Tuesday, April 7, 2009


Tanjung Balai looks like a dangerous place at first. When you first exit the harbour, you will be mobbed by the taxi touts and it can be scary. They can get quite aggressive. If you dont intend to use them, just ignore them with contempt. It's all in the body language. To avoid any problems with taxi drivers, always agree on the price and services first. Normally hiring the taxi for a short trip around town is 30k rupiah. An ojek ride is 10k.

You will also notice people staring at you if you are a foreigner. Regardless of whether you are a westerner, Singaporean or Malaysia, the locals will know and stare at you. Again, ignore them. Most of the people staring at you are unemployed and bored, not criminals looking to rob you.

Generally there is very little crime against visitors. Just do the normal safe things like not be conspicuous with lots of money. I always carry and use a money clip with just a few 50k rupiah notes and small change. I do not use my wallet which may contain millions of rupiah. Leave your wallet and passport at the hotel or room safe. Don't worry if the polisi ask for ID. Just say that it is with the Hotel. You are required to surrender your passport to the hotel when you check in anyway.

There are lots of stories online about how dangerous balai can be. However I have not felt threatened. The only time I was a little worried was in my dealings with the polisi. Some bad apples will always look for ways to "cari makan" (earn a bit on the side). That is another story altogether.

Sometimes, visitors who are showy will get a bit loud and become assholes. Then they attract trouble for themselves and their companions. Just be cool and polite. Let the little things pass by. If someone overcharge you 5k rupiah for something, let it go and just don't go there anymore.

For bigger issues, it is who you know that will matter. So always try to be friendly to the locals like the hotel manager, etc. Don't bother with the hanger ons... They just want a free ride.

If you go to places like the disco and KTV, try to get a local guy to with you first. A bit of safety and orientation is needed to know the dos and donts. Get to know the locals. It helps.. You then have to decide how helpful and trustworthy they are.

Don't wear expensive watches and jewelry. Leave them in your room safe.


  1. Most hotels do not have room safe. The new rooms at Hotel Maximillian do have them.

  2. Plan to visit the island, Is it safe to carry a DSLR Camera and waking around town with it?