If you're travelling to Bali for the first time, you can expect an exciting adventure filled with vibrant culture, stunning landscapes, and warm hospitality.
To ensure your visit to this tropical paradise is nothing short of extraordinary, I have compiled a comprehensive summary of essential things you should know before visiting Bali.
From cultural etiquette, bargaining tips, and insights to drinking the water in Bali, let this be your go-to resource for navigating the intricacies of Bali, unlocking its secrets, and making the most of every moment.
While Kuta and Seminyak offer a taste of Bali's vibrant scene, the island's true essence can really only be explored in less touristy areas. And let me tell you now, some attractions in Bali are a little overrated.
Visit Ubud, then head further north to Munduk, or Amed, where authentic culture and daily life thrive. Embrace the genuine warmth of Balinese hospitality, try local food in hidden warungs, and participate in traditional ceremonies.
Venturing off the beaten path enriches your experience and supports local communities. Just be prepared for language barriers and the occasional misunderstanding.
And when visit Bali's spiritual sites, it's essential to embrace the island's culture, which is deeply rooted in Hinduism. Show your respect by dressing modestly - covering shoulders and knees when entering temples. You can snag a sarong at the local market for an authentic touch.
Silence is golden in these sacred spaces, so lower your voice and absorb the spiritual ambiance.
Participate in local ceremonies if the opportunity arises, and do so with genuine respect. Balinese people are warm and welcoming, appreciating visitors who embrace and honour their cultural practices.
Buckle up, because Bali's traffic is a force to be reckoned with. From scooters zigzagging through bustling streets to cars manoeuvring in unexpected ways, the roads can be hectic, to say the least. The best way to avoid the chaos is by being prepared and flexible.
Consider alternative transport options like hiring a driver for the day or using ride-sharing apps to navigate the traffic more efficiently. If you're brave enough to hop on a scooter, make sure to prioritize safety with a helmet and a confident yet cautious attitude.
Additionally, budget additional time when getting around. It can often take a lot longer than what Google Maps tells you due to the traffic conditions so make sure to be patient and leave plenty of time. You'll also need an International Driver's Permit to rent a scooter.
Of course, you can also take a taxi or use ride-share apps like Grab and Gojek. These apps not only offer affordable transport but also provide a range of services, including food delivery and even massages. Plus you can avoid having to haggle with traditional taxis.
Getting around Bali can be overwhelming for first-time visitors, making the services of a hired driver invaluable. Beyond providing a comfortable journey, a local driver doubles as a knowledgeable guide, offering insights into cultural nuances and hidden gems.
With a dedicated driver, you can customize your itinerary, exploring attractions at your own pace. Plus, I found public transport in Bali not to be very extensive.
Ask your accommodation if they offer driving services or I recommend you pre-book a reliable and highly-rated driver through Viator.
You may be wondering if there's Uber in Bali? Technically, no. In 2018, Uber merged with Grab, a Southeast Asian ride-hailing company, which now operates in Bali.
If you want to take a traditional taxi, Bluebird is a well-known and reputable taxi company in Bali known for its reliability, use of meters, and professional drivers. They are generally considered a safe option for getting around.
For a comfortable and immersive accommodation option in Bali, opt for a villa stay. Beyond mere accommodation, villas offer privacy, comfort, and a taste of Balinese hospitality all at a very reasonable price.
Whether you choose to stay in the jungles of Ubud or along the beaches of Canggu, villas often have traditional architecture, beautiful gardens, and even private pools.
Additionally, the staff at many villas are well-versed in local knowledge, providing valuable tips on nearby attractions, dining options, and cultural experiences. Some villas also offer butlers, masseuses, and private chef services which is the epitome of luxury!
Visiting Bali's vibrant markets is a must, so it’s important to understand the customs of bargaining.
Don't hesitate to engage in negotiations, as it's an integral part of the local shopping experience. However, the key lies in approaching it with respect.
Typically, you can haggle up to 30% off the offered price. However, the price is non-negotiable if the shop puts a price tag on items they sell.
While haggling, keep in mind that both parties should feel content with the outcome. Begin with a reasonable counteroffer, allowing room for negotiation. If the seller doesn't agree, be prepared to walk away—it's not uncommon for them to call you back with a better deal.
Make sure to appreciate the effort that goes into the items you're interested in. A genuine interest in the product and the seller's perspective can often lead to a better price.
Having cash on you also simplifies transactions in markets, allowing for smoother and potentially more favourable bargaining experiences.
While major tourist areas and establishments accept credit cards, cash remains a preferred and convenient mode of payment in many local markets, small shops, and for transport.
So, stash some Rupiah in your wallet and strike that balance between plastic and paper.
Bali can be hot and humid, there is no denying it. When it comes to your Bali wardrobe, think light and modest.
The tropical sun is no joke, so opt for breathable fabrics that keep you cool. Toss in some modest threads, especially if you're planning temple visits—shoulders and knees, consider them covered.
Keep sunscreen, a wide-brimmed hat, and sunglasses handy to shield yourself from the intense tropical rays.
Hydration is key, so always carry a water bottle to stay refreshed. Whether you're exploring temples, lounging on beaches, or trekking through landscapes, preparing for the heat ensures you make the most of Bali's breathtaking scenery while keeping your cool.
So, lather on that sunscreen, don your shades, grab your water bottle, and perhaps skip your daily makeup routine.
Don't miss trying local specialities on your trip to Bali.
Try dishes like like Nasi Goreng (fried rice), Mie Goreng (fried noodles), and Babi Guling (suckling pig), at reputable places only of course, it’s not worth getting Bali belly over!
Explore traditional warungs (local eateries) for an authentic experience, trying the flavours of Balinese spices and fresh, locally sourced ingredients.
Attend traditional markets to witness the vibrant array of fresh produce, spices, and exotic fruits. Or join a cooking class to learn the art of crafting Balinese dishes.
While you're trying local food, just do your best to stay away from contaminated food or water.
The last thing you want on your trip is getting sick, so ensure that your food is cooked thoroughly, and when in doubt, go for hot and freshly prepared meals. Where possible, stick to fruits that you can peel, such as bananas and oranges.
Staying hydrated with bottled or purified water is equally crucial. You can’t drink tap water in Bali, so stick to sealed water bottles or filtered water to keep yourself hydrated (and use it for brushing your teeth).
Take the time during your trip to soak in Bali’s incredible sunsets. Whether you're perched on a beach in Seminyak, on the cliffs in Uluwatu, or by the iconic Tanah Lot temple, make it a point to see the sunset each night.
The sky transforms into hues of pink, orange and purple. Grab a beachside seat, sip on a refreshing drink, and watch as the sun dips below the horizon.
Many beach clubs and restaurants offer sunset-viewing spots; just make sure to book ahead. And while you're there, it's crucial to stay vigilant about your drinks.
To avoid any unwanted surprises, opt for sealed or freshly prepared drinks. Be cautious about accepting drinks from strangers, and never leave your drink unattended. Tourists in Bali have been targeted in the past, so it’s best to be cautious.
Bali's not just about beaches and temples; it's also home to some furry locals. Monkeys, in particular, can be mischievous. While they might look adorable, keep an eye on your belongings to avoid any unexpected monkey business.
It's also worth researching any animal experiences in Bali before you go, to ensure they are ethical and sustainable.
Additionally, be mindful of stray animals. While Bali is home to many friendly dogs and cats, it's best to be cautious. Dogs and cats can carry rabies which is present in Bali so it’s best just to keep your distance.
You may also want to consider getting a rabies shot before your trip to Bali - just check with your healthcare provider for the latest recommendations. Other common vaccinations include Hepatitis A and B, Typhoid, routine shots like tetanus and the flu shot, and Japanese encephalitis.
Share this article
Last Updated 30 November 2023