of themselves on pristine beaches, jaw-dropping clifftops, in front of massive waterfalls or swinging through the treetops on a man-made jungle swing. It seems Bali is on everyone’s travel wish list right now. Whilst it is a relatively safe place to visit, there are some common tourist traps to avoid in Bali. I put this list together because year after year I see many travellers fall into the same tourist traps or get themselves into situations that they’ve seriously regretted afterwards. To ensure your holiday in Bali remains safe, enjoyable and hassle-free, I would recommend avoiding these five things.
1. Riding A Motorbike
While it is a really fun and an easy way to get around and explore the island, there is a reason why this has made number one position on our list of things to avoid in Bali. Unless you are an experienced rider and have good defensive riding skills, Balinese roads can be very dangerous. The Balinese concept of road safety and riding a safe distance from your neighbour is vastly different from the standards we may be familiar with in western countries.
Many tourists come off motorbikes and end up with devastating injuries. If you’ve rarely ridden a bike, let alone in dense traffic – think 20 other bikes surrounding you and cars zooming past with less than half a foot between you and them – then avoid trying this in Bali. Oh, and did I mention that unless you have an International Motorbike Licence then your travel insurance probably won’t cover you if you take a tumble. Ouch!
2. Jimbaran Seafood Markets
The first time we visited the Jimbaran Beach Seafood Markets we were really looking forward to it. Many people had highly recommended it as a ‘must do’ experience. So why has this experience made it onto our list of things to avoid in Bali?
Firstly, the quality of the seafood was questionable. Of course, the waiters will assure you that the seafood was caught fresh that day. But I have eaten plenty of fresh seafood in my life and what they served up did not look, smell or taste very fresh at all. When the meal arrived at our table it was overdone and tough.
They also have a lovely band walking around, serenading tables with romantic songs. This was a nice touch, but of course, at the end of the song, you’d clap and they would hold out their hands waiting for a tip before moving onto the next table. Maybe it’s my Australian cultural background that made this feel somewhat wrong, but I personally dislike being made to tip for a service that I didn’t want or ask for in the first place.
Then came the bill. A whole snapper, 8 prawns and some calamari with rice, salad and coconut water came to around US$40 each. By Balinese standards, this is extortion.
To top it all off, the next morning we took a walk down the same beach and were extremely disappointed to find rubbish from the markets littered all over the sand and washing into the ocean. Another good reason to avoid this experience!
3. Kuta Nightclub Area
The Kuta nightclub district is notorious for drugs, violence and crime. Unfortunately, many tourists are drawn to the hype of the Kuta nightlife and are considered easy targets. Many innocent tourists have unsuspectingly found themselves in bad situations. Unprovoked attacks and drink spiking are common and sometimes law enforcement officers can be more of a hindrance than a help if you get into trouble. My advice – avoid this area like the plague or at least do some research on the common the dangers and annoyances before you go!
4. Unlicensed Money Exchanges
Unlicenced moneychangers are found everywhere in Bali. The attractive exchange rates they offer are pretty enticing, but many tourists end up being scammed and walk away with less money than promised. To avoid this scam on your next trip to Bali, stick to the official money exchange offices. Keep a close eye on your money at all times. They can be pretty quick with their hands so always recount your money in front of the moneychanger.
5. Timeshare Scams
This one can be hard to pick and sometimes you don’t realise you’ve been sucked in until its too late. But being aware of how this scam works may help you to avoid the situation next time you’re in Bali.
The scam works something like this – a very friendly person riding a motorbike stops you in the street and asks where you’re from. They seem friendly enough so you oblige. “Would you like to come back to Bali for another holiday?” they ask. They offer you scratchcards and you will almost certainly win a holiday to come back to Bali – lucky you! To claim your prize you must accompany them to a very expensive hotel, where a free buffet breakfast awaits you. Sounds too good to be true, right?
It is! I almost got sucked into this scheme in Thailand.
By now, you are probably getting sceptical and start backing out. At this point, they will pull all stops to convince you to come along for a free breakfast. Even going so far as to tell you that they won’t get paid and won’t be able to buy food for their family unless you go to the hotel with them.
If you do agree to go with them, you will be asked to give out all your personal details (address, name, phone number, passport etc). They’ll spend the next two hours convincing you to invest in a timeshare scheme. And that free breakfast they offered will never be seen. My advice – forget the holiday – it’s not worth it!
Lonely Planet has some good info on timeshares and other scams you may come across in Bali.
All thoughts and opinions in this post are, as always, my own. My experiences in Bali have not all been bad. During my recent trip, I had a wonderful time visiting the Karma Beach Club. I really love Bali but I make a point to avoid these situations anytime I travel there.
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Do you have anything else you would recommend that our readers avoid in Bali? Share your experience in the comments below.