Bali Vacations—29 Must-Know Tips Before You Go

Young woman tourist relaxing and enjoying the beautiful view at Ulun Danu Beratan temple in Bali, Indonesia

Welcome to Bali, Indonesia’s most famous island. Known for its volcanic scenery, rice terraces, vibrant arts scene, and numerous temples, it’s a place where traditional and modern life coexist. Bali vacations bring millions of travelers from all over the world every year.

Bali Vacations—What To Know Before You Go

Whether partying on Kuta beach, unwinding in Seminyak or Nusa Dua, or finding your dharma in Ubud, there’s something for every traveler in Bali. If you’re a family, going on your honeymoon, or just want to unwind with daily massages and great food, these are 29 must-know Bali travel tips before you go.

Tip 1: Understand Balinese Culture

Balinese culture is deeply influenced by Hinduism. When visiting temples, wear a sarong and sash, which are often provided. Respect religious ceremonies and processions and avoid walking in front of people praying.

Tip 2: Know Your Temple Etiquette

At Hindu temples, women on their menstrual cycle are advised not to enter. Also, avoid touching sacred objects or structures.

Tip 3: Get Jabbed

Bali has a tropical climate, so protecting against mosquito-borne diseases like dengue fever is essential. Before traveling, check if any vaccinations are recommended or required.

Tip 4: Buy Travel Insurance

Ensure you have comprehensive travel insurance that covers medical emergencies, theft, and unexpected trip changes. If you plan on doing anything a little risky like jet skis, hang gliding, extreme sports, riding a motorbike, or any adventure activities, double-check (then triple-check) that you are covered by your insurance if you have an accident.

Tip 5: Stay Hydrated and Sun-Safe

One of the major drawcards of a trip to Bali is its tropical climate, but the downside is that it’s also easy to get sunburnt. Avoid sunstroke and dehydration by staying hydrated, in the shade as much as possible, and slap on 50+ SPF sunscreen multiple times throughout the day.

Tip 6: Don’t Drink the Tap Water

Only drink bottled water, and that includes brushing your teeth. Nobody wants to be hugging the toilet bowl while they’re supposed to be enjoying themselves.

Tip 7: Take Taxis, but Don’t Get Taken for a Ride

Meter tampering and unregistered taxis can be an issue. Use reputable taxi companies like Blue Bird. Confirm that the driver uses the meter or agrees on a fare before starting your journey. Consider using a ride-hailing app like Gojek and Grab. They are often more reliable and cheaper than traditional taxis.

Tip 8: Find Your Dharma

Looking for an enlightening travel experience, a la Eat Pray Love? Head inland to the idyllic greenery of Ubud. The lush inland town is a wellness hub, offering numerous yoga studios and retreats. Immerse yourself in the world of personal growth with daily affirmations, healthy food, and participating in yoga or meditation. Classes are a great way to experience Bali’s spiritual side and meet like-minded people.

Tip 9: Don’t Get Bali Belly

Let’s be honest—Bali Belly is far too cute of a name for vomiting and diarrhea. If you’re prone to tummy upsets, consider skipping out on street vendor meats and avoid pre-cut fruits and veggies (that may have been washed in tap water) to minimize the risk of violent bodily functions.

Tip 10: Ride Scooters at Your Own Risk

Renting a scooter is a common way to explore Bali. Yes, it’s a lot of fun. Yes, they are widely used. And yes, there are a lot of accidents. If you plan to use a scooter, get an international driving permit, always wear a helmet, and ensure your travel insurance covers scooter accidents. There have been cases where families have been out of pocket for hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of hospital bills after serious scooter accidents because it was an exclusion on the insurance policy. Check the fine print, or don’t take the risk.

Tip 11: Eat at a Warung

Have an authentic dining experience at one of the tiny local restaurants or shops known as Warungs. They often sell traditional Balinese noodles or rice dishes like Pisang Goreng, Nasi Goreng (fried rice), and Mie Goreng (fried noodles).

Tip 12: Choose Your Own (Accommodation) Adventure

Bali offers a range of accommodations, from luxury resorts to budget hostels and guest houses. There can be some great deals and unique accommodation options to be had. Don’t book the first thing you see; research to find the perfect choice for your activities and budget. Check forums for recommendations.

Tip 13: Rent Your Own Private Villa

Get your own slice of luxury for your vacation. Not only are these more spacious and private than hotels, but many have their own kitchens. These can also be economical for families or big groups.

Tip 14: Get a Nanny

Need a break from parenthood? There are trusted nanny agencies all over Bali who can watch your bundle(s) of joy for a half day, day, or even full-time for the entire stay. Some resorts also employ nannies or have kids’ clubs. Even young children and nursery-age babies can be taken care of. Just leave them with the baby essentials and enjoy some rare quiet time. Make sure to book well in advance and only book via reputable agencies.

Tip 15: Get Comfortable Bartering

Bartering is standard practice in Balinese markets. Start at about half the asking price and negotiate with a smile—keep it light and fun. Remember that sometimes, what sounds like a big difference in the local currency can be very little in your home currency. Sometimes, it’s worth paying a tad more to save time and support the Balinese locals.

Tip 16: Dig on Vegan Food

Bali has an incredible plant-based food scene, especially in Ubud. You can easily find substitutes, fine dining, brunch, and even raw burgers. Be sure to try some vegan culinary wonders there—you might be surprised at how good they taste!

Tip 17: Don’t Be a Litterbug

Bali struggles with plastic pollution and littering. Public trash cans might not be available everywhere, so do your part and take your trash with you. It feels good to do your part and keep Bali beautiful.

Tip 18: Protect the Reefs

Avoid touching or stepping on coral reefs, and use reef-safe sunscreen when snorkeling or diving.

Tip 19: Don’t Feed the Monkeys

The Sacred Monkey Forest Sanctuary is a must-visit in Bali. Many people do feed the monkeys, but here’s the thing—if you go with food, be prepared to get approached (and possibly climbed on) by monkeys. I know that sounds cute, but do you want a monkey climbing on you? They carry diseases and have surprisingly gnarly teeth!

If you want to take food, I would advise against it. The monkeys can get aggressive and may bite. Trust me, they are good at finding food. They have been known to rummage through backpacks and grab it out of your hands. They are bold critters!

Tip 20: Support Animal Welfare

Sadly, some attractions exploit animals. Be selective, do your research, choose ethical wildlife experiences, and prioritize animal welfare.

Tip 21: Take Advantage of Free Wi-Fi

Bali has good Wi-Fi availability, especially in tourist areas. Cafes and restaurants often offer free Wi-Fi to customers, so if you’re only visiting for a short time, you might not need to buy a SIM card.

Tip 22: Learn Some Lingo

Learning a few simple phrases in Indonesian or Balinese is a great way to improve communication and show respect to the local community. For instance, “Terima Kasih” means “thank you.”

Tip 23: Mind Your Money

The local currency is the Indonesian Rupiah (IDR). As of this article’s publishing date, 100,000 IDR was equivalent to USD 6.50. Those big numbers can get confusing! Familiarize yourself with the exchange rate and work out a simple shorthand conversion rate in your head so you can think in real terms when negotiating prices.

Tip 24: No Cash? No Problem

Don’t get me wrong—you do need cash in Bali. The good news is that it’s easily accessible as ATMs are widely available. Inform your bank of your travel plans to avoid issues with your credit card.

Tip 25: Get off the Beaten Path

Bali is very tourist-friendly, sometimes a little too tourist-friendly. Popular areas like Seminyak and Kuta can get crowded during peak season. For a more authentic experience, explore less-visited areas like Munduk, Sidemen, or Pemuteran for quieter local travel.

Tip 26: Hire a Guide

Hiring a private local guide is a great way to get deeper insights into Bali’s hidden gems and cultural nuances. Be sure to research your guide thoroughly if you want an authentic experience, as some private guides take set routes to attractions where they earn a commission.

Tip 27: Skip the “Excrement” Coffee

Yes, you read that right. Kopi Luwak is a coffee made from coffee beans digested by a wild civet cat. It has been declared ‘the world’s most expensive coffee’ and has become a bit of a tourist trap. Drivers will take you to a farm to view the animals, you sample the coffee and then are encouraged to buy the over-priced coffee to take home. My advice? Leave the excrement coffee off the itinerary.

Tip 28: Don’t Lose Half Your Day in Traffic

Although Bali is a small island, it can take a long time to get between places because of road conditions, speed limits, and traffic congestion. Plan your travel outside peak hours to avoid traffic.

Tip 29: Shop for Local Souvenirs

Get locally made crafts like batik, wood carvings, and silver jewelry. Ensure they are ethically sourced and support local artisans. There are so many beautiful souvenirs to celebrate Bali and remember your vacation.

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