Bali, Indonesia - Info and Travel Tips


DENPASAR - The capital city of Bali, Denpasar has a museum, art center, interesting markets and some historic palaces and temples.  The main downtown area is easier to access by foot, for shopping or sight seeing, as parking often is difficult.  There are numerous arts and crafts retailers, along with daily necessities such as shoes, fabrics, tailors, household goods, electronics, music and more.


NUSA DUA & TANJUNG BENOA - Nusa Dua was envisioned in the 1970’s as a secluded enclave, which would protect from the erosion of Bali’s culture and integrity.  By the 1990’s, it had emerged as the island’s premier destination – an enclave of secluded five-star luxury.  While it remains an isolated “island within an island”, it cannot be scorned.  Nusa Dua houses the world’s most exquisite resorts and conference facilities, with great shopping and dining along the fringes.  The Tanjung Benoa strip is home to numerous cafes, shops, clinics and a range of hotels – from losmen to four-star luxury.


KUTA - Founded by the hippie and surfing culture, Kuta offers a relaxed and friendly environment.  It can be fun if you’re a pub-crawler.  It can be a hassle if you have an aversion to street hawkers.  But, it also has one of the world’s most beautiful beaches.  Mind the dangerous riptides, but enjoy the magnificent sunsets silhouetting surfers.  Full of intimate homestays, great hotels, innumerable restaurants and, the world’s greatest shopping bargains – Kuta is something visitors must experience.


UBUD - This is the artistic heart of Bali – attracting local artisans and foreigners alike.  It’s not only a haven of art galleries, museums and retailers – from painting and carving, textiles and jewelry to dance and music – but is a magnet for creative talents.  There is little in the world of art or the spiritual, New Age side of life, that can’t be found in Ubud.  Ubud is where the world’s artistic cultures meet in a harmonious palate of creativity.


CANDIDASA - Candidasa is little more than a strip of resorts hugging the dark sand eastern coastline.  But this little hamlet has a spirit all its own.  Whether you chose to lodge in the Ashram, a losmen or upscale boutique resort – all of which coexist in the area – there is an opportunity for exploring many worlds.  Nearby are holy water palaces, traditional “Bali Aga” village life, beautiful hillsides to explore on foot and a peaceful escape from the hubbub of southern Bali.


LOMBOK  - Should you ever wish for a break from Bali, head east to Bali’s little sister, the neighboring island of Lombok.  Although drier and on the Austral side of the Wallace Line, the island has a rustic charm and plenty to explore.  A jaunt to Lombok offers a great perspective of the vastly differing cultures of Indonesia.  Short one to three day trips – or longer for treks to the summit of Mount Rinjani – are a great holiday extension from Bali.



Cultures & Customs


The Balinese remain conservative and traditional.  Please respect their traditions and attitudes.  They are very polite people and smiles are characteristic.  Shaking hands on introduction is cutomary for both men and women.  Using the left hand to give or to receive something is considered taboo.  (The left hand is used for personal hygiene)  Pointing with the left finger is rude and crooking a finger to call someone is impolite.


When bargaining for a purchase, settle all prices in advance.  Don’t ask a price or make an offer unless you intend to buy.  When bargaining, start at half the asking price and reach a compromise.  Remember that Rp. 500 can mean the difference of a day’s meal: to you it is little.


Don’t display large sums of money.  Balinese have a strong sense of pride and consider temptation, and suspicion, insulting. Begging is not customary in Bali, but is prevalent due to Indonesia’s economic crisis.  If you hand out money you encourage people to ask again.  The exception is to make a small contribution at the entrance to a temple, toward maintenance.  Give what you can afford, as you would do in any house of worship.


When not on the beach or at the pool, please wear shorts or a swimsuit cover-up.  Swimsuits, a swimtop and sarong, etc., are not acceptable attire on any street.  Small passages to the beach may be through a residential courtyard or holy temple.  Nude bathing is illegal and impolite. Leave shoes outside on the steps before entering a house or temple.


Balinese are conscious of presentation, both for themselves and visitors.  The “hippie look” is not well accepted by locals.  Poor attire often attracts poor service, especially in government offices.  Singlets, halter tops and mini skirts are not acceptable in government offices.  The proper dress code: trousers and collared shirt with sleeves for men, and dress or skirt and blouse with sleeves for women. Keep a sarong handy.  All temple visitors must wear a waist sash.  A sarong is preferred.  By ancient law, menstruating women and anyone with a bleeding wound, are not permitted in temples.


Temple ceremonies and other rituals are sacred events to the Balinese and appropriate clothing should be worn.  To visit any temple ceremony, you must dress modestly, in pakain adat (the full native dress of a kain, kebaya and sash for the women and udung [head band]; kain, saput [overskirt], nice shorts and sash for men.)  A sash over shorts is not acceptable. Wait outside the temple for an invitation if there is a festival in progress.


At festivals and dance performances, Balinese are relaxed around a camera.  But don’t interfere or stand directly in front of the priest or the kneeling congregation.  According to custom, one’s head should not be higher than the priest’s or village headman.  It is rude to climb on temple walls.  Do not remain standing when people kneel to pray.  Move to the back and wait quietly until prayer or blessings are complete.  If local bystanders kneel in veneration, always move to the side.  The Balinese are not performing for your benefit, but are in sacred ritual for their own worship.



General Information


CLIMATE - Bali is 8 degrees south of the equator.  Temperatures vary between 21C and 32C (70-90F); average temperature 26C (78F).  Two seasons: Dry from May to November, with July being the coolest month; rainy from November to April, with January the wettest month.  Humidity averages 75% year round.


TIPPING - Most larger hotels and restaurants automatically add government tax and service charge of up to 21 percent to the bill.  Tipping is unusual and you’re not compelled to tip at restaurants.  If you like your driver, a tip of 10-15 percent is appreciated.  Carry small change with you, as taxi drivers often have none.  Round up the fare to the nearest Rp. 500.  If traveling in a group, a tip to drivers and guides is appreciated.  Airport or hotel porters expect Rp. 1,000 per bag depending on the size. 


BUSINESS HOURS - Indonesians work in the morning to avoid the heat of the day.  If you need to visit a government office, arrive between 8:00 am and 11:30 am.  This also applies to banks and private businesses.  Government offices close early on Fridays and Saturdays.  Generally, offices are open 7 am–3 pm Monday-Thursday, 7:30 am-Noon on Friday, closed Saturday and Sunday.


CREDIT CARDS - Most shops accept plastic for an additional 3-5% surcharge.  Credit card and cash advances are available in most tourist areas.