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Things to Know Before You Visit Bali

Bali frequently ranks as a top destination for honeymooners, backpackers, and all types of travelers. This enchanting Indonesian island offers an idyllic escape with its unique black-sand beaches, active volcanoes, wellness retreats, and lively beach clubs. However, an increasing number of visitors unfamiliar with local customs has led to more frequent issues. If you're planning a visit to Bali, these tips will help ensure a smooth and memorable trip.


Where is Bali?

Bali is a picturesque Indonesian island in Southeast Asia, celebrated for its vibrant culture and stunning scenery. Ngurah Rai International Airport, near Denpasar on the southern coast, serves as the main point of entry. There are regular flights connecting Bali to major cities like Dubai, Qatar, and numerous locations in Europe, Australia, and other parts of Asia.


When’s the Best Time to Visit Bali?

The best time to visit Bali is from late March to October, during the dry season. The wet season, running from November to March, can bring unpredictable weather, which may impact outdoor activities such as boat tours or volcano hikes. However, traveling during the rainy season can also mean fewer crowds and lower prices.


Where Should I Stay in Bali?

Bali offers accommodations to suit every budget:

  • Budget: Affordable guesthouses and hostels in areas like Kuta and Seminyak provide basic amenities and a relaxed atmosphere.

  • Mid-Range: Boutique hotels and resorts in Ubud and Canggu offer a balance of comfort and affordability, with added amenities such as pools and spas.

  • Luxury: High-end resorts and villas in Seminyak and Jimbaran offer ocean views, fine dining, and exclusive services for a lavish experience.


What are the best places in Bali to visit?

From serene spiritual retreats to vibrant surfing spots, Bali's neighborhoods offer a wide range of activities to suit various interests, there's something for everyone.

  • Canggu and Seminyak: Known for their energetic nightlife, trendy cafes, beach clubs, and cosmopolitan atmosphere, these areas are favorites among digital nomads due to the plentiful co-working spaces, active social scene, and beach proximity.

  • Ubud: Ubud is famous for its cultural and spiritual experiences. It's a haven for those seeking tranquility, traditional arts and crafts, yoga retreats, and a deep connection to Bali's cultural heritage. It’s often associated with spiritual journeys and personal growth.

  • Uluwatu: A top destination for surfers, Uluwatu is renowned for its excellent waves and stunning coastal cliffs. It provides a more relaxed vibe than the busier tourist spots, making it ideal for surfers and those seeking a laid-back atmosphere.

  • Sanur: On the east coast, Sanur is a great family-friendly destination with its calm environment, sandy beaches, and a variety of water activities. It’s known for being quieter and more relaxed than other tourist areas.

  • Nusa Dua: Nusa Dua is famous for its luxurious resorts and pristine beaches. It’s a favored destination for honeymooners wanting a romantic and upscale getaway, featuring high-end hotels, spa services, and picturesque seaside views.

  • Amed: Located on the east coast, Amed is ideal for scuba diving and underwater diving enthusiasts, known for its vibrant coral reefs and rich marine life. It provides a quieter and more relaxed atmosphere.

  • Kintamani: Situated in the north, Kintamani offers breathtaking volcanic landscapes and the serene Lake Batur. It’s perfect for travelers seeking a tranquil, nature-focused experience, away from the hustle and bustle.


How do I get around Bali?

In Bali, motorbikes are the primary mode of transportation, so it's common to see locals and tourists alike navigating the island on two wheels. If you don’t have a motorbike license, it's advisable to use bike taxis instead of renting a motorbike yourself. While it’s currently easy to rent a bike from places like hostels, guesthouses, or hotels, future regulations might limit rentals to specific motorbike shops.

In southern Bali, particularly from Canggu downward, traffic can be quite heavy, and traffic rules are often disregarded. Therefore, it's much safer to book a bike taxi through apps like Gojek or Grab rather than attempting to drive on your own. If you prefer to travel by car, Gojek, Grab, and Bluebird are reliable options. Avoid hailing random bike or car taxis off the street, as these drivers often charge tourists exorbitant prices.


What are the top things to do in Bali?

Bali offers a wealth of activities for tourists, from sunrise yoga to hiking active volcanoes. This island truly has something for every type of traveler. Enjoy yoga at dawn, trek up volcanoes, go beach-hopping, and explore stunning island getaways.

Among the must-visit Hindu temples are Tanah Lot, Uluwatu Temple, and Lempuyang Temple. A sunrise hike up Mt. Batur is a quintessential Bali experience, and the Sacred Monkey Forest in Ubud is a popular attraction. Day trips to the beautiful Gili Islands, known for their white sandy beaches and turquoise waters, as well as Nusa Penida and Nusa Dua, which are excellent for snorkeling, are also highly recommended.


What should I pack for a trip to Bali?

When packing for Bali, keep in mind that the weather can be quite unpredictable despite the island having two main seasons—the dry season and the rainy season. Pack light, breathable clothing to stay comfortable in the humidity, and ensure you dress modestly when visiting spiritual or religious sites.

A sarong is a handy item to include for day trips. If you plan on exploring waterfalls, bring sturdy shoes and plenty of mosquito repellent, particularly during the rainy season. Skip the jeans and overly formal wear, as the island’s dress code is generally relaxed and casual.


Are there any etiquette rules for visiting Bali?

To truly immerse yourself in Bali's culture, it's essential to abide by local etiquette. While Balinese people are known for their politeness and friendliness, there has been an unfortunate rise in tourist misbehavior in recent years, often without proper correction for violating cultural norms. Given Bali's reputation as the "Island of the Gods," it's crucial to adhere to cultural rules during your travel.

Here are some etiquette guidelines to follow:

  • When visiting spiritual or religious sites, ensure your shoulders and knees are covered, regardless of gender. Avoid walking around town or driving in a bikini.

  • Refrain from littering on beaches or in rivers.

  • Avoid inappropriate posing or public displays of affection in sacred places.

  • Respect the sanctity of temples and refrain from entering during menstruation.

  • Refrain from shouting or arguing with police officers, vendors, or officials. Exercise patience during your trip, as boat departure times and other arrangements may require flexibility. Arguing or demanding refunds is unlikely to yield positive results.

  • Always seek permission before taking photos or touching objects, especially in guided tours.


How can I pay for things in Bali?

Cash is still essential for certain transactions in Bali, as the local currency is the Indonesian Rupiah (IDR). While card payments are widely accepted in the southern part of the island, smaller family-run establishments known as warungs may only accept cash. ATMs are plentiful in tourist areas but less common in more remote locations or off-the-beaten-track destinations.

If you arrange an excursion with a local guide, it's customary to pay in cash or via bank transfer. To avoid hefty currency conversion charges, consider using an internationally compatible card such as Wise or Revolut. However, be cautious when exchanging currency, as scams have become more prevalent in recent years. Always double-check your notes before leaving exchange shops.

While tipping is not mandatory in Bali, it is appreciated, especially in an economy heavily reliant on tourism. Service charges and taxes may already be included in larger restaurant bills.

When bargaining in street markets, remember that even a small amount can make a significant difference to the seller's livelihood. Bartering is expected in these settings but is generally not welcomed in restaurants, hair salons, or spas.