Bali is one of the most magical places in the world. From the daily flower basket offerings decorating the streets, to the deliciously fragrant incense that burns every evening. The women in vibrant lace dresses with baskets balanced overhead, the beautiful men in all white with big warm eyes, the steamy air and huge endearing smiles. The way everyone says “Thank you please” and “Hi please”. The mystical and intricate black temples that seem to pop up on every corner and the simple mystery flute-song forever somewhere in the distance. The Balinese families that somehow fit six on a motorbike to the blonde surfers whizzing around with a board by their side and zinc on their face. The friendly “bali dogs” that roam the streets and beaches freely and the devastatingly cute babies they produce. The warm sunsets that glitter the air with golden light. If you ever get the chance to go, don’t hesitate to take it. And know these few things before you hop on the flight!
Service is generally slow
And you need to relax. You’re on an island, and they just simply aren’t going to rush around to serve you. It’s fine. If you really think they don’t see you, you can get up and kindly tell them where you’re sitting. Or go grab your own menus if you see them laying around. But be patient!
Bali coffee is Bali coffee
Bali coffee is the coffee that most places serve. It is unfiltered coffee with the grounds sunken to the bottom of the cup. Sometimes it’s good, sometimes it’s not–but it’s definitely different. You can find espresso drinks but it’s more expensive and less common! Either way, Bali coffee is cheap and gets the job done. Also known as kopi:) Also, don’t forget to try the Kopi Luwak;)
Uber is available, but..
Uber is far and away the cheapest way to get a ride in Bali. Downside is in some places (Canggu) they are in a fight with the local taxis, and it may be hard to get one. I was trying to meet friends in Canggu and my uber driver was blocked and turned around by a taxi driver on a small street. One uber driver told me of drivers getting physically beat up and thats why they don’t like to pick up in Canggu. They may ask you to keep it on the DL that they are an uber. It doesn’t make sense to me because the guys driving the ubers are local as well. I’m hoping this is just the result of sudden change and will calm down soon, but it is something to be aware of and sensitive to.
Hiring a driver
That being said, one of the best things I did in Bali was hire a local driver to explore! For 600k IDR($42) total he drove myself and two friends around the island for TEN hours. The car could have fit seven passengers if we had a bigger crew. His name is Mus (pronounced moose) and he was so so awesome. He provided us with water and made sure he had a cooler in the back to keep them cold. He picked us up at our hostel in Canggu in the morning and got a feel for what we wanted the day to be like. First he drove us to a temple (I forget the name) and walked around with us, telling us interesting facts about Balinese culture and history and explained the meaning behind different things in the temple. We then told him we wanted to go to a waterfall and he took us to NungNung waterfall. We drove through the remote interior of the island and past tiny local villages that tourists never see. We hung out and swam at the waterfall for a few hours before deciding it was time to go get some lunch. Right when we left the waterfall it started raining. We drove through rice fields with amazing views in the rain and hearing Mus’ stories. We stopped at an outdoor market up in the mountains and tried different local snacks and fresh fruit. Then we went to a coffee plantation and tasted different coffees and teas under a thatched hut looking out over the rainy rice paddies. It was the first time I felt cool in Bali and the Ginseng coffee was unreal good. Mus was such good company the entire day and we shared many laughs:) I highly recommend him if you want to spend a day exploring in Bali. Click here for his information and tell him I say hi!
Bargain til you drop
Almost everything is negotiable. Get good at bargaining and do it often. Shoot really low and meet them somewhere in the middle. Tell them your friend got it for some ridiculously low price. They’ll at least come closer to it.
Careful at the ATMs
At ATMs in Bali, your cash will come out before your card, and you have to press a button to release your card. If you’re not paying attention you might leave your card in the machine. Like me. I did that. Don’t do it!! I had to drive an hour away to the bank headquarters in Denpasar to pick up my debit card the following week. Not ideal. In addition, try to use ATMs inside of actual banks or nice resorts. There have been issues with ATM’s being rigged to get your card information at street stalls. I didn’t have any issues with this and I went to many street ATMs, but it’s something to be aware of. Keep checking your bank statement and you should be fine.
Motorbikes are the most common way to get around in Bali and can be very convenient and cheap. They also can be very dangerous. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t get one, but you should be careful. I would avoid riding in super busy areas such as Kuta because there is SO much heavy traffic and it requires more experience and skill to stay safe in the madness. They use the opposite side of the road which takes getting used to as well. It’s best to start off in a place like Uluwatu with fairly open roads. Please don’t be the person who’s too cool to wear a helmet. It’s so not worth it; your brain is more important than your ego. Also, riding with a friend behind you is actually a lot harder to balance than I thought, so if you’re not super comfortable, get your own.
Don’t drink the tap water
Locals don’t even drink it. That is all.
Just in case..
Keep your purse crossed over your body when walking, and inside of your storage compartment on your bike. The vast majority of people are so kind and would never dream of doing such a thing, but all it takes is a few people to create a problem. A few people I know had their bags either stolen from their shoulder or had someone attempt. All it takes is being aware of this and taking the temptation away by simply putting it away.
If you are staying in Bali under 30 days, you can come into the country and leave easily without dealing with a visa (check the current regulations for your country of origin to be sure). If you are staying any longer, you MUST stop at the visa counter and purchase a Visa On Arrival. It costs $35 USD and is painless. If you miss this step, you will end up having to fly out of the country on or before day 30, and then come back. No way around it. For example, I was in Bali for 56 days so I needed to extend for a 60 day visa. Unfortunately you can’t do this on arrival, but you can extend once in the country so long as you’ve already purchased the 30 day visa. Through my yoga school I had a visa agent to take care of all the business, and only had to go to the immigration office for fingerprints one time. You can look up how to do it cheaper without an agent, but you have to go to the immigration office numerous times and its a real pain. It costs about $55 US to have the agent do all the work for you. Make sure they’re legit because you have to trust them with your passport. It’s worth it.