Taxi service is available everywhere throughout Bali. Charges are not set and drivers will usually ask a lot more than usually charged. Their attitude is that you should bargain for the right fare. Always ask the front desk, bell, hop, waiters, or other guests for advice. DO NOT get in a taxi until you have agreed on a price!
Tipping, Hotel & Restaurant
Many hotels and restaurants add service charge to the bill, but in small restaurants, normally the service charge does not go to the waiter. The waiter will appreciate a small tip Rp.10, 000 (US$1.00) If you enjoy the food and service, it is a generous gesture.
At independent spas, it is necessary to tip the spa massage girl at least Rp, 10,000/1 hour. Most independent spas do not pay the staff and they work strictly for tips. At some of the hotels, the staff is paid. It is always best to ask at the front desk.
Be aware of the tropical sun. The intensity can be brutal. Even if you have a base tan, you may burn. Wear sunglasses to protect your eyes. Stay out of direct sun from 11:00 until 4:00. Use pool umbrellas or tree shade. Hats are very, very effective for sun and heat protection. Soft hats and baseball caps can be soaked in water before wearing and cooling the head very effectively. Be sure to use sun protection during tours, walking outside, on the beach, or while swimming etc. Be sure and reapply throughout the day. We highly recommend BALI SUN; it is in many hotel drug stores. If you need to order from us, the price is US $4.00 for Bali Sun SPF8 US$5.00 for Bali Sun SPF 15 and US$ 6.00 for Bali Sun SPF30. Ask your driver for details.
Eating in Bali
You will find every kind and style of food in Bali. From Mc Donald’s and Starbucks to street carts. You will find pizza, rice, sandwiches, sushi, sashimi, Thai, Italian, Chinese, Japanese, European and western. The choices are endless. Food found in hotels is as safe as any other food, in any other resort in the world. The kitchen standards are the finest. It is very rare to get sick or suffer an upset stomach in the popular, well populated restaurants in Bali. The street carts are something to be avoided. They have no refrigeration and wash the utensils and cookware in the same water over and over. Satay on sticks, corn on the cob and food served in bamboo leaf and eaten with the hands are the best options for street food. Some cases of “Bali belly” are caused by excess drinking of beer combined with heat. This is not to say getting drunk, but 3 or 4 beers in an hour combined with tropical heat can cause a mild form of heat stroke resulting in dizziness, sweating, and an upset stomach. Go easy on the first day or two. Use shade in the afternoon. If eating snacks or appetizers throughout the day, eat lightly at dinner.
Bali is located 6 degrees below the equator. It has roughly 12-14 hours of sun in the day, and 12-10 hours of night all year.
It is humid all year. No matter what time of year or ambient climate, the direct tropical sun is very intense. On a mild day a few hours in the noontime sun can cause severe sun burn and cases of sun stroke or heat exhaustion. Use a hat stay in the shade. Scheduling exercise such as jogging, walking on the beach or golf for the morning hours between 08:00 and 11:00 or after about 15:30 (3:30 PM). Be sure and use sun lotion/protection at all times! A cloudy or overcast day will feel cooler but does not stop UVA or UVB rays that cause sunburn. Use sun lotion at all times.
Winter in Bali is from November until March. It is the rainy season and temperatures will drop into the 80’s F (28-30 C) in the day and the nights cool to the 70’s F (23-25 C). The rains are intense and are often accompanied by strong thunder and lightning storms. The rain usually occurs for a few hours in the morning or evening with the rest of the day cloudy. It is possible for a large storm to linger for a day or two of steady, heavy rain with thunder and lightning and flooded streets. This is the tropics and provides the water that will be used to irrigate the rice in the dry season. The local people are not sorry to see it rain and go about their business with no worries. They will be sympathetic to complaints about the rain but just to be polite.
The summer or dry season in Bali is June until October with average temperatures in the mid to high 90’s F (28-32 C) in the day, and high 70’s F to 80’s F (26-28C) at night. The clear skies allow the tropical sun the shine with heavy intensity. The shade of a tree will provide about 10-20 F degrees cooling. Be very careful and aware. Drink plenty of water, stay in the shade and be aware if you start to feel light headed or dizzy. Notify the hotel staff or your tour guide immediately. This happens to the local people as well and NO ONE will feel upset to slow down or move to a cooler area for a rest.
November, April, and May in Bali are very unpredictable and can continue to rain or dry up early but will be moderate.
The mountain areas in Bali are much cooler as they are at a higher elevation. It can be a bit chilly in the shade of the mountain forests and bamboo groves so it is a good idea to bring clothing that can be layered. A long sleeved shirt, sweater, or sweat shirt worn over your tee shirt, polo shirt or blouse will be comfortable should you get a chill. Staying in a hotel in the mountain area can be chilly at night.
Bali is warm to hot and humid all year so pack with light clothing. Cotton, linen, and silk are best. Short pants, bathing suits, tee shirts, bikini tops and sandals are the rule at the hotels, pools, and on the beach. On the streets that run parallel to the beaches, bathing suits are usually covered with a thin shift or the ever present sarong. Bali is famous for its good quality cheap tee shirts, bathing suits and sarongs. The cotton is good quality. In some of the more up fashion shops you will find dresses and long pants made from light cotton or linen of very good quality for good prices.
In some resorts guests like to dress for dinner but it is not required. You might see bathing suits and shifts at lunch, but dinner is usually at least a polo or golf shirt, shorts with pockets or long tropical slacks, and light summer dresses or blouse and pants.
Be sure and wear respectable clothing at temples or government offices. Shorts are OK but not bathing suit bottoms. Light shirts are OK but don’t wear singlets, tank tops, sleeveless tee shirts or bathing suit tops. Sandals are much better than flip flops. You are on holiday but they are not. Think of how you might dress for a church social or to a visit to a government office at home.
Hats are very good for cooling and sunburn protection. Wide brim straw hats are sold everywhere in men’s and women’s styles. The flat top, soft cotton hat with the hanging soft brim that can be rolled up in your luggage is great. One of the main features of this style of hat is that you can soak it or pour water on it until it is nice and wet then wring it out. It will retain moisture and cool you off with no damage at all to the hat. Brilliant!
Shoes are a very, very important part of your travel package. The sidewalks, pathways, and trails are not level, smooth and comfortable. They are uneven, rocky and most times unpaved. It is very important that you have a good pair of cross trainers or hiking shoes. Flat deck shoes such as Dockers, Sperry Rands or tennis shoes do not offer enough arch support. Flip flops are terrible and can result in sore ankles, knees and legs. While they may be comfortable poolside or at the resort, they are not good for trekking, walking trails, visiting temples, or strolling villages.
Bring basketball style shoes, cross trainers, or hiking boots. Be sure that if you purchase a pair, you wear them for a few weeks and take a few walks in them to break them in. If you already have a pair, press your finger into the pad at the arch inside the shoe. There should be a soft absorbent feel with the shoe bottom pressing back like a sponge. If it is flat and hard with no give, replace them. Bring cotton socks or anklets to provide cushioning for comfort. A small bottle of talc or baby powder is nice to have to powder your shoes and socks to help prevent blisters or irritation.
If you like to wade in the water on the beach, bring an old pair of shoes that can get soaked or some sandals that have ankle straps. These are referred to as “reef walkers.” The shallow water inside the protective reefs can have sea urchins, pieces of coral or glass from broken fish balls. Better safe than sorry.
All people in Bali speak Bahasa Indonesian and Balinese which are 2 separate languages. Many people speak English but you must remember that they have learned to speak “English”, “American”, “Australian”, and English as spoken by Dutch, Italian, German, French, Malaysian, Chinese, Japanese, etc. Relax, if there are language problems. Balinese will ask friends or a passerby for help. The Balinese are always very happy and proud to help.
All major hotels and resorts have staff that is fluent in English, Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Dutch, German, etc. If there is not some one available, they will be able to telephone someone to assist.
Medical services are very different in Indonesia than other places. Clinics are few and many locals must travel for hours for care. In the hotel and resort areas you will find clean, modern, efficient clinics that specialize in medical care for visitors. They are very expensive and require payment in advance. Many will not accept insurance and expect that you will pay now and get reimbursed by your insurance company. If your hotel has a doctor on staff or on call, they will be very familiar with any incident that may require attention. If you are involved in an accident, an ambulance will require a credit card before transporting you so at least have a copy of a credit card with you. If your problem does not require immediate attention it is often best to return home or book the next flight to Singapore or Australia. Find out if your insurance carrier or one of your credit cards offer travel and/or evacuation policies. American Express offers many long and short term options.
The police are very well established in the tourist areas of Bali with Police Stations centrally located and a strong presence on the streets in the daytime. You will see them at intersections directing traffic and they have a short response time to accidents. They are very polite and are happy to answer questions or give directions to tourists with no fee. At night they are not so available and you should travel in well lighted, well traveled areas and avoid alleys, dark areas or getting into cars with or accompanying people you do not know. The locals are wary of the police as they may require payment from the locals for their services. If you are stopped while driving expect to pay your fine immediately to the officer. Usually a fee of Rp. 50,000 is the standard fine. And as always, NEVER HAVE ANYTHING TO DO WITH DRUGS! If you are in a situation where someone is doing drugs, leave immediately.
The age of computers is firmly established in Bali. Internet cafes, Wi-Fi services and internet connections in rooms are very common. Many hotels have Wi-Fi in the lobbies and many restaurants offer free Wi-Fi service. At Internet Cafes or hotel business centers, rates can be as low as US$.05 per minute or as high as US$1.00 per minute, so make sure to know the rate first and check on the minimum minutes required. This can be from 10 minutes to 30 minutes. In Bali, heavy rains stop internet and cable service. This is common in Bali and you will be expected to wait until the storm passes or wait until the next day for service. Do not complain as this is normal in Bali.
Electrical service is 220 volt 50 MHz in Indonesia with the common 220 volt round shaped plug. Most hotels and resorts have adapters but not step down transformers. It is easy into bring your own. They are available and cheap at home. If you need to change the voltage to 110 volt 60 MHz, be sure to bring your own step down transformer. Most lap tops have AC to DC adapters which work with 220 or 110 but require an adapter for the plug.
Complaints/ Problems with staff
Remember that the Balinese people are hospitable, polite and generous of spirit. They don’t understand getting loud or angry when there is a problem. Explaining the problem in a calm relaxed manner will do much better than anger. Smile and be polite. If this does solve the problem, ask to see a supervisor or manager. This is very common in Bali and not viewed as a bad or negative situation. It is simply taking care of the situation and the employee will not be in trouble. Don’t point fingers, wave hands or raise your voice. This will result in the manager being concerned for your health and distract from solving the problem. They are there to help and will do everything possible to provide you with good service.
Alcohol is prohibited by the Muslim religion and may not be available outside of Bali. It is not served on local airline flights to other islands. It is perfectly legal in Bali and beer and cocktails are readily available in all hotels and restaurants. Hard liquor such as vodka, rum and whiskey are imported and has very large import duties. Mixed drinks ordered in a hotel are weak as they pour a “true shot” using a small measuring glass. Since the locals don’t drink these drinks, they don’t know how they should taste. It is a good idea to bring your favorite liquor in a plastic liter or larger bottle. A few bottles will take very little space and save a lot of money. It is not uncommon to bring your own bottle to a restaurant and order your mix. Bars however expect you to order your mixed drinks at the bar.
The local beer is lager or pilsner style and very good. Bintang beer is made by license of Heineken beer and is a lighter pilsner style. The quality is excellent and the price a bargain.
Your driver, waiter, or tour guide may ask questions that we find personal. How much does your jewelry or shoes cost? How much do you pay for your house or rent where you live, or how much money you earn? These are not meant to be rude but are their curiosity about the country you live in. If you find this uncomfortable just say “too much”, or 1/3 of my pay, or 1 week’s salary.
Currency Exchange/Travelers Checks
Changing currency or travelers checks is an industry in Bali. You will see exchange services at the airport that offer rates as much as 25% less than you will find after you leave the airport. The hotels and resorts offer rates that are 10% to 20 % less than money exchange shops. There are money exchange offers in many bars, restaurants, and shops as an extra service. They give lower rates or charge a commission. The best rate of exchange is offered by money exchange shops. They specialize in currency exchange and are very professional. They will have boards in front listing their rates. There will be one number for the currency and one rate listed under TC. This refers to Traveler Checks. Always ask if they charge commission. If they do, leave. They are an agent of a professional exchange and will charge you the 20% that you can avoid. In all exchanges you must show your passport to exchange and fill out a form required by the government. It will ask your hotel, country of origin, etc. ATMs are very popular in Bali but the charges can vary widely. Ask your local banker if there is a bank in Bali that has an arranged set fee.
Credit cards are accepted almost everywhere in Bali. The exception is the small shacks or stalls that sell handicrafts, t-shirts, hats and local jewelry. The Balinese add the credit card service charge to your bill, usually 3%. This is common practice in all of Indonesia. Call your credit card service and tell them that you will be in Asia so that your card will not be denied.
Indonesia is on the metric system. Driving distance is in kilometers. This is .06 of a mile so figure half. If a drive is 100 kilometers it is 60 miles. 1 meter is approximately 1 yard, approximately 3 feet. One kilogram is 2.2 pounds, so if something US$ 2.00 per kilo it is US$ 1.00 per pound.
Renting a car in Bali is a great way to go where you want and see what you want, when you want. They are much safer than motorbikes and offer the ability to take your luggage and stay where you want. Make sure you get the local insurance offered when you rent. Your home insurance may not apply to Bali. Be sure and get the size of vehicle that fits your needs. Bali has many new smaller fuel efficient cars that were not available a few years ago. They are easier to drive and easier to park, as well as less expensive to rent. The traffic in Bali is left handed. It is very crowded and large trucks and buses can slow traffic down a lot. Be patient. Once you are away from the cities and resort areas the traffic is less and the views spectacular. Be sure you discuss how to purchase fuel/gas/petrol with your rental agent. There are plenty of stations in Denpasar and the resort areas but in the villages you need to know what to look for and ask for. Beeping or honking your horn has a different meaning than at home. It is used to let another driver that you are there. A driver will beep his horn to let you know that he is coming on your right or left side, not because he is angry. When you go to an attraction don’t leave cameras, bags or luggage in view. Ask the local parking attendant to watch your car and give him Rp 5,000 (US$ .50).
Motorcycle/motorbike rentals are very popular with young travelers in Bali. While it may seem exciting and colorful, DO NOT RENT A MOTORBIKE IF YOU ARE NOT VERY GOOD AT DRIVING THEM! A common term here is donor cycles. As you will see, motor bike drivers travel with entire families on the bike. They will have the father with a child in front of him, a child behind him and the mother in the rear. They deliver chickens, produce and construction materials on motorbikes. If you choose to use a motorbike do not look at the scenery. All of your attention must be on the road, the traffic, the weather, and the practice of local drivers. Red lights are an invitation to stop, but if they think they can make it, they will go. There is no right of way and a vehicle may make a turn in front of you if they feel they can make it. One way streets are considered to only apply to cars, trucks and buses. Motorbikes will go against the traffic on the far left.
Bali is an island set in the Indian Ocean and can have some strong rip tides or undertows. A riptide is a current which will come from another direction and carry you away from the regular flow of the tide. An undertow is a strong current under the waves that will carry you away from the beach. It will not actually pull you under. Should you find yourself in a strong currant moving you away from the beach NEVER TRY TO SWIM AGAINST THE CURRENT!!! Relax and go with current. Yell for help but DON’T PANIC!!! Swim sideways and out of the current, then swim to shore, or wait until the current stops. You cannot swim against the ocean, it is far too strong. You will tire yourself out. This is how people drown, not from the ocean pulling them under but becoming tired.