This most recent scam is what motivates me to start a category on scams. It’s frustrated me… I suppose my decision to write about these is due to a) me needing to vent and b) me wanting to prevent these two-faced idiots from robbing other tourists.
I do have nice things to say about Bali (so, I’m sorry to be starting my blog on a sour note… However, when the first experiences you have of Bali revolve around touts, hawkers and being cheated of money, it’s hard to start on the good stuff), I’ll just write about it later.
Scam #2: Money exchange short-changing, otherwise known as theft
Like any traveller warned in advance of scams, pickpockets, touts, etc – I wanted to be sure I made the right decision on where to exchange my money. Alex took out Rupiahs in London in advance, so I’ve been living off him until I found ‘the right place’.
You think you’ve done all of the right things: read the currency exchange section on the Lonely Planet guide; read up on risks, crime and hawkers in a particular region; walked up and down various roads, measuring and comparing exchange rates to make sure you get a good rate; evaluated the security of the money exchange shop by making sure the place was located in a room, as opposed to on a market stall, or with a counter, as opposed to without. You calculate the amount of money you should be given, using your own calculator – not their own… you recalculate… you make sure it measures up. You watch the workers count your money; you count it yourself….two times, three times… until you’re convinced you’ve calculated the total correctly. You write down the figures, to keep a record… No matter how uncomfortable you feel – you keep your bag in check on exit, and you walk out, aware of your surroundings and your own safety.
Nonetheless – they’re professionals. When returning to the cafe where Alex waited for me with our bags, I went to the toilet (a private, ‘safe’ space) to count my money. I was 500,000 Rupiah short.
In the grand scheme of things, this is about £35. So, in London terms, not that much. But, considering you can have lunch for 25,000 Rupiah… have a nice hotel room for 150,000 Rupiah… a 500,000 Rupiah loss amounts to a great deal of money.
I think what frustrates me more is that I took all of the correct measures to get the right amount… and yet, someone short-changed me, right in front of my eyes. I know I am one in hundred, maybe thousands, that this happens to… but – I’m frustrated nonetheless.
1. Where possible, don’t exchange money when the workers only have small notes (i.e. 20,000 Rupiah notes). It’s a lot more confusing and the counting process takes longer. It’s easier to get cheated.
2. Try to have someone accompany you. I think I fit the profile: single, female, Western tourist with a smiley face. Not the greatest combination.
3. When in Bali, avoid: the ‘authorized’ money changer that is located opposite no 120 Legion St in Kuta, the Cinderella Souvenir and Handicraft Shop. Nearby shops (just to make sure you can identify this branch over others in the area) are Surf Girl, Accessoritz and Goes Art Restaurant Bar.
Hope this helps! (Sorry for the whinge!)