Before exploring the beauty of Bali, be sure to check out these handy hints.
You’ve just arrived a new country you know nothing about. The flight was long, you’re tired, and there’s a manic scrum of touts and drivers in the arrivals hall, all yelling for your custom. You don’t know how much a cab should cost. You don’t have any local currency. You’re not even sure how far away your hotel is. Sound like fun? Not really. Best way to avoid this type of welcome when you arrive in Bali is by pre-booking a transfer to your hotel. Costs a bit more, but it’s worth it.
What are you looking for on this holiday in Bali? A nice secluded beach and a local village? Then Kuta is not the place to be. Maybe you want to party until the wee hours? Don’t go to Ubud. Perhaps you just want space to relax and get away from it all? Don’t go to Semanyak. There are many sides to Bali, and the trick to enjoying your holiday there is to pick the one that suits you best.
You’re probably going to want to hire a scooter at some point. After all, they’re cheap, they’re fun, and they’re the way most of the locals get around. So go for it. But take a tip: wear a helmet. Not only is it safer, but it will also help you avoid unnecessary run-ins with the police. Also, if you want your travel insurance to cover you, make sure you have a New Zealand scooter or motorbike license.
Here’s the thing about Bali, and many other developing countries: the police aren’t always your friend. Sometimes they are, sure. But police corruption is unfortunately rife in Bali, which means you may get pulled over and issued an “on the spot fine” at any point and there’s very little you can do but play along. Best approach with Balinese police: try not to have any interaction with them at all.
In this day of international banking there’s little need to engage the services of a money-changer, which is handy, because in Bali you never know what you’re getting. Pretty much anyone can slap the word “official” on their exchange office and charge whatever rates they feel like. Some have even been known to hand over counterfeit notes. Either check the official rates before you use these guys, or even better, just use the ATMs at well-known banks.
It’s tempting to try to snap that classic photo of an old Balinese woman at a market, or of men out in the fields, or of local people carrying baskets of produce into town. But before you shoot: ask. Some people don’t like having their photos taken by random strangers. There are also some who will demand money after you’ve taken the photo. Do the right thing and ask people first.
That’s right: you should eat from the streets. Balinese street food is some of the best fare around, even with the threat of “Bali belly” ever present. Just ensure you choose busy markets, and go to the vendors with the longest queues of locals. The tourists might not have a clue what they’re doing, but the locals know exactly where to eat to stay healthy.
It won’t take long on your trip to Bali before some taxi driver has tried to force you into visiting a jeweller, or a souvenir store, or a myriad of other shops that you really don’t want to go into but that your driver will gain a commission from if you decide to buy something there. Be polite, but be firm: you don’t want to go.
You can see the appeal in drinking arak, the fiery Balinese spirit: it’s cheap, it’s potent, and it makes you feel like you’re having a cultural experience just by trying it. But beware. Some of the arak sold in Bali has been mixed by unscrupulous vendors with methylated spirits, or other dodgy ingredients, to make it last a little longer. If you’re going to try arak, make sure it comes from a trusted source, or buy whole sealed bottles.
Remember: you’re on holidays, and not everyone in Bali is out to get you. Not all the taxi drivers are dodgy; not all the policemen are crooked; not all the street vendors are unsafe. Smile. It will not only help you relax, but it will also be a great way of interacting with locals in a country in which it’s bad form to be visibly irritated or upset.
Want to know more before you embark on your trip to beautiful Bali? Check out 1Cover's comprehensive Bali Survival Guide.
Have a fun, safe & enjoyable holiday with our guide to staying safe in Bali.
1Cover’s UK Survival Guide is packed full handy hints, tips and tricks from those in the know.