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Whilst Bali is a relatively safe place to visit and paradise to many, there are certain things you should not do here. Year after year I see tourists making the same mistakes, behaving disrespectfully and finding themselves in less-than-ideal situations.
Before you visit Bali make sure to read through this list of things not to do in Bali as well as my list of 17 things to know before you visit Bali!
Remember to always get insurance before you travel to Bali or anywhere else. I recommend Safetywing, an affordable subscription travel insurance that you can purchase even after departure. You can read my full review here.
13 things not to do in Bali
1. Be disrespectful
The amount of misbehaving tourists you’ll see in Bali, especially during high season, is insane. This goes without saying for most people, but just be respectful while traveling in Bali and everywhere else. Accept that there are different ways of doing things here.
Some of the most common misbehavior I see is people walking around town, into shops and cafés, in teeny tiny bikinis. Would you do that at home? People stepping on offerings, disrupting ceremonies, drinking heavily and running around the streets yelling like absolute fools.
While the Balinese are open and welcoming in many ways, they are still modest people that highly value their religion and traditions. So please just respect that!
2. Drink the tap water
One of the most important things NOT to do in Bali, Indonesia is to drink tap water. Under no circumstances should you fill up a water bottle using water from the sink. You will pay the price for it later.
On the other hand, please keep plastic water bottles to a minimum as there are waste management issues in certain areas on the island. Bring or buy a reusable bottle, there are so many hotels and cafés that offer free water refills these days.
Why Can’t I Drink Tap Water in Bali?
The main issue with tap water in Bali is pathogens such as bacteria, viruses and other microorganisms due to the poor condition of the water pipes and the tropical climate. So unless you’re in the mood for a solid case of Bali Belly, you should avoid drinking tap water in Indonesia in general.
Can I Brush My Teeth With Tap Water?
I have brushed my teeth with tap water for over 12 years traveling in Bali without many problems. However, if you’re in Bali for a short amount of time and want to stay on the safe side, just use bottled water.
Is ice cubes in drinks safe in Bali?
While most online publications will say not to trust ice cubes in Bali, I’ve been traveling in Bali for over 12 years now and only got Bali Belly once. But I also had food from vendors along the road where local workers eat, so I bet that’s why I got it.
I drink cocktails and smoothies daily from both warungs and more upscale restaurants without many problems. Of course, you can stumble upon a bad batch of ice, so if you’re worried or very sensitive it might be best to skip it.
2. Stay in only one place
Don’t get stuck in just one place, Bali and the surrounding islands have so much to offer. I hear quite a few people complain after returning from Bali, asking what all the hype was about. And when I ask where they went they say, well we mostly stayed in Kuta. Yup, that answers it.
Kuta, the old tourist hub, can be compared to Magaluf in Mallorca. Nice but a little run down, a little sleazy and with a whole lot of Bintang singlets. If you know you know. Of course, there are beautiful places to be found here as well, I would just not choose to stay there. I will, however, do shopping days in Kuta visiting Beach Walk Mall and
In addition to Bali, I recommend venturing over to the Nusa Islands. Nusa Penida has exploded on social media over the last few years, you have probably seen photos of Diamond and Kelingking Beach. I, however, still prefer Nusa Lembongan and Ceningan.
If you’re wondering where to stay instead, check out my ultimate two-week Bali itinerary here, it’s perfect for first-timers.
3. Over-schedule your trip
On the other hand, you should not overschedule your trip. Bali is larger than you would think and traffic can be crazy. Don’t be surprised if it takes 3 hours to drive like 40 kilometers. I would recommend spending at least 3 nights in each place you want to visit. Alternatively, base yourself in one or two places and do day trips around the island from there.
You can read more about the best areas to stay in Bali here.
4. Travel without insurance
This is not specific to Bali, but the number one thing not to do anywhere is to travel without insurance. Accidents can happen everywhere, in Bali however, accidents happen quite frequently. Especially on the road and at the many tourist attractions that pop up all over the island. Safety standards are just not the same here as many of us are used to.
Just this week, a tourist/expat drove off the infamous shortcut in Canggu and unfortunately lost his life. Last week a speed boat transferring people from Penida to Bali started taking on water and sank in rough water. Luckily everyone was saved by the ONE other vessel that was in the area, though all their luggage went down with the boat. A couple of years ago, a tourist fell to his death off one of the swings in Tegalalang. And that’s just a few of the cases that made international news, the numbers are probably much higher.
I recommend Saftywing, a subscription-based travel insurance made for nomads by nomads. The best part is that you can buy it when you’re already abroad, such a game changer. As with all insurance, there are exclusions. Some you might not expect like quad biking and kitesurfing. So to stay safe and covered, be sure to always double-check the fine print of your insurance.
5. Believe it when you’re told an attraction is closed
You know the good old trick we see all over Southeast Asia. The attraction is closed so you should come with me to the place I recommend so I can earn a commission. Always check for yourself before you listen to anyone telling you that an attraction is closed.
6. Visit the most popular attractions in the middle of the day
As with most popular places in the world, you should get up early in Bali if you want to escape the crowds. Especially for places like Pura Lempuyang and Sekumpul Waterfall which have skyrocketed in popularity because of social media.
The tourist busses start showing up at most attractions around 10 am and the Instagrammers show up even earlier. Yes, I’m one of them. I like to get anywhere in Bali before they open or for sunrise, if the attraction is open 24/7. Sometimes the last hour before sunset is also very calm as most people will have returned to their hotel to get ready for dinner.
8. Ride a scooter if it’s your first time
Scooters or motorbikes are the main mode of transportation in Bali, they are everywhere. In fact, there are probably more scooters than there are people. And while I absolutely love to zip around on a scooter and feel the breeze in my hair, you should be careful. Over the years I’ve witnessed more accidents than I can count.
The roads are narrow and windy and it can take what seems like forever to drive short distances. Traffic can be crazy with locals and tourists alike driving like cowboys mixed with some tourists that don’t know what they’re doing. Unless you are an experienced driver with quick reflexes, I wouldn’t recommend it.
Riding a scooter in Bali without a license or even an international license is definitely not a good idea. If you don’t have one, your travel insurance might not cover you. Some insurance policies don’t cover riding a scooter at all, so make sure to check before you go.
How to get around instead
Everyone in Bali knows a driver or two so you don’t really have to stress about transportation. There are also apps such as Grab, similar to Uber, where you can order a ride and someone will pick you up on a scooter with a second helmet.
If you’d like to have everything planned out before you go, you can hire a driver for the day here. The price is very reasonable for up to 10 hours and a completely open itinerary.
7. Pay full price at the markets
I’m not one of those people who like to bargain just to see how low I can get. But I’m also not going to overpay for something. These days Balinese vendors have gotten so used to tourists that they often start ridiculously high, especially at the more touristy places like Ubud Art Market.
I was once quoted 600k IND for a bag that should be between 50k-100k. When I said no thank you and walked away, the price miraculously dropped. Keep in mind that prices are usually best early in the morning because the first sale is important to bless the day ahead.
On the other hand, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve witnessed tourists in Bali hassle vendors almost to tears just to get a Bintang singlet for like 10k. And then brag about it to their friends. Smile, pay a fair price and be grateful you’re in Bali.
9. Buy fake souvernirs
Bali is known for its skilled artisans, from woodcarvers to silversmiths and weavers to painters. Many shops, especially in tourist hubs like Ubud, Canggu and Kuta, will claim to sell these “real” handicrafts made in Bali.
While some of course are real, keep your wits about you, I’ve been quoted ridiculous prices for items that are clearly mass-produced and oftentimes made in China.
One time I was looking at a large dreamcatcher made from beautiful macrame. The vendor said his wife made it but upon closer inspection, I saw a little tag that said made in Taiwan. When I pointed it out the price was suddenly cut in half. So do your research on where to buy authentic souvenirs before you go so you won’t get ripped off.
Must read >> Top 11 unusual things to do in Bali!
11. Get into a taxi/car without agreeing on a price
Always agree on a price before you get in a car or ask the driver to turn on the meter. If you want to take a taxi, look for the blue cars with a Blue Bird sign. They are the safest option in my opinion.
12. Don’t show your wallet to the police
I always drive around with a 50k note in my pocket just in case I get pulled over by the police. You are often asked to pay your “fine” on the spot or you have to go back to the station. If you show your whole wallet you may end up losing everything you’ve got on you.
You can read more about it in my Bali scams article.
13. Don’t do drugs!
You should, of course, never do drugs, but especially not in Bali as smuggling and distribution are punishable by death. At least that’s what the billboards used to say. So I’m guessing there’s a hefty fine or even prison sentence in store for users.
Someone also told me that every third person offering you magic mushrooms on the street are undercover cops. And you will be offered shrooms, especially if you find yourself in the Kuta area. Whether it’s true or not I don’t know, but let’s not find out!
Must read >> 3 super cool markets in Canggu you shouldn’t miss!