Know before you go Bali
The exotic island of Bali is on most people’s once in a lifetime bucket list. It has a unique culture and charm, stunning scenery and some of the best scuba diving in Asia. However like most paradise destinations it is a little different to home, so here are some useful tips that are good to know before you go, to make your dream holiday run smoothly.
Indonesian Visa’s and immigration
Most countries (click here for full list) will get a 30 day free visa on arrival, however this is 30 days, not one month. If you fall into the trap of miscalculating the overstay fine is 1,000,000 IDR per day (Approx. US$73/day).
If you would like to stay more than 30 days then you can pay for a visa on arrival and then extend it for another 30 days at immigration or through a visa agent. If you don’t pay for the visa on arrival and get the free one then you cannot extend it, you have to leave the country after 30 days.
Many visa agents offer extension services, these will be more expensive than doing it yourself of course, but it takes the hassle out of waiting in line 3 times at the immigration office, you will only have to go once for fingerprints and photos.
The largest banknote in Indonesia is the 100,000 IDR note (Approx US$7.30), so when you change US$100 you get roughly 1.4 Million IDR, instant millionaire!
Buying Indonesian currency out of the country you will always get a low rate. You can change money at the airport, but like most airports, the rate is lower than in town. There are however ATM’s at the airport and in most towns, but if the ATM is not outside a bank, you are sometimes restricted to 1,250,000 IDR (US$91) in a single transaction. ATM’s outside a bank usually allow withdrawals of maximum 2,500,000 IDR (US$183).
If you want to change money then go to a reputable money changer that has air-conditioning and a counter. Never be tempted by the advertised higher rates of a money changer in the back of a shop, they tend to be (not always!) magicians with fast hands, making you think you have received the correct amount but when you get back to your hotel you are 200,000 short.
Credit Cards are widely accepted, but be aware there is usually a 3% surcharge for credit card transactions and AMEX is very rarely accepted.
Bali the land of sunshine, until it rains!
Bali is a tropical island so for 8 months a year it is hot, hot, hot. The hottest time of the year is coming up to rainy season in December. It’s important to remember to stay hydrated especially when you are diving as the cool breeze on the boat often masks how hot the sun intensity is. Sunscreen is also important, but please chose a reef friendly one. Reef friendly sunscreen is hard to find and all sunscreen is relatively expensive, so it’s best to bring it with you.
The rainy season is traditionally December to March, but it doesn’t rain all day, if you are lucky it will only rain at night. If you are visiting between December and March, it’s good to pack a small raincoat in case of a sudden downpour, or invest 50,000 IDR for an umbrella from a local stall.
Of course Bali is a Volcanic island so the higher up you are, the cooler you are and more likelihood for rain in rainy season. That’s why we love our coastal town of Sanur.
Bali is a Hindu island and religion, culture and family is taken very seriously. If you are visiting a temple you will be asked to put on a sarong and sash. Before entering a person’s home, it is customary to remove your shoes. As the left hand is used for washing, the passing of food is never done with the left hand. In toilets you will find a water spray which is used for washing, but if you prefer the traditional toilet tissue it is best to carry a small pack of tissues with you and dispose them in the bin provided (Asian plumbing systems are not to the same standard as western)
Don’t touch anyone on the head and don’t point directly at a person, both are considered very rude. Never overtake a ceremony! It is usually a funeral procession therefore very disrespectful, relax and enjoy the enchanting colourful parade.
Women in Bikinis and bare chested men are accepted on the beach, but if you are walking around, cover up with a light tshirt.
The day of Silence
Only one place in the world does the whole island shut for a day. When we say shut, we mean the airport is closed, no planes, no cars, no internet, no television, no noise, no lights! Nyepi is the day of silence that happens once year in Bali and if you happen to be here at that time then expect to stay in your hotel reading a book for the day as you are not allowed to walk the streets, why would you, nothing is open anyway.
The dates move slightly each year, so if you don’t want a day of total relaxation and meditation, plan your holiday around it.
The water temperature most of the year round is a very pleasant 26-28 degrees, but during Mola Mola season the water temperature at Nusa Penida drop and can be as low as 18 degrees with a thermocline so in those months August-October a 5mm may be more comfortable than a 3mm wetsuit.
We have DIN tanks with adapters so there is no need to bring an adapter just let us know beforehand that you have DIN regulators.
Equipment can be hired or purchased here. However there are not a great many options for camera accessories, so best to bring spares.
On the roads of Bali expect the unexpected! Sometimes it’s a complete free-for-all with motorbikes coming head-on on the wrong side of the road, cars and bikes merging from side roads on the left without looking and trucks running red lights. The secret to it all seemingly working is ‘slow’, nothing goes too fast in Bali.
If you feel competent on a motorbike then these can be rented quite cheaply, but you must have an International driver’s licence (same applies to car rental), if you don’t and you get stopped by the police they will fine you anything from 100,000 – 500,000 IDR depending how they feel on the day. If you haven’t got an International licence, it’s always a good idea to have 200,000 IDR in a separate pocket, so you don’t have to get your purse or wallet out.
Crash helmets are for safety and mandatory in Bali no matter how short the journey. If you are caught not wearing a crash helmet, the same fine system applies
Cars can be easily hired but it’s better to get a small car as parking in Bali can be a challenge. The longer you hire the cheaper per day it is. You need an International driving licence and its best to take photos on your phone of any dents and scrapes before you hand over the money, just as you would do back home.
Car with Driver
If you don’t fancy driving yourself you can hire a car with driver, but be prepared for the negotiation dance that is always a part of agreeing a price in Bali. A car with driver will be around 600,000 – 700,000 for 8 hours. The driver will always suggest places to go based on where he can earn some commission. If you don’t want that just politely decline, but you never know, some of the places like silver making, batik making and art galleries are really interesting.
Taxis and motorcycle taxis
The traditional taxi in Bali is the Blue Bird. You can flag them down on the street, but always tell them to put the meter on and always carry small change as they never have change.
Much to the irritation of these traditional taxis is two on-line services called Grab and Go-Jek. You can install the App and order cars or motorbike taxis on-line with a price much more competitive than the Blue Birds. However, they do not go to all places, drop off is usually fine, but pick up a bit more limited so check if you are planning a return journey.
Heath & Insurance
It is never advisable to travel anywhere without travel insurance, you should also check the policy for motorcycle coverage as many policies exclude this. If you are scuba diving make sure that it covers this sport.
If you do get into medical difficulties then there are some excellent hospitals in Bali but some will need your insurance details or credit card before they will treat you.
You don’t really need any inoculations for Bali, but if in doubt check with your local doctor for their opinion before you go.
We do have pesky mosquitoes here and outbreaks of malaria and dengue fever especially in the wet season. The trick to avoiding both of these, is don’t get bitten! You can buy mosquito repellent in cream or spray very cheaply at any local shop. Apply it especially at dusk as that’s when they are most active.
The food in Bali is delicious but can be a bit spicy for some tastes and cause what we affectionately term ‘Bali Belly’, which mean a close association with the china toilet bowl for a while. Always drink bottled mineral water and if you buy a cold can from a street vendor, then always wipe the top as it’s chilled in ‘dirty ice’, ice made from tap water not mineral water, even a small amount of bacteria can upset a delicate stomach.
If you do get the runs, then make sure you stay hydrated. There is a great isotonic drink you can buy in nearly every local shop called ‘Pocari Sweat’, great for rehydration. Imodium and equivalent brands can be bought at any pharmacy.
Always apply the same safety precautions you would if traveling in a city. Wear a handbag across your chest, don’t have your wallet sticking out of your back pocket, don’t leave your bags unattended. Bali is pretty low in crime but there are some opportunists out there as with every country.
Never on any account buy or take drugs in Bali. Bali has the death sentence for drugs and has zero tolerance.
The local hooch in Bali is called Arak, the local spirit distilled from coconut palm trees. It can be very alcoholic and there are no regulations as it is a homemade drink. If you are not sure, stick to Bintang beer.
For most Indonesians, the phone is the second most important thing after food, so there is free WiFi pretty much everywhere. However with data roaming charges you may be better off buying a local sim card here. The most popular carrier in Bali is Simpati and a sim card can be purchased quite cheaply from any phone shop, but bring a copy of your passport with you as it needs to be registered. The same shop can also sort you out with data and phone credit.
Haggling is a way of life in Indonesia, everyone wants the best price so brush up on your negotiation skills and make sure you have your head around the currency conversion before you start. You can buy the most amazing hand painted pictures, hand sculptured statues, handmade batik prints and incredible jewelry. Remember how much work goes into each unique piece and don’t get hung up on haggling over 10,000 IDR (it’s only 70 cents).
The Balinese vendors have an amazing way of remembering you. So if you don’t want to see their shop then don’t say ‘maybe later’ or ‘maybe tomorrow’ because later or tomorrow they will remind you of your promise. A firm but polite ‘No thank you’ is better.
If you really can’t do the bargaining thing at all, there is a supermarket in Sanur called Artesedana which has a whole art and crafts section upstairs which is fixed price.
Bali has started to implement a no-plastic bag policy. It’s still in the early stages and not perfect, but heading in the right direction, so try an carry a reusable bag with you.
Food and diet
Indonesian food is wonderful, but can be a little spicy for some palettes. Read more about the most popular Indonesian dishes
As Indonesia is mostly muslim, halal food is easy to find. Vegetarians and vegans are in heaven with tempe and tofu in nearly every restaurant.
In cheaper warungs (local resturants) they sometimes use Monosodium Glutamate (MSG), so to be sure look for signs advertising No MSG.
Beware if you have a nut allergy as sesame oil and peanuts are used in many dishes including the delicious sate with peanut sauce.
If you have a gluten free diet then be careful as soy sauce that contains wheat is used in many dishes.
Soy milk is available in some of the more progressive coffee shops in Sanur, but not many.
Depending on how much a restaurant turns over, determines whether they have to charge tax. Expect tax and service of up to 15% to be added to your bill. If you see somewhere advertising ‘No ++’ is means there is no added tax and service.
Useful Indonesian phrases
Selamat Pagi: Good morning
Selamat Siang: Good afternoon
Selamat sore: Good evening
Selamat malam: Good night
Apa kabar?: How are you? –
Baik: I’m good
Terima kasih: Thank you
Sama Sama: You are welcome
Yes/No: Ia/ Tidak
Dari mana: Where are you from
Saya dari: I am from…
Makan: To eat
Tidak Pedas: Not spicy
Sayur saja: Vegetables only
Enak : Delicious!
Berapa harganya?: How much does it cost?
Mahal sakali: Very expensive!
Jam Berapa: What time
We hope our ‘know before you go Bali’ is useful. If you have any other questions don’t hesitate to contact us.