We received a very strange travel warning in Lombok, Indonesia, from a taxi driver, and I’m wondering if anyone else has either experienced this or received the same warning. Our driver told us that we absolutely should always rent motorbikes from our hotel, not from guys running motorbike stands on the street. The reason is that motorbike stands often run a scam with the police in Indonesia. Their scam is simple: they rent a bike to tourists, then call their friends in the police department to tell them what the tourist looks like and what the bike license plate number is. The police pull the tourist over, then tell them that the bike is stolen, and thus the tourist is in possession of stolen property. If the tourist wants to get out of this sticky situation, they have to pay a bribe – a couple million Rupiah – and the police will let them go without any more hassle. Otherwise, the island’s prisons can always accommodate one more pale Westerner who was caught red-handed. The safe thing to do: rent from your hotel, since it would be bad for business if they became known for either renting out stolen bikes or seeing their customers disappear into the Indonesian prison system.
It seemed simultaneously crazy to think that this was common, but also completely believable. I figured I’d put it out on the internet: has anyone else experienced this? The only reference I could find to something similar was here, but it wasn’t exactly the same.