Here are a few important topics that you should know, before heading to Bali.
The island of Bali has a warm tropical and humid climate all year around, with daily temperatures barely moving from day to day, with a minimum of approximately 23 degrees, and maximum of 33 degrees. Unlike most of Australia, Bali has two main seasons: Dry season and Rainy season.
October to March is rainy season, which is typically a quieter time to visit (outside of school holidays, that is). This is the season where the coastal winds are much stronger, and it can rain heavily. Typical rain will last a few hours and then the sun returns. It is unusual for the rain to be pelting down for an entire day.
It is more common to find that it rains heavily overnight, and the day is sunny, or there’s an hour or two of rain mid to late afternoon.
Between April and September, it is dry season. Bali receives the most visitors during this time, particularly the June/July school holidays. Even though it is named dry season, you can still expect occasional rainfall though, however it is far less frequent.
Bali’s central mountains (volcanoes) include several peaks over 3,000 meters in elevation. Up here, the temperatures are considerably cooler, and enjoys more rainfall than the coastal areas.
Ubud is approximately ninety minutes driving from the South Bali coastal areas, and is 200-300 metres above sea level. Due to the high elevation, Ubud does enjoy cooler temperatures than southern areas, and some evenings you may even need a light jumper or jacket.
The Balinese currency is the Indonesian Rupiah. In late 2017 you can get 10,600 rupiah per Australian dollar. Having said that, many hotels and the like, use US currency to quote, and transact in Indonesian rupiah. A US dollar buys you 14,500 rupiah at the moment.
Over the years, the exchange rate has fluctuated between about 6,500 rupiah in the early 2000’s, to a height of 12,500 in 2014, and back down to around 10,000 in late 2016.
Their banknotes comes in 2,000, 5,000, 10,000, 20,000, and 50,000, and Rp 100,000. Thier nearly worthless by our standard, coins include 1,000, 500, 200, 100 and 50Rp.
You’ll often find shops either rounding up to the nearest Rp 100, or indeed giving you a few breath mints; an interesting form of currency.
Where you change money is a very personal choice. Whilst there are moneychangers everywhere, their rates can vary and there is always the risk of getting ripped off.
Always count your money again, before turning away from the counter, and don’t feel afraid to do the calculations yourself on your own phone to check and confirm.
I personally prefer to withdraw money straight from the many ATM’s, which accept all Australian issued bankcards, such as NAB or Commonwealth. The last 18 months has seen a dramatic rise in card skimmers, so check the machine carefully for signs of tampering before using.
I prefer to use the machines inside the many minimarts; the way I look at it, is that it’s harder to set up a skimming device within a shop, when the employees are watching the machine.
Most ATM’s will have a maximum withdrawal amount of 2 million, and they will distribute notes in either 100,000 or 500,000 amounts.
I find the exchange rates at airports the worst – wait until you get there, or exchange a small amount before you leave.
Another option chosen by many is to actually visit a bank branch, and withdraw over the counter. This is the safest, if not slightly inconvenient, way to get cash out. You can withdraw five million or more, from a branch of BCA or Bank Mega. You will need your passport as proof of identity, and the banks are only open usual business hours.
A good website to find the current global exchange rates, is www.xe.com
Whilst on the topic of money, let’s cover tipping. Tipping isn’t expected on the island of Bali, as there is a service charge built in to most restaurants and service businesses. However if you feel you have received exceptional service, a modest gratuity is warmly appreciated.
Any travel should be done with appropriate travel insurance. You are insane to travel overseas without it, no matter if it is Bali or any other country.
Medical centres or hospitals on the island of Bali are often not at the same standards as you would expect at home. Any emergency flights or operations will quickly add up to thousands, without appropriate insurance.
Haggling or Bargaining
Outside of price ticketed shops, or outlets like Circle K or 7-11, most markets and shops will expect bargaining or haggling to occur.
If you do enquire about an item, expect a possibly lengthy bargaining process, and only ask if you are pretty keen on it. Once you show interest, particularly in market stalls, you’ll be aggressively sold to.
If you do wish to haggle, enquire about the price, take their first price, and cut it by 50-75%, and counter offer, The shop keeper will then respond with their counter, and so on, until you reach agreement.
You shouldn’t feel inclined to accept the price. If you don’t feel the price they are settling on is in your interest, feel free to thank them politely and just walk away,
Remember, you may also be finally haggling on a price difference of one or two dollars. I often just accept the counter offer, and just pay more, knowing I am helping someone earn a living for their family.
What to wear
Whilst the weather is typically warm and humid on the island of Bali, be aware that the Balinese are naturally very modest. Bathing suits and revealing clothing should only be worn at the beach or poolside, not whilst walking down the street.
Light, natural fabrics are best. Remember clothes are fairly cheap, so feel free to buy clothes when you arrive. A reasonably cheap solution for both men and women is to purchase a few sarongs to wear.
You must wear a sarong when entering temples and other religious locations.
The island of Bali uses a different electrical socket than Australia, a two-pin round plug, so you will require an adaptor. Australian company Korjo, makes a European adaptor, code KAEU, which is what you’ll need.
Unlike many other countries, the Balinese enjoy their flexible “rubber” time, and it isn’t unusual for many people to be tardy, and that’s very accepted in their culture. In fact, you may offend people if you comment on them being late.
The local term, Jam Karet, literally means “rubber time”, so don’t get too annoyed if someone arrives 15 minutes after the agreed time, and doesn’t apologise.
The Balinese People
One of the most rewarding parts of a trip to Ubud and anywhere in Bali, are meeting the people. The Balinese are so friendly and always willing to help in any way they can.
People watching is fascinating, with the amount of ceremonies and festivals happening constantly. If you arrange a tour guide of Ubud, Bali with Wayan, he can explain it all for you.
Health & Safety
Bali belly, motorcycle accidents, animal bites and alcohol poisoning are the most common ailments that tourists suffer in Bali.
A few tips will help you avoid these;
Don’t drink the unsafe water. Just about every shop or roadside warung sells bottled water. I know, this is bad for the environment, however it is easier than trying to refill with filtered water. If you stay here for a month or longer, invest in a large water bottle dispenser, which can be bought from the supermarket.
Don’t ride a motorcycle unless you know what you’re doing. That is, if you regularly ride one at home.
If you do, wear sensible clothing (my favourite saying is “Dress for the slide, not the ride”) and always a helmet; it is the law to wear a helmet, no matter what you see other riders do.
To ride a scooter with a capacity above 50cc (just about all scooters in Bali are 125cc), you need to have a corresponding motorcycle license in Australia.
Avoid getting bitten by dogs or monkeys. People do die from Rabies in Bali, and if bitten, a vaccine course will be recommended. See a doctor straight away if you are bitten.
A few years ago, a monkey in Ubud bit my son, and even though we were fairly certain he was fine, we opted for the full dosage, which is a few visits to a GP, starting in Bali and finishing when we returned to Western Australia.
Dengue fever or malaria are real risks in Bali, particularly in the more northern and less populated areas. You should avoid mosquitos and consider taking medication.
Dengue is mostly found near the coast, and therefore is rare in Ubud, yet it’s wise to avoid Mosquitos and be alert to the risk. Dengue fever causes severe body aches, headache and fevers, which can last for many weeks.
Malaria is spread by mosquitos, and isn’t too common on the island of Bali. Malaria symptoms include headaches, vomiting and fever. Blood tests can confirm infection, if you feel unwell.
Sleep under mosquito netting at night, and during the day consider wearing an insect repellent on exposed skin. Wear long sleeves and trousers in light colours. Use mosquito coils.
Choose accommodation with screens and fans (if not air-conditioned).
Alcohol, particularly mixed spirits or Arak (local Balinese spirit made from cane or palm sugar), can be dangerous in southern areas, and less so in Ubud, which doesn’t have much of a bar scene. To be safe, order beer or wine, opened at the table.
Apart from the dangers of driving in Bali, the bigger risk is thier shocking footpaths, which can have huge gaps, and often change height regularly.
Violent crime is uncommon, but bag snatching from motorbikes, pickpocketing and theft from rooms does occur. Take the same precautions you would in any city or urban area.
The amount of media coverage about drugs on the island of Bali means that you would need to be insane to try to import, trade or buy any form of drugs in Bali. Long prison sentences, high priced fines and death penalty can result, so don’t even contemplate it.