Bali is an beautiful, exotic island that is relatively easy for even the most unprepared traveler (me). Here’s eight things to know before you get to Bali that I wish I knew.
1.Hire a tour guide, not just a driver
Every Balinese person and their brother will drive you for a small fee, but not all of them speak English well or want to answer your questions. Sure, we got a cheap ride to an amazing secluded jungle temple, but we had no idea what we were looking at when we got there. The next day we hired Wayan. This is a phrase you will probably say at say least once while in Bali because the first born child here is typically named Wayan. Seriously, like, everyone is named Wayan (Don’t believe me? Go ahead and shout “Wayan” in a crowded market).
Anyway, this particular Wayan was a wonderful tour guide and not that much more expensive than just having just a driver. We were with him for eight hours, he cheerfully answered a million questions and it only cost us $57 USD.
2. Stay in multiple cities
The variety of landscapes on this tiny island is astonishing and a driver or tour can be arranged at a moment’s notice. The areas closest to the airport — Kuta and Seminyak, for example — are where the most tourists and least beautiful beaches are.
3. Get wet
Bali has crystal clear water and abundant reef life but the big draws are sea turtles and manta rays. You don’t have to work hard to see them. Rent snorkel gear on the beach or book a tour. We found another Wayan on trip advisor — told ya — and one WhatsApp message later we were booked for the following day. If you are prone to seasickness, take a pill before you board any Indonesian ferries. I barfed off the side of Wayan’s boat and still had the time of my life.
4. Do some mind/body shit
Get a massage, do yoga, see a healer. We asked our Airbnb host for a recommendation. Four hours later his son was driving us to see Ida Res Alit. Yes, this modern priestess is even on facebook . We joined a handful of locals, about 20 other tourists and a mischievous monkey in a ceremony that included chanting and a water blessing. That’s why I’m enlightened AF now.
5. Have plenty of cash
Cash is king in Bali. If you have to use your card expect a 3% service charge. Not all ATMs work and the ones that do have restrictions on how much cash you can get at a time. We had the best luck with the Circle K ATMs.
6. Don’t drink the water
Bali belly is real y’all. Seriously, not even to brush your teeth.
7. Sarong is the new black
Carry a sarong in your day pack at all times. You’ll need it to get into any Temple. There are thousands of temples everywhere so you could actually end up at one unexpectedly at any minute.
8. Stock up if you’re a backpacker
The island had the best selection of American products I’ve see outside of the U.S. This is a great place to stock up on deodorant and toothpaste. Check out Hardy’s kind of the Indonesian Walmart, and it’s a good place to pick up cheap souvenirs.
Bonus: If you want to really get away from people and have a few days to spare, the Gili
Islands are a secluded oasis. But take the fast boat — it’s 2 hours, not 10! All three
exist only for tourism. Gili Air is the chill out island, Gili Trawangan is the party island, Gili Meno has a sea turtle sanctuary.