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What You Should Know Before Visiting Bali

What You Should Know Before Visiting Bali

I just returned from my first trip to Bali, and it was by far one of the most unique places I’ve traveled. While I highly encourage all travelers to consider planning a trip to Bali in the near future, I’ve put together a few things you should know before you go. These will help you during the planning phase.

Don’t go for the beaches

It’s true that Bali has some beautiful beaches, but it’s not the beach haven location that some social media accounts have chalked it up to. If you’re looking for an island fully rimmed by fine, white sand beaches, Bali is not the island to check that box. I’ve personally found better and more beaches in the US Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, and Belize, to name a few places. Bali’s beaches tend to be rocky, volcanic sand. Some of them are crowded, and those that aren’t are scattered with trash since Bali doesn’t have the public services to keep the beaches clean. Again, you will find some beautiful beaches on the Western and Southern coasts of Bali (and I’ve read, on the less traveled North side), but you really should be traveling to Bali for the culture, not in search of the perfect sand.

Do visit the North

Most travelers stick to south Bali (South Kuta, Seminyak, Canguu, Uluwatu, Nusa Dua) and central Bali (Ubud). It makes sense, as those areas are close the airport and home to plenty of nice accommodations, restaurants, and sights. However, I encourage all travelers to at least plan a day trip to the northern region of Bali. Bali’s northern region contains the island’s several mountains and a number of waterfalls and lakes. Just driving through the region offers beautiful views of the peaks, valleys, and rice villages where local Balinese live and work. You can easily organize a private trip to the north through your hotel or by paying a taxi driver to stay with you the whole day (~$90 USD per person). We hit GitGit Waterfall, Twin Waterfall, and Pura Ulnun Danu Bratan Water Temple in a day. Expect a long drive in the car through windy, mountainous roads (about 3 hours to GitGit from Nusa Dua or 2 hours from Seminyak). While you might get a little car sick, it’s worth it.

Don’t rent a motorbike

The only traffic rule in Bali is to stay on the left side of the road, and that’s not always followed by locals. Other than that, it’s basically a terrifying free for all. Motorbikes are the preferred and most common form of transportation for the Balinese, as the bikes are small, quick, and can easily weave in and out of traffic. That means a family of four people on one motorbike can be seen gracefully weaving between trucks and cars, all but narrowly missing the mirrors on your taxi. It really is fascinating and scary to watch, but should be left to the locals – especially in the cities and near the airport. Getting around Bali by taxi is incredibly cheap, safe, and convenient. If you decide to rent that motorbike anyway, make sure you have travel insurance.

Do visit neighboring islands

You’ve made it all the way to Bali, which is quite the trek for American and European travelers. While Bali is beautiful and unique, it would be a miss to not check out any other Indonesian islands. The Gili Islands are a short flight (~25 minutes) or boat ride (~1.5-2.5 hours) away, and offer a different style and pace of vacation. No motorbikes or cars are permitted on the islands – just horse drawn carriages, bicycles, and walkers. The Gili Islands also offer the white sandy beaches you won’t find in Bali, with good snorkeling just off-shore. Other neighboring islands to consider checking out are Lombok to the East, and Java to the West.

Don’t be secretive

The Balinese people are incredibly open and nice. Expect for your hotel staff, taxi drivers, and waiters to ask you questions like … Where are you headed now? Where did you go today? Where are you staying? What is your itinerary? While this may seem intrusive for some travelers, know that these questions are normal and not creepy. Yes, trust your instincts and don’t give out your actual hotel name if you ever feel uncomfortable, but most likely the locals are just being nice and making conversation. Plus, they may be genuinely interested in giving you advice to make your holiday more memorable! And if you are traveling with your significant other, you will be asked if you’re married or if you’re honeymooning. Marriage is the seam for the familial culture in Bali, and most young 20 somethings are married. While you should never feel pressured to say you are married, telling a little white lie about honeymooning couldn’t hurt (maybe your hotel will throw in something for free!)

For those of you who have visited Bali, what else did you wish you knew before you traveled?

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