Fugly Bali
Nasty travel agents in Indonesia.
Why many Balinese travel agents are the last people you would want to use!
You are likely better off with an agent outside Bali!

Too many of Bali's / Indonesia's travel agents are nothing more then tricky, bordering on unlawful, uninsured businesses. Although they present themselves as the most secure and logical place to book your holiday / vacation in Bali. Some may be, but we will tell you exactly why many, if not most or even all are to be avoided (in favour of using a local travel agent in your home town, or one outside Bali).

At the end of the caution list, we will provide you with a question list to send any travel agent you may be considering, in order to see what they really are! You will probably see it is well worth paying a little more to deal with a real travel agent local to you, or one elsewhere that is not a risk.

1) Insurance.
Most western based travel agents have bonded insurance, to protect any money you pay them, either by token of being a member of an association (such as the Association of British Travel Agents for example). Most Bali based agents only belong to organizations such as PATA (Pacific Asia Travel Association). But we believe people like PATA are nothing more then a sales / marketing association / company for the benefit of travel agents (not for the benefit of customers), and PATA certainly do not require members to be bonded like ABTA do (click to see).

2) Ethics.
Travel agents in Indonesia are not bound by the same rigorous regulations as in western countries. Indonesian operated reservation sites have been caught out conducting some very bad business practices such as;
a) Not even being registered as a travel agent, but as a marketing company.
b) Offering hotels they have not been authorized to do so, probably to attempt;
c) Switch and bait. Offering hotel rooms, often at prices that can not be sustained / honored, only to reply that the hotel is full (when they have not checked) and to offer a "better" (more commission for them) alternative.

In addition, some travel businesses in Bali have very bad reputations for abusing the corrupt judiciary / corrupt police officers. For example, Bali Discovery Tours (click to see).

Also, the following travel agents are / have been owned and / or operated by members of the Suharto family (see our page on the Suharto Family to understand why this is not good): Nustra Tours & Travel, PT Sanur Hastamitra, PT Sanur Dinamika, PT Sahid Gema Wisata Tours & Travel, and PT Sahid Visantara Tourindo.

3) Local Knowledge.
Yes, believe it or not, many Bali / Indonesia based travel agents have less experience and local knowledge then foreign based agents! By this we mean that most Balinese travel agents have not even inspected (in any detail) the hotels / villas they offer room reservations for, even when their office may be but a stone's throw away. Bear this mind when a travel agent recommends a particular hotel / villa! What are they basing this recommendation on?

4) Credit Card Fraud.
Unfortunately it is a fact, Indonesia has a terrible record of credit card fraud against tourists. Even if they, the company themselves do not abuse any details you give them. How good is their staff vetting system to help ensure they do not pass your credit card details on? How good is their PC security to make sure some hacker with a "trojan" is not able to access your credit card details on their system? How good is their general security, to make sure print outs of your credit card details do not get thrown in the regular trash can?

5) Other Fraud.
Unfortunately many reservation agents seem party to tax fraud (which cheats the government out of much needed revenue) and / or claim the room rate they are offering you includes the service charge when it does not. The taxation system is cheated by simply charging you tax on the full rate offered, while the actual tax paid is based on what the hotel charges the agent. In addition, net / nett rates (which basically means the service charge is an option, which it legally is, and is therefore not included) are often misrepresented as being service charge included rates. The later means that you go to the hotel believing you have paid the staff a gratuity, when you have not. You are cheated, they are cheated.

6) Other - hotels themselves.
Be aware of hotels that play another service charge "game". Many charge you the 11% "industry standard" service charge, of which 10% legally has to go to the staff (the hotel is allowed to keep 1% for itself for breakages). But either; a) Do not give all of the money they should to the staff, and / or b) Also pay service charge bonuses to directors and managers on a pro rata basis (the higher the salary, the greater their share of the service charge).

If you are dealing with any Internet based agent, perhaps you would be best to ask the following questions before trusting them with your reservation request and especially your credit card details.

1) Do you require my credit card details? If yes, what security measures do you take to ensure my credit card details are not abused?

2) Do you charge me, or does the hotel charge me? If you charge me (either a deposit or the full reservation value), what bonding / insurance do you have to protect my money in case you go bust / disappear / cease trading?

3) Do I pay the full amount in advance, or upon check out? If the full amount, why? As hotels themselves generally charge upon check out. And if I pay you in advance, when do you pay the hotel?

4) If I am paying you, not the hotel. Are you a fully accredited / registered travel agent (please provide me with your travel agent number if yes), or are you just a marketing company? If you are just a marketing company, why are you acting as a travel agent?

5) Is tax / service charge included? If so, please give me the following breakdown;
a) The gross amount before tax and service.
b) The exact amount (not a generic %) of tax. If this is not 10%, please explain why.
c) The exact amount (not a generic %) of service charge.
Also, please confirm the full tax element will go to the Indonesian treasury, and the full service charge element will go to the hotel for their staff.

6) Please can you provide me the hotel's policy on distributing service charges? That is, what percentage actually goes to the staff themselves, and is the staff payment pro-rated according to their salary or do they each get an equal amount.

7) If you are saying the hotel / villa I chose is fully booked, please provide me with the email confirmation of this from the hotel / villa themselves. If you can not provide this, please provide me with the hotel's / villa's email address so I may confirm this with them. If you are not able to do this, I am not able to consider anything else with you.

Please do not become a victim or part of the problem. Read:
Bali Tourism (Should I go, where, and how do I avoid adding to the problem / putting myself / my family at risk in Bali?).

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