Bali may be a small island that’s a mission to get to from most Western countries, but it’s becoming a real hot spot for travellers and digital nomads.
Why? Because there’s the most beautiful jungles, beaches, surf spots, rice paddies, waterfalls, and the most Instagrammable food… all super cheap, and accompanied by the perfect temperature. And if that’s not enough, pretty much everyone speaks English so it’s very easy to get around.
I never expected to love Bali this much. And I never expected to stay for so long! So far, I’ve been here 3 months and I have no desire to leave any time soon…
But there are a few things I wish I knew before I arrived. So I’ve written this guide for anyone planning of going to Bali, to help you prepare so hopefully you can prepare better than me!
So Here are 8 Things To Know: Travel Tips & Advice for Bali
Money goes a long way here.
Travelling can be expensive but I’ve been massively surprised by how cheap Bali is. To give you an idea of how much to allow for thing:
- Rent: My rent for a double bedroom in a nice villa is around $250 per month (you can also find guesthouses for around $10 per night)
- Food: Local Indonesian restaurants (otherwise called warungs) can cost as little as $1 for a massive meal. Western meals are around $5.
- Massages (obviously a necessity): Around $5 for an hour of pure bliss.
Basically, everything is so much cheaper out here!
2. It’s not all boozing & bogans
I had a lot of preconceptions that Bali would be full of drunk Aussies & Brits spewing on the side of the road. Now there are some areas which are known to be tackier like Kuta & Seminyak, but there is SO much more to Bali than this.
To be honest, I wouldn’t recommend staying in Kuta or Seminyak. They are the more well-known areas, and there are some swanky beach clubs but there are so many other places which have so much more charm. If you want to see what these famous spots are like, I’d suggest staying in the quieter Canggu and you can pop down for the day. From Canggu, Seminyak is only about 30 mins and Kuta is a bit further on.
And some practical advice…
3. To get into Bali, you need proof of your onward journey out of Indonesia.
When I checked-in at Heathrow Airport, the first thing I was asked was “when are you leaving Indonesia?”. In all honesty, I had no idea. But I heard that sometimes the staff don’t let you on the plane without seeing confirmation of an onward journey, so luckily I had prepared for this.
So what do you do, if you don’t know when you want to leave Bali?
There are various methods of working around this; some people fake tickets, others buy cheap flights, some even pay companies to sort it out.
But I think the easiest and cheapest way is to book a refundable flight with Expedia.com. You need to do this just before you hop on your plane as you only have 24 hours to cancel. The steps are below…
- Go to the .com version of Expedia.
- Search for flights in the next 30 days or 60 days (depending on which visa you want, read on for tips on how to work this out). The location and price aren’t important, as long as you choose a flight that says “cancel within 24 hours”.
- At the airport, you can show the email with your flight confirmation to the check-in staff.
- Cancel the flight within 24 hours of booking. I usually wait til I’ve passed immigration in Denpasar, just to be safe.
So that should get you on the plane so you can actually make it to Bali!
4. Know what Visa you want – and make sure you’ve got enough US dollars at the airport
Before you pass through immigration at Denpasar airport, you need to know which visa to get. If you go for the VOA, you will need to pay in US dollars (and there are no ATMs in the airport) so make sure you go with enough cash.
There are 2 standard tourist visas available:
- Standard tourist visa (free). This lets you stay in Indonesia for 30 days. Most nationalities don’t need to apply for this; you just walk through immigration in the airport and they stamp your passport with this 30-day visa. Easy as pie – but it means that if you have flexible travel plans and decide to stay longer than 30 days, you cannot.
What happens if you change your plans and want to stay in Indonesia?
This visa cannot be extended once you’ve entered the country. So, if you decide to stay, the only way round it (without getting a big fine) would be to fly to a nearby country and then back in.
That’s why I would recommend anyone who has even the slightest vague travel plans to get the…
- VOA (Visa-on-arrival); $35 USD: This allows non-Indonesian people to stay up to 60 days in Indonesia. After the 60 days are up, you have to leave Indonesia… or you incur a fine of $20 per day.
- This means that if you want to stay a few months, you have to fly out of Indonesia every 60 days. It may sound a bit of a faff, but I’ve grown to love the visa runs now. It gives me an excuse to make the most of all the amazing countries nearby, and am planning trips to Perth, The Phillippines, and Singapore.
How do you get it?
- When you get off the plane, before you pass immigration at Denpasar airport, look for the sign that says “VOA” (it’s on the right, before the immigration desks).
- It’s very easy to follow everyone else, and go straight to the sign that says “immigration” but you need to go to the VOA desk first.
- Tell them you’re staying for any time between 30-60 days, pay $35 USD, and then go to the main Immigration queue. They’ll stamp your passport and stick the VOA-purple-slip in there.
- Then, when you’re in Bali, you need to extend your visa from 30 to 60 days. You can either do this on your own – but it includes filling out a lot of forms and 3 trips to immigration – or you can use a Visa agent, who does all the hard work for you. They charge around $700k for the whole process and you still have to go to immigration – but it’s much easier than doing it solo.
5. Take your CBT motorcycle and moped exam
I never planned to scooter around Bali. Someone asked me before I left: “will you hire a scooter?” and I immediately said “nah”. I thought it would be easy enough to get around without one… but man, how I was wrong.
Public transport in Bali is pretty much non-existent. Some people get pedal bikes and you can take taxis around, but taxis aren’t that easy to find and prices can add up.
If you have a driving license and are road-aware, then driving a scooter isn’t too difficult. I practised around some quieter roads and got used to the driving pretty quickly.
However, there are a lot of accidents and it’s not a safe method of transport. To maximise your safety, and also to make sure you are insured, I would STRONGLY recommend you take your CBT exam. Even if you have insurance that covers scooters, most travel insurance only covers up to 50 CC so you’ll need to take your CBT exam.
For UK citizens, this is only £125 and it takes one day. It is a bit of a faff, but it’ll teach you the rules of the scootering roads and most importantly, it means that you will be covered by insurance.
To find out more about CBT exams, have a look here.
6. Get an international driving license
I didn’t know this before I arrived here, but UK driving licenses are not accepted in Bali. There are quite a lot of policemen on the roads stopping foreigners and checking licenses, and if you’ve got a normal British driving license, chances are that you’ll get fined if you don’t show an international driving license.
So, how do you get an international driving license?
It’s surprisingly easy (and cheap) to get an international driving license. This is the simple process for British citizens (but just have google if you’re from anywhere else):
- Download the form from this website.
- Send in your passport photo, photocopy of driving license, and £8 – to the address on the form.
- Receive it 10 days later in the post.
- Boom. Easy.
7. Take out proper travel insurance that covers scooter accidents
As I mentioned earlier, scooter accidents are far too common. Even if you’re super careful, you can’t control the other people on the road. And for peace of mind, I would HUGELY recommend you take out a travel insurance that covers you against scooter accidents.
After a lot of research, I’ve taken out the adventure pack with True Traveller. It is quite expensive but it was the cheapest insurance I found that actually covers scooter accidents.
(But make sure you take your CBT exam in the UK – without this, you’ll only be insured on a scooter of up to 50 CC. And most scooters in Bali are over 100 CC).
8. Take lots of mosquito repellant
I always seem to be a mozzie-magnet and things haven’t changed here. I’ve been bitten A LOT. Let’s just say… bring some strong deet.
So… all the above pieces of advice are just things I’ve learnt along the way – mostly from not doing them, then regretting it. You don’t have to do any of the above, and chances are – you’ll still have an amazing time. But if you prepare, it means you may be able to relax just that lil bit more.
Let me know how you get on!