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Bali Customs at it AGAIN!


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#1 timrock

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Posted 02 February 2008 - 07:21 PM

After photographers have had a relatively reasonable period of entering Bali without hassles, it appears Customs is back at its latest extortion scam. The deal now is they are claiming visitors can only bring in one camera worth more than $250. The second camera is, according to various Indo sources, subject to an arbitrary 16 to 60% of the value of the camera. In my case they placed a 37.5% value on two D200 cameras and wanted a $1400 refundable deposit to take them into the country to ensure I would not sell them. I told them I had 2 housings, one for each camera and the other was used for land images and as a backup. Made no difference and any sort of en carte form wasn't wanted. I could sign no guarantee. It was cash or leave the cameras. I wouldn't pay so they took 2 bodies to be returned when I leave. They gave me a form. We'll see what happens. The next day I was told I could get them out for a non-refundable 5 miilion rupiahs... about $550 US dollars. I did not pay that either so I head out to remote Sangalaki with one camera. Hope it doesn't flood.

There is no recourse, by the way. Talking to many Bali dive operators and film industry people, this activity has been on the rise and the head of tourism has no power to stop it.

Attached is the photo of "professional" Bali Customs agent F. J. Rewyaar sticking his tongue out a me as he fills out the paperwork to take the cameras.

I know of at least 3 Wetpixel members that have had some form of this extortion happen. Since virtually everyone I know carries at least one backup body and is on a tight deadline to get to a live aboard in Indonesia or up to a remote spot in Bali, they have us by the gonads. Usually a cash bribe is the result. But I just won't pay the crooks.

So be warned, bring a bunch of cash with you to Indo that you don't want or need again or find a destination that appreciates the time, money an personal expense you put into a visit to its country. It ain't Indo and certainly not Bali.

Tim Rock

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  • camera111a.jpg

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#2 3@5

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Posted 02 February 2008 - 10:35 PM

tim, well that's the same guy who got me as well a year and a half ago...
ended up paying usd100 to get my second body out of his greedy paws...
i see they are at it again...

an option may be to fly into another indo airport first and arrive via the national arrivals as opposed to international.
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#3 MikeVeitch

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Posted 02 February 2008 - 11:49 PM

is there a way to report it to those in a higher position and complain about corruption? or is that naivety on my part? :)

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#4 bartusderidder

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Posted 03 February 2008 - 01:58 AM

:) :(

Would be interesting to know if it's just this dude or if the other officials are doing it too (when he's absent).
Is this a consistent thing or does he/do they juck pick some tourists at random until he's gathered enough money (for that moment)?

#5 cor

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Posted 03 February 2008 - 04:52 AM

They tried some kind of scam with me when I went to Indonesia last year. I just didnt say anything. They wanted to insist I was a professional photographer and therefor had to pay. My answer to everything was 'no'. I didnt volunteer any talk.

Are you supposed to get your money back when you leave the country? Anyone actually done that?

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#6 pmooney

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Posted 03 February 2008 - 05:18 AM

We experienced a "soft" try by customs last time we went through Bali - fortunately our "agent" was on the ball and the problem went away without to much trouble.


Seems to me that they are targeting folk who represent themselves as professional photographers / jounalists . I guess they figure profesionals need the equipment so they will pay.

#7 Drew

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Posted 03 February 2008 - 08:05 AM

I just walked through Bali customs last week with 2 Canon 1D series bodies, 2 HVR series HD cameras and an assortment of lenses. They checked me and I told them I'm on a diving holiday. They let me go without hassle.
At least they are asking for a bond, NOT customs duties which would be NON-refundable. Getting the money back is a slow process but I've 'heard' from companies bringing in lots of equipment it's refunded in cash at port of entry as well.
And to be fair to the customs guys, I've seen people sell entire systems to local guys when they leave thus bypassing custom duties. Every local guy wants to avoid taxes.
To avoid problems, I would suggest you store the bodies separately in 2 different bags and not use 'photog' looking bags. They see dive bags they look more closely.
On a more interesting note, there is an Anti-Corruption conference in Nusa Dua now. Oh the irony!

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#8 PRC

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Posted 03 February 2008 - 09:10 AM

I am currently thinking of Bali as a dive destination - there again maybe not if this is representative of the BS level.........

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#9 bartusderidder

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Posted 03 February 2008 - 12:23 PM

Maybe it helps to wear a pink dress....Simon? :)

#10 Drew

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Posted 03 February 2008 - 05:12 PM

I am currently thinking of Bali as a dive destination - there again maybe not if this is representative of the BS level.........

Paul C

Paul, I travel to Bali several times a year and I've never had that problem over the many years I've been going there. I have just as much if not more equipment as Tim does.
The experiences of the others are inconvenient but since there are many more people who go through without incident, I think it's not indicative of the customs experience in Ngurah Rai airport. As a former resident of Bali, I can tell you almost all local expats ask people to bring stuff from Singapore/US etc for them to bypass buying stuff locally, many times because they cannot find it easily in Indonesia.
Regardless of that, I do think everyone should keep the incidents at Bali in perspective. The customs can only ask for a bond, which is refundable when you leave. It's an inconvenience but no more than overweight luggage and arbitrary cabin luggage rules of different airports around the world. A bribe is NOT necessary and should be avoided as you just give them more reason to attempt this stunt.

A few things people may wish to consider when travelling to/through Bali:
  • If you are leaving from a different airport from the one you arrive in, MAKE SURE you show them that.
  • They tend to pick on people with huge bags which have pelican cases and the likes. Staying under the radar does help.
  • If you have a camera bag, keep the other camera body separately away from that bag. If they don't see your other body, they can't fuss about it.
  • As per Cor's experience, minimize any response. Just say you are on holiday and when they say anything, say no politely. They are looking for a bribe and really couldn't be bothered with the extra paper work. If they don't see you are about to give them money, they may just wave you by.

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#11 3@5

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Posted 03 February 2008 - 11:51 PM

...snip...
A few things people may wish to consider when travelling to/through Bali:

  • If you are leaving from a different airport from the one you arrive in, MAKE SURE you show them that.
  • They tend to pick on people with huge bags which have pelican cases and the likes. Staying under the radar does help.
  • If you have a camera bag, keep the other camera body separately away from that bag. If they don't see your other body, they can't fuss about it.
    ...snip...

Drew very good advice!

Indeed when i got stopped i had a pelican case and a couple of other cases... not using the pelican anymore i now try and fly under the radar :)

And this isn't gonna stop me from going to Bali!!!!
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#12 timrock

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Posted 04 February 2008 - 01:25 AM

I am in Balikpapan now and will tell you more after I attempt to get the bodies back. Drew's points are good but I could have gotten them out for $550 no questions asked. Not refunded. That has nothing to do with catching smugglers. It's just a payoff.

And everyone in Bali accepts this and doesn't rock the boat.

Just be warned. I saw the guy right across from me at Customs exit get fleeced as well for cash. Some German guy with 2 point and shoots.

Off to Sangalaki with one camera I go!

Best,

Tim
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#13 meister

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Posted 27 March 2008 - 04:30 PM

Educational thread, thanks for the posts. :lol:
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#14 Big T

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Posted 27 March 2008 - 06:35 PM

Same thing happened to me in 2006-

I arrived at Bali 30ish hours door to door from Nashville. When I
looked in the Arrival hall after gathering my bags from the
carousel, I did not see any tour rep holding a Wakatobi sign with my
name mispelled in magic marker.

I only saw a pair of Customs officers smiling at my Pelican case,
which had been conspicuously marked with a big "X" with chalk.

It only took me an hour of kabuki theater to barter them down from
1650 USD import bond, to 150 USD, coincidentally most of the contents
of my wallet.

While I was enjoying Wakatobi, the tour rep whose failure
to meet me was the proximate cause of this incident researched the
situation.

I was essentially guilty of entry without a ground agent.

When the Indonesian Customs found that not to be the case, quick
refund, no questions asked.

If I had not had a ground agent , they wanted me to check the camera
gear into Singapore Air, talk my way past the guards into the
arrival hall, and sincerely tell them the locked bags in Singapore
Air's possession contained the camera gear <g>.

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#15 CADiver

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Posted 27 March 2008 - 08:13 PM

Wow ! Great reads here ...
The thing came to mind is if the booking made thru whatever that has a rep to 'help'/'welcome' you at the airport, I think that helps. When I did the Peliagian/Wakatobi last year, they had someone came pick us up, what suprises me was that person pick us up at the gate which meant he went thru immigation/custom no problem. The net of this was I didn't have any problem going thru immigration or custom, I never saw my bag (almost) other then identify them on the belt.
This is definitely great information when I go back.
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#16 giftie

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Posted 02 April 2008 - 02:52 PM

It is a hell of a bond when they start calculating it...better negotiate a payoff (which was what I did), the more money who carry in your wallet the more you will have to leave behind, so leave 100Eur in small bills in your wallet. If they ask why you have so little, just say that everything was paid in advance and that the cash is mostly for tips, once you hand over the contents of your wallet they are happy, they have cleaned you out and therefore they got as much as they could without having to do the paperwork. So easy money for them (for the officer in charge mainly) and you avoid the outrageous bond calculation. Yes, it was Denpasar. It is the senior officer in charge (one of them at least), when you say you don't have money for the bond a guy goes out and calls him and them he negotiates with you the non-refundable, voluntary contribution to his pocket.
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#17 cdoyal

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Posted 03 April 2008 - 06:17 AM

Ah, Bali! We were stopped twice on our way from Tulamben to Denpasar by the police. $20 the first time and $10 the second. And we were using a local driver!!!
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#18 MikeVeitch

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Posted 03 April 2008 - 06:55 AM

hahah.. you got ripped off. should only be 50000 rupes, about $5 or so. i think your driver got % maybe?

even with only a couple white guys in the car we have only paid 50

:D

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#19 cor

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Posted 03 April 2008 - 07:04 AM

So what do the police claim is your crime that warrants a payoff?

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#20 loftus

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Posted 03 April 2008 - 07:05 AM

I guess in Bali they extort their tip!
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