Here are a few essential tips for Bali first-timers in no particular order.
Scooter rides all the way!
You MUST go for a scooter ride! It’s not that scary as most people say!
I have a driving license but don’t drive at home, so I was a bit scared at first since I read everywhere how chaotic traffic in Bali is, but that’s not true at all. Yeah, when you come for the first time and see so many scooters and cars, you’ll be terrified, but when you go for a ride, you’ll realize how simple it is. And most important – scooters are THE FASTEST WAY to get around the island. With cars, you quickly get stuck in traffic jams and lose time on waiting.
How traffic works in Bali
You get used to driving on the left side quickly (if you drive on the right at home). Roads are simple and usually straight. Some parts maybe have a bit more curves than others, but there’s not a lot of crossroads. You honk when you’re passing someone, and in front of the curves so if there’s someone on the other side, they know you’re coming. You don’t worry much about what’s going on behind you; the only important thing is what’s happening in front of you. And that’s it!
What to pack?
Temperatures in Bali, as well as humidity levels, are high, so make sure that you pack light clothes. One light jacket is more than enough. Make sure you have a good pair of shoes since it’s easier to walk in them, especially if you’re going for some hikes. Water shoes are useful while visiting waterfalls, especially on slippery rocks.
Don’t forget the sunscreen! And make sure to put it on more than just once during the day (especially if you’re white and use scooters a lot). Mosquito spray is useful too (depends on which places you are visiting). Bring some waterproof bandages also.
Be careful with money
Their currency is the Indonesian Rupiah (IDR), and their money has a lot of zeros. It’s so confusing when you use their cash for the first time because you’re paying in thousands and millions. So make sure to count everything twice, but don’t worry, you will get used to it very quickly. Also, make sure to change your money to euros or dollars, and then when you come to Bali you change it to Rupiahs.
PRO TIP: In southeast Asia, it’s common to say ‘The price is 300’. That usually means 300 000, and not 300. It’s easier than saying the full number so get used to it.
Buy a SIM card
Make sure that you buy a SIM card when you come, we all know how useful that is. We took the one from Telkomsel (apparently that’s the best Indonesian network). You’ll get 25 GB of the Internet (4 GB 4G Data, 3GB 3G Data, and 18GB that you can use from 1 to 6 am) for 70 000 IDR (that’s around 5$). We used it for two weeks and had more than enough for basic needs (since we used free WiFi in our villa and restaurants).
Become a bargain expert
First time in Bali, I also had my first bargaining experience. I bought a lot of stuff since I liked to bargain a lot. So, the thing is that they will tell you their price, you’ll say that that’s too much and offer the amount you’re willing to pay. If they don’t want to lower the cost, act like you’re not interested and walk away. That will work. They will usually go for half of the price they offered.
Get to know the friendly people of Indonesia
Their smiles are just so contagious. When you’re passing by their communities, they will always greet you and wave (especially children), and that raises your mood. They will help you with anything. For example, we were going down the hill with our scooters and reached the point where there was no road anymore, just gravel. We had to turn our bikes around, but I couldn’t turn mine because it was too heavy. Two guys were passing by, and they just came and helped me turn it around, I didn’t even have to ask. Indonesians leave the best first impression.
Always leave a small donation
Like I already said, people there are friendly and will gladly pose for your photos or take a picture with you. For example, in one village a man let me pose with his roosters. We also saw people working in rice terraces and went to the field to get some shots of them working. They didn’t mind it and were kind to us. We left a small donation to everyone. That won’t make any difference for you, but it will mean a lot to them.
Try local food/drinks
Bali coffee is the best coffee. As a non-coffee drinker, I enjoyed Bali coffee way too much. So many flavors! I haven’t tried the Luwak one, but I bought it as a gift. I also tried some local food such as tempeh (our favorite), coconut chicken (this is an exciting dish to sample), fried bananas, dragon fruit (best fruit ever!), tofu (in various ways), and lots of veggies in interesting combinations). Don’t be afraid to experiment.
Amazing waterfalls, rice fields, volcanoes, lakes, beaches, beautiful temples, animals. Bali truly has it all. If you don’t have enough time to visit everything, then make sure that you thoroughly enjoy the places that you do visit. Take some time and enjoy yourself.
You’ll find guides helpful
Honestly, you don’t need guides, but they can be accommodating when visiting waterfalls. For example, my friend couldn’t walk barefoot anymore, so the guide gave him his loafers. And they will help you with crossing the river, pointing out the best way to the waterfall, etc. Plus, you’ll learn some interesting stuff from them.
Wake up for sunrise!
As you all know, Bali is extremely popular with tourists nowadays. That means a lot of people at every location! But if you wake up for sunrise, then you might just have some locations just for yourself. Well, you may stumble upon some photographers/videographers (everyone knows how much we love mornings).
Bali is a great place for adventure. Make sure to try at least one of the many possibilities: jumping from waterfalls, natural waterfall slides, rafting, quad rides, water activities, swimming with manta rays, etc.