I had heard the stories but it had never happened to me. Nor had I seen it happen. This is how I was fleeced by corrupt Bali police and how you can avoid the same thing happening to you.
The stories were of the ‘wrong place, wrong time’ variety – not in broad daylight on a crowded street.
And, as I was waved by the corrupt Bali police man over to the side of the road along with every other tourist who happened to be driving by at the time (many, given this road is the only way to get from Uluwatu to Kuta), and even as I pulled my motorbike to a stop, I was in disbelief about what was happening.
Had I been more prepared, I would have likely been extorted for less.
Indonesia’s Notorious Corruption
I’ve been to Bali many times – my wife and I were married there – and I love it. The Balinese people are warm, honest and gentle, the place is beautiful and I always return home feeling more relaxed than when I arrived.
In stark contrast, corruption is rife in the Indonesian government, specifically the justice and civil sectors at all levels. While hard data on corruption is difficult to capture, according to the 2008 Public Sector Integrity Survey, Indonesians ranked the Supreme Court the lowest in integrity in comparison to the other public services in Indonesia. If the highest level of the justice system is not perceived to uphold the rule of law, how can the rest of the system be effective?
Fish rot from the head down as they say.
What Happens – The Scam
Pulled into the crude police station without any mention of what I had done wrong, I was asked for the registration of the rental motorbike I was riding, which thankfully I had and for an international drivers license, which I did not have. Would my Australian drivers license suffice? No, it would not. Fail #1.
The policeman pulled out an arbitrary piece of paper, written in Indonesian, with descriptions and figures attached. A roster of fines, he pointed to one with Rp500,000 (~$50) against it and said I would be written a ticket and would need to pay that amount.
Remembering the stories, I said I didn’t have that much and was there anything I could do to avoid the ticket.? He smiled, recognising that I knew the scam and asked how much I did have. This is where I failed for the second time. Had I been prepared, I would have had most of my money stashed somewhere safely and a lone Rp50,000 note in my pocket.
Instead, he watched me empty the small pocket of my boardshorts and his eyes lit up when he saw three red Rp100,000 bills (~$30). That was my price of leaving the station without a ticket and the administrative hassles attached to it.
What To Do
Theoretically, if you are wearing a helmet, have current registration, an international drivers license and have not broken any road rules, you should not be subject to any fine.
Given the nature of corrupt Bali police, however, there is still a strong possibility that you’ll be made to pay either a bribe or a fine.
When asked about paying the fine, say you don’t have that much money and then have your bribe money (Rp50,000 should do the trick) readily accessible while any other money or valuables is safely hidden away.
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