Going to Bali for the first time can be pretty daunting but it doesn’t have to be when you know your stuff! I have put together a few things that will make your trip a bit smoother and also give you a bit of knowledge before going!
If you only want to visit as a tourist for less than 30 days, then citizens of more than 140 countries have nothing to worry about. As a South African spending only 16 days in Bali I did not need a visa to enter. If you want to stay longer you can get a two month Visa relatively easily either at the airport or in your home country.
TOP TIP – Your passport needs to be in great shape to enter Indonesia! If you have any tears, scratches etc on the cover of your passport it would be better to check with the airline if they will allow you to fly.
The airport in Bali
The airport in Bali is not the best so be prepared to wait quite a while to get through immigration, especially if you land at one of the busier times. We waited in a line for about an hour and a half landing in the afternoon which is a busy time. When we got to the desk though it was a pretty easy process of a question or two.
Also be prepared to get stopped at customs. This happens to a lot of people so don’t panic when you get asked to move to the side with your luggage. It’s a major inconvenience time wise but one of those things you need to make allowance for as it happens so frequently. The officials packed out our bags completely ( like in even opening every single piece of makeup I own ) as well as scanning all your bags for traces of illegal substances. This entire process took about an hour to complete and the officials were extremely friendly, polite and informative throughout.
When you leave you will go through a similar process at your check-in counter. They will randomly search bags ( this time only Mike had to open his ) and otherwise just scan your bags again for traces of illegal substances.
Transport in Bali
It is best to sort out transport before going to Bali so you have an idea of what you need to pay. Taxis can rip you off pretty badly if you don’t know what you are doing but usually private drivers have really good rates. We organised a private driver before our trip and ended up using the same company our entire stay.
A good rate from the airport to Canggu would be 250k Rupiah and to places a bit further like Ubud 300 Rupiah depending on your arrival time and number of people.
We opted to get cars to drive us to each new area we stayed in as it can take up to an hour and a half to get somewhere that is only 20km away. We also had large bags and camera equipment which we would not be able to transport on a scooter.
There are taxi services like Go Car and Bluebird but they are not allowed in some areas so just make sure to get them where they are allowed. Go-jek is a great app to download for transport, food and more while you are in Bali.
I would not recommend hiring a car as a foreigner.
We also used a scooter while staying in different areas. You can negotiate one yourself ( there are plenty of places that rent them ) but we opted getting them through our accommodation. They range between 50k and 75k per day and always remember to ask for helmets and double check that everything works ( including breaks and lights! )
Benson ( the fuel for your scooter ) get’s sold everywhere, and sometimes even out of old absolute vodka bottles! It is really cheap and it will cost your around 20k Rupiah to fill up your tank which will last you about two or more days depending on how far you drive.
Sim cards with plenty of data are really cheap in Bali and most of the areas we went to had great reception. Although wifi is widely averrable at most restaurants, hotels and villas it was still nice to be able to google ( or google maps ) on the go.
I used Sim Pati which we bought as we came out of immigration at the airport. It cost us 250k Rupiah each for 25gb that lasts 30 days. You can find cheaper deals but we were happy with that.
June, July and August are the dry months but also high season so expect good weather but also more people and higher prices. December and January also falls within high season but it is rainy during those months. April and May are great months to go as it is just before high season starts and the weather is mostly great with the occasional afternoon rain storm. These don’t last long and they hardly put a damper on anything!
Something you hear about a lot is the ATM fraud that goes on in Bali. This has happened to numerous people that I know and I was not going to let it happen to me. The trick is to avoid drawing money at stand alone ATM’s. Your best bet is to draw at ones that are attached to a bank. We drew money plenty of times and stuck to Mandiri. bank.
The tap water in Bali is not suitable for drinking so rather don’t try it unless you want a case of Bali belly. Avoid buying single use plastic as much as you can by having a refillable bottle ( there are plenty or restaurants, villas and hotels that have refill stations ) or buy a big bottle of water you can keep in your room and refill your bottle as needed. Bali has a massive trash problem and as a tourist you shouldn’t be adding to it.
Single use plastic
Bali has banned single use plastic but you will still find it everywhere. Try and abstain from using plastic straws, plastic water bottles and plastic shopping bags. If you create any plastic waste of your own then try and take it home to your country where you probably have a decent recycling system. Bali does not have a recycling plant and the very small amount that does get recycled has to go via boat to Java.
When you see the amount of plastic everything on some of the most beautiful beaches you will realise why you need to do your bit and not add to the ever growing piles of trash that can be seen everywhere in Bali.
So something Bali definitely knows how to do is food. I basically ate my way through Bali and I have no regrets whatsoever. I must add that I am vegetarian and I also thought this might be a safer option anyway so Mike also did veggie for the trip. There are plenty of vegan and vegetarian options and they are all pretty epic so you wont go hungry! We basically ate at two types of places which I will list below.
For a lack of a better word I will be calling all restaurants that aren’t fast food joints or local Warungs instagram cafe’s. I have never seen such a huge amount of good looking restaurants in my life and I have all the appreciation for them. I made a list of all the ones I wanted to visit in Canggu but also did a few in Ubud. These are targeted probably towards hipsters and most of them were super inexpensive with huge fresh portions. Think smoothie bowls, falafels, smashed avo on sourdough and so much more. Literally heaven!
The local restaurants that serve a mix of traditional Indonesian fare and sometimes extras like BBQ or burgers. These are super easy on your wallet and a great place to sample local food. Check out the most popular ones on trip advisor to avoid any nasty surprises. We ate things like Nasi Goreng, Mi Goreng and Gado Gado for between 15k-45k Rupiah and it was always super tasty and filling. These are an obvious choice if you are on a budget and it even works out cheaper than buying groceries sometimes!
Haggling at markets
I visited two markets during my time in Bali. The one was the very fancy Love Anchor market in Canggu and the other was the not so fancy huge market in Ubud. Both of these are aimed at tourists and while you wont find amazing deals which you might have a few years back they are still definitely worth a visit.
Love Anchor Market definitely had better overall quality especially when it came to clothing items. You will pay more there though as it’s a really hip space with a lot of beautiful jewellery and home wear stands. The stalls were up for haggling but a lot of them wouldn’t budge from their exorbitant prices. I guess it is aimed at the wealthier Australian market. I would usually say no thanks and walk away and then when they ask you what you are willing to pay let them know you only have a specific amount with you.
The Ubud market was smelly, claustrophobic and had a crazy amount of Bali bags ( woven handbags ) which basically meant there would always be someone willing to go a bit lower. I would go from stall to stall and then double back to the cheapest one.
Most of Bali speaks a Malayo-Polynesian language simple called Balinese. Most of the people I come in contact with also spoke English ( albeit sometimes heavely accented or broken ) and only a handful spoke no English at all. You can definitely get around easily with only speaking English though. Balinese people hoever love it when tourists show interest in their language and culture so try and learn a few words or phrases before going. “Terima kasih” is a polite way to say thank you and also super easy to pick up as you hear it all the time!
Alcohol is mostly expensive
For South African anyway! The wine tops the charts at an average of about 450k + Rupiah per bottle and then it is not even good wine. Spirits are slightly cheaper but cocktails will usually set you back between 85k-120k Rupiah depending on the area and the restaurant/club. A lot of places do have happy hours though so find out which ones and take advantage!
We stuck to the local beer called Bintang which is really good and so refreshing. They also have a lemon Radler and an orange Radler version which is basically what I drank everyday because it was just so good! Beers ( 330ml ) are between 20k Rupiah when buying it at a supermarket to 25-35k Rupiah when ordering at restaurants and clubs.
Kuta is the one place you should really avoid unless excessive partying and load groups of drunk people are your thing. It has become known for being dirty and downright nasty and when there are so many epic places to see why waste your time. Rather stay in Seminyak or even better Canggu!
Ubud isn’t all Eat Pray Love
This might be an unpopular opinion but if you are looking for the Eat Pray Love experience you are about ten years too late. I found central Ubud to be noisy, touristy and expensive so it really wasn’t my favorite place. Luckily we stayed about 2.4km outside of the center which was actually really enjoyable as long as you did not venture into the city. It is a great base to explore rice terraces, temples and waterfalls but I would suggest staying on the outskirts.
Bali has amazing beaches and not so great beaches and we experienced a bit of both. I can’t say too much as I haven’t been to all of them but when going to places like Canggu you need to manage your expectations. The beaches are black sand which makes them cool but also a bit dirty looking which they are anyway. There are really cool beach bars on that side and crazy amounts of surfers, it’s just not the type of beach I would go lie on.
The Uluwato, Jimberan side however had gorgeous sparkling blue water and golden sand beaches. Balangan beach was my absolute favorite.
Accommodation wise Bali has something for everyone. From cool inexpensive hostels, to villas, hotels and resorts. Just pop onto booking.com or airbnb ( click here to get $40 of your first booking! ) and type in the area and you will be spoilt for choices. Our accommodation was on average between 400k-2500k per room ( up to two people sharing ) and that included breakfast most of the time. We did not go on a budget though and there were great options for way cheaper than that in shared pool villas.