Jul 29

Corrupt Traffic Cop CartoonIf you stay a bit longer in Bali – longer than just a few days that is – and plan driving a vehicle like a Scooter or Car here, it’s almost unavoidable that you will be stopped by the police once in a while. If you are wearing your helmet how it should be or are correctly buckled up in your car – that has usually only one reason -> to extort money from you – the “wealthy” foreigner or tourist.

The most common times for routine Police Checks are Monday mornings (the weekend is just over, all money is spent!), Friday early afternoons (the expensive weekend is ahead with lot’s of Arak and Karaoke sessions!) or mid weeks around 11am-1pm (there is nothing more delicious like a free lunch!).

First you will be asked a lot of questions: “where you from”, “what you do for work”, “where you stay”, etc. This isn’t friendly interest, but has the only purpose to determine your ‘wealth’ or ‘worth’, read: how much money they should ask from you.

Their most common and successful scheme is to ask you for your International Driving License, which – if you can’t show one, but only a national one – would cost you some ‘tea money’ of Rp 20.000 if you ride a bike or Rp 50.000 if driving a car (more, if you appear ‘fresh off the boat’, or if you wear gold rings and necklaces all over or Dollar Bills are hanging out of your pockets).

As an alternative you will be “threatened” to come with them to the Police Station or more seriously to go on standing trial in Bali’s capital Denpasar (Both this never happens, as it would mean more work for them and plenty loss of time for extorting money from easier targets).

The collected money will anyway go straight into the pockets of the involved Police Men, there won’t be any receipt or ticket for you to carry home as a souvenir.

Fear not! There are ways out of this dilemma, if you follow the tips below.

While negotiating with the police isn’t a pleasant experience for most people, there is almost always the chance that you can get away with just a warning instead of paying the ‘standard fee’ or even more. Just play by their own rules. Here are some things you can do:

  • Don’t stop in the first place. Am I kidding you? Not! As the ‘Patroli’ are usually waiting for their prey in not easily visible corners or side pockets of the road; it’s pretty easy to miss them. They don’t use whistles or other signals as well, just a lame hand waive to flag you down. It’s easier when riding a bike – just look in the opposite direction (usually the right side of the road, it also helps if you wear sunglasses). This way you missed them ‘by accident’, don’t worry: they will not follow you – there is much easier prey for them than abandoning their favorite sweet spot to follow one single victim.

If you indeed get stopped or can’t drive past them:

  • Stay always calm and friendly – smile a lot. Anger doesn’t lead you nowhere – it makes things more complicated

  • Act real sloooowwwww and pretend that you have all the time in the world (even if you don’t and feel like you have ants in your pants), tell them you didn’t know, as it’s not common in most other countries you visited (name all countries in Asia you can recall!)

  • Explain that you are only a short-time tourist in beautiful Bali (never say that you live here, even if you do), that you like it sooo much and that you want to tell all your friends back home how nice and friendly all people are here

  • Tell them that you learned your lesson now, you feel sorry about your mistake, look very miserable. Ask where you can get an International Driving License in Bali, let them write you down the address, ask them to paint you map. Cooperate as much as you can. Do anything to keep them busy and more and they will let you off with a verbal warning only, just to get rid of you

  • If you own your bike or your car, don’t tell them! They will right away find something that is broken, doesn’t work or isn’t installed correctly (mirrors are a hot topic with bikes). If you insist you rented, those things usually don’t matter. Tough luck though, if your name appears in the insurance slip (there are ways to avoid that as well)

  • Explain that you are a journalist who is writing an article for an Australian/British/American/Whatever Magazine about Bali and how great the food is here, how friendly the people are here and so on

  • Ask the Officer’s name and write it down on a piece of paper in front of him, ask him to help you with the correct spelling. If you don’t have pen and paper – yes, you guessed right, borrow it from them (!)

  • If you have a newer European License (the plastic card with the European Flag) you can almost always ‘convince’ them, that this is the new European International Driving License. Just stand firm your ground, say that you don’t understand what you did wrong, repeat it again, 5-10 minutes is all that it takes. Repetition works! The main reason for them asking the International License is that it states usually all classes you are eligible to drive. That is the case with the national European Licenses as well. Show it and explain to them. Hah! Gotcha! ;-)

  • Sometimes, they just don’t let you off with a warning only. You have to fill out some form with your particulars, name, place of stay in Bali, sometimes home address. Stay calm. Be creative! Fill out whatever you want there: your first and middle name okay, but write Legian Hotel or Poppies Place and any fantasy address back home. Of course you don’t have your passport with you! It’s with the Travel Agency, in the Hotel Safe or with the wife shopping. Don’t forget to ask his name and write it down carefully, if you have to fill out something. This way they will never check the correctness of your personal details, as they just want to get rid of you quick, you might probably mean trouble for them

  • If anything else fails and you talked yourself in a rage, mention the TAC (Tourist Assistance Center) as a last resort, it helps to have a handphone and type in its contact list without showing them much attention. The number of the TAC is 224111, you have to dial +62 361 224111 (0361 is for Denpasar).

You might ask, is it worth the trouble? If you didn’t bring *any licence at all*, didn’t wear a helmet on a bike or weren’t buckled up in your car – probably not. You will have to pay most of the time. But for the International Driving License Scheme – definitely yes!


You can either waste your time or your money! But everyone should have at least the 10 minutes it takes to discuss with a police man if he should let you off with a verbal warning or if you really have to part with your hard-earned cash.

Anyway, the official Police Checkpoints usually consist of 3-5 cars with 5-10 cops at a time. You almost always get away with only a warning here, as everything is very official.

So if you are stopped by just 2 or 3 Cops from 1 car on the road side, without having done anything wrong – you know what their goal is. It depends a bit on the situation and the Cop who will talk to you. I tried all the tips above and they work most of the time. In the 10 months living here we were stopped more than a dozen times. We paid only once so far, when my pillion rider ‘forgot’ to wear her helmet, but never because I didn’t have an International Driving License (still don’t have).

What is an International Driving License good for anyway?

The problem with the International Driving License is that it expires fast and is completely useless. It’s actually more a scheme than anything.

  • It doesn’t save you from anything: if you are in an accident with a local, you will still pay for all expenses, license or not. If the accident is with a fellow foreigner, the one with a car insurance has to pay or the one who can’t bribe the Cop who is writing the Police Report

  • Another problem is, that it expires. European international driving licenses (for driving outside of Europe) are only valid for 3-6 months and costs you anything between Euro 35 to 80, depending on the country. Other countries offer 12 month licenses, but still you have to renew them every once in a while. It’s just easy money for countries.

  • The biggest joke is that you can apply for your International Driving License in Bali directly. It’s valid in Bali then, but might not in other countries. You don’t even have to bring a valid license for applying – just hand over the money! Again it’s limited to 1 months, 3 months, 6 months or 1 year. Longer period – more money.

So, if it’s all a scheme, why waste your money?

The money you saved you can much better invest in 2 small Bintang beer or even 3 large ones, if you happen to drive with your rented Suzuki Katana, Toyota Kijang or Daihatsu Feroza. And it’s for sure a great feeling to drive off from the site of your triumph without having paid any direct bribes for nothing.

Yes, no? What do you think? ;-)

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written by Chris

68 Responses to “Still paying off corrupt Traffic Cops? Try this instead…”

  1. Michael at Traveling Stories MagazineNo Gravatar CANADA Says:

    This is a really great post. Its always a funny thing to realize that in developing countries its usually the police who are your most serious threat.

  2. Ian HNo Gravatar UNITED STATES Says:

    Michael: “Its always a funny thing to realize that in developing countries its usually the police who are your most serious threat”

    Uh… true, IF you think a scam tax of 2 beers per month qualifies as “most serious threat”. Most commonly encountered, perhaps; but e.g. someone slipping you a drugged drink & then basically doing what they like to you could be much more serious in terms of consequences (not that I’ve seen that in Bali; but Thailand…)

    Still, article was nice to read, thanks Chris

  3. SamNo Gravatar SINGAPORE Says:

    Maybe you can try (or pretend) to speak French, Spanish or Martian language to the cops.

  4. RaniNo Gravatar SINGAPORE Says:

    One thing that always work for me is to cite the name of high-level official, preferably military or police, and claim it as my relative. Once i mentioned that my mom is president’s doctor and we’re urgently going to meet with presidential health team, and they let me off without paying anything.

  5. fraggleNo Gravatar AUSTRALIA Says:

    great article. brings a big smile to my face.

    can i add the method that evolved while i lived in Bali/Indonesia was if you could not just look the other way while they try to wave you down, wave back with a big grin. The response by the police was one of confusion with their hand still flapping. They never followed.

  6. GregNo Gravatar CANADA Says:

    In December, 1996, my buddy Tim and I got stopped by a cop at the stoplight just outside Denpasar, on our way up to Ubud. We were just finding out that our Suzuki mini jeep had terrible brakes, and rolled about a half car-length into the (completely deserted) intersection. Tim was driving, and made the mistake of handing over his licence. The cop waved us over to his police hut at the side of the road, and insisted that we owed him money for our infraction.

    However, Tim was *not* going to pay this guy *anything*. We were on vacation, we were in the shade, and we were in no hurry. We probably wasted 30 minutes of the cop’s time, always with a smile on our faces, just kibbitzing around (that’s Tim; I could never do that myself). The cop finally handed back Tim’s licence, and told us we were free to go.

    But Tim wasn’t done quite yet. Oh, no.

    Before we went, Tim had the cop pose for pictures with us: me and the cop, Tim and the cop, the cop with his hands around Tim’s neck (a la Homer Simpson’s “why you little…!” pose). I think the cop kinda got into it — he was smiling and laughing in almost every picture.

    Once we had those shots, we bid the cop a fond farewell, drove off, and enjoyed another week driving around the island, cop-free.

  7. asiahandNo Gravatar AUSTRALIA Says:

    A variation on this scam that I fell victim to in Bangkok, Thailand, went as follows.

    I was waiting outside a bank (which had foreign exchange facilities) on Sukkhumvit Road for my parents, who had gone into the bank to change some cash. While I waited, I smoked a cigarette. When I finished the cig, not wanting to throw it on the ground, I saw a bunch of butts in a pot plant, so I put it with all those other butts. I should point out at this stage that Bangkok is one of the filthiest cities in the world, and this particular area was no exception.

    Anyway, I waited a full five minutes more, and when my parents emerged and we began to walk off, a cop stopped me, and in Broken English, proceeded to tell me that I had been caught littering – he produced the cigarette butt in his hand as “evidence”, and that now I would have to go to the Police station to pay the fine (not at all cheap – around 3000 baht).

    My dad, standing next to me began berating me and the cop, and so as to establish myself as the one the cop dealt with, I shouted at my dad and told him to let me deal with the situation, visibly in front of the cop. The cop shifted his gaze to me instantly and I began the negotiation, in English, about how I was a poor student and we were in a rush, and I couldn’t possibly go to the police station. When this didn’t work, I switched to Thai (Which I speak fluently). He raised an eyebrow and said in Thai “You speak Thai?”..

    I continued the poor student line, asked him, wasn’t there some way we could deal with it here, and pay less since I was a poor student and we were in a hurry. He hemmed and hawwed and finally said “Wellll ok, I’m not supposed to but because I’m very busy I will”.. He proceeded to fill out a “reciept” in a phony pocketbook handed to him by an underling and asked for my name. “Fred” I said (obviously not real name)… He wrote “Mr.Fred” on the reciept for an amount of 600 baht. I at this point asked him for his name – to which he looked alarmed and said “What for!?” and I said in Thai very politely “Oh, nothing, just in case there’s a problem ok?”.. So he said “Ok, my name is *thai equivalent of “Fred”* We smiled and I payed him and we went on our way. I apologised to my dad profusely for making him lose face, but he said “It’s ok, I see exactly what you were doing, and it worked”…

    Bottom line : I can’t speak for Bali, but In some parts of Asia, bribing the cops is part of the deal. If you treat the situation as a negotiation rather than a confrontation, you will get through with no problems. If I had allowed my dad in that situation to continue a pissing contest, it would have elevated the situation and made it possibly get worse. You have to understand that these guys do have power, and to some extent you have to defer to it, because quite obviously they are not afraid of abusing it – and I know of more than one instance where people have ended up in a police station or paying thousands of dollars to get out of a situation that could have been avoided if they’d simply paid the damn bribe and walked away. Ultimately – if you make the cop lose face in Asia, you’re in uncharted territory.

  8. Andi VickyNo Gravatar INDONESIA Says:

    First sorry for my bad English..:D

    I am an Indonesian and don’t know what I must say about your writing but it’s actually happen everyday in every city at Indonesia. And the police or police oknum (“oknum” means one or some bad people from institutions) not only target the tourist but almost everyone they can get. For every Indonesia citizen this matter only one part of daily life.

    There also a lot of “oknum” in any organizations or institutions especially in government. Yeah Indonesia today is not about honest & humble people anymore, they become more capitalist. In our daily life we need a lot of money everything must go smooth if you have money doesn’t matter if you are a criminal.

  9. RobNo Gravatar AUSTRALIA Says:

    Man, I usually love your stories, but I am not sure I agree with your priorities on this one.

    If avoiding giving a guy who makes as much in a few months as we spend on an night in a nice hotel a few lousy bucks is really something to worry about, then maybe the third world isn’t the place to be travelling.

  10. BilllyNo Gravatar UNITED STATES Says:

    I bought a fake Int’l drivers license in Bangkok for about 5 quid. It worked a treat. One cop actually commented on how nice my DL was.

  11. hNo Gravatar GERMANY Says:

    I suggest the “i don’t speak your language” methode. Ok, it is easy for me being German, but perhaps…

    A Peruvian customs officer tried to rip me off. $10 or so to enter the country.

    I switched into German language mode and acted randomly. Saying “Ahhh!” and “Ohhhh”, “passport” and other random stuff. Acted friendly and helpfull. But totally not understanding, what he wanted. Grabed my pen and a piece of paper, wrote my name on that piece of paper. Signing, stepping to his papers and trying to sign something… Made a lot of loud mess so everyone and his sister notices that there was something going on.

    After some time he simply gave up.

  12. MarcNo Gravatar GERMANY Says:

    Oh yeah, that’s right – third-world laws are for the locals only. I hope you don’t travel in my country with that attitude and no brakes.

  13. JeffNo Gravatar UNITED STATES Says:

    In Jakarta, a cop pulled my wife and I over. He tried to insist that a stop sign had been missed. When we showed him that the stopsign had been stolen, he insisted that we should have stopped anyways.
    However, funny anecdotes aside, ya can rent a taxi and driver for next to nothing in Bali. Unless driving in chaos is your goal in life, why not just hire someone? Your stuff is safe, you have a guide, no parking hassles (especially if he’s got a cell phone), etc. You’re also giving a fellow a job doing something he does well.

  14. HunterNo Gravatar UNITED STATES Says:

    There is a policeman in Bali with my license right now.
    Basically, I just bailed.

    Here’s the story:
    Kuta 1991
    Had a rented motorcycle, and since it was my last day, decided to wake up extra early for a dawn surf session at Uluwatu.
    Problem is, I don’t do mornings well, and I forgot my plastic helmet that I was required to wear. Seriously, this helmet was a children’s toy that would have caused more damage to me in a wreck than if I wasn’t wearing it – but thats the rule.

    A cop was standing beside the road and waved me down. I did not have an “international license” or anything else, besides my US drivers license – not that anyone asked at the bike rental place. I opted for the ignorant defense – and just kept pointing to my motorcycle endorsement on my license, smiling, and insisting that all was good.

    He decided I had to pay a fine – surprise. I didn’t had any money with me, so he told me to come back with the cash. He put my license in his pocket.

    I left, but decided I wasn’t going to miss my surf session, so I went on. Later I got some money, and went to the police station, and tried to pay my fine – HA! They actually laughed at me for trying – first the guy at the counter, then they started passing the story along until the whole station was laughing. About that time it dawned on me that this wasn’t an “official” fine. Duh.

    Then it sunk in, that the fine was likely to be more than it would cost to replace the license. And it was obviously off the books, if they even have books. So I never went back for it. No worries. No troubles. Fugitive Internationale.

    Every once in a while I get a kick out of wondering if my license is pinned up somewhere, waiting.

  15. run around parisNo Gravatar UNITED STATES Says:

    this is just hilarious in a socially incorrect kind of way. ;)

  16. ChrisNo Gravatar INDONESIA Says:

    Oops, so many comments on just this one post. Thanks a lot! Guess somehow it hit the nerve of a few people out there. I’m happy that not everyone sees it the same way!

    Yes, it’s only a few bucks, if at all – and shouldn’t probably ruin your day in an otherwise short holiday. Of course you can see it as a support for someone who earns much less money then you. Interesting other bribery stories from around the world!

    I like the idea to hire a driver and support a local guy better this way than bribing the police.

    When you live here for a longer while things again start to look different as well, than just on a short holiday. For me it’s still corruption, which is again more common in some countries than others. So how one handles it is up to everyone’s conscience.

    And as a German myself i know perfectly well its 3rd-world laws Marc is mentioning. ;-)

    Just joking…

  17. dhanyNo Gravatar INDONESIA Says:

    wellcome in INDONESIA…
    ha.. ha… ha…

  18. ozladyNo Gravatar SINGAPORE Says:

    I drive from Singapore to KL (Malaysia) with a few ringgit in behind my drivers licence for ‘fines’. Figure if I want to drive fast, and they are willing to let me ‘settle’ on the spot, then it works.

    The problem with corruption is that it has a tendency to be bottomless. When I was working in Hong Kong, we refused to pay a bribe to a govt official in Guangzhou. They came in and confiscated our servers in our Guangzhou office, stating that we were doing illegal activities. The ‘fee’ had tripled.

    In Penang we hire drivers to take us around (our favourite is Audi – named after his favourite car – if anyone wants his info, you can contact me through my web site).

  19. Corrupt Police: The Real Criminals UNITED STATES Says:

    […] Chris at Nomad4Ever writes a great piece on how to avoid being scammed by Police in Bali. His principals can be applied to most developing countries. […]

  20. YearinthelifeNo Gravatar UNITED KINGDOM Says:

    I read somewhere that the first thing you should do if you are stopped by the Filth the Police in Asia is take your keys out of the ignition and pocket them. If they have your keys, they have you by the short and curlies.

  21. Working NomadNo Gravatar UNITED KINGDOM Says:

    I met one of the chiefs of police in Embargo one night who offered to get me a 60 day visa for 70 bucks! I decided to not hand over my passport!

  22. SteveNo Gravatar AUSTRALIA Says:

    This has happened to me in Bali – simply suggest that you will report the matter to your embassy – they panic and cancel the “fine”. This has worked for me and it will for you – they hate the thought of international attention.

  23. The DinoNo Gravatar UNITED KINGDOM Says:

    Well very well written. Those questions where are you from, how long are you here, where do you stay reminds me of Thailand and Vietnam.
    That it realy the way how to find out how rich you are and how well you know those locals.

  24. Asia: How to Drive…and Survive | nomad4ever UNITED STATES Says:

    […] Still paying off corrupt Traffic Cops? Try this instead… […]

  25. Andy @ ScubaGuardsNo Gravatar THAILAND Says:

    Hey, the original post can sooooooo also be applied to Thailand (especially Phuket) where it’s low season for 6 months of the year. Thus meaning that the people that live hear get checked by the Police far more often, just to keep the figures up! Have your helmet in place, and even have the strap around your chin… they’ll still try it on because you might have some stickers out of place, or out of date. Dont ya just love the Police. Mean while, half of the car drivers at night are driving around drunk! Anyways, no point fighting it… :-)

  26. Andi VickyNo Gravatar INDONESIA Says:

    If you don’t care with ethic you can say money can solve almost every problem in Indonesia especially when you deal with government. BTW I am an Indonesian Government Officer so I really know about the corruption maybe you can surprise there so many method do by the officer to get some money from small amount to very big amount (even in Europe or US standard). But because the policeman is deal directly with people so they get a lot of protest.

    And if you don’t do the corruption you will trouble yourself even if you don’t want get involve you must support it (in my opinion it’s corruption too). I don’t know how much long this situation will happen but I think it will take very long time before every people will take effort to fight corruption in serious ways not only just talk.

  27. priyatnadpNo Gravatar INDONESIA Says:

    Good tips, remind me to ‘catch me if you can’. I doubt if they can speak English well. More conversation will make them more confuse. Sometimes they will show you the price list of what you did wrong. Don’t forget to bring the Calculator as what the trader show you the price in ‘pasar ubud’. Then kept Brazilian, Chille, or whatever curency they don’t know in your purse. Show your calculator it’s worth as rupiah in the pricelist and have no more money, but don’t forget to keep smilling. Then you can laugh after it.

  28. Oskar SyahbanaNo Gravatar INDONESIA Says:

    I’m a tried and true Indonesian and usually the surefire way to get rid of the “hound” is to bring your own “Traffic UU Books”. It’s not expensive (under Rp20K on some book store) and everytime they stop you and start preaching you with a lot of passage from the “Traffic UU Books”, just kindly show them the book and ask them to pin point exactly which act you’re violating.

    “UU” = “Undang-undang”

  29. the skwib » Carnival of Satire (#86) CANADA Says:

    […] And while we’re abroad, we’ll finish with Chris who has advice for those driving in Bali: Still paying off corrupt Traffic Cops? Try this instead. […]

  30. lowongNo Gravatar THAILAND Says:

    hmm, google took me here. Can you obtain an indonesian driver’s licence if you have a tourist visa ? I need one, I am in thailand where you cannot get it on that kind of visa

  31. ChrisNo Gravatar INDONESIA Says:

    Why would you want a local driving license anyway?

    I’m not sure if that’s possible at all, but then – as in Thailand – the right amount of money should be able to fulfill your desire.

  32. The Best of Nomad4ever in 2007 | nomad4ever UNITED STATES Says:

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  34. dodgy stooNo Gravatar UNITED STATES Says:

    On my fiorst visit to Bali i was stopped and fined 50-000 rp for no helmet and 50-000 for no license so 100-000 total , Either this or threatned with jail and knowing how serious this would be back in the uk i paid up and i was let on my way.
    My first trip to Bali i met a girl and we stayed in touch until i returned and eventually formed a relationship ,
    oN my second trip first incident i was stopped again and charged 20-000 rp and paid up
    next instance i left my helmet in mcdonalds and whilst travelling through a one way system to get it back i was stopped by the police, i told them i forgot my helmet in mcdonalds and i was going back, when i got back the helmet was gone, i had just been to the bank and withdrawn several million rp and the police said i must pay fine , i said i was tired of there bribery and i wasnt paying, they would not return my bike and i had to call my girlfriend/wife to help me out, she came out late and eventually persuaded me to pay 20.000 for the release of my bike and i was on my way.
    A few weeks later i was stopped by the road again and asked to pay a fine, again i spoke with the police officer for so long and jokingly asked him for his police badge from his shirt, he said 100,000 rp so i said ok and was on my way.
    Another inciedent i was rideing from kintamani to denpasar with my girlfriend/wife and was stopped by the police, he again asked for 20,000 i refused and said i would go to court i said i had been stopped so many times i now owned a indonesian police badge just like him, he let us go i said here just take the money but my wife said we were free to go and better just go so that was free.

    Another incident, yes another i was stopped on a main road with many others and checked by young police trainee, more official, i was taken over to a desk and asked to sign all this paperwork i pleaded stupidity, i called my father in law and the police officer said if i didnt sign it he would,. he gave me a fine and said i had to take it to the court to pay, i was worried about this and thought i may have to stay in bali until my court date,
    i was handed a note by the police to say my bikes documents had been kept by the court .

    a few days later i was stopped again and asked for documents, i showed tyhem the nbote from the police saying i was already pending court, they smiled at me and let me go

    My father in law plays badminton which is popular amongst the more wealthy police, court judges, lawyers etc so my people spoke to the court people and my fine was gone and paperwork returned,

    Tired of all the problems i eventually decided i better get the international license after waiting over a hour to see the police for the police to take the rest of the day off i didnt bother and returned home a short while later .

  35. ChrisNo Gravatar INDONESIA Says:

    dodgy stoo, I can feel your pain!

    While over the last couple of months, police activity was quite low, it’s now catching up fast again (due to high season) and you have the above Police Check Points every day along the beach road and at some typical road sides.

    They now usually ask foreigners for Rp. 100.000-200.000, if you don’t have the right papers, don’t wear a helmet or else! I saw plenty of foreigners pay right away without any discussion. Okay! :D

    Although I find it nowadays wayyyyyyyy easier to avoid paying at all. Just say no! Tell them to give you a warning, that you are here only 3-4 days and ask their full name, so you can send it to the Bali Post. Or don’t speak at all or only in your local dialect (non-english of course). I’m now off normally under 5 minutes of discussion. There is much easier prey for them with plenty of banknotes hanging out of their pockets.

    God bless the high season! :D

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  37. RyanNo Gravatar UNITED STATES Says:

    This almost happens everywhere in Asia, not just Indonesia. Philippine cops are notorious about this stuff too.

  38. HabbyNo Gravatar AUSTRALIA Says:

    The trouble with the car and driver option in Bali is the police see the tourists in the car, stop the car, the driver has to pay the “fine” and you feel sorry for the driver as the “fine” will have to come out his driving fee!

    And of course if you (the tourist) are driving a vehicle in Bali it is always your fault. The logic goes something like – you are the tourist/visitor to Bali and if you hadn’t come here the accident wouldn’t have happened!!

  39. TimNo Gravatar HONG KONG Says:

    Great stuff, very helpful and yep actually being a journalist who has photographed Asia for the last 15 years = smile, be friendly, act dumb, confused, apologetic, smile again and stay calm, remember keep those pearly whites manically grinning (even when your jaw starts to quiver with hatred).

    However, if it comes down to the no way out of handing over some cash, just do it.

    In Jakarta during the mid 90’s political unrest, a well educated friendly brave police officer of the peoples law for some (truthfully no) reason took offense to my equipment. I politely ignored him and walked away, next thing I’m getting a beating on the head from his bamboo Rotan.
    Get the picture?

  40. ChrisNo Gravatar INDIA Says:

    Tim, well observed. You have to know where are the limits of that behavior. Some police men are pretty high on adrenaline and then it would be probably better to simply pay yourself out of the situation compared to risking a bullet in the back. :D

  41. LisaNo Gravatar NEW ZEALAND Says:

    I got pulled up twice when I was last in Bali (1994!) when driving a hired jeep. I was determined that I wasn’t going to pay anything, and that this would be a little challenge for myself to avoid paying. It helped that I could speak Indonesian. We chatted away, I was asked lots of questions, and eventually was told that I was ‘naughty’ for breaking the rules. I remained very calm, very apologetic.

    He asked what would happen if I broke this rule in NZ (where I am from). “Oh, the police are very good in NZ. The first time you break a rule, they just give you a warning”. The policeman smiled, and just shooed me away.

    I got pulled up the next day, and tried the same line. After 10 mins of conversation in Indoensian, I suddenly didn’t have a good comprehension of the Indonesian language when he started telling me how thirsty he was, and hinted for some beer money. Had to work it a bit harder, but ended up with the same result eventually. No payment made; just a warning.

    Key thing is: stay calm, be patient, and be respectful.

  42. ChrisNo Gravatar PHILIPPINES Says:

    Lisa – you got it! You are the perfect example, how to behave to getting away without paying anything.

    The opposite: while in Bali, I was stopped among some other foreigner at Kuta’s beach road. One Bule was simply waving 100.000 Rupiah bills in front of the eyes of a Policeman. When his eyes got bigger and bigger (I thought he would have a heart attack – the Policeman) the Bule simply gave him 500.000 Rupiah without hesitating. That’s when *I* nearly got a heart attack! Some people just have too much money! :-o

  43. dodong floresNo Gravatar PHILIPPINES Says:

    Hey, Chris. I read this article two years ago and thought I already left some comments. :)

    I rarely pay or bribed any traffic enforcers especially if I think I didn’t violate any traffic rules and regulations. The “sunglasses technique” simply works great. But in some instance that I couldn’t avoid getting in contact with those traffic enforcers, I simply keep myself calm and yes, smile and talk to them casually. Whether I made a traffic violation or not, it is still safer for me to stay sane rather than flaring up in anger. These traffic enforcers don’t really appreciate angry traffic violators – they have much of it everyday. Keeping your cool is maintaining your position and it helps if they see you in the level of their superiors. I always can get away without being fined or bribing the traffic enforcers. If everything’s gone awry, my last card is to mention “people in the higher ups” that I know since I am moonlighting as VIP security escort.

    If I get apprehended with traffic violations that I really committed, I don’t make excuses but instead surrender my driver’s license. I don’t negotiate if that helps them to become less corrupt. It’s just good that at work I am reimbursed for my traffic violation receipt.

  44. ChrisNo Gravatar PHILIPPINES Says:

    Dodong, I guess we are pretty similar in handling those ‘traffic enforcers’ (great name by the way, hehe!). These days I don’t even think anything about it, just driving by one and waving friendly back, when they try to stop me.

    That was different a few years back, I believed very much in authority. That’s a good thing that Asia changed me in that regard almost 180 degrees.

    And yes, staying calm and cool definitely helps in case you can’t avoid having to deal with them. So far, after 3.300km driving with the Tricycle around Pinas, nobody dared to stop me yet. I usually don’t look that grim on the trike! :D :-o

  45. BrunoNo Gravatar CAMBODIA Says:

    Very interesting, thanks. I’m thinking of getting an IDL from Bangkok (fake) on my way or getting one in Denpasar to avoid hassles… To you know where to get one in Bali? Address or phone number would be useful as I want to stay 1 month and don’t want any stress.
    Thanks for help

  46. ChrisNo Gravatar PHILIPPINES Says:

    Bruno, why not? Good idea for sure to bring one – even fake. I just don’t have any idea on where to get an International Driving License in Bali. Maybe somebody else does? ;-)

  47. JurgenNo Gravatar INDONESIA Says:

    Hi Bruno, as far as I know an IDL has always to be issued in the country where your original DL has been issued from. In Bali though, you can obtain a local DL valid for one month at the main Police Station in Denpasar. Last time I applied for one was 10 years ago and it cost me around 100,000 Rp at that time, so expect double or triple that amount by now…

  48. Chris SimpsonNo Gravatar AUSTRALIA Says:

    Hey Chris, I followed the link here from liveinthephilippines.com
    While I like your style it’s way more complicated than it needs to be.
    I live half the time in the Philippines the other in Australia, I use the following method in Philippines:
    1/ Always carry registration papers in my wife’s name.
    2/ Always carry a laminated photocopy of my Australian drivers license; I usually carry 2 of these.
    3/ Always carry a 500 peso note, any large amounts of cash are in my sock or undies.
    When I get pulled over , I stop, salute and ask the police what I have done wrong whilst I pull out my wallet and hand them my ‘drivers license’; making sure they see the cash at the same time.
    I then tell them I’m really sorry but I have an appopintment and would like to pay the fine now in cash.
    They invariably look around to see if they are being observed and willingly swap my fake license back for the 500 pesos.
    If they ever insist the fine is more I will give them the license and tell them I will come and pay the fine and pick it up at their station.
    As for roadblocks, you are right, don’t stop but better than going past is to do a u turn and take a side way around them.
    I have done this many times and not been chased.
    Not sure if this all works the same in Bali but in most of South East Asia it does for sure.
    Hope you are enjoying the RP!

  49. EarlyRetiredNo Gravatar INDIA Says:

    Just a thought… How about paddling yourself through. On fully loaded touring bicycle? I hope for that you won’t get harassed? Or do you still?
    On bicycle, you get good exercise + get to see and enjoy the place even more, after all you are in no hurry to go any place + you can save more + you also save yourself from bribing these suckers.
    In Mumbai, I have bribed 4 times in three years. once, Rs. 50 twice Rs. 100 and once Rs. 200 (1 USD = 50 INR)
    I simply hate giving bribes, but can’t help it. Otherwise I will have to go thru the hassle of going all the way to the local station to go and clear the DL.

  50. ChrisNo Gravatar PHILIPPINES Says:

    Chris Simpson, great additional tips – thank you!

    Early Retired, nobody will stop you when you use a bicycle, why should they? So, sure – go ahead! Or are you serious getting stopped on a bicycle in Mumbai??? :-/

  51. EarlyRetiredNo Gravatar INDIA Says:

    Nah, In Mumbai no one would stop you for bribe if you are on bicycle.
    You may get bitten by stray dogs and may occassionally get run over and get killed by zombie truck and bus and car and motorbike drivers, but that’s a different story. =))

  52. PsymonNo Gravatar INDONESIA Says:

    funny as f*%”, I’m living in Bali at the mo, every time we go out in the car we make sure there is a camcorder in the car, police really really don’t like getting filmed!

    great advice =))

  53. ChrisNo Gravatar PHILIPPINES Says:

    Psymon, the trick with the camera should for sure help also. Great find! :D

  54. Why8No Gravatar SINGAPORE Says:

    Great article!

    Was just in Bali for the first time ever over the Easter weekend, and as I was driving around, we stopped at a junction. Policeman came out of nowhere (later we saw it was a hidden roadside one-man booth behind a large tree) and waved us to the roadside, told us we stopped too far in front of the line with the traffic light (line was non-existent, traffic light was either non-existent or hidden behind some tree branches).

    He asked for my driving license, and — big mistake — I gave him my Singapore Identity card, thinking of fooling him into believing that was my driving license. (he obviously couldn’t tell the difference).

    He took it, and went into his booth, I followed. After the same tactics experienced by most people (lots of questions, talk about going to the courthouse), I took out 50,000 rupiah (didn’t have a smaller note on me). Once he saw the money, he abruptly and immediately stopped his questions, and asked in a friendly tone where we were going, and offered us directions.

    I handed the money to him, thinking to exchange it for my card, but he pointed at his table, saying leave it there. I took the card, and rushed away.

    Too bad I wasn’t watching out for his name on his badge. Everyone in the car was shaken by the experience, until we went back to our hotel and I was reading my Lonely Planet Bali book — which talked about how the police just wanted money and aren’t really interested in improving the traffic conditions. Price mentioned in LP was between 10,000 and 60,000 Rupiah, so I guess I paid in the range mentioned.

    Later, I talked to a local guy who drove us to the airport. He said he never bothered to get a driving license, he said: “whatever for? with or without license, you have to pay the same amount to the police anyway!”

    That experience (together with how polluted the Pasar Badung in Denspasar and the Pasar Ubud was, and how one in the party caught diarrhea after dining at one of the local roadside warungs) has made it highly improbable that we will ever holiday in Bali again.

    (After I got back, I googled up Bali police and found your excellent article.)

  55. Why8No Gravatar SINGAPORE Says:

    Just a question regarding the “waving back” strategy (not stopping, smile, and wave back at them): Any risk that the cops will take down the car number, and then you get a bigger fine later by mail (assuming they track you down via the car rental company etc).

    I know it would cause them more paperwork, and they can’t profit from this — but that’s the fear that would stop most people from trying that tactic, no?

  56. ChrisNo Gravatar PHILIPPINES Says:

    Why8, thanks for sharing your experience with corrupt cops and glad you got away with not paying too much. These days the police is definitely much less aggressive in cashing in illegally. The new governor in Bali really seems to have made a difference. Also, you can now mentioned the Korupsi Kommission and there is even a Telephone Number advertised at the airport, if you have trouble with the police. I don’t have the number right now, but just mentioning it, could help a lot. If you really did nothing wrong, just insist on not paying and write down the name of the police man and that should definitely help. ;-)

  57. SusanNo Gravatar UNITED STATES Says:

    Oh my goshhhh! I laugh my ass off whit this article.. but you gotta be absolutely right.. it happens just like that here in my country, although here it’s a little bit more dangerous simply because this police man are not afraid to use violence as there is no law at all.. but I’m pretty sure every single one of those tips would work perfectly in almost every 3rd world country.. again, great great article!

  58. RubiaNo Gravatar INDONESIA Says:

    Thank you for giving me peace of mind, man. I got stopped yesterday and did everything you advised not to do and it didn’t serve me well at all. I was scanning the internet to find out how the hell I was going to get hold of an International Drivers license and where I was going to find the time and the money to do it and stumbled upon your page. Now I’m not going to bother. I’ll enjoy playing the game in the future instead.

  59. Harry0309No Gravatar INDONESIA Says:

    Well, that’s it, I just got stopped by 10 policemen, stopping mainly tourists.
    Tried negotiating with the guys at the table taking all the information down, but he asked for 500,000. I only had 20,000, he then went down to 200,000 and he wouldn’t take my 20k. So he issued me a ticket. He kept the bike’s registration papers which the owner will have to claim in 2 weeks.

    Frankly I’m pissed with this situation. I feel like people, especially the police, are completely corrupt, always trying to screw you over a few dollars.
    When I was in Bali 10 years ago it wasn’t like that. It doesn’t make me want to come back to this place, have a very sour taste in my mouth.

    Anyway, any tips on what I can do so that the bike rental place gets their registration papers back are welcome.



  60. ChrisNo Gravatar PHILIPPINES Says:

    Harry, best would be to not show your ‘white ass’ at all when trying to get the papers back, you will only increase the price for the owner. Let him handle it amongst locals and he might get away with paying 20-50K Rupiah only. He might still try to extort more from you, but you can only leave it to their hands. Every action you will take as a foreigner, will make matters more complicated, lengthy and more expensive -> for you only. ;;)

  61. tempo duluNo Gravatar INDONESIA Says:

    just get an international driver’s licence AND obey the traffic rules. That way you will never have to pay bribes.

  62. Harry0309No Gravatar AUSTRALIA Says:

    Thanks Chris, I negotiated with the owner and ended up paying him 100k (10 USD).
    We talked about the local police that targets on purpose foreigners to get bribes and how it impacts its business as well with angry tourists not renting bikes anymore.
    Anyway, Thanks for all the info on your website.


  63. WillNo Gravatar INDONESIA Says:

    I just had an experience that is worth sharing here.

    I was stopped on the side of the road trying to work out how to get back to my hotel when a police officer stopped to ask me if I needed help. He was nice to us then asked for my licence and registration. I showed him my australian drivers lisc, he wanted to look closer and I let go of my license as he pulled it closer to himself (massive rookie error). He said that he would show me back to my hotel and we would deal with it there, we were at a big intersection. On the way to the hotel he pulled us into a small side road. He started to threaten court and trial in Denpasar and that the on the spot fine was 250,000. I said that was too much and asked him when the trial date was. Then he started to really drive hard at getting the registration papers for the hire bike. I took the key out of the bike (good move) he was trying to find the button to open the seat but couldn’t He showed me about five other rego papers that he had and said it’s what he had to do. He called another policeman on his mobile he came but left after 10min. I figured that if it was official he would have used his radio.
    At this point my wife was ticked and took a photo of him which he didnt like at all.. He said “Ok you go to court” and started writing out a ticket.
    He asked for the registration papers a few more times then gave me the ticket and rode off with my license.
    I have found out that I can hire someone to try and get it back but it is about the same as what it would cost to get it replaced in Australia.
    1. Dont give up your licence.
    2. They will try and get the rego papers because the hire company fee is US$100 and there is a lot more money in that bribe to give the bike owner his rego papers back. Just don’t give them up.
    3. Dont wait on the side of the road near an intersection.
    4. Be respectful and just wait it out.

    Good Luck
    Riding a scooter is so much better than getting a taxi, you see so much more.
    Happy holidays.

  64. ChrisNo Gravatar INDONESIA Says:

    Will, nice addition and thanks for your observations and sharing your story and tips!

  65. DavidNo Gravatar AUSTRALIA Says:

    Really nice article to steer clear of traffic cops. Hope none of the cops in Bali reads this :)

  66. AntonNo Gravatar AUSTRALIA Says:

    Great reading, Cheers,

    I am heading to Bali in a couple of weeks and I would love to ride a motorcycle around. I only hold an australian learners permit for a motorcycle. Does anyone recommend getting a forged international licence? or just using my australian permit that has motorcycle stated on it? Any tips and information would be greatly appreciated. Also, what is the current state of this situation in Bali? the last post in here was about a year ago. Cheers,
    Looking forward to the madness…


  67. pittoNo Gravatar INDONESIA Says:

    My friend that’s a sad post about how trick the law, imho.
    I write while I am legally getting my driving license in denpasar: quick and easy.
    you should write more articles about tricking the police but in your country.

  68. CraigNo Gravatar not found Says:

    Borrowing a cops pen to write his name down is just asking for grief. It’s just a scripted power trip and looks obvious and pathetic to everyone except yourself.

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