Bali is a wonderful place to visit from anywhere in the world, at any time of year. To get you ready for your trip, here are some tips for travelling to Bali. The first 5 are tips for preparing to go, and the last 5 are things to keep in mind after you’ve arrived.
Great news! Citizens of over 140 countries in the world no longer need visas to enter Bali. Click here to see if you’re eligible! If you’ve read that there’s a Visa fee, that information is outdated. The 30-day stamp is free. The only thing you need is a copy of your itinerary for your flight leaving Bali, and you’re good to go for up to 30 days. Bear in mind that this free visa is NOT extendable. To get an extendable visa you need to pay $35.
When we book a trip, we usually book the flights and accommodation WELL in advance and worry about the details later. For flights, we always use Skyscanner.com. If your dates are somewhat flexible, you can get a great deal. We paid around $400 for a round-trip from Shanghai and my mother paid about $800 for a round-trip from JFK in New York. We flew during the Chinese New Year holiday, which should have made it super expensive, but we booked nearly a year in advance. The earlier you book, the cheaper the flight (generally). If you’re coming from the States, expect to have a layover if you want a cheap flight. With a layover, a trip from JFK takes around 24 hours. But it’s worth the wait!
Some people like to more spontaneous, but we tend to book accommodation in advance. In Bali, AirBnB is a great way to find a place to stay on a budget. We stayed at several places for as low as $5 a night per person and had no complaints. You can get hotels for much more, or hostels for even less, but we find AirBnB to be a great middle-ground, and it’s easy to use in Bali. Make sure you get the AirBnB app so you can stay in contact with the hosts.
Uber and Grab both work in Bali, but be careful. The local taxi operators absolutely HATE Uber because it drives out their business, and we’ve heard some stories about Uber drivers actually being physically assaulted by local taxi drivers in certain areas. It’s very likely you’ll find an Uber connection and then get a message from your driver asking for your WhatsApp info so you can arrange pickup outside of the app… This is kind of annoying, but it’s still cheaper than a local taxi. When we were travelling from Ubud to Sanur, the official Uber price was 90,000 Rupiah, but the driver wanted 200,000 in cash without using the app. We settled on 150,000 but had to walk a bit and meet him outside the center of the city because he was afraid of conflicts with the local taxi drivers.
Instead of battling with Uber in the sometimes unforgiving Balinese heat, we opted to have a private driver for the day any time we wanted to go to multiple destinations. Almost any local taxi driver will offer these 8-12 hour tours and many of them even have brochures in their back seats. Expect to pay around 500,000 Rupiah, or about $35 USD, for an entire day of driving you around. The drivers are trustworthy and don’t expect payment until the end of the day, and the best part is that you can leave your bags in the car and go sightseeing without being weighed down. We used this kind of service at least four full days on our trip and believe us, it’s worth the money!
Planning on the go is the best way to enjoy Bali. Don’t bother making a detailed itinerary and booking tours in advance because it’s much easier and cheaper to be flexible, and the unpredictable weather can unexpectedly change your plans in a heartbeat. To be this flexible, it’s MUCH easier if you have an Indonesian SIM card. Call your carrier in advance to make sure your phone is unlocked, get a SIM card at the airport when you arrive, and you’re good to go for the whole trip. A 7-day plan with 4.5 gigs of data cost us a whopping 45,000 Rupiah, or just over $3 USD.
Now that we’ve covered the planning phase, here are some tips for after your arrival in Bali!
The food in Bali is great! It’s not too spicy like some other areas of Asia (I’m look at YOU, Thailand), and you can get a variety of different options, both meat and vegetarian. We didn’t cook much because the food is so cheap, and because our AirBnBs didn’t have kitchens. Specifically in Ubud, there are some great buffets for only 50,000 Rupiah ($3.50) for all you can eat vegan food. They even had vegan cakes and ice cream! Even if you’re not a vegan, this is hands down the best option. Other places we went for vegan food include Happy Buddha and Loving Hut in Denpasar. Aside from that, there’s always good old street food which is both incredibly cheap and delicious. Just bring a few extra Tupperware boxes, because if you eat on the street a lot it tends to create a LOT of plastic waste… In short, you won’t go hungry in Bali, there are plenty of options, and it won’t break the bank even if you eat out for literally every meal and never cook yourself.
Indonesia uses the Indonesian Rupiah. At the time of this recording, there were about 13,000 Rupiah in one US dollar. This can get pretty confusing when you withdraw a million Rupiah from the ATM and the machine spits out 20 blue 50,000 Rupiah notes… To save your head some pain, keep the magic number 7 in mind. The biggest bank note is 100,000 Rupiah, which is almost exactly $7. From there, it’s pretty easy to work out prices. 10,000 is 70 cents, 100,000 is $7, and a million is $70. We found ourselves going to the ATM almost every day because there is often a one million rupiah limit per transaction, but don’t let that get you down. With such high numbers and low value notes, it can start to feel like you’re spending a lot of money. Keep reminding yourself that 100,000 is only $7, and you’ll marvel at how cheap everything is in Bali!
Generally we recommended learning a bit of the local language before travelling to a new place, but to be honest, we found that almost everyone we interacted with was very happy to speak English. Go ahead and learn some Indonesian phrases if you want to, but English will get you through just fine. Just don’t be too rude about expecting everyone to speak perfect English =)
Yes, that’s right, a whole segment on these little devils. Monkeys are everywhere in Bali. From the high cliffs of Uluwatu Temple to the streets of Ubud, these very cute and photogenic creatures can be tricky little things. They won’t physically harm you, but if you have food on you they WILL seek it out and they WILL take it. At Uluwatu Temple, they are notorious for taking sunglasses and hats straight off people’s heads and holding them ransom until you give them food. Believe me, it happened with my own glasses. Just keep your stuff out of reach, don’t get too close, take some photos and everyone should get along just fine. Remember, you’re guests in THEIR house, not the other way around.
10. Where to go?
Again, you want to be pretty flexible because of weather and energy levels. Some days you might decide you just want to relax on the beach after several long days of sightseeing. We’re pretty ambitious travelers and always try to see as much as possible in the amount of time we have. To give you an idea of what you could see on a ten day trip, check out our 10 Day Bali Itinerary.
Those are our tips for planning a trip to Bali! If you have any other tips or experiences, please post them in the comments below!