Bali Tips for First Timers
Are you about going to Bali for the first time? If so, then this post is definitely for you. It’s packed with Bali tips for first timers that will definitely shrink the odds of a catastrophe and possibly save a life. Seriously.
Here’s how my first trip to Bali came about…
“How about we go to Bali together this summer?,” I asked my adopted sister.
The look on her face told me the game was on. A Skype call several months later confirmed it.
The timing was perfect for a pre-college mom-daughter getaway. Unlike my typical wanders, I didn’t plan a thing. My girl and I just showed up and joined the brigade, which consisted of four kiddults, one teen, one soon-to-be-teen, and three trooper kids.
Bali was NOT what I expected—and I learned A LOT. For one, before Bali I had ideas that I was a reasonably adventurous wanderer. Bali had other ideas.
- Why Bali?
- Planning Your First Trip to Bali
- Getting To & Around Bali
- Bali Accommodations
- Where to Stay in Bali
- Eating in Bali
- Things to Do in Bali
- What to Bring to Bali
- Random Bali Tips
- My Two Cents
Why Visit Bali?
BALI—the land of Hindu temples, bizarre statues, breathtaking water palaces, lush rice fields, world class diving and surfing, the friendliest of natives, and rock bottom prices.
The ocean is as warm as your bathtub and as vibrant as your screensaver. It is, in fact, part of the Coral Triangle—a section of sea with 500+ species of coral. (Just to give you some perspective, this is about seven times more than in the ENTIRE Caribbean).
Bali is actually a grouping of many Indonesian islands—including the main island of Bali, Nusa Penida, Nusa Lembongan, and Nusa Cenengan—just east of Java. The capital of Denpasar is on the main island and is home to the international airport.
Bali is the only Hindu-dominated province in Muslim-dominated Indonesia. About 85% of its 4.5 million residents are Hindus—and they work hard to preserve this dominance. I had a conversation with a local one day who told me how Muslim immigrants are only allowed to come to Bali if they have a job awaiting them and that the local Balinese are legally obligated to report any suspicious activity involving a Muslim.
Planning Your First Trip to Bali
Anyone who spends a wad on their Bali vacation has really missed the point—and, in my opinion, the real Bali.
You can get a decent hotel room for $25/night, an entire villa for about $400-600/night, and a respectable meal for $10. I felt guilty paying only $7.00 for two one-hour massages a few steps from the ocean!
I don’t suggest winging it in Bali on your first trip unless: 1) you’re solidly adventurous and 2) you handle stress well. If you want to maximize pleasure and minimize hassles, do some thoughtful planning.
Here are some helpful Bali tips to help you plan the best trip possible:
6 Months Before:
- Start watching plane fares—I use Hopper and Kayak on all my wanders. Hopper is extra awesome because it’ll let you know the likelihood of the fare increasing or decreasing and will make recommendations on the best time to purchase your tickets. As a reference, I paid $2,057 for two round trip tickets from Los Angeles to Denpasar in mid-summer. (Yay me!)
- Research your accommodations—Invest time in finding cool places to stay. If a place really speaks to you, book it. (Read on for more info on some accommodation options.)
- Figure out your land transportation—If the places you’ll be staying don’t include or arrange transportation, you’ll need to decide what mode is the best fit for you. Do NOT take getting around Bali lightly—it’s a major consideration! In many areas, it’ll be like driving in London at peak traffic hour—you’ll be jammed up on the “other” side of the road. (More info to come.)
2-3 Months Before:
- Plan and pre-book boat transfers and activities—If it’s the high season and you need a boat to get from one stop to another, or you’re set on doing a super popular boating activity, book ahead of time.
- Get your vaccinations—Besides your regular vaccinations, both the CDC and bali.com recommend getting Hepatitis A and Typhoid shots. Dengue fever is an “imminent health hazard” for tourists and locals. There is no vaccine for it—the key is not getting bitten by mosquitoes and this is most likely to happen in the densely populated cities. (Descriptions containing “very painful to fatal” had me pretty paranoid about it, so I brought an arsenal of anti-mosquito artillery, including the strongest Deet I could find on Amazon and herbal infused leather mosquito bracelets.) Zika is endemic to Indonesia, but not considered a serious threat. The risk of getting malaria is very low.
4 Weeks Before
- Start getting your supplies—Check out my “What to Bring to Bali” list below.
1 Week Before
- Pack—Unless you’re plopping yourself down in just one or two spots for your entire trip, pack light.
Getting To Bali & Around Bali
China Airlines to Bali
After watching flight prices hover in the $1,300-$1,400 range for several weeks, I snatched up a DEAL (for summer) at $1,000 per person. At the time, the sacrifices—flying out of LAX (a four hour round trip drive from our house) on China Airlines (who?) with a 12 hour layover in Taipei on the way over (yes, really)—seemed worth it.
About a month before our departure, I recalled J. Maarten Troost’s tales of China. He made it pretty clear that the quality of life, and pretty much life in general, is not at the top of China’s priority list. Was cutting corners on maintenance one way China Airlines increased their profits??? Suddenly, my $600 savings didn’t seem so worth it. (Was that all our lives were worth to me???) A Google search allayed (most of) my fears—China Airlines had a solid 4 star rating with plenty of positive reviews and (mostly) unconcerning negative ones. Enough worrying…que sera sera.
It’s never been a good sign for me when I haven’t been able to choose our seats ahead of time, so I made sure we arrived at LAX three hours before our flight. I held my breath while the Air China agent searched…and searched…and searched for our ticket record. I began to sweat when she looked up and said:
“You not here. May I see your reservation record, please?”
Two minutes later, she taught me an invaluable lesson—Air China is NOT the same as China Airlines.
Maybe it’s because I was charming, probably it had something to do with my gorgeous 18 year old daughter—whatever the reason, the China Airlines agent we finally found informed us that we would be sitting on his “favorite seats on the entire plane.”
The man knows his seats—enough leg room for a grown man-and-a-half, a bathroom a few steps to our left, and personal movie screens tucked inside our seat arms.
The service was impeccable. Almost before I got the whole compliment out to our flight attendant, she told me to wait. When she returned, she lavished us with two first class toiletry bags complete with a pair of China Airlines slippers that come in handy for embarrassing irritating teenage daughters, a sleep mask, ear plugs, playing cards, a toothbrush and tooth paste.
One of my best Bali tips — China Airlines WAS definitely worth it!
One of the most life impacting decisions you’ll make regarding your Bali trip is your mode of ground transportation. Here are the plusses and minuses of each option:
- Renting a car—If you’re comfortable driving British-style in bumper-to-bumper traffic with scooters cramming into the tiniest of gaps, go for it. Be sure and add 1-2 hours onto your daily itinerary for the time you’ll be spending inside of of said car and deduct a year or two off your life.
- Renting scooters—If you’re adventurous, aggressive, and just a little crazy, scooters are the way to go. You should know that scooter accidents are the leading cause of death in Bali. Another important FYI—if you don’t have an international drivers license that specifies you are licensed to drive a motorbike, you may void your travel insurance. Don’t even consider skipping the helmet and do NOT drink and drive—you will need each and every one of those precious brain cells. Lather on the sunscreen and consider doing as the locals do and wear a face mask to filter out the carcinogens.
- Hire a driver—This may sound like a luxurious bank breaker, but remember that you’re in the land of $3.50 one-hour oceanfront massages and relaxation is priceless. You still have to add on the travel time, but traffic isn’t nearly so stressful when you’re being chauffeured.
- Bicycles—This is only realistic for short distances around your home base.
As I sat in the back seat of the van that transported us up from the airport to our first villa, I wondered if it was culturally inappropriate for me to hug our driver. I will never forget Gusti. Getting out of Denpasar was crazy and getting into Seminyak wasn’t much saner.
My French family swore by scooters, even with their 3 year old daughter in tow. They had total confidence I could handle one—until my test drive in the tiny alley just outside our villa gates. My girl nailed it. Every cell in my body was telling me not to put our lives into her relatively inexperienced driving hands. I did something I don’t do very often…I vetoed myself.
Our scooter experience was harrowing, exhilarating, nerve-wracking, confidence building, life-threatening, thrilling, and painful—all rolled into one. Who would have thought my girl had that much bravery and such mad scooter skills??? I wasn’t even mildly irritated with her when the “incident” happened.
As we idled at the tail end of our five-scooter brigade, unbeknownst to my daughter, a local teenager inched too close to us. As we slowly took off, I watched in horror as my foot was forced through the TINY space between the other scooter’s fender and front tire.
The only thought my brain could formulate was, “Oh, this is so not gonna be good.”
When my foot came out the other side, I was stunned. There was barely a scratch and very little pain. How did I manage that??? A minute later, I looked down again…and pretty much freaked out. The top of my foot was blowing up like a water balloon!
Five minutes later, in front of a pharmacy, nine people encircled me and legitimized my freakout.
As I looked down at the blood-filled contusion the size of a very large egg on the top of my foot, my mind went to scary places—a high school classmate who had died in his 20’s from a blood clot on his foot, a fireman friend who almost died from a post-surgical blood clot. My panicked mind started digging in its memory banks for emergency medical knowledge.
Compression. I needed compression. I snatched an Ace bandage off the shelf. And, pain reliever. The pharmacy clerks gave me Heperin gel. A half hour later, I limped out with a gooey compressed foot and got back on the scooter. We had some monkeys to see in Ubud.
If you’re visiting any of the outlying islands, you’ll (obviously) be taking a boat. If it’s the high season, you’ll want to pre-book your tickets.
I booked ours from Seminyak to Gili Trawangan (and back) on GiliBookings.com. They were professional and on time—and they do a great job of dodging kite boarders. If you’re even slightly prone to motion sickness, take a Dramamine and bring your own barf bags. Trust me, you’ll be grateful for the drugged stupor and the repository as insurance during the 2+ hour water coaster ride.
Find a Cool Place to Stay in Bali
Having both pre-booked and winged accommodations on previous wanders, in Bali I suggest finding some really cool places to stay in strategic spots and pre-booking them in 3-5 day increments.
Bali has everything from $5 hostels to (shockingly) affordable luxurious villas. If you’re traveling with a group of friends and/or family, go for the villa! Besides being the most cost effective option, they offer a variety of perks—like private swimming pools, an in-house chef, a van (with a Gusti!), and scooters.
We stayed in a variety of places, including a basic room within walking distance of a small town center ($25/night), two luxurious staffed villas ($125-$150/night for my share), and a tiny island bungalow ($130/night).
Here are some websites that will help you find a cool place in Bali:
Where To Stay in Bali
I can’t speak for a lot of the island, but I can speak for a few these places—Seminyak, Candidasa, and Gili Trawangan (the French choices for our three main Bali bases) and Sanur (my choice for our last night). Here are my Bali tips for these four places:
Seminyak is located on the west coast of Bali and is popular with both tourists and expats. This is not where you find the cheapest accommodations. It is where you’ll find lots of high-end hotels, luxurious spas, upscale boutiques, pricey restaurants, formidable traffic and less-than-fresh air.
Our home base here was Villa Wahyu—a peaceful tropical oasis in the middle of an eclectic and compact neighborhood that was home to traditional Balinese homes, bustling artisan workshops, small temples, and a rice field.
“Villa” doesn’t accurately describe this property. It’s really more of a gated compound with three gorgeous “houses”—the main one with two bedrooms (the master was ours), two bathrooms, living and dining room, and kitchen, and two large detached master suites. Other amenities included two small swimming pools (one for kids and one for adults!), daily breakfast, sketchy Wifi, Gusti and his van, and five scooters.
Villa Wahyu managed to make jet lag a pleasurable experience. When my eyes opened wide at 4:30 a.m., I snuck out of bed to listen to the haunting chants coming from a nearby temple and swim laps in the kidless pool as the sun rose.
From here, we visited Mesari Beach, shopped in downtown Seminyak’s trendy boutiques, sipped on Luwak coffee at Lumbung Sari House of Coffee, saw THE rice field and hung out with monkeys in Ubud’s Monkey Forest, lounged at Pan Pacific Nirvana Resort then strolled along the water and through a small shopping bazaar to Tanah Lot Temple, shopped at Canggu’s weekly market, and scootered through a nearby rice field. (See below for links to all these places.)
Each day, we made sure to leave time to savor the pool and serenity at the Villa. Meal times were a daily highlight thanks to Komang, our very own personal chef, who treated us to delicious local (and kid-friendly) Balinese fare.
Our next stop was Candidasa where we would be spoiled for four nights at another villa.
Candidasa is a popular tourist destination in eastern Bali. Although it’s much smaller and laid back than Seminyak, there was no escaping the traffic and polluted air.
Villa Blanca is just off the main road on the edge of town. As we emerged from our two vans, we were dazzled by the bright white mansion and the staff of five offering us golden marigold garlands.
The villa was massive with lofty ceilings and an open floor plan—except for the kitchen, which was tiny and tucked in back. Separated from the ocean by only a fence and some boulders, the yard was an adult and kid oasis with a pool and (lukewarm) jacuzzi, lawn, flower petal-filled urns, numerous lounging options (including a sectional couch), and a covered dining area where we ate our breakfasts and dinners together.
Our room was on the lower level room with doors opening into the oasis and a Heavenly semi-outdoor shower (an inside shower with an open roof).
If I come back to Candidasa, I will definitely stay here—D’Tunjung Resort! Cute beachfront bungalows for about $40/night!
While here, we visited Kusamba Salt Farm, Tenganan village, Ujung Water Palace, Virgin Beach (home of $3.50 one hour massages!), and the Royal Pools of Tirta Gangga. (Links below.)
We mourned the loss of Komang, but the staff here was quietly efficient, kept us well fed, and wasted no time hailing a capable doctor to deal with our next health emergency (more on that later).
The 2+ hour boat ride from Candidasa to Gili Trawangan is NOT be fun for anyone prone to even the mildest of motion sickness. Within 10 minutes of boarding, I knew I’d be losing it. I had a window seat to thank for preserving some of my dignity.
Gili Trawangan is one of three “Gili” Islands located near Lombok. As soon as you step off the boat, four things are clear—this is definitely where the party’s at, there are no cars or scooters putting a damper on the air or the roads, the “taxis” are one of the best things about the island, Hindus are not in the majority.
Gili T is more of a contradiction than the Bali we had come from—a potentially pristine island with world class diving and piles of maggot-infested garbage.
The “taxi” ride was worth the 20 minute wait—not only because the miniature horse-pulled jauntys (called “cidomos”) were a total novelty, but also because the walk from the dock to most “hotels” would be brutal.
To add to my rattled nerves, I soon found out that I had two rooms waiting for us at the end of our jaunty ride—the price of letting my planning guard down when someone else planned most of the trip. Fortunately, I so loved the place that I mistakenly booked, that it made shrugging it off as painless as possible. Of course I pull this ditzy move at the most expensive stop on our entire trip where rooms are in the $125/hight range (sigh).
Villas Light House is a quaint compound of several island bungalows and a tiny swimming pool. Our host, the very Italian Daniel, made me smile from the first to the last “Hello, Lady.” Our room compensated for it’s tiny size with maximum cuteness, a five minute bike ride to the beach, and Daniel’s awesome poolside breakfasts with AMAZING Lomboc coffee. (By the third night, our resident gecko had taught me that there are worse things than roosters.)
You MUST have a bike on Gili T. If you don’t get any with your room, they’re pretty easy to come by and will save you significant amounts of time and energy (except in the occasional sandpits). You can ride around the entire island in less than a couple hours!
If you’re not a partier, the water surrounding Gili T is THE reason to come here. With a temperature approaching what comes out of your showerhead, a rainbow of fish, and bales of sea turtles (even close to the shore), it’s pretty heavenly. One important detail—half the day, the tide is high on one side of the island and low on the other. Make sure you book your room accordingly if this matters to you and take this into consideration when planning your activities.
Our visit here was short and dampened by the repercussions of Bali Belly (<<< foreshadowing), but we did enjoy hanging out at Casa Vintage Beach, swimming with sea turtles, shopping in town, helping a local catch his runaway horse, and watching the sun set at the local shroom bar. (No, we didn’t.)
Our journey back to the mainland consisted of a quick jaunty ride to the dock, an INSANE boat ride (that I was fully prepared for thanks to the prophetic Costco-sized jar of Dramamine at the check in desk), and a quick (free) shuttle ride to our next hotel.
Sanur is a cute community of Denpasar that my inner foodie intuitively sniffed out. Known for it’s “Eat Street” with numerous trendy eateries, it also had affordable accommodations and a little beach.
Our accommodations here were a winning combination of basic, clean, well located, cheap, lush and gated, Gunakaya Homestay was perfect for our last night in Bali. After more than two weeks, I still felt something resembling guilt about the $25/night price tag.
We never did make it to the beach, opting instead to treat ourselves to seriously affordable pedicures and regular priced, but deliciously gourmet, food at Soul in a Bowl. The next morning, rather than take advantage of the free breakfast at our budget hotel, we walked back into town for tea and pastries at Dusk Blue Restaurants. I even managed to squeeze in a poolside lounge before the hotel shuttle did the dirty work of driving us to the airport. Little did they know that I would have gladly paid three times the $10 per person price tag to avoid the stress of dealing with this myself.
Eating in Bali
This is one of the most important sections in this Bali tips post! Please read it carefully.
Foodie, glutton, food snob…these are just a few of the labels I’ve earned over the years. They also explain why food and drink are a HUGE part of my travel experiences.
Navigating the culinary landscape of Bali is as important to your safety as your mode of transportation. If you take a wrong edible turn, you may be begging Death to take you out of your misery and, like us, spending the night in a local hospital clinic. Or, you may at a dog. (Seriously. Click HERE if you think I’m being a drama queen.)
The first rule is to steer totally clear of the water—when you’re thirsty, while brushing your teeth, ordering all drinks, 100% of the time. The locals are eager to help you and have a seemingly endless supply of small, medium, and large bottles of water. Do NOT allow environmental guilt to put you at risk—resist the urge to reuse your disposable bottles for more than two days! (Our three day old water bottles caused were a big part of my girl’s misery and almost had me join her in Hell.)
If you’re food savvy, it won’t take you long to notice that the Balinese have a love affair with MSG. The “MSG-Free” restaurant signage is proof of my conclusion. If you’re sensitive to it, book accommodations that enable you to cook much of your own food and/or be brave enough to ask that it not be used at every MSG-free signless restaurant. If you’ll be having a personal chef at any of your places, let them know ahead of time that you’d like it left off the grocery list.
Warungs are what they call the local restaurants that serve traditional (and cheap) Balinese food. First tip—don’t let a TripAdvisor sticker relieve your guard. Second tip—stick with cooked vegetarian dishes and skip the ice in your drink (even those tempting fresh blended juices).
Had we known then what we know now, my daughter wouldn’t have suffered so badly for nearly half of our time in Bali.
Just outside of Canggu, we pulled over at a warung-with-a-view. My suggestion to my daughter to stick with veggies was met with an eye roll and a diagnosis of paranoia. The TripAdvisor sticker distracted me enough to miss the critical drink order. All six of the “kids” ordered fresh blended strawberry juice. Six hours later, they all exploded. As heartwarming as my daughter’s apology was, it wasn’t even remotely worth the price she paid for her slip up over the next week.
While the others recovered by the end of the next day, my girl only briefly rallied before returning to the bathroom. (This mystery was solved when I realized that our resistance to toss our water bottles was behind the relapse.) On Day 5, I started getting worried that the life seemed to draining out of her as quickly as everything else, so asked our villa staff to hail a doctor. When she showed up, her exam was quick and her insistence firm that we immediately pack our bags and spend the night in her clinic. Ten minutes later, we bade farewell to our friends and climbed in the back of a tiny vanbulance.
We were the only guests at the tiny clinic, so my girl was the center of attention. Within minute, she was prepped, poked, tested, and re-hydrated. Less than an hour later, a diagnosis was issued—she had a nasty case of “Bali Belly.” Thankfully, physical relief came fast and the ginormous bag of pills she was given had us both feeling pretty confident that there would be no relapse.
The next morning, any doubt that my girl was a hero (in princess clothing) was gone. Her sense of humor was back and she rallied in time for us to make the boat ride to Gili Trawangan. Although her belly and bowels quickly and fully recovered, her energy and enthusiasm for Bali didn’t for the remainder of our trip.
That damn strawberry juice and reused water bottle ended up (temporarily) costing me $550 and a night on Bali’s most uncomfortable bed. But, the fact that I had my daughter AND had bought that travel insurance had me nothing but happy.
Things To Do in Bali
Here are some Bali tips on things to do while you’re there. But, first, a little warning—you’re probably not going to see as many things as you think because 1) it takes awhile to get from one place to another and 2) you’ll be doing a LOT of relaxing (right???).
Here’s what we did:
La Plancha Restaurant (Seminyak)—Don’t miss happy hour and sunset from this vibrant spot on Mesari Beach.
Coffee Tasting at Lumbung Sari House of Coffee (Ubud)—Although we were pretty much manipulated here under the guise of good samaritanship while one of our scooters was undergoing an emergency repair, this little unplanned outing ended up being one of our most interesting experiences.
Canggu market (Canggu)—Every Sunday from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., this little market offers organic fruits and veggies from local farmers, cool edible and non-edible creations from local artisans, and a peaceful yoga studio. Address: Samadi Bali–39 Jl. Padang Linjong
Walk, bike, or scooter ride through a rice field—Our scooter ride through a rice field at sunset is one of those life moments that’s embedded in my brain. This is a MUST!
Monkey Forest (Ubud)—Yes, it’s touristy. But, it’s not American tourist. It’s definitely worth going to hang out with 600+ macaque monkeys. While you’re gawking, don’t forget to marvel at the three temples built around the middle of the 14th century. If you do go, don’t be a brazen idiot or a skittish screamer.
Tegalaland Rice Terrace (Ubud)—Don’t make a special trip just for this, but it’s worth a quick stop (with your camera) if you’re in the Ubud area.
Nirwana Bali Resort & Tanah Lot Temple—If luxury is your style, you can lounge (for a fee) at the luxurious pools of this 5-star resort, then walk the winding golf and seaside path to Tanah Lot Temple. Leave yourself time to peruse all the wares for sale around the temple and, if you’re able, watch the sunset here.
Kusamba Salt Farm (Kusamba)—I wouldn’t go way out of the way to get here, if you’re in the area (about midway between Sanur and Candidasa), it’s definitely worth stopping at this traditional salt farm for cool photos and an education. (You should definitely be prepared to be accosted by souvenir hawkers.)
Tenganan Traditional Balinese Village (Tenganan)—I liked this place despite the palpable love-hate vibe. We got our most authentic souvenirs here and much appreciated the peek back in time.
Taman Ujung Water Palace (Seraya)—Sorta Balinese, sorta European, this stunning and very photographic water palace has several large pools and historic structures accented by Mount Ayung in the background.
Virgin Beach (near Candidasa)—Heck, yeah. This gorgeous sandy beach, about 5 kilometers northeast of Candidasa, is home to a quiet bay, a handful of beachside restaurants and souvenir shops, cushy lounge chairs for hire, and $4 on-the-beach massages.
Tirta Gangga—Stroll in the lushly landscaped and statued grounds of this magnificent water palace, then swim in the icy Royal Pools (with your mouth shut).
Happy Hour, Swings and Sunset at the Beach (Gili Trawangan)—Head to the southwest side of the island just before sunset, swing on the giant swings (over the low tide), then pick a bar (any bar), and soak up arguably one of the most stunning sunsets on the planet.
Swim with Sea Turtles (Gili Trawangan)—You don’t need to board a boat or wear a wetsuit to do this…just ask a local where to go to be at the right place at the right time (on the north side of the island near Karma Kayak and along the main beach between Villa Almarik and Horizontal Bar). If you want to see more than just turtles, you’ll be needing that boat.
Lunch at Casa Vintage (Gili Trawangan)—This is one of THE spots on the island and has a vibe that will hold you captive all day if you’re not careful.
So many things to see in Bali—and two full weeks is really so little time. Here are all the things that made our list, but not our itinerary:
—Balinese Traditional Cooking Class (Ubud)
—Taman Ayum Temple (A UNESCO site in Mengwi)
—Goa Gajah Elephant Cave (Ubud)
—Elephant Safari Park Lodge (Taro Village)
—Brahma Vihara Buddhist Monastery (Buleleng)
—Balinese dance ceremony (somewhere near you)
—Makepung Buffalo Races (Jembrana)
—La Laguna Restaurant (Canggu)
—Toya Bungkah (Kintamani) or Angseri Hot Springs (Tabanan)
—Boat ride in Lake Batur (Kintamani)
—Night Market (Gili Trawangan) (Based on the culinary wisdom gained on this trip, and reviews from other victims, I would look but NOT eat.)
What to Bring to Bali
Here are my Bali tips on what you MUST bring with you:
- Travel Insurance—Bali taught me the value of travel insurance. This is the third world and there are SO many things that can go wrong here—flight delays or cancellations, Bali Belly, scooter or car accidents, or worse. My karmic $60 investment allowed me to focus all of my worry on my daughter’s health, rather than the cost of our “vanbulance” ride and overnight hospital stay. All it took was a quick phone call from the hospital to be reassured that anything her regular insurance didn’t pay for would be covered by them. They also replaced my $200 camera lens that was shattered during my scooter incident.
- Real deodorant—Leave the healthy stuff at home. Bali calls for the real (toxic) deal.
- One shirt per day—If you don’t have the ability to do laundry, trust me on this one (even if you don’t think you sweat much)!
- Comfortable close-toed shoes—Although you’ll be wearing flip flops much of the time, there will be many times where you’ll want your feet protected (definitely on a scooter) and comfy.
- Water bottle—In Bali, you’ll experience our planet’s pollution problem firsthand and having a recyclable bottle will make you feel good. Make SURE you wash it every couple of days to wash away the Bali Belly bugs!
- Day backpack—At the very least, it needs to fit a water bottle, sunscreen, wallet, phone and/or camera, and hat. It’s great if it can fit a small beach towel as well.
- Deet—Get the hard core stuff. Dengue fever is a real threat, especially in the cities.
- 30+ proof waterproof sunscreen—Trust me, you’ll still get tan.
- At least two bathing suits
- At least one hat
- Plug adaptorS—Note the ‘s.’
- A well stocked first aid kit—including, but not limited to, Pepto Bismol, Immodium, Advil, Tylenol, Dramamine, Bandaids, eye drops, antibiotic ointment, and probiotics.
- Mask and snorkel—A MUST if you relish the idea of impromptu free shore-side swims with sea turtles as much as I do. Water shoes are also great to have.
Some Random Parting Bali Tips
- Bargaining—Bali is one of those places where many of the prices are grossly inflated. Rumor has it you should offer 1/3 of the asking price and settle somewhere around half. It’s pretty obvious whose doing the inflating.
- Dogs & cats—Toward the end of our trip, I became thoroughly convinced that I had lice hatching on my head. If you want to sleep well, I suggest resisting the urge to love up the MANY stray cats and dogs you’ll encounter throughout your trip.
- On the beach—A zippered plastic bag is an excellent place to put your phone and wallet so you can discreetly bury it in the sand under your towel when you snorkel.
- Saris—we never needed them. If you do, they’re easy and cheap to come by (even rentable, go figure).
- The airport—It takes longer to get out of Bali Airport that to get in. Plan accordingly.
My Final Two Cents
My vision of Bali was pretty different than my actual experience on this first wander. Some things surpassed my expectations and some let me down.
The culture was more open and accessible than I expected and the people were the most gracious I’ve encountered on any wander to date. Sunset in a rice field is one of the most breathtaking experiences of my life so far.
Sadly, the environmental crisis threatening our earth has never been more evident to me than in Bali. Piles of rotting trash on dry land and a disturbing amount underwater, suffocating air pollution, and occasional glimpses of downright filth hurt my heart.
None of the places we visited offered the peace and seclusion I had hoped for and traffic rivaled New York City at commute hour.
I hated to disappoint my boyfriend who had hoped I would join him on his first visit. Belize was equally as beautiful, way more peaceful, and a helluva lot easier to get to, so I just couldn’t see myself returning. However, with the passage of time, I find myself wanting to find the quieter side of Bali with my guy.
Bali Belly cut short my girl’s creative project, but what’s here captures the essence of our adventure (the look on my face here says it all lol):