The day I was scammed in Yogyakarta

It all started on my first day in Jogja, after a flight that morning from Bali, where I had just spent the past few weeks backpacking. Upon landing in Jogja, I went straight to my hotel – the Ibis Styles Yogyakarta Hotel. I still don’t know if they had any part to play in this scam.

ibistyles

Once I had checked in, I was informed that because it was only around 9am at that time, my room would not be ready until later in the afternoon. This is standard practice in the hotel industry, so I was not too worried about it. Instead, I asked the reception to call me a taxi, as I was about to embark on one of my travel dreams – the chance to experience Candi Borobudur!

A taxi like mine
A taxi like mine

magelang

My taxi came within 5 minutes, and I had arranged a return fee of 300,000 Rupiah, which included the driver waiting for me in the car park before we came home. For those of you who do not know, Borobudur is an incredible Buddhist temple but is actually located in Magelang regency, an hour’s drive from my hotel. However, much like at Stonehenge in the UK, it’s in the middle of nowhere, so you must have a taxi/bus trip back home already planned, as you will not see any other ‘random’ taxis driving past otherwise.

Heading towards the temple
Heading towards the temple

When we arrived at Borobudur, I kindly asked the taxi driver to wait for me in the car park, to which he agreed, and I got a good look at his face, car number, and the colour of the car! Even in a busy UNESCO World Heritage Site car park it must be easy to find him a few hours later when I had finished exploring Borobudur, right?

When all was said and done, I think I had spent around 2 hours at Borobudur, and what an amazing time I had! Undoubtedly one of the finest Buddhist temple complexes in the region, and it was delightful that I had ticked off something on my bucket list!

However, when I walked back to the car park, my taxi driver was nowhere to be seen.

It was now early afternoon, and the temperature here in Java was hitting 35 degrees Fahrenheit with near 90% humidity. It was also my first day in Yogyakarta ever, and having flown in at such an ungodly hour from Bali, I was also beginning to get rather tired and exhausted by now. Yet I couldn’t find my driver! I walked around the car park for a while, I think I must have circled it around 3 or 4 times, and even walking the outer perimeter, as some taxis were in the corner of the car park sheltering under the trees from the sun’s rays. Yet still no sign of him.

yogya2
Plenty of sleeping tuktuk drivers in the car park area, but my driver was NOWHERE TO BE SEEN!

Now, I am an experienced backpacker so I have had worse than this (my taxi driver in Delhi once threatened to throw all my bags out of the car in the dead of night unless I paid him extra), but I really wasn’t in the mood for such things today.

I walked back to the Candi Borobudur Visitors’ Centre and asked a lady behind the desk if there was a taxi rank here. She said there wasn’t. At that point, I began to worry a little. Fortunately, I began speaking to an Indonesian man, roughly middle-aged, who had been hanging around in the Visitors’ Centre even from a few hours earlier when I had began my tour of Borobudur. After explaining to him my predicament, he got his mobile phone out and promised to help me. He was a really nice man, actually, and I don’t know what I would have done without his help.

Anyway, this guy phoned his friend who worked at a nearby hotel and arranged for him to pick me up and drop me back at the Ibis Styles Hotel in Yogyakarta – and he was only going to charge me 200,000 Rupiah! Now, if you remember my original taxi driver wanted 300,000 for the return trip (but I hadn’t paid him anything yet), then with this new deal it meant I would get to Borobudur and back for just the 200,000! Result!

However, it didn’t work out like that.

yogyafood

Later that evening, having just had some simple room service in my hotel room, I received a phone call from reception saying that the taxi driver who had taken me to Borobudur was standing in the lobby and is demanding his payment! Apparently, he was claiming that he had been waiting in the Borobudur car park all day (this must have been 8 or 9 hours since he dropped me off) and was VERY angry.

I tried to tell the receptionist on the phone that he had abandoned me and therefore the deal was off, as I had to pay another driver to take me home because this outbound taxi driver was too unreliable. I am VERY certain he was NOT in the car park. I would have spotted him if he had have been. The receptionist nevertheless reiterated that the driver is DEMANDING payment, at which point I tried to explain that ok, he took me to Borobudur, so I will pay him half of what the return fare was planned to be, which was 300,000 Rupiah. Yet again, the receptionist phoned me back a few minutes later and said that the driver wanted FULL payment. The receptionist also then laughably told me to come down and speak to him myself. I replied by saying that that wouldn’t be a good idea, in case he got aggressive towards me.

Honestly, what kind of receptionist encourages commotion like that in their own hotel lobby?

rupiah

In this moment, I instantly smelled “SCAM”. However, with the possible threat of the Jogja Polisi getting involved (which probably would have meant a night in prison cell for me), I decided that the only way to resolve this was to just pay the guy what he wanted. Yet I made it clear to the receptionist on the phone, that she must send somebody up to collect the money, don’t send the taxi driver up! Thankfully they obliged, and 2 members of the hotel came up and collected my money.

It was quite lucky I still had that amount left in my wallet, really, wasn’t it? What else could I have done, accompany the taxi driver to the ATM and let him watch me withdraw more funds?

DSC00332

Anyway, on a morning when I was happy to be paying 300,000 Rupiah for my journey, and on an afternoon where I was delighted to only seemingly be paying 200,000 Rupiah, it was a sad, sad end to the day for me as I in total ended up paying 500,000 Rupiah for my sins – and I still believe to this day that it was some elaborate scam between some hotel staff and taxi driver. I really would interested to know if anyone else has been affected by an apparent scam like this.

There is less chance of being scammed if you travel to Borobudur the cheaper way on public bus.

Oh, and in case you’re wondering, this is what I got up to at Borobudur that day!

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30 thoughts on “The day I was scammed in Yogyakarta

  1. Ugh, being scammed is the worst. And that sucks that a great experience at Borobudur was tainted by a scam. I didn’t have a bad experience in Borobudur but I did get scammed in Sanur. I put a deposit down at a tour operator for a bus/ferry to the Gili Islands. And the next morning no one showed up. We called the tour operator and the guy’s supposed cell phone number and there was no answer. Upon a little research we found out that the vessel we were booked on didn’t actually exist. We ended up having to eat the cost of the deposit AND overpay for a ride to the ferry terminal so we could catch our ferry on time. I was so mad! But it happens…

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    1. Ouch, that sounds painful. Hopefully the money wasn’t too much that you lost, but it sounds like the typical kind of scam you get in that part of the world. Those scamsters should be ashamed of themselves! But they know they can get away with it…

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  2. VERY sorry to hear about the scam. In cases like that, it’s not so much the money that pisses you off, it’s the fact that it ruins the experience. I had no worries in Angkor because the driver was awesome. But if he’d left us hanging and scammed us, I’m sure I wouldn’t have the same desire to get back to Siem Reap as I do now. I never really understand why the tourism industry in places like that doesn’t get it. The hotel, in particular, should have stood up for you. Although you didn’t give a negative recommendation to the hotel, I will definitely avoid the IBIS now that I’ve heard that they don’t take responsibility for the drivers that THEY CALLED!! So ultimately, they lose. Anyway, sorry to hear that.

    As for scams in Indo, the only one I’ve had was on my first day in Bali. I bought some cheap little towel just to wipe off the sweat…I was really confused with the large sums (I suck at math and those were pre-currency-conversion app days). I was thinking I bargained the hell out of the street vendor, but when I got back to the hotel I realized I’d paid $13 dollars, not $1.30 for the thing. Doh!!! And even that hurt a bit, even though it was my own stupidity. But getting ripped off never feels good.

    Great post! Happy trails!

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    1. Hi Mike. The Indonesian currency is very hard to learn…Rupiah is currently 20,118 to the £. So many 0000s! 😀 But yeah, I was angry with the hotel for simply not wanting to understand my plight. It is conceivable they were in on the game… Anyway, the Ibis Yogyakarta is actually a nice hotel, and I think it gets good reviews on TripAdvisor, but my stay there was marred due to the scam. Next time I will stay at the Sheraton Mustika.

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      1. Well, I’m kind of punitive in my travel choices, so if I hear of something like that, I’ll generally look elsewhere. I tend to go for local places…although that doesn’t always end well in terms of quality, who’s kidding who.

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  3. Sorry to hear that you get scam. Your hotel service is horrible! I just came back from Borobudur a couple of weeks back. My best advice is to hire a car + driver from the airport (proper counter) will be the best way, or your hotel. Or just flag a cab from the street. Never asked for them to wait. If you really want them to wait, always get their phone number. I rent a car + driver for 3 hours from the airport for IDR275,000.

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      1. Yes because it is hard to find them back. If you have a local number always asked for the driver’s number. Most drivers in Asia has mobile phone. Then you can ask them to wait. I think mostly traveling in South East Asia countries except Singapore, always get a taxi off the counter from the airport. Most taxis here do not go by meter and normally they increase the price for foreigners. Once you get settled at your hotel , check with your concierge what’s the taxi market rate so you can use it for bargaining

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  4. Wow – great story (meaning entertainment value after the fact)! Not so great at the time, I’m sure. I’m with all the posters who said the hotel needs to take some blame for this one.

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    1. Wow..that was really shocked me.
      I my self is Indonesian and for me and I think most of Indonesian, Jogja people is one of the most polite and kindest people in the world.
      I spent my time for holiday there several times and Jogja people were always awesome.
      So reading your bad experience is really make me angry and sad.
      Sometimes sh** happens, I’m really sorry for your bad time there but I hope you still consider Indonesia in your holiday bucket list.
      Enjoy our paradise 🙂

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      1. No need to apologise! 🙂 Sometimes bad people just exist everywhere! I loved my time in Jogja, it was one of my favourite places in Indonesia! Don’t know if I will ever come back because I have seen everything already, but I always have good memories of the city (despite the scam I suffered).

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      2. Yeah, since Jogja a bit tiny but many places you can explore there actually and there is a lot of festival too.
        Anyway have you visited Derawan and Raja Ampat ?

        Liked by 1 person

      3. Derawan is located on the coastal shelf of East Kalimantan. From Jakarta you can reach it via Balikpapan.
        It’s one of the best diving and snorkling spot in Indonesia and the beach is also gorgeous.
        There are also several islands nearby, especially Maratua, Sangalaki and Kakaban.
        All 4 are really stunning, crystal water and beautiful white sand beaches. It’s paradise indeed.

        Liked by 1 person

  5. I stayed somewhere near the Jogya train station, just take a slow walk to Maribolo street which is about 50 meter, take bus 2A and then change 2B ,ask the ticket seller, they are helpful, bus ride 3000 rupiah, the bus will take u to jimbol station, hope on a borobudur bus, cost you 15000 to 20000 , arrived at borobodur station, hop on a horse cart 15000 , return journey as reverse, job done!!

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  6. hallo Mr Lee. I Love Your Blog, I recommend you to visit Kerinci, Jambi Province. Kerinci has many tourist attractions such as Mount Kerinci with the largest tea gardens in the world, seven mountain lake/danau gunung 7 is the highest lake in Southeast Asia and seven mountain lake surrounded by seven mountains , kerinci lake and Kaco Lake, Kaco Lake/danau Kaco is a magical lake that can emit light at night and you can see the bottom but the bottom never can be touched and dived.you can visit the telun berasap waterfall that can emit a rainbow,you can visit bukit kayangan, air panas semurup and you can visit Taman Nasional Kerinci Seblat(TNKS), national garden site of bukit dua belas , national garden site bukit tiga puluh of and the national garden site of berbak, etc. it’s All very wonderful. in The Merangin regency you can see GEOPART the widest and most complete in the world. in The jambi city you can visit the site of Muaro jamb is a Buddhist temple complex. It is one of the largest and best-preserved ancient temple complexes in South East Asia. the Muaro jambi Temple Compound Site was once the centre for worship and education of the Buddhist religion in the period of the Ancient Malay-Sriwijaya Kingdom in the 7th – 14th century AD, it’s university of buddhist first and the largest in South east Asia, it’s connect with ancient nalanda university in south india. it’s the former capital of the Sriwjaya kingdom and the ancient Malay kingdom. http://whc.unesco.org/en/tentativelists/5465/. and do not forget to visit the bridge and the tower gentala arasy.

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    1. Hi there! 🙂 Selamat Datang! 🙂 I have never been to Kerinci Seblat, but I would love to one day. Sumatra is one of my favourite islands of Indonesia. I also want to visit Mauro Jambi complex. I am interested in the Sriwajaya Empire and it would be cool to see the temple ruins with my own eyes! Terima kasih! 😀

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    1. Yes I believe scams also happen with local people, but mainly it seems to be the foreign tourists who get scammed, because it is thought that we have more money (may be true, but still not nice).

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      1. We are currently for the fifth time in Indonesia and perhaps the tenth time in Jogjakarta. My wife if of Indonesian descent and I’m just a tall Belanda. She has learned the language a bit but we both scream ‘walking ATM’ because we are tourists. Although by now we know all the tricks: turning off the meter and bargaining for a fixed price by the driver (we always refuse but than they will more often then not switch it to night tariff right away), pretending to know a quicker route to save time (but not money, the fare will double), pretending to not have change (whilst having pockets full of small bills), etc., etc., we cannot escape scams. Like it has been mentioned before, it’s not always about the money involved but about ruining the experience. If you are a tall white guy like me, the prices at least double. If you don’t bargain, expect to pay four times as much with street vendors.

        Placed in the correct context, I can’t blame them too much. A two-way ticket Amsterdam-Jakarta can be as much as a years’ worth of income to the average Indonesian. So we MUST be loaded! My wife has tried to explain time and time again that we have to save for these trips and that money doesn’t grow on trees but this it met with blank stares and faint smiles. Our only escape is when we are with her (local) relatives. They do all the talking and bargaining for us, saving a lot of hassle and aggravation.

        I have learned one thing: leave your western manners at home and just let it happen. Don’t try to fight the system because you will never, ever win that battle. Just enjoy the country, the scenery and the food and take a deep breath before you are charged twice over again 🙂

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        1. Hi Frans, thanks for the detailed write-up. 🙂

          Much of what you said is absolutely true of course, sometimes it is better to just dance with the devil and let it be. However, for first time visitors to Indonesia that may not always be possible.

          I do think it is a major problem though that some local people see western tourists as nothing other than ‘cash cows’. 😦

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          1. The latter is true but I guess they don’t care. Most tourists go once and never return. Upon returning home, most of this is soon forgotten. And don’t let me start on the begging for money in hotels by cleaning staff (“I need money for books because my eldest daughter is attending school”) because it turns my wife, who’s a very lovely person, into a she-devil, foaming ’round the mouth 🙂

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          2. Yeah its a streotype that native poeple believe foreigners always bring alot of bucks. Because of that stereotype, sometimes domestic tourist is served as second class or non priority

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