Bali is one of those destinations that will always be popular, given that it is easily reachable, rather affordable, and oh, so beautiful! The influx of tourism in the recent years has made it a very friendly place for travellers, and getting around there has never been easier. While it is one of those places where you can simply turn up without having a single plan in place, here are 10 things you need to know before going to Bali, simply because it will simplify your life no end.
Bali is one of those countries where we Indian passport holders can rejoice and walk through customs with a stamp on our passports. Yes! No scurrying around with papers and preparing for interviews a month before going to Bali! We can turn up with our passports! Yay! While a few years back, our passports got us through with visa-on-arrival, today, Bali is a visa-free country. Be prepared for long lines at the immigration desk, though, because Bali IS a popular destination.
Scooters are by far the most popular mode of getting around in Bali, and one can be hired for roughly $5 a day.
Larger groups will benefit from booking a car, since the costs will work out to almost the same as taking individual scooters, and there’s also the benefit of air conditioning, and not having to drive distances by yourself.
You can head to the islands off Bali on a ferry, which can be booked on the spot on the day of travel itself. It is a far better option to do this than to book online, because it allows scope for bargaining and getting a better deal.
Download the app Go-Jek. It’s the Indonesian equivalent of Uber. For longer routes, such as getting from Seminyak to Ubud, or to the airport, you can book a Go-Jek cab, but for shorter routes that involve zipping around the same part of the city, hop onto a bike! The drivers always have a spare helmet, so be sure to ask for it!
Exchanging your Money
It’s a good idea to exchange your money before going to Bali. Once you’re there, always, always, ALWAYS exchange your money ONLY at an authorised exchanger. Bali has TONS of shady-looking shops offering to exchange your money at highly competitive rates (bordering on unbelievable), and they’ll sound too good to be true, because THEY ARE! It’s a SCAM, and I cannot stress enough on how important it is that you stay wary. The guys managing these stalls are deft with their fingers, and while counting out your money, they will slip a few notes down into their lap without you even realising it. When you do figure out, much later, it’ll be too late and you’ll feel miserable. Save yourself the pain and go to authorised currency exchangers only.
Wifi and Connectivity
Bali has turned into quite the digital nomad hotspot. The popularity of the place has ensured that every restaurant and cafe, every accommodation you choose is well equipped with wifi. You will ALWAYS be connected.
It’s not as easy to get a local SIM, though, because a lot of the good local companies insist on you having Indonesian identity proof to get one. You can always get a cheaper one which doesn’t require ID proof, but folks I met did have a few things to say about the connectivity.
Always, always, ALWAYS respect the local customs and traditions. This holds true whether you’re going to Bali, or anywhere else in the world. Do not enter a temple with bare knees. Almost all temples here will give you a sarong to tie before you enter. Do not enter the sanctum of a temple if you are told not to. Women on their period are not allowed to enter temples either (although no one checks this. I mean, can you imagine).
Balinese food is GREAT. I’m a big fan of the nasi goreng, the mie goreng, the smoothie bowls, vegan pops, raw desserts, satays, the peanut sauce.. My mouth is watering at the very thought!
The best part about Bali is the availability of options for all sorts of diets, so if you’re a vegetarian or a vegan, you don’t even need to think twice before making a beeline for this place.
I’ll put in a word of advice though – Bali Belly is a real thing. It affected some of my friends, and they weren’t able to enjoy themselves as much as they would have liked to because it really brought them down. It’s a good idea to keep your medication handy, just in case you fall victim.
Check out my post on everything you can eat in Bali right here!
Tap water, or ‘regular drinking water’, is apparently not a thing in Bali. Restaurants and cafes serve bottled water only, which is unfortunate, given the amount of plastic waste that gets generated. Some places charge for refills, and some are doing their bit for the environment by encouraging you to bring your own reusable bottle. Bali Eco Deli, for one. I always found it smart to leave for the day with a full bottle, and was always on the lookout for places that were willing to refill it for me. It was hard, I won’t deny, but it worked out. My suggestion would be to carry one of those bottles that come with a filter built in, so you can fill up even from a tap and go.
Bali loves Bollywood
The Balinese love their movies, and they LOVE watching Hindi movies. They know the songs, they know the actors, they know the dialogues. When they find out you’re Indian (or when they make an accurate guess), be prepared to be regaled with references and songs to some of their favourite movies! Shah Rukh Khan and Kajol happen to be favourites. Not unlike a lot of us here in India, eh?
Bargaining is EXPECTED
If you’re going to Bali, you’re going to shop! Lovely summer dresses, beach wear, bags, shoes, dreamcatchers, crochet, glassware (and surprisingly a lot of penis-souvenirs as well). You will find shops everywhere you go. Places like Ubud and Lembongan are cheaper than Kuta and Seminyak. Always ask for a price that is 50% to 60% of what the vendors quote and work your way to a reasonable number, even if the original quote is wayyyy cheap when compared to where you’re from! It’s perfectly normal to do this, so don’t feel shy about it.
Bali can get crowded
Bali is a really popular destination among all age groups – it forms a beautiful honeymoon destination, it’s a cheap haven for backpackers, it’s a great place to travel to for the first time, and it’s turned into quite a digital nomad hub. Places that were new 5 years ago are crowded now, and places that appear to be recent finds WILL get crowded within a year, and you can thank social media for that 🙂 That being said, it also means you will meet warm, friendly people from all over the world, which, in my opinion, only enriches you and makes you a better person. The thing is, there will always be people going to Bali. But it will also enable you to find your own space and let you be if you need it. Don’t be surprised if you bump into tens and hundreds of people. Embrace it, and will make your experience a 100 times richer.
That’s pretty much it! You now know everything you need to know before going to Bali, and since you’re all warmed up, head over to this entire TREASURE CHEST I have filled with Bali info! You’ll need it 🙂