Tourists in Bali often call the island “paradise,” but let’s face it: the Garden of Eden never had dangerous undercurrents, combative macaques, and wayward scooters. If you’re not careful, you might leave your Bali vacation with injuries or disease, instead of good memories.
That’s what these tips are designed to prevent: follow the dos and don’ts outlined in the article to make sure you get the most out of your trip to Paradise.
Bali’s culture is one of the island’s main attractions—but tourists can unwittingly offend local Balinese by violating tenets of this culture without ever intending to.
If you’re planning to mingle with the locals—and if you’re planning to visit one of Bali’s temples, this is going to happen—follow the dos and don’ts in this article to make sure you promote smooth interpersonal relationships wherever you go in Bali.
Best Bali Etiquette Tip: Dress modestly before entering a temple in Bali. Temple guests are expected to wear shirts that cover shoulders and part of the upper arms. The waist and legs should be covered by a temple scarf (known as a selendang) and a sarong (known locally as kain kamben) respectively.
General Safety Tips
Despite (or perhaps because) of the mass of tourists visiting Bali at all times of the year, staying safe in Bali is less easy than it should be. Balinese roads are chaotic, snatch-theft and hotel breaking-and-entering are known to occur. Also, the beaches’ undercurrent can sweep you away in an instant.
We’re going to tell you what your travel agent won’t tell you: the types of risks you’re likely to face in Bali, and several dos and don’t’s to follow so you can avoid becoming a Bali tourist statistic.
Best Bali Safety Tip: Don’t smoke in public areas. A “smoke-free” bylaw went into effect across Bali in 2011; smoking is now forbidden in most public areas, including restaurants, hotels, temples, and tourist attractions.
Money and Currency Changing Tips
Travelers trying to get their money changed in Bali run the risk of being fleeced by dishonest money changers. Fortunately, there are several establishments where you can change your cash without worry.
Try changing your currency at one of Bali’s more reputable banks, or even better, try using their ATMs to withdraw cash directly from your credit card or bank account.
Hotel front desks often permit currency exchange, but with lower exchange rates compared to banks and money changers.
Best Bali Money Tip: Trust only money changers that have been recognized by Bank Indonesia; these establishments advertise their status as Pedagang Valuta Asing Berizin or PVA Berizin (Indonesian for "Authorized Money Changer") with a green PVA Berizin shield where customers can see it.
Bali provides several transportation options for travelers, with speed, comfort, and range relative to the price you’re willing to pay for it. The possibilities include bicycles, scooters, automobiles, vans (self-drive or with driver), and public transportation.
Not all of the transport providers are honest, though—the dos and don’ts in our transport articles ought to give you a good idea of how to get the most out of your transportation without feeling cheated by the experience.
Best Bali Transportation Tip: The most honest taxis in Bali are the blue taxis marked "Bali Taxi" (known as Blue Bird Taxis); everybody else is hit or miss.
They’re so honest, other taxi operators hate their guts and collude with some hotels to exclude Bluebird taxis from their area. Catch a Bluebird taxi in Bali if you can.
Surfing in Bali is one of the island’s most popular pastimes, helped along by especially gorgeous beaches in the south and north. Despite the tourist traffic on these beaches, Bali is not yet entirely safe for beachgoers. Sunburn, treacherous undercurrents, and a teeny-tiny risk of tsunami cast a shadow on the Bali beach experience.
Best Bali Beach Safety Tip: Look for the red flags. A section of Bali’s beach stretching from Kuta to Canggu is known to have rip tides and undertows. When the local authorities raise these red flags on a beach, do not attempt to swim there, unless you want to end your Bali vacation by being swept out to sea.
Tourists in Bali run a number of health risks. Travelers might catch “Bali Belly,” or traveler’s diarrhea, from dodgy meals. Or they might look at a macaque the wrong way and suffer a monkey attack. Or they might forget the sunscreen and suffer sunburn.
The right precautions can help you avoid these problems entirely. Follow the dos and don’ts in this article to stay healthy during your Bali vacation. Or take a look at this list of Bali Hospitals and Clinics in case you need to make an unscheduled visit.
Best Bali Health Tip: Drink a lot of water to avoid getting heatstroke. Just don’t get your water from the tap. Bali tap water is often blamed for many a bad case of “Bali belly,” so avoid it entirely. Stick to canned drinks or bottled water.
Bali’s drug laws are very strict and should not be trifled with. Indonesian Law No. 35/2009 lays down harsh penalties for drug users caught with Group 1 drugs like marijuana, heroin, and cocaine. You can get life imprisonment for possession or the death penalty if you’ve been convicted of trafficking in drugs. (Schapelle Corby, pictured here, was initially sentenced to 20 years in prison—she served nine.)
Best Bali Drugs Tip: Parts of Kuta are still rife with drug dealers, or narcotics officers pretending to be dealers. Tourists walking through often get whispered solicitations for drugs. If you get one of these whispered sales pitches, walk away. You might end up a hapless victim of a drug sting!