40 Very useful things to know before you visit Bali, Indonesia
March 13, 2018
When traveling to a new place, it is always useful to have some prior knowledge of what to expect. This list includes very useful things to help you make the most of your trip to Bali, Indonesia. The list is full of useful tips about culture and local habits, traffic, food and drinks, activities, and other useful things, from author Daphne who has lived on Bali five months and have been back to the island three times!
Culture and local habits
#1 Balinese culture
Balinese culture is a mix of Balinese Hindu-Buddhist religion and Balinese customs. During the day, different practices occur at (family) temples across the island and several festivals are organised for example the ‘Sanur village Festival’. You can check the Bali Tourism event schedule for more information.
#2 Respect the Balinese offerings The ‘Canang Sari’, little baskets made from leaves and decorated with flowers and offerings, can be found everywhere ranging from the streets to restaurant. Please do not step on the offerings.
#3 The Balinese naming system
As you travel across Bali, you will meet a lot of people called Putu, Made, or Nyoman. Regardless of gender, children are named in order of their birth. The firstborn child is named Wayan, Putu or Gede, the second is named Made or Kadek, the third child goes by Nyoman or Komang, and the fourth is named Ketut. After the fourth child, they start again with the first names.
#4 Be prepared for crazy traffic
Bali is home to crazy traffic, and even out of rush hour, just a few kilometres of driving will take much longer than expected. Roads are sometimes of bad quality, traffic rules are ignored, or motor riders make unexpected moves. Always be prepared and stay safe! If you like to read more about the traffic rules, where to rent a scooter, or what to do if a police officer stops you, this post tells you everything you need to know about driving scooter in Indonesia.
#5 Do not drive without an international driving license
Bali is a corrupt island. If you would like to ride a scooter or car, you NEED an international driving license (available at ANWB in the Netherlands). There is a chance that the police will stop you, because you are looking like a tourist. They will ask for your driving license or ask for money. If you have not done anything wrong, just tell them you have the right driving license and they have no right to ask money. If they really want money, give them a small amount, and tell them you do not have more.
#6 Hire a private driver
To me, the best way to explore an island is to drive with scooter, but if you are not comfortable or not like to drive scooter in Bali, Indonesia, you can hire a private driver instead. Just ask around, and you find one for sure.
#7 Know the difference between a reliable and fake taxi
There are many different taxi suppliers in Bali, Indonesia. Only take a real ‘Blue bird’ taxi. Other taxis might use wrong devices and ask more money than you actually have to pay for a ride. The real ‘Blue bird’ taxi are recognisable by the light blue car colour, blue bird sign on the roof of the car, blue bird logo on the back and sides of the car, uniform of the driver and inside every ‘Blue bird’ taxi, the driver license of the driver is visible on the dashboard.
#8 Use Uber or Go-Jek
Instead of taking an expensive taxi, you can also decide to take a local way of transportation. On Bali, you can use Uber or the local variant Go-Jek. With Go-Jek you can not only order a car, but also a motorbike as taxi service.
#9 Pay with Rupiahs
In Bali they use the currency; Rupiah. Around 15.000 Rupiah is €1,00 and around 100.000 Rupiah is around €6,00.
#10 Always bring two wallets
Always carry two wallets. One with just a small amount of money, maximum € 6,00 and one wallet with other money. Show your small wallet to the police, in case they stop you.
#11 Bargaining is allowed
Bargaining or haggling is common in Bali. You cannot bargain in the supermarket or restaurants, but you can bargain at the local touristic shops, excursions, and beach sellers. Barter respectfully, with a smile, and with a price in mind.
#12 Take care of beach hawkers
Even on the quietest beaches across Bali, there will be at least a couple of women trying to sell you sarongs, bracelets or drinks, as well as those offering massages. These products and services are for sure overpriced and you will be ripped off for sure.
#13 Take care while changing money
In Bali, you will find plenty of (authorized) money changers. Some money changers will lower the money behind the counter after showing it to you. ‘Accidentally’ they might drop some notes, before handing it back to you.
#14 Bali suits every budget
Bali can be a budget destination for backpackers, but it also has plenty of luxury hotels, fine dining restaurants, and exclusive bars. A more luxurious suite that I can recommend is for example ‘Sindhu Mertha Suite Sanur Bali‘.
#15 Take care while using an ATM machine
Some ATM machines do not work, only give small money, have a daily withdraw maximum, have a high withdraw fee, or are boycotted. Always take care while taking money. Make sure to use one with security or one in a supermarket.
#16 Do not use the laundry service of a hotel
Everywhere you can find laundry services. Hotels in general charge way more, than you should pay. From a small laundry in the town, expect to pay around Rp. 7000 per kilo.
Food and drinks
#17 Added taxes or service fee in restaurants and cafés
Most restaurant and cafés in Bali include a 21% added tax to your bill. Some also charge a service fee.
#18 You cannot drink the tap water in Bali
Avoid the tap water of Bali and buy water in the supermarkets to avoid getting sick.
#19 Enjoy Balinese food
The assortment of the dishes of Bali is great. The Balinese people really know how to cook. They have a wide collection of main courses, but also know how to satisfy your sweet tooth, because they have plenty of delicious snacks, cakes, and desserts. This post includes a top twenty local meals that you should try in one of the warungs of Bali.
#20 The offer for vegetarians are great
The assortment of Balinese dishes also offers plenty of choices for vegetarians. Balinese really like to cook with organic, raw, and healthy vegetables.
#21 Try the local drink ‘Arak’ in a bar
If you’re looking for a traditional Balinese drink, you should try Arak. This is a traditional Balinese spirit made from toddy palm trees. The drink is very popular during local ceremonies and parties. In recent years however, occasional cases of methanol poisoning have occurred, due to the consumption of arak. Only drink arak at reliable bars and check the source from the bartenders.
#22 Avoid overpriced restaurants in Bali
Jimbaran is one of the places that offers overpriced food. The city has plenty of beachside cafés where fresh fish is served. You can find different fresh caught seafood, ranging from shrimp, clams, crabs, calamari, lobsters, and a wide assortment of fish. The beachside cafés are very cozy during the night and the different cafés which I tried so far, do offer an amazing quality of seafood, but with very overpriced rates. Check out the surrounding, if you want some cheaper food.
#23 Be prepared to get a ‘Bali belly’
Even if you avoid tap water, street food, salad, ice, or seafood, there is a change you still get a Bali belly. Make sure always to bring some medicines with you.
#24 Explore Balinese arts and crafts
Balinese arts and crafts are incredible. Shopping for crafts in Bali is fun and a great way to chat to local people and find out about their villages. Great examples of Balinese arts and crafts are batik, stone carving, wood carving, or paintings.
#25 Bali is a surfer’s paradise
Bali is a well-known surfing destination. There are beaches with beginner waves and epic beaches for professionals.
#26 See a traditional dance
If you like to explore some culture, go to see a traditional Balinese dance. For example the Kecak dance during sunset at the beautiful Uluwatu temple.
#27 Go to take a massage in Bali
In Bali, you can get at almost every street corner a massage, pedicure, or manicure. Hotels and resorts do offer different types of massages or pedicures. Usually these are overpriced and can be bought way cheaper at a local place. At a local place, you only pay Rp. 80,000-150,000 and you can get a one-hour full body massage.
#28 Be prepared and mindful when visiting the Ubud Monkey Forest in Bali
Monkeys are wild animals, so you need to be prepared and mindful. This post will give you ten tips for visiting and surviving the Ubud Monkey Forest in Bali.
#29 Always bring a sarong with you
Always bring a Sarong (garment to cover your legs) if you would like to visit a temple of holy place. The entry to a temple, holy place or waterfall is often not allowed without wearing a sarong. Also keep in mind that ladies are not allowed to visit a temple when they are having their period. You will have bad luck for your entire life.
Other useful things to know
#30 Avoid the Balinese tourist traps
In so many ways, Bali is a dream island destination and heaven on earth. Nevertheless, as in any part of the world, tourists in Bali often fall victim to scams. Anyone who has been subjected to a scam knows the humiliating feeling that someone managed to fool you good while you can’t do anything about it. This post includes a list with Bali’s most common tourist traps and how you can avoid them!
#31 Avoid peak seasons
Bali is extremely busy during July, August, and December. I always recommend friends to visit in September or October. During these months it is still warm, less expensive, and quieter!
#32 Bali is a paradise full of rubbish
Like most of South East Asia, garbage is everywhere. Be prepared to see and smell a lot of rubbish.
#33 Be prepared for mosquitoes
There are plenty of mosquitoes in Bali. Malaria is not a concern in Bali, but it is good to apply insect repellent and cover up.
#34 The weather of Bali
Like in all parts of the world, weather becomes more unpredictable. Bali knows in general a dry season (between April and September) and rainy season (between October and March). The average temperature is around 26-27°C. Bali’s mountain areas are typically cooler than the lower coastal areas. Especially in these areas at night, the temperatures can drop significantly. The water temperatures are always pleasant.
#35 Call with a local sim card
You can buy a really cheap local sim card for around € 6,00 in supermarkets or at small street shops. With this sim card you can call, text and use the local 3G or 4G internet wherever you are.
#36 The Balinese language is not the same as Bahasa Indonesian
The Balinese language is different from Bahasa Indonesian, but all the Balinese will understand Bahasa Indonesian.
#37 Not all the locals are Balinese
Bali is a well-known destination to find work opportunities for people from Java or Lombok. Because of this, not all the locals are Balinese.
#38 Be aware of the stray dogs There are plenty of stray dogs on Bali. You will find them on the streets, beaches, in front of restaurants or hotels. Most of them are not aggressive, but make sure if you get bitten, to go and see a doctor immediately.
#39 Do not use drugs in Bali
There is a super strict drug law in Indonesia with death sentence when you get caught for smuggling. Make sure not to use or smuggle any drugs!! Just don’t do it!
#40 There is more than Kuta or Seminyak
While visiting Bali, make sure to not only visit Kuta, Legian, or Seminyak. The island has plenty of other more beautiful places to see like; Sanur, Ubud, Denpasar, Cangu, Bangli, Lovina, or Tambanan.
I hope this list increased your knowledge on what to expect when travelling to Bali, Indonesia. If you know any other things that are important to know in advance when travelling to Bali, please share it in a comment!