10 Things to know before you visit Bali
Whether you're off on holiday, backpacking or digital nomad-ing it's important you understand the do's and don'ts when coming to Indonesia. Bali is an incredible slice of the world and your trip will no doubt be amazing – but you don't want any last minute issues or hiccups at the airport stopping you from having the best trip.
When entering Bali you'll also need an outward flight leaving the country in under 30 days (the Visa exemption period) or 60 days if you're getting a Visa on Arrival (more on this next). Most airlines won't let you board the flight without this because they're at risk of being fined by Indonesian immigration. If you're just visiting for a holiday then you'll naturally already have your return, but if your trip is open ended you will still need your outward flight, if you're unsure of your next destination, searching SkyScanner for the cheapest flight leaving Indonesia (there will usually be one to Singapore or KL are usually the most affordable) is your best option so you have no nasty surprises at the airport.
As mentioned, all trips under 30 days for most passport-holders are covered under a free, 30-day visa exemption you get on arrival so no need to worry about visas there – but remember if you do over-stay the penalty is 1,000,000 IDR (£50-60) a day so make sure you count your days correctly!
For trips longer than 30 days you can get a Visa On Arrival which will allow you to stay in Indonesia for 60 days but requires visit(s) to immigration to extend from 30 days to 60. This is purchased at a desk (just before immigration) at the airport for $50USD and paid for in IDR cash. You will then need to extend this yourself by either visiting Bali Immigration Office 3 times for photos, fingerprints and passport assessment or you can hire a local agent to do this for you but you will still need to visit immigration once. Read this article for some useful info on visa extensions. We always suggest hiring one of the local agents as visiting immigration 3 times can be quite a hassle and this way you can enjoy more of your trip without the interruptions!
Under normal circumstances, this is how the visa situation in Bali works. They are currently closed to tourists and due to hopefully open in December or the New Year. But, if you just can't wait until then and fancy escaping for the winter – check out this option for the new 211 Business E-Visa which permits you entry to Bali right now!
3. INSURANCE + MEDICAL
Most general medicines and even antibiotics you can buy over the counter in Bali but we’d recommend coming out with everything you need just in case, especially for longer trips. Stocking up on things like painkillers, Immodium and (Bali belly can happen), antibiotics and contraception etc. Also ladies, tampons and pads are one of the few things that are expensive here. So make sure you bring enough tampons or even better (for less waste) a menstrual cup from home.
Insurance – this is a biggy. Most people are smart enough to never travel without it, but one thing we’ve learned through travelling in Bali is that it's SO important to have but also so important to choose a quality provider – we love World Nomads Insurance.
4. GETTING AROUND
Now we’re done with the heavy facts, it’s time to get into the good stuff. Getting around Bali is super easy and we’ve split this point into 3 sections for clarity.
5. HIRING A SCOOTER
Our favourite way to get around. You can hire a scooter for around 50k (£3) a day, it's fun (traffic willing) and will give you a great sense of freedom. Of course, safety is key, ALWAYS wear a helmet and only ride if you're confident enough to do so. If you'd like to learn, you can hire a local guide to give you lessons – most people are confident and riding within a couple of hours. Of course, make sure your insurance covers you for riding a scooter and bear in mind you’re supposed to hold an international driving licence to ride in Indonesia.
6. GOJEK IS LIFE
Getting a scooter may not be for you, and fortunately there's lots of other ways to get around. The best being Go-Jek app (especially for shorter distances). Go-jek is essentially like an Indonesian-Uber, but you can order anything from regular taxis, to cars or bike taxis (the cheapest and most effective way to get around) to ordering food from incredible restaurants and even groceries, medicine or a massage! It's the one app you MUST download upon arrival. We always use this in the evenings when we’re having sunset drinks. Ordering a bike taxi will bring a local right up to your location and you can jump on the back to your destination, most 10 minute journeys in and around Canggu for example are around 15k (£1).
7. PRIVATE DRIVER
We recommend hiring a private driver for anything from airport runs or hopping around the island to different areas. You can find local drivers via Facebook groups or ask a friend who's travelled there if they have a recommendation. You can expect to pay a private driver 250k (£12) from the airport to Canggu, Uluwatu, Seminyak areas and maybe a little more for Ubud areas. For a full day tour or day trips (recommend for visiting temples, waterfalls etc in Ubud) you can expect to pay anywhere from 500k-800k (£25-£40) depending on the hours needed.
8. BOATS TO ISLANDS
You definitely want to get a fast boat ticket if you’re visiting the neighbouring islands such as Gili, Lombok and the Nusa Islands so you're not at sea for hours. The best of the mid-priced bunch is Eka Jaya. You can get tickets either at the harbour (Padang Bai) or via ticket sellers either on the street (you'll see little boat tickets huts everywhere in the main hubs) or from your hotel and they should usually include transfers. A fair price for a return is anywhere between 400k-800k (£20-£40) depending on provider and transfer options.
For more of a stress-free experience we really recommend a company called Blue Water Express. Departing to the islands from the much quieter Serangan harbour, everything is seamless and organised from a stress-free transfer pick up, to a comfortable cafe waiting area to organised and comfortable boarding on a premium fast boat (starting around 1mil (£60) for a return).
If you want to make the trip even simpler and the journey shorter so you can enjoy as much island time as possible we suggest skipping the transfers altogether and hiring a Go-Jek or private driver. As with any transfers you will often need to pick other passengers up along the way so it can add additional time to your journey.
For helpful tips, especially for solo travellers, digi nomads or if you're going to be there for a little while there’s some great communities of expats and locals who share advice, news, accommodation and plenty of amazing events. Our faves are Canggu Nomad Girls, Canggu Community, Canggu Community Housing, Bali Expat Jobs & Business, Uluwatu Community, Ubud Hood and Bali Digital Nomads. From making friends with other female travellers to amazing events and even business opportunities, they’re worth checking out before your trip.
8. RESPECT THE ENVIRONMENT
Bali is a wonderful destination (have we said that yet?) and you'll have an incredible time there, but it's important to help look after this special island too. Pollution and plastic in the oceans is a big problem in Indonesia, and Asia in general, but we can all do our bit to help.
You can't drink tap water in Bali, but instead of buying lots of single-use plastic bottled water, bring or buy a reusable water bottle. Nearly every hotel, villa, hostel and restaurant will have drinking-water dispenser you can use. Be mindful if your SPF is ‘reef safe’ when swimming in the ocean. If you see litter on the beach or in the sea pick it up and dispose of it, or even better join one of the frequent beach clean up events to help the environment.
Find out more about how our swimwear saves plastic waste from reaching the ocean here.
9. DON'T GET RIPPED OFF (but don't be stingy either)
In general everything is pretty affordable in Bali, but as a team who’s travelled here many times, we’ve picked up a few tips to avoid overpaying in certain situations. Ask around for what a fair price for a trip or tour ticket should be before handing over cash. Pre-book your airport transfer and always agree the fee before stepping in a taxi/ Gojek.
For beach clubs, you can expect to pay around 1mil (around £50) for a minimum spend to have a day bed.
For local markets and sellers prepared to haggle a bit, but just remember, a little to you is probably a lot to them so be kind and considerate when negotiating.
10. YOU MAY NEVER WANT TO COME HOME
A little cliché, but once Bali gets her hold on you, it's likely you'll come back again and again or, like our team and thousands of other expats, want to make a proper life out there. It's not for everyone, of course, but it is for many. The island is so beautiful and full of so much amazing energy, sipping coconuts and watching sunsets on the daily becomes addictive. Being around so many good vibes 24/7 is such a special thing and the lifestyle is infectious and you’ll meet amazing people.
Not only that, there's buzzing hubs like Canggu and Ubud where new businesses, entrepreneurs, digital nomads and creatives alike are thriving. The sense of community is incredible and going out for drinks is nearly always like networking. It’s a pretty inspiring place to be.
We hope you found these tips helpful, make sure to bookmark this page for your next trip to Bali – we’ll see you there.