Useful Things to Know Before You Visit Bali
My time exploring Ubud and its surrounding areas was the perfect introduction to Bali. I'm already plotting on when I will go back! Memories of its luscious green jungle landscape, undulating rice fields, stunning Hindu temples, volcanoes and the warm spirit of Balinese people are still very fresh in my mind. I recommend a trip to Bali for anyone who enjoys relaxing travel, mixed with adventure and vibrant culture.
Here are some useful things to know before you visit Bali:
Balinese Hinduism is the main religion practiced.
In Indonesia, the majority of people (87%) identify as Muslim, and .072% identify as Hindu. In Bali, about 90% of its people identify as Hindu, 5% as Muslim, and 5% as Christians or Buddhists. Bali is one of the only places outside of India with a large Hindu population. The Balinese practice Balinese Hinduism, which is slightly different from Hinduism in India. Before Hinduism arrived in Bali, it underwent major changes on the island of Java. The biggest change being the merge of Hinduism, specifically Shivaism and Buddhism. The Balinese Hindus believe that elements of nature are influenced by the spirit. Therefore, daily offerings are made to this spirit.
I absolutely loved seeing how important spirituality was in Bali. I couldn't walk a few steps without seeing colorful offerings. One of my favorites was inside a cafe in the airport which had an offering with an Oreo and an espresso shot. Also, the importance of their spirituality is reflected in the 20,000 temples all over the island. These are places where people communicate with spirits through offerings and prayers. Each village has at least three temples.
You should dress appropriately while visiting temples.
You should plan to dress modestly when in a Bali temple. Your shirt should cover your shoulders and upper part of your arms. If it doesn't, you can use a scarf to cover your upper body. A sarong around your legs and a temple scarf around your waist are mandatory for men and women. You can usually rent these items at the entrances of most temples.
Learn a few basic phrases in Indonesian beforehand.
Balinese and Indonesian are the main languages spoken in Bali. However, during my trip it seemed like most people spoke some English. I always recommend learning a bit of the local language. Even if you butcher it, the locals will be really happy at the attempt.
Here are a few basic phrases in Indonesian, the most common language spoken around the tourist areas:
Good morning: Selamat pagi (S’LAH-maht PAH-ghee)
Good afternoon: Selamat siang (S’LAH-maht PAH-ghee SEE-yang)
Good evening: Selamat sore (S’LAH-maht PAH-ghee soh-ray)
No: Tidak (TEE-dah/) Yes: Ya (EEYAH)
Thank you: Terima kasih (Tuh-REE-mah KAH-see)
You’re welcome: Terima kasih kembali (Tuh-REE-mah KAH-see kem-BAH-lee)
Excuse me: Maaf (mah-AHF) Excuse me (to get past): Maaf, permisi (ma-AHF, pehr-mee-see)
Currency Exchange & Other Money Matters
Know the exchange rate.
Do you want to know the quickest way to become a millionaire? Exchange a few hundred dollars in Indonesia. The currency exchange rate during my visit was 1 Indonesian Rupiah (IDR) was equal to 0.000074 United States Dollars (USD). The rupiah comes in huge denominations, the biggest bill being the 100,000 and the smallest is 500. Most of the prices are in increments of 1,000 IDRs. If you are like me and mental math isn't your strong suit, I highly recommend having a currency calculator handy (I personally use XE) or have key prices written in a note in your phone. This is particularly useful when you are going shopping at a market. Also, be careful not to mix up your 2,000 with your 20,000.
Bring cash beforehand.
I heard a lot of horror stories about ATMs in Bali not working properly for international cards. Some ATM machines eats cards for extended period of times, charge really high withdrawal fees, or just don't acknowledge the card at all. You may eventually find one that works, but it may take going through multiple machines first. With this in mind, I exchanged my money at the airport, but probably could have gotten slightly better rates in town. Beyond exchanging money in the airport, you can exchange it at a bank, hotel, or an authorized money changer. Unfortunately there are a lot money changing scams in Bali. Look for authorized money changers, they should have a green sticker in their window that reads “PVA Berizin” meaning they are authorized. Here are a few steps to avoid getting ripped off:
- Calculate the rate yourself. Check the money changer's rate and use your own calculator to determine the amount you want to exchange.
- Determine if the money changer charges a commission.
- Tell them the amount you want to change. The money changer will calculate it with their calculator and show it to you. This is where your calculation will be useful.
- Always count your money at the window before you walk away.
Be ready to barter-- never accept the first price.
With the exception of fancy boutiques, restaurants and convenience stores - the first price you're given in Bali is rarely the actual price, so don't be afraid to negotiate. A few rules of thumb, for tour prices, barter up to 15% of the original prices. For shopping in markets, start your bargain at 30% of the starting price.
Tips aren't expected, but happily accepted.
It's completely up to you if you want to tip. If you were given a good service, tips won't be refused, but you also won't get any side eyes if you don't tip. We tipped our guides, drivers, and service staff.
Best Time to Visit
Peak season is during the months of July and August. However, the best time to visit Bali is just before and after peak season, May, June and September. It’s still dry season, it’s less humid, and accommodation prices are up to 30-50% cheaper than during peak season. I visited Bali in October, which is during it's rainy season (October to March). It mostly rained late at night, and the showers during the day didn't last long. This was a perfect trade-off for cheaper accommodations and less busy attractions.
Taxis are really affordable in Bali.
A short trip can cost anywhere between 7,000 to 20,000 IDR (0.50 to 1.50 USD). If you want a metered taxi make sure you insist it as you get in. Otherwise, the driver may charge you whatever they want. If you are going on a long trip, negotiate your rate. Private drivers go for 50,000 IDR (3.71 USD) per hour.
GO-JEK is really popular app among foreigners in Bali for everything from transport to food delivery. It's like Uber, but on a motorbike.
Drink bottled water only.
By no means should you drink the tap water in Bali. Most hotel accommodations provide their guests with bottled water daily.
Prepare to get a a massage or two
There are so many massage parlors in Bali and they are super cheap. One hour full-body massages range anywhere from 100,000 to 150,000 IDR (7 to 11 USD)! Treat yourself! We had two amazing massages during our 4 day visit.
Have you been to Bali? Do you have anything to add to this list?
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