30 Days in Bali - Observations & Insights for 1st time visitors!
In December 2019, I had the pleasure of visiting Bali with some wonderful friends. The island's people, positive energy, spirituality, laid-back vibe, and low cost of living left a lasting impression on me. That's why I decided to return to Bali in December 2023 for a 30-day solo trip!
If you're planning a trip to Bali, there are a few things you should know before you go. I recently spent 30 days on the island, splitting my time between Kuta, Nusa Dua, and Ubud. As someone who enjoys nature, yoga, neighborhood cafes, great coffee, and good vibes, I found that Bali had something for everyone. Here are some of the things I learned during my trip.
First and foremost, be prepared for the traffic. The way people drive on motorbikes can be a bit nerve-wracking at first, but I quickly learned that this was normal driving/traffic in Bali. The horn isn't used to tell someone to "F" off; it's a functional tool. Drivers use it to alert the person in front of them that they're passing, to let oncoming traffic know they're going around a blind corner, or to warn a dog or chicken that they're about to run them over. Despite the chaos, I never saw anyone get upset or angry. Everyone seems to take it in stride.
One thing I loved about Bali was how friendly and welcoming the locals were. Even though they may not have as much money or material possessions as people in Western countries, they all have a genuinely positive attitude and seem to be living a stress-free life. I never once felt unsafe walking down the streets, even at night. Of course, I stayed in relatively nice areas and didn't venture down alleys in the middle of the night, but I felt comfortable enough to explore on foot. It's worth noting that tourists are very welcomed in Bali. The locals want to earn money through the tourism industry, but they're also genuinely interested in meeting new people and sharing their culture.
One thing you'll notice in Bali is that things tend to run on "island time." On almost every occasion, our ride or boat was late. But instead of getting upset, I embraced it. After all, I was on holiday and didn't need to stick to a schedule. If you're someone who likes to be punctual, this might be a bit frustrating, but I found it added to the trip's laid-back vibe.
Regarding bathrooms, be prepared for some differences from Western standards. Nice, expensive places were clean, but others were not so much. Due to the plumbing, hand-held bidets are at every toilet, and some have no toilet paper. Most establishments that accommodate westerners had toilet paper but would ask you not to flush it, but throw it in the trash.
Money is always a concern when traveling, and Bali is no exception. I used a combination of credit cards and cash during my trip. All major "western"-centered restaurants, bars, and tourist attractions, i.e., the places where locals don't ever go, took credit cards. About half had an extra 3% charge. For cash, I used ATMs, which were accessible everywhere. When I arrived, I was recommended only to go to ATMs that were indoors (convenience stores or banks) as they had security cameras. The average amount you could pull from an ATM was 1-2.5 Million Rupiah (USD = $75-$180), so my recommendation is to pull out as much as possible to avoid fees.
If you plan on shopping in Bali, haggling is a common practice. I found that I could get street vendors down 75% from their original asking price. Here's how it would go: I'd walk up to a shirt I liked and ask how much it cost. The vendor would say 200k Rupiah, and I would counter with 45k Rupiah max. The vendor would look at me like I'm crazy and come back with a counteroffer of 150k. I would then counter with 50k or no thanks. After a bit of back and forth, we would usually settle on a price somewhere in the middle.
Water is another thing to be mindful of in Bali. From the get-go, I only drank bottled water and used it to brush my teeth. I was surprised to learn that the locals also do not drink tap water. They do brush their teeth with it, but it is not very clean, and I did not take the chance on holiday.
When it comes to massages, prices can vary widely. I tried out a $5 massage and quickly learned that you get what you pay for. The massage was good, but the environment and cleanliness weren't up to par. On the other end of the spectrum, high-end resort spas can be overpriced. I found that the sweet spot was at a nice, well-reviewed spa that had $15-$ 25-hour massages. One example that I enjoyed was called Spring, in both Seminyak and Canggu.
I had a manicure and pedicure. It was $20 US dollars for a quality and attentive manicure and pedicure - WOW! Some might believe that luxury is decor and ambiance; this does play an important part; the true essence of luxury is the people, the attentiveness to detail, and the reasonable response to your needs and desires without having to inquire. The company's confident in who they are and what they offer - that's luxury!
Finally, getting around Bali is relatively easy. Taxis are everywhere, and if you're a Westerner, they will honk at you every 1-3 minutes as you walk down the street. If you want a taxi, wave them down. Bluebird was by far the cheapest. They always use the meter, and the meters are dirt cheap. Multiple rides were less than $1.
Overall, I had a fantastic time in Bali and would highly recommend it to anyone looking for a mix of adventure, relaxation, and culture. Just be prepared for the traffic, island time, and a few differences in how things are done - for me, it was welcomed and comforting!
Please find below some useful tips and recommendations for your stay in Bali:
- Personal Driver: It is highly recommended to hire a personal driver for a day to take you to your desired destinations and provide recommendations. The average cost is 500k rupiah for 8 hours. I personally gave my driver 650k as a tip, and he was very happy.
- Bugs: Be aware that bugs are common in Bali. It is recommended to bring bug spray, especially if you plan to be in areas close to water.
- Grab: Download the Grab app for easy transportation and food delivery. You can even order headphones directly from the app if you forget to bring them.
- Tips: Tipping is not customary in Bali, but the service is excellent, and you might want to give more as a sign of appreciation. The best part is that it doesn't feel like an obligation as it sometimes does in other places.
- Laundry: There are laundry services everywhere in Bali, and they are affordable and reliable. You can easily get 10 lbs of laundry done for five US dollars.
Thanks for visiting; I hope this was helpful! Please let me know if you have any questions.