Medan hell or so it seems.......!

Trip Start Feb 08, 2011
Trip End Dec 21, 2011

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Flag of Indonesia  , Sumatra,
Monday, February 14, 2011

If I didn't already know that its Valentine's day today, then I definately know  now after I arrive in Medan Airport (Sumatra, Indonesia).  Upon arrival I'm greeted by no less than 15 guys (most good loking lol) asking if I have a bf and why I don't have one.  I give them the reply 'I might have one  by the time I leave Indonesia.'  After arriving at customs (the place where you declare if you have to pay tax), I'm greeted by another 5 men all saying British lol and talking about me and asking me if I want to go on a tour and I decline and go for the taxi counter since all the obvious tourists have disappeared by now and I'm alone in a foreign city and all I want to do is leave the airport and go to some  'decent' destination.

To my horror, I discover that only  banks accepts traveller cheque and the only banks are in town and I don't know how to get to town.  Upon arrival at the taxi counter there must have been no less than 10 people offering me the taxi voucher, they quote me 55,000 INR for the cab ride (approx 4 quid) to town and even though I can't tell what they are saying to each other I knw that they are ripping me off!  I tell them that I don't have the money and I want an 'opelet' (a shared taxi van) they laugh and tell me there is none at the airport.  Then I walk off and I'm ready to consult my LP guide when a desparate taxi driver lowers the price to 40,000 INR.  I tell the driver to take my to a bank and he does and I'm treated like a VIP and guarded to the bureaux de change section by a security officier.  The lady kindly informs me to my horror that all banks only accept Euro and USD traveller cheques (i'm mortified since I have a lot of GBP sterling t/cs and no t/cs in other currencies and only 130 USD in cash which is apprix 88 pounds) and that I can only withdraw approx 100 pounds max per time at indonesian cash points, that means that I'm going to have a lot of charges since I have to withdraw a lot as I'm going to remote places with no cash points).  My horrors turn out to be a nightmare when my nationwide card is blocked and my hsbc card isnt working!  I want to cry and wish my friends are with me in this strange city.  I find a guesthouse and just sit and worry all day about not having any cash and hope to god that i manage to get some cash as I'll have to leave the country otherwise!

Thankfully, by the end of the night I have managed to get my n/wide card to work and met a polish girl who told me nt to use my hsbc card at all in Indonesia since the Indonesian ARM machines charge USD25 per withdrawal and you can only withdraw about 100 quid at a time!!!!  Also, I met 2 really nice guys- Nick (UK) and Joey (US) and learnt from them and listened to their stories with interest.  I calculated how much I spent by the end of the night- 40 quid, yikes!!!!  Then I calm down and realise that even though I got ripped off and spent way too much, had I not spent that amount I would probabaly be in some other part of Indonesia, where there are less travellers and be using my HSBC card to get more money out not knowing that I'm being charged USD 25 per transaction.  Also, I would have had to travel alone, until I met some more travellers probabaly jungle trekking and staying in hotels alone and now I'm going to be sharing with travellers that I've met which will hopefully save me more than the amount that I've been ripped off by so far in Indonesia and make me feel safer.
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