Bali, popularly known as the paradise island is one of the most voted travel destinations. Blessed with pristine beaches, lush greenery, rich architecture and towering mountains, Bali is a seamless blend of modern and tradition, that welcomes tourists round the year. Though it is pretty easy and cheap to travel in Bali, you certainly need to keep few things in mind and plan in advance. This post is for Indians planning a trip to Bali for the first time. (Not a bagpacking trip but a mid sized budget trip for seven days)
Most of the South East Asian flights connect Indonesia. Choose any airlines but AirAsia. (I was sleepless throughout the journey. There is no leg space and you cannot incline your seats either. Low cost carriers do have this disadvantage). Since the journey is long, you can go for full service carriers which include food and other in-flight amenities. Our toward journey was in Air Asia and return in Air Malindo. I could easily judge the difference in the service and quality. Contact your service carrier for good deals on flights. Ours was from Makemytrip.
Check for the number of stoppages. Direct flights would generally be costlier. Air Asia halt was at Kualampur Airport for three hours till the next connecting flight.
Tip: Allow yourself ample sleep in flight or at connecting airport so that you reach your destination fresh and energetic. Air Asia flight had left me sleepless. I could not sleep at Kualampur Airport either. So a sleep deprived me took a walk inside KL airport to kill time.
Air Asia allowed 20 kg of cabin baggage and 7 kg of hang baggage. Air Malindo, for our return journey had 30 kg allowance for cabin baggage. (Air Asia has number of other constraints and I hate them.)
It is advisable to read the same on the websites of your respective airlines so that you do not get last minute surprises.Also, travel light and leave some space in your luggage for souvenirs that you might want to shop in Bali.
Keep your essentials, documents, camera etc in your hand baggage or carry on luggage. Things like batteries, body lotions, medicines need to go in your cabin luggage. Check the airlines website mentioning the list of items that you can carry in respective baggage.
Keep an extra luggage lock and secure your cabin bag before handing over to airlines for luggage boarding. The lock of our cabin bag was tampered with which we discovered later. Thankfully a backup lock saved us from any loss.
For Indian citizens, no visa is required. Pretty easy for Indians you see! For people from other countries please check http://www.visabali.com/tourist-visas.php. Rules keep changing so please keep an eye on the updates.
Sim and Calling Card
You can buy a sim from anywhere in Bali which comes pre-loaded with data. You might have to further recharge the sim for calling value. Primarily you would require data to navigate maps, so make the best use of data. Buying a sim at the airport might be expensive. We bought 3 Care sim from a shop close to our hotel which costed us 30000 IDR.
Indonesian Currency is called Indonesian Rupee often abbreviated IDR is valued much lesser than Indian Rupee. One Indian Rupee is equivalent to 210 IDR. Makes you feel rich? Now look at the dollar conversion. 1 USD is 13659 IDR.
Its a standard norm to convert Indian Rupees in Dollars. Do that in India instead of going to exchange counters at Bali airport. Remember, exchange rates in dollars are offered at higher prices at airports. At the airport, it is advisable to convert a smaller amount of dollars to Indonesian Rupee (IDR), so that your taxi fare is at-least sorted. For the rest of the amount, exchange $ to IDR from any authorized money exchange. Go for the ones which are big and authentic. Stay away from small shacks or shops. Chances are you might be duped. We exchanged from Central Kuta Money Exchange which was in the lane behind our hotel.
Download UBER app in your phone and use it freely to commute there, especially when you land in Bali and heading to your hotel. Taxis at airports charge exorbitantly. For instance Bali airport taxi charged us 150,000 IDR (More than Rs 700) to drop us to our hotel in Kuta. Whereas Uber charged 30000 IDR (Rs 142) for the same distance from hotel to airport.
Never skip insurance while traveling international because you do not want to spend heftily on foreign land should you face ANY medical condition. Contact your insurance agent or buy online in a single click. Insurance also covers the loss of luggage, theft or certain emergencies. We bought ours from ICICI Lombard. Just provide your date of travel, flight tickets, purpose of visit and visa or hotel info, and the policy would reach you in your mail box. Its that simple. For Bali which is a humid place and you can be prone to diseases/insect bites in forests, travel insurance is a must.
International driving licence
Tourists are often carried away by stories of fake valour. For instance an acquaintance told me that International Driving Licence is not required in Bali and Indian DL would suffice. Please do not fall for the trap. Cops in Bali are strict and in case you break any traffic rule or face any unforeseen contingency, the first thing they would ask for is an International Driver's License which failing to produce may lead to huge penalty or criminal case.
You can apply for one in your local/district court at a nominal cost. It would be valid for 1 year from the date of preparation. We prepared ours from Gurugram District Court at Rs 1200. Yes a little nagging and sweating in queue is required, but after all it’s for your own convenience.
Once you have all documents ready, keep photocopies with you and keep them handy.
Transport in Bali
Bali has narrow but good roads minus the potholes. Just like one would cruise through Goa on scooters/bikes, follow the same here. Hire a scooters for two reasons- One they rarely get stuck in traffic and two, are cheaper than taxi/Uber for long distance ride.
Watch out for scooter renting shops near your hotel or ask your hotel reception for help. Check the bike's condition before you pay, especially tyre pressure, pickup, seats, headlight and most important, the documents. Take a trial ride before you close the deal. The scooter would be given to you with little petrol, enough to ride to the nearest petrol station. (Petrol is called Pertamina in Indonesian language). Petrol is quite cheap here. (One litre costed 7500 IDR or Rs 35 only). Make the most of your scooter ride. We rented a scooter at 50,000 IDR per day ( Barely 230 INR) from a tiny scooter rent shack at Kuta.
Always keep your international DL, insurance and bike documents with you handy.
Indians are used to jump traffic lights, over speed or honk unnecessarily. Try doing these in Bali and a cop would be waiting for you at the next traffic signal. Irrespective Bali is a smaller place and economically weaker than India, traffic rules are strictly adhered to. We had stopped at a traffic signal few inches after the crossing line and retracted the bike as we realized our mistake. Inspite of undoing the wrong, a traffic cop chased us and fined us with 300000 IDR. Phew! It was one hell of an experience on foreign soil.
Needless to mention, helmets are a must for both the riders. Do not over speed and do not argue with the cops. Its better to be safe than sorry. Yeah?
Food in Bali
Bali is dominated by non vegetarian cuisines, especially sea food and pork. Vegetarians do face problem in eating out. If you don't even eat eggs, then you would surely have a tough time. However you can ask the restaurant to make vegetarian rice or noodles for you sans meat or fish sauce and they would happily do that for you. Nasi Goreng (stir fried rice) is available almost everywhere which you can customize while placing order. Our favorite place to eat out was "Gateway of India" in Kuta.
Anyway fruits and bread are always available everywhere which is a huge respite for vegetarians and vegans. Talking about Vegan food, yes there are a few vegan restaurants in Bali (which was surprising to us). You can look for them in Zomato. We ate in a vegan restaurant in Ubud. (Going towards Ubud Palace, the restaurant would be on your left).
In case the smell or sight of anything non veg is unbearable, then you can always carry ready to eat meals or noodles in your luggage. Though that may not suffice for more than two-three days, it would be something better than nothing.
Bali has a tropical climate all year and has moderate temperature. The beaches enjoy breezy weather and pleasant sunshine. Maximum temperature reaches up to 30-32 degree Celsius. Carry comfy cottons, light airy casuals, beach wear and comfortable footwear. You would need flat slippers or floaters most of the times.
These tips and experiences are from my trip to Bali in August 2017.
Live, love, laugh and be a travel addict!
By the way, this post made it to the Indiblogger home page in the popular blog list.