Bali is a dream destination for many people. It is one of the most famous islands in the world and has incredible culture, scenery, and experiences to offer. However, as part of The Republic of Indonesia, Bali is still considered a developing nation. This makes some people nervous about visiting the island for the first time. Worrying about safety, health, transportation, and cultural etiquette are completely normal. Hopefully these 7 tips for Bali first timers will help to calm your nerves and make preparations for your trip easier.
1. Arriving in Bali and Getting Around
Most people arrive into Bali through Ngurah Rai International Airport, the only airport in Bali. This airport was completely refurbished and extended in 2013 and is now a modern space with clearly marked immigration, baggage claim and customs areas.
If you are staying for 30 days or less you are probably eligible for a free Visa on Arrival (VOA). You can find a list here of the countries eligible for this visa. If you are planning to stay for more than 30 days, you will need a VOA with a 60-day limit. This is a paid visa that you can buy at the airport for USD $35.
Once you are out of the airport you will find drivers waiting to take you to your destination. If you are planning on coming directly to Lotus Bungalows Candidasa we can send a driver to pick you up. This makes life easier and you are ensured a comfortable, air-conditioned ride to the hotel.
Having a driver is probably the easiest way to get around Bali. You can relax in the car, chat to your local driver, and enjoy the scenery. If you are a licensed motorbike rider you can also rent a scooter. We don’t recommend this for inexperienced riders or those without full insurance as the rules of the road are very different in Bali.
2. Currency Exchange and ATMs
There are currency exchange stands everywhere in Bali. However, many of these independent shops and stalls have a bad reputation for higher exchange rates and even scamming tourists with slight of hand tricks. The best way to exchange money is to find an authorized currency exchange and change enough for a few days to a week. You can then leave your cash in the safe in your room and take out only what you need.
You can also use ATMs but it’s always best to use one inside a bank. Also, keep in mind that some ATMs have a different sequence and you will get your money and receipt before your card comes out. This often causes people to leave their card in the machine by mistake.
3. Where to Eat
Bali Belly is a big concern for many visitors to the island. It usually only lasts a day or two but avoiding stomach upsets in the first place is always better. This is not to say you shouldn’t eat local food. There are tons of Balinese and Indonesian dishes that are absolutely delicious and freshly cooked. The problem arises when food isn’t handled properly or is left out for too long in the hot and humid conditions.
Lotus Bungalows has a great restaurant with Mediterranean and Italian dishes and also local favorites. If you do want to eat out, stop in at high traffic restaurants or local warungs where the food is being cooked to order.
On the east coast of Bali there is a great selection of fresh seafood. Sate Lilit Ikan is a famous Balinese dish that you should try. This is a mix of fish, coconut and spices cooked on sticks over a grill and it’s absolutely addictive!
4. What to See
The Island of The Gods provides an absolutely feast for the eyes. From colourful ceremonies, verdant rice fields, to incredible marine life, there is so much to take in.
The Candidasa area is perfect for seeing a bit of old Bali and also quieter coastlines. We definitely recommend getting in plenty of diving, seeing the original Balinese village of Tenganan, and visiting Besakih or Lempuyang temples. Day trips are a great way to see the sights without having to move areas. Lotus Bungalows can arrange half-day and full-day trips for you.
There is no hard and fast rule for tipping in Bali. All hotels and most restaurants have a 17% or 21% tax and service charge included in your bill so it is up to you whether to add any extra tip on top of that.
When it comes to tipping drivers or other ‘freelancers’, it’s nice but not required. We always think that using the same driver or nanny for example is nice and you can tip them at the end of your stay.
6. Phone and Internet
Wi-fi internet is available at just about every hotel and restaurant in Bali now. Speeds vary but generally you can get good enough service to surf the internet, send messages, and write emails.
Many people choose to only use their wi-fi on their phone because roaming can be very expensive. However, it’s also really easy to buy a local sim card for your phone and internet packages are cheap. You can expect to pay around US $10 for an internet package that will last you a month. Sim cards can be bought at most small shops and convenience stores. There are also plenty of mobile phone kiosks all over the island where you can buy cards and they can even register and set it up for you.
Bahasa Indonesia is the official language of Indonesia. This is quite an easy language and picking up the basics only takes a few days. The Balinese grow up speaking both Bahasa Indonesia and Basa Bali, the dialect native to the island. If you want to learn a few words or phrases in Basa Bali, the local people will be excited to teach you.
If you are shy, or worried about getting things wrong, don’t be. The Balinese people are really happy to help and for visitors to show willing to speak their language, even if they get it all wrong. They also speak great English and are often very chatty, wanting to learn more.
Did these tips help?
These are some very basic tips to help you feel calm and get excited about your first trip to Bali. It is an incredibly welcoming place that has modernized a huge amount even in the past 10 years. You might even be surprised at how easy it is to get around and get things done on the island.
Are you planning a trip to Bali? What concerns or questions do you have about it? Leave us a comment or question below!