Bali Travel Tips
Keep in Mind...
- Check out remote neighbors The Gili Islands are about a 90-minute boat ride from Bali's east coast and offer pristine sands and relaxing isolation.
- Know culinary favorites In southern Bali, seafood is king. In central Bali, the local specialty is babi guling, which translates to "suckling pig." Plan to sample both.
- Nyepi is the party of the year Nyepi is the celebration of the Balinese New Year, which falls on the first new moon after mid-March. You'll see exuberant parades and festivities throughout the island in the days leading up to Nyepi.
Shangri-La, Elysium, Arcadia, Utopia and Bali are all synonymous with "heaven." The only difference between them is that you can actually visit Bali. Many travelers have never been to this Indonesian island. Yet, the word "Bali" conjures daydreams of the most fantastical landscape: towering volcanoes wrapped in a deep green canopy, sandy shores that fade into turquoise waters and curving coastlines crowned with staggered pagodas. And believe it or not, Bali rarely disappoints.
You'll be amazed at how many different types of visitors revel in this paradise. The ordinary traveler simply stays at the palatial oceanfront resort and indulges in luxurious spa treatments, decadent cuisine and lazy sunbathing. But the historian will find his or her delights at the island's many temples while the adventurer will discover new paths up an active volcano in Kintamani. Plus, the town of Kuta boasts more riotous pleasures for those inclined to late nights. Bali is a dream come true, so wake up and book your ticket.
How To Save Money in Bali
- Cruise on by Bali's accommodations can be extraordinarily pricey. Consider taking a cruise through Indonesia which docks in Bali.
- Capitalize on Kuta You'll be able to pick up souvenirs and book spa treatments for less in this town than in other resort villages.
- Count on yourself You'll be bombarded with proposals from eager tour guides at nearly every temple. Politely refuse and do your own self-guided tour.
Bali Culture & Customs
Bali is a part of Indonesia; for this reason, the official (and dominant) language is Indonesian. However, you'll still hear Balinese (a Malayo-Polynesian language) being spoken by some locals. Because international tourism plays a key role in Bali's economy, English is widely spoken in larger towns and cities. That means you shouldn't have a problem getting around, purchasing souvenirs or ordering food.
The currency in Bali is the Indonesian rupiah. Since the rupiah to U.S. dollar exchange rate fluctuates, be sure to check what the current exchange rate is before you go. Also, keep in mind that because the large numerical difference can be confusing for foreigners, locals sometimes ask for unreasonable prices and can trick travelers into coughing up more cash than they need to.
In terms of religion, Bali is unique among the Indonesian islands, which are mostly Islamic. Hinduism is the predominant religion in Bali. Most of the temples found here are sacred Hindu sites, so be respectful of the customs you'll witness, such as praying in pools of water.
Bali's cuisine scene is heavily Indonesian, with Chinese and Indian influences. Most dishes include rice, vegetables, meat and fish – and plenty of spice. Many meals feature base gede – a spice paste that usually consists of garlic, red chili peppers, shallots, nutmeg, turmeric, coriander, ginger, shrimp paste, coconut oil and bay leaves. With that many ingredients, you can be sure that dishes featuring this spice blend are flavorful. Fish, chicken and pork are often rubbed or stuffed with the spice paste, cooked with coconut milk and served with rice and veggies.
There are several standout dishes that travelers should sample. Order babi guling (suckling pig) and you'll get a plate of tender roasted meat that's also crispy and caramelized. Bebek betutu is a spice-rubbed, slow-roasted duck often cooked in banana leaves. The satay (or sate) in Bali includes strips of chicken, pork, fish or tofu placed on skewers and grilled over a hot flame; accompanying sauces vary, but peanut and shrimp paste-based sauces are common. When it comes to restaurants, experts and travelers recommend trying a variety. Many of the resorts feature upscale dining, the markets throughout Bali offer up fresh, local fare and the eateries along the coast dish out casual meals (with beautiful beach views).