Tips when visiting Bali, Indonesia

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My partner in crime =)

Last December, my wife and I decided we had to go to Bali for our honeymoon. The island is amazing and pristine, with its rich culture seen almost at every corner. If you are a Malaysian, the closest match would be a trip down to Kota Kinabalu, but even then, certain things do go un-matched when you are talking about Bali.

Welcome display at All Seasons Bali
Welcome display at All Seasons Bali

I’ve been to Bali twice, and here are some tips you might want to avoid if you are planning to go to Bali again, or for your very first time. Before you go on reading, please note that all the things listed here are simply my advice based on my experience, and it doesn’t mean things have not improved since I last visited Bali.

Number one on my list would be to ‘avoid getting a massage in dodgy and empty street spas’ which, of course are found in abundance around Bali. Street spas here are spas which are located just beside the street, and it can look really nice, or just dodgy.

One of the best massages we had was with our hotel.
One of the best massages we had was with our hotel.

Spas offering massages are common in Bali, and granted, Balinese people offer some of the best massages one could experience. I have tried several hotel spas, and a few street spas in Bali, with the ones at the hotels offering the best value for money! Perhaps they are a little bit pricey compared to the street spas, but their quality is consistent.

Tiny boils on my leg which appeared days after the massage.
Tiny boils on my leg which appeared days after the massage.

A trip to a nearby nicely decorated, expensive looking spa beside the hotel we stayed was not only disappointing, but caused my leg to rash so bad, there were mini ‘boils’ after a week! To make it even worst, the price was only a few hundred Rupiah less than the hotel!

The second thing you’d want to avoid when you are in Bali is the walking beach vendors selling accessories. Although polite, these vendors can be very persistent if they know you are from Malaysia, or if you made a mistake by entertaining and buying one of their fellow vendors products. When I was at Kuta beach, one of the vendors sat right in front of me for almost an hour and pleaded I bought something for my wife!

Persistent merchandise seller which annoyed me so much.
Persistent merchandise seller which annoyed me so much.

Their merchandise can be very pricey (double!) and they are vastly available at Kuta beach. The beach vendors offering you a beach seat, surfing lessons (beach activities), and food however are very polite and less aggressive in their sales.

A good tip would be to ignore them, or say you are from Australia. Avoid speaking Malay or even try speaking Indonesian because this would encourage them to use their ‘nusantara’ points, which means they will ask you to buy on ‘pity’ points.

These vendors don;t disturb you. Call them when you want an ice cream.
These vendors don;t disturb you. Call them when you want an ice cream.

The third thing is related to food. Food in Bali is relatively cheap, and delicious. However, be very careful where you eat because hygiene consistency can be an issue.

Babi Guling, on a good day. A definite try in Bali.
Babi Guling, on a good day. A definite try in Bali.

There was this one stall we wanted to have Babi Guling (a popular Balinese dish). The stall is hidden, and we had our lunch there during our first day. It was splendid and clean! Second time, we went there again, but things were different as flies were hovering inside the food cabinet, and some fly eggs could be seen already ‘dropped’ onto the food. A few other ‘warungs’ were clean but for those not used to street style eating, you might not feel at home.

A tip would be to choose wisely where you eat, and be cautious of flies especially where the food s kept.

Currency exchange is something very interesting to experience in Bali. At the old airport, there are not less than ten currency exchange counters calling for you to do business with them, but I didn’t see any at the new airport.

Scouting for better exchange rates in Ubud, Bali
Scouting for better exchange rates in Ubud, Bali

That said, you might want to exchange some cash at home (before your trip) and start scouting other money exchange counters in the streets of Bali because their rates are pretty flexible and different, despite being station side by side.

The only thing you’d want to be very wary off is ‘cheating’, because sometimes these rates come with a magical hand which basically means that some of the money exchange personnel may slip away one of the bills you are suppose to get, leaving you getting less than you are suppose to get from your currency. There is no special tip for this because the only advice would be to be extra careful. Having a calculator and a friend help you count and watch over the transaction may help.

Taxi drivers may also tempt you with a tour or ride around Bali. If you have planned your destinations, a gracious decline would do the trick, but if you have not, then probably it would be best to engage in someone your friend recommends way before you arrive.

Engaging the taxi driver, or some unlicensed tour guide might save you much, but it can also be very frustrating if you are unlucky.

Our taxi ride provided by the hotel was good.
Our taxi ride provided by the hotel was good.

We did just that, and ended up having our so called ‘expert’ tour guide driving us for a hour scouting for a road he was not so familiar with, and trying to cover up with the phrase “There used to be a road here”, which to me signaled his lack of experience in driving around. But we don’t want to fret, and paid the ‘uncle’ the agreed price, but that taught us a very valuable lesson.

Last but not least would be your journey back to the airport. Be very careful when engaging with the men in uniform offering to take your luggage when your taxi drops you off at the airport. I have not experienced this before, but I have read in travel forums that they do this for a fee. That said, if you are not keen to pay, just carry your own luggage.

Hope the tips helped, and well, this was a long post so hope it was useful.

6 COMMENTS

  1. Another tips which hehehe… You might not heard of or not applicable to you. There’s this curse some how that I’ve heard. Unmarried couples who have gone there will end up break-up sooner or later ;p At least a friend of mine said that all her friends who went there unmarried, ended up breaking up with each other after the trip.

      • lucky for them. It’s just one of the popular ‘curses’ of Bali. Those who broke up sure kena the curse ;p those who didn’t then they are ‘strong’ enough to break the curse.

        • Actually guys, I did ask about that ‘curse’. Apparently, our ‘supir’ aka driver said that as long as the couple didnt do anything considered ‘overboard’, they are safe. If you are not married, I was told, you should avoid hugging, kissing and so on when visiting the temple at Uluwatu.

          But yep, I guess its one of them folks tales which we would not get to know.

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