1. Get the correct visa for Indonesia
Depending on your country of origin you might be able to enter Bali for 30 days without a visa. This is the so-called “Visa Free Entry on arrival for 30 days”. Important: you have to count BOTH the day of arrival and the day of your departure within those 30 days!
Since this is not a visa, it can’t be extended. If you arrive on this visa-free entry, you will have to leave the country after 30 days.
If you know you want to stay longer, it’s best to get a 60 day tourist visa at the Indonesian embassy in your home country before your travels. If this is not possible, you can get a 30 day visa at the airport which you can extend when in Bali for another 30 days. For this you will have to pay for a 30 day visa at the airport (35 USD in cash – you can pay in other currencies too and all change will be given in IDR). I recommend doing the visa extension with a visa agent and will cost you around 650,000 IDR. You will have to go to the immigration office in Denpasar one time for picture and fingerprint-taking too. Altogether it’s much more hassle and expensive than getting the visa upfront. If you want to stay even longer you can get a so called social visa, best to ask your visa agent about it.
2. What to bring to your trip to Bali
Bali is hot – even in the rainy season. Bring light dresses, shorts, t-shirts, flip-flops. Forr the evenings bring a light jacket and scarf. Don’t forget some clothes that provide more coverage if you want to visit a temple for example. And most important: leave some space in your luggage – there are amazing shopping opportunities in Bali, especially in Ubud and Seminyak you’ll find many cute boutiques from local designers.
3. Best way to exchange money in Bali
The easiest way to get money in the Indonesian currency is through an ATM. Check if your bankcard will be working before you arrive (I’m from Germany and I can only get money via my credit card). There is quite a lot of ATM skimming going on in Bali, the ATMs connected to a bank are your safest choice. There are ATMs as well as cash exchange offices at the airport so you can get cash to pay your local driver right away.
I also always have a few hundred Euros in cash with me for emergencies (US dollars work just as well obviously). Be very watchful when exchanging cash and count your own money as well as the Rupiah diligently.
4. Transport from Depasar airport
Before you arrive in Bali your hotel will ask you if you need transport from the airport. I always pre-arrange my transport from the airport this way. A driver will wait for you with a sign with your name written on it and you don’t have to face the dodgy taxi drivers, which are especially bad at the airport. A trip from the Airport to Ubud should cost between 250,000 and 350,000 IDR. There are no UBER taxis at the airport (and none in Ubud too), so don’t count on using them.
5. Get a local sim card for your smartphone in Bali
Even with free Wi-Fi available pretty much in every guesthouse and restaurant, a local sim card can be a godsend when it comes to connecting with drivers, tour organisers or simply to check google maps. Grap one at the airport or ask your hotel or guesthouse for the way to the next cell store. Make sure to buy data (for internet) and credit, which is called pulsa (for calls). It will cost you around 100,000 IDR ($7.50 USD) for 4GB and some chat time.
6. Getting around in Bali
The traffic in Bali is chaotic and can be shocking for people on their first visit. The only positive is that there is always so much to see looking out of the windows. Public transport is non-existent – you have motorbikes, cabs or drivers as options for getting around.
The preferred way to get around is by scooter (motorbike). If you chose to rent a scooter during your stay (I don’t recommended it if you’ve never ridden a scooter before and have only 2 weeks of holidays, but if you are planning to stay in Bali for longer, it’s worth it to learn it), always ensure you get a helmet with your rental – and wear it.
The reputable Bluebird taxis are the best option for short distance trips, for example in Seminyak (they don’t drive in Ubud). Always ask for meters to be turned on. But be prepared that during peak times or late evenings, many drivers will refuse metered trips. If this is the case, negotiate the fare before the trip.
For longer distances get a car and driver (don’t even think about renting a car yourself – totally not worth it, chaotic traffic, no street signs…). A car with driver for a day will set you back anything between 400,000 and 800,000 IDR.
7. Where to stay on magical Bali
If it’s yoga and spirituality you’re after, you’ll want to head toward Ubud. Looking for hip and healthy cafes and restaurants as well as lots of yoga places PLUS a beach for surfing? Go to Canggu. Seeking serenity away from the beach crowds? Explore Lovina in the north or Amed at the east cost. Looking for the perfect beach escape in a luxury hotel? Head to Nusa Dua or Seminyak. By all means please avoid Kuta.
8. Accommodation Options in Bali
Bali is geared up for tourists in a big way. Accommodation ranges from the very basic thorough to some of the most amazing five-star hotels you’ll find anywhere in the world. The trend over the past five to 10 years is for villa accommodation. Choose your budget and then a villa in the location of your choice on AirBnB. A few choices for the budget traveler not listed on AirBnb are Frii Hotel and The Apartments Canggu in Canggu, Nipuri Resort in Seminyak, Jiwa’s Guesthouse and Teja Guesthouse in Ubud.
9. How to get anything delivered to your villa
You can have anything you need delivered from food and drinks to toiletries with a new app, Go-Jek if you have a local sim card (see, it’s so worth it!). Download the free app on your phone, enter your local number and have a look at the menus from surrounding restaurants. Order what you want and they’ll bring it to your villa, where you will pay the delivery guy in cash (no credit cards here).
10. Respect local customs or how not be unintentionally rude
Don’t touch or give anything with your left hand, always use your right hand.
Don’t intentionally step on offerings in the street. The Balinese put out ‘canang sari’ every morning as an offering to the gods. These little packages of woven palm leaves, filled with flowers, herbs, snacks and incense, are everywhere. You might step on them by mistake, but never purposely walk over one.
Don’t touch heads. The Balinese believe the soul resides in the head – making it off limits for people to touch.
When visiting temples, dress modestly in shirts that cover shoulders, upper arms, and legs.
These are my top 10 tips for visiting Bali for the first time. Did I forget anything? Do you have more tips? let me know in the comments, I would love to hear from you. Before you leave, make sure to download your free packing list for Bali: