Oh, Bali! An Indonesian island so famous for its natural beauty that it barely needs any introduction. that being said, there’s a few essential things to know before visiting the island that I wanted to share.
Even if you haven’t been, chances are that you know someone who has or indeed really want to go yourself.
Good thing is, for its relatively small size, there’s a surprising amount of things to see and do here.
It certainly feels like the kind of place you could spend a month in (or indeed months) and not get bored of.
We recently returned to the island and although we’d been before, albeit, for a much shorter space of time, there were quite a few surprises still waiting to be had on this island.
Context: we used to live in Singapore back then so as indulgent as a weekend trip to Bali sounds now that we live in London, back when we were in Singapore it was a pretty normal thing to do.
I think I was surprised by how surprised I was by so many little things in Bali, especially considering I wasn’t particularly a stranger to the island.
Since then, I just knew I had to share with you some important things worth knowing/considering when planning to visit Bali.
Bali Travel Guide
1.) Where to stay
The southern part of the island is arguably the most popular part for visitors to the islands.
This means you’re bound to run into a lot of tourists here but that’s not a bad thing – this part of Bali is popular for a reason (the beautiful beaches for starters and plethora of amazing food) so don’t rule out spending time here, even if you’re crowd shy.
Personally, a mix of both would probably be the best way to enjoy the island, spend a few days away from the crowds then head on down to enjoy island life with other travellers.
2.) Strap on those walking shoes
There’s a fair bit of walking/’hiking’ to see some of the best sights here – especially the waterfalls! We’re not talking flat hiking either, we’re talking walking down hundreds of sometimes very uneven steps, through the jungle to find these amazing waterfalls.
Always worth it once you get there though.
3.) Yes, even the temples can require some hiking to
Speaking of walking or hiking, this also applies to a fair few temples.
Some of them are easy to get to and walk across but some require a fair bit of hiking to get to (up in the mountains) or just have a LOT of stairs within them leading to different parts of the temples.
4.) Don’t get leeched on
Beware of leeches when you walk through the jungle. It’s all fine really and chances are you won’t get any on you – out of four of us, only Chris had leeches on him after a trek to the waterfall and considering the amount of jungle walking we did over 3 different days, you realise the odds of this happening are fairly low.
That being said though, it’s always worth checking your legs and body in general after long walks just to see if there’s any on you (it’s so much easier to get rid of them if you catch them sooner rather than later).
5.) Decide in advance if outdoor living is for you
As romantic as the idea of staying booking a plush villa in the jungle (the “jungle” bit being the important bit worth paying attention to) with outdoor showers, baths and maybe even outdoor beds might be, it’s important to remember that you’re in the jungle and will be joined by many a wild-life (it is their home after all).
This for me was by far the biggest surprise. I was just so used to the idea of outdoor baths, like in the Maldives, is the stuff of dreams (which is why we booked the villa we did with an infinity pool over-looking the jungle) but after dealing with gigantic spiders (the side of your hand outstretched), huge toads, bugs that are so heavy the whack onto the walls like pellets, weird animal poo on the floor (which you think could be that gigantic 14-inch gecko you just saw or potentially a snake), the less relaxing the idea of jungle living seems.
There were so many moments of screeching, running and jumping from so many animal-related surprised that by the end, I wished we’d booked another place down south to balance things out. 😆😆
6.) Get those massages in
Massages are really cheap here so be prepared to have as many massages as you can handle! (We had two a day sometimes).
7.) Hiring a driver can be cheaper (and less stressful) than getting taxis
If you don’t drive, fret not – you can get a driver for the day for fairly cheap (we’re talking $20 – $40 for the whole day).
Taxis are also fairly cheap here though you do have to haggle sometimes as people here will definitely try to charge you more than you need to pay. Oh, and there’s Uber here too!
8.) Be ready to haggle
Speaking of haggling for taxis, need to haggle in general for a lot of things here (except perhaps for food in restaurants).
9.) Local dining might be hard to find
Don’t get too stuck on looking for the restaurants “where the locals eat” – most locals tend to eat at home with their families so a lot of restaurants are here to cater to visitors to the islands.
10.) Bali is part of Indonesia but has its own unique identity within it too
Balinese is a very different language to Indonesian, Bali has it’s own identity that is different to most parts of Indonesia so, although most people in Bali speak both Balinese and Indonesian, don’t expect any other Indonesia experience you have to translate to the same thing in Bali.
11.) Cover up
You need a sarong to visit the temples. Guys and girls – no exceptions.
You do have to pay a small fee to get into the temples and you get a sarong included with that fee so you don’t have to worry about packing one but if you don’t want to use a sarong that has been used by lots of other people, you could always buy yours in advance.
12.) Be prepared to pay entry fees for most things, even natural spots
Speaking of fees, you do have to pay a fee for waterfall entry too!
The locals have cottoned on to our fascination with their natural sights and so there’s usually a fee for going to even the most hidden of sights (unless you arrive after like 5 or 5.30 pm but by then, you’ve missed most of the good light anyway so I wouldn’t recommend arriving that late).
The fee is really tiny (I think it’s literally pennies) so this isn’t really worth avoiding – just remember to bring cash with you to pay that fee.
13.) Avoid tap water
Don’t drink tap water here. Probably comes as no surprise to most people but just in case you were wondering; don’t do it! 😄
14.) It’s okay not to plan your holiday around seasonal rain expectations here
It can still rain a lot in the dry season and it can still be very sunny in the rainy season.
Don’t try too hard to rule one season out for the other here, you could still end up very surprised here.
15.) Always carry a bit of cash on you
For most places, you can pay by card here – sounds obvious but it wasn’t that long ago where it was a lot harder to travel around Bali without having enough cash on you.
It does still help to hold on to just a little bit of loose change with you of course (for reasons mentioned in number 12 above, if not for anything else) but pretty much everything else can be done via card so don’t worry about carrying too much cash with you when you arrive in Bali!
There you have it! Have an amazing time in Bali!