This post is part of the series Bali
Other posts in this series:
- Essential Bali Travel Tips ~ What to Know Before You Go! Part I (Current)
- Essential Bali Travel Tips ~ What to Know Before You Go! Part II
- 30 (+2) Crazy Facts About Bali That Will Blow Your Mind!
In September 2017 I was travelling to Southeast Asia for the second time this year. As we fell in love with Malaysia and Singapore in March, we decided to spend another amazing 2.5 weeks in Bali, Indonesia!
During the past 50 years, the island known as the Island of a Thousand Temples has become a magnet for travellers from all around the World! Although Bali is only one of all 17.508 Indonesian islands, it is the most famous and favoured one among tourists, because of its unique culture and religion, which can be experienced nowhere else!
The Balinese believe that Bali is the “Centre of the World” and even the “Centre of the Universe”! The small tropical island is the home to the Hindu Gods who live in the mountains of Bali: Agung, Batur, Abang and Batukaru. And there is no doubt – you’re going to feel the spirituality of Bali whether you want to or not!
The Island of a Thousand Temples is the home to more than 20.000 official temples so it was definitely not possible to visit all of them during the 2.5 weeks. It would not be possible to visit all of them even if I was going to stay there for one year… It is often said that one life is not enough to discover everything in Bali. And after being there, I could easily imagine why!
Just like any of the countries in Southeast Asia, Indonesia can be tricky too. But if you are aware of several facts about Bali, you will have the best time of your life!
Quick Facts about Bali
Bali is an island and province of Indonesia, located in the Java Sea (Indian Ocean) only 8 degrees from the equator. The island is situated between Java Island to the west and Lombok Island to the east. The province of Bali also includes the three smaller Nusa Islands: Lembongan, Ceningan and Penida, all three located in the east of the main island.
Bali is one of the smaller Islands of Indonesia: Area = 5.636 km2 ; Length = 145 km; Width = 80 km
Bali has four volcanos: Mount Agung 3.031m (an active volcano – last activity 01.01.2018; also the highest point of the Island), Mount Batur 1.717m (an active volcano, most recent eruption was in 2000), Bratan 2.276 m, and Mount Merbuk 1.386 m.
Bali has a total population of 4.225.384 – 84 % of which are Hindu, 13 % Muslim, 2,5% Christian, and 0,5% Buddhist.
The official language in Bali is Indonesian, but the locals speak also Balinese and Balinese Malay.
A Brief History of Bali
The history of Bali dates back to the early prehistoric time, but the very first real human artefacts ever found are 3000 years old stone-tools. By around 2000 BC Bali was inhabited by Austronesian people. The culture of the Island of a Thousand Temples was strongly influenced by Hindu, Chinese, and Indian culture. Back in the ancient times, 9 chief Hindu sects had dominated over Bali: Pasupata, Bhairawa, Siwa Shidanta, Waisnawa, Bodha, Brahma, Resi, Sora, and Ganapatya.
The name Bali comes from Bali Dwipa or “Walidwipa” which translated means Bali Island. “Walidwipa” was used for the first time during the 1st century AD.
The huge Hindu empire called Majapahit established the first Hindu Balinese colony during 13th century followed by massive Hindu emigration of Javanese intellectuals, artists, priests, and musicians from Java to Bali in the 15th century.
The very first European contact of Bali was during the 16th century with some Portuguese and Dutch seafarers, quickly followed by the establishment of the Dutch East India Company. Starting in the 18th century, the Netherlands dominated over the Islands of Indonesia for longer than 250 years till 1930. In 1930 the Island of Gods was occupied by the Imperial Japanese Army. The Independence of Indonesia was proclaimed on 17 August 1945 immediately after the end of WWII but the actual autonomy was officially recognised by the Dutch government in 1949.
Getting to Bali
In 2018 there are 169 countries that receive an Indonesia Free Visa. If you are from any of the following countries, you can travel to Indonesia Visa-Free (for 30 days): Austria, Bulgaria, United Kingdom, Germany, France, the Netherlands, Italy, Spain, Switzerland, Belgium, Sweden, USA, Canada, Russia, New Zeeland, Japan, Norway, Finland, Hungary, Czech Republic, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, etc. The Visa-On-Arrival (VOA) for all other citizens costs 35 USD and can be obtained at the airport. Find more information and the list of all 169 countries here: Visa & Immigration Bali.
Weather, Climate and Seasons
If you ask a Balinese about the seasons, he would answer “We have two seasons: hot and hotter”. And this answer is kind of correct! The annual average temperature stands at around 26° – 27° C and the humidity level is about 85 % – 90%. Water temperature is always pleasant too – from 25° to 31° C the whole year long!
Because of its tropical location, there are only two seasons in Indonesia: the summer (dry) season is from April until September and the rainy (wet) season from October until March. The best time to visit Indonesia and Bali is between May and the end of September. The most rain comes between December and February during the so-called “pancaroba“ season. During these months winds are stronger at the coast and the ocean gets rougher too.
Remember that low and “cheap” season often means “pancaroba“! And with rainy season, Indonesia means R-A-I-N-Y! This tropical rain has nothing to do with the rain we know from Europe or North Amerika. So if you want to spend your time in Bali not locked up in your accommodation, you may decide not to travel between December and February.
Just have in mind: whenever you travel to Bali, you will see some afternoon raindrops during your stay for sure! Indonesia is a tropical country so escaping the rain and humidity is not really possible. So you better bring umbrella or raincoat every time you travel to Bali.
What Vaccinations Do I Need?
Do you need any vaccinations for Bali these days? Well, I think it’s up to you and your own piece of mind and it also depends on where you are going and what you are doing. Bali is much more developed than other Indonesian regions when it comes to hygiene. I, personally, would not travel to Southeast Asia without some basic vaccines like Typhoid, Hepatitis A + B, as well as Diphtheria and Tetanus. But the same vaccinations are important for travelling anywhere in the World!
Whatever you decide to do with your vaccinations, you should start planning at least 7 weeks before departure – some vaccines need to be done twice, e.g.
Typhoid and Malaria do occur on Bali, as well as on the outer Nusa and Gili Islands. Dengue Fever is a problem too. But as far as I know, there is still no vaccine against Dengue Fever so you have to prevent the mosquito bites as far as you can (by 50% DEET spray!). The same thing is with Malaria – there is no vaccination available. Malaria could be a problem if you’re hiking through the jungle or doing mountain trekking during the rainy seasons. The best solution: use 50% DEET spray, wear long sleeves and trousers and sleep inside mosquito nets.
Rabies is an issue in Indonesia and also in Bali. The rabies virus is usually transmitted through a bite from infected animals. Rabies vaccination is still no must if you travel to Bali, but try to avoid the street dogs and monkeys.
Traveller’s diarrheal or the so-called “Bali Belly” is a common problem too. I would recommend you to choose what and where you eat more carefully, and also to bring some anti-diarrheal pills (like Imodium) with you.
Indonesian Rupiah will make you feel like a Billionaire, or at least like a Millionaire!
1€ = 16.200,00 IDR
1$ = 13.400,00 IDR
1 £ = 18.300,00 IDR
1 A$ = 10.200,00 IDR
So, now you can imagine that you’ll be dealing with hundreds Rupiah even if you want to buy only a coffee!
Make sure you have enough cash during your stay in Bali! Exchanging money in Bali can be tricky – always check your money twice! The notes for 5.000,00 IDR and 50.000,00 IDR look very similar e.g… Furthermore, it is not that kind of easy to get used to the money during the first days in Indonesia.
ATMs in Indonesia dispense 50.000, IDR or 100.000,00 IDR bills and of course, there is an extra withdrawal fee for using foreign bank cards and credit cards. But don’t panic at the ATM! I can assure you – first you’ll find that not all of the ATMs will work for you. Sometimes they are out of order, sometimes it takes more than 3 minutes per transaction. Sometimes the ATMs will give you only € 15 per withdrawal. Different than in Europe, sometimes the ATM gives you your cash before your card, so don’t forget your card! Be aware if skimmers and snatchers in the southern Bali (Denpasar, Kuta, etc.).
In Bali paying by card isn’t really a thing so make sure you have cash! Only in the high-end restaurant and boutique shops, you can pay by credit card.
Be aware of added tax in Bars and Restaurants, just like in the USA! This means that the prices on the menu are not the actual prices on the bill. Restaurants and bars will charge you with an extra 21% on food and drinks (by law!), so don’t panic and don’t argue with the waiters.
A tip is always welcomed, but it is not expected! It is always up to you, but if you are happy with the good service, I’ll recommend giving a tip … So don’t be cheap!
Hotels have an extra Fee of at least 50%! If you book your daily trips at the hotel for example, you’ll have to pay an extra fee of 50%! I’m not kidding … It is better to work with locals and local firms. The same thing is with booking a massage, or even by doing your laundry. Everything within the hotel is much more expensive!
You can and you should bargain, but do it respectfully! Busing something on the streets can be an experience for somebody like me, who hates bargaining … But it will be expected. So for example, when somebody wants 100.000,00 IDR for a t-shirt, start bargaining with 50.000,00 (respectful!), not with 10.000,00. It is about the act of bargaining, just don’t push it! You will always get your -30% off. And you’ll know when you have reached the limit of your vendor – they won’t get any lower.
Don’t drink the water! It is not potable. Water from the tap will make you sick and that is definitely the last thing you want during your Bali trip!
Don’t do drugs! Indonesia has some of the most strict drug laws and the penalty for (smuggling!) drugs is death!
Be aware of the street dogs! Well, there are thousands of them, especially in Ubud area. Stray dogs are a huge problem in Bali and the fact that these animals are rabies virus transmitters makes this problem even bigger. The dogs and especially the babies may look cute, but rabies and other diseases are serious risks in Bali! Just to be said: none of the dogs we saw in Bali was aggressive! But, the monkeys …
Be aware of the Monkeys! They can get much more aggressive than the dogs, especially the monkeys on Mount Batur! Don’t wear food, accessories, sunglasses, hats, blink-blink stuff, and cell phones when visiting e.g. the Monkey Forest or Uluwatu Temple. They will get anything they want to and you won’t get it back. Do not try to pet them though – they are wild animals, not pets!
Whatever happens: in case of emergencies call 110 for police and 118 for the ambulance.
The Balinese Roads are Hell on Earth! Millions of vehicles, snatch-thefts, crazy drivers … You don’t have to wear a helmet by law, but I would definitely recommend wearing one!
Be aware of the Sun! Like the rain in Bali, the sun is also something different than the sun we know from Europe … Always wear a sunscreen with 50+ SPF! Not kidding, it will heart if you don’t!
During the wet season, there is a teeny-tiny risk of tsunami – be aware of the flags on the beach and the information at your accommodation. At the beach look for the red flags: if you see a red flag on the beach, do not attempt to swim there.
Bali is an Active Volcano Island! The last huge eruption of Mount Agung was in 1963, and the recent volcanic activities started during my stay in September 2017 and is still going on! Be aware of all news, information and warnings and follow the instructions if something happens.
Bali’s Regions: Where to Go?
There is no doubt – Bali is a very touristy destination! Most of the visitors stick to the southern portion of the island, the party area of Bali. If you like more quiet experience and nature – you should go to the North of the island. And for the “Real Bali”, you should stay in Ubud and Central Bali. Some “Keywords” for the most prominent areas in Bali:
Kuta: party; backpackers; a loooot of Australians; nightlife; cheap accommodations; tasteless; many surfers and surfer schools; sunning; the largest waterpark in Southeast Asia;
Ubud and Central Bali: the “real Bali”; shrine to Balinese Culture; temples; arts; rice fields; yoga retreats; classical artists’ villages; river valleys; five-star retreats; excellent restaurants; wellness programs; heritage museums; art galleries; fashion boutiques; no beaches; from backpacker homestays to luxury resorts;
Seminyak to Canggu: lots of designer villa beach clubs; glam cocktails; quiet sunset beaches; luxury five-star resorts; world-class beach clubs; the gay-friendliest place in Bali; fun bars; shopping paradise; designer boutiques;
Legian: a mix of Seminyak and Kuta; beach resort areas; cheap accommodations; party; nightlife;
Jimbaran: the best sunset in Bali; five-star hotels and restaurants; Seafood Cafes; High-End Shopping; cocktail bars;
Amed and Tulamben: snorkelling; diving; chilling; seaport; bridging Bali to Lombok and Gili Islands; good low to middle price range;
Sanur: middle budget tourism; chilling; good restaurants; first tourism resort area in Bali; laidback and quiet; relaxing atmosphere; perfect for honeymooners; local art shops and high-end boutiques;
Candidasa: quiet coastal escape; no sandy beaches; perfect sea panoramas; cheap accommodations; great restaurants; ancient Balinese villages; much more laid back than Kuta and much cleaner sea water than Sanur; traditional arts; hand-made crafts and fabrics;
Nusa Dua: luxury hotels; high-end restaurants; the best beaches in Bali; white sand;
East Bali: nature, volcanoes, trekking, hiking, Mount Agung, Mound Batur
Padangbai: seaport; bridging Bali to Lombok and Gili Islands;
Denpasar: very close to the airport; non-touristy; cheap accommodations;
Jimbaran: from low to super high budget; bay; good fish and seafood restaurants; fantastic sunsets; laid-back atmosphere; aircraft noise;
Lovina: backpacker destination; middle range accommodations; excellent low-cost restaurants; long drive from the airport;
Pemuteran: Menjangan National Park; small village; limited number of hotels; snorkelling; relaxed holidays; shallow waters;
There are plenty of accommodations in Bali and there is no need to book in advance, BUT I don’t recommend it especially during the high season! Depending on your time to stay in Bali I would consider booking online beforehand if you have only 2 weeks, for example. It is less stress and you can get some great offers when booking with Booking.com or Airbnb.
To be continued…
Enjoy the day!
Continue reading this series:
Essential Bali Travel Tips ~ What to Know Before You Go! Part II