Travel Smart: Top 3 most common scams in Indonesia and how to avoid them

No meter, too long, wrong metered, fixed price

All kinds of nonsense while attempting to charge you more.

With the rise of Uber, Grab and Ola simply use those instead. Grab and Uber even use fixed fares for many places that you don’t have to think about. In addition, link your credit card to the app and even if you want to tip do it through the app. Make sure that you stay in the car till the driver marks the trip as complete.

Exchange rates

You should, of course, be informed or an approximate exchange rate between your home country and the country that you’re visiting. We have developed the habit of checking the exchange rate in advance and then coming with an easy formula to remember. Note that the amount that you see when you Google the exchange rate is likely to be higher then the one on the street so deduct about 10%.

When paying at a restaurant or shop if they ask you if your home currency is OK, say no, and ask to be charged in the local currency. The exchange rate on your end is likely to be much better then the local bank with your currency. For instance, if your bill was THB1000 (that’s about USD30) they’d ask if your currency was ok, and then charge you USD35 or USD40 — I guarantee your bank’s exchange rate wont be anywhere near it. This is most commonly not on the merchant but the bank that they use. They probably have a scheme where the retailer has a share of the profits if they ask the customer to use the local exchange.

When paying in cash, your bill will be calculated in the local currency but if you ask if you can pay in USD/EUR etc, the merchant will say sure, but just be vigilant since the exchange rate will once again be ridiculous.

Finally, when changing money at an exchange rate you should note a couple of things. Check the exchange rate outside and do the calculation on your phone first so that you know how much you should get. Next, when you ask to change ask how much you’d get with a receipt preferably, and double check with the amount that you got. If it’s different walk away. If there is no receipt, I’d also walk away. After you get your money, never give it back to be “recounted” or “put it in an envelope” or “to put a rubber band on it” since the merchant will most likely skim some off the top.

At the end, what we’ve found with money is that people will do anything to skim off the top so we decided that it’s better to give a tiny amount to a legit place (such as a bank, or a decent exchange rate) rather then risk a slightly smaller amount to a less then reputable place that would be more stressful or end up being worse of.

Short changing

Not really a travel issue since you could be short changed in your local supermarket but something to take care of since as a tourist you’re more likely to be a target.

Also, be aware of the seller saying no change. If that happens immediately insist on your money back and get louder and louder especially if there are many people around.

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