This small Indonesian island has long been the country’s magnet destination for its combination of idyllic beaches and the warmth of its native peoples. Having attracted as one of the most attractive and diverse destinations in the world, Bali now has more than a million visitors from every corner of the world.
Bali has been continuously settled since 2,000 bce. Foreign influence, in the form of Dutch control, was not fully evident until the 1840s, when the Dutch began to pit Balinese realms against each other. During its modern history, the 1963 eruption of Mount Agung created economic havoc, while in the 1950s and early 1960s the island saw much infighting between those who supported, and those who rejected, the traditional caste system. After the rise of the ‘New Order’ government led by President Suharto, Bali’s status as a tourist paradise was reinforced.
Bali’s unique culture owes much to Java, in particular the Javanese Majapahit Empire, which here combined with animist (belief in the spiritual essence of non-human entities) traditions. This, together with its Hindu influences, has resulted in a unique religious culture that can only be found on this island.
In contrast to the rest of predominantly Muslim Indonesia, Bali is a haven of Hindu culture, which is most visible in the tiny offerings in leaf trays, known as canang sari, which are found almost everywhere. This form of Hinduism diverged from the mainstream more than 500 years ago, and thus it is very different from what one would find in India, have resulted in a highly unique culture than can be observed, as on the neighbouring Java, in the gamelan orchestra and the wayang kulit shadow puppet theatre, among others.
- PDA frowned-upon, as well as immodest dress (especially on women or visitors to religious sites).
- Besides handshakes, avoid touching people, and never do so with your left hand as it is considered ‘unclean’.
- A call of “hey Mister!” or “Bule!” is a common reaction to foreigners in Indonesia, particularly by children – do not take offense or feign surprise for standing out.
- No public raging (even loud speech) or loss of face.
- Pay particular attention around the elderly, the pious, and modestly-dressed women.
The island of Bali lies just 2km away from Java, Indonesia’s most populous island, and is 660km east of Yogyakarta and 1,155km east of Jakarta. Bali experiences a tropical monsoon climate with two distinct seasons, with year-round high temperatures and heavy rain particularly from December to March.
The southern regions of Bali are wide, with gently slopes. This, in addition the steamy climate and volcanic soil, results in an island that is very much fertile—just look at the rice fields that exquisitely shape the island. Running east to west, just off the middle of the island, is a volcanic mountain range, which includes the majestic Mount Agung.
Bali is still very much a haven of wildlife, and highlights that can be found throughout the island are a variety of monkey forests (including the Ubud and Uluwatu monkey forests), the Petulu bird forest, and the Elephant Safari Park.
Before you go
- Language: Indonesian, or Bahasa Indonesia, a standardised registry of Malay
- Currency: Indonesian rupiah (idr)
- Time Zone:Central Indonesian Time, utc+8
- Voltage: 230
- Electric Socket: Type C/F
- It is highly advisable you buy a card as you get to the airport.
- There are 4-5 operators in Indonesia who offer prepaid, local network sim cards compatible with the gsm network.
- Telkomsel has the highest coverages (country-wide) but the highest prices; Tri has the lowest coverage but cheapest prices; Indosat in between the former two.
- Expect to pay around $1 for a 7-day, 300-megabyte data credit.
- ATMs are widely available and are very popular with both local citizens and expatriates, and plenty are open 24 hours.
- Citibank offers withdrawals in U.S. dollars, whereas other banks working through the main international networks will offer only rupiahs.
- Credit card cash withdrawals are also commonly accepted.
- The usual limit per withdrawal is between 1,000,000 to 1,500,000 rupiah ($70-100) and 10,000,000 rupiah per day ($700).
- Moneychangers are usually open on weekends and after banking hours, but their pricing fluctuates. Changing money at banks is usually good in terms of rates and safety, but it can take a while
- Most banks close by 3.00pm.
- Babi guling– This famed suckling pig dish is first rubbed with turmeric, before being stuffed with a base gede (spice paste). The pig is then spit-roasted over coconut husks or wood, creating a delectable delight.
- Ikan bekar – Red snapper fish grilled over wood charcoal and coated with an amazing chili sauce.
- Lawar – it’s a crunchy yet tender mix of minced meat, vegetables, grated coconut meat and a secret blend of herbs and spices.
Not mandatory in Indonesia but feel free to show appreciation through small gratuities for great service.
Taxis: Both Indonesians and expats commonly round up the fare to the nearest multiple of ten thousand (e.g. a 27,750 fare would be rounded to 30,000 rupiah).
Restaurants: In all kinds of restaurants, it is customary to leave behind any loose change as tip, or at least 10,000 rupiah. In high-end restaurants, a government mandated 10% tax applies. Warungs and other eateries do not expect to be tipped.
Hotels: Most hotels charge the mandatory 10% government tax, as well as another 11% of service charge to your bill. Porters can be tipped 20,000-50,000 rupiah for 1-2 guests.
- Suggested Vaccinations: Hepatitis A and Typhoid
- Drinking tap water is never truly safe in Indonesia, so do buy bottle water.
- Protect yourself from sunstroke by wearing a hat and using sun lotion.
- If you see a red flag planted in the sand at Bali beaches, do not swim there, as you may be affected by dangerous currents. If affected by such currents, try to swim sideways until the ‘rip’ is over, then head for shore.
- Drug use and contraband is heavily punished in Indonesia
- If injured, you are better off taking a taxi to the nearest hospital, and remember to take cash or a credit card, you may not be admitted until you flash the money.
- The police is notoriously corrupt, if still polite, most often they will demand payment to do their job
- Seriously consider purchasing travel insurance before heading to Indonesia.
- Ambulance: 118,
- Search and rescue: 115,
- Tourist Police at (+62) 361 754599 or (+62) 361 763753.
- Police 110.
- BIMC Hospital Nusa Dua (private): Kawasan BTDC Blok D, Nusa Dua, Bali, Tel: (+62) 361 3000911
- RSUP Sanglah Hospital (public): Jalan Diponegoro, Denpasar, Bali, Tel: (+62) 361 227911
- Tourism Board: Jl. Raya Puputan 41, Renon, Denpasar, Bali, (+62) 361 235600
- Hello (in general): Ah-pah-kah-bar
- Excuse me. / Sorry: Mah-ah-f
- Thank you: Teh-ree-ma ka-si
- You’re welcome: Sah-mah-sah-mah
- Good morning/evening: Seh-lah-maht mah-lahm
- Goodbye: Seh-lah-maht ting-gahl
- How much is this?: Beh-rah-pah har-gahn-yah
- Cheers! (Toasts when drinking): Sun-ti
- Bon appetit!: Seh-lah-maht mah-kahn
- Where’s the toilet?: Di-ma-na-kah- toilet
- Help!: Toh-long
- I understand: Sah-yah meng-ger-ti
- I don’t understand: Sah-yah ti-dahk meng-ger-ti
How to get into this area, and how to get around it!
Ngurah Rai International Airport, misleadingly also known as Denpasar International Airport, serves Bali – however it is around 30 minutes away from the main area of Denpasar. This major hub is connected to much of Indonesia as well as Southeast Asia and Australia. Get to the city via fixed-fare taxis (you pay for your ride, around 20,000 to 30,000 rupiah, beforehand at a counter and present your receipt to a driver at no additional charge), bemos (these converted vans will do the job for just a few thousand rupiah per person), or air conditioned buses on the Trans Sarbagita route (these cost 3,500 rupiah for a standard ticket).
Bali is regularly served by bus routes that link with ferries for sea crossings – these are available to and from all major cities on Java and Lombok.
Public ferries run from Lembar, Lombok to Padang Bai, a small port town in East Bali. This trip only takes about 3-4 hours, but be warned that there are several issues with the route, notably delays as well as safety concerns due to old equipment.
In southern Bali, metered taxis are very common, with a flagfall of 5,000 rupiah for the first 2 kilometres and an extra charge of 5,000 rupiah per kilometre after that. Note that if travelling outside southern Bali, you will be charged an extra 30% on top of the fare as the driver can’t expect to find fares to take back to the main area. Bemos (converted minivans) act as ‘public taxis’ around Bali, but note that you’ll have to haggle the fare (typically just a few thousand rupiah) before getting on board.
The Perama bus company has a well-connected route around Bali, and another government-run service known as the Trans Sarbagita is also available. Fares on these buses are around 3,500 rupiah, making them an affordable option for budget travellers.
Motorbikes or scooters are a fascinating way to get around Bali – most are 125cc vehicles that can be rented for anywhere between 40,000 to 100,000 rupiah per day.
First-timers to Bali may be surprised to find that renting a private car with driver is a good option, as the drivers will act as English-speaking guides and the overall cost ends up cheaper than taking taxis everywhere. Expect to pay between 300,000 to 600,000 rupiah per day depending on the season and your haggling ability.
Things to see
The top locations to visit in this destination.