26 incredibly useful things to know before visiting Bali
Bali is best travelled with some prior knowledge of what to expect, so we've put together a list of useful facts to help you make the most of your trip to this beautiful island.
Nº 1 - Bali gets busy
The island's popularity has soared in recent years and during peak season (July, August and December), Bali is bursting at the seams - especially Kuta, Legian and Seminyak. Expect to book in advance for certain restaurants and to pay more for your accommodation.
Nº 2 - Local life is never far away
We shouldn't have to say this, but of course, Kuta is not the 'real' Bali! If you want more than just burgers and booze, head to more rural parts of the island to understand how many locals live.
Nº 3 - Arts & crafts are incredible
We have family members whose entire house is kitted out with Balinese furniture and artwork. If you can afford to ship pieces home, these are some souvenirs that are well-worth purchasing.
Nº 4 - Ceremonies & festivals abound
Aside from the daily practices occurring at temples across the island, there seems to always be some kind of festival occurring in Bali. We were lucky enough to visit Pura Ulun Danu Bratan (the Temple on the Lake) during a huge ceremony. Check the Bali Tourism event schedule for more information.
Nº 5 - Respect prayer offerings
You'll see little baskets of daily offerings made by Hindus across the island. Please do not step on these 'canang sari', delicately made from leaves and decorated with brightly coloured flowers.
Nº 6 - Traffic is crazy
In south Bali, journey times can be ridiculously long compared to the distance you want to travel. Even outside of the main tourist spots, roads can be unpredictable, motorcyclists chaotic and the driving rules confusing. Stay safe.
Nº 7 - Bluebird taxis are reliable
Many taxi companies imitate Bluebird in an attempt to get business. The 'real' Bluebird taxis are pale blue with a dark bird logo; they all use the meter and each one we used drove safely, offered to take our bags and opened the doors for us.
Nº 8 - You can't drink the water
You don't want to get sick, so please avoid drinking the tap water! Buy a steel bottle to refill so you don't have to keep buying plastic water bottles, which have a devastating effect on the local environment.
Nº 9 - Rubbish is a real problem
Like most of South East Asia, garbage is everywhere. The best thing you can do is not add to the problem, like buying a reusable water bottle instead of making your way through plastic ones.
Nº 10 - Bargaining is key
Barter respectfully, with a smile, and with a price in mind. Don't be afraid to negotiate, but be prepared to walk away it the vendor has reached their lowest price.
Nº 11 - Balinese is different from indonesian
Many visitors are unaware that the Balinese language is very different from Bahasa Indonesian. As an example, 'terima kasih' means 'thank you' in Indonesian, compared to 'suksma' in Balinese. Taking the time to learn these differences is worthwhile.
Nº 12 - Massages are cheap, cheap, cheap!
You can get a cheap one hour full body delight from the massage parlour on that street corner for the equivalent of $10. Yet, do some research and you can receive a high quality ninety-minute massage from a fully trained masseuse in a stunning location for around $30 (as we did in Ubud!).
Nº 13 - Added taxes in restaurants and bars
Don't be alarmed if you see an extra 21% added on to your restaurant bill. All restaurants and bars must charge these taxes, and although most establishments include this in the listed prices, some menus display small print to that effect, too.
Nº 14 - Mosquitoes are everywhere
Malaria is not a concern in Bali, but that doesn't mean mosquitoes won't be out with a vengeance. At dusk especially, take care to apply insect repellent and cover up, especially if you tend to get ravaged as much as Rachel does...
Nº 15 - you may get 'bali belly'
Even if you avoid the tap water, street food and salad, refuse ice in your drink and steer clear from seafood - you may still get Bali belly. You might as well just eat and drink what you want (in moderation, of course)!
Nº 16 - Bali suits every budget
Bali can be a budget destination, but it also boasts swanky luxury hotels, fine dining restaurants and exclusive bars. Don't be surprised if you end up spending more than you planned...
Nº 17 - ATMs can be sporadic
Fresh from our flight, we raced straight to the ATM only to find that only 1 out of our 4 debit cards worked in the machine. Cue mild panic and the rest of the holiday spent testing various ATMs, withdrawing the maximum amount of cash each time (which was still relatively small) and therefore plenty of withdrawal fees!
Nº 18 - No licence? Expect to pay a fine
Many tourists hire a scooter to explore the island, without any kind of licence. If you get stopped by the police, you may be asked to pay a fine for not having one, or risk imprisonment. Do yourselves a favour and pay the fine - it won't be much by Western standards and it avoids something far worse.
Nº 19 - Rabies is a serious risk
Deadly and dangerous, rabies is a real concern in Bali so please avoid aggravating or touching stray animals.
Nº 20 - Private drivers offer a great way to see the island
If, like us, you're not confident on a scooter, hiring a private driver is an excellent way to explore lesser-visited parts of the island. We had an excellent, long day with Amansuka exploring north of Ubud.
Nº 21 - WiFi is widely available
In the main tourist towns, there's no shortage of wifi, even if you have to pay a small fee.
Nº 22 - There's a naming system
You may meet a lot of people called Wayan, Made, Nyoman or Ketut. Regardless of gender, children are named in order of their birth. Once they get to their fifth child, they go back to Wayan!
Nº 23 - Traditional dances are stunning
If you get a chance, go to see a traditional dance being performed. There's plenty of troupes that perform in Ubud, as well as other tourist areas. Visit the Information Centre for more information.
Nº 24 - Many locals are not balinese
It may surprise you to know that a lot of Indonesians living in Bali are not from the island. Many travel over from Java or Lombok for work opportunities.
Nº 25 - The food is amazing
From sate ayam to pisang goreng, the food in Bali is to die for.
Nº 26 - Tips are not expected
Tips are not customary in Bali, though welcomed. If you have experience excellent service it's a great way to show your appreciation.