Bali is Indonesia’s smallest province, but it’s also one of the most popular, and it’s not hard to see why. With gorgeous beaches suited to everything from surfing to snorkelling, a delicious and diverse cuisine as well as a lively nightlife and rich culture, this charming island in the Indian Ocean checks all the boxes for an unforgettable holiday.
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If you’ve been considering a trip to Bali, this guide will help you plan on where to go and what to do, as well as provide you with tips and advice on how to be a smart traveller and keep yourself safe.
- Before you go:
- Best time to travel to Bali
- Getting around in Bali
- Top 10 things to experience in Bali
- How to find the best Bali travel deals
- Best Bali blogs and travel forums
Australian passport holders travelling to Indonesia can purchase a Visa on Arrival for US$35 in cash. A Visa on Arrival is valid for 30 days and can be extended at the immigration office in Bali for one 30-day period at least seven days before the original visa expires.
Keep in mind that your passport must be valid for a minimum of six months from the date you plan to enter the country or you may be refused entry. Also, if you plan to stay in a private residence rather than a hotel, you’ll need to register with the local Rukun Tetangga (RT) Office and police once you arrive.
Another important consideration is that Indonesian immigration staff has the right to refuse entry to Australians with a criminal record, so if this applies to you, be sure to contact an Embassy or Consulate of Indonesia for more information before you plan your trip.
It’s always a good idea to schedule a doctor’s appointment before you travel outside Australia in order to get specific and up-to-date information about potential health risks and precautions you can take. Your doctor will also be able to check whether your existing vaccinations are up to date and assess your general health and history of disease.
Australians travelling to Bali should be aware that there is a risk of rabies, so it’s important to avoid all direct contact with wild or stray animals such as monkeys or dogs. Other health risks include Hepatitis A, dengue fever, typhoid and measles.
Vaccinations and preventative medicines
Although your doctor will be able to give you specific and up-to-date advice on which vaccines you’ll need before travelling to Bali, some important ones you may want to consider include Hepatitis A and Typhoid. Also, be sure to check that your existing childhood vaccinations, including measles, mumps and rubella (MMR), are up to date.
Indonesia is also an endemic region of dengue fever, so you should take precautions to avoid mosquito bites such as bed nets and insect repellent. Malaria is not prevalent in Bali’s tourist areas, so preventative medications are generally not recommended unless you plan on travelling to remote areas of the island, but be sure to check with your doctor before you go.
If you need to carry any prescription medications with you, be sure to leave them in their original packaging so your name and the dosage instructions are clearly visible. Given the country’s strict drug laws, it’s also a good idea to have a doctor’s letter detailing what the medication is and how much you’ll be bringing, as well as confirming that it’s for your own personal use.
Even so, certain prescription medications such as those used to treat ADHD are considered illegal drugs in Indonesia, so you may want to contact an Indonesian Embassy before travelling for more information about specific medications.
General health advice
Outbreaks of cholera are not uncommon in developing countries, including Indonesia, and while an oral cholera vaccine is available, you’ll still be at risk for other water and food borne illnesses such as traveller’s diarrhoea, salmonella and others, so taking extra care when eating and drinking will go a long way towards keeping you safe and healthy.
Stick to bottled water if possible, and always check that the seal is still intact before drinking. Carrying hand sanitiser or wet wipes with you ensures you’ll be able to clean your hands before eating, even when running water and soap are unavailable.
Avoid eating foods that haven’t been cooked all the way through or have been sitting out unrefrigerated. Also be wary of fresh fruits and vegetables that you haven’t washed or peeled yourself.
Although there are always certain risks involved when travelling abroad, Bali is generally safe to visit, as long as you use common sense and take a few extra safety precautions when out and about. Here are some specific things to keep in mind.
Be aware of your surroundings
It’s easy to get a bit careless when you’re in ‘holiday mode’, but as with many popular tourist areas, petty theft, bag snatching, scams and confidence tricks are not uncommon in Bali, so it’s important to keep your wits about you and never leave valuables unattended in public areas. When withdrawing money, use an ATM in a more secure location and be sure to get your card back after taking your cash.
If your hotel or guesthouse has a safe, keep valuables such as passports, cameras and laptops locked up rather than leaving them unsecured and out in plain view.
Make copies of important documents
Carrying copies of important documents such as your passport and tourist visa will make it easier for you to get replacement documents if anything is lost or stolen. Aside from carrying physical copies, consider scanning your passport and storing it in the cloud along with any emergency contact numbers for easy access while abroad.
Drink responsibly and don’t leave drinks unattended
While over drinking is never a good idea, it’s especially dangerous to do so abroad, as thieves and other criminals view tourists as easy targets. Insurance policies often also won’t cover you if you were drunk when an incident occurred, so if you do fall victim to theft or are injured on a night out, your claims could be rejected if a medical or police report suggests that alcohol was a factor.
Drink spiking is not unheard of in Bali so get your own drinks from the bar and never leave them unattended. Also try to avoid cheap liquor as there have been incidents involving tourists drinking incorrectly distilled alcohol and ending up in hospital.
Don’t take unnecessary risks
Don’t take unnecessary risks just because you’re on holiday. If you don’t walk home alone in the evening or ride a motorbike without a helmet, license or insurance at home, why do it abroad? Also keep in mind that Indonesia has some of the world’s most severe penalties for drug use and even the smallest amount could land you in a world of trouble.
Register your travel plans through the Australian DFAT website
Before you leave, be sure to register your travel plans through the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade so you can be contacted in case of an emergency. Registering should take no more than five minutes, and you’ll need your passport number, full name, date of birth, travel dates and locations as well as your emergency contact details.
The Australian Government advises all travellers to Indonesia, including Bali, to exercise a high degree of caution due to the high threat of terrorist attacks. Visitors to Indonesia should pay close attention to their personal security at all times, particularly in locations that have a low level of protective security.
In order to stay up to date on possible new safety or security risks including natural disasters, it’s important to monitor the media both before and during your stay in Indonesia. Failure to do this can also affect your insurance, as many insurers will not pay out if your claim arises because you failed to follow the advice given in a media or government warning.
If you’re currently planning a trip to Bali, be sure to check the smartraveller.gov.au website for the latest travel advice on Indonesia before you make any bookings.
Despite being one of the most important things to organise before a trip abroad, travel insurance is all too often left until the last minute. Unfortunately, accidents and mishaps can’t be foreseen, and medical treatment or hospital stays abroad could easily end up costing you hundreds of thousands of dollars, so travel insurance is one part of your trip you just can’t afford to skimp on.
Aside from medical expenses, a good travel insurance policy can cover you for a number of other travel-related mishaps such as unexpected cancellations, delayed flights, lost or stolen luggage and personal liability.
Before purchasing travel insurance for Bali, it’s important to read the small print and make sure everything you plan to tackle during your holiday will be covered. If you’re not sure what to look for, the following questions can help you in considering the right policy.
Where are you going?
Obviously, your travel insurance should cover your stay in Bali, but if you’re travelling to any other countries before or after Bali, even if only for a short stopover, you’ll need to make sure you’ll be covered in case of any delays, accidents or other mishaps.
Also, be aware that some travel insurance policies may not cover certain risks or regions. For instance, some policies won’t provide cover for pandemics or epidemics and other policies may cover travel to Bali, but not the rest of Indonesia.
How long are you going for?
If you’re going to Bali for a set number of days and aren’t planning any other holidays at the moment, a one-off policy that covers the duration of your trip may be worth looking into. On the other hand, if you plan to travel to Bali or elsewhere more than once in the space of a year, annual multi-trip insurance will spare you the hassle of shopping for a new policy every time you leave the country and may even save you money depending on how many trips you have planned.
Keep in mind, though, that some policies have a 30 to 90-day limit for a single trip, and staying abroad for even one or two days more than this could invalidate your insurance.
What are you planning to do?
If all you intend to do in Bali is relax on the beach with a few cocktails, finding a travel insurance package to cover your trip will generally be more straightforward than if you have any adventurous activities planned, such as scuba diving, jet skiing or rock climbing. Such activities usually require additional coverage and in some cases may be excluded altogether.
Keep in mind that even if certain activities like riding a scooter or motorcycle are routine for you at home, insurance policies often have restrictions when it comes to the size of the engine, whether you were wearing a helmet and are in possession of a valid driver’s license.
At the end of the day, it’s better to be safe than sorry, so rather than just assuming certain activities will be covered, take the time to research each activity you have planned and check the exact definition of important terms of the policy.
Are you bringing valuables?
It goes without saying that taking expensive jewellery and gadgets with you on a trip abroad isn’t the best idea, but since it’s likely that you’ll need to bring at least a few valuables such as a camera, laptop and/or smartphone, you may want to consider a policy that will cover lost, stolen or damaged items.
Keep in mind that certain conditions usually apply, and if you leave your laptop unattended in the hotel lounge or fail to report the theft of your camera within 24 hours, you possibly won’t be covered. You’ll also need to be able to provide proof of ownership such as original receipts, so check that you have these beforehand.
Do you have any pre-existing medical conditions?
Pre-existing medical conditions such as heart and lung disease are generally excluded in a standard travel insurance policy, but you can often still get coverage by paying an extra fee.
Remember that failing to disclose pre-existing medical conditions could result in any subsequent claims being rejected, even if they’re only indirectly related to your condition, so it’s important to contact your insurer in advance to find out whether or not you’ll be covered.
Also, the exact definition of ‘pre-existing’ may vary greatly from one insurer to another and each policy will have its own inclusions and exclusions, so it’s important to check on this beforehand.
Do you require cover for pregnancy?
Pregnancy is not usually considered a medical condition by insurers, but since some policies won’t cover complications or cancellations related to your pregnancy, it can be a good idea to look into extra coverage.
Keep in mind that many insurers won’t cover you after your 26th week of pregnancy and most exclude cover for childbirth and care of the newborn. If you’re in your third trimester, some airlines may also require a doctor’s letter or medical certificate confirming that you’re fit to fly. Be sure to always check with your doctor before you decide to travel.
One of the reasons Bali has become such a popular holiday destination is that the weather is virtually guaranteed to be pleasant any time you go. Located near the equator, Bali has a warm and tropical climate all year, with average temperatures of 30C.
Depending on your personal preferences and what you’re hoping to do there, of course, certain times of the year might be more suitable than others, so here’s a quick look at Bali’s two main seasons.
The dry season on Bali is from May to October, with July and August being the busiest months due to the school holidays. This time of year is generally quite dry and hot, although there are occasional showers to cool things down.
It’s the perfect time of year to enjoy water sports like scuba diving, surfing and snorkelling, as well as inland adventures like hiking, cycling and rafting or kayaking. Of course, there are plenty of other things you can do regardless of the weather, including cooking classes and cultural tours.
The wet season is from November to April, and while it may not be ideal for activities like snorkelling or boating due to choppier waters, you’ll still be able to enjoy the beaches and explore the island’s beautiful rice fields and ancient water temples. Surfing enthusiasts can also enjoy warmer waters and bigger waves on the East Coast during this season.
December and early January tend to be extremely busy due to Christmas and New Year, but from the middle of January until late April, the beaches are usually far less crowded and you’ll have a better chance of scoring cheap hotel rooms and holiday packages.
Road travel is pretty much the only option in Bali as there are no trains and only one airport, but given its small size this isn’t really a problem. If you wanted, you could circumvent the whole island in just three days or even less if you were in a hurry, and most of the island’s hot spots are within a two-hour drive from the airport.
To help you decide on a mode of transport that suits your preferred style of travel, here’s a look at some of the most common ways to get around in Bali.
Taxis and chauffeurs
Taxis in Bali are fairly affordable and aside from driving yourself, they are easily the most convenient mode of transport, especially when you don’t know your way around. Some taxis are metered, while others will try to negotiate with you. One of the most reliable taxi companies in Bali is Blue Bird Group, which even has an app you can use to find a taxi near you or reserve a vehicle in advance.
If you want to go for a day trip or have a specific destination in mind, you can also hire a chauffeured vehicle and agree on an hourly rate or settle on a fixed price for the whole day.
For shorter distances, especially in quieter rural areas, motorcycles that carry paying passengers are a quick and convenient way to get around. These motorcycles are known as ojeks and can be found at intersections or roadsides. Depending on how far you need to travel, they can be as cheap as 1000 RP (AU$0.95) for a single trip, although you will need to bargain a bit beforehand.
If you want to see more of the island on your own, renting a vehicle such as a car, scooter or motorcycle can be a good option, although you’ll need to obtain an international license in addition to your Australian one. Booking a rental before you arrive in Bali usually means you’ll end up paying far more than you need to, so it’s better to shop around once you arrive.
Newer and bigger vehicles will be more expensive, and the longer you rent a vehicle for the better your rates will be. Keep in mind, though, that Bali’s chaotic traffic can be difficult to navigate, so if you’re not used to driving a motorcycle or scooter at home, it would be safer to hire a chauffeured vehicle.
Public buses or mini vans known as bemos are by far the cheapest mode of transport in Bali, but they’re certainly not the most convenient. Bemos travel along the main roads and each town usually has its own bus terminal where you can catch one, but since they don’t follow the most direct routes, taking the bus can be a time-consuming endeavour.
Keep in mind that public buses lack air-conditioning and tend to be quite cramped, but if you’re not in a hurry and are curious to see how the locals get around, travelling by bus can be an interesting experience; you might even end up sharing your seat with livestock.
Although Bali is small, it’s also extremely diverse and packed with adventure, so it would be impossible to fit everything worth seeing and doing into just one list. To give you an idea of what you can expect from this beautiful island, however, we’ve compiled a few Bali highlights.
1. Sample the culinary delights
While you should be cautious when eating out by making sure your food is served piping hot, it would be a shame to miss out on all the culinary treats Bali has to offer. A few local specialities you’ll definitely want to try include babi guling, which is suckling pig roasted over a wood fire, and bebek betutu, a slow-smoked duck dish so tender the meat falls off the bones.
For the ultimate culinary adventure, you may want to try one of the Bali Food Safari tours which will allow you to experience both fine-dining and traditional Balinese cuisine at its best.
2. Watch a sunset from the Cliffside temple of Uluwatu
Bali has some of the most breathtaking sunsets you’ll ever come across, and the best way to see them is from high off the ground. With this in mind, the cliff-side temple of Uluwatu provides a great vantage point for watching the sun dip below the horizon, and you’ll even be able to watch a traditional Kecak fire dance there once night has fallen.
Bali Star Island offers an Uluwatu Tour Package, which includes a sunset visit to the temple followed by a Kecak dance performance and a three-course seafood dinner overlooking Jimbaran Beach.
3. Take a sunrise trek on Mount Batur
A predawn climb to Mount Batur’s 1700 meter summit will reward you with spectacular views of Bali’s lush highlands at sunrise. Climbs to the top of this active volcano start as early as 4am, and most trails are well travelled, so as long as you have appropriate footwear and an experienced guide to assist, you don’t have to be a seasoned hiker to complete the trek. It’s still a tough climb, though, so you may want to check with your guide about the required fitness level beforehand.
Visit Bali Trekking Tour for more information on the duration, difficulty and cost of the hike, or to book your trek in advance.
4. Trek to the Sekumpul Waterfalls
The Sekumpul waterfalls are said to be Bali’s most beautiful, but because visiting them requires a fairly difficult trek into the jungle, they don’t attract too many tourists. There are seven waterfalls in total, and you’ll be able to take in plenty of jungle scenery and wildlife along the way.
For a tour of the seven waterfalls along with a visit to a local village and the chance to sample a traditionally prepared seafood lunch, check out Bali Jungle Trekking.
5. Trace your coffee back to its source
With its wet climate and high altitude areas, Bali is home to a number of coffee plantations. Even Kopi Luwak, the world’s most expensive coffee, is grown and processed in Bali, so if you’re a coffee lover visiting one of these plantations can be an eye-opening experience. Aside from being given a tour of the grounds to see how the coffee is grown and processed, you’ll also have a chance to sample a few different types of freshly ground coffee.
The Munduk Moding Coffee Plantation is one of the most ethical plantations in Bali and is also a nature resort and spa. Aside from seeing how the coffee is grown and processed, you’ll also have a chance to sample different types of coffee, learn to process your own coffee, or even stay for the night and enjoy a relaxing spa treatment.
6. Visit a local market at dawn
In Bali most local markets are already buzzing with activity by 5 am, so if you want to get off the tourist trail and see how the locals go about their day, dawn would be a great time to visit. You’ll find vendors selling everything from vegetables and freshly caught fish to temple offerings, traditional Balinese handicrafts and kitchen wares.
If you book in advance, Belmond does an excellent morning tour of the well-known Jimbaran seafood market. You’ll have an experienced chef to escort you through the market, and can even follow this up with a cooking class to learn how to prepare your food purchases.
7. Stop by some of Bali’s magnificent temples
Bali has over 10,000 temples, and visiting a few of them can be a great way to get to a feel for the unique Balinese history and culture. Located on the slopes of Mount Agung, Pura Besakih is probably Bali’s oldest and most well-known temple, but there are plenty of others worth visiting, from Tanah Lot, which sits serenely on its own little island in the sea, to Tirta Empul, known for its sacred waters which are thought to bring good fortune and health to those who bathe in them.
Indo.com organises temple tours that last anywhere from five to nine hours and combine visits to temples with a number of other sights and activities to keep things interesting.
8. Snorkel off Menjangen Island
The uninhabited island of Menjangen is located off the North West coast of Bali and is part of the Bali Barat National Park. It is home to over 100 species of coral as well as sea turtles, moray eels, sea cucumbers and countless varieties of fish. Getting there requires a 30-minute boat ride from the mainland with a park ranger, but if snorkelling is on your bucket list it’s well worth the trip as it’s one of the most beautiful and secluded spots for snorkelling in Bali.
Getting there requires a 30-minute boat ride from the mainland with a park ranger, but if snorkelling is on your bucket list it’s well worth the trip as it’s one of the most beautiful and secluded spots for snorkelling in Bali. Bali Griyasari organises daily tours to the island and will get you fitted out for your snorkelling adventure.
9. Hike or cycle through Bali’s famous rice fields
Bali’s awe-inspiring rice fields and terraces showcase the Balinese farmers’ dedication to working with the land rather than against it. If you want to get away from the beaches for a day, a leisurely cycle is a great way to see the rice fields and local villages along the way. Some of the best ones to visit include the Tegallalang rice terraces in Ubud and the Jatiluwih rice terraces in west Bali.
Some of the best ones to visit include the Tegallalang rice terraces in Ubud and the Jatiluwih rice terraces in west Bali. Check out Bali Bike Baik for a variety of cycling tours throughout the island.
10. Go dolphin spotting off Lovina Beach
Although there’s a good chance you won’t be the only tourist hoping to catch a glimpse of the dolphins frolicking near Lovina Beach, it’s still well worth a visit. The beach itself is covered in black volcanic sand, and once you’ve enjoyed the dolphins and their antics you can chill out in one of the local cafes or try some snorkelling in the calm clear waters.
If you want to esure you’ll arrive before sunrise, you can take a dolphin watching tour with Herman Lovina Tours, which includes a hotel pick up and breakfast on the beach.
Now that you’re convinced Bali is the right destination for your next getaway, it’s time to start shopping around for the best offers, and as crazy as it may sound, even little things like whether you book on a weekend or through the week could influence what you end up paying for your trip. Here are a few insider tips to help you save money and lock down the best Bali travel deals.
Avoid the peak seasons
Travelling offseason can help you save hundreds of dollars on flights, hotels and activities while in Bali, so consider whether it’s really worth spending more just to travel during a specific month.
The high seasons in Bali are from July to September and December to early January, but since the island is near the equator and has pretty steady temperatures all year-round, you can easily avoid the peak seasons and still have a great holiday.
Book at the right time
Numerous studies have focused on the best time to book cheap flights, and while booking early is generally your best bet, research shows that waiting until the last minute can pay off too, as travel agents often put out special offers just four or five weeks before departure.
Another finding that may come as a surprise is that booking a flight over the weekend, especially on a Sunday, is often cheaper than doing so on a weekday. Travellers who booked flights 50 to 100 days before departure paid $110 less than the average price for their tickets.
Compare package deals to DIY
Package deals that offer flights plus hotels for a fixed price can be a great way to save money while still enjoying a luxurious getaway, but they’re not always cheaper than booking your flights and hotels separately, so it’s important to compare the costs.
Sites like Skyscanner, Momondo, Travel Supermarket and Kayak can be useful for checking airline prices and finding a variety of hotels within your price range.
One of the best ways to prepare for a trip abroad is to visit blogs and participate in travel forums where you can glean firsthand advice from other travellers, so here are some of the most useful blogs, forums and websites where you can find advice and information on travelling to Bali.
Along with reviews for hotels, restaurants and things to do in Bali, Trip Advisor also has a Bali travel forum where members can pose specific questions about their upcoming trip. Even if you don’t have any specific questions, reading through previous discussions can be a great way to prepare for your trip.
Lonely Planet is still the leader when it comes to providing in-depth information and advice for specific destinations like Bali, but what you may not be aware of is that it’s also home to the Thorn Tree travel forum where you can exchange advice and information or connect with other travellers.
Smart Traveller is a travel website run by the Australian Government. It provides Australia-centric travel advice and recommendations for Bali, and will not only help you plan your trip, but can also keep you safe whilst in Bali by providing you with up-to-date travel warnings and contact details for the Bali tourist police, Australian Consulate in Bali, and the 24-hour Consular Emergency Centre.
Fodor’s is similar to sites like Lonely Planet and Trip Advisor with information about what to do and the best restaurants and hotels to go to as well as photos and the latest travel news. While it doesn’t have a travel forum dedicated to Bali, you can visit its Indonesia community to discuss the specifics of your trip and get tips from other travellers.
Virtual Tourist provides travel guides for popular destinations all around the world, including Bali. Along with general advice and information, it also has a Q&A section where you can get answers to specific travel questions from community members who have travelled to or live in Bali.
BootsnAll also provides general advice for travellers to Bali, but what makes it unique on this list is that it also runs a dedicated Bali blog, which is updated daily by a Bali expat to give you the inside scoop on everything from the best Indonesian foods to the Bali surfing scene. Also be sure to visit the BootsnAll Bali travel forum for the latest recommendations from other travellers.
Disclaimer: This blog is intended to provide general information and entertainment around travel-related and other complementary topics to our insurance portfolio. The views expressed in this blog do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of Columbus Direct. We do not endorse any statements made by third parties and do not take responsibility for third party content included in this blog. None of the information provided in this blog should be understood as advice or be relied upon for any decisions, particularly medical or financial decisions. The topics covered in this blog are not necessarily reflective of our products or cover. Always read the PDS before deciding if a policy is right for you.