As the most visited island in all of Indonesia, Bali has a very developed tourist industry and is very first-timer friendly. This famed Island of the Gods, covered in lush green landscapes, fringed with spectacular beaches and populated by friendly, beautiful inhabitants offers something for every traveler and amongst the world-class surfing, diving, and the range of cultural, historical and archaeological attractions, your stay in paradise is sure to be wonderful.
That being said, traveling to a foreign land usually comes with unexpected surprises – some welcome and some not – and it’s best to be prepared. Here are the best Bali travel tips to ensure your stay here is nothing short of delightful!
Check out our Bali Travel Guide for basic Bali travel information and tips!
Bali Travel Tip #1. Know Where You Should Stay in Bali
It’s all about location, location, location. There’s no doubt about it – where you stay can make or break your vacation here. The most wonderful thing about Bali is that it offers a wide range of lifestyle and experiences depending on where you stay. If you want to party, the Kuta area of southern Bali is for you. Want something more upscale? Try Seminyak.
If it’s spirituality and wellness you’re after, you’ll want to head toward Ubud. Seeking serenity away from the beach crowds? The north coast of Bali is perfect. Traveling with family and safety your primary concern? The top-security resorts of Nusa Dua is your spot.
Make sure you choose a spot in Bali that corresponds to the type of vacation you’re looking for. Check out our area guide to Bali for an in-depth description of Bali’s various regions!
Bali Travel Tip #2. Getting in and Getting Around
Bring cash with you on your flight into Bali – you’ll need $25 USD per person for entry visas to be paid on arrival at Denpasar airport. Older $100 bills often won’t cut it – they only accept post-1997 $100 notes.
As for getting around Bali once you’re there – keep in mind that public transportation is pretty much non-existent here. Unless you plan on staying in the taxi-frequented areas of southern Bali, the best method of getting around is to rent a car or hire a car with a driver. To drive yourself, you’ll need a valid International Driver’s License, which you can easily pick up from your home country before you get here.
Also, it’s a good idea to get your IDL endorsed by the local police in Indonesia once you arrive. Most street cops are unaware of this, but the IDL is not actually legal without the Indonesian Police endorsement stamp. You most likely won’t need this, but it is possible to be legally implicated in the rare case of an accident or an insurance claim if the endorsement is not done. Considering all it takes to get an endorsement is around 15,000 IDR ($1.50 USD) and a walk to a local police station – you might as well take this extra precaution. It’s always better safe than sorry.
Remember to bring cash on your return flight out of Bali – there’s an exit tax of 150,000 IDR ($15 USD) per person.
Bali Travel Tip #3. Money Matters
The cheapest means of exchanging money while traveling is to withdraw money straight from your debit card while abroad.
Travel tip: For US residents, the best bank for international travel is without a doubt – Charles Schwab Bank. You can sign up for a checking account/debit card with them easily and you’ll be able to withdraw money from that debit card from anywhere in the world without incurring any ATM transaction fees.
If you’re looking to exchange money in Bali, use only authorized money changers with proper offices and always ask for a receipt. Our recommendation is PT Central Kuta and they have several outlets where you can exchange money – the rates are often better than at formal banks.
Don’t bother with the smaller currency exchange offices in shops – their advertised rates are nowhere near the rates you’ll actually get after dubious “commission” charges and the like.
Bali Travel Tip #4. Stay Clean
Outside the highly touristy regions of Kuta-Legian-Seminyak, you might find yourself frequenting more local-type restrooms, which usually don’t supply toilet paper. Bring toilet wipes with you!
Also, small restrooms out in the middle of nowhere don’t typically provide hand soap. Hand sanitizers are fantastic on-the-go soap replacements. Opt for an anti-bacterial, alcohol-based one and use it religiously.
There’s no need to pack either of these – you can pick both up from the shops and supermarkets around Bali.
Bali Travel Tip #5. Mind Your Manners
Nobody wants to be purposely rude, but in a foreign country where you’re unfamiliar with local customs and beliefs, it’s surprisingly easy to give offense without intending to. Take these precautions to make sure you don’t come off as a jerk while in Bali:
- Don’t touch or give anything with your left hand. The Balinese traditionally don’t use toilet paper, using water to wash up instead. The left hand usually does the washing up and thus is considered “polluted” and should never be use to touch other people or give someone something.
- Don’t point. This is usually considered rude in a lot of countries so many of you are already used to not doing this. If you need to beckon to someone, it’s best to use your whole hand.
- Don’t intentionally step on offerings in the street. The Balinese put out canang sari every morning as an offering to the Creator. These little packages of woven palm leaves and filled with flowers, herbs, snacks and incense are everywhere. You’ll probably step in a few by mistake, but never purposely walk over one – it can be deeply offensive to any Balinese who witnesses it.
- Don’t touch heads. The Balinese believe the soul resides in the head – making it off limits for people to touch.
- Respect religious processions. This one is a no-brainer and sometimes requires patience, especially if you’re visiting Bali during high holy days like Nyepi. If you’re stuck behind a religious procession, take a deep breath and prepare to wait for it to pass – honking your horn or shouting for people to move is a very big no-no.
- Temple manners…When visiting temples, there are a set of rules you should remember. First of all – dress modestly in shirts that cover shoulders, upper arms, and legs. Also, women who are menstruating, or people who have bleeding wounds, are considered impure and not allowed to enter the temples. Also, avoid using flash photography inside temples and never, under any circumstances, walk in front on praying Balinese.
Bali Travel Tip #6. Avoid Bali Belly
Many travelers experience an upset stomach at some point in their travels – not just in Bali – and this is generally from the changes in diet and activities. It’ll usually pass without much discomfort.
Bali Belly, on the other hand, is distinctly uncomfortable and will significantly put a damper on your vacation. Take the necessary precautions to make sure you avoid getting a case of Bali Belly during your stay in paradise:
- Do NOT drink tap water. Go with bottled water only and avoid drinks with ice. Note: It’s important to stay hydrated in a tropical place like Bali so always make sure you have bottled water with you.
- Brush your teeth with bottled water to be on the safe side.
- Always clean hands before meals – use a hand sanitizer if the water in the bathrooms seems suspect.
Also, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Prepare in advance for any digestive upsets by stocking up on some charcoal tablets before your trip. You can take them as soon as you feel “off” to flush your system of whatever it’s acquired. We recommend Nature’s Way’s Activated Charcoal.
Another good prevention method is to start taking Probiotic tablets a week before your Bali trip and continue taking them throughout. We recommend New Chapter’s Probiotic – it’s totally milk-free and great for keeping your tummy health in check.
For family with kids, the best Bali belly prevention method is some yummy raspberry juice – with at least 25% to 35% real juice. Mix it with around 25% raspberry cordial and 75% bottled water. Drink it throughout your trip!
Bali Travel Tip #7. Beach Safety
Bali’s beaches are beautiful and among the island’s top attractions, but they also pose a few risks. The most obvious – and common – is sunburn. As an island close to the equator, the sun here can be searing. Don’t forget to apply high-SPF sunscreen at all times and re-apply whenever you get out of the water. Another sun-related danger you should watch out for is sunstroke. This is a fairly common occurrence in the tropics and a lot of people mistake it for Bali Belly as some of the symptoms are similar. It can be easily avoided by making sure you stay in the shade and do your sun-baking in increments.
Another beach safety concern is the water. The beaches on the southwestern part of Bali are known for dangerous rip tides and strong undertows. Dangerous beaches are marked with red flags – do not swim in these, they have strong currents that can sweep you out to sea.
Lastly, tsunamis are a danger with a very small possibility but a big risk. Ask your hotel about tsunami evacuation procedures or just find accommodations at least 150 feet above sea level and at least 2 miles inland. .
Bali Travel Tip #8. Getting Around Persistent Touts
Even more than Bali Belly, the potential dangers of Bali’s beaches, or the crowded roads, the number one most-cited annoyance of travelers to Bali are the incessantly persistent street hawkers and touts around the tourist centers of the island.
The good news is that this is usually only a problem in the heavily touristy areas like the southern parts of the island and central Ubud. If you’re staying in one of these areas and struggling with very persistent touts, the best way to keep it from ruining your vacation is to be polite but firm and carry on doing whatever you were doing.
Avoid the handshake – they’ll offer their hand and you might feel rude declining a handshake, but once you accept their offer of a handshake, you’re not going to get away easily – and definitely do not ask how much anything is.
The touts can be terribly annoying, but remember that they are people just trying to make a living any way they can and give them a brief smile and a firm “NO” and then busily continue on your way. Another helpful phrase is “Saya tidak punya uang” (I have no money).
Bali Travel Tip #9. Drugs and Alcohol
There’s a good chance you’ll be approached by seemingly harmless men on the street looking to sell you drugs like marijuana, ecstasy, and cocaine. Keep in mind that in many cases, these men are working with undercover police and once you agree to buy drugs, may arrest you in hope of a bribe or even worse – lengthy sentences in dilapidated Indonesian prisons.
You may also run into a few ads for magic mushrooms, especially around Kuta. Indonesian law is a bit unclear when it comes to shrooms, but considering that the whole country has been harsh on cracking down on drugs since 2004, it’s not worth the risk.
Avoid Bali’s drug scene at all costs.
As for alcohol, stick to what you know. Locally made spirits have caused casualties and even some fatalities in recent years, mostly due to methanol being used by locals as a cheap way of topping up their stock. Be very careful with locally-produced alcohol, especially Arak, and stick to alcohol brands that you know when ordering at bars or purchasing at minimarts or the like. If your drink tastes off, send it back.
Bali Travel Tip #10. Make Sure Your Travel Insurance is Current
Bali is generally safe to travel, but traveling in general comes with risks that you want to make sure you’re covered for. Travel insurance is a must.
We highly recommend World Nomads since they cover travelers from over 150 countries around the world, offer great rates, and cover a range of travel-related costs from the more commonplace – lost baggage and cancellation costs – to the more severe – emergency medical and evacuation assistance as well as coverage for a wide range of adventure sports and activities. Click here for a quote!
And a few more tips to keep in mind…
Bag Helpers. When arriving in Bali, you may be approached by people dressed like airport officials who offer to take your bags for you and walk you through customs. Only accept this if you’re willing to give them a “tip” for their services.
Monkey Business. Monkeys are cute, but they’re also crazy. Be careful with your belongings around the monkeys that occupy many of Bali’s temples – they are very, very good at stealing things like glasses, cameras and handbags. Leave anything you don’t want to gift to the monkeys in the car. Also, there are people selling bananas you can give to these monkeys. Our recommendation is don’t buy the bananas. It’s one of those things that seems like a good idea…until you have a full-grown monkey clawing his way up your body to get at those bananas.
Timeshare Scams. Timeshare scams are commonplace in Bali. You might be approached by a friendly street canvasser or even cold-called at your hotel – even if the caller knows your name and nationality, just remember that they were probably tipped-off by someone who saw your data and politely decline their offer for a “prize” or a “holiday you’ve won.”
If you go along with them, you’ll be subjected to a very long, high-pressure sales presentation and if you actually buy the “holiday club” product – just know that timeshare is a completely unregulated industry in Indonesia.
Be Traffic Cautious. When people think of the dangers in visiting Bali, the first thing that comes to most minds is terrorism. Yet, the sad fact is that Bali’s roads are statistically far more dangerous than bombs. The traffic can be bad in touristy parts of Bali where foot traffic and street traffic commingle in a constant, hectic dance. There are hardly walkable sidewalks around the highly foot-trafficked areas of Kuta beach in southern Bali and combined with the lack of road rules, the chance of accidents is high.
Rabies. There have been a few recorded cases of rabies in Bali – avoid contact with dogs, cats, monkeys and other animals known to carry rabies. If bitten seek immediate medical attention.
Many of these tips may sound severe, but don’t let it put you off of Bali! Thousands of people travel to Bali every month and have a beautiful time, not coming across any of the potential hazards of this lovely island.
Keep the tips in mind, make sure you have travel insurance, and enjoy the heck out of this paradise while you’re here! Happy traveling!