6 sneaky ways your Gili island vacay is costing you more
Everything is indeed cheaper in Indonesia, this much is true. But when you walk away from the money changers with a ridiculously fat stack of notes, don’t kid yourself into a false sense of security. It goes quickly if you’re not careful.
We’ve put together some wise money saving tips and advice to make sure your wonderful vacation on the paradise islands doesn’t end up costing you more than you imagined.
Here are 6 sneaky ways your Gili island vacay is costing you more money (and how to avoid these traps).
The “No change” game
Drivers and hawkers are the worst offenders. You might let it slide at first, but it quickly grows tiresome. It’s a dollar here, three dollars there, and very quickly you realise that they’re just taking the piss.
One trick is to break up your IDR100,000 notes at restaurants and cafes so that you’ve always got loose change of IDR20,000 bills handy. The simpler way to play it: No change, No deal. You’ll be amazed at how quickly (and magically) change materialises.
Bum deals on activities and accommodation
Never take the first figure on the table. On the odd occasion, you’ll deal with a genuinely honest person who quotes a fair price right off the bat. Unfortunately, most of the guys working the tourist machine are complete sharks. So here’s how you deal with them in two easy steps. Step one, don’t be in a hurry to close a deal. Especially when it comes to negotiating a good deal on accommodation in the Gilis. Even if you are desperate for a shower and a change of knickers.
Step two, if it doesn’t sound like a fair deal, walk away and take your business elsewhere. Don’t worry, they’re not running out of rooms and snorkelling boats on the island anytime soon. A fair price for a beach bungalow with air conditioning on the islands is around IDR450,000 – IDR600,000 for something a little more plush, and about IDR100,000 for a two-hour snorkelling trip on a small outrigger shared with two or three others. Boatmen will also ask you questions to suss you out, like where you’re staying. If you’re staying somewhere fancy, they’ll hike their prices up.
Tax not included
Food and drink prices look cheap when they’re scratched in colourful chalk and friendly script on those big blackboards, but the printed cheque tells a different story when service charge is compounded over government tax.
It all adds up to over 20 percent more than what you expected to pay. Always ask if tax is already included in the prices printed on the boards and menus before you sit down, so that you don’t get a rude shock when the bill comes.
Keep in mind that every time you use the ATM, your bank will charge you a foreign transaction fee of anywhere between $5-7 per transaction. The maximum amount that ATMs spit out is IDR3,000,000 – so it’s a good idea to withdraw the maximum, just to keep the number of ATM transactions to a minimum.
However you’ll have to hunt for ATMs with higher withdrawal limits. Most of them are commonly capped at IDR2,500,000 to IDR1,250,000.
Credit card cash advance and Visa fees
Using your credit card as a cash overdraft facility is a distinct no-no. You’re slapped with compounding interest of 17-20 percent as soon as those crispy notes pop out of the machine. And now your cheap island holiday is costing you as much as a honeymoon in the Maldives. Are you crazy??
Indonesia is a cash economy, so be prepared to get ripped off on fair grounds if you need to use your credit card. Diving centres, restaurants and bars will charge you an additional 7 percent (that’s $70 in fees for every $1000 charged to your card) for “administration” fees. Basically, “You’re a mug” fees. Don’t be a mug.
Those shorts horse cart rides in the Gilis are rather extortionate, when you consider the fact that not much of that overpriced fee goes towards the welfare of the horse. Majority of the accommodation, other than the luxury resorts, are all within reasonable walking distance to the boat landing.
And if you read our 8 ultimate Gili travel tips, you would have known to pack light, and you won’t need one.