Bali – Tips for Travellers
Bali Tips for visitors
Bali is an exquisite Island, rich in natural beauty and culture. The people are predominantly Hindu and have a calm, graceful, happy manner about them, always smiling and willing to please.
As a visitor to Bali you will see this rich culture everywhere, from offerings on every street corner to the mesmerising music of the gambalan passing with a procession. The Balinese are very tolerant of foreign visitors, but there are a few handy things to know if you are going to be travelling here.
Negotiation – Everything is negotiated, haggling is a way of life, not just for tourists. Most visitors are used to set prices printed on the items they want to buy. Not here! The starting price if you are a visitor is going to be a bit higher than if you are a local, but it is up to you to negotiate what you think is a fair price. Just remember haggling over 5,000 Rp. is less than 50c!
Commission – The whole of Bali works on commission, so if you have a driver taking you on a tour, they will take you to places where they can earn commission. Don’t begrudge them this as it is the way they make a living. My advice would be to state where you would like to visit and ask the driver to suggest some of their own places, if you are not interested in say, batik making then you can say you don’t want to go. But keep your mind open as there are some fascinating temples, arts and crafts to experience and even tasting the most expensive coffee in the world, Luwak.
Dress – It’s useful to carry an over shirt and a sarong in your bag, not just for sun protection but to cover your arms and legs when entering a temple. At most of the bigger temples you will find sarongs for rent for a small donation, but at the smaller temples carrying your own and dressing appropriately is a sign of respect.
Shoes – When entering a local house or a temple it is customary to take off your shoes. So having sandals that are easy to get off wins over trainers. But distinctive sandals are better as there have been many times wearing black Haviannas that I have been left with 2 different size shoes.
Motorbikes – The most popular mode of transport in Bali. If you want to hire one then an International Motorbike Drivers Licence is required unless you want to be fair game for the local police. Helmets are compulsory although you would never believe it when you see a family of 5 on one motorbike. The exception to the helmet rule is ceremonies where the men are allowed to wear their traditional Udeng (headdress) to ceremonies instead of helmets.
Driving – Balinese drive on the left, the middle and sometime the right, but it is supposed to be the left! If when you are driving you come across a ceremony, relax and enjoy the colour and music, do not overtake a ceremony unless you are waved through by a guy holding a baton. The ceremony is normally a funeral and it will upset the participants greatly if you overtake.
Taxis – As an alternative to the motorbike or private drivers, you can get around in taxis. If you call a taxi then there is a minimum call out charge even if the taxi fare is less than the call out. If you flag a taxi on the street ask them to put the meter on and always carry small change as taxi drivers never seem to have any.
Tipping – In bigger restaurants and bars you will be charged government tax and service charge. In smaller establishments you will not be charged and this is often advertised as ‘No ++’. Tipping is not mandatory but it is very appreciated especially when you have experienced the beautiful Balinese service.
Nyepi – The coming of the New Year in the Saka Calendar is known as Nyepi – the day of silence. It is a day of reflection and meditation, with no lights, traffic, work or pleasure. If you are here for Nyepi you will not be flying anywhere as the airport is closed. If you are staying in a resort then you must stay in the resort and keep sound to a minimum level, no one is allowed onto the beaches or streets. The only people to be seen outdoors are the Pecalang, traditional security men who patrol the streets to ensure the prohibitions are being followed and emergency vehicles. The whole island is in silence.
Time – Bali Time is a common frustration, nothing ever happens with much speed and being late is normal, but it is no good raising your voice or getting annoyed, this will only make you ‘lose face’ and will be met with embarrassed giggles. Just relax and enjoy, you are on holiday after all.