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10 Classic Mistakes Foreigners Make in Bali

Most Australians have been to Bali many times, but for the handful of newbies to this magical island, the following are some classic mistakes many people have made that have dampened their holiday.

Try to avoid doing these things, and you will have one of the best holidays of your life!

These tips are gold and are there for you as a very quick reference. Some you probably already know, and others are just common sense. But keep these in the back of your mind all the time.

1. Don’t drink from the tap.

This may sound like a brainer, but there are tourists who will still drink from the tap. The rule of thumb here is nil by mouth. Don’t even use the water to rinse your mouth when brushing your teeth. Avoid it at all costs. All of the Bali holiday villas we have listed on the site come with a water dispenser, so there’s no need to go near the tap. Bottled water can be easily bought at the numerous convenience stores dotted around the island, and 1.5 litres will set you back around 80 cents. It is as cheap as chips, so you never touch the water. Sure, you can use it for showering, but if you want a case of the dreaded Bali belly as you have never had in your life before, avoid drinking the water.

2. Try not to have ice in your drinks.

Refer to the point above, but this may be hard in some places where you do not know where the ice has come from. To be on the safe side, just ask for all your drinks to be without ice.

Another issue could be having salads with your meal, as a lot of restaurants and local warungs will wash the veggies using tap water. This will definitely lead to the belly, so you have to use your instincts here and probably order salads at more reputable restaurants and establishments.

3. Use certified money changers.

If you want to get ripped off, then you can use local money changers in the street that offer better than normal rates. This is a ploy to lure you in. Do not be fooled by this, as these crafty, nimble-fingered cowboys will flee you of your hard-earned holiday cash.

In this day and age, why not leave your money in the bank and use the ATM? There are so many of these around the main tourist areas like Seminyak, Kuta and Legian. Now, there’s no need to worry about shady operators when you can easily walk into an air-conditioned ATM booth.

Also read 21 Things to know about Bali before you go.

4. Need I say this, but don’t use drugs or import any into the country.

There is the death penalty for this, and if you are crazy enough to do this, then expect some serious consequences. Also, if you think that the Australian Embassy can help you, think again. Remember, you are in a foreign country, and you have to abide by their laws.

There are also many guys roaming the streets looking for suckers who will buy drugs. They will come up to you and offer them to you. Simply walk away as these guys are connected with the police. Here is a warning from the Australian Government:

5. Do not disturb religious ceremonies.

We all see them walking down the street in their wonderful dress. Buy the Balinese are very religious people, and there are ceremonies going on everywhere you look. Each Banjar or community ( and there are thousands of these) will have its own ceremonies, and the last thing you want to be doing is getting in their way, taking photos and being a nuisance. The trick here is to observe them from a respectful distance and make sure you stay quiet. If you are on a scooter and happen to drive past a ceremony, simply pull over, turn the bike off and enjoy the spectacle. Many ceremonies take place on the street and will cause traffic delays and jams. Just accept this as part of the Balinese way of life and try not to become frustrated by the wait.

6. Avoid drinking spirits in local bars

More often than not, these drinks are just cheap imitations of the real stuff, and if you want the worst hangover of your life, I would avoid this like the plague. Also, some places may spike your drinks and then rob you of cash and possessions. Yes, it can and does happen on this beautiful island, so keep your wits about yourself at all times and don’t have the attitude that this cannot happen to me!

7. Don’t step on the offerings in the street

The Balinese place these small offerings basically everywhere and anywhere and are offerings to their Gods. They are not there for the sake of decorating the place; they are there to show gratitude, so please sidestep these whenever you see them.

8. Watch out for the surf at the beaches.

Yes, it’s really dangerous, and people drown every year. Beaches like Kuta, Seminyak and Legian can have ferocious and very nasty rips with dangerous surf conditions. Be aware of this at all times, even if it looks small from the shore. Lifeguards in Bali are NOT the same as back home, and the level of protection and service you get here is next to nothing. So once you are out there, you are on your own.

9. Eating from the street.

There is no need to go into this in too many details, but use caution when eating from local markets or street vendors selling cheap nasi goreng or the very popular meatball soup known as bakso. This may be tempting after a few Bintangs late at night, but to be honest with you, it’s not worth the after-effects and the time you will spend in the bathroom regretting this late-night snap decision.

10. Lastly, Aussies have a bit of a reputation for larrikin behaviour when they’re in Bali.

Sometimes, it’s the rite of passage to go to Bali and be as crazy and over the top as you possibly can. Try to ( and this may be hard for some people) respect the locals, and they, in turn, will give you more in return than you thought possible. They are warm, giving people who love to smile. Try to remember this.

11. Careful on Motorbikes

I’m adding an extra point here on 25 August 2020 as there are far too many motorbike accidents in Bali caused by foreigners who don’t know how to drive and simply ignore Indonesian traffic rules. Plus, they never wear a helmet and will often drive after a few Bintangs or sunset cocktails. Be very, very careful when you hop on a scooter, as it can be deadly if you are inexperienced and want to let loose in Bali.

Also readHiring a motorbike in Bali, 10 must-read tips

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About the author

Steven is a die-hard Bali island addict and committed surfie. When he's not writing or taking videos of the latest restaurants or cool places, he's at Echo Beach surfing or riding his scooter around Seminyak, Berawa or Canggu. Steve is part of the Bali Villa Escapes marketing team and has been living in and out of Bali for the last 15 years.