Friday, June 18, 2010

H-moon Recap: Thievery all over the world - Part 2

So I wish I could say our only experience with crooks abroad was the stolen sunglasses on our last day in Australia, but unfortunately, we had a few run ins one evening while in Bali as well.

Mr Fix It had warned me that he doesn't like to pay for anything with credit cards in Indonesia because they are known for stealing your information and using the cards after you visit their stores and whatever.  So he took a few thousand dollars cash.  (We did however pay for our hotels with our credit card because they're a bit more trustworthy and we were getting credits for travel rewards points by using the credit card.)

Of course, when you're in a foreign country, you need to exchange your money for the local Indo's case, it's called Rhupia.  And the exchange rate is was like 9,000 Rhupia to one US Dollar.  Mr Fix It only liked to change in about $100 (maybe $200) at a time.  Partly because it's not easy to count out over a million rhupia to verify what you're getting back.  And Mr. Fix It was pretty adamant that we would be double counting everything that we exchanged.  He had an experience where they tried to short change him once on a previous visit.  And partly because that way you don't end up with a bunch of rhupia leftover that you have to try to change back into USD which is not going to be as good exchange rate wise.

I didn't think much of it.  And our first couple nights in Kuta, we didn't have too hard a time finding some decent money changers to honestly exchange our hundred bucks.  All you needed to do was look for these signs outside any of the shops on the street:

And they are everywhere!  Like every 10 to 20 yards there was another money changer.  But we would walk around trying to find the ones who had a higher exchange rate.  Some offered 9300 rhupia to the USD.

And therein lies the problem...about the 3rd night of our trip.  We needed to exchange some money for dinner and shopping.  Well, just about every money changer that you walk up to looks like this:

See that super high desk you have to walk up to?  It is how the crooks protect themselves!  First of all, you have to offer them smaller currency.  We always gave them $100 bills and they would inspect them thinking they were fake first of all.  Then a few of them even told us that if they weren't 'newer' bills, they'd offer us a lower exchange rate.  We would ask them if we were getting the 9300 rate and they would say yes.  Then they'd count out the money.  They'd pull out a calculator to show you the amount you should get and suddenly they'd punch in a rate of only 8900 or something.  So Mr Fix It would call them out saying "Hey, it says 9300 out there on the sign!"  And they would say, "Oh, there's an 8% commission."  Or they'd say "Oh, this bill is dated in 2003 so it's not new enough...lower rate."  THIEVES!

But that isn't totally thievery...however, on this particular night, we saw some of the best magicians we'd ever encountered.  Even better than the one who had amazing slight of hand at our own wedding!

See, they'd count out 900,000.00 rhupia on the counter.  And they lay it out in piles of like 100,000 each or whatever.  I would pick up each pile and count it.  Then they'd tell you to put it back down.  Or they would just take it back from you after it was all counted and act like they were wrapping it all up together.  They'd hand it back, and I would count it yet again!  Only this time, it would be missing money.  Anywhere from 100,000 to 750,000 at one changer we went to! 

I would say "Um, where's the other 250,000?"  To which they would pull all the money back from me, give us back our $100 bill and then respond, "You need to go to another changer.  We aren't doing business with you."  And Mr Fix It would say "Why?  Because we know you are a thief and we aren't stupid enough for you to trick us?"  One time he told the guy "You guys are really good magicians...we are totally watching your hands and we can't see how your dropping the money behind the counter."

This went on in literally like 8 to 10 places we visited in less than an hour.  I was seriously getting pissed at this point and Mr Fix It knew I was frustrated and hungry.  As we walked by this one shop, the guy stopped Mr Fix It and asked him to buy a watch.  Mr Fix It did in fact want to buy a watch but told him he didn't have any rhupia because he couldn't find an honest money changer!

This nice sales guy walked us around the corner to an official bank that was open at like 8:30 pm at night and there we found the honest place to exchange our money.  It was nice to have a reputable place to be able to do business, however, they only offered us 8900 per USD.  That's how the thieves lure you into their places. 

So we just used the banks from that point on.  I have to say, you can also exchange money at most hotels as they are also honest, but again, a lower exchange rate.  And we did in fact have a couple money changers that didn't try to pull a fast one on us and gave us a good rate....but not many. 

What about all you ladies?  Did you have any unfortunate experiences while visiting foreign countries?  Be sure if you are going abroad for honeymoons and trips that you do some internet research and check to see what you should look out for and be concerned about.  The US Government sites also give you some good warnings to consider when well as entry and exit information and requirements.  We had to pay like $50 to get visas in Bali where it was only about $18 each for Australia.  But Australia didn't charge us when we left their country whereas Indonesia does charge you another fee for an exit visa!


JEM - Aqua Bride said...

Bummer, crooks, crooks, crooks the world over. It makes me so sick when people think they're entitled to something t hey didn't work for. Glad you found a bank.
All through reading this, I was like, "why didn't they go to the bank" and then I read it. Good for you.

Chocolate Lover said...

Wow! Great tips to know! So interesting that they chose not to take your money at all instead of give you the advertised amount. Oh well. I'd have done the same and gone to the banks with a lower exchange rate. Especially if I was hungry and getting grumpier by the minute :)

Gaynor said...

We always try and avoid those money changers as have heard so so many bad stories.

I dont like to carry much money with us at all so would either take travellers cheques or on our honeymoon in Sri Lanka we just got money out the ATM machine direct in their currency when we needed it.

All you need is love... said...

Wow. Great lesson for all of us! I will def exchange at banks if I ever travel to another country. besides, Im sure the banks are offering the true amount at the time.
I studied International Finance in college, and each morning there is an official rate of exchange to go by. But I wouldnt have known any better and just gone to the stands!
Thanks for sharing!
And now I am scared of Bali, hhaha

penga said...

wow, how stressful! thanks for the good tips though, this is some good stuff to think about.

A. Marigold said...

I wouldn't have thought of this.. I usually exchange money at the airport or use a bank ATM, but this is really good to know!!

kjpugs said...

OMG!!!! I can't believe that! We just stayed in our resort on our honeymoon so we didn't deal with this kind of stuff. We didn't have any cash since it was a Sandals resort. What a crazy eye opening experience. It's good that you have such a savvy husband!

Mrs T said...

When we were in Bali we just withdrew cash from the ATM's - that way you get the current exchange rate from your bank back home. And you don't have to carry too much cash around.

Thailand charge you an exit fee too - and it has to be in their currency. The first time we went we spent all our left over thai baht in the airport and had none to pay the exit fee. Not clever. Luckily we met some nice people that gave us the money (it's only about AU$4 per person). But they literally won't let you leave without it and you can't pay any way but cash!

Claire said...

I have never been out of the US. I am learning that there is a lot to learn before visiting another country. It is so sad that people can not be more honest in this world.

Miss C said...

I think what a lot of people don't consider is that Indonesia is basically a third world country. The people are generally really poor. While 100,000 Rupiah really isn't much to us, it is a whole lot to them.

I always change my money at the hotel, or withdraw from a bank ATM during the day. It isn't worth the hassle.

Em said...

WHAAAATTT??? That is crazy! Wow...glad you finally were able to get it all worked out.

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