Fear of the unknown is rife in people who have never travelled to Bali before. An equal number of good stories and bad stories continually circulate about this magnificent island. Below is a list of travel tips for anyone who has never travelled to Bali before. They will assist you in being prepared and making sure you have a fantastic holiday on this magnificent island.
• Take US$25 per person for your Visa on Arrival. You pay for this on arrival at Denpasar airport and this allows you to stay in Bali for a maximum of 30 days.
• Pack lightly. Even if you are tempted to throw those extra few things in your suitcase- don’t do it. Bali’s clothing is extremely cheap and whether you like shopping or not guaranteed your suitcase will be a lot heavier coming back. Toiletries etc. can be bought at the 24 hour Mini Marts and Circle K’s for a fraction of the price. The only toiletries i would recommend taking are women’s personal items and sunscreen as these are quite expensive in Bali.
• Pack a decent pair of walking shoes. The footpaths in Bali are not exactly structurally sound. Although wearing trainers can be quite warm in the humid environment your feet will be thanking you.
• Don’t change money before you go. Although I’m sure you’ve all heard stories of being ripped off by money changers on the street if you follow a few simple rules this will not happen. You will get a better rate changing money in Bali than you will in your home country. Just make sure you go to an Authorised Money Changer, don’t hand over your money until you have counted the money they have given you and make sure you get a receipt. If this still doesn’t sit well with you go to a bank as they normally have even better exchange rates than you’ll get on the street.
• It’s better to take cash than use your credit cards. Depending on what bank you are with, you will generally be charge a fee every time you use your credit card in Bali. This is normally a percentage of what you have spent and can add up to an awful lot over the course of your holiday. The maximum withdrawal from any ATM is IDR 1.5 million (nearly AU$200) and most banks charge around $5 in fees per withdrawal. For both credit card charges and ATM withdrawals the exchange rate is usually much worse than if you were to change money on the streets. If you really aren’t comfortable taking cash make sure you check with your bank before you leave to know how much the fees are.
• Be careful of drivers. If you find a driver who offers you a too cheap price for full day transport be careful. Drivers make little money on driving you around for the day once expenses are taken out. The main income earner for them is receiving commissions from what you eat and what you buy from the places they take you. Although this is the way they make their living you may find yourself being ripped off with the places the driver takes you to. The other problem is you may not end up where you wanted to go as the driver will have his own agenda and take you to the place he gets the highest commission from. Just be wary and try and go with a driver recommend by someone else not just the one who offers you the cheapest price.
• Bargain at the markets – everyone knows this but I just thought I’d mention it. If they won’t come down to the price you are willing to pay just walk away and if they follow you know your price is reasonable. Just remember this is how the Balinese make a living so a great thing to do is bargain them down to the lowest price and once you have agreed give them a bit extra. That extra bit is nothing to us but everything to them. This will make them realise you are not a pushover and they will be extremely thankful.
• If you don’t want to get hassled by people trying to sell you things I recommend you keep away from the markets and Kuta beach. The Balinese are very rarely nasty or aggressive but as they are trying to make a living can sometimes be quiet overwhelming with their pushiness. It is not like this everywhere and if you keep away from the markets and the main tourists hotspots you shouldn’t have a problem. If you are getting hassled rather than be rude just so ‘no thank you’ and keep on walking. I find politeness like this works the best. The Balinese are excellent at remembering faces so after a few time of ‘no thankyous’ they probably won’t hassle you anymore.
• Be careful of the taxes – in the majority of restaurants the taxes are not added onto the price. You will see down the bottom of the menu ‘price is subject to an additional 21% service and government tax’. This is worth mentioning to anyone who hasn’t travelled to Bali before and likes to watch their spending as an additional 21% tax can add up to a reasonable amount.
• Don’t eat all your meals at your hotel restaurant. Although this can be convenient at times generally you pay a lot more eating at your hotel than you would if venturing out to the millions of restaurants available on the street. Generally a free breakfast is included with the price of your room but I would recommend eating outside of your hotel for lunch and dinner.
• Don’t be afraid of Bali Belly – everyone has a story to tell on how they got Bali Belly. My husband and I have been to Bali copious amounts of times and – touch wood – have never got Bali Belly. Just don’t drink the water. When showering make sure you don’t swallow and use bottled water even when rinsing your mouth out after brushing. Also just use common sense when choosing a place to eat – make sure the kitchen and surrounding areas are clean. If you do get struck with Bali Belly red cordial is said to help and the Balinese believe the local snake fruit is also a great cure.
• Shop around – even though the prices in the designer shops are already a lot lower than what we are used to it is still a good idea to shop around. Many places will be having sales of up to 50% and you can get yourself an even better bargain with a bit of looking around.
• Until you become familiar with the prices taxis charge make sure you get in one with a meter. Once you are comfortable with knowing the price you should get charged catching a taxi without a meter is fine – just make sure you negotiate the price before you jump in.
• When departing Bali you are required to pay IDR150 000 per person in departure tax. Many new travellers to Bali are unaware of this. Also it is worthwhile to mention that once you check in for your departure it is very difficult to get back out of the airport. Guards stand at the doors and will only allow you to exit if you need to use the ATM.
In my opinion Bali is the ultimate holiday destination. No matter what kind of holiday you would like Bali has something to offer for everyone. I hope the above tips will make you feel more comfortable in choosing Bali as your next holiday destination.
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