It’s easy to see why Bali is the most popular island in Indonesia. Gorgeous beaches and mountain ranges sweep one side of the island whereas thick jungles and waterfalls rule the other end. With an ancient culture rooted in Buddhism and Hinduism, remote temples on top of cliffs or in the middle of the sea, lush monkey sanctuaries, art markets, jungle safaris, dive spots, mountain hikes, and all-inclusive luxury wellness resorts, Bali is a whole lot more than just a tropical paradise. It’s a no-brainer that the Indonesian island is on pretty much everyone’s bucket list but before you finally cross it off, here’s what you need to know before you fly away to Bali.
10 “Bali Belly” Is A Real Thing
A man not feeling well
Although a beautiful country, Bali has a notorious reputation for dodgy hygiene standards that don’t sit well with tourists and their tummies. Contaminated food and tap water can lead to all the symptoms of food poisoning — dubbed as Bali belly — so it’s a good idea to stick to bottled water at all times and avoid things like ice cubes or sliced fruits and vegetables that are raw, as well as the highly potent local liquor arak. While Bali’s hygiene standards are certainly improving, it’s best to be careful anyway.
9 Make Your Peace With The Crowds
People on a beach in Bali
No matter when you go to Bali, the island is going to be packed with tourists. The crowds may lessen during the off-peak season, but even then, it can be hard to find a quiet spot. A good way to avoid crowds is to get up early and head to beaches for a surf or to markets and temples while most crowds deal with hangovers from all the arak drinking the night before. Also, consider venturing up north, as most visitors stick to southern Bali.
8 Know The Rules Of Nyepi
an entrance to a temple on a misty day in bali
Each year, sometime in late March, all of Bali observes Nyepi or the Day of Silence. The Hindu religious festival is often referred to as the Balinese New Year, and no tourists are exempt from the rules that apply on the day. As lights, sounds, and daily activities are prohibited on the day and shops, restaurants, and beaches are closed, the entire island comes to a standstill for 24 hours. Locals and visitors are both advised to refrain from stepping out as the day of Nyepi is thought to cleanse the island for the new year.
7 Be Mindful Of Dress Codes Inside Temples
A temple in Bali
Known as the island of gods, Bali has thousands of Hindu and Buddhist temples that are open to visitors. Those visiting the temple grounds, however, must respect the dress codes of the place of worship. All visitors are advised to cover their shoulders and backs as well as wear sarongs to cover their legs. Some temples may also require visitors to wear temple scarves around their waists, and these can often be rented outside temples by those who don’t own any.
6 Rented Scooters And Motorbikes Are The Way To Travel Within Bali
getting ready to ride a motorbike in bali
Bali’s public transport is limited to buses which often weave through long detours to reach the destinations that you plan on getting off at. Besides hiring pricey all-day taxis that crawl through the island’s dense traffic, the only other way to commute on the island is to rent your own motorbikes and scooters. Ranging from three to ten dollars a day, these rented scooters and motorbikes are not only cheap but also a much faster way to whizz through Bali.
5 Or, Download Grab And Go-Jek
Girl vacationing in Ubud, Bali while looking at a great view of the destination.
Uber doesn’t exist in Bali. Instead, Grab and Go-Jek are the on-demand taxi apps for both locals and tourists on the island. While Grab is known for its fleet of cars and low prices, Go-Jek is popular for motorbike-sharing, where riders turn up with a spare helmet for passengers to wear. Go-Jek also doubles up as a food delivery platform, with thousands of registered restaurants offering takeaways through the app.
4 Bali Can Get Very Pricey
While it’s possible to stay in Bali on a budget by staying at guesthouses and dining at warungs, — small family-owned roadside eateries — Bali can just as easily eat up all your savings. Thousands flock to Bali each year for luxury yoga retreats and spa vacations, which means the island’s prices are often catered to affluent clientele. Entrance fees to temples and waterfalls can cost twice as much to tourists than locals. The price for those iconic Bali swings themselves may be reasonable but with extras like lunch, pick up and drop off, and photo permits, the total could come up to a lot more. Beware of the tourist traps.
3 The Monkey Situation
Monkeys and Bali go hand-in-hand, particularly if you go to the famous Ubud Monkey Forest or the Monkey Temple in Uluwatu. But you’ll find monkeys pretty much everywhere in Bali, especially closer to the forests and beaches (including inside hotels). Bags left unattended on a beach may be scavenged, food eaten in their vicinity may be stolen, and monkeys are even known to run away with sunglasses off of people’s heads. They’re also smart enough to unzip bags and take off with anything that’s not shut securely!
2 Brush Up Your Bargaining Skills
Seasoned bargainers will thrive in Bali. Everyone from beach hawkers and street sellers to brick-and-mortar shops and boutiques is usually open to negotiating. Price tags are rarely written in stone, and those who know the nuances of bargaining will see the prices reduce for them considerably. When in doubt, walk away from a seller, and if they don’t follow you with a reduced price, they probably won’t negotiate any further.
1 Bali’s ATMs Are Temperamental
Cliffside Uluwatu Temple , Bali
Bali is mostly a cash island where certain places can charge an additional fee as high as 3% on each credit card transaction. This means you’ll need cash, but the ATMs in Bali can be a tad moody. Though you’ll find quite a few on the island, they can be extremely slow, and when they do finally function, there may be withdrawal limits that cap each transaction at a very low amount. The ATMs also tend to give out cash before they release your card, so it can be easy to forget cards at the machines. Try to make the most of an ATM when you do find one that’s functional and without caps so that you don’t have to go to another one the following day. And don’t forget to take your card!