Speaking of Bali, upon hearing the name, most people will immediately think of beaches and temples. Indeed, those two are among the famous tourist attractions in Bali and also that allure people to visit Bali. Bali is a small island and it has several options for transportation, so it won’t be difficult for people to get around even for those who are not frequent travelers.
There are 25+ things to know before you go to Bali. Just like anywhere in the world, however, knowing all the characteristics, local wisdom, and tips, as well as unfamiliar rules before coming to a new place, is very useful.
Read also: Bali culture
Here is a full list of what you need to know prior to your trip to Bali to help you get to know better about the place that you are about to visit.
Starting in 2016, citizens of 169 countries are able to visit Indonesia without a 30-day visa. Meanwhile, for those who will apply for a visa on arrival (VOA), it cost USD 35. If the VOA holder wishes to prolong their stay, they can extend the visa once. If you wish to stay for 2 months, just apply for the two-month visa before you leave at the nearest Indonesian Embassy in your country or the airport upon your arrival in Indonesia. The process was pretty easy. It is done in just two weeks. Check the complete Bali visa guide here.
2. Weather Conditions
Since Indonesia is a tropical country, it consists of two seasons, dry and rainy. Each season lasts for about six months. The dry season is from June to September. Meanwhile, the rainy season starts from September to March. The normal temperature ranges from 21oC to 33oC.
As for high seasons, usually it is between August to January and the low season is between January until June and September to December.
Keep in mind that during Nyepi or “Day of Silence” you are not allowed to travel. The event usually takes place in March. The exact date is varied each year according to the lunar calendar of Saka.
Please read the best time to visit Bali
3. Plan Your Trip
Do not be discouraged, but keep in mind that Indonesia is almost the subject to everything there is, such as tsunamis, earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, and tropical storms. Bali has two active volcanoes, Mount Batur and Mount Agung that recently erupted.
Just like most places around the world, visitors usually come to Bali during the dry season, and the months of July and August draw thousands of visitors to the island.
If you have no other choices except going to Bali on that season, you will still have incredible moments, but remember, if you can choose to visit between April till June or in September, you can enjoy the two benefits: it still is dry, not too humid and the villa rental and room prices can be cheaper by 30-50% compared to the summer month’s peak.
Bali International Airport is the center for flights that arrive from Asian destinations. You can get a one-way direct flight from the UK to Bali starting from January 22 using Garuda Indonesia. However, to return, you have to travel back via Jakarta. You can also get direct flights from other European countries, Australia, New Zealand, as well as Asian countries.
ATMs are widely accessible from Ubud to the Bukit Peninsula. In rural areas and on the Nusa Islands, however, there are only a few ATMs that often run out of cash. So plan previously and make sure you always have some ready cash. ATMs give out IDR 50,000 or 100,000 notes.
ATM in Indonesia will give you money first then ask whether you still want to make another transaction. So remember you leave the ATM, remember to take your card first.
5. Hectic Traffic
Traffic in Bali is beyond your imagination. It is really hectic. Even during off-peak hours, only a few miles drive will require a much longer time than expected.
Although it is inevitable, it is important to keep in mind, especially when you plan day trips, trying to get somewhere to see the sunset or planning to take a flight. Always ask your hotel for approximate travel time before you book a taxi.
6. Transportation & Driving
It is rather easy to get around in Bali. In popular tourist areas, such as Seminyak and Legian, there are taxis everywhere that they will blow the car horn you to let you know that they are free. If you don’t wish to haggle, just choose Bluebird taxis and instruct the driver to set up the meter before getting into the car. It is easy to recognize the taxi because the car has a specific color and logo, blue color and Blue Bird logo. However, all of the other taxi companies did the same thing by painting their cars in blue since Bluebird is getting popular. To trick the consumer, they put a similar logo as Bluebird but it’s the fake one. Since then, people may get confused to identify which one is the real bluebird. Check out their official website since their current logo has a funny diamond-like shape, not square and not round.
However, you will scarcely find a real Blue Bird taxi in more rural areas. If so, just choose whoever that appears to be more reliable. You can also find individuals offering private service at the airport away from the major tourist destinations and most of them are legitimate and just want to earn enough money to bring their family along. Remember that they probably do not have a permit or insurance, etc.
Do not accept if someone offers you a low suspicious price. They may have made plans with other people to leave you at a certain place.
Remember to drive to the left and you may find no gas station available in rural areas. There are only street stalls where gasoline is sold from old vodka bottles.
If you want to avoid any hassle to go to your destination from the airport, you can organize with the hotel where you stay to pick you up. They will show the sign while waiting for you at arrivals and they know exactly where they to take you. Most drivers are nice and helpful, but in general, they do not know the street names or the location of the big hotels, even though we only have a few streets.
Another choice of transportation that is popular in Bali is renting a scooter. You can rent it for a day or a week. Rent ranges from Rp. 30,000 to Rp. 50,000 a day.
Be sure you hold travel insurance before you give your deposit: there are recent reports of backpackers involved in traffic accidents in Asia. Just in case such a thing happens to you, you will need really good insurance.
7. Online Transportation
Online transportation is available in Bali. You can install an online application called “Go-Jek”. The drivers wear green and black jackets and green helmets. They will not only drive you where you want to go but also buy your food in one of over 2,000 registered restaurants, and deliver it to you. Principally, they will do everything you need. It is quite a helpful service. You should try it.
8. Vaccines and Mosquito
You are highly recommended to take the hepatitis A vaccine before traveling to Bali and Indonesia and the vaccine shouldn’t exceed 10 years after you had your last tetanus vaccination. The general malaria risk is very low in Bali. However, if you want to spend a lot of time in the mountains or the countryside, you are suggested to take malaria medicines. Make sure you talk to your local healthcare professional before you go on your trip.
Although Bali is free from Malaria, it doesn’t mean that the area is free from mosquitoes. When it’s dark, be sure to wear blouses and long-sleeved trousers or generously apply a good repellent. If you are in a location with no windows or screens, consider using a mosquito net.
Needless to say, but don’t use tap water in Bali as drinking water. However, you can use it to brush your teeth. It doesn’t mean that you always have to buy bottled water. Make sure you use a reusable water bottle to bring water because there are some restaurants and cafes provide free refills. Another option is to use a water bottle with a built-in filter. If you want to drink cold water, ice drinks in bars, restaurants of reputable hotels are commonly safe.
10. Drugs and Methanol Mixed Drinks
As you touchdown in Bali, at Denpasar airport, you will find huge posters telling you that the drug trafficking will get death punishment. And when you wander out, particularly in Kuta and Legian, you will meet people who try to trade different types of drugs, especially magic mushrooms. If you hear the whispers of magic mushrooms, just ignore and leave.
If you drive to Kuta and other areas for backpackers such as Gili Trawangan, don’t order those cheap drinks. The drink costs only 15K k is too good to be true, even in Bali. Usually, it is made with Arak, a local moonshine. The bad news is it is common for Arak to be mixed with dangerous amounts of methanol. Many people have been killed in Bali by a methanol mixed drink and even a teaspoon of methanol can lead to blindness. So, make sure you don’t touch that drink.
11. Religion, Culture & Language
Although Indonesia is home to the largest Muslim population in the world, Bali, however, is a very Hindu island. You will see offerings and temples everywhere in Bali which are something you may not be able to find in other parts of Indonesia. Hindu belief is embodied in every aspect of Balinese life. In contrast to other mostly Muslim islands in Indonesia, Bali is the home of Hindu religion and culture.
In Bali, particularly in the south and along the beaches, you can wear what you usually wear when you go to the beach like shorts or beach dress. However, nowadays you will see more people walking in and out villages and entering shops wearing only bathing suits. Although most locals do not say a word about this, you need to show a little more respect and at least cover yourself or use a sarong.
You are recommended to bring sarong, in case you need one. When you visit the temples, you are required to wear a sarong and a sash. If you forget to bring sarong, usually, you can rent a proper temple outfit for a small fee.
Regardless of a huge pouring of tourists, Balinese people still maintain their culture and traditions. You can barely walk a few steps down the street before finding a canang sari, a daily offering consisting of various colors. The ritual is a long process, starting from preparing the basket then loading and performing the ritual. Therefore, you need to pay respect by not disrupting those who are performing the ritual.
Although most people in the major tourist areas of Bali speak enough English when communicating with you, knowing a few words of Balinese or Indonesian can be very helpful. The locals will show their appreciation if you show some efforts. Begin to learn some simple phrases like “Selamat pagi” for Good morning or “Apa kabar” when you say how are you. If you need help, you can say “Tolong” or please. Suksma is thank you in Balinese and Terima kasih is thank you in Bahasa. Do remember that Balinese is different from Indonesian Bahasa, the Indonesian official language.
12. Don’t Worry about Haggling
If you shop at street vendors or the traditional market, the first price cited by the seller is usually at least twice the amount of the real price of the item. Don’t worry about haggling. Some store or stand owners will persuade you to haggle by telling you the price that will make you come back. Try it, it can be fun actually, but please be considerate when haggling. It may be mean nothing to you but it can mean a lot to them.
13. Beach Hawkers
While you are in Bali, you will see some people trying to sell knickknacks, sweet potatoes, fresh fruit, and drinks, in addition to those who offer massages. You can find them even in the smallest beaches. If you are too weak to resist and try to buy from one of them, other sellers will come and offer you the same thing. They can be too much to handle, especially when you are alone.
No need to feel compelled to buy what they sell. Try to be polite. if you are not interested, just smile, say no then shake your head.
14. Plug and Socket in Indonesia
If you come to Indonesia, you will notice that the plug is 2-pin plugs which are similar to Central Europe, for example, Germany.
Whether you stay in a private villa or hotel, you can request an adapter. Instead of rectangular or flat, the pins in the plug are round.
You will probably need an adapter if you are from Japan, Australia, Malaysia, USA, United Kingdom, Canada, some African countries, and Singapore. Or else, the plugs that you have will not fit in the socket used in Bali even though there is no problem with the voltage.
The round two-pin plug is the one used in Bali
- Voltage: 230V
- Power Sockets: Type C / F
- Frequency: 50 Hz
Tips: bring a universal travel adaptor that includes all main country pins, so you won’t have any more problems with Indonesian socket.
Bali is a paradise for food enthusiasts. If you’re an enthusiast, you should thoroughly check out the cafes and restaurants in Bali. Read comments, view photos, and create lists. But even though Bali has so many fine dining restaurants, you shouldn’t miss the warungs. Try some of the local culinary. Indonesian food and Balinese food have many different tastes! Have you heard about Rendang and Nasi Goreng? Those two foods are voted as the world’s 50 best foods in CNN. While you are in Bali, you can try these two foods.
16. Added Tax in Restaurant or Bars
The law requires all bars and restaurants to charge an additional 21% on their food and beverage prices. While some include this note into the menu price, others print the information in small letters stating that the tax will be included in the bill. This is perfectly legitimate, but it is definitely something to be cautious for as the tax will add to your bill when you pay for the food you’ve eaten.
This tipping practice may be a bit confusing for some foreigners. Tips are not expected in Bali, but much appreciated, which is quite different from the U. S. where tipping is really expected. Therefore, there is no obligation for you to tip in Bali. What makes people confuse when it comes to tipping is the amount that should be given. However, even you only give a small amount; it will make the person happy. So, it’s totally up to you. If you think the service is satisfying then it wouldn’t do you any harm to tip and if you don’t tip, you won’t think you are a rude person. The only exception for tipping is in a tourist-oriented restaurant where they include service charge into your bill.
18. Laundry at Small Street Shop
If you need to do the laundry, you can go to small shops on the street. It is much cheaper than in the hotels.
As expected, everything you order in your hotel is much more expensive compared to the place that you search on your own. This applies to taxis, food, and laundry in particular.
Expect to pay from Rp. 7000 for a kilogram completed in 3 days in a small laundry in town, considering that hotels pay considerably more than for an item.
19. Buy a SIM Card for Your Phone
Most restaurants, hotels, shops, and bars provide Wi-Fi and internet access. The speed is fast. However, if you would like to stay connected while you are having your trip in Indonesia, you are recommended to buy a SIM card.
There are several SIM card providers to choose from. It is recommended that you choose Telkomsel because the company has the largest and most reliable network for 4G in Indonesia.
Nowadays, many countries try to provide WI-Fi for the convenience of tourists who visit the country. In Bali, WI-Fi is available. Most big hotels and restaurants provide free WI-Fi for visitors. Some guest house or hostel provides WI-Fi but if your place doesn’t provide WI-Fi, you can always go to restaurants or cafes. You usually can get a WI-Fi connection after you purchase something. If all of them don’t work, there is always an internet cafe.
21. Beware of Stray Animals
Thousands of stray dogs, cats, and many cheeky monkeys live on the beautiful island of Bali. There are several shelters in Bali but sadly, it is still a big problem. If you are interested in helping those animals, you can check Mission Pawsible that rescues stray dogs.
If you encounter any stray animals, don’t be afraid. Just use your intuition. If, however, you have a misfortune being bitten by those animals, seek medical help immediately as it has been reported that the island experienced rabies outbreaks in the past.
22. Best Place for Affordable Massage
Bali has plenty of massage parlors where almost every imaginable beauty treatment is advertised. The best thing is it comes at a cheap price. The price range is between RP. 100,000 and 150,000 for one hour of full body massage. Isn’t that wonderful? You can get an hour of delight at an affordable price.
23. Surfing is Huge
Bali has been a big attraction for surfers around the world for decades, and with good reason! At the time of the dry season, the waves around the island can be huge.
That does not mean that it is only for professionals. In the area of Seminyak and Kuta there are several surf schools, and renting surfboards is quite cheap. Whether you are a pro or a beginner, you can always ride the wave in Bali. Don’t miss this chance to feel the thrill.
24. Don’t Ignore the Warning Flags on the Beach
Even on the usually safe shores, sea conditions can suddenly change, tidal currents emerge and the ocean becomes very dangerous even in shallow water.
Fortunately, there is a system of red flags on the liveliest beaches in these areas. So, take note of the flag. Don’t ignore it. Don’t let your trip end in disaster.
25. Be Ready to Fall in Love but Don’t Forget Sunscreen
It is not hard to fall in love with the surroundings of Bali. If you can escape the overcrowding of Denpasar or the main tourist attractions, it is very easy to be attracted by the carefree romance and beauty of this island and its inhabitants.
You might want to relax over a coffee with a relaxing shake, go on a motorcycle tour, feel the wind in your hair, look at the beautiful rice terraces, study the art of stone carving, and get immersed in yoga class. Drop by a temple or sunbathe on the beach. There is a romance here in many forms. Immerse yourself in them and get ready to fall in love with Bali’s spirit.
26. Finding the Real Souvenirs
Bali is unique compared to the other islands of Indonesia and has strong craftsmanship. From wooden furniture to huge carved stone carvings, Bali’s best souvenirs are its artfulness and low price.
When it comes to wood and stone carvings, the Balinese are so good that you dream of opening an imported furniture store. If you are not careful, you can end up calculating the costs of the shipping.
In the true sense of the word, Bali has a restaurant for every taste, that includes for veggies. In the bustling areas of Kuta, Legian and Seminyak there are many organic, healthy, vegetarian and even vegan restaurants.
Even in the most traditional restaurants, you’ll get to find chefs who like to switch dishes so you do not have meat.
Bali can be an exciting place to visit but that can only happen when you know everything about Bali before you leave to avoid inconvenience during your trip. Now, pack your bag and just leave for Bali!