It’s basically Australia’s holiday house: Bali hosts more than a million Aussies every year, from teens celebrating schoolies in chaotic Kuta to families soaking up Ubud’s tranquillity in secluded villas. Bali’s what you make it, at once a lavish getaway, a journey into a fascinating culture, a wellness escape or one long pub crawl. To ensure you have the trip to Bali you want, cast your eyes over our Read Before You Leave guide.
Australians can visit Bali visa-free for periods of 30 days or less. To stay longer, you must apply for a visa either from an Indonesian Embassy or Consulate or upon arrival in the country; the fee is US$35 (A$46).
Flying in to Indonesia
Bali Ngurah Rai International Airport, otherwise known as Denpasar International Airport, is Indonesia’s third-busiest airport.
Located 13 kilometres south of Denpasar to the south of the island, the airport has a taxi counter located outside the arrivals hall. Tell the attendant your destination, pay the set fare and keep a hold of your receipt to show your taxi driver.
Check-in for Qantas-operated flights is counters C19-24 on Level 3.
Vaccine and health advice
- Periodic outbreaks of measles occur in Bali; make sure your measles vaccination is up-to-date.
- Rabies exists in Bali. Make sure to have a rabies vaccination and be careful around dogs and monkeys.
- Cases of mosquito-borne Zika virus have been reported in Indonesia. The Australian Department of Health recommends women who are pregnant or planning to become pregnant discuss their travel plans with a doctor.
- Dengue fever is a problem in Bali and according to Smart Traveller there’s been an increase in infection rates among Australians returning from the area in recent years. There’s no vaccination available. The symptoms can be serious – fever, vomiting, nose-bleeds and breathing difficulties are just some – so it’s important to avoid being bitten by mosquitoes. Use mosquito nets, apply a repellent that contains DEET and wear long sleeves and closed-toe shoes at dawn and dusk when mosquitoes are most active.
According to Smart Traveller, Australians are almost three times as likely to be killed in a vehicular accident in Indonesia than at home.
Always make sure your taxi driver has switched on the meter before you take off. Alternatively, Uber is a recent introduction in Bali.
Australians have seen our fair share of trouble with Indonesian authorities. Always obey the Indonesian law.
- Penalties for drug offences are extremely harsh and include fines, imprisonment and the death penalty.
- Some prescription medications are considered illegal narcotics in Indonesia, so if you require drugs including morphine, sleeping pills or medication for ADHD, double-check with the Indonesian embassy.
- The legal drinking age is 21.
- Gambling is illegal in Indonesia.
- Under Indonesian law, visitors must always carry identification on their person.
At the time of writing, the Australian dollar was buying around IDR10, 354 – consult a reliable currency conversion service for up-to-date foreign-exchange rates.
Check with your bank that you won’t be hit with extra fees when using your credit card in Bali. Your Australian bank and Indonesian ATMs will each charge you for withdrawing money from your debit card, too, so it might be worth organising a travel card (most banks have one) with low or no fees to use while you’re away.
In any case, inform your bank of your travel plans, lest overseas purchases are misconstrued as fraud and your card is cancelled.
Bali is generally warm and humid year-round with two main seasons: wet and dry. The rainy season typically runs from November to March or April; visitors can expect periods of rain each day that clear into sunshine within a few hours. During the dry season (May to October), conditions are less humid and cool breezes in the evenings provide a welcome respite from the warmth.
When to go
Balance seasonal concerns and peak tourism periods. During the high seasons in July, August and December fares and accommodation are expensive, restaurants are booked out and there are serious crowds. Great times to visit Bali are the May, June and September shoulder seasons: the weather is drier and less humid, there are fewer crowds and there are some good deals to be had.
Unlike the rest of Indonesia, which is mostly Muslim, Bali is largely Hindu. While it’s important to dress conservatively in other parts of the country, on beachy Bali visitors can be more relaxed. Swimwear on the beach, shorts and minis in touristy areas and plenty of bronzed skin in bars is normal. However, if you’re heading into villages and temples, respect the local culture and cover up shoulders, décolletage and bare legs. Pack plenty of light, breathable layers and sturdy sandals for walking on uneven roads.
Tap water in Bali isn’t safe to drink. Stick to boiled or bottled water and ask for drinks without ice.
To drive in Indonesia, an Indonesian or international driver’s license is required.
- Australia has no reciprocal healthcare arrangements with Indonesia, so without comprehensive travel insurance, travellers have to pay for medical treatment in Bali – and some hospitals will ask for payment up-front before treating you. Indonesian medical facilities aren’t as sophisticated as Australian hospitals, which means that in the case of a serious illness or accident, a patient may need to be evacuated to Australia – at a cost of tens of thousands of dollars.
- If you rent a car or moped without the requisite licence, your insurer will deny a claim in the case of an accident.
- Gunung Agung, an active volcano, saw an increase of seismic activity in September 2017 and started spewing ash in June 2018. It continues to show signs of activity. The latest advice from Smart Traveller for travellers to Bali is to ensure you have comprehensive insurance and to register travel and contact details with Smart Traveller.
The language barrier
Most Balinese working in the tourism industry speak English, though others – such as market stallholders or taxi drivers – might only have a few words. Learn a little Bahasa Indonesia such as “selamat pagi” (good morning), “silahkhan” (please) and “terima kasi” (thank you) to use with locals.
- Lefties beware: in both Hindu and Muslim culture use of the left hand is frowned upon. It’s considered “unclean” so try to remember to use your right hand whenever you’re touching someone, giving or receiving something, eating or pointing.
- While we’re on the point of pointing: don’t do it at people. Using a forefinger to point at someone is considered rude – if you must gesture, use the open palm or thumb of your right hand.
- The Balinese are a smiley people; reciprocate.
- You’ll get much further in Bali by staying calm and even-tempered; being aggressive in public is both rude and embarrassing.
Where to stay
Party-central Kuta, spiritual Ubud, luxe Seminyak: there’s a place in Bali for every budget and holiday style. The main island of Bali can be divided into five main areas: south, central, west, north and east.
South Bali is the most heavily visited area, where holiday hotspots Kuta, Uluwatu and Seminyak are. Tourist flock to Kuta Beach and the flashy luxury resorts of Seminyak.
In mountainous Central Bali, things are much quieter. This is the artistic and cultural heart of Bali, with archaeological sites, temples – and not a bikini in sight. In the foothills is beautiful Ubud with a plethora of handicraft stores, great restaurants and busloads of day-trippers seeking Eat, Pray, Love enlightenment. Higher up are Bedugul with its crater lakes and botanical gardens; Munduk with its popular treks and killer sunrises; and Tabanan’s incredible Taman Ayun temple complex and black sand beaches.
Try the still-wild West Bali for lush jungle, rice paddies and surf breaks at Medewi and Balian.
The neglected north is where much of Bali’s population dwells but most tourists eschew its sleepy villages and quiet beaches for southern charms. On the coast is the main town of the Bueleng district, Singaraja, the former colonial capital, and the resort area of Lovina Beach.
About an hour east of Ubud or two hours from Seminyak, this part of Bali is home to tiny hotels, deserted black-sand beaches, terraced rice paddies and Gunung Agung, the active volcano that in September 2017 saw an increase of seismic activity resulting in the evacuation of people residing in its surrounds (see Insurance Policy, above).
Phone calls and mobile data
Before you land, disable data roaming and don’t answer incoming calls on your mobile phone if you want to keep your monthly bill in check. Invest in a prepaid travel SIM card if keeping in touch with home is important.
If you need to make calls in Bali buy a local SIM card for local calls and mobile data. Remember, this will only work if your phone is not locked to your Australian carrier. Also note that Australian mobile phones operate on a GSM network. In Indonesia, both GSM and CDMA networks are in operation. This means that your Australian handset won’t work on a CDMA network – go with GSM carriers such as Telkomsel or Indosat.
To call Australia, dial +61 followed by the phone number – including the area code minus the zero. So, to call a Sydney landline telephone, you would dial +61 2 then the phone number. To call a mobile phone, use the same country code and dial the mobile number minus the first zero.
Power sockets in Indonesia (120V) are the same voltage and frequency as those in Australia but you’ll need an adaptor to fit Australian plugs in Indonesian sockets.
Handy apps and websites
Uber for easy transport.
WAZE is like Google Maps, but it's more popular as it has up-to-date, in-depth info about traffic conditions and street details.
Smart Traveller for safety information.
XE for currency conversion.
Ngurah Rai International Airport for information on flights, weather, traffic, parking, terminal locations and airport shuttles.
The Bali Bible for the lowdown on more than 16,000 businesses from restaurants to accommodation.