22 incredibly useful things to know before you visit bali

Bali is not a difficult place to travel, even for those not used to well, travelling. However, as with anywhere in the world, it's always useful to know of any idiosyncrasies, local tips and unknown rules before you set foot in a new place. 

That's why we've put this list together for you. Full of useful tips from someone who's been to Bali and back three times!

 

#1 crazy traffic

Bali is home to crazy, crazy traffic, and even out of rush hour, just a few kilometres of driving will take much longer than expected.

Traffic and scooters, Bali, Indonesia

Whilst it's kind of unavoidable, it's important to be aware of, especially if planning day trips, attempting to make it somewhere for sunset or aiming to catch a flight! Always ask your hotel for a rough travel time estimate before booking a taxi.

 

#2 consider moto-taxis - but with caution!

Unless you're travelling in a large group, hiring moto-taxis can work out significantly cheaper than a car. Just be aware however, that not all drivers, drive safely. Unfortunately accidents are common place here so if your driver is doing something you don't like, be sure to let him know!

Renting you own scooter for the day or week is also a very popular practice here. Rental starts from Rp. 30,000-50,000 per day.

 

#3 don't drink the water

This probably goes without saying, but please don't drink the tap water in Bali. We know that constantly buying bottled water may well break your heart (it certainly did mine!), but water from the tap will make you sick - and that's the last thing you want on holiday!

 

#4 respect the culture

Despite the influx of tourism, Balinese culture is very strong, and you can barely take a couple of steps along the street before you encounter 'canang sari' - one of the colourful daily offering made by the Balinese Hindus.

Balinese hindu offerings, Bali, Indonesia

Whilst the local dog population may take little notice of them, be sure to take more care and avoid stepping on them or causing other damage.

 

#5 super strict drug laws

After the widespread reporting of the 'Bali 9', you must have been hiding under a rock if you aren't aware of the super-strict drug laws in place in Indonesia, a country where getting caught smuggling is tantamount to a death sentence. 

Just don't do it. Seriously.

 

#6 laundry from small street shops is MUCH cheaper than hotels

Unsurprisingly, anything you order within your hotel is a lot more expensive than if you go and track it down yourself. This is true of taxis, food and especially laundry. 

From a small laundry in the town, expect to pay around Rp. 7000 per kilo, whereas is hotels you'll pay significantly more than that for one item!

 

#7 don't be afraid to barter

Besides fancy boutiques, restaurants and convenience stores - the first price you're quoted is rarely the actual price, so don't be afraid to haggle.

Beach stall, Bali, Indonesia

We know it can be pretty daunting at first, but local Balinese are used to it and won't be offended if you give it a go! Just don't take the piss. 

 

#8 learn a few local words

We love being able to visit a country and communicate, even just a little bit, in the local language. And Bali is no exception. Whilst the vast majority will speak enough English to communicate with you (albeit sometimes only the basics), even being able to say 'hello', 'thank you', and 'please' will be really appreciated here - and will go a long way in the bartering process!

 

#9 be aware of the stray dogs

After so long in Latin America, we'd gotten used to stray dogs - but that doesn't mean that seeing all the homeless pups on the beach and streets of Bali didn't break my heart. There are a number of shelters and rescue homes on the island, but unfortunately it's still a huge problem here. 

None of the dogs that I encountered appeared particularly aggressive but that doesn't mean I'd be happy to go over and pet them all! Exercise common sense, and if you are unfortunate enough to be bitten (even if it doesn't break the skin) go and see a doctor immediately.

 

#10 surfing is huge

For decades, Bali has been a huge draw for surfers from all over the world - and for good reason! During the dry season the swell around the island can be huge.

But this doesn't mean that it's only for pros. There are several surf schools around Seminyak and Kuta, and surf board rental is pretty cheap.



#11 the ultimate spot for a cheap massage

Massage parlours abound in Bali, advertising almost every beauty treatment you can imagine. And they're cheap! For anywhere between Rp. 100,000 and 150,000 you can get a one hour full body massage. To put that in perspective, that's a full hour of bliss starting from around £6.25!!!

 

#12 balinese is not always the same as indonesian

If you've coming to Bali after travelling through the rest of Indonesia, you may notice that the language is a little different here. It shouldn't cause too many issues, but it's something to be aware of.

 

#13 Bali is more than its reputation

Certainly in Australia, Bali has a bit of a reputation. It's kind of like their version of the Costa del Sol.

Ubud, Bali, Indonesia

However, whilst there is no denying that there are sections of the island hugely affected by mass tourism, it is absolutely possible to still find hidden beaches, quiet resorts and peaceful hikes - you just have to do your research first!

 

#14 be aware of added tax in bars/restaurants

By law, all bars and restaurants must charge an additional 21% on their food and drink prices. Whilst some add this in to the menu price, others will include small print stating it will be added to the bill. This is completely legit, however, it's definitely something to be aware of as will add a hearty chunk on to your bill at the end of the meal!

 

#15 no malaria but lots of mozzies!

Before heading out to Indonesia, I dutifully checked for guidelines on the presence of malaria in Indonesia - and was delighted to find out that the areas I was visiting are malaria free! But that doesn't mean that the mosquitos have upped sticks and left. As dusk approaches be sure to wear long-sleeved tops and trousers or apply a repellent liberally. Additionally, if you're staying somewhere without windows or screens, consider a mosquito net.

 

#16 veggies are welcome

Bali literally has a restaurant to cater to every taste - and that includes vegetarians! In fact, the busy areas of Kuta, Legian and Seminyak are teeming with organic, raw, health, veggie and even vegan restaurants.

Even in the most traditional of eateries, you'll find chefs happy to alter a dish to make it meat free.

 

#17 you can tip but it's not expected

Ah, tipping. This is a practice that continues to confuse us Brits - we don't want to appear rude, but we also don't want to pay extra when it's not necessary. Thankfully, it's completely up to you here. If you were given particularly good service then a tip won't be refused, but you won't be considered a complete arse if one is not provided.

The only exception here is in fancy restaurants where a service charge is often added to your bill.

 

#18 the issue 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. Now, I'm pretty awful at ignoring these people, especially if they try and make conversation first. This will inevitably lead to first-world guilt and the purchasing of said bracelet for Rp. 10,000.

Unfortunately, and I say this from experience, it will not stop at one person - it's like you're seen as weak prey and descended upon by several woman all trying to sell you exactly the same thing! It can be a bit overwhelming, especially if you're on your own. 

At the end of the day, a small amount of money to you could mean all the difference to these people, but don't feel pressured into buying everything. And if you are better at saying no than me, then do try and be polite (even if the hawker isn't necessarily returning the favour).

 

#20 take note of warning flags at the beach

Even along stretches of coast that are traditionally safe for swimmers, sea conditions can change a suddenly, rip currents appear and the ocean become quite dangerous - even in the shallows.

Seminyak Beach, Bali, Indonesia

Thankfully, along the busier beaches there is a system of places red flags in theses areas, so please do take note.

 

#21 download go-jek

Like several places in the world, Bali has banned Uber. So, locals have turned to another app called 'Go-Jek'. Through it you can do all sorts of things such as ordering shopping and courier services, but most often it's used for hailing a taxi or moto-taxi. Definitely one to consider if you're going to be around for a while!

 

#22 don't panic at the ATM

There are two important things to know about using ATMs in Bali. Firstly, you may well find that not all of them work for you. One ate my card for a good 3 minutes (queue lots of panic and expletives aimed at said ATM), another would only give the equivalent of £15 per withdrawal (not great when you're getting charged a couple of quid just for the pleasure of using the ATM), and several refused to acknowledge my card at all. 

And it turns out that I was not the only one. Unfortunately, there didn't appear to be any consistency amongst us international set of backpackers, so my recommendation is to try a few - don't panic, eventually you'll find one that works!

The second important thing to note is that it gives you your cash before your card, making it far too easy to walk away without it!


Plan your trip to Bali

As with many places in the world, it's the dry season that attracts the visitors, with July and August attracting thousands of visitors to the island. 

Of course, if you have no choice but to visit then, you'll still have an amazing time, but bear in mind that if you can visit between April - June or in September, you'll have the best of both worlds - it's still dry season, it's slightly less humid, and room prices and villa rentals can be 30-50% cheaper than during the peak summer months. 

Bali's international airport is a hub for flights arriving from Asian destinations, and whilst there are currently no direct flights, there are several indirect departures per day from a variety of British airports - with return journeys costing as little as £340, even last minute. To browse the best value flights from airports near you, click here.


 
 

 
Planning a trip to Bali? Don't miss these 22 incredibly useful things to know before you go! Click on the pin to discover more.
 

Along Dusty Roads visited Indonesia as part of a project with Skyscanner and the Indonesian Ministry of Tourism - all views, spelling mistakes and photos are our own.


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