Temples and beaches are two elements that seem almost inseparable from any itinerary involving Bali, Indonesia's most famous island. Yet Bali is so much more than its iconic sea temples and world-renowned surf spots. It is a vibrant blend of rich cultural traditions, breathtaking landscapes, and warm hospitality that sets the island apart.
Located in the Indonesian archipelago, Bali is part of the Lesser Sunda Islands, just east of Java. The island is not just the only Hindu-majority province in Indonesia, but it is also a hub of arts, dance, and traditional crafts that are interwoven into everyday life.
It's these aspects, along with the idyllic beaches and serene temples, that make Bali a unique and exciting destination. Here’s what you need to know before you visit.
Most power plugs and sockets in Indonesia are type C and F. This plug is the two-pin socket and plug design, which is the standard European plug.
The standard voltage is 230 V, with a standard frequency of 50 Hz. If you’re from the UK, Europe, Australia, and most of Asia and Africa, your phones, laptops and other gadgets can be used normally. However, if you come from the United States, Canada, and most South American countries, you'll need a voltage converter.
As a popular tourist destination, Bali offers a lively scene all day long, with some beach clubs open from 9 AM to 2 AM the next day. Most cafes and restaurants typically open from 10 AM to 10 PM, but they usually take the last order an hour before the closing hour.
While most minimarkets usually close at 10 PM, you can also find some minimarkets in the tourist area like Kuta or Seminyak that are open 24 hours.
Alcohol is accessible throughout the island, and you can get an alcoholic drink at minimarkets like Circle K. The minimum age to buy alcohol in Bali is 18 years old, and the cashier or bartender may ask for your ID when you buy drinks.
Although it's relatively easy to buy alcohol in Bali, you may be surprised by how expensive your drinks can be as the Indonesian government implements a high tax rate for food and beverages that contain alcohol. Alternatively, you can also pack an alcoholic drink (up to one litre) from your home country to save money for booze in Bali.
If you want to sample local alcoholic drinks, you can try various local beer brands such as Bintang, Bali Hai, or Prost. If you're up for something stronger, you can also try arak, the traditional liquor made from coconut palm flowers and fermented white rice.
The latter is also occasionally used in traditional Balinese ceremonies, but be very careful before trying arak in Bali since some arak in Bali are home-produced and can be very strong if you aren't used to them.
The use of bidets and toilet paper in Bali is quite common, especially if you go to proper places like bars or shopping malls. Since most sitting toilets in Bali usually come with bidets, it's not uncommon to find toilets that don't provide toilet paper. Be prepared to bring a pack of tissues or wet wipes just in case you encounter one like this.
Squat toilets are also widely used in Bali, so don't be surprised if you find one even in some popular tourist attractions on the island. Squat toilets in Bali usually have a bucket you can use to flush the toilet. Toilet paper isn't usually provided in squat toilets, so you'll need to bring your own while travelling around the island.
The most common cause of what's known as Bali belly, it is important to highlight that tap water in Bali is strictly not drinkable. If your accommodation doesn't provide complimentary mineral water daily, make sure to use only bottled water for your drink.
As a nation with one of the largest tobacco consumption in the world, smoking in Bali is widely acceptable to some extent. Most public places usually have designated smoking areas, so make sure to ask for one if you visit a cafe or restaurant in Bali if you're a smoker.
The price of cigarettes in Bali is quite affordable, with an average of IDR 25,000 per pack.
Most public places in Bali have free wifi, although you may need to ask for the password to use it. The best way to stay connected is by purchasing a SIM card with mobile data or buying an eSIM before you go (if your phone is compatible).
While you can easily get a sim card at the airport, the price can be multiple times more expensive than the regular SIM card you can get at a cellular shop. Choose a well-known SIM card like Telkomsel or XL for the best connection. You can get a new SIM card with unlimited mobile data for around IDR 150,000.
If you use a phone that you bought overseas, you can use it for up to three months only. After that, it will be blocked if you don't register your phone IMEI. If you plan to stay in Bali for over three months, the best way to do it is to complete your IMEI registration at the airport as soon as you land on the island.
In the past few years, there have been plenty of deportation cases due to their misconduct behaviours in Bali. Avoid this by knowing the dos and don'ts of travelling around Bali, which include:
Wear modest clothes when visiting temples. Typically, you must cover up when visiting sacred sites like temples in Bali, so avoid wearing clothes like a sleeveless top or shorts if it's a part of your itinerary.
Don't enter the temple area during your menstrual cycle. In some cultures and religions (including Hinduism, the major religion in Bali), menstruation has been considered ritually impure and unclean. This belief has led to the exclusion of women from sacred places like temples during their cycle.
Respect the local culture and traditions. You may see tiny bowls made of palm leaves in Bali. Balinese believe that this bowl symbolises presents for gods and their ancestors, so stepping on it is considered disrespectful.
Be careful of taking or recording controversial photos or videos in Bali. Indonesia has a law on Electronic Information and Transactions, which considers some types of content illegal, including adult content, hate speech, and hoax.
The weather in Bali is quite hot all year round, so don't forget to bring sunscreen no matter when you're planning to visit the island. Swimsuits are a must-have item in your packing list, whether you're planning to swim, surf, or sunbathe around some beaches in Bali.
Consider bringing a sarong and taking it wherever you go, as you can use it as a mat when visiting a beach. In addition, it can also be used to cover up if you plan to visit a temple in Bali.
During the rainy season in Bali, don't forget to pack a tube of bug-repellent lotion. This time of the year is known for mosquitos, so it's better to be prepared than sorry when travelling around the island!
When travelling around Bali, you can use either basic Indonesian or Balinese to communicate with the locals. You can learn some useful words and phrases in English, Indonesian, and Balinese as the following:
Good morning: Selamat pagi / Rahajeng Semeng
Good afternoon: Selamat siang / Rahajeng Siang
Good night: Selamat malam / Rahajeng wengi
Thank you: Terima kasih / Matur Suksma
You're welcome: Sama-sama / Suksma mewali
How are you?: Apa kabar? / Kenken kabare?
How much is this?: Ini harganya berapa? / Kuda niki?
In Indonesian, you can address any local if they look the same age as you or older as 'kakak'. It doesn't matter if they're male or female since the phrase is used for any gender. For Balinese, you can address a male figure as "bli", or "mbok" for female.
Planning a trip to Bali? Read our Bali travel guides
Last Updated 6 July 2023