Bali FAQ: Everything You wanted to know before Your first trip to Bali

by Lara

After coming back home from two amazing months spent on the Island of Gods, I was entirely under the impression of this magical island. Although the  plan was to do some more traveling around Indonesia, I haven’t moved from Bali. I was never good at following up with my plans. But I swear to you, there is something magical about that island. The older I get I prefer less populated and touristy places, so at first I thought I would not really enjoy Bali. But I was wrong. There were much more tourists in any place in Thailand than I encountered anywhere in Bali (although I did avoid Kuta) and I didn’t mind them at all. The positive vibe you feel on that island affects everyone, I would say.

After coming back home, I talked about Bali a lot. To my friends, on my blog, I even held a presentation about Bali in one travel agency. Thanks to that, today, even eight months after the trip, I still get messages on a daily basis from people who are planning their first trip to Bali.  I figured it would be more practical and useful to have all these answers in one place.

So here it is. The answers to your most common questions about Bali and everything I think you should know before stepping the foot on the island.

Bali FAQ

1. Is Bali a country?

No.  Bali is an island in Indonesia. Indonesia has more than 17.000 islands, and Bali is just one of them.

For all of you who are thinking why am I even answering this, believe me, there are a LOT of folks who are not aware of this fact. And while it may not be such a big deal when asked by someone who has never been there or is planning to go, there are a bunch of people who are partying in Bali and going back home completely unaware they were in Indonesia. Not even a red stamp in passport helps. But ok, now when we established and confirmed this simple fact that Bali is not a country, let’s move to the next question.

2. What is the religion in Bali?

Although Indonesia is the world’s biggest Muslim country by population, Bali is the only Hindu island with 93% of the population being Hindu. Hindu culture is a big part of Balinese everyday life.

3.    What is the weather like in Bali? When is the best time to go?

Bali has a tropical climate which means warm weather all year long. However, there are two seasons: a wet season from October to March and a dry season from April to September. If you want to catch more sun rays, try to go in dry period although wet season doesn’t necessarily mean rain all the time but more often showers, mainly in the afternoon hours. Average year temperature is 30 degrees Celsius (86 degrees Fahrenheit), meaning any time is a good time to visit Bali.

4. Do I need a visa for Indonesia?

Indonesia has a visa-free entry for 140 countries, up to 30 days (the day you arrive and the day you leave are both counted in those 30 days) and for touristic purposes only. On the 30th day you have to leave the country. Check the list of eligible countries here.

If you want to stay more than one month, there are two options to consider.

  • The Visa Run

If you use visa-free entry, you have to leave the country before the last permitted day, and then you can return. If you are using visa-free entry, you can not extend your stay. Also, if you are doing a visa run, try to stay at least a few days in another country before coming back.  But this is not the option I would recommend. If you already know you will be staying for more than one month choose the second option.

  • Visa Extension

The second option is visa extension on arrival. When you arrive at the airport, look for the Visa on Arrival counter which is in front of the immigration line. You will pay the US $35 fee for the tourist visa that is also valid for one month only, but you have the right to extend your visa for another month during this period. For more details and step by step guide on visa extension check out this blog.

5. How do I get from airport to my accommodation?

Bali doesn’t have good public transportation so you will have to use a taxi or hire a personal driver. Although there is only one official airport taxi, you will see plenty of taxi drivers who will approach you the moment you step on the arrivals hall offering you the ride. Ignore them. Either take an official taxi (you can find the taxi counter outside the arrival halls; when you exit turn right), or you can arrange the pick up with your hotel/hostel.

Transportation

If you want the cheapest option use GO JEK.

6. What is a GO JEK?

GO JEK is a must have app for Indonesia. It is everything. Download it on your phone even before you step your foot on the island. It is free, but you need to have an Indonesian SIM card. GO JEK app was  an app for transportation at first, like Indonesian version of Uber. With GO JEK you can order a car or scooter pick up. I opt for scooter every single time because it’s faster and cheaper. It’s the cheapest possible transportation you can get in Bali. There is one catch though.

GO JEK and Uber are not quite legal there. Actually I am not sure if they are not legal but they are forbidden to pick you up at some places (harbor, in front of hotels, airport etc) and official taxi drivers are quite pissed at them. No surprise, they are killing their business. But everyone uses them and if you want to save your money on transportation, you will too.

Let’s say you want to go from Seminyak to Canggu. You open the app, enter your address and wanted destination (same as Uber) and then you wait for the call (that’s why Indonesian number). GO JEK driver will call you and let you know if he can pick you up there or somewhere nearby. When he (only sometimes her) drops you at your destination, you pay him in cash.  Some people complained that GO JEK canceled on them few times but I never had a problem with them and I used this app almost every day for two months.

As I said earlier, at first GO JEK served only as a transportation app, but today it has much more options.

You don’t feel like walking to the restaurant and want the food to be delivered to your villa? No problem. Open GO JEK, choose GO FOOD, and you will see a list of restaurants near by. You order the food (again no credit cards), GO JEK driver picks it up, delivers it to you and you pay in cash for both, the food and the delivery. Easy peasy.

Do you want to order a massage in your home? You can also do it with GO JEK. A hairdresser? Cleaning lady? Grocery pick up? Medicine? Yes, yes, yes and yes! As I said, GO JEK is everything and somehow not many tourists know about it.

7. Do I need to buy a SIM card?

If you are not traveling with an agency or doing an all-inclusive type of vacation, having a SIM card does help a lot. SIM cards are quite cheap, and you have different data packages, so you don’t have to worry about wifi all the time.

When I was in Bali  getting a SIM card was as easy as buying water. But recently the law regarding SIM cards changed and now you can’t just walk in any store and buy it. You have to go to the provider or the bigger store, show your passport and register for a card.

The best signal you will get with Telkomsel or XL providers although they are a bit more expensive. I bought Telkom SIM card with the 8GB data plan and paid 300.000 IDR. Next time I bought some cheap card (think it was IM3) with 20GB of data and paid 75.000 IDR. The signal was not as great as Telkomsel’s, but in most places, it worked.

8. What sort of power adapters are required in Bali?

European ones. Croatians, you don’t need an adapter, your charger will work there.

9.  Should I hire the driver?

If you are not planning to rent a car or scooter and drive by yourself then yes. But also, if you just want to have a care-free day while visiting different locations, I recommend taking a driver as well. Most of the tourists in Bali have their driver. I met mine by accident.  A Spanish girl from the hostel and I were lost somewhere in Uluwatu. Both of our phones were off so we  couldn’t get a taxi. Few cars passed us by. Soon enough one car stops (we didn’t try to hitchhike) and a man opens a front window. A Balinese guy with the huge smile on his face asks us if we need the ride. One look at him was enough to trust this man. We sat in a car and talked with this lovely person who drove us to the beach we wanted to see. He told us all about him and his life in Bali and in the end gave us his card and said to call him if we ever need a driver and a tour guide. And I did. Widana took us to waterfalls, rice terraces, Bali swing and drove us to the volcano where he waited for 6 hours until we didn’t finish the hike.

Widana was not only our driver, tour guide and photographer, he also became our friend. I recommended him to many people who went to Bali, and everyone had just nice words about their experience with Widana. If you need a driver in Bali and want a person of trust, whats app him on this number: +6287860600536.

10. Should I rent a scooter?

If you feel confident enough in your driving skills and a hectic Bali traffic doesn’t scare you, sure. It is the most practical and cheapest way to explore the island. To legally drive in Bali you need an international driving license although many people don’t bother to get one. In the case you get pulled over (which happens quite often) the way out is to have 50.000 IDR prepared to bribe the police. But note, if you happen to get in an accident (and that happens quite often to tourists in Bali) your insurance will not cover it if you don’t have the international license. Ofcourse, it goes without saying, you can’t be under alcohol influence and you have to wear the helmet when driving. Many tourists do not respect these basic safety rules which results with many, many accidents which insurance companies will not cover. Not once there was a crowd funding campaign to raise money for someone’s transportation to their country. So yes, drive scooter but please be responsible with that.

Renting a scooter costs around 50.000 IDR per day but if you rent it for the whole month it is even cheaper than this, averaging 35.-40.000 IDR per day. Gas is quite cheap as well, 1.5 L is 10.000 IDR.

11. How much money I need for Bali?

I have no idea. Depends on too many factors and I don’t know what are your habits and way of traveling. You can spend as low as 100 euros per week and high as….there is no limit on that. I have written the post Bali on a budget with my spendings and average prices in Bali.

12. How much is the flight ticket? (from Croatia)

Standard, most common price will be around 5.000 kunas. It can be a bit higher, but you can also find it cheaper, for about 3.700 kunas. The cheapest way is to fly from Zagreb to Jakarta and from there take a local flight to Denpasar, Bali.

13. What is the best location to stay in Bali?

This mostly depends on your interests and what you want to do in Bali. Here are a few locations for different type of travelers.

Seminyak – relatively close to the airport, quite a touristic place, but still calmer and more authentic than Kuta. If you do not mind the crowd, and you are interested in nightlife, shopping and good restaurants, this is a place to be.

Canggu– Located just above the Seminyak, although close to each other they are completely different. If Seminyak was fancy and flashy chick, Canggu would be her cool older brother who doesn’t care about trends; he makes them.  It is famous for surfing, street art, legendary surf bar Old Man’s, rice paddies, cute cafes and sandbar parties on Batu Balong and Berawa beach.  Canggu isn’t crowded with tourists like Kuta or Seminyak, but it is competing with Ubud for a No1 favorite expat’s location. It is my personal favorite place in Bali and also an excellent location for exploring the southern and northern parts of the island.

Nusa Dua – If you are an all-inclusive type of traveler, in Nusa Dua you will find some of the most beautiful hotels and resorts on the island, as well as white sand beaches. Ideal for families and honeymooners.

Ubud– the most famous place in Bali thanks to Julia Roberts and movie Eat, Pray, Love. It is a cute little town located in the heart of Bali. Ubud is full of unique restaurants and a real paradise for vegetarians and vegans. Same as Canggu, it is a home away from home to many digital nomads. Ubud is also a perfect location for exploring Bali’s northern part, rice terraces, waterfalls and volcanos.

14. How to get to Gilli Islands?

The easiest way (if you have more money than time):

Find the nearest travel agent or taxi desk and book a package. Package includes pick up at the hotel, drive to the harbor and speedboat to one of the Gili Islands. The trip to Gili’s with a speedboat takes about an hour and a half. The package costs around 700.000 IDR but as always, try to negotiate.

The cheapest way (if you have more time than money):

Come to Padangbai port by scooter or take GO JEK or Uber. From there take a ferry boat which will cost you 40.000 IDR. The trip with a ferry takes around 4-5 hours. You can buy the tickets at the ferry terminal. No need to reserve in advance. First come first served. The ferry runs 24 hours a day, but there is no fixed schedule.

15. Where should I exchange the money? Is it safe to withdraw money from ATM?

You will get a better rate if you exchange your $ or € there. I had Euros on me and the best I would get for 100 Euros was 1.640.000 IDR. On Airport you get around 1.500.000. Pay very close attention when exchanging the money on the street, always double-check the bills yourself and never leave the money off your hand once you have counted it.

ATM’s are quite tricky. Although I did withdraw from many different ones and didn’t have any problems, I’ve heard stories of people who’s account got hacked. So if you are withdrawing money I suggest to put money on a account where you will have only that and where you can’t go in minus. Also, search for the ATM’s in the banks and avoid the ones in crowded places.

5 FUN FACTS

  • Indonesia is the world largest island country with more than 18.000 islands.
  • With over 261 million people, it is also the world’s 4th most populous country.
  • In 2016 12 million tourists have visited Indonesia from which 5 million visited Bali.
  • Bali has three volcanos of which two are active.
  • After first few local people you meet, you will probably be confused thinking everyone share the same name. Most people will be named Wayan, Made, Nyoman and Ketut. Balinese name their children depending on the order they are born and their names are the same for males and females.

5 DONT’S

  1. Don’t drink the tap water
  2. Don’t do drugs
  3. Don’t walk around shirtless (if you are not on the beach)
  4. Don’t touch a Balinese person on their head.
  5. Don’t provoke monkeys, you will regret it. 😊

5 DO’s

  1. Do learn some Balinese phrases, at least „thank you“- terima kasih and „good morning“ – selamat pagi.
  2. Do negotiate the prices at markets. 
  3. Do leave tip.
  4. Do be careful with arak.
  5. Do eat fruits. All the time.

And that’s all folks! 🙂 Now you are more than ready for your first trip to Bali. I hope this was helpful and if you have any other questions write them in the comments.

Thank You for reading,

Lara Δ

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2 comments

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Marianne de Ruiter May 17, 2018 - 12:09 am

A very good article. However you should also add under the section “Should I rent a scooter” that even if you have an International licence and travel insurance…….if you are in an accident and have alcohol in your system and are without a helmet…..your insurance will NOT cover you.

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Lara
Lara May 17, 2018 - 10:01 am

Thank you for the comment Marianne. You are right, I did add that too!

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