Bali is one of the most popular destinations for travel. There is everything in this heavenly island: good food, delicious coffee, amazing beaches, relaxing spas, spectacular view of rice fields and beautiful nature.
So here are tips which I believe could help if you are planning trip to Bali for the first time:
1. Use Google Maps and Foursquare to find good places. Don’t waste your time on articles like “5 places on Bali where you can have stellar breakfast”. The island is bigger than a hundred yards, 5 places may easily happen to be very far from each other. And most important, there are much more than 5 really good places for any ordinary tourist task (eating, drinking, watching sunsets, walking through rice paddies etc. etc.). Just find a Wi-Fi connection (many venues provide it) and search for places around you with good ratings.
2. Bluebird (the local taxi service) and Uber (which is kind-of-illegal in Indonesia but still works) are your friends to move around. As an alternative, many travellers rent motorbikes or cars. But traffic in Bali is a bit chaotic. Besides, we didn’t want to spend money on a car, knowing that we won’t need it every day (and in higher season rent-a-cars quickly run out of cars, by the way); and we didn’t want to risk injuries and breathe in dust and car exhaust so we ruled out a motorbike. If you are off to longer multipoint rides then get a car with a driver. You will be safe (locals are literally at home with the traffic) and comfortable (it’s not hard to find a recent car with a nice and helpful driver). A car with a driver will set you back 500 000 IDR ($40) per day, quite a bargain if you ask me.
3. Taste the local coffee – it’s awesome! Forget about Starbucks, try local varieties. The best thing in Bali is that you can find a venue with excellent coffee almost anywhere. Again, use Google Maps, Foursquare etc. to find the closest and the best options – the coffee won’t disappoint you.
4. Don’t spend your money on breakfast in hotels (at least every day), unless you know for sure that a particular hotel serves gorgeous breakfasts (or you can’t even get out of bed without a toast and a coffee). Or unless you’re going to stay in countryside like remote parts of Ubud (but then you know what you’re doing anyway and you don’t need my advices here). In more crowded places, you’ll surely find a place to start the day for less money than in hotels.
5. Watch out when checking out. In general, locals play fair and don’t usually swindle. However, there were two times when we encountered uncalled-for items in our bills. The first time we noticed a motorbike rental (we didn’t rent it) in our bill upon checkout in one of hotels. The other time was in Waterbom (which is, by the way, an absolute must to visit, more on that below): the water park uses bracelets with prepayment for all operations inside, and we accidentally noticed a shortage of funds in the middle of the fun. It turned out we’ve “got a spa treatment” that we didn’t order. Anyway, in both cases the accounts were promptly fixed after a brief internal check.
6. Bargain where you don’t see the price tag – and even sometimes when you see it. There’s no point in doing that in hotels or convenience stores, obviously; it’s rather about jewellery and things on the market. In one jewellery shop I bought three rings for quite a good price while I’m sure I could bargain enough to buy me another coffee. 38 minutes have been wasted in blaming myself after that!
7. Watch out for service charges and government taxes. Sometimes prices in the menu include all charges, sometimes they don’t – read the finer print (they don’t hide it far). The service charge varies: be prepared for numbers between 15% and 21% (10% is the government tax and the rest is the service charge). Tips are not a custom in Bali, though nobody will run after you to return them, as in Japan.
8. Make sure you have a swimwear which doesn’t have sturdy elements on the back. Girls, you might want to take a one-piece swimsuit. This is about Waterbom, the famous water park I already mentioned above. You have surely planned a visit to it if you ever read anything about vacation in Bali. It’s not just hype, the park is really worth it. If you have sensitive skin, it might suffer a bit on some rides. I’ve seen a lad who seemed to stay in the water park since early morning, judging by his happy face and grazed shoulder blades =) So don’t run to Climax (their fastest one – 70 km/h in 5 seconds on your back) the next second you entered the park. Start with something slower (in our case Fast&Fierce worked great). And make sure you have no metallic buttons or clasps on your backs and hindquarters – for your and the equipment’s safety.
9. Support local vendors! You can find PizzaHut, Hard Rock Cafe, Jamie Oliver’s pizzeria and all such stuff. But even if you want to eat pizza here – go to a local business. These people really need clients and do their best to get them. And their cooking is great. They deserve your money. I’ve read the owner’s story in one of my most favourite restaurants: his family barely made ends meet for 10 years, but they managed to save money for a family business. And they did it! Jamie won’t lose too much if you don’t come to his place, he’s gained more than enough ounces recently anyway =)