As a somewhat seasoned Bali traveller, I thought it was time for me to share my most helpful Bali travel tips. Here’s what I think you need to know before you visit Bali, so you can have the best time possible.
I just worked out that my recent return to Bali in August marked my seventh visit to the island in the past 13 years. Bali will always be special to me, as it was the first overseas destination I visited at 16 with my family. That was when the travel bug bit me. I’ve already published some Bali content on Hayley on Holiday — like my Bali packing list tips and where to eat in Legian — but now I’m sharing my most useful Bali travel tips. I hope these tips set you up and help you have the best Bali holiday possible. It won’t be hard, trust me.
Bali transport tips
• Firstly, don’t be alarmed by the utter chaos that is Bali traffic. It’s the definition of organised chaos. Scooter drivers are expert weavers and dodgers. During this last trip, we rode our bikes along a beach path and then the road in Sanur, and I found the road so much easier as every car and scooter dodged me. It was great.
• When you arrive at the airport, you will be greeted with a mass of people holding signs. A lot of Balinese hotels will organise airport transfers for you at a reasonable price, which is what I usually do. However, the cheaper option is getting a taxi. Before you exit the airport, there’s a desk where you can organise a taxi at a prepaid price. Remember to screenshot your accommodation details beforehand to show staff.
• Speaking of taxis, Bluebird is the most reliable taxi service in Bali, as they always use their meter (or should). There’s also Ngurah Rai, but their drivers will barter with you and not always turn on the meter. If you want to barter go ahead, otherwise just make sure they turn the meter on when you get in.
• The Uber alternative in Asia is Grab. I used the app in Singapore and it was a little cheaper than a taxi. My friend used it quite a lot in Bali, where you can ride on the back of a scooter or in a car.
• As you walk down any street in Bali, locals will ask you if you want transport or a taxi. A popular thing to do in Bali is hire a driver for the day to go to tourist attractions outside of the Kuta/Sanur area. We’ve done this on every trip and we’ve seen sights like Uluwatu Temple, Ubud, Tanah Lot, Turtle Island and Bali Zoo. Another option is doing a Viator tour. There are hundreds to choose from and they’re pretty reasonably priced too. My recommendations: day trips to Uluwatu (better than Tanah Lot in my opinion), Nusa Penida, Ubud and this general sightseeing option.
Bali airport tips
• As of right now, Australians don’t need a visa to enter Bali for a holiday of 30 days or less. For more information, check out this guide.
• The airport has gotten a huge renovation in recent years (I still fondly remember its previous look), but give yourself plenty of time to get through security. My flight left at 1pm on a weekday and I was standing in the immigration line for nearly 50 minutes. It was not fun.
• When you arrive in Bali, you may also have to wait a very long time for your luggage. Last time it was nearly 40 minutes after we landed — and a baggage carousel change later — that I was finally reunited with my suitcase.
Bali belly tips
• I am basically an expert in recovering from Bali belly these days. It’s unfortunate, but the most important thing to remember is DON’T DRINK THE WATER. Bottled water is so cheap in Bali, so remember to use it for everything, including brushing your teeth.
• We also take a Travelan before every meal, which is meant to line your stomach and help in avoiding travellers diarrhoea. Other items you should include in your Bali first aid kit include (these are Aussie examples): buscopan forte for stomach cramps and imodium.
• You should also never visit Bali without travel insurance. You can get very affordable policies through reputable companies like Travel Insurance Direct and World Nomads. It’s always better to be safe than sorry when it comes to travel insurance.
Bali shopping tips
• I hate conflict, so I hate bartering. But it’s a way of life in Bali. Before I barter, I usually have a price in my head that’s how much I expect to pay. So if I want to pay 70,000IRP and they come in at say 200,000IRP (they will always start at the most ridiculous price), I would counter with 50,000IRP and work my way towards my goal.
It also helps to have the correct cash on you. If you hold out 70,000IRP, they are more inclined to accept your price. But sometimes shop owners won’t budge, which is okay. You’ll find the same products at hundreds of stalls across Bali. Try your luck somewhere else or just go to a fixed price shop like I do. More on that below.
• The only place you wouldn’t barter is in a fixed price shop. This is either a clothing store behind glass doors (like Billabong), or a street shop that specifies it’s fixed price. I LOVE fixed price shopping. Visit Ketut in Legian or Jenny in Sanur if you also want to avoid bartering like me.
• I’ve spent the majority of my time in Bali around Legian. I love heading to Legian beach for sunset, but it can be chaotic. Although we’re friends with a few of the beach sellers, people will constantly come up to you and ask if you want a tattoo, jewellery, hats, etc. The best thing to do is say a simple no, thank you (you’ll get used to saying it everywhere you go). However, if you show even the slightest interest in what they’re selling, they will pounce.
General Bali travel tips
• I don’t personally get a SIM card in Bali, because I’m usually always with my family and basically every restaurant and cafe has WiFi. However, my Canadian friend introduced me to Klook on our most recent trip and I’m impressed. They meet you at the airport with a bargain SIM card. Effortless and efficient — what more could you want?
• Like many Southeast Asian countries, the minimum wage in Bali is extremely low. So it’s commonplace to tip your taxi driver, restaurant server and masseuse. I usually just like to round the amount up. For example, if our family dinner was 175,000IRP we’d pay 200,000IRP. If you don’t want the change, just tell your waiter that that’s fine and thank them very much. The Balinese are such friendly people that even if you don’t leave a tip, they’re not going to give you the evil eye like if you did the same in the States. But if you received good service, then why not show your appreciation with an extra dollar or two?
• As for money, nowadays I just use my Citibank card and withdraw money at ATMs as there’s no fees. However, I used to bring cash and change it in Bali, which my parents still do. There are a lot of shops that advertise as money changers, but I recommend going to an authorised money changer at convenience stores or behind glass doors. I got ripped off once (I blame my dad) so I don’t trust the people advertising high rates. At the end of the day, the difference between 10,000IRP and 10,650IRP is small change.
• Keep it casual. Although you can get ‘dressed up’ in Bali, most people wear casual clothes from day to night. So embrace your relaxed side and wear thongs (flip flops) and a sundress to dinner. Only the very expensive and swanky restaurants have dress codes.
• If you see someone trying to give you a postcard or a brochure, keep walking. They claim to be a part of a timeshare company, but it’s a complete rort. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
• Finally, it’s always important to be respectful when visiting foreign countries. Be wary not to step on the offerings, which you will find on footpaths everywhere. Remember that English is a second language here, so don’t get frustrated if someone doesn’t understand you. When visiting temples, be mindful that some of them do have dress codes as well.
Talk about a comprehensive post! I hope these Bali travel tips help you prepare and plan for the best Bali holiday. Enjoy a Bintang for me 😉
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