Bali is as diverse and wonderful as it is frustrating and exhausting. As a tourist, traveller and lover of all things Indonesian I have spent more than enough time visiting, exploring and partying all around this amazing island.
And I have learnt what to avoid like the plague, where the little gems are amongst the sea of tourists and how to get everything you want out of your Bali Holiday.
Bali is an amazing place to visit, the weather is perfect and the exchange rates from most currencies are the best they have been in a long time. This makes now the best time to visit. This makes it a perfect holiday destination for you, but also the perfect holiday destination for tens of thousands of other tourists, so you have to have your wits about you if you are looking for culture, creativity and a bit of peace and quiet.
You are sure to be overwhelmed by it all when you get off your plane in Denpasar Airport, especially as a newcomer to the island. The price war and rip off taxis will try to shepherd you into their cars for exorbitant prices and the booking taxis are even worse. If you are confident with bartering, talk with one of the private drivers, they are always more lenient with price and drive much more comfortable cars. Alternatively, if you don’t have much luggage, just walk out of the airport compound through the main gates and there you can flag down a metered taxi which will end up costing you a third of the price of the ones inside and you can start your holiday off on a win.
Lots of travellers say to avoid Kuta, and in many respects I totally agree. Kuta stands for Kota untuk touris Australia, or in English, the city for Australian tourists. And when you get there… you will see why. Kuta is overrun with loud, drunk, bead wearing, bintang singlet toting, beer handling, rude tourists who feel like kings because they can afford to do whatever they want. A lot of tourists are very rude to the stall sales people and treat the locals badly and its embarrassing. You don’t have to be one of these people. Kuta is worth a visit because it has great shopping, diverse dining options, amazing nightlife and lots of fun places to hang out, party and have cocktails by the pool. Avoid the large groups of tourists and try amazing options like Kun Ti Japanese restaurant for an excellent deal of fresh sashimi, check out The Balcony for fusion Mexican food, cheap margaritas and no loud, revolting tourists, just the nice ones… or head down to the beach and eat local style out of cone shaped packages of rice, chicken, vegetables and roasted coconut all for 50c.
Above all treat the locals with respect, this is their home, you are a visitor and if you want to experience the culture and the lifestyle be gentle, polite and kind to the locals and you never know where you might end up. Indonesians are extremely friendly, polite people and very good hosts. Give a little, get a little, it’s not so hard.
Eat local food, spend time at the quiet beaches, rent a motorbike, grab a helmet and drive up the coast to find secret beaches, traditional villages and perfect serenity. Most tourists don’t travel far from Sanur and Kuta… so go against the grain and discover the untravelled paths of beauty and gentle personalities of the locals as you explore their island.
Visit the temples, there are thousands to choose from. Some are organised tours, and others are quite serene places for worship. Visitors are always welcome at temples big and small, visit those off the tourist trail and find amazing temples right along the coast where the views are spectacular and the sand between your toes and the quiet peace will sure to encourage a spiritual awakening, whether you are religious or not.
Don’t flash your money around like you are rich and famous, you are not and you will only be asking for trouble. There are pickpockets and thieves in Bali, so take care of your belongings. Don’t do drugs. Seriously, it’s a no-brainer. Being caught with drugs in Indonesia holds a punishment of death. It’s not worth the risk, you will be offered drugs, politely say no and walk away.
Bali is amazing, beautiful and enchanting. To experience what lies under the commercial tourist surface doesn’t take much. All you need is an adventurous spirit and a good attitude.