Last Updated on 7 November 2022
*This post may contain affiliate links, which means that if you decide to make a purchase through one of these links, I will receive a commission at no extra cost to you! This allows me to continue bringing you valuable content for free and any purchases you make via these links are gratefully appreciated. Please refer to my Disclosures for more information.*
What to know before travelling to Bali?
Bali is indisputably one of the most beautiful places to visit in the world, and is a highly sought after destination for backpackers, flashpackers and luxurious travellers alike! It’s an easy place to travel, with some incredible things to do and see! But as with anywhere abroad, there are certain pieces of travel advice that can be incredibly useful to know before you go! So after 2 amazing visits to the island (the first on a trip to Singapore, Malaysia and Bali and the second on a trip to Bali, Cambodia and Hong Kong), here are 27 must-know travel tips for Bali that I’d share with family and friends!
1. Don’t tread on the offerings
Bali is an island where spirituality permeates every aspect of life, including the streets. So when you’re walking along the sidewalks, be very mindful that you don’t step on any of the daily offerings that are laid across the pavements. Called canang sari, these beautiful offerings are prepared by Balinese people to appease the gods. They are usually small handmade baskets filled with incense, food, money and flowers. You’ll quickly find that you become accustomed to automatically stepping around these colourful and curious offerings that are part of the landscape!
2. Ladies, take sanitary products with you
I have noticed when in chemists in Bali that the price of sanitary items is more expensive than the United Kingdom and there wasn’t the same range. These things can be unpredictable sometimes, so to avoid getting caught off guard and having to spend extra Indonesian rupiah on sanitary items, one of the top travel packing tips for Bali is to pack enough of your own just in case!
3. Private drivers are very affordable
In Bali, there are an abundance of private drivers who you can hire for airport transfers, transfers in between towns, or for custom half day or a full day tours. If you aren’t comfortable with hiring a moped and sightseeing that way, then hiring a private driver is a great option. I have always used Awan at Bali Safest Driver on my trips to Bali, for all my transfers and tours, like when I went to visit Pura Gunung Kawi – one of Bali’s oldest monuments!
4. The roads are chaotic
Following on from the previous Bali travel tips and tricks, something you should know is that the roads can be dangerous. If you’re not a proficient moped rider, have a lack of road confidence or are a first timer in Bali, you might want to avoid zooming around on a moped. The traffic can be chaotic, there is a lot of horn use (to let people know of your presence), and some reckless overtaking. Like in the United Kingdom, the Balinese drive on the left side of the road, but this doesn’t mean it’s an easy feat! Perhaps go with a private driver instead, who knows the local rules!
5. Haggle, but kindly
Not only is this one of the top travel tips for Bali, but one of the best travel tips for Southeast Asia too. In the markets and on stalls it is commonplace to haggle for items. The Balinese people are some of the friendliest people you may ever come across, so it is important to haggle with grace and a smile on your face. Always be fair, and remember that the extra Indonesian rupiah you are debating over could really help that vendor out! If you can’t reach an agreement, you can walk away, but always be kind.
6. Pack a plug adaptor
Depending on your home country, it’s more than likely you will need an adaptor for the plug sockets in Bali. The standard plug sockets in Bali use a two-pin round plug similar to those in continental Europe. For ease, it is best to pack one so you have it as soon as you arrive and don’t have to go on the hunt for one in a local shop. But if not, your hotel might have a spare they can let you borrow.
7. Respect the temple etiquette
As with many places in Asia, Bali has temple etiquette. Generally, you should cover your legs, shoulders, back and upper arms, wear a sarong (men and women), act modestly and quietly, and avoid public displays of affection. Temples are not just places for tourists to enjoy, they are active places of worship and should be treated as such. You may be prohibited from entering some areas of a temple which are used for prayer only. Being a visitor to a holy place of such religious and cultural importance is a privilege, and it’s only right to respect the dress code and customs.
Tip: In most temples you can borrow a sarong to enter if you don’t have your own. But one of the best Bali tips for first timers is to pack your own and carry it with you when you’re out and about – you never know when you might stumble across a temple you’d like to visit!
8. Eat in Warungs – one of the best Bali travel tips
In Indonesia, Warungs are local eateries which serve traditional food, and are where you can find some of the tastiest food in Bali! They are usually small family-owned establishments which sell mouth watering delights at affordable prices. So if you are trying to travel to Bali on a budget or are in search of delicious cuisine, then head to a Warung. One of the best Warungs I came across is the Fair Warung Bale located in Ubud, which offers the tastiest food at affordable prices and allows you to contribute to a good cause whilst feasting, because they support local healthcare programmes on the island!
9. Drink bottled water
As with other destinations in Southeast Asia (apart from Singapore), it is best to avoid tap water and only drink bottled or filtered water in Bali. To reduce your plastic usage you can look into getting a water filter bottle, take a reusable one and ask for this to be refilled in cafes and restaurants that are agreeable, or consider buying one large 5L bottle to refill your own bottle with to avoid buying stacks of little ones (try the other options first though).
10. Do you need bug spray in Bali? The answer is yes…
Mosquitoes are prevalent in many places across Southeast Asia, and Bali is no exception to this rule. These pesky little critters can carry all types of unpleasant diseases such as Dengue Fever, and being ill is probably the last thing you’ll want on your trip to this island paradise. So an essential item on your packing list for Bali should be a jungle strength repellent (note: it only works if you wear it)!
11. Watch the monkeys
One of the best things to do in Ubud is to visit Ubud Monkey Forest. These furry critters may be cute, but they can also be mischievous and dangerous, and they certainly aren’t cuddly! Make sure you keep your belongings with you and do not leave your bag hanging around on the floor or walls as a free offering to the monkeys, because they’re likely to take it! Perhaps steer clear of feeding the monkeys also – they can become vicious if you don’t give them what they want and do carry diseases.
12. Bali is located in a natural disaster zone
Bali is situated in an area of the world known as the Ring of Fire, meaning it is prone to natural disasters. The Ring of Fire is an area in the Pacific Ocean where there are hundreds of active volcanoes and frequent earthquakes. The active volcano located on Bali island is Mount Agung, and every so often when it decides to cough and splutter lava out of its crater it can cause disruption for residents and visitors alike. The plumes of ash which are occasionally omitted from Mount Agung can mean inbound and outbound flights may be delayed or cancelled, so one of the best travel tips for Bali is to keep an eye on the news before and during your trip so you can make preparations if needed.
13. …and there are tsunami evacuation routes in some places
Just to the south of Bali is the world’s largest fault line – the Sunda Megathrust. Measuring at 5,500km long and stretching from Myanmar to Australia, it was on 26 December 2004 that the movement on the fault line in the Indian Ocean caused an earthquake and subsequent tsunami. This event had catastrophic impacts on Indonesia, Sri Lanka, India and Thailand. Subsequently, you will now see tsunami evacuation routes, sirens and categorisations of red and yellow risk areas in low lying beach areas on the south of the island, such as in Kuta and Seminyak.
Tip: The above 2 travel tips for Bali aren’t being said to scare you, but to prepare you. After all knowledge is power, and these are things I wish I knew before going to Bali – when I went the second time, Mount Agung was threatening to erupt before my trip and didn’t blow until after I had departed, causing air and local disruption.
14. Watch out for snakes in the paddy fields and rice terraces
Seriously. This isn’t something I gave a second thought to until it happened and is one of the things to know before going to Bali. On one of my visits to Tegalalang Rice Terrace which makes for one of the best day trips from Ubud, a snake launched itself from one of the terraces and down onto another, a stone’s throw from where I was standing. Granted, this may be something that rarely happens. But when you are walking through the rice terraces and paddy fields just make sure you keep your wits about you.
Tip: Don’t let this put you off visiting the paddy fields or rice terraces because they are some of the most stunning landscapes in Bali and are a must-see on any trip to the island. If I hadn’t said this, you probably wouldn’t have given it a second thought, would you?
15. Embrace the spas
Spas are abundant on Bali island, and they range from really affordable to high end. A lot of hotels have spas in them, so you may not even have to walk outside your hotel’s threshold for a full body massage. And there’s no need to go to a 5* facility in Bali with all the bells and whistles, because there are so many high quality spas you can use on a budget and you’ll still receive exceptional treatment!
16. You can travel Bali on a shoestring
If you are sensible, you can travel Bali on a shoestring quite easily. As with any far flung destination, the international flights are going to be your biggest expense. But domestic flights within Indonesia can be cheap and Bali has an abundance of beautiful budget accommodation options. I paid £14 per person per night (~$20) for the most gorgeous hotel in Ubud situated in the rice fields but centrally along Jalan Monkey Forest, which included breakfast, had 2 pools, a private terrace, and a 4 poster bed (seriously, don’t pay over the odds because you don’t need too)!
17. Split your money
This is one of the top international travel tips and doesn’t just apply to Bali. If you split your money and cards and store them in 2 or 3 different places, such as a bum bag, a handbag and a safe, then you are always going to have money if the worst happens and something gets stolen or lost. Can you imagine if you had every single Indonesian Rupiah you own in your handbag and it went missing? You’re going to find yourself in a bit of a pickle.
18. Circle K is super convenient
One of the best travel tips for Thailand is to use 7 Eleven. Well Circle K is the 7 Eleven of Bali. A chain of convenience stores which are dotted throughout Bali and easily found in the well known areas such as Ubud and Kuta, Circle K stocks a range of essentials you could need, like snacks and drinks. Make sure you take your own reusable bag though, because Bali has now banned the use of single plastic bags (and straws) across the island (yay)!
19. Bali is the island of chill
Bali is the tranquil paradise you see on the travel brochures, and the people are no different. The Balinese people are extremely friendly and are generally a calm bunch. They are very smiley, helpful and don’t like public confrontation. The Balinese lifestyle is very relaxed, and has a much slower pace than other places around the world, which is probably one of the things (aside from the jaw-dropping beauty) that makes Bali a highly sought after holiday destination! Definitely take your time to immerse yourself into this way of life, and slow down – no ones in a rush here!
20. Get travel insurance
Travel insurance is a non-negotiable part of any international trip. You should always expect the unexpected when travelling, and have a plan in place should this happen. A good policy can provide cover if you need to access medical help (which can be expensive abroad), need repatriation, or your personal items are lost/stolen. It’s a relatively small expense that could save you thousands in the long-run!
Tip: If you plan on travelling 2+ times in a given year, look at annual travel insurance policies. Often, they can work out cheaper than buying multiple single insurance policies! Try using a comparison site, but make sure the policy covers everything you need!
21. Always carry hand sanitiser
I carry hand sanitiser with me at all times when I’m travelling abroad. It can be an absolute godsend in Bali, especially when you are out sightseeing and hunger strikes, but there are no hand washing facilities in sight. Always use hand sanitiser before eating if you are unable to wash your hands, because you don’t know what tropical germs might be on your fingertips waiting to make you ill. And who wants to be ill in Bali?
22. Avoid buying or drinking unethical coffee
Kopi Luwak is renowned as one of the most luxurious and expensive coffees in the world. It is made from coffee beans ingested by the Asian Palm Civet – a small mammal that occupies the Southeast Asia region. After eating the coffee cherries, they are chemically altered as they pass through the body, and leave again physically unchanged. The coffee beans are then collected from the excrement of the mammal and processed to produce a gourmet and rich-tasting coffee. And if you’re wondering what should I avoid in Bali, I would suggest it’s this…
There are concerns about the Palm Civet being held in captivity to produce Kopi Luwak. They are often kept in small cages, and are restricted to eating only coffee cherries. In the wild, they would have access to a range of seeds, fruit and insects to enrich their diet. The mammals are nocturnal, and are kept awake through the day by camera-wielding tourists. It can be difficult to source Kopi Luwak that is 100% definitely ethically sourced from wild Palm Civets, so to avoid contributing to an unethical practice, perhaps just go with local coffee when you’re next in Bali?
23. There are only 4 names in Bali
You might be surprised to learn that regardless of whether you are male or female, there are only 4 names in Bali – Wayan, Made (pronounced ma day), Nyoman and Ketut. People are named by the order of their birth – the first child is Wayan, the second is Made, the third is Nyoman, and the fourth is Ketut. If a family has more than 4 children, the cycle will repeat itself. There are a few variations to the names, but often people will use nicknames or in conversation refer to an individual’s profession or location after their forename to decipher who is meant.
24. You’ll probably feel like a millionaire
One of the top Bali travel money tips is to get your head around the currency before you go. The currency in Bali is the Indonesian Rupiah (IDR). The smallest denomination of the Indonesian Rupiah is 1,000 and the largest is 100,000, meaning you are probably going to feel like a millionaire. 100,000 bank notes can be difficult to break, unless you are paying for a meal or hotel, so you’ll probably want to avoid these especially in smaller establishments. And you probably won’t get coins either, because their value is quite insignificant, so don’t be surprised if you don’t get change in a shop (it’s nothing personal).
Tip: In shops and restaurants, Indonesian Rupiah may be abbreviated to Rp or Rs. The amount may also be written in different formats e.g. Rp 10,000 or Rp 10K – both meaning the same thing. And if you ask someone how much something is and their response is 10, this will mean 10,000 rupiah.
25. Kuta is not the real Bali
Kuta is a magnet for Australians, who flock there in masses for sun, sea and sand. But it’s very popular with other party goers from around the world too, considering that as soon as night falls, the drinks flow and pounding music fills the warm Indonesian air. If you’ve got a lovely hotel, Kuta can be a good place to stay for a few nights to explore southern Bali. Equally, it makes for an easy stopover after a long flight as it’s near the airport. But if you want something tamer you might be best heading to nearby Seminyak or going inland to the tranquil town of Ubud. If you’re looking for culture and temples in Kuta, you’re going to be sadly disappointed.
26. Carry toilet tissue
A prerequisite and one of the best Bali first time travel tips (and travel tips for Southeast Asia for that matter) is to carry some toilet tissue with you at ALL times. The presence of toilet roll in a WC in Bali is hoped for but not always guaranteed. To avoid being left high and dry in your hour of need, tuck some toilet roll or a pack of tissues in your bag or pocket when you leave the hotel.
27. Swim beneath a waterfall
Any bucket list for Southeast Asia should include swimming beneath a tropical waterfall, and Bali is the perfect place to tick this off! The island has an abundance of jungle waterfalls, and any visit to Bali wouldn’t be complete without swimming underneath one. My favourite waterfall for swimming is Tibumana Waterfall, located ~30 minute drive from Ubud. It is a quiet and secluded paradise located within dense forest, and cascades from the greenery above into the pool below! Tegenungan Waterfall is stunning too (although if it’s been raining its pretty fast flowing and unsuitable for swimming).
Book your Bali accommodation
Pssst… sharing’s caring! Pin this post using one of the images below, so you can find it easily later!