Going to Bali soon? Read this first before you go so you can be prepared! From where to stay, dos and don’ts, and other tips about the island.
1. Learn the Language
It’s helpful to pick up a few phrases before you go. In my case, I asked our driver upon arrival how to say thank you in Indonesian (Terima Kasih). The locals really love it when you make an effort to learn the language, even if you don’t pronounce it perfectly.
2. Download Gojek and Grab apps to your phone before you leave
Gojek and Grab are the Uber to Bali. On Gojek you can order a motorbike to pick you up and Grab allows you to order either a motorbike or car. However, if you have a phone carrier like mine (AT&T) then you will have to pay extra for using data outside the US. I made the mistake of not downloading the apps before I left and was unable to receive the verification text needed to use the apps. Fortunately for me, my sis-in-law had T-Moblie and was able to use the apps without issue.
3. Get a private driver
Sounds expensive right? Surprisingly, a private driver is ideal in Bali for visiting all the tourist attractions and is very affordable. I simply googled ‘private drivers in Bali’ and texted the companies via WhatsApp. On our first full day in Bali, we used a driver that was friendly but a little more expensive and wasn’t able to pick us up at the times we wanted. We found a different company for the remaining days. Gus from Yoga Bali Tour was awesome and had great rates. For a full day (10+ hours), with lunch and gas included, the fee was IDR 450,000 which is about $32 USD. Oh, and by the way, the price isn’t per person, it’s per car so the more people you travel with, the cheaper it would be! The driver took us anywhere we wanted to go and was almost like a tour guide as well as we learned about Balinese culture while driving to the destinations.
4. Get your body prepared
Bali is extremely warm and humid all year-round. We went during the rainy season and were still dreading the heat. Make sure you are staying hydrated and applying sunscreen. You may also want to buy some bug spray because the bugs out there don’t play. Here is a sunscreen brand that was recommended to me: Ultrathon Insect Repellent Lotion.
5. Motorbikes aren’t for the inexperienced.
Mostly everyone travels by motorbike on the island, it’s way faster and more convenient, but it isn’t for the inexperienced driver. I was amazed when we first arrived in Bali to see how the locals drive. There are no speed limits, a lot of honking (oftentimes not out of road rage but rather a polite way of letting someone know you’re passing them) and only street signals on the busiest of streets. It’s basically a war zone out there and it’s every man for themselves. I saw people drive on the sidewalk, drive on the wrong side of the road and cut people off like its nothing. Oh, and I witnessed two accidents but I’m surprised I didn’t see more! (no one was seriously injured, thankfully) We rented a motorbike our first day but after a few hours attempting to get around, we quickly discovered that #bikelife wasn’t for us. But if that is your speed, then make sure you purchase an international driver’s permit before leaving and wear a helmet. I bought my permit for $20 at AAA a week before I left.
6. There is an entry fee for almost every tourist attraction.
They usually aren’t high, an average of about IDR 20,000-50,000 which is a dollar and some change to a couple of bucks in USD). Also be aware that once you’re inside the attraction, there may be additional fees such as to use the toilet, to take a picture with a particular backdrop, or to ride in a shuttle to the attraction itself. Most of our entry fees were covered by our driver but if they weren’t covered he was able to negotiate the prices.
7. Plan to leave early when going out for the day
- It’s not as hot
- Little to no traffic
- Many of the tourist attractions aren’t ‘open’ yet so there is no entry fee
8. Be prepared for a hike
Most of the attractions that we visited required some sort of hike or walk to the actual attraction. We were not expecting this and often questioned how everyone managed to look so good in the Instagram pictures when we were drenched in sweat. If you’re not already in shape before you go, this trip will definitely get you there and have you feeling like an all-star athlete by the time you arrive home. Bring comfortable shoes for hiking and just take them off for the photo. Save the cute flip flops for when you’re walking around the town or going to the beach.
9. Bali is a very ‘Instagram-friendly’ destination
This means a couple of things:
- The tour guides and even the locals are like professional photographers with an iPhone. They know all your angles and some even edited the pictures on my phone for me. If you’re a solo-traveler no need to bring a tripod, there’s always someone around willing to take a bomb picture of you. But if you always like to be prepared, check this phone tripod out. Selfie Stick & Tripod.
- If you’re like me and actually go on vacation to enjoy the vacation… you may be disappointed at times. Because Bali is so social media friendly, you may feel rushed and overwhelmed at the popular photo opp attractions. While visiting Kelingking Beach on the Island of Nusa Penida, I felt rushed by our driver to take a picture and leave. They even had a professional photographer take pictures of me while I was at the spa! Of course, I wanted a photo but I wasn’t expecting a full-blown photoshoot. It’s no secret that Bali gained a lot of tourist traffic due to social media – I myself wanted to go after seeing some breathtaking photos on IG. But be sure to not get caught up in the hype and take time to live in the moment with no electronics. Indonesia is a beautiful country and it’d be a shame if you missed out because you were caught up in your phone.
10. Eat the local food
We often ate at Warung’s which are the local family-owned restaurants serving the local food. They are veryyyyy affordable with a whole plate of food costing no more than IDR 50,000 which is under $5 USD! There are a ton of aesthetically pleasing, hipster, vegan-friendly restaurants in Bali but chances are the food isn’t Balinese, it is way overpriced, and overtaxed. When eating at these restaurants, expect to pay a tax and a service tax leaving the total to come to IDR 200,000 or $14 USD per person. This may not seem like a lot for one meal but compared to all the other prices in Bali, it’s pretty expensive. Our first night we went to Finns Beach Club in Canggu and our total came to about IDR 700,000 which is about $50 USD. We thought we got a deal because we had 3 meals and 4 drinks from the bar (very watered down by the way). We quickly discovered that it was a rip-off and mainly stuck to the local restaurants to eat.
11. There are dogs everywhere
If you have a fear of dogs, be prepared – they’re everywhere. Most of the time they’re not even paying attention to you so don’t freak out. When I was talking with a local, he stated that most of the dogs have an owner but are free to roam around in the day and go home to eat and sleep at night. Oh and speaking of dogs and night time – the dogs can get territorial at night and may bark at you if you happen to be walking past their home. Stay cool and keep it pushing, they’re just doing their job.
12. Your flashlight on your phone will be your new bff
If you plan to explore at night, which I highly recommend by the way because the temperature is more tolerable, you’ll want to use a flashlight. Often times google maps had me walking down side roads or alleys that didn’t have street lights and it was pitch black. I even cut my toe open one night because I was walking without a flashlight and rammed my foot into a cement block. Let’s just say I left a piece of me in Bali 😂
And that’s a wrap for my top tips when visiting Bali! I hope you enjoyed and found this helpful, safe travels!
Read about my Bali Trip here!