Other than get ironic tribal tattoos, of course…
If you’ve seen Eat, Pray, Love – you probably think Bali is all warm fuzzy feelings, stunning terrain, beautiful people, yoga, surf, temples and wholistic lifestyle. You’re not wrong, but if you end up in the wrong part of town, Bali will be less eat, pray, love and a lot more drunk, trash, barfing. Bali is equal parts high end luxury destination and backpacker heaven, and it’s for that exact reason that you’ve undoubtedly heard a friend rave about it, and another who can’t stand it. Here’s how to make sure you find the perfect Bali for you, and avoid doing it all wrong, like these things…
Sorry, we know the mega corp hotel near the airport looks great, but it’s not Bali. This is where you’ll find every tourist you were hoping to avoid, and also surprisingly mediocre beaches. The prices, yes, they’ll be the only high. Kuta, Sanur and Nusa Dua are where the big chains and mega resorts have set up camp, and if you came from far away hoping to be inspired, the only inspiring thing you’ll find here is cheap beer. If you want the experience people rave about, head further afield.
Overpay For Massages
Your luxury hotel sees your couples massage request coming from miles away, and they charge accordingly. In Bali, you can get properly trained, spa quality massages starting at a mere $7 an hour, but you’ll hardly ever find them at your hotel. Head to a local village or ask your concierge if they can recommend someone on the sly. If you’re staying in an Airbnb, which is a great choice in Bali, chances are your host will know someone excellent.
Just like staying near the airport is a bad idea, so is staying in one place. Bali is a land of epic contrast. You’ll find jagged cliffs out of a movie scene next to pristine sandy beaches, all less than an hour away from luscious green hillsides and rice fields, which rival any jungle anywhere. Volcanoes, rivers, rainforest – it’s all here. For a Bali starter pack: consider Uluwatu, Canggu, Ubud and a side trip to Nusa Lembongan or the Gili’s. Moving around is easy and cheap, with drivers everywhere. And if you really want an experience, do a sunrise hike of Mt. Batur – it’s life changing.
Ignore Local Tradition
You’ll smell lovely burning almost everywhere you go in Bali. It’s highly addictive and part of the beautiful rituals the peaceful people who inhabit this lovely island put forth daily. Incense, flowers and other items are a gift to the gods, and you’ll find the streets littered with flower petals. Never step on them, never point at locals and don’t touch people you don’t know. And like everywhere you go, be polite. If you go into a temple, try not to have your thong hanging out…
With Uber, the fare in the app is the fare – right? Wrong. In Bali, quite often someone will take a ride, and then begin the haggling process to extract roughly double the amount from you. Yes, it’s still generally going to be cheaper than any other trip you’ve been on, but it can get dicey with language barriers, especially after dark. Don’t let the car move until all is squared. For this reason, it can be worth arranging a more dependable airport ride.
Underestimate Cash Only
It’s 2018, of course they take card, right bro? You’ll certainly find some ATM’s in Bali to bail you out, but if you thought you were going to be able to maximize your points here – you’re sadly mistaken. In almost any town, even bustling Ubud, you’ll find many businesses still don’t take card, and cash is still king. 1 U.S. Dollar equals about 15,000 Indonesian Rupiah, so if you hear some shocking numbers, don’t fret – it’s still just a buck. And if you do pay card, avoid this travel scam.
Bali is one of the greatest places to Airbnb, for a variety of reasons. Multiple bedrooms and private pools aside, the best Airbnb hosts can connect you with the people and services that make your stay unforgettable. We’re talking private drivers for $20-$30 a day, private chefs from $50 a day and so much more. Villas are everywhere, in almost every place you want to go, so searching Airbnb is a must in the land of infinity pools.
Miss Street Food
Bali is not a place to have steak frites. You can do that back at home. Indonesian cuisine is a tantalizing fusion of Southeast Asian cultures, with fresh rice, noodles and incredible chicken dishes, not to mention the famous “babi” roast pig. If you’re staying somewhere remotely cool – you’ll see chickens running around at some point. You can’t miss Nasi Goreng, Bututu, Satay, Babi Guling or Bantal and if you make it into a town, the dishes shouldn’t run you more than $5 all in.
Skip Nusa Lembongan
Most places you go in Bali, you’ll see present day. But if you want to step back ever slightly into a simpler time – take the Rocky Boat (yes, that’s really the name) ferry to Nusa Lembongan or Nusa Penida. The idyllic little islands are a mere 30 minute ride away and are home to some of the best diving and snorkeling in the entire country. You’ll find famous chefs who’ve retreated to paradise and quaint beachside bars serving potent arrack. You’ll love it, for a day trip or much more. And yes, Airbnb is incredible in these places.
Underestimate The Scooter
People love proposing in Bali, and with such rich plant life, it makes the cheesy flower petal thing so much easier for hotels to pull off. Nothing ruins happy vacation photos like falling off a scooter into a ditch though. Tourists think they can just rock up, rent a scooter and set off on a spiritual journey to parts unknown, and if you operate a scooter regularly – do it. It’s fantastic. But if you don’t, and you’re not at all used to virtually lawless traffic and the way scooters move, you may reconsider.