Bali / Indonesia / Travel

17 things you should know before going to Bali!

As I’m heading back to Bali in just a few weeks (yaaay) I came to think of all the things I wish I had known before my first trip to the island over 8 years ago. Do I need shots before going to Bali? Do I need a visa to visit Indonesia? What can I wear in Bali?

So I decided to make a list of all the things I’ve learned over the years.

I call Bali my third home and I love it today even though it has changed so much in recent years. It is still such a beautiful paradise, but it also has some dark sides you need to be aware of. Some think they can come to Bali and forget about all rules and act like complete tools. But Bali actually has some strict rules and there are certain things you should know about before you visit the “Island of Gods”.

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Important things to know for first timer’s in Bali:

1. Visa

As of 2016 nationals of 169 countries can visit Indonesia visa-free for 30 days, while Visa on Arrival applies for others at USD 35. The Visa on Arrival can be extended once. You can also apply for a 2-month visa at the Indonesian embassy in your country before you leave. The process was fairly easy and I got mine after just two weeks. Check whether or not you need a visa for Indonesia here.

2. Weather

Peak season: August and December 20 to January 9.

High/Dry season: July, September 1 to September 15, Chinese New Year and Easter.

Low season: January 9 to June 30 and September 16 to December 2.

Rainy season: October/November – April

In my mind, the best time to visit Bali, Lombok and the Gilis are February through May, except for Easter. Then it’s still green from the rainy season and mostly nice weather in my experience. Remember that there is no travel allowed on Nyepi “Day of Silence” in March, the specific date varies every year based on the Saka lunar calendar.

3. ATMs

From Ubud and down to the Bukit Peninsula, ATMs are widely accessible. But in more rural areas and on the Nusa Islands, ATMs are few and far between and often run out of cash. So plan ahead and make sure to always have some cash on hand. The ATMs dispense either IDR 50,000 or 100,000 bills. I usually withdraw 2,500,000 million from each to have some smaller bills for street vendors and warungs and larger bills for fancier restaurants and hotels etc.

I always get at least 5,000,000 at the airport when I arrive as I feel those are the safest ATMs. Though I’ve never actually had any issue with skimming or anything like that. My boyfriend, however, screwed up once when he was rushing to withdraw cash to pay a driver. He forgot that in Indonesia they give you the cash first, then ask if you want to do another transaction. Ulrik got the cash and left the card open so one lucky person managed to withdraw $1000 before we noticed it. So people, remember to get your card before you leave the ATM!

Related post: 9 of Bali’s absolute best budget hotels, villas & Airbnbs!

4. Transport/Driving

Getting around Bali is relatively easy. In the more touristy areas like Legian and Seminyak, taxis are everywhere and they’ll honk at you to show you that they’re free. If you don’t want to bargain, only use Bluebird taxis and tell the driver to put on the meter before you get in.

In Canggu, Ubud, south on the Bukit Peninsula and on the Nusa Islands, I always rent a scooter/motorbike. Driving around by myself exploring is one of my favorite things to do on the island. Remember to drive on the left and that there are no gas stations in the countryside, only roadside stalls selling petrol out of old vodka bottles.

The easiest way to get from the airport is to arrange for the hotel you’re staying at to pick you up. They will be waiting with a sign at arrivals and they’ll know exactly where to drive you. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been sitting in a taxi for aaages trying to find my accommodation. Most drivers are lovely and eager to help but they often don’t know street names or even the location of large hotels even if we’re just a couple of streets over.

For some reason, I’ve never thought to get a photo of the crazy traffic in Bali so an overloaded motorbike will have to do. How are they able to balance all that on two wheels? I once saw four kids on one motorbike, one holding a baby and one holding a small ladder. So scary to watch!

When you want to explore the more remote tourist attractions on the island you can easily ask your hotel to arrange for a driver for you or book a full-day customizable tour with a driver here. Or if you don’t want to do any planning join this iconic Bali tour.

17 important things you need to know before visiting Bali, Indonesia

5. Go-Jek

There are a lot of mixed messages regarding whether or not Uber is legal in Bali. So, locals and tourists alike have turned to another app called “Go-Jek”. The guys and girls driving around in green jackets and helmets will not only take you where you need to go but also do your shopping, get your food from one of the over 2000 registered restaurants and deliver stuff for you. Basically, they’ll do anything you need. Such a great service you should definitely check out!

6. Water

This probably goes without saying, but please don’t drink the tap water in Bali. You can, however, brush your teeth with it. But that doesn’t mean you need to buy bottled water all the time, the waste situation is horrible! Be sure to bring a reusable water bottle as many restaurants and cafés offer free refills. Ice in drinks at bars, hotels and restaurants are usually safe.

Related post: The ultimate 2 week Bali itinerary + Nusa Lembongan & Penida

7. Vaccinations/shots

Hepatitis A vaccine is highly recommended for travel to Bali and Indonesia and there should not be more than 10 years since your last Tetanus shot. The general risk of malaria is very small in Bali, but if you plan to spend a lot of time mountain hiking or in rural areas then you might want to consider anti-malaria medication. But I’m not a medical professional so you can read more about it here and always check with your local vaccination/travel clinic before you go.

8. Explore

Bali is so much more than Kuta and Seminyak! So no matter what you do, don’t get stuck in just that area. You’ll find all the best beaches on the Bukit Peninsula (my favorite part of Bali) and the most beautiful natural and cultural areas in Ubud and further north. Be sure to check my Bali island area guide here before you book your accommodation!

17 things you need to know before visiting Bali, IndonesiaCampuhan Ridge Walk in Ubud – Edited with my Balmy Blue Lightroom preset

9. Drugs & methanol poisoning

When you first arrive at Denpasar airport you’re met by huge posters stating that drug trafficking is punishable by death. And when you’re out and about, especially in Kuta and Legian, people will try to sell you different kinds of drugs, mostly magic mushrooms. Get used to just ignoring the whispering sound of “majic muuusshhhrooms”. I read somewhere that every third person offering magic mushroom on the street are undercover cops. So definitely take it seriously and don’t mess whit that stuff (not that I think any of my readers will anyway).

If you hang out in Kuta and other backpacker areas like Gili T, please be aware of the super cheap drinks. A 15k drink is too good to be true even in Bali, it’s usually made with arak which is a local moonshine. And unfortunately, it’s not uncommon for arak to contain dangerous amounts of methanol. Many have lost their lives to methanol poisoning in Bali and as little as a teaspoon of methanol can cause blindness. So be careful!

Related post: The 11 most common scams in Bali + How to avoid them!

10. Emergencies

In case of emergencies, dial 112 which is the new main emergency number. Make sure to use the right country and area code depending on what SIM card you’re are using. You can read more about emergency numbers here. BIMC is one of the most recognized hospitals in Bali and caters mostly to foreigners so you can be sure all doctors and nurses speak English. They have a 24-hour medical center, a doctor service available on call that can come to your hotel or villa and an on-site pharmacy. There are two locations, one in Kuta and the newest one is in Nusa Dua.

11. Haggling

Besides boutiques, restaurants and convenience stores, the first price you’re quoted is usually at least double what the seller will let the item go for, so don’t be afraid to haggle. Some stall owners will even encourage you to do so by telling you the price they think you should come back with. Haha, it can actually be quite fun!

Related post: Bali Budget Breakdown: How much do two weeks in Bali cost?

12. Tipping

In Bali, tipping is not expected but very much appreciated. The smallest amount will result in big smiles, so I always tip if the service is good. The only exception is restaurants geared towards tourists where a service charge is often added to your bill.

17 things you need to know before visiting Bali, IndonesiaPura Lempuyang in East Bali – Edited with my Ocean Gold Lightroom preset

13. Clothing & culture

In Bali, you can wear whatever you’d normally wear on a beach holiday, like shorts and sundresses etc., especially in the south and along the beaches. But I always cover up with a maxi dress or a long kimono if I go to Denpasar or more remote areas. In recent years I’ve seen more and more people walk through villages and into shops wearing only bathing suits. While most locals won’t say anything, please show a bit more respect and at least put on a cover-up or sarong. Remember to also bring some appropriate hiking gear if you want to trek Mt. Batur.

I also always bring or buy a sarong, trust me you’ll need one. When visiting temples you have to wear a sarong and often also a sash as I do in the photo above. But don’t worry, if you forget to bring one you can usually rent appropriate attire at the temple for a small sum.

Despite the influx of tourism, Balinese culture and traditions still remain very strong. You can barely take a couple of steps along the street before you encounter a “canang sari”, which are colorful daily offerings made by the Balinese Hindus. Making the basket, filling it with gifts, and performing the ritual is a lengthy process so be respectful and don’t interrupt someone during the offering.

14. Beach Hawkers

Even on the smallest beaches across Bali, there will be at least a couple of people trying to sell you sarongs, bracelets, fresh fruit and drinks, as well as those offering massages. “Massaaaaass? Maybe laaataa?” haha you will soon get what I mean by that. I usually go for the freshly cut baby pineapples and the mango and the dragon fruit… and the coconuts. Hey, I need to eat right? So in my mind, it’s better to support the hawkers than all the fancy beach clubs.

At the end of the day, a very small amount to you could mean the world of difference to some of these people, but you shouldn’t feel pressured into buying anything. And please, try to always be polite. Just smile, say no and shake your head if you’re not interested.

Related post: East Bali guide: Top 11 awesome things to do

15. Animals

The beautiful island of Bali is home to thousands of stray dogs, cats and many cheeky monkeys. There are a number of shelters on the island, but unfortunately, it’s still a huge problem. If you want to help check out the amazing Mission Paws’ible.

Once many years ago my sister and I were staying in Canggu and walked back to our hotel after dinner. This was not the Canggu you see today, there were only a couple of warungs down by Echo beach a long gravel road with no street lights or anything. Suddenly we were surrounded by four stray dogs and remember it was pitch black so I have to admit it made me nervous. One walked in front of us, one on each side and one behind us. For a few seconds were sure they were going to attack but to our surprise, they just walked with us at our pace. When we reached our hotel they sat down and watched us until we went inside. In hindsight, it almost felt like they wanted to protect us. I love dogs!

None of the animals I have encountered over the years have been particularly aggressive, so don’t be afraid, just exercise common sense. However, if you are unfortunate enough to be bitten go and see a doctor immediately as there have been outbreaks of rabies on the island in the past.

16. Language

I love being able to communicate in the language of the place I’m visiting, even if it’s just a few words. Whilst the vast majority of people in the main tourist areas in Bali will speak enough English to communicate with you, knowing a few phrases in Balinese or Indonesian will go a long way. The locals really appreciate the effort. Start with some easy phrases like selamat pagi – good morning, apa kabar? – how are you?, tolong – please, suksma – thanks (Balinese) and terima kasih – thank you (Bahasa). And remember, Balinese is not the same as Bahasa Indonesia, the official language of Indonesia.

Related post: Tegalalang Rice Terrace Ubud: How & where to get the best photos

17. Food

And last but not least, Bali is a foodie’s dream. You might be wondering why I think it’s important that you know that before you go to Bali. But if you’re a foodie like me you might want to do extensive research on the restaurants and cafés you want to try. I always go through TripAdvisor for hours prior to a trip. Reading reviews, looking at photos and make lists. I know, I’m weird. I just can’t help it, food excites me more than anything. You can read more about my two all-time favorite Bali restaurants here.

But although Bali has so many trendy restaurants don’t forget to eat at the warungs and try some of the local delicacies. Indonesian and Balinese food is delish! My favorite dishes are Mie Goreng (fried noodles) and Beef Rendang. Yuuuum!

I hope you found this list helpful! If you have any more questions feel free to comment below!

And remember to pin for later 😉


  • stella
    24. March 2018 at 03:08

    i am going to bali in 2 weeks and this post is helpful. I think we are goinf to give go jek a try when we get there for food on the days we would want to enjot our villa. hired a car rental to get around though. i think i might have to add more sarongs on my things to bring too!

    • Charlotte
      24. March 2018 at 03:12

      So happy you found it helpful Stella! Yes, definitely bring a lot of sarongs or buy some when you get there 😉

  • A Travellers Footsteps
    24. March 2018 at 04:27

    This is really useful information for people visiting Bali. Thanks for sharing 🙂

  • Viola
    24. March 2018 at 04:55

    Also one more! Do not ever pick up any stones, sand, leaves, corals from the beach or forest as souvenirs. You will get in trouble at the airport (Read heavy fine and possible detention), unless you are prepared to bribe your way out. My boyfriend and I made this rookie mistake and let’s just say it was not great memories…lol great list!!!

    • Charlotte
      24. March 2018 at 05:21

      Thanks for adding to my list Viola 😀 I’ve never experienced that myself, but definitely something to keep in mind!

  • Amanda Blizzard
    25. March 2018 at 04:23

    Bali is high on my list of places to go, so this list is awesome!! I’m SUCH a foodie too, so I’ll follow your lead and immerse in TripAdvisor before going!

    • Charlotte
      25. March 2018 at 20:19

      Thanks! Good to know I’m not the only food geek 😀

  • Addie
    25. March 2018 at 04:32

    Thank you for this guide! I will be going to Bali at the end of April or early May and this was really helpful for me to read.

    • Charlotte
      25. March 2018 at 20:54

      I’m so happy to hear that Addie! You’re gonna love Bali 😀

  • Birgit
    9. May 2018 at 15:39

    Thanks so much for all this useful information ?? I’m going to Sanur next weekend. Love to do the things all the local people do too.. have any tips for Sanur?

    • Charlotte
      13. May 2018 at 20:50

      Hi Birgit! I’m so happy you found my blog useful 😀 Unfortunately I don’t have any great advice on Sanur as I haven’t spent much time there for many years. But happy travels to Bali!

  • Tiana
    21. May 2018 at 23:04

    I love this! My boyfriend and I went to Bali in January and loved it. We read your blog a lot before we left, and it was the reason we decided to include Nusa Penida in our travels!

    As a side note, late January was a great time to go. We were a little worried about the rain, but though it rained every day, it was never more than an hour and it was usually in the afternoon or evening when we were either napping because of the heat or asleep for the night. In a 10 day trip we only had one long period of rain, and even then, it cleared up beautifully for the afternoon and we got to enjoy the beautiful beaches on Penida.

    Bali was full of some of the kindest people we ever met. Though it challenged us, and pushed us farther past where we ever thought our comfort zone was, we already miss it, and are grateful for everything it had to offer.

    • Charlotte
      22. May 2018 at 17:34

      Thank you for such a lovely comment, Tiana! I’m happy you found my blog helpful and that you had an amazing trip to Bali 😀

  • Carol
    18. July 2018 at 10:04

    Brilliant, many thanks for these tips Charlotte. It is just what l have been looking for. We are visiting Bali for the first time next week and this is super helpful!!!
    I am so looking forward to it. Thanks again!

    • Charlotte
      18. July 2018 at 12:00

      Thank you so much, Carol. I’m super happy you found it helpful! Have fun in Bali 😉

  • Sara
    25. October 2018 at 09:37

    Thank you for writing such an interesting, helpful piece! I will definitely be reading over this again as I plan my January trip to Bali and appreciate all the details and personal tips here!! 😉

    • Charlotte
      25. October 2018 at 14:05

      Thank you so much for stopping by Sara! Happy to hear that 😀 Let me know if you have any questions about Bali I haven’t written about here!

  • Francesca
    29. January 2019 at 01:23


    This was super helpful, thank you!
    I’m thinking of doing this 31 day yoga retreat in Bali this May. It’s at the Serenity Eco guesthouse, 80361, Canggu, Bali, I was just wondering if you knew it? Do you like Canggu?
    I also think I’ll be going on my own, which is a bit scary but still exciting! I’m sure I’ll make friends on the yoga retreat. But just wondering if local people are friendly as well.
    Thank you!

    • Charlotte
      30. January 2019 at 11:27

      Thanks, Francesca 🙂 I’m happy to hear that! Yes, you definitely should! I haven’t stayed at Serenity myself but I’ve heard a lot of great things. Canggu is my second favorite area in Bali. So many cool restaurants and different happenings every day. I think it’s impossible to go to Canggu and not make any friends. Especially if you’re joining a retreat!

  • Jessica
    12. July 2019 at 14:57

    Thank you very, very much!

  • Astrid Vinje
    8. November 2019 at 17:36

    You have a lot of great information here! Thanks for commenting about the clothes. It drives me crazy when I see tourists in Bali walking around wearing skimpy clothes. The Balinese are too nice to say that they’re offended, but most locals are actually pretty conservatively dressed. Also, for temples, you actually can’t have bare shoulders (no tank tops). The other thing I’d add is that while Gojek may be okay to use, Grab or Gocar are frowned upon, and considered the same as Uber.

    • Charlotte
      8. November 2019 at 19:27

      Thanks for stopping by Astrid! In some temples, you can wear singlets. I have been to Pura Luhur Uluwatu and Pura Lempuyang, to name a few, several times without covering up. Just because we weren’t supposed to visit any temples so I didn’t bring a t-shirt or sarong. But yes you’re right, you should in general show respect by covering your shoulders and knees 😉

  • Anita
    17. January 2020 at 03:55

    Hi Charlotte, I am heading to Bali in a few weeks for the first time. I am wondering about street food. Would you steer clear of it and stick to restaurants and cafes? Is the notorious Bali belly from the water or food, or both?! Can’t wait to get there and thankful I found your list before going.

    • Charlotte
      17. January 2020 at 22:26

      Hi Anita! I’m so happy you found the list helpful 😀 There isn’t that much street food in Bali like you see in Bangkok etc. There are however local warungs and I eat at one at least once a day. I haven’t experienced bad Bali belly for a few years now, I think the overall hygiene has become so much better. So don’t be afraid to taste the delicious and affordable local food! Happy travels 😉

  • Laura
    30. January 2020 at 01:14

    I am going to Bali in 2 weeks for the first time and this post is so helpful!! Thank you Charlotte 🙂 I am feeling a little overwhelmed because there is just SO much I want to fit in to our 15 days haha!
    Thank you for sharing your knowledge 😀

    • Charlotte
      30. January 2020 at 23:59

      Thank you so much for stopping by Laura. I’m happy you found the post helpful! Have fun in Bali 🙂


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