When one thinks of Indonesia and tourism, the first thing that comes to mind is Bali. It’s the sort of place where you a simple walk down the street can lead you to a magnificent, picturesque sight. I love visiting Bali because it caters to people with different needs and a different budget. You can visit Bali on a backpacker budget but you can also indulge in some luxurious activities. You can lie down on the beach and drink cocktails all day long but you can also go trekking, waterfall chasing, temple exploring, visiting small authentic villages, etc. The list of things to do in Bali is endless but there are also some things you should know before visiting.
I remember my first time visiting Bali like it was yesterday. We got a couple of cheap flights from Singapore to Bali and I was still very happy about visiting Bali which is probably the main reason why I did a few costly mistakes during this trip. Things I would certainly do differently if given a second chance.
So, no, this article isn’t about how to spend your holiday in Bali or what you should add to your Bali bucket list. You should spend your Bali holiday the way you want to. However, you should keep in mind that Bali looks like a tropical paradise at a glance but it can also turn into a disappointing place filled with drunk foreigners, false promises, and people trying to scam you on every step. When coming to Bali, you should know what to expect and that’s what this article is about. Here are some things you should know before visiting Bali.
Be careful with drugs
Yes, doing drugs isn’t a recommendable thing in any country. Some people might say that this thing shouldn’t even be mentioned in an article like this one. However, things in Indonesia and Bali are different. Here, drug trafficking is an offense that’s punishable by death. And even though you buying some drugs can hardly be considered drug trafficking, you can still get in a lot of trouble. Especially because a lot of the people that offer tourists drugs on the street are undercover cops.
Do your laundry at small street shops
It’s probably not surprising that anything you order in a hotel is more expensive but the difference in the price of doing your laundry at a street vendor and in a hotel is ridiculous! Street vendors will wash one kg of clothes for 9,000 Rupiah while some hotels will charge you up to five times more! It’s not a significant cost but if you’re visiting Bali for a longer period, doing your laundry at street vendors can make a difference.
Be aware of added tax in bars and restaurants
According to local regulations, all restaurants (and some bars) must charge an additional tax (between 10 and 21%) on all orders. Most restaurants add small notes to the menu that state this but it’s very easy to miss this. The last thing you would like is to enter a restaurant and realize you don’t have enough money to pay the bill after all taxes are calculated.
You can tip but it’s not mandatory
Tipping when traveling abroad is confusing for most travelers. You don’t want to appear rude but you also don’t want to pay extra when that’s not necessary. Fortunately, tipping in Bali is completely up to you. As mentioned above, all restaurants usually include a service tax in the price and if you don’t want to leave a tip, no one will get offended.
Don’t risk driving without an international driving license
I know this sounds like common sense but don’t drive in Bali without an international license. There are a lot of corrupted police officers in Bali that just wait to see tourists riding a bike or a car. Some of them will even convince you that your driving license is not international and ask for money in order not to give you a fine. Most of the time, they will lie about how much the fine costs in order to get a bigger bribe from you. That’s why you should never drive without an international license in Bali. Also, it’s probably a good idea to.
Always bring two wallets
Keep most of your money in one of your wallets and leave only a small amount in the other one. If you come across a corrupted police officer that tries to extort a bribe from you, show them your wallet. Same applies to a greedy salesperson/ street vendor.
Don’t panic at the ATM
One of the most important things to know before visiting Bali is to be careful with ATMs. Not all of them might work for you and I’ve seen a lot of travelers getting their card “eaten” by an ATM. If this happens, don’t panic and head straight to the nearest bank to report this. Other ATMs only give a maximum amount of roughly $25 USD per withdrawal which is quite bad, considering you’re charged every time you withdraw money.
Another thing you should note is that ATMs in Bali give you the cash before the card. This makes it very easy to walk away from the ATM while forgetting your card. Finally, if you want to explore Bali off the beaten track, keep in mind that ATMs aren’t available in the rural part of the island and take out enough cash before you go.
Watch out for stray dogs
Coming from the Balkans, I’m quite used to seeing a lot of stray dogs on the street and this is one problem Bali has yet failed to address. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t have anything against stray dogs. In fact, I’m a big-time animal lover. But there have been several instances in which stray dogs attacked and bitten tourists (probably because someone treated them badly in the past). Be careful every time you see a stray dog(s), know how to read their body language, and if you’re unfortunate enough to be bitten, see a doctor immediately.
Restricted Internet access
You might be surprised but there are certain internet access limitations in Bali and Indonesia. In total, more than 70,000 websites are blocked and that list only keeps growing. The websites which are blocked are sites display “negative” content, such as extremist ideology or pornography. So, if you want to browse the internet without any limitations, seriously consider using a VPN provider. This will allow you to change your browsing location and freely access all websites that are banned in Indonesia.
The Balinese naming system
This might not make a big difference for your trip, but it’s a very interesting fact about Bali that most people don’t know. As you travel around Bali, you’ll meet a lot of people named Nyoman/Komang, Made or Put, Wayan, and Gede. The reason for this is that people in Bali name their children, based on the order in which they were born. For example, the first-born child is usually named Putu, Wayan, or Gede. The second-born is usually named Made or Kadek, while the third born- Komang or Nyoman.
No malaria but a lot of mosquitos
Unlike some other parts of Indonesia, visiting Bali is relatively safe when it comes to malaria and similar diseases. However, this doesn’t mean there aren’t any mosquitoes around. So, make sure to have some long-sleeve clothes to wear as dusk approaches always carry a mosquito repellent, and if necessary, get a mosquito net, especially if you’re camping.
Talking about things to know before visiting Bali, it’s important to know that it’s highly recommended to get a Hepatitis A vaccine prior to your trip. Also, there shouldn’t be more than ten years since the time you took your last Tetanus shot. As mentioned above, the risk of getting malaria is practically non-existent but if you plan to spend more time in a rural area on the island or in the mountains, consider taking some anti-malaria medications.
Even though Bali has Uber, local cabs, and motorbike taxis (locals call them Ojek), the other public transport options are limited. If you want to use public transport to save money, Bemos is a good option. It’s a public minivan taxi company mostly used by locals who want to get from point A to point B on the island. The rates aren’t always fixed but this is one of the cheapest options of getting around the island.
Don’t be afraid of the ‘Bali belly’
If you read some other blogs about things to know before visiting Bali, you are probably aware of the Bali bely. This is basically a way of Bali saying hi to your digestive system that’s not used to the local food yet. However, in recent years, the hygiene standards on the island improved significantly, and a lot of restaurants and street food stalls nowadays use organically-grown produce. This increased the quality of the food and contributes to fewer people getting the Bali belly. And even though there are still a few suspicious street food stalls here and there, in general, you can enjoy most types of street food without being scared of the Bali belly. So, don’t waste any more time and.
Go taste as many warungs as possible!
If you want to try the best local food without breaking the bank, you absolutely have to visit a warung. Warungs are small, (mostly) family-owned restaurants that serve larger amounts of local food. Some warungs have a menu while others have a buffet system but either way, this is the best way to experience the best of Bali’s cuisine. My personal favorite is the Varuna Warung (located in Canggu).
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Avoid plastic water bottles
One of the main problems mass tourism brought to Bali is plastic waste. Bali is a tropical, humid island and if you visit you need to stay hydrated. However, that doesn’t mean that the only way to do this is by buying bottled water. You can also carry your own purifying water bottle and refill it as you go. This way, you’ll save some money on water and you’ll help the island in its battle with plastic waste.
West coast for surfing, east coast for diving
Bali is a very big island and before visiting, one of the things you should know is what you want to do and where you want to go. As a rule of thumb, if you want to go surfing, head to the western part of the island. Alternatively, if you want to go diving, head to the calmer waters of the eastern side of Bali.
Do not try arak
The tax on foreign alcohols in Indonesia is ridiculously high. This is probably the main reason why locals tried to muster up their own drink- arat. If you’re in Bali and someone offers you this, do not try it. There are a lot of curious travelers that tried this and god food poisoning.
This drink is so powerful that it can damage human organs and even fatally injure the person that’s drinking it. The unregulated arak production caused the deaths of many tourists and locals alike and even though the local authorities are trying to regulate and legalize the production of this drink according to some standards, I’d still recommend you to stay away from it.
Nationals of 167 countries and 2 autonomous regions can visit Indonesia without getting a visa and stay for 30 days. If I knew this before, I would probably visit Bali way sooner. If you want to check whether your country is on the list, you can do so here.
Helpful resources for visiting Bali
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Did you ever visit this magnificent island? How did you like this list of things to know before visiting Bali? Let us know in the comments!
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