Imagine the scenery: paradisiacal beaches, tropical forests, green rice fields, active volcanoes, religious temples with unique architecture, exotic culture and friendly people. Open your eyes and you realize you are going to Bali!
With so much to see and do in Bali, it’s easy to forget some important things to be considered if you want to have a pleasant and stress-free vacation. For this reason, we bring 6 important tips to keep in mind while traveling in Bali. Make sure you read them before starting your trip!
- Where to stay
Bali’s attractions are not really close to each other. It actually can take more than 3 hours to travel the island from north to south, not considering the traffic that can be pretty intense.
For this reason, it’s recommended to choose one or two areas to stay in Bali and avoid moving around too much. Here is a summary of the most popular areas to help you choose what’s best for you:
- Ubud: the place to learn more about the history and culture of Bali. Despite the big influx of tourists flooding the area, the place is very successful keeping its unique identity, the religious ceremonies and the fame of being the cultural spot in Bali. Other than its rich culture, very near Ubud you will find a rural setting with beautiful landscape and farmers working the same way their descendants did for centuries. These locations offer great opportunities to explore many natural attractions such as rice terraces, volcanoes and waterfalls, as well as temples
- Kuta: Bali’s most popular tourist destination and is especially popular with Australians thirsty for Bintang (the country’s beer). Kuta is a place for partying, surfing, tank tops with funny writings, burnt bodies turned pink, exotic-looking shopping malls, imitation shoes and clothes, cheap souvenirs, hotels and resorts on the beach. Popular activities in Kuta include surfing, shopping, partying, watching sunset, visiting museums and parks, or you can use one of the many spas and spend some time relaxing and pampering yourself
- Legian and Seminyak: if you’re a nature lover but also can’t miss a good drink and a night out, don’t worry: Bali has it all. With a very pleasant atmosphere, several restaurants, shops and beach clubs, as well as good places to enjoy the nightlife, Seminyak is the place people go to when you want to enjoy the fancy side of Bali. Besides that, Seminyak also has some glorious beaches with legendary sunsets and it’s a great place for those who want to take surfing classes
- Canggu: small village north of two of the busiest towns in Bali: Kuta and Seminyak. Despite being considered a surfers hotspot and maintaining the same youthful and relaxed vibe of the other towns, Canggu still preserves a quieter side with a much less touristy vibe. It’s still possible to find rice terraces and beautiful landscapes in Canggu, very similar to what you find in Ubud because the area is still not fully developed. It’s also a place full of quiet and cute organic and vegetarian cafes and restaurants with lots of colorful food. The decoration of these cafes along with the beautiful nature around make them the perfect places for Instagram pictures!
- Sanur: generally a quieter place without the hustle of other regions in south Bali. The location was actually Bali’s first resort. It is famous for its calm and peaceful atmosphere, ideal for families and those looking to escape for a relaxed vacation. There are more locals on the streets and less shops if compared to Kuta and Seminyak. It still retains some of the characteristics of a small fishing village, not being currently a tourist capital. Also, you will find several water sports options, such as surfing, free diving (snorkeling) or scuba diving and much more
- Uluwatu: one of the best surf destinations in the world. Its white sands, blue waters, and of course, the perfect waves make this place any surfer’s dream. But, if surfing is not your thing, Uluwatu should still be on your itinerary! With a laid-back vibe, totally outside the hustle and bustle of places like Kuta or Seminyak, Uluwatu is ideal for anyone looking to explore beautiful beaches, simply relax on the top of a limestone cliff overlooking the beautiful Indian Ocean, beach clubs or visiting temples and Balinese cultural attractions. It is in this spectacular setting that you will find some of the best beaches on the island of Bali, whether for surfing or relaxing
- Nusa Dua: this is an almost private beach with very clear and calm waters, full of huge resorts that have practically closed off access to the sand. Ideal place if you are looking for a more private and exclusive trip with family or a romantic getaway. The beach, despite looking calm, is also famous for surfing on the outside after the reef.
- Respect the religious customs and local culture
Bali is a predominant Hindu and sacred island with lots of customs that locals live by every day. It is important to respect their culture, religion and the way they live. Depending where you are and the situation you are in, it’s also important to dress appropriately to respect the local culture.
For example, if you are visiting a temple, you can wear short-sleeved T-shirts but it is necessary to wear a sarong (a garment consisting of a long piece of cloth wrapped round the body and tucked at the waist or under the armpits) for both men and women. Sarong is usually provided without a cost before entering the temple or you can bring your own. Moreover, it is respectful to cover your shoulders and to remove your shoes before entering the temple.
Other recommendations when visiting Bali include taking off your shoes when entering a local’s home and being mindful of the offerings on the ground. You will see these offerings everywhere. Be careful not to step on them while walking or run over if you are driving. \
- 10 useful phrases in Indonesian
There are more than 700 languages in Indonesia, which represent 10% of all languages spoken in the world. This places Indonesia as the second most linguistically diverse nation in the world, after Papua New Guinea.
The official language is Indonesian (known locally as Bahasa Indonesia). The Indonesian language vocabulary comes from Indonesian regional languages such as Javanese, Sundanese, and Minangkabau, as well as Dutch, Sanskrit, Portuguese, Arabic, and more recently, English. Most Indonesians speak other languages, such as Balinese, which is obviously spoken in Bali.
The majority of the population in Bali speak both Indonesian and Balinese, as well as English in touristic areas. A great way to show respect to the local culture is by saying a word here and there in Indonesian. The locals will be happy to see that you are trying to speak their language and it’s a great way to have a good first impression when meeting a local. Here follow 10 useful phrases in Indonesian that can be used while you visit Bali:
Selamat pagi, selamat siang, selamat malam – Good morning, good afternoon, good evening
Apa Kabar – How are you?
Baik, terima kasih dan Anda? – Fine, thank you, and you?
Sama-sama – You’re welcome
Ya, tidak – Yes, no
Permisi – Excuse me
Selamat tinggal – Goodbye
Berapa harganya – How much is this?
Kiri, kanan – left, right
Hati-hati – take care
- Avoid plastic water bottles
Bali has been trying to solve the plastic problem and there are some highlights in this effort. In late 2018, Bali Governor Wayan Koster announced a ban on plastic bags, polystyrene and plastic straws. The Indonesian government has also pledged to reduce marine plastic litter by 70% by 2025. Also, the Bali government is converting the island’s largest landfill, the 32-hectare Suwung landfill in the capital Denpasar, into an ecological park to produce energy from waste.
The mentality of the Balinese has been changing the last few years towards a more sustainable lifestyle. You can also join the efforts to preserve the island’s natural resources by using a stainless steel bottle that you can refill. Most good cafes and restaurants have a water filter available that you can use for free or for a small fee.
- Bargain respectfully
Bargaining is common in Bali and totally acceptable. The locals try to get the highest price for their products and tourists try to bring home unique local souvenirs for the best price possible. Nothing wrong with that. But remember that the economy in Bali is totally dependent on tourism and the island is healing from the catastrophic recent pandemic
that decimated the income of most local people. Moreover, some products the locals sell require a lot of effort to be produced, sometimes even weeks or months. Paying a fair price for their art is a great way to show respect to their hard work.
Therefore, make sure to bargain in a nice and respectful way. If you feel that the vendor won’t reduce the price, just keep walking and look for another place. Just keep in mind that sometimes small amounts won’t make a difference for the majority of tourists, but any penny goes a long way in a place where the income is so low.
- Travel safely
Visiting Bali is exciting and an amazing experience but there are some precaution that need to be taken if you want to have a pleasant and safe trip:
- ATMs: there have been cases of digital pad skimming devices found in ATMs, so it is always wise to use ATMs placed in banks, shopping malls and places with security cameras
- Traffic: if you decide to drive, know that in Bali they drive on the left hand side. Be extra careful even when you are crossing the street. Make sure you look to the right first, and not to the left. Moreover, the traffic in Bali might be a little overwhelming with so many cars, scooters, motorcycles, people crossing and dogs running across the street. Not even mentioning that the traffic rules are not always respected. Therefore, it is totally recommended to hire a driver if you prefer to have a headache-free vacation
- Mosquitoes and insects: it’s strongly advised to always use insect repellants during your stay on the island. Although there have been no cases of malaria reported the last few years, there are cases of dengue fever transmitted through insects, which adds another reason to always wear repellants
- Water: it’s not safe to drink tap water in Bali. Make sure to always drink bottled water, which is cheap and found everywhere. It’s also advisable to brush your teeth with bottled water to avoid “Bali Belly” (upset stomach or diarrhea that lasts a few days and it’s caused by a bacteria found in the food and water)
- Animals: be careful with stray dogs that can be found everywhere. They might look adorable but sometimes they are rabies carriers. It is not recommended to play with a stray dog you just saw on the street. Other than dogs, watch out for monkeys especially in Uluwatu and Ubub. Although they won’t do any physical harm to you, they will try to snatch any of your belongings
- Ocean: respect the power of the ocean. Waves and currents in Bali are very strong. Every year many people disappear after attempting to swim in the beaches of Bali. If the ocean doesn’t look safe for a swim, just avoid it
- Personal bags and phones: just like in many other countries, snatch thieves are common in Bali, especially at night and when you are on a scooter or on the sidewalk. It’s nothing to be paranoid about but definitely to be aware of