20 Things To Know Before You Go To Bali, Indonesia
Bali, the most famous island of the Indonesian archipelago, in a word, is a smile. It's a charming, energetic, and lovely slice of heaven on earth that feels like a warm embrace upon your arrival. Whether you are visiting Bali for its culture, the beauty, the food, or to surf and practice yoga, amongst several activities to choose from, there is so much to see and do and love about this magnificent island.
What to know before you go to Bali
1. Weather/Best Time to Visit
The temperature in Bali tends to be warm (in the mid-80s Fahrenheit) and humid (in the 80% range) throughout the year and rarely varies more than 10-15 degrees both during the day and the evening.
Typically May - July is the "best" set of months to visit the island, as this is a drier time of year, but if you are looking for less tourists and cheaper prices (Oct-Apr is wet season) or prime waves for surfing (May-Sept) you'll want to consider different months of the year.
2. Currency/Need Cash vs. Use Credit Card
The currency in Bali is Rupiah (IDR) and the typical exchange rate is about 13,000 rupiah for $1.00 US. You'll want to bring a combination of cash and credit cards. Cash is likely to be most convenient, especially in places like the Ubud markets and small vendors, cab rides, and for tipping, but credit cards are also accepted in hotels, higher-end shops, and restaurants.
You can plan to call your bank and obtain rupiah before you go, but you will also have an opportunity to easily exchange cash when you arrive. You'll typically get the best exchange rates if you use $100 bills and most ATMs will only let you take out $150-$250 at a time. When you get your cash exchanged, do not leave the window until you have counted and calculated your bills. If you are exchanging $100 US and the exchange rate is 13,000 rupiah, you are going to get a lot of bills back. Not counting your currency can leave you vulnerable to scams.
Outside of your flight, transportation to and from your accommodation and your hotel, consider $300-$500 for spending money. It will depend on how much shopping and eating out you do. If you're budget conscious on average $350 for one week.
You can hire a driver for the day around $23 USD or 300,000 Rupiah.
When you arrive at your accommodation, ask your host or concierge for any tips for cheap eats if you sticking to a budget of $15-$18 a day on food, which can be done.
On Bali, you will hear Balinese, Indonesian and English. With the influx of Australian tourists, more and more locals speak English and don't be surprised if you are greeted with "Hey Mate".
Hello - "Om Suastiastu"
Thanks - "Suksma"
Goodbye - "Selamat tinngal"
Tipping is not customary in Bali, but with the increase in western tourists, they are starting to expect the custom.
13,000 IRD ($1) for bellmen
There will be a 10% service charge included in your restaurant bill, so entirely up to you if you want to tip. (2%-5% of the bill if you love the service)
If you get a massage - 1% - 5%
For cab drivers - most people round up. Taxis are not usually metered so you will have to negotiate a fare.
6. Food (what cuisine to look out for)
Rice is the main grain on the island as well as spices and meats. However, if you are a vegetarian, there are a number of eateries that will cater to your food preferences.
Look out for Warungs (small eateries) that feature some of these popular dishes:
- Babi Guling - roasted pig
- Satay - a variety of meats on skewers
- Nasi Ayum and Nasi Campur - meats with vegetables and rice
- Bebek and Ayam Betutu - chicken or duck stuffed with spices and wrapped in banana leaves
However, if you're not a meat eater you will be just fine. Bali also uses a lot of tofu and tempeh and gluten free breads.
The main mode of transportation will be taxis and motor-bike rentals. You can also try Uber, but it is controversial and you may need to use it discreetly. You can rent a car ($20-$60 a day) or try the minibus public transport, Bemo, the cheapest way. You also have the opportunity to hire a driver for the day.
*If you choose to stay in Ubud, here are the names and contact info for two reliable English speaking drivers:
8. Best Airport
You will fly into DPS or Ngurah Rai International Airport 13km south of Denpasar. It is located in southern Bali and is about one and a half hours drive to Ubud.
9. Visa requirement
For US Citizens heading to Bali for less than 30 days, there isn't a visa requirement. The visa on arrival is free. If you are planning to stay for more than 30 days you are required to obtain a visa.
10. A foreign fee to pay at the airport
The departure tax at the airport is waived.
11. Where to stay
As a first timer to Bali you may want to consider starting your trip in Ubud and take day trips to popular destinations from there, as it is centrally located on the island and can reduce packing and unpacking. Otherwise, below is a list to consider.
Popular destinations on Bali include:
- Kuta and South Kuta
- Nusa Dua
- Tanjung Benoa
- Jimbaran Bay
- Nusa Lembongan
- Nearby Lombok, Nusa Penida, and the Gili Islands (Gili Air is great for diving, while Gili T is more touristic)
12. Helpful apps and resources
- The Bali Bible
- Google Translate
- XE Currency
13. Safety/emergency number
The country code is +62
The main emergency line is 112 - dial +62 (0)361
Snatch-theft and hotel room break-ins have been known to happen, so keep your valuables secure and be mindful of what you carry with you in addition to how you carry it on your person.
The streets in Ubud, for example, are not like what you would expect in the west, so do look carefully at the sidewalk and wear sturdy shoes to avoid stubbing toes and twisting ankles.
Don't buy drugs and don't smoke in public places.
DO NOT drink the water! Bali Belly is the real thing. Drink from bottled water only, be mindful of raw vegetables that may have been washed in water, and brush your teeth with bottled water. You may want to talk to your doctor about traveling with a broad-spectrum antibiotic in case you get the bug.
15. Wifi Access/SIM Card
Check with your accommodation with regard to its WIFI and stability, and signal strength. Most restaurants and cafes will provide wifi.
16. What to pack
Bali, a Hindu island, has a little more lax rules about dressing, but not as liberal as one might think. While wearing shorts to the beach and in beach towns is appropriate, it is considered inappropriate to have your legs and shoulders uncovered. You may see tourists rocking mini dresses in Ubud, but you will show respect and receive more respect if you consider how you're dressed.
A general list of things to consider for Bali will include the following:
- passport, money belt/cross body, collapsible tote bag, journal, travel documents, reading materials, suntan lotion, mosquito repellent, toiletries, earplugs, eye mask, converters for your electronics, hat, sunglasses, bathing suits, clothing - light long and short sleeved blouses and t-shirts, flowing pants, dresses and skirts to the ankle, a warm layer/rain jacket, yoga pants if you plan to practice, and sandals/closed-toed shoes for walking in town. And white tops and sarongs if you are planning to attend any ceremonies or special festivals.
If you are coming from the US you will need an adapter for your electronics. The voltage is 220V. The 2-pin socket and plug that is used in larger of Europe are what you will use here. You may want to bring several, depending on the number of electronics you may need to use or charge at the same time. But if you forget, there will be places where you can find the adapter for purchase on the island.
18. Special Events/Holidays
Consider timing your visit with one of the many local festivals and events that take place throughout the year. For example, Nyepi Eve (Balinese New Year or silent day) which usually takes place in March or Bali Arts Festival, which is June - July. Or the Bali Kite Festival held usually in July - August. Check the Bali Tourism Board website for a calendar of events for the year ahead.
If you're traveling from the US you may be required to obtain immunizations. Check with your travel doctor for the recommended vaccinations.
If you are menstruating there are a number of locations and activities you are not permitted to partake in. For example, visiting the Tirta Empul water temple outside of Ubud or visiting a Balai (Balinese healer) you cannot be menstruating to participate. You may want to consider this timing if you are visiting the island for only one week.
Thinking about traveling to Bali solo? Check out 10 Reasons to Go On a Yoga Retreat in Bali, Solo.
Have an amazing time preparing for and visiting Bali! If you come across any additional tips, please do send them in!