Bali Beginner? First-timers guide to Bali.
When I first visited Bali in 1972 as a young Australian on my 1st trip to another country, I was captivated. The smell of tropical flowers and incense, the smiles of welcome I received on stepping off the plane, the warmth and humidity, unlike the cold, grey and bone chilling cold of a Melbourne winter, I was in love, a love affair that has continued to this day. Balinese people are welcoming to strangers, the culture gently captures your imagination and the food and sights make you feel like you have arrived in a small part of paradise. That said, travelling to Bali, or any other developing country, requires at least some thought and planning to make sure your trip is as stress free and tailored too your needs as possible. Here are some tips I hope will make your on the Island of the Gods, a safe, happy and memorable one for all the right reasons 🙂
Passport & Visas
Passports and visas are an essential part of international travel. When planning your trip, take the time to ensure your passport is valid and obtain a visa if required. If you wish to stay more than 30 days you will need to obtain a visa from the Indonesian embassy in your home country. Allow enough time for processing.
When travelling in Bali you are required to have a valid passport to show upon departure and arrival of your journey. In order to obtain entry into Indonesia/Bali your passport must be valid for more than 6 months and have at least 6 pages free for stamping upon departure and arrival. It is your responsibility to when travelling or transiting on your journey that you have a valid passport and visas, which meet the requirements of Immigration and other government authorities.
Diseases that have been eradicated in most countries may still be present in Indonesia and Bali. It’s imperative that prior to departure, you talk with your local doctor regarding possible diseases in the region you are travelling to obtain the necessary vaccinations.
If you need to take medication overseas, you should check the medication is legal in the destination country. On occasions you will need a letter from your doctor describing your medical condition and a detailed list of the medication required. In general, the medication should be carried in its original packaging and clearly marked.
It is important to remember that many countries do not provide free health care for tourists. So without proper Travel Insurance, a visit to a foreign doctor or hospital can be very costly.
The World Health Organisation provides health information for travellers.
More than just cheap drinks.
Visitors who think Bali is nothing more than cheap drinks and beach parties or riding a scooter topless. “I’m not sure they see what’s going on around them and if they do, it’s maybe through blurred vision.” Bali is, and always has been, so much more than cheap accommodation, binge drinking and sunburnt and freshly tattooed tourists.
The true Bali, with its rituals, festivals and ancient culture, remains firmly intact. Restaurateur, author and festival director, Janet DeNeefe, said while development on the Island of the Gods has been rapid, the real Bali can still be found.
DeNeefe, who moved from Melbourne to Ubud 30 years ago, said what appears to have changed the most is the young traveller; engulfed in celebrity culture and drinking beer and cocktails by the pool.
She laments those Many yoga devotees who flock to Bali’s cultural capital, Ubud, choose not to engage with the locals but instead seek out other yogis and hang at the same cafes, bemoans DeNeefe.
“I’m not sure they even try Balinese food; a tragedy. Perhaps in their older years they will return, open their eyes and see the charm and wisdom in local life.”
Angel House encourages guests to participate by involving them in the local community of Mas Ubud and offers classes in making Balinese offerings, Canang Sari. We can even lend you the appropriate Adat/ceremonial attire to ensure you are properly dressed to attend the Temple or participate in a ritual blessing or cleansing ceremony. Adat wear is basically your invitation to attend.
What to do in Bali
Bali is an Indonesian island known for its forested volcanic mountains, iconic rice paddies (Sawah), beaches and coral reefs. Bali is home to religious sites such as cliffside Tanah Lot Temple and in Ubud, Pura Taman Pule Temple.
To the south, the beachside city of Kuta has a vibrant club scene with bars as well as family hotels, while Seminyak, Sanur and Nusa Dua are popular resort towns with plenty of shopping opportunities. The island is also known for its yoga and meditation retreats, mostly in the slightly cooler mountain area of Ubud which is also known for its spa treatments, yoga and ecotourism.
The southern tip is also world-renowned for its prime surfing spots such as Padang Padang and Uluwatu. Ringing the island are coral reefs teeming with sea life, making it a hot spot for scuba diving.
You can also get a taste of Balinese culture at a gamelan percussion performance or one of thousands of Hindu temples, which feature intricate sculpture and regular festivals.
Sitting by the pool at Angel House and listening to the sounds of the local priest / Mangku and the resonant call of the drums / kulkul beckons the villagers of Mas to the temple.
The sweet smell of incense and frangipani fills the air as slender Balinese men and women work the fertile rice fields just behind Angel House.
By the side of the road, before a small temple, a Balinese man sprinkles holy water over his head, presses a flower between his fingertips and bows his head in prayer.
Here, far from the madding crowds, I am reminded why I first became enamoured with this enchanting island where travellers come in their thousands for the sun, the surf and the charming Bali smiles.
For those wanting to get more out of Bali, our experiences can help guests connect with the island’s culture and experience, some of which made the destination so popular in the first place.
The real Bali is out there – literally just beyond the walls of Angel House – just begging to be explored.
What to pack for your Bali holiday
Anything loose fitting that breathes, remember it gets very hot. Angel House is not as hot as down South 😉 another good thing about being in the cooler air of Ubud.
You can get away with anything in most places (thongs are fine!) but if you go to some up market restaurants then you will need a shirt or nice dress at least.
Ladies if you love dressing up in heels then take them if you’re visiting nice bars & restaurants, but NEVER wear them during the day, you’ll regret it! It’s too hot and you’re feet will swell. Wedges are the best choice if you love a heel as they take less wear and tear and navigate the holes in the footpaths and roads a lot better. Footpaths?? What footpaths!! Wear your baby, much easier to navigate the roads than a pram.
Men can get away with being more casually dressed. Rubber thongs /flip flops may not be allowed in some classy restaurants. Swimwear or see through clothing should never be worn in public, the Balinese dress is very modest and you will be stared at if your dress is considered ‘rude’.
There are no ‘meter-taxis’ in Ubud per say, however there are many local Bemo’s (small mini vans which local & tourists use) which can be flagged down just outside on the main road into Ubud, or to take you South to Sukawati. If you stand on the footpath and look ‘hopeful’ it will not be long before you WILL be asked where do you want to go, commonly “transport, transport?”
Negotiate a price before your trip if you do decide to take a local driver, I have not had any problems.
However if you do need to catch a taxi then be nice to the taxi drivers, they are usually lovely and honest. Just make sure you ask for the meter to be started, or if you know where you’re going and how long it takes barter before your trip starts. You need to be fair though, and give them the benefit of the doubt.
If you find yourself at the airport without a transfer there are plenty of taxis just outside the doors, and drivers that you can barter with.
It’s 45 mins to 1.5 hours at times from the airport to Mas, Ubud (unless in peak hour or during special celebrations)
Always hold on to your belongings when out (especially in markets, & down south ie. Kuta) like you would at home; it’s no different really.
DON’T take your passport out with you unless you are going to the moneychanger – lock it in your room or if you are staying elsewhere in Bali, have it held at reception in a locked box if you are at a larger resort.
Only use your credit card in a restaurant or a shopping department store not at the markets – not worth the risk and better to barter with cash (IDR).
No need for travellers cheques or money passports – there are plenty of ATM’s on every corner that are safe and convenient.
If you arrange transport with us, our driver can stop at an ATM for you on your way to Angel House. Just ask or email me before you arrive & I will ask on your behalf.
I normally grab some IDR’s from the ATM at the airport as this way you get the best exchange rate on the day and won’t be ripped off by a money exchanger. Not that I ever have, and I often change money at the airport with the exchangers there. Always check your money after they give it to you and never let them touch it again after you have counted. They are amazing at reducing the tally in a flash! Quite an art-form in the back streets of KUTA, though a dying one. This is not my experience in Ubud and surrounds, thankfully. The ‘money street’ just east of the main market in Ubud, near the statue of Arjuna, (Jalan Raya), has many banks, authorised money changers & there are lots of ATM’s @ the big Delta Dewata supermarket in the same area. If you have Australian or American dollars (clean, new and undamaged notes) then there are very reputable authorised exchange places that give good rates! Make sure they are visa approved and normally if they have air conditioning then they are good!
For us Aussies, there is also a Commonwealth bank, easily recognisable, just a few doors North of the Delta Dewata supermarket, Andong as well as a local ATM just 3 mins walk south of Angel House.