Bali in Indonesia is a stunning corner of the world. It has all sorts of natural beauty, great weather, interesting culture and is cheap, so visitors travel there in droves. But, like any unknown place, it can be a bit daunting the first time you visit. I have been twice now, and here are ten travel tips for Bali that will help any first time (or even returning) visitors.
Book Airport Transfers in Advance
Both times we have arrived in Balli it has been late in the evening. Once that was the plan, but the other time our flight was delayed. Arriving in a foreign country can be disorientating at the best of times. Arriving at night after what has probably been a long flight is even worse. Walking out of the airport you will be confronted with dozens of touts trying to sell you their business and it’s almost impossible to know which is the best option with everyone putting pressure on you to go with them.
So before you travel, arrange a transfer to your accommodation. This is not my usual recommendation (I usually recommend public transport) but in Bali I believe this is the best option. You will be met with someone with your name on a sign rather than having to try to pick out the genuine taxis from the fake ones.
For my last trip I booked transfers to and from the airport directly with Klook and I was very impressed with the service. The drivers were both on time, drove in a very safe manner and were courteous, friendly and helpful. The transfers were also very cheap. I would happily recommend this service. Click here to have a look at the prices for your next trip.
Getting a SIM card
There is wifi almost everywhere in Bali (I had a giggle when I saw a cafe promoting that it was the only one on the island WITHOUT wifi!) and it mostly seems to be pretty decent, but it is so cheap and easy to pick up a Bali SIM Card for your phone to have your own data too. There is one main reason – apart from all the posts to Instagram – that you will find a sim card handy, and that is to help with ride-share options to get around (see the next point).
I found a great option for a sim card while I was looking for airport transfers so also arranged one through Klook. When I met my driver at the airport, he pointed me in the direction of the Klook person with the sim cards. The sim card was installed and set up on my phone, and about a minute later I was walking away with working calls, text and data. It cost me about $10AUD ($6.84USD/€6.18) for 16gb of data but there are other options too. That was more than enough for my visit and I found it to be reliable in all the places we went during our week. Click here to have a look at the deal.
We’ve all heard stories about being ripped off by taxis when travelling, and Bali has a bit of a reputation for this occurring. If you are going to catch taxis, then the recommendation is to always use Blue Bird Taxis. These blue taxis are clearly marked with their name on the door and a distinctive bird shape on the light on the roof. The only problem is that almost every other taxi company also now has blue cars and a roof light with a similar logo, so it is important to look carefully. No matter which taxi you use, always insist that the meter is turned on during your trip.
To help find a Blue Bird Taxi there is an app that can be downloaded which can be used to order them. Search for “My Blue Bird Taxi” in the app stores. While we did download the app and have a look at it, we didn’t end up actually using it.
Ride sharing is also popular in Bali. The local Gojek is most common, with both bikes and cars available. The other option is Grab, South East Asia’s version of Uber. All of these have apps to be downloaded to your phone.
What I found with all of the above options is that often they are not available in certain locations. Where we stayed in Canggu, for example, there were signs everywhere saying to use local taxis, and our accommodation would not call us a Blue Bird Taxi as that was not the local company. So your options are to go with the local taxis or use one of the apps. In all honesty, taxis are so cheap that if you pay a dollar or two more then it’s not the end of the world.
Private drivers are a common way to get around if you would like to travel further afield. We paid 600k rupiah ($62AUD/$43USD/€39) for a 10 hour day and thought it was a great deal. There are many drivers available on sites such as Viator (click here to see) or through your accommodation.
Hiring a motorbike is another way to get around Bali – but I do not recommend this if you don’t already have experience riding one and good travel insurance. The traffic on the island is crazy and the roads are really narrow so this is not the place to learn. You will find places to hire motorbike all over during your visit, or you could hire one in advance to be delivered to you hotel here
There is a local tourist bus that has various routes all over the island called the Kura Kura Bus. I’ve not personally tried it, but it could be a great option for a solo traveller or couple where it will be cheaper than a private driver. Click here to see rates and for more information.
As an Australian tipping is not really a thing for me. It’s not really a thing in Bali either. If you would like to tip, the best idea is to simply round up. While even 10000 rupiah (about $1AUD/$0.70USD/€0.64) is not much for the traveller and may feel “cheap”, the average Balinese daily wage is only around 50000 – 100000 rupiah so it represents a good portion of a day’s earnings. With such low wages, while not expected, most people would appreciate a small token of appreciation, particularly if they have done a good job. Having said that, there are many arguments against tourists tipping excessively in cultures that do not traditionally tip, and I think Bali is a good place to consider some of the impacts that it can have. To me this means rounding up, or just a dollar or two, is the best way to go.
On landing in Bali you will want some Indonsian Rupiah. While many places now take credit cards, cash is still needed for smaller transactions as well as taxis, markets and smaller stores. I always get currency on arrival and did so using an ATM in the airport after collecting our luggage and before emerging into the arrivals hall.
When getting further cash during your visit, always look for an ATM inside or connected to a bank. There are many stories of ATMs being used to skim card details, and even keeping the card, so ensure you take the precaution to test for any unusual additions to the card slot and to cover the keypad when putting in your pin.
Currency exchange places are in all the touristy areas of the island. I’ve never used one, but I would again recommend caution as stories of being scammed at currencey exchanges are also common. Always be aware of the current rates using an app such as XE and make sure you are the last person to touch and count the money you are being given.
For more hints and tips on the best way to handle foreign currency, see my post on it here
Bali enjoys hot, humid weather all year round. Thanks to it’s tropical location, it is always warm enough to swim here, and you will not need to pack a jacket. There are two different seasons though – the wet season and the dry season. The wet, or monsoon season is from October to March, and the dry season is from April to September. While the peak time to visit is in the dry season, even if you do go in the wet season, you are unlikely to see more than a few showers in the afternoon. During my recent visit in November/December, we only had rain on one day and that was as we visited the mountains rather than down in the main tourist areas.
The Bali maximum temperatures range from about 27-34 Celsius (around 80-95 Fahrenheit) but the humidity often makes it feel much hotter. Consider this when planning and schedule strenuous outdoor activities in the mornings.
Drinking and Eating
While visiting Bali you will want to avoid the dreaded Bali Belly. This is a common ailment, more widely described as traveller’s diarrhoea. Mostly it’s picked up from eating food that has not been cooked properly or that has been left sitting out once cooked, or from water. The best ways to avoid it are to be careful about what you eat and drink. Here are some recommendations:
- Don’t drink the tap water – While I am usually against drinking bottled water to cut down on all that plastic, Bali is one place where you will need to consider it. Check though if your accommodation provides drinking water that you can use to refill your own water bottle. During our recent stay we could do this so didn’t have to buy bottled water. Another option is to download the refillmybottle app to your phone to find nearby places to, well, refill your bottle!
- Consider avoiding ice in your drinks – I don’t think this one is so important now as it used to be as more places realise the risk, but it could still be a problem if the ice has been made from tap water.
- Think about any salad vegetables you are eating – could they have been rinsed in tap water right before you eat them? This also goes for fruit. If you want to be especially careful, only eat fruit that can be peeled.
- Choose busy restaurants, especially ones filled with locals – this way you will know there is a good turn over of food and it will be fresh
- Don’t eat from street vendors where the food is sitting there waiting for you – look for street vendors that are cooking the food as you purchase it. You will know it’s hot and fresh
- Realise that ANY place could give you Bali Belly – yes, even McDonalds or other familiar chains. Don’t think you will be safe and can avoid getting sick just by eating at them.
Bali Visas and Entry Requirements
Okay, I know this one is fairly basic, but make sure you check out the visa and entry requirements for your passport before coming to Bali. The best way to get the correct information is through the Indonesian embassy in your country. Often they will have a website with everything you need to know.
Some countries also have a collective government website for checking visa requirements for any country. Here in Australia we have Smart Traveller (https://www.smartraveller.gov.au), the UK it’s on the general gov.uk site (https://www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice) and in the US it’s the State Department (https://www.state.gov)
Indonesia requires that you have proof of exit when you enter, so ensure you have either a return ticket or proof you are traveling onward to your next destination.
As always, check that your passport is valid for six months after you leave Bali to ensure you are not denied boarding before you visit.
In many of the shops and markets haggling is a given when you are in Bali. I am definitely no expert at this – I leave it up to my hubby as he thinks of it like a sport! Remember though that you are often only haggling over a dollar or two and that will usually mean a lot more to the people you are paying than yourself, so be reasonable, have fun, but don’t try to haggle over every last cent.
I have often seen suggestions to start haggling at one third of the original price, or at least a bit less than half. This gives both parties plenty of room to move and will hopefully get you a price around the 60% mark.
Bali is a relatively safe place to visit, but like anywhere, you will need to be aware of what is going on around you at all times. Most crime that happens against tourists is petty theft, such as opportunistic theft (seeing a phone or bags left laying around and taking it) or pickpocketing.
Indonesia has the death penalty in place for drug offences, so avoid any type of drug use during your visit.
As always, make sure you have travel insurance in place before visiting Bali. For Australians, we use and recommend Cover-More. Click here to get a quote for your next trip. For elsewhere in the world, I suggest having a look at World Nomads for your travel insurance needs.
I hope you have found all these tips helpful and you will have a fun and safe trip to beautiful Bali.
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Josie is a forty-something budget traveller. She only discovered travel in her late thirties, but since then has travelled extensively including taking an adult gap year. She is now based in Australia and loves sharing all she has learned about travelling on a budget but with the comforts a Gen Xer requires.