15 Things to Know Before Travel to Bali in 2023

Bali Travel Guide

Welcome to Indonesia: home to 17,000 islands, 700 languages, and the world's largest flower.

Needless to say, Indonesia is a must-see on any travel list. With so many islands and so many cultures, however, it could take many lifetimes to explore it to completion. Where does a person even begin?

The answer is Bali. It's like the Hawaii of Southeast Asia - a tropical paradise with some of the best beaches in the world, and much more.

In this Indonesia travel guide, we take a look at some Bali travel tips. Keep reading for 15 helpful pointers when travelling to Bali.

1. Prepare for the Worst Traffic

One of the things you hope to escape when travelling abroad is that pesky commute. Unfortunately, anticipate a bit of waiting around in gridlock. Bali is notorious for bad traffic.

It has narrow streets, with no city planning to speak of. If you are the adventurous type who prefers a motorbike, then you'll have no problem. Lane filtering is perfectly normal here.

So what is the tip here? Take anything Google Maps throws at you with a grain of salt. A 45-minute journey could easily end up being almost an hour and a half.

If you are the sort of person who arrives at the airport 30 minutes before their flight, you'll stop being that person for this journey. Otherwise, consider frequenting the less touristy areas like Amed or Lovina in Eastern and Northern Bali.

One more tip here: drive on the left, just like in the UK!

2. Be Careful on Foot

Following right off the last point, take care as a pedestrian. Like many other countries in Southeast Asia, pavement is not common. You will be walking in the street anytime you decide to hoof it.

So, exercise great caution when walking on road shoulders, crossing the street, and so on. Even better, consider just renting a motorbike. It's cheap and gives you a reason to explore further than you might.

3. Beware the "Taxi Mafia"

There is likely no country on earth where anyone likes taxis. Bali is no different. Taxis here are likewise unfriendly, deceptive, and absurdly expensive.

Unfortunately, Bali has a strong anti-ridesharing culture. Grab, the Southeast Asian version of Uber, exists in Bali. The thing is, the "taxi mafia" - disgruntled taxi drivers - don't take kindly to it.

You'll see signs everywhere forbidding the use of Grab ridesharing. It's not strictly forbidden, per se. The aforementioned "mafia," though, takes quite aggressive measures to intimidate and threaten them out of existence.

This isn't the say that your life could be in peril. Rather, non-Grab drivers have been known to smash windows or slash tires of Grab drivers. If you are brave enough to use Grab, perhaps do so on a sidestreet off the beaten path.

4. Take Tons of Photos

If you're an Instagram junkie, then Bali will be heaven for you. Across the island, there are hundreds of Instagram-worthy photo spots to practice your shot-taking. Things like the following:

  • Swings overlooking rice terraces
  • Exotic street-side murals
  • Ocean swing sets
  • Colourful and delectable food

This could be a potential downside. If you hate the plague of picture queues choking up beautiful areas, prepare to avoid them. You very well may find a great view, only to discover an impatient wannabe influencer waiting for you to move.

5. Learn Some Balinese

Even though you're travelling to Bali for only a few days, it's time to crack open a Balinese phrasebook. The people here do speak Indonesian, but Balinese is their cherished local lingo. As you should in any country, take the time to learn a few simple words.

Learn things like "terima kasih," which means thank you. "Bagus" means good and "cantik" means beautiful. Rest assured, locals almost always speak English for you to fall back on.

6. Prepare to Deal with Foreign Currency

The exchange rate here will come as a shock to some. For every pound sterling, you'll pay several thousand Indonesian Rupiah. Download an offline currency converter in advance.

ATMs are plentiful across Bali. There's just one problem: they are finicky with foreign cards. Travellers often report that they get a long "transaction pending" message and then nothing.

Some say the CIMB ATMs are the most likely to work. Otherwise, it may be a good idea to exchange currency ahead of time.

That said, you can trust that your credit card will work at the majority of restaurants and stores. Know, however, that a 2-3% fee is customary to process transactions. There's also a "plus plus" (service charges and tax) of 15-21% on most meals.

7. Negotiate on Souvenirs

If you love to haggle, you'll be right at home in Bali. Aside from fixed prices like tickets and restaurant food, vendors selling souvenirs expect haggling. One of many travel tips you'll need is knowing how to shave a few Rupiah off the price.

Aim for between 25 and 50 percent of the original asking price. Past visitors say the best technique is to ask for the price and walk away. Inevitably, they'll shout "discount!" to hook you back in.

8. Don't Worry About Religious Restrictions

Many people are aware that Indonesia is a majority-Muslim country.

Even though you should respect the beliefs of others, you might be concerned. After all, Muslims ask women to cover up and forbid the drinking of alcohol. That's not conducive to vacation activities!

Unlike the rest of Indonesia, Bali is actually primarily Hindu in belief. Translation: drink as much as you like, and wear that bikini.

9. Dress Light

Bali is an island, but that's where similarities end with the UK. Thanks to the tropical weather, it's T-shirt and sandals weather year-round, even during the rainy season.

Pack light, especially in quick-dry, breathable fabrics. Bring plenty of waterproof sunscreen and some shades.

10. Avoid Stray Animals

When you first step out onto the streets of Bali, you'll see animals everywhere. Chickens, dogs, and cats. No matter how cute they may look, don't get too close - dogs have rabies here, too.

Get high-deet mosquito repellent or the mosquitoes will eat you alive, too.

11. Don't Drink the Tap Water

Great Britain may have some of the best tap drinking water in the world, but Bali is the opposite. It's worse even than other nearby Asian countries like the Philippines. So bad that you shouldn't even use it to brush your teeth.

If you do accidentally drink some, you may fall victim to "Bali Belly." Use your imagination on what that entails. Ask your hotel for complimentary bottled water, or buy your own (it's cheap!).

12. Earmark Some Budget for Food

Many would call Bali a foodie's paradise. So much so that one of the biggest things to do in Bali is to just eat!

There's nasi goreng, babi guling, and beef rendang - more than is reasonable to list here. Drop by Balinese restaurants and try one of everything. Warungs - small, cheap, family-owned joints - are a good place to start.

Many travellers have taken note of an up-and-coming culture for coffee. Who knows, you may just have the best Colombiano you've ever tried in Bali, of all places!

13. Prepare for Some Internet Woes

If you plan to put toes in the sand all day, skip to the next one. If you intend to watch Netflix or scroll through Tumblr at night, though, you may run into restrictions. Even social media may be on the chopping block in the near future.

It's highly advisable that you get yourself a decent VPN for your trip. The free ones have privacy issues, so choose something more reliable like Express or Nord VPN. It only costs a few pounds for a single month, but gives you unrestricted internet access.

14. Avoid the Crowds

Bali is amazing, and the quantity of tourists says as much. If you hate elbowing your way through clueless globetrotters, learn how to avoid them.

Of all the Bali travel tips, this one is the simplest: wake up early. There aren't many at the beach at 06:00, so moving your schedule ahead will be worth it. You may be lucky enough to have tourist hotspots and gorgeous island views all to yourself.

There's another great benefit to waking up early. You avoid the heat, which at midday will teach you what sweltering really means. With an earlier schedule, you avoid crowds and soaking in sweat.

15. Get a Cheap Massage

Bali already has a ton of things that are game-changers all of their own: beaches, food, and natural splendour. Another thing it has is cheap, excellent massages. You can get an hour-long Swedish for as little as 6 pounds.

Any beauty treatment you can think of will be dirt cheap here. Facials, spas, Bali has it all. Enjoy premium relaxation on a budget before heading home.

Go Beyond This Indonesia Travel Guide

Bali is paradise on earth, but you'll need this Indonesia travel guide before you go. Planning in advance for things like currency exchange troubles or internet restrictions will make a huge difference. Then, you'll be ready for an unforgettable vacation.

Hand Luggage Only gives you all the best Bali travel resources and much, much more. Check out our destinations list for more excellent locations to visit.

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