We could fill a whole book with the scams and rip offs we have heard about over the years. But the same could probably be said for tourists going to New York, London, Sydney, Paris, Bangkok or anywhere else in the world.
Take sensible precautions and avoid trouble spots. Don’t make yourself an obvious target, for example walking home drunk after a big night out - get a taxi. When you go out, only carry enough local money that you will need for that outing, plus 10 x Rp100,000 notes or $100 for any emergency. Don’t walk around with millions of rupiah bulging in your pockets.
Indonesia has endured a major economic crisis over the last ten years, so avoiding theft should be top of your mind at all times. Always lock hotel doors and windows, both day and night, even in Bali. Never leave valuables on the beach while you surf, or in your hotel room – use the hotel security box. Keep your surfboard within sight or locked inside your car, not on top.
Don’t wear expensive watches, jewellery or clothes. Don’t discuss politics or religion. Don’t get mindlessly drunk late at night. Beware of pickpocket kids pretending to sell jewellery on Bali streets - hide your money belt or bum bag under the front of your shirt. Beware bag snatchers on motorbikes, always carry bags in your hand away from the traffic.
But don’t worry, 99% of Indonesians are 100% trustworthy, but if you are unlucky enough to be confronted by a thief in a dark alley, do not try to fight, as most thieves carry knives or have a backup gang hiding nearby - just hand over your cash and chances are they’ll take it and run. Always carry a $100 note for this purpose, (a local’s 1 month wages), especially at night.
Don’t get too paranoid though, Indonesia is generally a very safe place. 99% of toursts have no problems at all. If your only problem is that you bargained a dollar or two more for a t-shirt than the guy next door, then you’ve hardly been ripped off.
Either get a free 30 Day Visa On Arrival or apply to your local Indonesian Embassy in advance for a 60 Day Single Entry Tourist Visa. You can extend the 30 Day Visa but not the 60, but you can fly to Singapore for ~$250 return and get another 30 day tourist visa on return the same day. Some airlines schedule departures for just after midnight, so make sure you don’t stay over 30 days, otherwise a US$20/day fine must be paid at the airport.
If staying longer than 30 days register with www.smarttraveller.gov.au or your country’s embassy in Indonesia. They may need to find you quickly in an emergency, or to get you out of the country safely. Email friends back home regularly.
Be careful of temporary tattoos - if they get sunburnt they will become permanent. Check needles are sterilized properly.
Not worth the risk.Over 200 Australians are in jail overseas now, mostly for stupid mistakes related to drugs. NEVER buy drugs from locals, they are almost all police informers these days. Buy an ounce and they’ll arrest you for 10 kilos and threaten you with the Death Penalty. Drug sellers, police and lawyers have realized they can make more money by setting you up and bribing exhorbitant amounts from you or your family. Don’t risk it.
Don’t be fooled into thinking eating a magic mushie omlette in the back streets of Kuta is harmless fun. The psilocybin active ingredient is virtually the same as LSD, and has been responsible for many psychotic hospitalizations over the years, not to mention the flash-backs. Bali is the last place on earth you want to find yourself tripping in hospital or jail. The effects last for 10 hours and can be terrifying. Flash backs can recur for years. It’s very illegal and carries heavy penalties. Not worth the risk.
Don’t get mindless, thieves hang outside bars waiting for easy prey. Indo hangovers can be hell, because of the intense heat, humidity and dehydration. Alternate between one beer and one water. The “ugly Aussie yobbo” has a bad reputation in Bali for inconsiderate drunkenness, so have fun but remain courteous. Never accept an open drink from a stranger, it could be spiked with sedatives. Do not drink the local Arak, a high octane bootleg spirit that has caused many tourist deaths and blindness. See Facebook: “ADrinkToDieFrom”. Some local “Kuta Cowboys” don’t handle alcohol well - they get aggressively jealous if you chat up a girl they failed to charm. So stay alert and be friendly to all locals in bars. If you see a fight brewing, get out of there - locals may be short, but no-one wins a fight against them - they are all experts at karate.
Prostitution is illegal in Indonesia although very widespread. Every city has a red light area, although some are raided occassionally by Police looking for bribes. There have been a few reports that Night Butterflies as call girls are known (kupu-kupu malam) have stolen money from drunk or sleeping clients. But the vast majority of working girls are relatively trustworthy, they were just born to poor families. Very few are involved in heavy drugs, but AIDS is spreading. Be careful in crowded night clubs - you may be cuddled by a pretty girl or boy, only to have your wallet stolen. Don’t try to take a local girl back to your hotel room because most Receptionists are not allowed to let them in because of previous problems with theft.
Handling the local Police with tact: If stopped by police for a minor traffic violation, they may say you need to go to court in the city. To avoid this waste of time, offer to pay an on-the-spot fine. Be sure not to call this a “bribe”, just say “Can we end this here, if I pay you a fine now?” Understand that the police are “helping you out” by receiving the fine (try bargaining) so you can avoid the trip to court. Ten or twenty dollars usually does the trick, depending upon the severity of the traffic offence. Don’t expect a receipt.