What do you need to know before visiting Bali?

02 Aug 2017

 
Guest post by Ni Wayan Ekarini

Travel to Bali is not so difficult and there’s ample reason to go. Bali Island happens to be the global winner of the 2017 traveller’s Choice Awards for destinations.  If you are a newbie traveller, Bali is the perfect place to start; a small island in the Indonesian archipelago with thousand temples, it has it all what you need for your holiday gateway.    
“No matter what style of holiday you're looking for, you can find it on the Bali Island.” Travellers

It’s just like travelling anywhere in the world, it is very useful when you know what to expect.  As a travel guide and working in travel management, I have taken tourists to many places in Bali, and I would love to share some tips. 

I hope this list of 21 hints and tips will be useful for your next or first trip to the island.

The Canang Sari is everywhere

What is the Canang Sari? The Canang Sari: Balinese flower offerings you will see all over Bali Island.  Everywhere you go on the Island, you will see beautiful offerings, consisting of flowers, rice, fruits, and cakes in a small square woven basket originally made from coconut leaves. 

The Balinese believe that any place that receives regular offerings accumulates sacred energy, eventually becoming sacred itself.  

Watch your step when walking down a street in Bali and you'll see hundreds of offerings; lovingly and thoughtfully crafted pieces of art. 

You don’t want to step on them.

Every day finds festivals and ceremonies on Bali Island

In Bali there’s almost always some kind of ceremony going on and you’ll definitely want to see and experience the Balinese vibrant life.  You don’t want to miss the celebrating passage of life, temple ceremonies, and the spectacular village cremation ceremonies.  
Also, don’t miss the full moon ritual every month of Balinese calendar.

Balinese belief

Bali is an amalgam of indigenous animism, Buddhism and the Hinduism of India, and the influence of the Hindu religion permeates all aspects of life in Bali. The Balinese believe in one God (Trinity: Ida Sang Hyang Widhi Wasa) with 3 manifestations of God as a creator, preserver, and destroyer. The Balinese believe that everything exists as a duality. The existence of this duality is what brings a cosmic balance to the universe. So, if there’s good, evil must exist to bring balance; birth balances death, joy balances sorrow, young balances old, positive balances negative, health balances sickness, and so forth. The universe constantly adjusts itself to bring about the perfect equilibrium. This is called Rwa Bhineda and literally means “two opposites” 

You will meet Balinese names: Wayan, Made, Nyoman, and Ketut

You might wonder why every other man, woman or child is named Wayan, Made, Nyoman, and Ketut. It was created to distinguish each person’s birth right order in the family.  The firstborns are named “Wayan“, the second eldest is “Made,”  third is “Komang” or “Nyoman”,  fourth is “Ketut” and the fifth back to Wayan.
Both men and women use similar names. A woman is distinguished by a “Ne” at the beginning “Ni” (Ni Wayan), while a man is specified by “I” (i.e.  I Wayan). Personal names can be attached to the birth order names, but there is no family name in Bali. 

Buy a traditional Balinese outfit

You definitely don’t want to miss the ritual and ceremonies in Bali, so mingle with locals and wear the traditional outfit and experience Bali traditionally.
  

Visa 

Nationals of 169 countries can visit Bali visa-free (for 30 days), while Visa on Arrival applies for others at USD $35 (extendable once).  

Weather 

Wet season: October-April
Dry season: May-September
Best time to go: May-August. 

Getting around in Bali is easy 

DRIVING: Drive on the left.

RENTALS: International drivers' license required to drive and rent cars and motorbikes. 

TAXIS:Blue Bird Taxi (+62 (0)361 701 111) is most popular and reliable - all of their taxis are metered.  Private drivers:  I think having a private driver is the best choice to travel around the island.  It’s worth having somebody to drive you, so you can just relax and enjoy the view.

Download GO-JEK

Bali has banned the Uber. So, locals have turned to another app called 'Go-Jek'. Through Go-jek you can order food, shopping and courier services, but most often it's used for hailing a taxi or motor-taxi; definitely one to consider if you stay in Bali for a long holiday. 

Currency

Don’t be surprised, it is very common for the money changer in Bali to check the quality of the bills you exchange, especially USD dollars; they accept the newly issued (circa 2000), clean, and stiff notes.  Bills won’t be accepted when they are torn, creased, and wrinkled.  Also keep in mind, the exchange you see on the board usually for a USD $100 notes, and smaller bills have a different set of rates.  

In Bali, The Rupiah is its main form of currency as well as all the islands of Indonesia.  Before travelling to Bali, make sure you have an understanding of the Rupiah to avoid being given any incorrect amount of change or unfair exchange rates.  In Bali, they also accept credit cards. 

Rupiah Bills 

Rupiah bills are issued in denominations of RP 1,000, 2,000, 5,000, 10,000, 20,000, 50,000 and 100,000.  Rupiah coins come in denominations of RP 25, 50, 100, 500 and a new gold and silver RP 1,000 coin, with both old and newly issued coin designs in circulation for RP 500, 100 and 50 coins.

More info about currency in Bali: 

http://www.xe.com/currency/idr-indonesian-rupiah
Currency calculator: 
http://www.x-rates.com/calculator/?from=IDR&to=USD&amount=1
Where to exchange your money in Bali?
- PT. Central Kuta
- PT. Dirgahayu Valuta Prima
- PT. Bali Maspintjinra

ATMs and Credit Cards

You can pay using credit cards at most high-end hotels, restaurants, stores and nightclubs, with Visa and MasterCard the most commonly accepted cards, followed by American Express.  Most transactions are completed in rupiahs, and it is very common for a variable charge to be added to credit card payments (certain %). When using a credit card in Bali, keep the card in sight at all times to avoid identity theft.  It is very common in Indonesia.

ATMs dispense IDR 50,000 or 100,000 bills; withdrawal fees using foreign bank cards, Visa or MasterCard varies and can be high. Beware of skimmers and rigged units, and remember to take your money and card after each transaction.

Don't drink the tap water

The tap water in Bali is not safe to drink, so you need to buy smaller bottled water or a big jug of water with dispenser.  
 

Super Strict Drug Laws

The super-strict drug laws in place in Indonesia are severe! If you are caught smuggling drugs will face the death sentence.

Laundry Services

Of course, anything you order within your hotel is a lot more expensive than if you go and explore it yourself, especially laundry. There are many places in town to clean your clothes - expect to pay per kilo. 

Bargain on the beach

Don't be afraid to bargain; it is very normal at the beach when some hawkers sell you some products.  It may be a fun experience to haggle the price.  Start your bargain at half price.  Remember, be polite! 

Learn a few local words 

Even though the vast majority of Balinese people speak English, it is fun and rewarding when you can communicate with the locals using the Bahasa Indonesia or Balinese words.

You can find some funny words and learn the everyday slang.  Even being able to say 'hello, how are you' Apa khabar? 'thank you' Terimakasih, and 'please' will be really appreciated in Bali - and it will go as a fun and worth the bartering process!

Cheap massage

Bali is famous for new age capital, so get your full body massage while on holiday in Bali, and you will want more.  Why? The price is so cheap compared to back home; for anywhere between RP. 100,000 and 150,000 around $15-20 you can get a one hour full body massage.  This means one full hour of bliss and health.

Not all people in Bali are Balinese

Don’t get confused, in Bali there are some people from outside Bali who engage in criminal activity… so if you get robbed in Bali, chances are the robber is probably not Balinese.  

Tipping

When you’re happy with the service you can tip the housekeepers, waitresses, and bartenders, but it’s not expected.  I like to tip them because I am often happy with their service and the food price is cheap. It is just my way of showing appreciation for their great service in Bali.

Coffee is not refilled in Bali

I saw one time a tourist had a big argument with a waitress in a restaurant when the waitress could not explain that coffee was not refillable. You can only refill if there is a special sign on the buffet table.

Sunset is not like other places in the world

You will find that sunset in Bali is very special.  Many travel agents arrange special sunset tours, so you will catch the right moment in the spot you choose like the Tanah Lot, the Jimbaran Bay, Kuta beach, the Rock Bar at Ayana resort, Tegal Wangi beach, the Uluwatu temple, Peti Tenget beach at Seminyak, Lovina beach in Singaraja regency, Echo beach Canggu, Lembongan island (one of Bali’s virgin islands), 707 Beach Berm at Batu Belig beach, La Planca at Seminyak, WooBar, La Lucciola, La Laguna at Canggu beach, Finn’s Beach Club, The Lawn is set on the vibrant Batu Bolong Beach, Pererenan Beach, Double Six Rooftop, El Kabron at Uluwatu, and many more.

sanur bti

Don’t forget to visit other tiny untouched islands around Bali while you visit Bali
Bali has three other islands beside the big island. If you would like to experience the virgin of Bali, you should visit Nusa Penida, Nusa Lembongan, and Nusa Ceningan.  Here you can enjoy spectacular sunsets, snorkelling, the mangrove forests, and the serenity of the beach because there are few tourists here.     

Easy to find WiFi, but not always free

There are very few budget hotels in Bali that have an internet connection and those that do have internet are usually on dial up! But most big hotels have internet as part of your stay.  If you want to shop around for internet café, go to the internet café where the locals hang out.  My family and I bought a hotspot connection around $30 and plus the time (called: Hotspot Mobile Wi-Fi Smartfren, Andromax M3Y), you pay as you go, and it’s faster than internet cafés around.  

If you wish to read more about the Bali Islands from a an expert, visit Ni Wayan Ekarini's blog or follow her on Twitter.
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