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10 Useful Travel Tips Bali

My family and I lived in Bali for three years and now I travel back there three times a year. I hope these tips help you to relax and enjoy visiting one of the most wonderful places in the world.

1.   Cash

Bali is part of Indonesia and the currency is the Indonesian Rupiah. You can get Rupiah from ATM’s using your bank cards but it is a good idea to bring some Rupiah with you if you can.  Bring some US dollar too as traveler’s cheques are difficult to cash - only a few banks are authorized to change them – and ATMs are not everywhere. Most hotels will change US dollars for you.

2.   Arrival and departure

You can get a visa in advance from an Indonesian Embassy but it is cheaper to buy a tourist visa when you arrive in Bali.  A seven day visa costs USD 10 while a 30 day visa costs $25.  You have to pay in cash so bring a bit extra just in case there are any increases in the cost.

When you leave Bali you have to pay an airport tax. You pay at a small booth on your way to immigration and it costs IDR 150,000 of US$ 10.  You must pay in cash so be sure to have enough with you.

3.    Health and immunizations

Mosquitoes can carry malaria and dengue fever in Bali.  Most of Bali is malaria free but if you plan to visit rural areas or other islands, you should consider taking malaria prophylaxis. Dengue fever is nasty with flu like symptoms and causes extreme fatigue. Indonesia is an endemic region for dengue fever and it can be found in almost every region.  Dengue has a higher incidence during the rainy season - October to April – because the wet conditions are good for the vector, the mosquito, to breed.  Most people get the relatively harmless type but there is a small risk of getting the more dangerous hemorrhage causing type.

There is no vaccine against malaria or dengue fever so the best way to avoid getting them is to smother yourself in repellant, wear long sleeves and trousers in the evenings and sleep under a net.

Inoculations that you should get advice from your doctor about before you travel include:

  • Hepatitis A — You should get this before you depart
  • Hepatitis B — You need to start this vaccination at least 6 months before you travel so that the full vaccine series can be completed
  • Typhoid — if you choose oral vaccination, the regimen should be completed week’s week before traveling. If you choose an injection, one dose should be given at least two weeks before the expected exposure
  • Measles — Advisable if you are not immune
  • Polio — Advisable if you have not had a booster since childhood
  • Tetanus/Diphtheria — you need at least three doses and then a booster every ten years.
  • Rabies — you can get a ‘pre-exposure’ injection which gives you more time. Should you be unfortunate enough to be bitten, you must still seek medical attention immediately as you must get ‘post-exposure’ injections
  • Japanese Encephalitis — the risk to short-term holidaymakers is very low.  If you plan to be out in rural areas, perhaps bicycling or camping, you might be at risk. Full vaccination takes two to four weeks to complete

4.   Medication

If you have to bring medication bring the original prescription or a letter (on headed paper) from your doctor with you as the Indonesian customs officials might ask you to produce these when you arrive in the country.

There are two international standard hospitals in Bali, both with pharmacies.  If you are concerned about medication it is possible to check with them before you leave.

BIMC Hospital      http://www.bimcbali.com/health-tips/pre-travel-vaccination.html

SOS International Clinic     http://www.sos-bali.com

5.   Taxis

The airport has a dedicated taxi booking office, located on your right as you come out of the building.  It is best to use this office because they have set tariffs, speak some English and give you a receipt.

If you can, try to use Blue Bird taxis. They all have government checked meters and won’t cheat you. If you have to use a non Blue Bird taxi, be ready to haggle down the price.  It is not unusual for the starting price to be three times as much as the driver will accept.

6.   Haggling

It is normal to haggle when you are shopping in Bali, apart from the few supermarkets which have price tags on everything. You discuss and debate, smile and sigh until both seller and buyer agree on the price. It is a good rule of thumb to assume the first price will be two thirds higher than the price the shopkeeper will accept.  Haggling is fun, but you don’t have to haggle over every cent.

7.   Temples

The Balinese are very mindful of their religion, which has strong roots in every community. You can expect to see village temples at the beginning and end of every village and homes have a small family temple.  There are large area temples dotted throughout Bali. The religion, which is unique to Bali, is a form of Hinduism with hints of previous animalist and ancestor worship beliefs.

If you want to visit a temple you must wear a sarong and have a tie around your waist - the waist tie is to prevent any badness escaping from you while you are there!  Most of the time temples are quiet places but at least once a month they hold noisy and colourful festivals. It is fine to visit temples during festivals but be ready with a small donation and always ask the door men if it is a good time. Most important, women who are menstruating must not enter a temple and any promiscuous behavior causes great distress - even a long kiss is inadvisable!

8.   Food

Balinese food it rice based but the island has long been a tourist destination which has brought many western style restaurants and cafes in its wake. It is possible to get everything from a coffee and a croissant to a French designer luncheon.

If you want to try true Indonesian food consider ‘Bungkas’ - which means wrapped. Wrapped in a palm leaf or sometimes grease proof paper, Bungkas is delicious - a piece of chicken, beef or fish is wrapped up with small vegetables and some hot chillie sauce on a mound of rice.  There are vegetarian versions too.  You can buy Bungkas from a street vendor or a ‘Warong’ small café.

Other not to be missed food is called ‘Padang’, named after the area of Sumatra where it originated. Padang food can be very spicy and has an enormous range of dishes.

Both Bungkas and Padang are normally served cold so be a little careful where you buy them, it is best to ask a local.

9.   Language

The Balinese have their own language, but almost everyone speaks Bahasa Indonesia and at least some English, especially in tourist areas.  Balinese is complicated and has three main forms or levels depending on who is talking to who.  Bahasa Indonesia is much easier with phonetic pronunciations and simple grammar - many people pick up a word or two, especially the greetings which always well received by local people.


Clothing

Bali has distinct climates at different altitudes; there are volcanoes toward the north of the island and sea level beach areas. Kintamani is high up in the centre and Amed is at sea level.

Kintamani is warm during the day but cooler in the evening so bring something light and warm to put on in the evenings. Occasionally there is warm rain. It doesn’t last but you will be glad of light rain wear - a waterproof coat will do. Amed is warm all the time, you will need swimwear, sun block and sun hat. You will need to adapt your holiday wear if you wish to visit a temple (see Temples below).

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