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Bali Safety Risks

Without a doubt the most serious threat to a foreign visitor's life and limbs comes from traffic. Even when you are on a pavement you should not believe yourself safe, as vehicles frequently abuse and crash into them. If you are driving something on the road, it gets even worse, especially at night. Lorries / trucks which struggle up hill and mountain roads delight in going as fast as they can downhill. Chickens, dogs, cats, children, adults, you name it frequently step out onto Bali's narrow roads without warning. Vehicles capable of 1 mph more than the vehicle in front of them will do anything to get in front. The man pushing a cart, "pedal to the floor but slow right down if they see a prospective passenger bemos" (van like buses) and cyclists will all make sure they get in front of faster vehicles wherever they can, normally at traffic lights and junctions; forcing other drivers into repeating often dangerous maneuvers to get past them yet again. Villagers in dark clothes actually sitting on the tiny roads at night glaring at you to say "this is my road, stop!", although of course you can not see them because the truck coming the other way has its lights on full beam and thus the first you know about it is the split second glimpse of their eyes you get just before send them to their next life.

Indonesian vehicles are most often unsound with little or no maintenance being performed upon them and with no requirement to have them certified as road worthy as with many countries. It is a fact Indonesia buys old cars deemed not suitable for the road any longer from neighboring countries such as Singapore.

Unfortunately there is also a pronounced risk from crime and / or violence, not least because of ineffective policing. Law enforcement is very often delegated by police officers to local village vigilante groups called "Pecalangan"; these self styled and seemingly unaccountable law enforcement "officers" are responsible for many ex-judicial beatings and even murders on Bali. Behind the smiles, it is best not get involved in a fracas with a local, as you may well find you are the victim of a vicious assault either then or later. Hit men exist in Bali, although the cost for someone to have a foreigner injured or even killed is likely to be too prohibitive for most locals, the risk nonetheless exists.

Police on anti-terrorism / security duty have been witnessed taking bribes to wave vehicles through, Indonesian police training methods are hardly enough to call Bali's police force "professional" by western standards, and their well published petulance for corruption (extorting money, etc.) clearly brings the question of their due diligence into question, to say the very least. Although foreign police specialists come in and train Indonesian police officers, the root cause and therefore risk of Bali's security problems, corruption, can not be addressed until there is the political will to deal with this. It is a fact that experienced terrorists exist in Indonesia and are sufficiently well equipped to carry out terrorist attacks. Easy access to Bali therefore creates a serious safety issue for foreigners. Unfortunately it is advisable not to frequent public places favoured by western tourists which have easy off the street access, especially in mass tourism areas. There seems little doubt the Indonesian terrorist group Jemaah Islamiah are able to and will carry out further terrorism acts against western targets in Indonesia. This is made easier by the fact the Indonesian Government refuses to outlaw the organization itself and the Balinese police seem ill equipped to significantly prevent them making such attacks.

The final safety risk regards your liberty. First, please make sure when you collect your luggage from the baggage reclaim conveyor belts in the arrivals area that you are able to ascertain that your luggage has not been interfered with in any way. If there is any chance that someone could have opened your luggage, you should check the contents immediately before going through customs; not for loss, but for any planted narcotics. If you are at all unsure, go to the red "something to declare" area and tell the customs officer you are concerned about the integrity of your luggage. If narcotics are planted into your luggage and you get stopped you will almost certainly be convicted of drug smuggling which can carry the death penalty in Indonesia.

If for any reason reason you think you may be tempted to take drugs into Bali or buy drugs while you are there, stay at home. It is a fairly well recorded fact that drugs dealers (as well as pimps) work with corrupt police officers. When you walk down the streets in the tourism areas of Kuta and Legian you will almost certainly be offered drugs. In a primarily Islamic country which has very strict laws about narcotics, the reason these pimps are able to exist and in such large numbers is fairly obvious, but let BLTF spell it out; it is likely they are allowed to break the narcotics laws in return for fingering their customers to cohorting corrupt police officers who will then be able to extort large sums of money from their dopey customers, pun intended.

Many tourists also get caught up in too good to be true gambling rackets, and are then either defrauded, robbed or even kidnapped. Either con men or off duty corrupt immigration officers are known to approach tourists with warnings of impending immigration problems and then carting any unsuspecting foreigners, stupid enough to agree to go with them in their waiting vehicle, to be robbed. Finally Bali has had reported problems with pedophiles, both foreign and Indonesian. Two luxury hotels in Nusa Dua are reported to have had problems with their own crèche staff raping and / or performing sexual acts on a 3 year old girl and 5 year old boy; both instances relate to alleged acts carried out by male staff. BLTF believes the problem exists because of poor or no checks being made by hotels when recruiting staff and a police force that too often only seems to act as true law enforcement officers when publicity demands.

To understand more about Bali's corrupt police officers and what you should do if and when you are faced with extortion, please see: Bali Police.