SAFETY IN BALI
How I lost my phone and money from the first day
I know this is not the most common type of blog, but I do think many of you are actually interested in knowing how safe one place is and which are the things you should be careful about. Although I have read so many blogs and travel brochures before heading to Bali, I was not totally convinced which is the crime rate on the island. I must admit I did not think about it very much, but I wish I should have.
Now it seems pretty funny and we laugh when we tell people what happened, but believe me when I say, it was not funny at all at that moment. I even had tears in my eyes at the second theft.
We arrived in Bali at midnight at Ngurah Rai International Airport and everything started well as the pickup driver was already there and ready to take us to the hotel. We only changed 50 EUR in Singapore so we could pay the transfer and maybe grab a bite before sleeping. We also arranged at reception to have a scooter waiting for us in the morning so we could start our great adventure. We were so exciting to be there after so much planning.
So first thing next morning, after eating breakfast, we decided to stop at an exchange office to get some Indonesian rupiah, before heading to the beach. And since our first hotel was situated in Kuta, we had many options for exchanging money. We started to compare prices and finally decided for the best one. 1 EUR = 15.799 IDR. We were so pleased about our discovery so we parked the scooter and rushed to it. We decided to change 500 EUR. This might not seem like a big amount of money in Europe, but believe me in Bali it is and it attracts attention. We entered the little “authorized” exchange point and the boy said he will give us almost 8 million IDR for 500 EUR. We agreed and, one minute later, another person arrived to the shop and he presented himself as the boss. The so-called boss started talking to us while the boy counted the money and asked a lot of questions such as where are we staying and where are we going after that. This is the first thing you should be careful at!
Then, he noticed the phone. It was an Iphone 7 which is nothing out of the ordinary in Europe or US, but he stated that in Bali it is very hard to have such a phone while trying to touch it and telling us how beautiful it is. I did not find this uncommon and tried to be careful at the money counting. The boy finished and my boyfriend and I started to do the same thing again given the fact that for 500 EUR you will get lots of bills. He gave us million by million to count. At the end, he spilt the money in half (apparently!) and gave one part to me and one to my boyfriend telling us that it was not safe to keep all money in the same place. What thoughtful of him, I said to myself. I put the money in two places in the backpack and off we go to hit the southern beaches. I was happy we made the right choice.
PART 1 – Phone
I always use Google maps or Maps Me (when I do not have internet connection) on the phone when we are on the scooter. I stay in the back so it is not hard for me to do that and this is how we make sure we are on the right track. Traffic in Bali is infernal; imagine hundreds of scooters wandering between cars and on the opposite side of the road. Yes, they drive on the right side! I was so nervous and almost scared we will not make it to the beach without scratches. Between that and keeping an eye on the map, I was not able to observe the people around me very good. And there we were on the largest road in Bali, Sunset Road, if I recall correctly, we passed through a big intersection and we had to make an U-turn in a very crowded place. I was trying to give the correct indications to my boyfriend when another scooter approached us dangerously grabbing my hand. I did not understand what it is happening. I though he is going to push us because we did not drive correctly. And, to my surprise, he just grabbed the phone out of my hand and speeded up between cars. After realizing what was happening, I started to yell that I was being robbed. We tried to follow him, but how could you beat a local at hiding in the place he knows better than any tourist? Moreover, we were two on the scooter and he was only one. Of course, no plate number and he was wearing a hoodie, a scarf on his face and the helmet.
I could not believe what happened. The saddest part was that we had all our Singapore photos on that phone plus many other memories. We stopped on the side of the road and we were so disappointed. My boyfriend tried to calm me down even though the phone was actually his. My heart was beating so hard and didn’t want to accept that this could happen to us on our first day in Bali.
All of a sudden, my boyfriend started laughing ironically. He reminded me of our earlier conversation which ended with me saying extremely sure that there is a low crime rate on the island so we should not worry about someone attacking us or robbing us on the beach. It seems like I could not have been more wrong than that.
WHAT WE DID
I know, you will say we had an iPhone so we surely had the Find my iPhone App installed. That was our though also, so we went straight to a police officer we saw on the street decided to make a complaint believing it is impossible not to find a solution in the era of technology. The officer pointed us to the police station in Kuta which is the institution in charge for such crimes.
There we were, entering Polsek Kuta confident that a complaint will solve the problem. We made an official statement, discussed with 3 police officers from different departments. Do not expect from the authorities to know English very well. We needed to call someone from the hotel to help us translate in Indonesian what we were saying in English.
At first, sadly, they tried to convince us there is no solution for the problem so it is better to go and enjoy our holiday without making an official complaint. This was not an option for us because we were sure we will find a solution with the iPhone app so we decided to open an investigation.
The detectives seemed more interested, but had no idea how to conduct an operation. I found them confused and lazy. Only one of them had initiative and we went to the crime scene to investigate if there are cameras that could have recorded what happened and give us some clues. Five police officers on scooters rushed to the place. This increased my adrenaline and I was feeling like we were searching for the most wanted criminal in Bali.
Bad news though. On one of the largest roads in Bali, if not the biggest, you cannot find any cameras; you have absolutely no control of what happens. And this goes for all Bali. And since he had his faced covered and the plate was missing, no one could help us. As a plus, searching on the internet, we found out the “Find my iPhone” app only works if the person connects to the internet which was hard enough not having the phone password. As an advice, do not pin your hopes on that app while being abroad.
We returned to the hotel more than disappointed. Almost 5 hours at the police station and not even one clue. We decided not to think about it anymore. No more beach, but we wanted to see a beautiful sunset at least so we could save the day. We decided to head to Tanah Lot.
PART 2 – Money
Please, don’t imagine that was it and we actually managed to watch the sunset as planned.
Taking into consideration what happened, I decided to leave some money in the safety deposit box. I searched the backpack and felt like I don’t have all the money. Quietly, without wanting to alarm my boyfriend again, I started counting them. Guess what? 2 and a half million IDR were missing.
In that exact moment, I knew that the guys at the exchange point managed to actually fool us with 1/3 of the amount. This sounds both outrageous and ridiculously funny. In less than 1 hour we managed to lose the phone and almost 200 EUR. What a good way to start a dream holiday! I started explaining to my boyfriend we got robbed again with tears in my eyes. It was not necessarily about the money, but how careless could we have been? How could they fool us at this level?
We still laugh every time we think about it. How could we go to the police again? Would someone believe us? We were ashamed of how easy to fool we were and even thought we deserve it for not being careful enough.
We were lucky to find the manager of the hotel who told us this happens pretty often on the island and offered to accompany us to the exchange point and solve the problem. And so we did. We could not find the two other guys there, but a third one who apparently owned the place was very interested in paying us back the money so we won’t go to the police.
I was so pissed, I just wanted to punch him in the face. I knew then, the same guys planned the phone theft as well because of their reaction when they saw it. But how could we prove it? Back to Polsek Kuta! For nothing again, though. They said that it is not enough proof for the phone theft and they didn’t even try talking to them. Moreover, if we wanted to make a complaint for the money theft, we should have left the money as evidence in their custody, even though we had even witness and the owner of the place admitted to this crime.
So that was of first day in Bali and our first sunset on the stairs of the police station. We went back to the hotel and slept a couple of hours just to put behind us what happened, happy that we at least recovered the money even though we got fooled twice in the same day and probably by the same people.
HOW TO AVOID BECOMING A TARGET:
- If you use your phone as I did, get a cover which can be tied to your hand;
- Keep your belongings with you all the time;
- Do not leave valuable objects on the beach unsupervised;
- Keep your documents and money in the safety deposit box, not in the hotel room;
- Separate your sources of cash, never all in one bag or wallet;
- Scan your travel documents as well as photocopying them;
- Use cross-body bags or backpacks;
- Don’t flaunt your possessions – avoid showing your phone or your valuable belongings such as jewelry or money;
This was a lesson, but I do not blame the place and I will return as many times as possible. I decided not to let this characterize a beautiful and charming place.
And I hope you will too. Now you know what to expect and you are ready. There is no need to be afraid of other types of crimes. The police officers said that thefts are common in the area, but that’s it. The sad part is that you cannot rely on the police on doing nothing. As I said to them, they are the ones to blame. If they will continue to ignore what is happening on the streets, there will be a bigger number of thefts since they do not have anything to be afraid of.
Be safe, but not scared. And do not let this be the reason why you won’t visit this magical place anymore. Be sure that this could have happened everywhere. I wanted to share my experience with you precisely for helping you avoid this kind of things, but also for telling you Bali can be safe if you are careful and aware of what can happen.
If you have a stories like this, don’t hesitate and share them with me. I do not want to believe I am the only one. And do not forget to subscribe and follow me on Facebook and Instagram to be the first to get all the travel secrets.
And remember: Life is short and the world is wide…