What comes to your mind when you first think of Bali?
Stunning beaches, spiritual retreat, romantic escape, adventure or a laid back vacation, Bali has something in store for all kinds of travellers.
I think I deserve something beautiful. –Elizabeth Gilbert
The memoir, Eat, Pray, Love by author Elizabeth Gilbert, had ignited a spark years ago. It was also one of the first things that inspired me to put Bali on my travel list. There were always constraints and obligations due to which the plan to travel to Bali never happened in so many years, until this day when I and my friend, Maya firmly settled on making it to Bali. This was also our first International trip which will be cherished forever. Planning our trip, we did some research, googled everything we could about Bali and sought help from folks who had been there. The suggestions were undoubtedly helpful but a lot was learnt in the course of our journey.
Here is a list of things that I thought would help anyone who is planning a trip to Bali. I hope this helps.
1. Flight booking: People often don’t pay attention to the duration of the flight, maybe the excitement of the destination is overpowering. Being mindful of the total travel time including the layovers is a good decision. The last thing you’d want to be is sleep-deprived and super cranky. We had to choose between a 1.5 hr and 3 hr layover, and we went with the longer layover to avoid complications in case of flight delays or issues with international transfers. Turned out to be a good decision!
2. Visa on Arrival: For Indian Nationals travelling to Bali on vacation do not need a visa to stay up to 30 days. There is visa on arrival for such kind of travel and there are no charges associated with it. A copy of flight and hotel bookings for all the days you want to stay in Bali is required for immigration clearance. For other details, you can check the official site of Bali visa requirements: https://www.bali.com/visa-for-indians.html.
3. Currency Exchange: The Indonesia Currency is called Rupiah (Rp). The noted are usually seen in large denominations. The commonly used notes are 20,000, 50,000 and 100,000, being the largest denomination. You will be a millionaire there! You will also find it common to see coins of 100, 200, 1000. Of all the research done, I can safely say it is better to carry USD from your home ground and exchange it to IDR once you land in Bali. The exchange can be done at the Bali airport or anywhere else in Bali, you will find plenty of money exchange centres. However, I would suggest not to get the currency exchanged outside of the airport. You will find many money exchange centres in your home country as well, look for the best exchange rate and go for it.
We opted for currency exchange from a marketplace named bookmyforex.com. They were pretty reliable. I got the money delivered at home at quite a competitive exchange rate. I’m sure there will be plenty of questions stacked in your head when it comes to reliability. Please ask as many questions to them and get a clear idea of which organisation you want to opt for. Most of the renowned money exchange companies are highly regulated to make sure the chances of scam is minimal.
NOTE: After enough research, it was my personal choice to place an order with Bookmyforex. This is no promotion for the company. It might work differently for different people across the globe. Request you to do your research and find an option that works best for you.
4. Travel Insurance: There can be unexpected situations that can happen anytime. When you are travelling to a new land, you must consider buying travel insurance that covers the cost of medical treatment, any travel misfortune or loss of baggage. We had opted for basic insurance while booking the flight tickets. My advice would be to consider buying travel insurance for a carefree travel experience.
5. Check for holidays or major event: It is a good practice to check and be informed of any holiday or any big event that might coincide during your stay when you are travelling to another country. For instance, the dates for Nyepi, Balinese New Year should top your checklist. It is a holiday in Bali, a day of complete silence. There are no scheduled flights to and from Bali. There are no outdoor activities entertained, shops are closed and going to the beach is also prohibited in most areas. Watch out!
6. Weather check: Bali attracts tons of tourists all around the year. It is advisable to check the weather predictions before planning a trip. People travelling to Bali are indeed vulnerable to the risk of natural disasters like Tsunami, volcanic eruptions which are unpredictable and can get deadly, this is not something that is in our control. You might just want to keep yourself well informed about the alert systems and evacuation maps of the places you choose to stay. Be safe!
7. Travel light: Keeping the load light gives you the freedom to take control of your belongings and travel carefree. Budget-friendly airlines like Air Asia allows you to travel with 7 kgs cabin baggage alone. You could consider purchasing a little extra baggage and you are sorted. For our onward journey from Bangalore to Bali, we were quite annoyed with the poor leg space but of what I’ve heard, Air Asia is quite reliable than other budget airlines.
Bali might present itself as one of the most happening international destinations but please keep in mind, the locals are quite conservative and are culturally driven people. Dressing modestly especially while visiting the Island temples or local villages is advisable. When in Bali, live like the Balinese!
8. Get a local SIM card: Buy a local sim card and the best place to pick up one is from the airport. There are sim cards with only talk time or only data pack services or both in one sim. All of these kinds of SIM cards have reasonable pricing. Besides, you can connect to Wi-fi in almost every place you visit in Bali. I picked up a local sim from the airport and my friend opted for International roaming which is another option. Her network connected even in the interiors of Bali which was pretty impressive but it is also an expensive affair.
9. Do people in Bali speak English? Bali’s main source of income comes from tourism. Hence, many Balinese people have learnt to speak a basic level of English to communicate with tourists. We had a mixed experience with communication. At times, it was difficult trying to explain slightly complex situations to some folks at the hotel and on the Island. While we did come across people who were fluent in English. Regardless, please be sure Balinese people are kind, humble and welcoming. They will find a way to help you out!
10. Getting around Bali: The hired car services with a chauffeur work beautifully here. This is one option of roaming around without any hassle. Gojek made our life easy in Bali. Their quick service and well-maintained taxis were quite impressive. They have motorcycle taxis as well, cheap and makes your life so much simpler. There are a bunch of other travel apps like Grab taxi, Bluebird, Uber, keeping it handy will help you get around Bali easily. You will also find private transportation offered by hotels that you check-in but those might be a little pricey.
In Ubud, we found hoardings that say “Say no to Uber, Gojek, Bluebird etc” and book the local taxis to help the local people of Ubud. In such areas, most of these apps might not function, you could ask the hotel to arrange a tour or book the local taxis. We were lucky to get a Gojek ride early morning from Ubud to Tegalalang rice terraces and back. However, later in the day, we found no cabs back to Seminyak from Ubud.
The other option is to hire a bike which is also a cost-effective way of getting around Bali. For riding a bike, you will need to have a valid International driving license. There is an option to get local drivers licence from the nearest police station in Bali but I’m not very sure about how effective that is. Bike mostly works for a short distance but people do consider riding for long distances. Be careful of bad roads and traffic that might get crazy and chaotic most of the time.
Few things to remember
It is always good to carry the basic medications wherever you travel. You can keep some other apps handy like Ithaka and Waze/google maps. You will also find a special kind of offering called “ Canang sari” on sidewalks, outside the hotels/restaurants, wherever you go in Bali. Avoid stepping on it, people there might take offence. The standard plug used in Bali is a two-pin plug. You will also find the plugs and sockets of type G in KL or at Bangkok airport. It is advisable to carry a euro travel adapter and buy a two-pin plug in Bali to charge your gadgets.
Bali has many beautiful things to offer, basket-style bags, handicrafts, jewellery and artwork. Bargain respectfully and shop till you drop. Enjoy the Balinese spa and be careful of street food.
Bali is extraordinarily beautiful and has a unique culture. Tourists in Bali have increased by great strides over the past couple of years. With mass tourism, it has become extremely important to protect the environment on this beautiful Island. We can only be mindful and take charge of our actions by adhering to these simple steps.
- The weather of Bali is hot and humid most of the year. It is a good idea to invest in stainless steel bottles and avoid purchasing plastic water bottles. Starting this year, the use of single-use plastic is eliminated in Bali. I carried my bottle throughout the trip and refilled wherever I got a chance.
- Say no to plastic bags while shopping. Carry a spare reusable bag for all your shopping needs.
- For short distance, rent a cycle. It is one of the most eco-friendly modes of transport.
- Try booking accommodations that promote eco-friendly practices. Re-use the towels if you are staying for a longer duration.
Try preparing your itinerary, do enough research, seek help from fellow travellers and I would suggest avoiding taking up a packaged trip. Travel at your own convenient pace, it is fun! Spend longer time in Bali, travel slow, use local transport and be environmentally conscious and mindful of wherever you go in the Island. Leave your footprint as invisible as possible!
I hope these tips help you plan your trip to Bali well. Having said that, please know that you can never be fully prepared. No matter what gets in your way or if things don’t go as per your plan, you have got to believe that there is a solution for everything.