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.
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).
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
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)
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
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
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:
Tourism (Should I go, where, and how do I avoid
adding to the problem / putting myself / my family at
risk in Bali?).