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21 Things to know about Bali before you go

If you have never been to Bali before, then you are in for a real treat. The place is a fun-filled, absolutely gorgeous island.

But before you head off to the airport with your family, a girls trip to Bali or your mates, there are some things you should know about Bali that will help you get used to the weather, the culture, its people, food, religion and way of life.

I know it’s Australia’s closest neighbour, but the truth is it is worlds apart, so the following is some really useful information that you should have at your fingertips. Some of these tips are pretty self-explanatory, but others might prove very useful.

Making your way to Bali

1) Aussies do not have to pay for the entry visas – they used to be about $50, but this has since been scrapped. The holiday visa lasts for 30 days. If you want to renew it, you will have to go to a visa renewal place, and they will get this done for you fairly quickly.

Updated 1 Jan 2024 – Australians have to pay an entry visa fee of $50

2) Bali has two very distinct seasons; the wet season is between October and April, whilst the dry season is from May through September. During the wet season, expect days of long rain periods, and if it doesn’t rain, there are usually tropical afternoon thunderstorms. It can be quite nice as it cools the place down a lot. If it’s raining the whole day, here are some things to do in Bali when it rains.

3) Make sure that if you arrive in Bali on the day called Nyepi, note that you will not be allowed to land in Bali – this is the 1 day of the year that you cannot arrive or depart from Bali. It’s a religious day and nothing, and I mean nothing happens on that day. You cannot even leave your hotel.

Making your way around Bali

4) Driving in Bali is on the left-hand side – exactly the same as in Australia. But, be very careful as the roads can be insane! You will see what I mean when you get there. Traffic conditions in some parts of the island, especially Seminyak, Legian, Kuta and parts of Ubud, are ridiculous, and you can be stuck in traffic jams for hours.

5) If you want to rent a car or a motorbike, make sure you have an international driver’s license. Having said that I have rented bikes on many occasions and they didn’t ask for any form of identification. It is, however, best to be on the safe side if you get pulled over by the police who are seriously on the lookout for westerners on the roads. They like to stop you in order to get some extra pocket money – if you know what I mean. Also, if you don’t have an international drivers licence you will not be able to claim on your travel insurance if you have an accident.

6) Taxis are abundant there, so make sure you get the metred taxis. If they are not metred, they can tell you any prices, so expect to be ripped off. Blue Bird Taxis are the best. There are also Go-Jeks that are the same as Uber in Australia and are all over the place.

7) Traffic in Bali is, let’s just say, gridlocked. If you are anywhere between Kuta and Seminyak, expect lengthy delays. Driving 1km could take an hour, especially at dinner time along Jalan Kayu Aya when everyone is out. Plus, the road laws are less stringent than back home in Australia. You will see 4 people on 1 motorbike, for example, with no helmets.

8) If you rent a motorbike, YOU MUST wear a helmet at all times. Never think you can get away with not wearing one. The police will pounce on you immediately – they are everywhere.

Money in Bali

9) The currency as of today, 1 Jan ’24, is 1 AUD = Rp 10,000. Their currency is called Rupiah and if you change say $100 Aussie into Rupiah you will feel like a millionaire as you get wads of notes back.

10) There are so many ATMs all over Bali, especially in Kuta, Legian, and Seminyak, and they are all okay to use. Don’t worry about them; they are totally fine – we use them all the time. They mainly dispense Rp50 000 and Rp 100 000 notes.

11) Never go to a money changer that is not authorised. I like to use the one at the airport. It’s located on the right-hand side immediately after you exit customs. Money changers in back alleyways are to be avoided as they will short-change you. The difference between some Rp notes is hard to distinguish and they know this.

12) The Balinese love to bargain, so when you are buying clothes or souvenirs from local vendors, try to haggle the price down a bit. You cannot bargain in Western-style shops or in malls. I generally offer half the asking price and work your way up from there.

13) You do not have to tip in Bali, but it is polite if you feel the service was good. There is, however, a 10% Govt tax on all bills, similar to our GST.

How’s the internet in Bali?

14) You can get local SIM cards anywhere (7/11’s or Circle K) – most of these are mobile and internet-friendly.

15) Most restaurants and cafes will have Wi-Fi, which is generally good. There are also many business centres popping up all over the place for those digital nomads.

16) Internet speed is good, but in most cases, not like back home, where you can get 4G networks. It is sufficient for your holiday needs, like staying in touch and connecting to your social media. To power up the electricity is 220 Volts, 50Hz or the 2 pronged type – similar to how they have it in Europe. Buy an adaptor at the airport.

Customs and behaviour

17) If you are planning to visit a temple, make sure you wear appropriate clothing. In most cases, buy a sarong and bring it with you. You will also have to make a donation before you enter the temple. A small fee of, say, Rp 20 000 is appropriate and respectful. If you are menstruating, you cannot enter a temple, so keep this in mind. Also, try to avoid walking or driving your scooter over the offerings that are all over the place.

Staying safe in Bali

18) Don’t drink the water from the tap – don’t even use it to wash your mouth out when brushing your teeth. Avoid it entirely. Use bottled water only. Buy heaps of them and put them in your bathroom.

19) Drugs – a big no! Don’t even think about it. You will get offered them in the street, BUT these guys are going to tell the police immediately, and they will get paid – please don’t even go there, even as a joke.

20) When you go to the monkey forest, wear minimal jewellery. These critters will grab everything that’s loose and not fully bolted to your body.

21) If there is an emergency, dial 110 for police and 118 for an ambulance. Keep these numbers just in case, and ensure you have travel insurance. If things go pear-shaped, you want to be able to get the first flight back home.

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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.