Any time we take a trip to a new country, we research scams we may encounter. In preparation for our month-long visit to Indonesia, this was no exception.
We learned about bank machines that would only collect our account information rather than dispensing money. We were prepared for friendly strangers inviting us to an art gallery displaying fake artwork. Lastly, we were ready to be the winners of a contest, knowing that in order to redeem our “prize” we’d have to sign up for a time-share, lest we be stranded in the middle of nowhere.
There were, however, a handful of other scams of Indonesia that caught us off guard and, in a couple of cases, we indeed fell prey to them.
In Jakarta, we hailed a taxi upon leaving Plaza Semanggi after a delicious lunch at The Loving Hut. As is common around the world, we were ready, with our city map in hand, for the driver to take the long way back to our hotel. With all the twists and turns, we were rotating our map twice as much as the steering wheel, trying to get our bearings. The driver’s excuse of one-way streets didn’t instill us with any trust, though. Eventually, we recognized the neighborhood and asked to be let out. We paid our fare and upon getting out of the cab, we realized the logo on this blue car was not the reputable and recommended Blue Bird.
Albeit small, another scam we came across in Java was at the port in Banyuwangi, as we prepared to board the ferry to Gilimanuk, Bali. The agent at the ticket window took the money for 2 adult fares, but officially charged us as one adult and one child, pocketing the difference. In this particular case, the difference was less than a dime (1,000 Rp), but it left us wondering how widespread this practice is. Lesson learned: check your receipt and make sure you’re only paying for what you’ve actually been charged.
The most costly scam we got caught in while in Java was when we booked a tour to visit Borobudur and Prambanan in Yogyakarta. We arranged it through a hotel, and the hotel’s manager called the tour company to confined the entrance fees for the temples. She explained to us that we would pay the driver a discounted price because we were arranging a tour, so we went expecting to pay 200,000 Rp each for Borobudur and 190,000 Rp each for Prambanan. While at the entrance gates, however, we noticed our driver purchasing student tickets, which are discounted at 50% off the regular rates of 240,000 Rp and 207,000 Rp, respectively. At the end of our tour when it came to reimbursing the driver, we were charge the full, un-discounted rate. He knew we had nothing in writing backing up the amount we were quoted by the hotel manager, so we paid him, knowing that he was walking away with an extra $40 on our behalf.
Luckily, so far, when we travel, the scams we’ve fallen for haven’t been too financially significant. After all, we understand that sometimes it just goes with the territory. Corruption exists in every country; it just wears different masks in different places. However, what stays constant is the uncomfortable feeling of knowing you’ve been taken advantage of.
Knowing what we know now of the scams of Indonesia, at least we’re a bit smarter today than we were before we started the trip, and we’re a bit more prepared for our next adventure.