This is a story of how we almost got scammed at Legian, Bali.
Me and my friend Pat were running out of Rupiah (Indonesian currency) so we decided to look for a money changer near our hotel. We were staying at Tanaya Bed and Breakfast located in Legian Street Bali. As we were walking along, we saw many “money changers” scattered along the street. We didn’t mind them at first since Legian is a busy strip full of tourists so the need for money changers is evident. Walking along, I noticed that the money changers did not have a definite exchange rate. The differences were really noticeable. The exchange rate from Singapore was 1 USD = 12850 Rupiah more or less. Along Legian, it varies from 12999, 13000, 13100 etc. Waaaaayy higher than the standard.
I found it a little odd that their exchange rate is different from that in Singapore but I waved it off and try to exchange our USD. We found one that advertises 1 USD = 13099 Rupiah. The highest we saw so far. When we approached the guy near the sign, he lead us to a narrow street into a small stall. He tried to exchange 100USD = 1,309,990 Rupiah using 20,000 Rupiah denomination.
Imagine more or less 65 pieces of 20,000!!! @.@
It didn’t stop there though. Growing up in the Philippines, it is known to me that there are also shady money changers here in our country. The “tellers” count the money in front of you but when they give the money to you, the total money is less than what they counted in front of you. Their hands are that quick that they can easily hide the money of you are not looking. The same thing almost happened to us.
The guy counted the money in front of us and grouped it by 200,000 rupiah. Each group contains 10 pieces 20,000. Remembering that modus in our country, I was really keen on observing the guy. When he gave the money to us, I want to make sure that we got what was due fair and square so I tried to count it myself in front of everyone. When I was starting to count, the guy stopped me and took all the money and began to divide it again by 200,000 rupiah like the first time.
By this time, alarm bells are blaring inside my head. I also noticed that the guy was behind a high counter so he can easily hide his hands and, God forbid, some money under. I was eyeing my friend and good thing nobody understands Tagalog in Indonesia, we were able to communicate that we should not push through with the transaction. We made an excuse that we will be getting some more money from our hotel and then went out into the streets again.
Adrenaline was rushing in our veins that we decided to go to the makeshift police station and asked the police for help in changing our money. They asked us if we changed our money with the money changers along Legian and told them our story. They confirmed that there are really some money changers that scam their customers. Good thing we didn’t fell for it. They got us a deal for 1 USD = 12700 rupiah which was not bad considering we almost got scammed half of our money.
Above is the actual picture of the street. The photo is not mine though. Tanaya can be seen in the picture far back near the green car.
The shady money changers can be seen littering the whole strip of Legian. The one encircled looks like a legitimate money changer but the ones with just signs in the street like the ones below the legit ones seems a little shady. Still, better trust your instincts and prepare enough money before going to Indonesia so you wont resort to money changers. Do your research thoroughly. 🙂