bali temple on water with mountains in the background

Bali Travel Tips for the First Timer 2023

Living in Perth, Bali is closer than Sydney, so it’s not surprising that our family visits every year. I’ve put together this guide on Bali Travel Tips, as it can be intimidating on your first trip to this beautiful island.

This post may contain affiliate links (of companies I book through). This means I may receive a small commission if you book through them. You can read the disclaimer for more information.

Bali Airport Tips

Bali Ngurah Rai International Airport, also known as Denpasar International Airport, is Indonesia’s second-busiest international airport.

Arriving into a new country and airport can be daunting, especially if you’re travelling with young children. Here are some tips to help you navigate through Bali Airport smoothly:

  • Your passport must be valid for at least 6 months from arrival and have at least one blank page.
  • Check to see if you require a visa for your length of stay and country of citizenship (over 80 nationalities can get a Visa on Arrival (valid for 30 days plus an option for a 30-day extension up to 60 days).
  • Keep up to date with the latest entry requirements relating to COVID-19 (as of October 2022, a PCR is required upon arrival if you have a temperature).
  • Don’t bring more than the equivalent of IDR 100,000,000 cash into Bali.
  • 1l of duty-free alcohol is permitted into Bali (spirits & wine in Bali are expensive, so we buy vodka duty-free).
  • Complete the Declaration Form on the plane or while waiting in the queue (only require one per family) – or complete an online electronic customs declaration up to two days before arrival. Once completed, you will receive a QR code to present to customs.
  • Your temperature will be checked upon arrival.
  • Go to the arrival hall’s immigration as quickly as possible to avoid being last in the line (queues can be up to two hours long if multiple flights arrive together).
  • Queue up at the appropriate line (Indonesian, Visa on Arrival etc.) – there are separate lines for families with a child under 5 and for people over 60.
  • Once through immigration, head to baggage collection (see the small tvs for the carousel number).
  • There are toilets near the baggage hall and trolleys (baggage can take a while to come out) – try to avoid going to the toilets as soon as you get off the plane as you don’t want to delay getting to immigration.
  • Porters can assist you with your luggage and escort you to your vehicle (negotiate the fee in advance). However, they can be quite aggressive and try to make you go with their friend’s transport service. Expect to pay around 50,000 IDR per bag.
  • Head to customs and hand them your Declaration Form, passport, and boarding pass (don’t leave it on the plane!)
  • All luggage (checked and hand) has to go through a scanner.
  • You can now exit the terminal (it will be busy with people holding signs for pre-booked transfers).
  • Many illegal drivers will ask you if you need transport (their rates are usually higher) – either pre-book a driver or use the fixed-rate taxi service in the airport (cash only).
  • There are ATMs and reputable money changers at the airport (we get money from the ATM for the taxi or driver and the first few days).
  • While there, buy a local SIM – it’s handy to have data while out and a number to be contacted on. The main phone carrier in Bali is Telkomsel.

How to Get Around Bali

From the airport

The best way to get to your accommodation is to arrange a transfer with a private driver.

Alternatively, the taxi service at the airport is fixed-rate, and fees are displayed at the counter. There have been a few complaints about drivers trying to scam passengers by saying they didn’t hand over the correct cash – make sure you know how much you give the driver and even count it out to them, so there is no mistake. The counter is outside once you have passed through duty-free.

Some visitors have mentioned going upstairs to the departure area, hoping to get a taxi that has just dropped passengers off. This would be cheaper, but it’s a bit of a hassle, and you’re not guaranteed a pick-up. Taxis and ride-shares are not allowed in the arrival part of the airport (only the airport service ones).

Getting around

Apps like GoJek and Grab have become popular in Bali, as you know the cost of your ride up-front. Download the app, load money, or link to your credit card. If you use this service, please think about tipping at least IDR10k as the fares are low and the drivers receive abuse from the local taxis. The Taxi Mafia is real in Bali, with drivers wanting to hold onto their monopoly.

Blue Birds are the best if getting a taxi as they are more trustworthy (look for the light blue cars with the Blue Bird logo). Blue bird taxis have the driver’s photo and licence number displayed along with details of the fares.

Make sure the driver is willing to put his meter on. Some taxi drivers try to scam you and tell you the meter’s not working, walk away and try another taxi. We’ve had one that stopped working during our trip but miraculously worked again when we told him we would pay him the amount it usually costs for that trip. If they put their meter on without a fuss, we “reward” with a tip of at least IDR10k (short journeys).

Be aware that meter refusal is more likely to occur late at night, around sunset, at peak times when traffic is horrendous, or when you’re stuck at a tourist attraction without arranging collection by a driver. Peak traffic is generally between 3:30 pm and 7 pm.

Another scam we fell for the first time was a driver standing by a flash new car offering transport. After negotiating a rate, he whistled to his friend, who drove an old car with no air con! Luckily it was only a short trip!

If you are travelling over 5 km, you are better arranging a private driver as it will most likely be cheaper. Plus, most vehicles are air-conditioned, clean, and can fit 4 people comfortably.

Book a driver if you’re visiting a tourist attraction, like Tanah Lot, waterfalls, beach clubs, or temples. Taxis and ride-shares can drop you off but are not allowed to collect you. Local drivers have a monopoly on these places and charge much more than you paid to get there. The same goes for restaurants that send a car for you. It is only one way, and you must negotiate your ride home (we found out the hard way when we booked this beach restaurant in Jimbaran).

lots of tables on the beach set uo for dining with blue tablecoths
Jimbaran Bay restaurants

Scooter hire

Hiring a scooter is popular in Bali. You will see tourists and locals weaving in and out of the hectic traffic on their scooters (locals may have dogs, trees, shopping, and anything else they can fit on them too).

However it may look easy, but it’s best to have experience from riding before trying it out in Bali.

Endless places offer scooter rentals with a wide range to choose from. However, pay a bit more for your safety and hire one from a reputable shop that offers new scooters, roadside assistance, drop off/pick up from accommodation, and insurance.

International Driving Permits are required and can be obtained from your country before departure.

Despite feeling carefree in Bali, don’t do anything you wouldn’t do at home. That includes not wearing a helmet, drink driving, or not having insurance. Most bike fatalities in Bali are due to not wearing a helmet.

Respect and know the law. Wear a helmet, don’t cross the white line at traffic lights, and always carry your Drivers Licence and International Driving Permit. If you get pulled over by the police, be polite.

busy street in kuta bali at night with lots of people riding scooters
Kuta, Bali

Bali Health Tips

Vaccinations

See your doctor before travelling to Bali so you can make an informed decision on what vaccinations to have.

Bali Belly

Bali Belly results from bacteria in food or water, causing stomach cramps, diarrhea, and vomiting. This shouldn’t be confused with travellers belly caused by new foods and too much alcohol.

To try and avoid Bali Belly, don’t drink the water. This includes brushing your teeth and showering (try not to get water in your mouth or eyes). We always buy big bottles of water from the supermarket and use that water to brush our teeth. Eating salad and having ice in your drinks is usually safe in restaurants and bars around the main tourist areas. However, I would avoid these in more remote regions.

Ensure your plates and cutlery are dry before using them, as some street vendors serve food on just washed plates that are still wet.

I’ve read many theories to avoid Bali Belly, like drinking red cordial, Yakult, and coconut water and taking probiotics. It’s up to you if you want to try them out; they certainly won’t harm you.

Good hygiene is important. Wash hands frequently and use hand sanitiser. Some restaurants provide it, but we always carry some with us.

If you get Bali Belly, it should clear up within 24 hours. However, it’s important to stay hydrated and call a doctor if it lasts longer than that. They can give you medication, an injection, and a drip to hydrate you. The small cost is worth it so you can continue your holiday.

Bali Belly can be transmitted between people, so avoid sharing towels, food, drinks, etc.

In all the times we have been to Bali, only twice has a member of our family got Bali Belly, so try not to stress and let it ruin your holiday.

Mosquitoes

Mosquito bites are not only itchy but can infect you with Dengue Fever, which is on the rise in Bali.

This tropical disease is transmitted through the Aedes Aegypti mosquito, characterized by white dots on its abdomen and legs, and breeds in puddles of clear water. It’s a daytime mozzie, so you should spray yourself with repellent first thing in the morning and throughout the day.

The most effective mosquito repellents contain DEET. Repel Tropical Strength repellent contains 30% DEET, considered optimum for adults. You should reapply regularly. Repel Junior has a much lower DEET concentration and is safer to use on children, but it must be applied more often. Apply insect repellent after sunscreen.

Wear light-coloured clothing and avoid strong scents like perfume or aftershave, which attracts mosquitoes.

Most hotels and villas in Bali fog regularly, but we buy coils from the supermarket to use when we are sitting outside on our balcony or patio.

If you have a fever for more than three days, seek medical attention and test for the virus. Other than fever, symptoms may include headaches, muscle, and joint aches, diarrhea, and skin rash.

Sun protection

To avoid sunburn and damage to your skin, apply sunscreen regularly and wear a hat and sunglasses.

In addition. drink plenty of water to keep hydrated.

Sunscreen is expensive in Bali, so bring enough to last the holiday.

Alcohol

Recently, there has been much media attention on methanol poisoning in Bali from locally-made alcohol. The obvious solution is to avoid “cheap” drinks in bars, but I’ve read a lot about it happening in reputable bars too. The problem appears to be premium spirits being swapped out with locally-made alcohol.

Spirits are about the same price in Bali as in Australia, so if cheap cocktails or spirits are advertised, you should assume that premium branded spirits are not being used.

We stick to beer or sealed pre-mixed drinks and buy duty-free spirits instead. I know it’s not the same as having a cocktail, but the risk is not worth it to us.

Symptoms of methanol poisoning can include stomach pain, dizziness, agitation, headaches, difficulty breathing, nausea, and blurred vision. If you think you or someone close to you are suffering from methanol poisoning, you must seek medical attention immediately. Read more on this Facebook page.

Bali Money Tips

Credit cards are accepted in most Bali places except for taxis, small local restaurants (warungs), beach bars, and market stalls. If you need to exchange currency, go to an authorised money changer or bank, like BMC, Money EX, and Kodak Shops. Avoid places where the exchange rates are much higher or are at the back of a shop. These are known to scam you by asking to recount the money after you and then slide some of the notes under their desk (they’re like magicians!). Always be the last person to count the money before you leave.

We’ve found the exchange rates are better in Bali than in Australia.

If you want money from an ATM, be wary of card skimming. Only visit ATMs within banks and other trusted areas and avoid minimarts, convenience stores, or street machines.

street with money changer sign and rates

Bali Travel Tips

  • Expect crowds (especially in Kuta, Legian & Seminyak)
  • Choose your accommodation carefully with location in mind
  • Dress appropriately
  • Learn a little Indonesian (most Balinese speak Balinese and Indonesian). Although English is widely spoken, saying a few words in Indonesian or Balinese will be very well received
  • Respect the Balinese culture and religion
  • When shopping, don’t ask the price if you don’t want to buy, and bargain respectfully
  • To get an idea of prices, visit a fixed-price shop
  • Be cautious around animals (especially stray dogs and wild monkeys); rabies still exists in Bali
  • The wet season is from October to February
  • Don’t swim near any water flowing into the ocean (you don’t want to know what’s in it!)
  • Tips are not expected, but it’s a nice gesture and will be appreciated
  • Download Google maps for Bali so you can use them offline
lady putting out offerings to the gods
Offerings

Bali Family Holiday Tips

  • Hire strollers, baby cots, and high chairs in Bali
  • Put a towel over the taps in your accommodation as a reminder not to use the water
  • Be careful of children around the dogs and monkeys, no matter how cute they may look
  • Bali has several professional babysitting service companies with friendly staff trained in first aid and CPR
close up of monkey in bali

Bali Scams

Money Changers

As mentioned above, only exchange money at an authorised money changer or bank, like BMC, Money EX, and Kodak shops to avoid being ripped off.

Scratchies

You’re approached with the offer of a free scratchy card where you may win a prize. Guess what? You will win an Ipad, free lunch, a holiday or something. To claim the prize, you have to give them the details of your accommodation so they can pick you up to collect your prize.

You’re taken to a resort where you have to sit through a two-hour timeshare presentation with a hard sell at the end. However, you will get your prize, and some people are very happy with their Bali timeshares.

Taxis

Scams with taxis are mainly “meters not working,” so make sure they will use their meter before getting into the car. Also, have small amounts of cash as some claim not to have any change on them.

We either use Blue Bird taxis or the Grab app.

Money

Know the difference between the 10,000 and the 100,000 banknotes as they are similar colours, and scammers try to tell you that you’ve handed over a 10k note instead of a 100k note.

Beach Therapists

Many visitors enjoy a massage or a pedicure on the beach. However, make sure you negotiate a price before and let them know you don’t want any extras – it’s common for another lady to start giving you a pedicure while you’re having a massage and then expect payment.

Most of these Bali travel tips are common sense, and scams happen in a lot of countries. Don’t let it stop you from visiting this beautiful island with friendly locals who always have a smile on their faces. Enjoy Bali and be safe.