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Bali travel guide

Everything you need to know about visiting the island of the Gods.

Drawing 12 million visitors every year, Bali’s coasts are fringed with inviting white and black sands, as well as enviable surf conditions. Inland, the island houses enchanting volcanic hillsides, ancient temples and sacred sites, and a party landscape that can only be defined as infamous. Whether you choose to stay in the thick of things or wander the road less traveled, Bali is truly a paradise on Earth.

Find a cheap flight to Bali

Documents to get through immigration and customs in Bali

Once your plane touches ground in beautiful Bali, you’ll still have one more thing to do before you’re allowed to explore the Indonesian island — getting through customs. It may sound like a to-do, but if you get all of your documents in order, you’ll be all set. Here’s what you’ll need to have:

  • Passport. Your passport must remain valid for six months from the date you’re departing Bali or you will not be granted entry into the country. Also, be sure there is an empty page for the visa stamp.
  • Visa or visa on arrival. US citizens can visit Bali with a free visa that is valid for 30 days with no extensions. If you opt for a visa on arrival, you’ll be subject to a $35 fee, valid for 30 days with the option to pay for a one-time extension.

If you plan on staying longer than 30 days, be sure to extend your visa as you’ll incur some hefty fines for overstaying — $73.50 for each day!

What to know when you get to Bali

You’ll be in a completely different part of the world, meaning you’ll have to adjust to the way of a life so you don’t look like such a camera-touting tourist. Here a few tips to make your Bali vacation a breeze.

  • Dress appropriately. You’re on vacation, but that doesn’t mean a bathing suit is going to cut it everywhere you go. Restaurants and nightclubs will typically have a dress code, so pack some semi formal nightwear.
  • Keep an eye out for animals. If you run into an animal that appears to be wild or stray, it’s in your best interest to keep some distance. You may want to get the perfect selfie with a monkey, but you probably don’t want to risk getting a disease or rabies.
  • Respect the law and religion. If you don’t comply with the law, you’ll likely be fined — so don’t argue with police officers. As for religion, if you’ll be visiting any sort of holy site, dress modestly and act appropriately.
  • Rainy season. In Bali, this is referred to as low season — between January to April and October to November. You’ll likely find discounted trips to Bali around this time of year, but you should know that some afternoons will be rainy.
  • Bargaining is OK. Any informal market or service where prices aren’t set in stone are up for bargaining. If haggling is your game, remember to be respectful. And if you can’t happily agree on a price with a vendor, thank them and walk away.
  • Local slang. If you’ll be interacting with locals, it wouldn’t hurt to know some common slang. Selamat pagi means good morning, tolongmeans please and terima kasih means thank you.

Spending money in Bali

First, bring some cash over with you so you can purchase your visa on arrival. Next, you should know that the currency used in Bali is Indonesian rupiah (IDR).

You can either exchange your cash with a bank or money changer, or you could withdraw local money from an ATM with a top travel-friendly debit card. Most ATMs will only allow you to take out a maximum of 3,000,000 IDR (roughly over $200). If you prefer spending with plastic, Visa and MasterCard are widely accepted, just make sure you bring a travel-friendly credit card to beat the extra fees. However, having extra cash is always a smart move, as not every location is going to accept credit cards.

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Public transportation in Bali

Tourist shuttle

The best way to get around Bali via public transportation is on a tourist shuttle. You have two options:

  • Kura-Kura Bus. Covers main areas of Bali and includes Wi-Fi. Download the app to plot routes and track your progress.
  • Perma. A shuttle and tour company that offers regular routes to key tourist destinations.

Bemo

This is a minibus or van with a row of low seats down each side that can carry about 12 people. Bemos run on set routes determined by the local government, though fares are generally negotiable. Still, Bemos aren’t a common transit method for tourists, as they’re known for being slow and cramped.

Bus

Every town in Bali has at least one terminal for all forms of public transit, including buses. Buses in Bali are generally used for long-distance transportation, but may not be the most efficient option since drivers often wait for the bus to fill up with passengers before departing.

Ferry

Travel between Bali, Lombok, the Gili Islands and Lembongan is available by ferry with frequent departures during the day.

Taxis, rideshares and tours

Tour group

See Bali and its surrounding islands through expert eyes by joining a tour that hits top sights — transportation included. A few of our favorites:

Ojek

Motorcycles, called ojek, are a handy way to travel winding country roads in Bali. While generally available in the city too, riding via ojek is more dangerous in congested areas.

Taxi

It’s easy to hail a taxi while standing on the side of the road in Bali. When traveling short distances, Blue Bird taxis are cheaper. When traveling via taxi, make sure to tell the driver to put the meter on. Otherwise, they might try to charge you more rupiah than the trip was worth.

Driver hire

Hiring a car is probably one of the easiest and most convenient ways to get around Bali. They’re fairly cheap, with drivers setting the price via negotiations. Even for long-distance travel, hiring a driver is still one of the cheapest options.

Uber

Pull up your Uber app while in Bali and have your ride come to you. Prices are published right in the app.

Car rentals in Bali

At all the main Bali airports, you’ll find car rental companies like Bali Car Hire and Auto Bali Car Rental, as well as Avis, Hertz, Budget and Europcar.

What to know before driving in Bali

In general, driving in Bali isn’t recommended for tourists — in part because hiring a driver is so cheap, usually between $10 and $20 per day. A driver will know where to go and have a better grasp of navigating traffic.

Still, if you’re set on sightseeing around the island via your own set of wheels, here are our best tips for driving in Bali:

  • You’ll need a special driver’s license. Either apply for an international license in your home country before you go or get a temporary Balinese driver’s license at the police station in Denspar.
  • Your line of vision is your responsibility. Other drivers may merge in and out of lanes without looking because they assume you’ll make room. Stay vigilant, and don’t expect people to signal before making a move.
  • Horn honking isn’t necessarily angry. In Bali, other drivers honk to let you know they’re approaching or about to pass you. Since you drive on the left side of the road in Bali, passes happen on the right.

Airport transfers

Airport transfers in Bali are generally cheap and convenient. Consider buying a ticket ahead of time to streamline the process upon arrival.

Frequently asked questions

Each year, millions of global visitors flock to its shores. If you’re considering hopping on a flight to this beautiful island paradise but have a few questions before committing, we’re here to help clear up any ambiguities.

Money

  • Is Bali cheap? In comparison to American prices, Bali is viewed as a cheap destination. Basic hotel rooms start at about $8 per night, and you can secure five-star villa rooms from $35 per night. A three-course meal in a sit-down restaurant for two averages IDR280,000 ($20) and a local beer starts from IDR15,000 ($1). Hiring a driver for a day typically costs IDR500,000, or about $37.

Travel

  • Is Bali a country? No. Bali is an island as well as a province of Indonesia. It’s located between Java and Lombok, and it’s the westernmost of the Lesser Sunda Islands.The province of Bali consists of numerous islands, including the main Bali island and the neighboring islands of Nusa Penida, Nusa Lembongan and Nusa Ceningan.
  • Which Bali airport should I fly into?? Denpasar International Airport is the only international airport on the island. It is also known as Ngurah Rai International Airport and is located on the southern part of the island. Numerous international airlines offer flights to Denpasar International Airport, though you’ll likely have to make a stop somewhere else.
  • Do I need a visa to go to Bali?US residents have a couple visa options for entering Indonesia at Bali. There is a free, non-extendable 30-day tourist visa that can be stamped upon arrival, and there is also a $35 tourist visa on arrival that’s valid for 30 days and can be extended once for an additional 30 days. Other visas require an individual or business sponsor to stay in Bali.
  • Does Bali have Uber?Uber is available in numerous locations throughout Indonesia, including Bali. Your Uber transportation options include UberMotor (motorcycle), UberX (low-cost car) and UberTrip (for hires of five or more hours). For an example of fare costs, a ride from Denpasar Airport to Seminyak Beach is approximately IDR64,000-IDR83,000 or around $5-$6.
  • Does Bali have Elephants?
    Bali---elephant
    While elephants aren’t native to Bali, the island province features numerous elephant parks and safari options for you to get up close and personal with these majestic creatures.

    This includes Elephant Safari Park Lodge (pictured) in Ubud. This park is committed to conservation and is renowned for housing the largest herd of rescued Sumatran elephants in the world.

    When choosing your elephant experience, always do your research before committing. While some safaris and centers are dedicated to conservation and animal welfare, poor treatment of elephants for tourism is still common throughout the country.

    Browse elephant experiences in Bali
  • Health and safety

    • Is Bali safe? Since the 2002 bombings, terrorism has been a great safety concern for travelers headed to Indonesia. While security has increased and the threat of terrorism exists almost anywhere in the world, there not currently a terrorism travel warning for Bali from the State Department. Travel warnings are updated on the agency’s website as circumstances change, so check in if you have any concerns.

      Other safety concerns you may have include the quality of the water, which has led many travelers to experience “Bali belly”. You can decrease your chances of contracting this by only drinking bottled water.

      Driving in Bali is also viewed as unsafe for foreigners who are unfamiliar with the roads and road rules. This is not helped by the country’s chaotic traffic. It’s recommended you hire a driver for private commutes if necessary.

      On top of these safety procedures, you might also consider insurance for your trip.

    • Is Bali safe for babies? When traveling to Bali with a baby or infant, it’s important to exercise a high degree of caution around food and water, as these can be contaminated by poor handling. While you can purchase formula and baby food in supermarkets, you may prefer to bring food from home to last the length of your journey.

      Before traveling to Bali with your baby, consult your local doctor for any vaccinations that may be required.

    • Does Bali have malaria? Malaria is common in rural areas of Indonesia but is quite uncommon in urban areas such as Jakarta and Bali. Due to this low risk, it’s generally not recommended that you take preventative medication unless you plan to visit rural areas. If you have any concerns, consult your doctor.
    • Does Bali have Zika virus?
      Since June 2016, some governments around the world have advised travelers bound for Indonesia to exercise a high degree of caution, as the country has experienced “sporadic transmission” of the Zika virus. There is not currently an advisory from the US State Department.

      Such statements recommend travelers protect themselves from mosquito bites, as this is how the virus is transmitted.

      Due to the nature of the virus, which can cause birth defects, pregnant women are advised to consult their doctor before heading to Bali.

    • Does Bali have earthquakes?
      Bali can experience natural disasters. This includes earthquakes, volcanic activity, tsunamis and flooding.

      The last sizeable earthquake in Bali was in March 2017, when a magnitude 6.4 quake shook the island. No casualties or follow-up tsunami alerts were reported.

    • What about volcanic eruptions?
      Bali’s Mount Agung erupted in late November 2017, spewing massive clouds of smoke for two days and prompting the evacuation of 100,000 people. Scientists continue to monitor the volcano for additional eruptions, though the vast majority of Bali’s tourist attractions and resorts lie beyond the immediate danger zone.
    • Culture, customs and lifestyle

      • Is Bali Muslim?
        The country of Indonesia is predominantly Muslim, with more than 85% of the nation identifying as Islamic.

        The province of Bali, however, has an ancient history of Hinduism that dates back to the 1st century AD. According to the 2010 census, 83.5% of Bali’s population is Balinese Hindu, making it the home of the Balinese Hindu minority.

        Islam is the second-most common religion in Bali, accounting for around 13% of the population.

      • Do Balinese celebrate Christmas? Despite Christianity being a minority religion in Indonesia, Bali’s heavy dependence on tourism hotels and hot spots means the Balinese tend to get heavily into the Christmas spirit.Common Christmas activities throughout the island include Christmas dinners at restaurants, Christmas carolers and festive decorations.
      • Does Bali have a casino? No. Gambling is illegal in Indonesia, so there are no casinos in Bali or anywhere else in the country.
      • Are Bali weddings legal? In order to be wed in Bali, a couple’s marriage ceremony must follow Indonesian law. The main component of the law is that both individuals must be of the same religion. Indonesia recognizes Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism and Christianity. Muslim marriages require only a religious ceremony, while marriages of the other religions require both a ceremony and civil registration.

        Also, to be eligible to marry, you must attest that either you’ve never been married or that all previous marriages have been legally terminated.

        For US citizens, the government generally recognizes weddings that take place in Bali and are officially registered in Indonesia, though the actual paperwork and approval must come through the attorney general in the state where you reside.

        Our destination wedding guide can also help with any other considerations and necessities for your big day.


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