Here are 16 things to know before visiting Bali.

2023-03-28 16:28:55 - Drany Macley Drany Macley, the senior editor of Vytravels.com, brings extensive journalism background and over eight years of experience in travel writing and editing to the site, offering practical insights and first-hand knowledge through articles on innovative hotels, backed by a BA in Journalism from Ithaca College.

There are a few ways to make the most of your time in Bali, from dealing with the crowds to learning to communicate with monkeys. Here are 16 insider recommendations for your trip to Hawaii's "Island of the Gods."

Note to editors: travel restrictions apply during COVID-19. Verify the current recommendations before leaving, and remember to always abide by local health recommendations.

Count on a Crowd 1.

Bali, one of the world's most visited islands, is far from a secluded paradise even when the pandemic isn't going on. Southern Bali and Ubud are popular tourist destinations, so getting away from the crowds can be challenging. However, once you venture outside of these areas, you'll find plenty of quiet spots perfect for those who crave isolation. Get away from it all in the tranquil north and west coasts of Bali, or in the central mountains.

Pick your foundation wisely, number two

Because of the island's chaotic traffic and hot weather, visitors are advised to stay close to their hotel or guesthouse rather than venturing far on foot or sitting in stuffy taxis. Kuta isn't the place to go if you're in need of some serious downtime. A week on Nusa Lembongan probably won't be enough time to do all of your shopping and eat until you feel sick. Lonely Planet has a great guide for those visiting Bali for the first time.

Worrying about getting a "Bali belly" is unnecessary.

You can now enjoy your Bali vacation without spending every minute of your time within a commode without having to adhere to any strict dietary habits. While salads, cut fruit, ice cubes, and most meats were once considered dangerous, the island's hygiene standards have greatly improved, and many restaurants now feature high-quality organic produce. Although contaminated prawns will always be present, the dreaded Bali belly can be avoided by maintaining a healthy fluid intake, avoiding the local liquor with a bad reputation (arak), and exercising some common sense when eating from the street.

A popular Balinese meal of rice with variety of vegetables in a wooden bowls sitting on a bamboo place mats. Flowers are placed around the bowls of food. Dining in Bali can sometimes look like a work of art.
Ariyani Tedjo / Shutterstock The organic local ingredients used in Bali's cuisine are of high quality.

4. Appropriate attire

In some of Bali's more upscale establishments, such as restaurants and clubs, even beachwear may not be acceptable. Call ahead if you're unsure; it would be embarrassing to show up and be turned away.

5. Be sensitive to religious practices

Bali is a very religious place. Don't get your knickers in a knot if you're driving and your driver pulls over in the middle of the road for a blessing or a ceremony. Dress respectfully (covering shoulders and knees) and act appropriately when visiting temples and holy sites in Bali, and make sure to plan your trip around Nyepi, when the entire island is closed (including the airport).

Expect a wide range of prices, number six.

You can still have a cheap vacation in Bali if you stick to guesthouses, eat at warungs, and shop at local markets, but you also run the risk of spending all your money. Prices at high-end restaurants, spas, and hotels are on par with those in the United Kingdom, the United States, and Australia. Find ways to save money, such as online coupons and happy hour specials.

A light gray monkey eats a piece of fruit in Bali.
It's common knowledge that the monkeys of Bali are notorious pickpockets. Samantha Chalker / Lonely Planet

7: Watch out for roaming or abandoned animals

Keep your distance from any unfamiliar or wild animals. Monkeys in Bali are notorious for stealing and spreading diseases like rabies, despite their endearing appearance. Stray dogs in Bali are abundant, and many of them are in poor health. If you want to make a difference, you can help the stray dogs of Bali by donating to an organization called Bali Dog Refuge.

Don't use disposable water bottles

Bali's heat and humidity require constant hydration, but before you buy another bottled drink, spare a thought for the planet. During the monsoon season, local authorities remove up to 60 tons of plastic trash from Bali's beaches every day. To contribute to lowering this number, consider purchasing a reusable stainless steel water bottle to use at any of the many fine establishments that offer filtered water for either free or a nominal fee.  

Nine. Start speaking the language.

Learn some simple Bahasa Indonesia phrases before visiting Bali. Start with "good morning," "please," and "thank you," or "salamat pagi," "please," and "terima kasih," respectively.

Huge dark clouds out at sea contrasting with the light elsewhere. A small row boat is in the foreground on the beach
Prices drop during the wetter months. Bento Fotography / Getty Images

Ten. Low season is usually wet season.

If you want to visit Bali, make sure to avoid the wet months (January–April and October–November) Even with the best deals, a holiday spent inside may leave you wondering if it was worth going anywhere at all. Fortunately, the rains tend to be short and in the afternoon, so your vacation probably won't be ruined.

Understand the current visa situation. 11.

Indonesia's entry visa process is being modernized with the advent of an online portal. Before departing, check with the Indonesian embassy or consulate in your home country to find out the most up-to-date entry requirements for foreign nationals.  

Don't forget about Mother Nature.

The highly active volcanoes of Bali can have both short- and long-term effects on travel in and out of the island. Keep an eye on updated travel warnings.

A pair of signs, one in Indonesian and the other in English, warning travellers to not sit on a wall in Bali.
As strange as they may be, it's best to play by Bali's rules Samantha Chalker / Lonely Planet

Adhere to the norms

It's best to just pay "fines" with good grace and not argue with the police if you're accused of breaking the law in Indonesia, even if it seems unfair. As a foreigner, you will receive no preferential treatment, and it should go without saying that you should avoid all drug use.

Negotiate politely, number 14

Bali is a great place to bargain for goods and services, so long as you do so courteously and with a positive attitude. When the vendor has reached their limit, you won't be able to get any further concessions from them. If the seller doesn't pursue you, you can safely assume they are unwilling to negotiate a lower price.

15. Honor the sea

Bali's strong waves, strong currents, and exposed rocks can be dangerous even for experienced surfers and beachgoers; tread carefully, and don't swim alone unless you're completely confident in your abilities. Don't be a jerk and litter the beach with your trash (including cigarette butts) — it will harm the marine environment and wash away with the tide.

A surfer holding a surfboard runs from the surf to the beach in Bali
Be careful while relaxing on Bali's stunning beaches, courtesy of Arsirya / Shutterstock

Don't worry, but keep your eyes open

With approximately six million tourists flocking to its shores annually, it's reasonable to expect that some visitors may run into difficulties due to the island's history of terrorism and natural disasters. If you play it safe at parties, always use a helmet when riding a bike or scooter, treat locals with respect, and don't engage in behavior you would consider illegal at home, you should have a fantastic time on your vacation.

Additionally, you may enjoy:

Where to eat, stay, and play in Bali for the first time
The Best 9 Free Attractions in Bali
Where to go to relax in Bali: the best spas and hangouts

First appearing in July 2009, this article was most recently revised in January of 2021.  

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This article was originally published in May 2019 and revised in January 2021.1

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