Browse through any of the well known travel magazines and you’re sure to find Bali, Indonesia, listed among the top 10 travel destinations in the world.
With its exotic blend of ancient culture, majestic scenery, the world’s finest hotels and the warmth of the tropical oceans surrounding the island paradise, it’s hardly surprising.
Bali is located in the Indonesian archipelago only eight degrees south of the Equator. The island measures 90 kilometres (55 miles) from north to south and 140 kilometres (90 miles) from east to west, making it easy to go out for an excursion anywhere in Bali and return to your hotel by nightfall.
Towering volcanic peaks that rise mystically through the clouds, terraced rice paddies carved into the mountainous landscape, iridescent crater lakes, lush tropical rain forests and sandy white beaches lapped by warm ocean currents are only a few of the wonders that draw millions of visitors to this tiny island each year.
Bali Tricks for First Time Travellers
Let’s look at some valuable travel tips to help you experience the very best that Bali has to offer:
1. Bali’s tropical weather means that travel at any time of the year is suitable, however its best to check when the major Indonesian holiday periods and religious ceremonies occur to avoid the influx of domestic tourists.
2. Bali accommodation offers superb value, particularly if you are travelling on a budget. To ensure you get the best value for money, book ahead.
3. Getting around in Bali can be quite an experience, to say the least! Road rules are nonexistent and traffic can be downright dangerous. Don’t assume that traffic will stop for you at a pedestrian crossing if you are on foot. If you are driving, the best piece of advice is to paraphrase a famous saying, “When in Bali, drive like the Balinese.”
4. Many of the luxury Bali hotels and villas will organize a driver for you, or you may choose to hire a bicycle if you don’t have far to travel.
5. As a tourist, you are bound to be hassled by local drivers shouting “Transport?” wherever you go. If you wish to hire a local driver, make sure he is clear about where you want to go and arrange a fixed price before you get in the car. Drivers are keen to barter with you, so it is customary to bargain until you get a price you are comfortable with.
6. And while we’re on the subject of bartering, it’s perfectly acceptable to barter in the local markets and stalls, but don’t try it in the larger department stores – the sales assistant may be quite offended.
7. Hawkers will descend on you from the moment you step outside your hotel, particularly if you are located in one of the major tourist areas. Although it may seem rude to you, the best advice is to ignore them altogether. Don’t make eye contact or slow down to look at the merchandise they are selling unless you are interested in purchasing something, or being distracted for what may seem an eternity trying to get rid of them.
8. Beware of counterfeit goods unless that is what you’re looking for. Bali is well known for its knock-offs and you can buy anything from fake Rolex’s to fake Rayban’s at the local markets.
9. It’s likely you may be offered illicit drugs in the highly populated tourist spots. Ecstasy, pot, yabba (crystal meth) and shabu-shabu (methamphetamines) are the most popular drugs on offer in nightclubs and on the beaches, particularly in the Kuta area.
If you don’t want to become another high-profile drug case, simply ignore the offers.
10. Bali locals are among the most friendly and relaxed people you will find anywhere in the world, but that doesn’t mean you can drop your guard when it comes to scams and rip-offs.
Be wary of moneychangers who offer you amazingly good rates for exchanging foreign currency, touts who offer you the cheapest ride to your destination without confirming a fixed price and anyone who wants the money before handing over the goods.
11. And perhaps the best tip for new travelers to Bali is the one that is bound to be least successful — don’t look like a tourist!
This sage piece of advice is written almost tongue-in-cheek because the diminutive, friendly Balinese bear no resemblance whatsoever to their much larger framed Western neighbours. Not only that, our cultures are vastly different and so is our language. The most you could possibly hope for is to look like an ex-pat from your native country who has chosen to live an idyllic lifestyle on the island.
However, a couple of words of Bahasa will help with that “Oh, I’ve lived here for years” attitude. Selamat pagi (good morning), tolong (please) and terima kasih (thank you) will take you a long way in East-West relations.