Overall, Indonesia is considered a relatively safe country to travel in, and Bali–with its sizable ex-pat population and reputation as a tourist hotspot–is no exception. However, as with any destination, it has its fair share of dangers to be aware of.
The biggest threats facing travellers to Bali are petty crimes and tourist scams, which are common throughout the island, but especially in the densest tourist areas such as Ubud, Canggu, and Kuta.
Pickpocketers will attempt to snag phones and wallets from unsuspecting pedestrians, and even more commonly, thieves on motorbikes will grab purses or backpacks from other riders, especially women riding alone at night. There are also risks associated with leaving your car or motorbike unattended for long periods of time, even during the day, as thieves may break in and remove valuables.
ATM scams are widespread in Bali. ATM skimming, during which sensitive information from a user’s debit or credit card is stolen when the card is swiped or inserted, is common, especially at machines that aren’t tied to reliable local banks. Furthermore, cards may become stuck in ATM machines and the connected accounts later drained. Many tourists have lost thousands of dollars in this manner.
Money changers are another site for frequent scams within Bali. Often, these services will advertise seemingly excellent exchange rates, but short the amount of cash actually given to customers through subtle sleight of hand or rigged calculators. Advance knowledge of correct exchange rates is crucial to avoid being scammed.
It must be noted that, as cities and countries across the world, Bali has seen a spike in crime as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Many locals have suffered significant economic losses or been unable to find employment due to restaurant and hotel closures as well as a dramatically reduced number of visitors and, thus, tourist dollars.
The chief of Badung Police, Roby Septiadi, noted that the department has seen a rise in the number of complaints reported, but couldn’t yet comment decisively on whether the pandemic or other factors were primarily to blame. Comprehensive data on percentage rise in crime in Bali has yet to be compiled.
However, public forums and social media have been full of reports of Bali’s decreasing safety. Recently, there have been a greater number of reports detailing more serious crimes such as home break-ins and violent muggings. Foreigners and ex-pats who were once used to leaving doors unlocked at night are rapidly changing these habits.
Unfortunately, crime in Bali is notoriously difficult for foreigners to report, and many times phones, wallets, and bags that go missing will be gone for good. As a result, social media has become a major channel for reporting crime and posting related photos or information about the parties involved. Many cases have been solved this way, largely outside of legal action. All in all, with an upfront understanding of potential risks and some common sense, Bali is as welcoming and secure a place to spend a holiday as any.