Getting ready for your big trip? Use this sample packing list for Bali to get ideas for what you should bring to Indonesia's most popular island.
You won't need much for your trip to Bali. If you forget something, you'll most likely find it available for purchase locally anyway — Bali is hardly a deserted island! Instead, pack like a pro; bring less to drag around. Plan to take advantage of unique shopping experiences on the island. You'll have even more of an excuse to pop into the many boutique shops for beachwear and other items that will look good at home, too.
Not only can you avoid overpacking, you'll also get to brag a little at home when people ask where you got that cute sundress.
Clothing to Pack for Bali
Although thoughts of vacationing on an exotic island conjures images of skimpy beach attire, locals dress quite conservatively.
Plan to cover up when you come off of the beach. You should cover your knees and shoulders when visiting Hindu temples, sacred sites such as the Elephant Cave, or when exploring small villages in the island interior. Casual attire is fine for daily wear other than when dining or clubbing at pricey establishments.
Aside from some public transportation with super-powered air conditioning, you don't have to worry about being cold while on Bali. Opt for lightweight, cotton clothing; jeans will be too hot and heavy for most circumstances. Quick-dry garments will work, too, but don't leave the expensive athletic brands hanging to dry somewhere they could be stolen.
You won't need as much clothing as expect; keep your packing for Bali simple, and plan to purchase items locally if you run out of outfits to wear. That said, you'll want to change tops every evening after sweating all day. If on an extended trip, you'll find plenty of inexpensive places that do laundry. The fee is based on weight.
Pack what you need to take advantage of the many opportunities for practicing yoga.
The Best Shoes for Bali
As with most of Southeast Asia, the default footwear for Bali is just a pair of reliable flip-flops.
Some shops, temples, bars, and restaurants may ask you to remove your shoes at the door. Flip-flops are easier to quickly slide on and off than sandals with straps. If you're worried about leaving your pricey sandals at the door (they do sometimes disappear), keep a plastic bag so you can carry them inside with you. If needed, you can purchase cheap flip-flops in shops and stalls all over the island.
You'll need proper hiking shoes or sandals if you want to climb Mount Batur or Gunung Agung. Some of the nightclubs in Kuta and Seminyak may enforce dress codes that prohibit sandals and flip-flops. If you plan to do any serious clubbing, bring a better pair of shoes with you.
What to Put in Your First Aid Kit
You don't want some annoying ailment to affect your precious time on the island. But at the same time, you don't need to carry more medical supplies than a Green Beret medic. Fortunately, walk-in pharmacies sell nearly everything you may need — including prescription drugs — without the need to visit a clinic first.
Pack only a small, simple travel first aid kit with basics then purchase the rest if necessary. Hopefully you won't need anything more than an ibuprofen or two after too many beach cocktails.
Tip: Every first aid kit should have anti-diarrhea medicine such as loperamide (Imodium), but don't take it unless access to a toilet isn't an option (e.g., you'll be on transportation all day). Antimotility drugs may exasperate simple cases of traveler's diarrhea by preventing troublesome bacteria from passing naturally.
Money and Documents for Bali
Make two copies of your passport, travel insurance papers, receipts for any traveler's cheques, and other important travel documents you should have on every trip. Diversify your copies by hiding them in both your money belt/day bag and big luggage to avoid disaster if one or the other gets lost. Keep your vaccination records with your passport.
Hide credit card information (scramble the numbers in a way that only you understand) and emergency contact phone numbers in an email to yourself in case you need to contact banks. You'll want to bring along a few additional passport-sized photos with you if you intend to apply for tourist visas to visit other countries in Southeast Asia.
Bali has plenty of ATMs that work on the usual networks, however, bring backup cash just in case the network goes down. Traveler's checks are an option, but bring some U.S. dollars that can be cashed in for emergency funds in case your ATM card is compromised. Ensure large denominations aren't torn, damaged, or marked in any way.
If you're arriving in Denpasar with a one-way ticket, you may be asked to show proof of an onward flight. This is at the whim of the immigration officer. Have a printed copy with details for your next flight to save some hassle.
Bringing Electronics to Bali
You may want to bring along your smartphone, tablet, ebook reader, or even a laptop for taking advantage of free Wi-Fi in cafes and guesthouses. If you opt to bring fragile electronic devices, know how to protect them in a tropical environment.
Indonesia uses the round, two-pronged, CEE7 power outlets common in Europe. Voltage is 230 volts / 50 Hz. Unless you intend to pack a hair drier (don't!), you won't need a step-down power transformer because USB device chargers (e.g., mobile phones, laptops, etc) should handle the higher voltage automatically. Although many hotels have universal outlets that work with many cord types, you may need a small travel adapter (passive) to change the socket type in some places.
Tip: You can purchase a relatively cheap 4g data package for your smartphone after arriving. Know if your smartphone will work in Asia before you arrive.
Other Items to Consider Packing for Bali
Along with the obvious stuff, consider bringing along the following:
- Small knife for enjoying fresh local fruit on the beach. This obviously needs to be kept in your checked bag!
- If staying in hostel, bring a small padlock with you for cabinets and security lockers.
- Hand sanitizer and toilet paper for encounters with public squat toilets.
- Earplugs or headphones in case you end up with neighbors who like to party.
- Bring a reusable straw for enjoying coconuts and cocktails without contributing to the plastic straw problem in Asia.
- Mosquito repellent to protect yourself from mosquitoes that could carry dengue fever.
- Flashlight for unexpected power outages and dark walks on the beach.
- Plastic bags or weatherproof cases for waterproofing electronics and valuables.
What to Buy in Bali
Purchasing what you need on a trip after arrival not only helps the local economy, it's fun! Leave room in your luggage for new purchases and unique items not easily found at home.
You can enjoy plenty of shopping in Bali, particularly in Ubud where boutique shops carry unique clothing that is perfect for the island. Local artisans sell their creations everywhere. Along with stalls and small shops, you'll find a few shopping malls in Kuta with familiar brands. Outside of malls, you will need to negotiate — particularly in the tourist stalls — to get acceptable prices.
Consider waiting until you arrive in Bali to purchase some of these common items:
- Sarongs (for sun protection and some Hindu temples require men wear one to enter)
- Beach bags
- Swimsuits / beach cover-ups
- Evening and sundresses
- Flip-flops / sandals
- Handmade jewelry
- Aloe / after-sun lotion
- Coconut oil (a great after-sun moisturizer that is popular on the island)
You may wish to bring your own toiletries, sunscreen, and cosmetics in case the brands you normally use are unavailable. Some local, natural brands are available. Many soaps and deodorants in Asia contain whitening agents that can irritate sensitive skin.
Protect Your Belongings
Although violent crime is not really an issue on Bali, the influx of tourists does attract some petty theft.
Be mindful when choosing a bag. Backpacks or satchels with popular logos (e.g., IBM, LowePro, GoPro, etc) are more tempting to thieves who may be interested in the valuable contents.
What to Leave at Home
Leave the following items at home or purchase them locally if you need them:
- Snorkel gear: You can rent snorkel gear daily when you need it. Shops and hotels provide inexpensive gear, but dive shops will have much better equipment available.
- Water filters: Although the tap water is not safe to drink in Bali, bottled water is available everywhere. To cut down on plastic, use water refill machines whenever you can find them.
- Expensive jewelry: Flashy bling will get you higher prices and make you more of a target for petty theft. Many jewelry designers call Bali home; consider purchasing some of their beautiful work.
- Weapons / pepper spray: Arming yourself is certainly not worth the risk of trying to cross borders with it. Leave weapons off your Bali packing list!