In recent years, Bali has become one of the most popular destinations in the world: it has luxury resorts, villas and hotels of all kinds; restaurants and bars are increasingly trendy, such as beach clubs and pool clubs. However, before traveling to this wonderful island, it is better to know some important aspects, keep reading this post to find out which ones!
Bali: Things to Know Before to Go
Plannig the Journey
Flight – Hotels – Insurance
Bali is a touristic destination, so it is easy to organize the trip even without the support of an agency. It is necessary to own a passport with at least 6 months of validity till the expiration date. The international airport is called Ngurah Rai and is located in Denpasar (DPS). There are usually long waiting times at the immigration desk, so I advise you to be patient and show up well in advance at the airport when you fly back home. From Italy, Bali is reached in about 15 hours; I flew with Emirates, but all the major airlines fly daily to this Indonesian island; unfortunately, prices can easily exceed 800 € so it is a good idea to book in advance.
On Booking.com you can choose between countless hotels, resorts but also villas, a very popular option in Bali. The nice thing is that this island is really for all budgets, in fact you can choose accommodations among many alternatives for each price range. It’s up to you the choice! I suggest you not to stay in the same place for the whole holiday but, based on your priorities, you could visit other areas, at least once. A good solution can be spending 2 days between Canggu and Seminyak, than going to the southern part of Uluwatu for a few days and, in the end, moving to the wild and lush Ubud.
⇒You can read my post about the “Own Villa” in Canggu here.⇐
Always subscribe a medical insurance, please! The health service and hospitals in Bali is efficient and pharmacies are widespread in every city, but it is always good have a private insurance, especially because the prices for all the treatments are very high.
If you’re wondering how much time you need to spend on this island, the answer could be “as much as you can”! Bali, in fact, offers a thousand things to do and see. It is a perfect place for everyone: for surfers there are great waves, for those who want a relaxing holiday there are wonderful beaches. The explorers will surely enjoy waterfalls, temples and rice fields. Athletic people can go rafting in the jungle or climb the Mount Batur at dawn. For those who want a luxury holiday, here are located some of the most beautiful resorts in the world; while those who want to go on a cheap trip with backpackers, Bali is also great! In the end, it is a destination full of attractions and culture so, in my opinion, you should dedicate at least 10 days even an entire month wouldn’t be enough to visit it all!!! The more days you have, the better!
Climate and Temperatures
The climate in Bali is tropical; temperatures are high all year round. There are two seasons, the humid one, from November to March ,characterized by heavy rains, and the dry one from April to October, the most suitable for a holiday, both for the low rainfall and for the lowest temperatures.
I was there the first two weeks of September and luckily I found a fantastic climate with some rains only during the night.
Kuta, Seminyak and Canggu, in the south-west, are the towns with the largest number of bars, beach clubs, restaurants and trendy shops. They overlook the sea which, however, has a dark sand so the water does not have a nice colour. The sunsets, however, are crazy!
Jimbaran, Uluwatu and Nusa Dua, on the other hand, are located in the southernmost part and boast the most beautiful beaches, with turquoise-colored water. Keep in mind though that the beaches in Bali are not like those in the Maldives, there are indeed very high waves that make them perfect for surfers.
Nusa Penida, Nusa Lembongan and Nusa Ceningan are part of Bali and are three islands east of Sanur, easily reached in 30 minutes by ferry.
Ubud is the most developed city in this area and its surroundings are simply wonderful. This area is the true essence of Bali, with green rice fields, lush jungle and beautiful temples. Ubud is very famous for the rice fields of Tegalalang and the Monkey Forest.
The most famous cities in this area are Candidasa and Amed that overlook the sea. In the central part there are several waterfalls, famous temples like Besakih and Lempuyang and the Agung and Batur mountains.
In the northern area there are mountains and some lakes, in one of these stands the famous Pura Ulun Danu Bratan temple. Here you can find also some of the most beautiful waterfalls including Sekumpul, Gitgit and Banyumala. In the area of Munduk, blue hydrangeas are cultivated, while in the waters of Lovina dolphins can be spotted.
The west of Bali is the most unexplored and least touristy area of the island. Pemuteran is famous for diving; Gilimanuk is the port where you can take ferries to Java.
Since in Bali there is the left-hand guide, the solutions to move around are the following:
Private Driver: A driver who takes tourists wherever they want for the duration of the holiday. This solution is the most expensive, it costs around 50/60 € a day. However, this is also the safest way to get around Bali, he will wait for you wherever you go, even for hours and hours. I know, it could sound strange, but it’s normal for them! You will notice that in all the car parks there are canopies where the drivers, while waiting, shelter from the sun, eating, smoking and chatting with their colleagues! Super recommended if you want to travel long distances.
The easiest way to book one is on Instagram, where many drivers have an account and email address.
While I was organizing my trip, I didn’t know which was the best option and in the end I opted for the private driver: in my case it was the best solution! The traffic on this island is insane, almost hard to believe if you don’t see it with your own eyes, so having someone from the island who knows the streets well and knows how to get around in traffic jams has been a great help.
Renting a Scooter: The scooter is the easiest solution if you want to see the island alone. Renting a scooter is also very cheap, around € 4/5 a day, and rents are everywhere! However, it is also the most dangerous option, in fact, driving a scooter in Bali takes courage! There are many accidents, especially those in which tourists are involved. It is not impossible, but you need to practice and a lot of people drive without respecting the rules.For foreigners, driving the motorbike is allowed only if in possession of an international license.
Taxi: The Blue Bird Group is the only official Taxi company and uses the taximeter. The taxi is good for short distances otherwise the cost becomes excessive.
Other ways to get around: Go Jek and Grab that work through an APP. Uber is not legal.
Let me tell you this… traffic in Bali is crazy!
I thought that the biggest traffic jam was between Seminyak and Canggu but once in Bali I realized that the situation is quite different: in these two towns there is a lot of bustles, but I could see that also other places are crowded, like Kuta, Sanur and especially Ubud. I imagined this little city surrounded by nature, but it is instead full of life, with so many shops and restaurants. Just to make you understand, it took me 30 minutes to get out of Ubud at 13:00 pm and it was only 2km!!
Another thing… the distance: Bali is not a huge island and looking on the map, if we check the miles from one place to another seem few, giving the idea of reaching the destination in a short time … instead you should know that:
- Most of the streets are narrow but, despite this, they are still two-way; so, it becomes difficult to pass through these streets because of the traffic.
- Scooters are everywhere and numerous. Driving rules are not really respected, everyone throws himself in the middle, goes beyond the cars, takes priority when he wants, creating a complete chaos.
- Cars are slowed down by scooters that come from all sides.
- There are many rivers and avalanche chute but very few bridges. Do you know what? Time spent in the car doubles! If for example to reach your destination there is only one km missing, probably in reality you will have to travel 20 km or more, because you have to go south, go through the only bridge in the area and return to the north ( this is just an example to make you understand the situation). It happened to me several times to look at the map around Ubud and say “hey, but if we had gone straight we would have already arrived!” but instead there was no connection between the two roads.
- In addition to scooters, trucks and cars, there are so many dogs who often sleep in the middle of the road, and chickens, who roam without fear, also. Sometimes not even sounding the horn is enough to drive them off the road!!
Therefore, the suggestion I want to give you is to not underestimate the traffic in Bali during the organization of your trip, or you will find yourself having to cross many things off the route!
The Sunset happens between 18.10 and 18:45 all year depending on the month. In my opinion it is an important thing to consider because, being quite “early“, the island’s habits adapt as a consequence. Let me explain, in Bali watching the sunset it is a kind of tradition, especially in trendy bars with a view of the sea, and as soon as the sun goes down, people go to dinner (so already at 19). This means that, if you want to go out to watch the sunset and then directly to have dinner, you have to go back to your own accommodation mid-afternoon, between 4.30pm and 5pm. Obviously it is not mandatory, everyone is free to manage their time as they prefer, this is just a quick note!
In fact, one evening I found myself bottled up in traffic and had to decide whether to go back to the hotel and miss the sunset or to watch it and then staying out for the evening in beach clothes. In the end I opted for the second option (and I did well because the sunset was one of the most beautiful!) Although I admit I didn’t feel completely at ease in the restaurant wearing a simple cover-up and besides, I was also feeling a bit cold without sweatshirt that evening!
Useful tip: get up early in the morning to have more time to dedicate to the island and return to the hotel in mid-afternoon, so you will be ready for the sunset hour! P.s. early morning is also the best time to explore and find less people around.
Cost of living
Living in Bali is quite cheap, about a third compared to Europe. Locals and restaurants are really affordable; only the most “expensive” restaurants have prices like the Italian ones. On this island, Warungs are widespread, typical local trattorias, which are super cheap; however, I didn’t try them because I prefer food with higher quality standards.
The currency in Bali is the Indonesian Rupiah. You can convert money directly at the airport, in secure exchange shops. You seem to be super rich, so many are the bills you will have in your hands! The banknote of greater value is “100,000 rupees” and is equivalent to about 6 €!! Credit cards are welcomed in shops and restaurants; on the contrary, in temples and stalls, cash is almost always mandatory.
Remember that in Bali you have to pay to enter in every temple (around 2/3 € per person) and it is necessary to wear the Sarong (if you do not have one, you can use those provided at the entrance). If your legs are covered you won’t need it!
Sometimes, even some beaches have a fee as Padang Padang.
On this island, as far as beach clubs and pool clubs are concerned, the ticket formula is often valid with the inclusion of credits to be spent on food and drinks. This solution is excellent! Initially it will seem that the cost of entry is high, but once you order food, it could happen that you still have a lot of credit left at the exit.
Religion and Culture
In Bali the main religion is the Hindu Dharma (different from the Indian one) and is unique in the world.
It is mainly based on the belief of the entity of dhrama (the forces of good) against that of adhrama (the forces of evil); it is the duty of man to maintain these two forces in harmony and balance. The Balinese are animist, so they believe that the spirits of the gods live in things. It will happen that you see, for example, large trees marked with black and white checked fabrics (Kain Poleng): it is the Balinese sacred way of signalling the presence of one of these spirits that resides in it.
Religion is the true fulcrum of their lives, as you can understand from the thousands of offerings to the gods, which are placed every day in front of houses, restaurants, shops, temples after expressing a ritual. The offerings, called Canang Sari, are prepared by hand, with care, made of baskets of banana leaves filled with flowers, rice, other foods, money and incense. Be careful not to step on them or you will have bad luck!
Balinese ceremonies are beautiful and very frequent; men, women and children wear clothes for the occasion. Everyone brings offerings, many women often do it by carrying large baskets full of fruit and other things on their heads. After praying in the temples, at the end of the ceremony, the Balinese come out with rice attached to their foreheads, which is way to say thank you to the gods and to life.
Every day my driver placed a basket of offers in the car, so I decided to ask him a few questions:
“How many gods do you worship?”
“So many! Or rather, there is a Main – Sanghyang Widi Wasa – while the others are below “
“Do you pray often?”
“And what do you ask to your gods?”
“I don’t ask for anything, I thank them for what I have”
Bali Belly and other diseases
Bali Belly is a common disease in Bali, but in Asia in general, whose symptoms are vomiting, dysentery, cramps and stomach pains. Usually it lasts a day and then you get back to feeling good, but anyway it’s better to avoid it so let’s see how!
– Do not drink water from the tap because it is not drinkable and carries this bacterium; drink only bottled or filtered water.
– Keep your mouth closed during the shower.
– Do not use tap water to wash fruits and vegetables.
– Avoid drinking iced drinks in unreliable places.
– Avoid street food.
– Do not eat raw food, such as fruit, vegetables and meat of dubious origin, which could be contaminated.
– Eat in well-known clubs and restaurants that have a lot of customers. This means that they have high hygiene standards and use filtered water. They also use ready-made ice as well as safe (I know this because in every restaurant I asked for it to come from).
I did not ill with the Bali Belly but if it does happen to you, try to stay hydrated and consult a doctor.
No mandatory vaccine is required in Bali, health conditions are good. However, Malaria and Dengue are common in Indonesia so it is better to buy a strong mosquito repellent.
Some animals are sick of rabies, such as monkeys and dogs, so it’s better not to interact with them to prevent them from biting. *note on wild dogs: they are numerous and sometimes even rundown. Usually they are not bad and do not disturb. However, it is better to avoid their contact. Some dogs seem wild because they roam free in the streets, in reality they have the collar and guard the properties; simply Balinese are not used to keep them within the confines of homes. *
Curiosities about Bali
♥ The Balinese sound the horn while they are driving like crazy! Mainly to warn of their passage but also to say, “hey hello!” Or “attention, narrow road, I’m coming!” Or “I’m about to overtake you!”. In short, they use it a lot but never in a bad way or out of anger!
♥ Balinese English is pretty basic, but it is essential to know that they put P instead of F and V! It took me a while to understand it, but then it was all clearer! I’ll give you some examples of phrases that Komang, my driver, used to say to me:
“I park the car in the Pront” (parking in front)
“I haPe the WIPI” (pronounced just u-i-p-i – I have wifi)
“This is my Priend” (He is my friend)
Funny, isn’t it? I laughed a lot!!
♥ In Bali you can see very often the swastika symbol… but no, the Balinese are not racist! This symbol is indeed very ancient and has a positive meaning in their culture that recalls the sun and the universe. It brings wellness, peace and luck.
♥ On this island you can try some unique experiences, so if you go there, make sure you do these things:
Have a Floating Breakfast: breakfast served on a floating tray in the pool.
Take a picture in a Nest with jungle background.
Have a Flower Bath: a warm bath with many petals and fragrant flowers.
Try the Swing suspended between the trees that opens onto the void.
♥ According to the Bali tradition, children’s names are assigned to the birth order of the child in the family. This is why they all have the same names! Let’s see:
For the first child, choose between: Wayan, Putu, Gede (male) Ni Luh (female).
For the second child: Made, Kadek or Nengah
For the third child: Nyoman or Komang
The name of the fourth child is only one: Ketut
And if others are born after the fourth? Simple! They start from the beginning by adding “Balik” before the name. For example The fifth could be called Balik Wayan, the sixth Balik Kadek etc. etc..
♥ Bali produces the most expensive coffee in the world: the Kopi Luwak. This coffee is made with coffee berries defecated by the Asian Palm Civet that, failing to digest them completely, expel them whole, where only the external part has been “digested”. It follows that the taste of coffee, instead of being bitter, takes an aroma of chocolate. Would you have the courage to try it?
♥ Kindness and smiles of the Balinese people remain truly etched in the heart. They are peaceful, polite and lovely people. They welcome the tourists with cordiality, having constant care to make sure they are well and happy. The world would really be a better place if everyone were like them!