Everything You Need to Know Before Going to Bali.
By Chidi Ashley
Arriving at Bali Airport International
Once you landed at the international terminal, this is how you get through the airport:
Move reasonably quick towards the arrival hall and maybe go to toilet after the immigration check. This will avoid you being last in the queue - which can be quite long
Keep your passports ready (6 months valid, enough space for the sticker)
Fill in immigration form on the flight so that you have it ready before you get to the immigration hall (stewardess will give them to you or pick one up in the arrival hall)
If you do not need VoA or if you have already obtained a visa abroad you can queue directly at the immigration counters.
If you plan to stay in Bali for longer than 30days pay for Visa on Arrival (VoA) counter and pay US$35 (visa regulations)
At Immigration counters line up according to the appropriate signs (International passports, Indonesian etc). It is always advisable to stay calm and polite, do not try raise your voice or get aggressive with immigration officials. Be sure to have all your documents ready and prepared.
When you have passed through immigration go towards the conveyor belt (check the number on TV screens according to your flight number
Grab a trolley and collect your luggage, the trolleys are free and if you get a porter be prepared to pay them a tip.
Go through customs towards the exit sign and give them the tax card. You will only need ONE for PER family. Make sure you do not bring more then IDR 100,000,000 (ca. 7500 US$) and of course...no drugs. You could end up enjoying an all-inclusive holiday in Bali's Kerobokan prison for a very long time.
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, be sure to go through the nothing to declare line when leaving the airport to avoid having all your bags checked.
There are official money changers (rates are OK) just when you get out, and an ATM machine, I would suggest avoiding those as the fees are generally much higher than in the rest of Bali.
You will see MANY drivers and hotel staff holding up name signs as they wait for their guests, many people will come up to you and ask if you need a driver, simply say no (you will have to say no multiple times as some can be pushy), appear confident and look for your driver .
Visa Regulations Overview
Depending on passport and citizenship, there are following most common options visitors choose, when they come to Indonesia, provided, that main purpose is traveling as a tourist and not work or engage in any form of business:
Free Visa (more than 140 countries (FREE entry, 30 days valid NOT extendable)
Social, Tourist or cultural Visa (B-211) (can stay 60 days, can be extended 3 times for 30 days each, issued by consulate or embassy outside Indonesia)
Multiple Entry Visa (stay up to 60 days per visit, valid 1 year, issued by consulate or embassy outside Indonesia)Cash , Credit cards, ATMs and Money Changers
Everyone is a millionaire in Bali but do not be fooled by the many zeros of the Indonesian Rupiah also abbreviated as Rp. It might look as if you are holding enough cash to buy yourself a private island but it is probably just enough for a water.
The official currency code is IDR.
Exchange Rate and Currency Converter
There are coins with the value of Rp. 50, Rp. 100, Rp. 200, Rp. 500 and Rp. 1,000
Notes are available at Rp. 1,000, Rp. 2,000, Rp. 5,000, Rp. 10,000, Rp. 20,000, Rp. 50,000, and Rp. 100,000,-
Cash is still an important form of payment in Bali. So make sure you carry enough with you to pay for your small shopping, transportation and food & drinks. The 100,000 bills are only useful if you intend to buy a high-priced item or spend a lot of money at the same place. Most small shops and street sellers will struggle to make change, so 50,000 and 20,000 Rp notes will be the way to go.
Check before hand if a store or restaurant accepts credit cards and if indeed their card swipe machine (EDC) is working.
Hold on to a few Rp. 500 and Rp. 1,000 coins and forget about the smaller ones. They take up space and are hardly worth their weight. Don’t be surprised if at a supermarket your change of money includes a few pieces of candy instead of Rp. 50 or Rp. 100 coins.
Always carry a bit of cash with you. It will come handy when you decide to buy a coconut, grilled corn on the cob or a sarong on the beach. Tipping the staff at the tour guides, spa and restaurant is also usually done in cash.
Your cash is king at markets, food stalls and small shops. Do not expect to be able to use your credit cards here.
ATMs are easily found in Bali’s most populated areas and most accept nonlocal ATM cards and credit cards for cash withdrawals. Debit cards are accepted by some ATMs on the Maestro and Cirrus networks.
ATMs dispense either 50,000 or 100,000 notes. A sticker will clearly indicate which one.
Most ATMs in Bali allow a maximum withdrawal of 1,250,000 (50,000 bill machines) to 3,000,000 rupiah (100,000 bill machines) per transaction with a total maximum of 6,000,000 rupiah withdrawal a day.
Be aware that often machines will hand out the money first before returning your card. Make sure you do not walk away without taking your card!
Rates and transaction fees depend on your bank back home. You may like to check the charges with your bank before withdrawing money.
Do double check if your card can be used overseas and inform your bank of your travel destination as it has happened on a few occasions that travellers find their card blocked by their bank as their sudden overseas spending was seen as suspected fraudulent use.
The most popular ATMs to withdraw money from are Bank Central Asia (BCA), Bank Mandiri, Bank Negara Indonesia (BNI), and Permata Bank.
Keep in mind that very often there will be a 3 to sometimes even 5% surcharge on credit card transactions. This is, because the credit card companies keep that percentage for themselves, and the vendors on Bali will charge that fee back to their customer.
How to Stay Connected in Bali
Staying connected to to the internet is an obvious must when traveling, although you can not expect everywhere a super fast internet connection, the infrastructure, coverage, and service is pretty good in Bali. Most cafe’s and resturants provide free wifi which is generally fast.
Plugs and Sockets in Indonesia and Bali
In Bali and Indonesia you can expect the 2 pin socket and plug which is not compatible with U.S electronics so you will need an adapter.
My favourite travel adapter linked here works perfectly for multiple devices in Bali.
Where to go Bali
Best Beach clubs
The Omnia Bali
La Plancha Beach club
Potatohead beach club
Amazing food spots/perfect instagrammable places to eat in Seminyak & Canggu:
The Fat Turtle: Delicious pancakes and breakfast, scores 100/100 for the perfect breakfast/brunch spot! Check their instagram out, the pictures don’t lie!
Strawberry Fields: this place has some of the best fully loaded fries, deep fried mac and cheese balls, and burgers we have ever had. Best part- on Tuesdays all of their burgers are IDR 55 000!
Rustica Bali: this Italian restaurant is run by a grandma who immigrated here from Italy 15 years ago. Everything is made fresh daily and you really feel like you’re eating a home cooked meal here.
Crate Café: This café is the perfect spot for breakfast and lunch. All prices are 55 000 IDR across the board and they give hearty portions. This place is always full because of how good the food and vibe is- it is the essence of the community in Canggu.
Fat Mermaid: They have generous portions here and do breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
Milk and Madu: on Tuesday and Sundays they have a 2 for 1 pizza deal and they also offer it on their gourmet pizzas.
Two Fingers: delicious taco joint, they have a 15 000 per taco special on Mondays.
Warung Bu Mi: traditional Indonesian warung, where you pick and chose from the buffet what you want to eat. A full plate costs 30 000 IDR.
Café Organic: this extremely Instagrammable café has delicious and healthy food. It is great for breakfast and lunch.
KYND/Give Café: this ‘chain’ is a not for profit vegan restaurant with 2 locations- one in Seminyak and one in Canggu. Here you will be able to get a smoothie bowl that says ‘bali’ on it. (One of the most instagrammable cafes in Bali!)
Some other great places to eat/visit:
Woo Bar at the W hotel
The Lawn Canguu
The Rock Bar
Lost & Found Cafe
The Spricy coconut
La Laguna (Currently closed for renovations)
This community in Bali was rural with rice fields only a few years ago, but has grown quickly to accommodate all of the Westerners and digital nomads who moved there. Here you will find one of the best food scenes I have ever experienced. This part of Bali is the most liveable, and where you will find loads of foreigners working and living in Bali admist a traditional Balinese backdrop. The vibe here is very laid back, and filled with mostly millennials.
Seminyak is the more touristy, fancier version of Canggu. The streets are a lot more crowded here and there are a lot more upscale restaurants in comparison to the more laid back vibes of Canggu. The crowd in Seminyak is also olderand has a bigger party vibe.
Nusa Pend is the largest of the Nusa islands, roads are notoriously bad (think super rocky and super bumpy), they have started to pave the roads in an attempt to bring more tourists in and it is beginning to become developed.
Nusa Penida is more about the experiences, as opposed to relaxing on beaches as you would on the other Nusa islands.
The waves around Nusa Penida tend to be too strong to actually swim in, but they are great to splash around and cool off. Nusa Penida has raw, authentic villages and really kind local people.
One of the highlights to see is Kelingkaling Beach, which is the famous T-Rex shaped beach. You can see it from the top, or hike 40 minutes down to the bottom. At the bottom you will find chickens running around, pristine sand, and incredible blue ocean. You cannot swim there because of how strong the waves and currents are. The hike is extreme as the steps down are not secure and are just held together by sticks and ropes- make sure to wear proper shoes. There is no shade the whole way up and down so make sure you have enough water and coverage from the sun.
Ubud is Bali's cultural heart. It's in the cool mountains, 2-3 hours drive north of the airport. This traditional country town is home to one of Bali's royal families. You can even visit the majestic palace in the centre of town. Ubud is also well known as a flourishing crafts centre. Around Ubud, there are the surrounding villages of Campuhan, Penestanan, Peliatan and Batuan. These communities specialize in crafts and woodcarving which are sold all over the island. There are hundreds of shops selling antiques, woodcarvings, crafts, textiles, paintings and jewelry in Ubud. You'll also find some of the best art museums in the country here. Along Ubud's main street are dozens of art studios, an excellent local craft market and galleries.
Other Important Things to Note
Greetings (In Bahasa):
Selamat Pagi: Good morning
Selamat Siang: Good afternoon
Selamat sore: Good evening
Selamat malam: Good night
Apa kabar?: How are you? – Kabar baik: I’m good
Terima kasih: Thank you
Sama Sama: You are welcome
Yes/No: Ia/ TidakQ: When is the best time to visit Bali?
Weather In Bali
The ‘rainy’ season lasts from November until April, and the ‘dry’ season runs May until October. But these seasons do shift every year so they are not always accurate. Rainy season means that sometimes during the day it can rain. These are usually tropical showers that last around one hour, after which the sun comes out. Some days are cloudy but that means you will get beautiful deep jungle greens from all of the precipitation. Dry season tends to not see any rain, so while beach conditions are better, the jungle greens tend to be less lush. Prices during dry season will be a lot higher than the ones during rainy season.
English In Bali
English is the common "third" language and the most popular foreign language by far (after Indonesian and Balinese). Due to tourism requirements a lot of Balinese speak a level of English that allows them to communicate with tourists on a basic level. But you will meet many who do speak a rather good level of English.
Firstly, don’t be alarmed by the utter chaos that is Bali traffic.
There are 2 apps that function like Uber here: Grab and GoJek. They are fantastic to use to get around the Seminyak and Canggu areas.
Keep in mind that the traffic in Bali is insane as the roads are poorly planned- driving 4 km can sometimes take hours!
You'll sweat like there's no tomorrow
Forget your jeans, or your heavy jacket; Bali is hot year-round with an average temperature of 32 degrees. Pack cotton fabrics, kaftans and open-toe shoes. The sweat is very real, pack some wet wipes with you and whew chile light makeup is necessary.
You'll need to pack a sarong
If you plan to visit temples in Bali you will need a sarong. You can hire them if you forgot to pack one, or buy them relatively cheaply. Both men and women need to cover their legs below the knee with a sarong, while the sash should be worn around the waist.
Dress modestly before entering a temple in Bali. Temple guests are expected to wear shirts that cover shoulders and part of the upper arms. The waist and legs should be covered by a temple scarf (known as a selendang) and a sarong (known locally as kain kamben) respectively.
You can't drink the water
Drink bottled water only, and brush your teeth in it too. Bottled water is cheap and many hotels and resorts provide complimentary water. It's advisable not to have ice in your drinks either, unless it's a reputable hotel, restaurant or bar. Better be safe than suffer the diarrhea consequences.
Tips are not expected, but it anyways if you can
The Balinese people are lowly paid, and yet extremely generous and hospitable. If you receive good service, a small tip goes a long way. If you're with a group throw in a couple of bucks each, and learn to say thank you: "terima kasih".
BALI SHOPPING TIPS
Shopping rule no.1 - There is always a cheaper price!
Haggle to get the price down whenever buying things 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. If they don’t agree with your price, fake like you are walking away and then they will generally say okay okay and give you the item at the price you haggled for.
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.
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.
Dressing in Bali
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. Only the very expensive and swanky restaurants have dress codes.
Best Bali Safety Tip
Don’t smoke in public areas. A “smoke-free” bylaw went into effect across Bali in 2011; smoking is forbidden in most public areas, including restaurants, hotels, temples, and tourist attractions.
Bali’s drug laws are very strict and should not be trifled with. Indonesian Law No. 35/2009 lays down harsh penalties for drug users caught with Group 1 drugs like marijuana, heroin, and cocaine: you can get life imprisonment for possession or the death penalty if you’ve been convicted of trafficking in drugs.
The monkeys on the island, particularly in highly touristy spots like Ubud and certain temples, are cunning thieves and will steal the sunglasses from your head, and anything else they can get their hands on. Be sure to keep all your belongings packed away and guard them when around monkeys! Do not feed or make sudden movements around monkeys, they are wild not pets.