Sunday, August 30, 2009

Travel Scams in Indonesia

Where corruption in a country is endemic, scams targeted at travellers flourish.

Indonesia, known for the rugged beauty of its countryside and volcanoes, is one example.

A cab driver in Padang (Sumatra) tried a scam on me. I was on the way to the airport from Padang, and we had agreed on the fare.

As we headed for the airport he pulled out a laminated list of cab fares, and said, "Actually, these are the official fares."

One glance and I put it down. "But we had agreed on the price, ok?"

Thwarted by my reply his brains went into a counter attack mode.

The morning traffic was heavy, and he was driving as though a Sumatran tiger was hot on his tail.

"Do you have any Singapore money? I'd like some as souvenirs," he said.

I was prepared for this. "Oh, I carry only Indonesian money. No Singapore money." He kept quiet.

As a rule I avoid taking cabs. Cab drivers the world over are the same when they spot a tourist. Their minds go, "Aha, walking ATMs."

You see the airport bus had failed to turn up at the last minute to pick me up from my hotel, leaving me with no choice but to catch a cab. Another scam?


  1. They are poor people but not wicked. I guess there's always that exception.

  2. Some are not wicked but some certainly are like the Bangkok airport scams

  3. I like your posts about travel scams.
    I'd like to mention that what's perceived as a scam to tourists is merely seen as livelihood and a source of income to many of the locals. It is their way of life. Scammmers think of themselves not as bad or evil but as intelligent or smart. They scam not only tourists but one another too.

  4. Kym, I agree that scammers see it as just as a means of livelihood. Most are indeed petty crimes. Still, travellers need to be vigilant if they don't want to be robbed and stranded in a foreign country without any money (happened to a friend recently in Sumatra)