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
- Essential Bali Travel Tips ~ What to Know Before You Go! Part II (Current)
- 30 (+2) Crazy Facts About Bali That Will Blow Your Mind!
If you haven’t been to Bali before and you’re planning your very first trip, there are a few things you should know in order to get the most out of your trip! If you haven’t read my first blog post with essential tips for Bali (visa restriction, money, security, vaccination, etc.) go and check it here!
There is no doubt – Bali has changed during the past 50 years. Many of you who are planning a trip to the Island of a Thousand Temples are questioning whether Bali has lost its Magic due to the mass tourism going on… But you should ask the same question when you’re heading to Venice, London, Paris or Barcelona. My answer is: it has changed, but the magic is still there! There is a reason why so many people want to visit a certain place and the reasons for Bali are numerous!
The traffic in Bali is CRAZY! Even out of the rush hour! Bali is a small island and when you look at the map you’ll guess that a ride will take only a few minutes. … BUT – the roads are narrow, there are thousands of trucks, motorbikes, cars and taxis – it will take (always!) much longer than expected!
Public Transport (Trans Sarbagita): Fares are very cheap and the buses operate from 05:00 to 21:00. If you have more than enough time in Bali but less money instead, I can recommend using the public transport. For example, you can choose to travel by Bemos minibuses which (should) carry about 12 people but most of the time there are more than 20 people inside the bus. Getting from A to B could last forever. Timeliness is also a thing.
Taxis: Taxis can be tricky as well! Be aware when arriving at the airport – there are a lot of fake taxis which will cost you sometimes more than the double price. Make sure you negotiate the price for the distance before getting into the car and pay after arriving! The best option if you decide to travel by taxi is the Bluebird Taxi – there are super clean, cheap, reliable and easy to order via Bluebird App (or call +62 (0)361 701 111).
Uber and Grab Taxi: There is a lot of information online that Uber and Grab Taxis are banned in Bali, but this is not true! They are just not “welcomed” in Bali. Grab was my favourite kind of travel option for getting around in Malaysia, but in Bali, it was much more difficult to find a car on time. But you can download the Uber and Grab App, maybe you’ll be luckier than me by finding a car…
Rent a Motorbike: for renting a car or motorbike you will need an international drivers’ license. This is the most favourable travel option in Bali, maybe because it is also the cheapest (except the public transport). Renting a motorbike costs about 6 € per day and for a long-term rental (1 month) only 2 € per day. BUT REMEMBER: Bali drives on the left, it is home to a crazy traffic, even out of the rush hour! Drive with caution and always wear a helmet! A helmet is not required in Bali, but after seeing the traffic there you are a fool if you don’t wear one!
Ojek: An ojek is a motorcycle or motorbike that takes a paying passenger and works like a taxi. The ojeks often don’t have an extra helmet for the passengers, but it is up to you if you feel good or not. The ojeks are cheap, but in my opinion, not that reliable.
Private Drivers: If you don’t have enough time, the best and my favourite option which works perfect in Bali, is to explore the islands with a private driver! Make sure you work direcly with the locals – good for you and for the local families too! My favourite local drivers are: Agung Chack: 006281999503607, Made Agus Artama: 006281236590055 – they will drive you anywhere you want and also tell you many interesting insider tips and stories about Bali!
The total population of Bali is about 4.5 Million and about 4.5 Million tourists visited Bali in 2016! Bali is one of the most visited spots on Earth so you can expect crowd for sure! Most of the crowds are in the south region of the island (Kuta, Denpasar, Legian, etc). But beyond the tourist centres and especially in the north of Bali you can still enjoy a lot of chilled out areas and secluded corners without tourists.
Probably the most important thing for me while travelling is to stay connected. I’m always researching online for the best travel SIM Card with Mobile Internet and I try to buy it right after arriving at the airport. I did the same thing in Bali. Indonesia offers a tons of SIM providers you can choose from and each option has pre-paid packages at different prices and features.
SIM Cards: The most popular providers for travellers in Indonesia are Telkomsel (simPATI) and XL Axiata. Telkomsel provides 4 GB Data package starting at 6 € and for 8 GB Data Package is about 10 €. XL Axiata has a package with 4 GB Data at 7 € and 8 GB Data at 14 €. Anyway, the best provider with most-stable and widest signal coverage is considered to be Telkomsel. You can buy the SIM cards at kiosks and all kind of different stores and the price is the same.
WLAN WiFi: WiFi is available almost everywhere in Bali! The best place for Digital Nomads is in Canggu – there you can find plenty of Internet Cafes with great WiFi and power sockets. WiFI in the hotels is almost always for free and to be honest, the connection is with very good quality!
Electricity: Bali’s electricity power supply operates at 220 Volts and50Hz. In Bali they have the same power socket (two-pronged) like in many European Countries that operate at 220-240v / 50Hz.
Respect the Culture and Religion
If I had to choose only one word in order to describe Bali it would be “Culture”! Culture is everywhere you look, everything you see. Remember the fact, that Balinese is different than Indonesian in terms of culture and religion. Different than in Indonesia, 95% of the population in Bali is Hindu (Islam has 87.2% adherents in Indonesia). The language is different too – the official language in Bali is Indonesian, but the locals speak also Balinese and Balinese Malay too.
Religion plays the main role in Bali! Interesting to know is that Bali and Nepal are the only places outside India, where Hindus dominate! The locals call their religion Agama Tirta which means the “Science of the Holy Water” which combines more animist than Hinduism proper. The Balinese religion mixes Buddhist and Hindu Elements and links them to animistic practices! In the Balinese Animism the good and the bad spirits exist together and Balinese respect, believe and pray to all of them. The offerings are for the good and the bad spirits too!
For the Balinese Hindus, God is in the colour too: the main colours are red, white, yellow and blue. Each one belongs to a God: Red – Brahma, Black – Wisnu, white – Iswara, Yellow – Mahadeva and Blue – Sambhu. When all colours are mixed together they become Siwa!
Culture is everywhere you look: The culture and everyday’s life in Bali rotates around the Hindu rituals, festivals, ceremonies, praying … You can see the offerings to Gods and Demons everywhere on the streets, houses, temples, hotels, restaurants. (The smell of the Balinese incense sticks and candles is also everywhere) The offerings or “canang sari” are laid out at least thrice daily! Even the drivers do have their offering plate in the car where they put the presents for the got every day in the morning! While walking on the street watch out for prayer offerings and don’t step on them!
The offerings are beautiful little packages. Some of them are woven baskets with flowers inside, but of them are made of banana leaves that hold tiny portions of rice, flowers and sometimes even sweets.
One of the most important things in Bali is following the custom and etiquette which sometimes differs from the “usual” etiquette in Europe, North America or Australia.
Etiquette for Visiting Hindu Temples: Make sure you cover your knee and shoulders (especially the women!). Wear sarong, which is usually wrapped around the waist. The best thing you can do is to have your own Sarong or a long scarf, but if you don’t have one you can get it everywhere at the entrance to the temple against a small fee (donation) of IDR 10.000,00. Temples are generally free to visit but donations are always welcomed (and a must!).
The most interesting happenings in Bali are the ceremonies which are going on all the time. Just make sure you’re are not in the first row – tourists are not always warmly welcomed. Especially during cremation or other temple ceremonies, you should be rather considering to stay respectful in the background, observing the happening very quiet.
Beach Etiquette: Dear Western European (and others), don’t swan around naked! All beach bars, restaurants and coffee shops have some kind of dress code which means you don’t have to be bikini-dining! You can always use sarong, scarf, t-shirt or whatever you want to, but don’t saunter naked like in France or Italy…
What to pack for Bali
Umbrella or Raincoat: 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. 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.
50% DEET Spray: There is no vaccination against malaria or dengue fever so you have to prevent the mosquito bites as far as you can. 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.
Sunscreen: Sunscreen is veeery expensive in Bali! 100 ml cost about 15 €, so make sure you have enough in your bag. Be aware of the Sun! 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!
Medicaments: Traveller’s diarrhea 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-diarrhea pills (like Imodium) with you.
Nappies, Sanitary Towels, Panty Liners, Tampons: These are also very expensive and difficult to get in Bali, Nusa Islands, Gili Islands and Lombok as well.
Food and Drinks
The Food and Drinks in Bali are excellent! You can find a plenty of restaurants (especially in Ubud) where you can get some amazing healthy food. I have never seen so many Veggie and Vegetarian restaurants like in Ubud. But if you’re rather into some Western food like burgers you’ll be happy too.
Otherwise, the food is very Asian – almost everything is fried! Nasi goreng is everywhere, babi guling (suckling pig), satay, rending, gado-gado, mie goreng, lontong, soto,nasi uduk, etc. The Balinese like it hot, and I liked it too! And of course, I should not forget my favourite thing about Southeast Asia – the best smoothies and fruits ever!
Balinese cuisine was not as good as the Malaysian, but it was tasty and inexpensive though.
To be continued…
Enjoy the day!
Continue reading this series:
30 (+2) Crazy Facts About Bali That Will Blow Your Mind!