Useful Things to Know Before You Visit Bali

In Bali I felt an incredibly strong, positive energy. The last time I felt such energy was in Ko Phangan. 90% of Balinese are Hindu and most believe in Karma. The people are very warm-hearted and smile a lot. Even though Bali became a huge tourist destination in the past few years and changed a lot, the Balinese keep practicing their colourful and rich culture. I admire their daily tradition of little offerings called canang sari with flowers, rice, and incense sticks. There are thousands of them which makes the air permeated by the smell of incenses. This tiny island is so different from the rest of Indonesia where the majority is Muslims. You can visit temples, many beautiful waterfalls, rice terraces, and sandy beaches. Plus it is a dream for healthy vegetarians, vegans and raw foodies. More about my food experience here. And the strong internet attracts a lot of digital nomads who call Bali their home.

What to do

The west coast in the south of Bali is a huge tourist destination (Kuta, Seminyak, Canggu). Sanur, where we spend six weeks pet sitting, is a bit quieter. The beach isn’t the nicest for swimming because of the many algae’s but great for relaxing, reading, and the best spot for watching the sunrise. In the rest of the island you can still find hidden beaches, local life, and quiet resorts. I recommend visiting the touristic temples (e.g. Ulun Danu temple), the famous Tegallalang Rice Terrace, and even the waterfalls as early as possible in the morning. First, too many people ruin the feeling of being in a peaceful temple and nature area. Second, for the ‘Gate to Heaven’ Pura Penataran Agung Lempuyang you might have to wait in line for 2-3 hours. There are actually a lot of those ‘Gates to Heaven’ on the island without having to queue. And if you drive around with your motorbike you will see a lot of those lush green rice terraces. Third, the light for pictures is best right after sunrise and before sunset. Recommended waterfalls are Banyumala Twin, Goa Giri Campuhan and Leke Leke.

We only visited the Tirta Empul Temple where you can do a purification ceremony. Some time ago I realised what I appreciate the most during my travels are the people I meet. But one thing I would like to do in the future is to hike Mount Batur at 2 am to experience the sunrise. It is a 2-3 hour hike and supposedly a breath-taking view from the top.

Beach

If you want to see a beautiful beach in Uluwatu, go to Nyang Nyang beach. Pantai Kuta is nice too. The waves are very high especially during dry season so it is rather for advanced surfers. Double Six Beach is ideal for beginner surfers, swimming, relaxing on the beach, and watching the sunset. We usually rented a surfboard for 100’000 rupiah for three hours. Please take note of the warning flags at the beach where not to swim. There are some currents that can become quite dangerous.

Tradition

We had the honour to experience Galungan Day with a Balinese guy we met thanks to Couchsurfing. Galungan is the spiritually most important ceremony for Balinese Hindus. It happens twice a year in the 210-day cycle of the Balinese calendar. It marks the time when the spirits of deceased relatives are believed to visit earth. The families perform prayers and offerings (flowers, food, and money) to welcome and entertain the returning ancestral spirits, expressing gratitude and hope for protection. The most obvious sign of the celebrations are those tall bamboo poles called penjor installed by the side of roads at the entrance of each house.

Ubud

Ubud attracts a lot of people who are interested into meditation, yoga and self-development. I joined a sacred heart meditation at Yoga Barn thanks to a girl from Belgium I met. It is quieter than the area of Seminyak but still touristic. Part of Ubud is in the rainforest and it has lots of those gates of heaven. The Campuhan Ridge Walk is a very nice hike for 20 minutes for sunset. A little bit outside of the town are lots of lush green rice terraces.

Other things to do

  • Get a full body massage for 100’000 – 150’000 rupiah. In Sanur I treated myself to a massage at Koa Boutique & Spa (150’000, Balinese, 60 Minutes). I can highly recommend this place.
  • Free Yoga from Monday to Friday at 4:30 to 6 pm at Pantai Karang beach in Sanur. Check out the Facebook Group “Sanur Beach Yoga” for more info. The teachers and style is changing everyday which is great if you like to learn something new (e.g. Vinyasa, Hatha, Kundalini, Gentle Flow).
  • Visit the Odd Cat Cafe. At some days you can even adopt a cat.
  • Play boardgames at the Downtime Café.
  • The bar Casablanca in Sanur has a fun game ever Friday at 6-7 pm. For one hour the beer is free until one person breaks one of the rules: No toilet, no phone, no exit of the marked area. Chris went several times. It is a great place to meet people.

Daytrip to Nusa Penida

I would not recommend to spend only one day on the island Nuda Penida like us. Three nights might be too much but two nights are great if you don’t like to rush. We took the speedboat from Sanur port to Nusa Penida (Yamuma Express; 250’000 rupiah roundtrip; 1h per way). Depending on the company the speedboat leaves between 7:30 and 9 am and comes back at 4:30 pm. On Nusa Penida we rented a motorbike for the whole day (50’000 rupiah). Unfortunately, the road is in a very bad condition. Accidents are not rare. Even though Chris is a great driver, he got exhausted after a few hours of driving and we decided to visit only the left part of the island. There is also the option to hire a taxi or a shared taxi for the whole day. Please don’t swim at Kelingking Beach. The current is dangerous.

  • Recommended on the left part: Angel’s Billabong, Broken Beach, Kelingking Beach
  • Recommended on the right part: Atuh Beach, Diamond Beach

Transport

Ten years ago the word “traffic” didn’t exist. Nowadays the traffic is crazy in the touristic areas. There is still no public transport but some tourist shuttles that have regular departures to popular destinations all over the island. More information can be found at the airport, in tourist information offices or here: https://kura2bus.com. Most people go around with their own motorbike or by GoJek or Grab. GoJek is usually cheaper with around 10’000 rupiah per 2-3 km or 55’000 rupiah for one hour by motorbike. It is much cheaper if you attach your credit card to the app. To go by car is not recommended in the touristic areas because of the traffic. But if you want to explore the north of Bali it makes sense to hire a car and a driver. Check out the app Traveloka. Your butt will thank you and the price is very reasonable. Note that GoJek and Grab is not allowed in some areas (e.g. Ubud, Sanur Port, Batu Balong beach). Yet, I managed to get a GoJek back to Sanur from Ubud. It simply needed some patience since some drivers are scared to take you back.

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Rent a scooter / motorbike:

  • 30’000-50’000 rupiah per day
  • 500’000 rupiah per month
  • Gas for motorcycle (full tank): 35’000 rupiah

If you don’t have an International Driving License (IDL) and you get stopped by the police prepare to pay around 50’000-100’000 rupiah. If the police sees that you have more money don’t blame them if they ask for more. We got stopped twice during our six weeks but luckily Chris had an IDL. Driving a motorbike in Asia is a bit dangerous, but extremely convenient. Always wear a helmet with a visor to block bugs and ideally a scarf or mask to minimize pollution. If you are not planning to go long distances in Bali renting your own scooter is almost the same price as using GoJek. Since most gas stations do have solar it is possible to rent an electric scooter.

Accommodation

  • Couchsurfing is popular in the touristic areas of Bali.
  • There are some offers on www.trustedhousesitters.com. Thanks to that we stayed for six weeks in Sanur for free in exchange of taking care of four cats. Get 25% off when using this discount CODE: RAF259140.
  • Backpacker hostel start at 100’000 rupiah.
  • Bali has some incredible beautiful hotels for a reasonable price to relax.
  • If you are planning to stay longer in Bali renting a nice room in a guesthouse per month can be as cheap as 4’000’000 rupiah with everything included and good location. If you live further from the cities you can go way cheaper.

Money

  • Official currency: Indonesian Rupiah (IDR).
  • ATM fee: around 70’000 rupiah.
  • Maximum withdrawal: 2’500’000 rupiah (about 175 USD).

I recommend taking money with you and exchange it on the island (not at the airport).

Visa

  • Your passport validity should be at least six months.
  • No Visa is required for most tourists if you only stay 30 days. If you choose this free option you have to leave Indonesia after 30 days.
  • If you want to stay longer than 30 days you have to buy the Visa on Arrival at the airport: 500’000 rupiah or 37 USD (since April 2019). Cash only. This one you can extend once for another 30 days at an additional cost of 500’000 rupiah.

It is cheaper to extend your visa by yourself. But lots of people pay an agency since you have to go to the immigration Office in Denpasar three times. Here some tips if you want to extend it yourself:

  • 1st visit: Take a number and wait. Fill out application form (bring a black ballpen!) and copy your passport, visa and print out your flight ticket (necessary) in a building close by. Closes at 2pm. So come as early as possible. Closed during lunch time.
  • 2nd visit: Pay 500’000 for 2nd month; Interview & Photo shooting.
  • 3rd visit: Pick up your stamped passport between 1-3pm.

As long as you start the process 7 days before your visa expires you are fine. Even though with holidays it can take longer.

There is also the option to get a social visa (valid for 2 months which you can extend 4 times), a business visa (valid for one year; but you have to exit Indonesia every two months) or a working visa. For the first two you need an invitation letter. With this you can apply the visa outside of Indonesia (e.g. Kuala Lumpur or Singapore).

Internet

  • The airport has free WIFI, but it doesn’t extend to the ride share pickup area.
  • SIM Card (+4 GB): 60’000 rupiah.
  • Internet (Mytelkomsel) 14 GB: 98’000 rupiah. Telkomcel has better coverage than XL and is worth the extra cost.

Laundry

Laundry at small street shops is around 7’000 rupiah per kg.

Language

Most Balinese speaks enough English to have a basic communication. Being able to say ‘hello’, ‘thank you’, and ‘please’ is always appreciated and puts a smile on their face. Note that Balinese and Indonesian is a different language.

Weather & Best time to visit

Temperatures are pretty steady all year round. Average year-round temperature stands at around 26-27°C. Bali has two seasons: Dry season from April to September (less humid, less mosquitos) and rainy season from October to March. During rainy season it can rain in buckets. But usually the rain stops after a few hours and the sun shines again. A lot of the times it rains during the night and the days are sunny. Bali’s central mountain area is typically cooler and also rainier than the coastal areas.

  • Keep in mind that during low season prices for accommodation can be 30-50% cheaper.
  • High season: July & August, Easter Holidays, and Christmas & New Year

Best time to visit: April, May, June, September, and October. Just before and just after high season. It is still dry season, sunny and less humid. We were there in June, July and August and had a great time since we were in a less touristic part of the island.

Safety and haggle

Like anywhere else it is important to be careful and use plain common sense. Petty theft is rare. Yet, our helmets got stolen; even though we had jammed them under the seat. Some people told us that the Canggu area is a bit dangerous at night.

Don’t be afraid to haggle if there is no price written down. It is a custom in Bali.

I hope with this post I have been able to give you some valuable tips for your Bali vacation. If you have any questions or feedback, please feel free to leave a comment. I’m happy to read from you.

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