First Time Traveller’s Guide to Bali…
I recently returned from a “work” trip to the beautiful tropical island of Bali in Indonesia. I would like to share some thoughts and experiences to make it slightly easier for first time travellers to enjoy this island paradise with little to no hiccups.
We stayed in Seminyak, a perfect blend of local and foreign influences. Below are some tips on travel plans, what to expect upon landing, the best way to spend and save money and some general observations I thought would be helpful.
⦁ Fly direct!
If cost is no issue try fly the most direct route into Dempasar, Bali’s recently refurbished international airport. For some reason (cost) our work took us on a 30 hour journey via Hong Kong. This does not help the jet lag and upon arriving we were extremely tired but the novelty and excitement of being there more than made up for it and our first night was by no means an early one!
⦁ Take the correct currency
Flying from South Africa there is no need to apply for a Balinese visa beforehand. You can easily obtain one upon landing at the airport. Just be warned, the airport will only accept US Dollars for the visa payment, $35 to be exact. Make sure you exchange some before you depart, this will help speed up the initial process upon your arrival. When departing make sure you have 200 000 Balinese Rupiah at hand as you need to pay this to exit the country, they will also not accept any other currency.
⦁ Withdraw enough money
I was there for a week and on average I was spending 650 000 Rupiah per day, that is the equivalent of roughly R600. This easily covered food and drinks for the day but did not include accommodation. I made the mistake of drawing money every second day and the charges to my credit card were significant. I would advise drawing as much as you need at the beginning of your stay however do not over-draw as it is difficult to change the Rupiah back to Rands when back in SA.
⦁ Watch some live music
No, you will not see any major international headliners performing at the local bars but what you will experience is some of the most talented musicians you have seen in ages! Mostly cover bands and apart from a slight Balinese accent coming through you would swear you were listening to the actual track (perhaps this was also the local Bintang beer talking but as a discerning music lover I was seriously impressed). The best bars can be found around the Seminyak Square, or take a taxi to the more vibrant Kuta, famous for its night life.
⦁ Be assertive with taxi drivers
Most of the taxi drivers can spot tourists miles away. Never accept the first fair that they suggest as this will always be the most expensive. Insist that they run the meter as this will almost always work out cheaper. If they refuse, simply get out or offer a ridiculously low amount. If you are there during the low season you will be surprised at what the drivers will accept. Of course a tip is always appreciated.
⦁ Take insect repellant
The mosquito population is rife around the country and some carry Denghi fever, not something you want to be dealing with while on holiday. Make sure to load up in the morning as this is the most dangerous period of the day.
⦁ Engage with the locals
I found the local hospitality to be superb. Everybody from waiters to shop owners were more than willing to help with directions and suggest some “must see” attractions. Some even invited us into their homes to share a drink with the family.
⦁ Do not accept any illicit substances
While I would never advocate drug use, if this should happen to be on your list of things to do in Bali be warned. Not only does the country uphold the death penalty for drug traffickers, I heard a number of stories of locals accepting a package only to be set up and pulled over by the police 5 minutes later.
⦁ Watch the sunsets everyday
Just trust me on this one! (below are just two of the sunset pics I took, click on each to enlarge it.)
⦁ Explore, explore, explore
Bali has so much to offer, especially for the tourist willing to get out there and explore the various towns and villages. It is a relatively safe country to travel around and does not cost much to really enjoy yourself. Take everything in, it will probably feel like a whirlwind unless you take some time to slow down and enjoy the sights, smells and sounds. Culturally it is far removed from what we are used to in South Africa and will definitely challenge ones comfort zone so be prepared!
I hope you found this information helpful, please feel free to leave comments or questions below. If you have been to Bali please share your experience!
by Kevin Aitchison
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