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What you should know
before you arrive in Bali

 
TIMING YOUR VISIT – CLIMATE
 
The island of Bali lies south of the Equator and is therefore blessed with a delightful tropical climate: warm all year round. Temperatures in Bali are constant, varying only 2 to 3 degrees Celsius throughout the year from 26˚ C to 30˚ C . During the night the variation can be wider ewith a drop of 5 to 6 degrees.
 
Between April and October there is little or no rain. November to March are the months of the rainy season: only a few hours a day of warm rain, often at night. And immediately after, the beach. Hot as before! It is very rare to have full days of rain even though the global climate is changing.
 

Just visit the capital city of Denpasar: for a place to stay Kuta, Nusa Dua, Sanur are recommended.
Candi kuning and Besakih are in the mountains.

 
Practically, you may visit Bali all year round. But beware of the midday sun.
 
There are climatic differences between one area and another. Obviously, the higher you go inland, the cooler the temperature. Remember that the highest mountain is over 3,000m in height... three thousand sub-equatorial meters though.
 
Statistics prove that Bali is a year-round destination. Monthy presences remain constant: between 140 and 160,000 presences in February and November – the months of less influx – and 180 to 220,000 for each of the remaining 10 months.
 
Last year – 2009 - 2,233,515 tourists visited Bali.
 

Source: La gazzette de Bali, free French monthly magazine.

 
NECESSARY DOCUMENTS: PASSPORT, DRIVING LICENCE
 
European citizens do not require to apply for a visa to visit Indonesia. The passport is all that is required. Visa on arrival will be granted upon payment of US$25 cash only. However be careful!: your passport must have at least 6 month validity. On the plane you will fill in a double-folded immigration entrance card (keep the stamped half returned to you for your exit) and customs declaration.
 
No health certificate or vaccinations required.
 
An International Driving Licence is required for cars and motorcycles but beware: the motorcycles licence cannot be used for the car and viceversa. A car might be the best way to tour the island and rental is cheap as well as fuel (the equivalent of Euro 0.40/ liter) . It is recommended to always carry a photocopy of your passport. Leave your original passport in your luggage, or better still, in the hotel safe. You could lose it. You must however carry the original driving licence on you. If you are stopped by the police and found without it... a small fine payable directly to the police officer will get you out of trouble.
 

 
TRAVEL AND AIRLINE COMPANIES
 
Many airlines will take you directly to Bali, but– given the distance – there are no direct flights from Europe. The most frequent stops are: Bangkok, Hong Kong, Dubai, Singapore – all very interesting cities for a stop-over.
 
These are the addresses of some of the most well-known airline companies with frequent flights to Bali:
  • www.QatarAirways.com –Qatar company
  • www.Singaporeair.com –Singaporean company
  • www.Thaiairways.com – Thai company
  • www.Malaysiaairlines.com – Malaysian company
  • www.Luftansa.com – German company
  • www.klm.com – Dutch company
If you check www.Expedia.com, you will find times, length of flights, hours of stop-over and even price comparisons. Nowadays only a small percentage of travellers use agencies.
 

 
Mind the fares!! Nobody pays full fare anymore! Patiently go through all the different offers, check the number and timing of stop-overs (they should not be more than 3 to 4 hours to avoid sleepiness and tiredness but if the price is convenient...) The sooner you book, the less you pay and you can find bargain deals more easily.
 
Avoid the so called “Itinerant travel”; 2 days in Bangkok, 1 ½ day in Hong Kong, 7 days in Bali, 1 in Yogiakarta: Too much flying and almost as many hours to and from airports; just as many hours waiting around in airports (without taking into account possible delays) and... you will be tired without having seen much. At the end of the trip one might remember having seen a particular Buddha temple in Hong Kong and the other will insist it was in Bangkok.
 
You should see less places but strive to really “see” and “understand”.
 

 
AIRPORT TAX AND CUSTOMS FORMALITIES
 
Like for all other countries: no alcohol, maximum 1 liter each to be purchased at the Duty Free, NO DRUGS, weapons, pornographic material and or magazines. Allowed 200 cigarettes (cheaper purchased outside than in the Duty Free shops), still and video cameras, medicines and personal effects. Remember that the weight of your suitcase must not exceed 20 kg if you travel in economy class. You may take a racksack and hand luggage which “should not” exceed 5 kg.
 
A visa on arrival is issued upon payment of US$25 cash. Keep the receipt. Departure fee is Rp 150,000. Again, keep the receipt.
 

 
LENGH OF STAY
 
A tourist may remain in Bali for a maximum of 30 days, except in cases of force majeure. This is to discourage “false tourists’ who visit Bali for business or commercial purposes avoiding permits and declarations.
 

 
HEALTH, VACCINATIONS, MEDICINES
 
There are several well supplied Apotek (chemists) in Bali and several supermarkets with a section for over-the-counter medications. Obviously, if you are taking specific medicines you should bring them with you. Keep them separated in different bags, should you be so unlucky to lose a piece of luggage. You may bring something for a sudden headache, toothache or sunscreen. Hoewever, there is ample and reasonably priced choice of these items locally.
 
Vaccinations, we have said, are not necessary. It would be advisable to be up-to-date – also for accidents that you may have in your own country - with the anti-tetanus vaccination which usually lasts 5 to 8 years.
 
Among the best known pharmacies in Bali is “Kimia pharma” : well stocked and competent personnel.
 

 
The only health problem you might have is an intestinal infection – locally known as Bali Belly – or “traveller’s diarrhea”. Nothing serious. Avoid, especially during the first few days, cold drinks with ice, streeet food and unpeeled fruit which might not have been washed. Drink only bottled water.
 
Medical structures are good: public hospitals – reasonable priced – and international clinics. Although medical care is cheaper than in Europe it is nonetheless suggested that when travelling you take out an insurance, especially should medi-vac prove to be necessary.
 

 
EXCHANGE, CURRENCY, CREDIT CARDS
 
There are no restrictions: you may bring as many Euro as you want to Indonesia. Hoewever, you have to respect regulations from your country. There are no limitations on credit cards and with the credit card you have limitless shopping.
 
Euro, dollars, pound sterlings, and...... here all currencies are changed. Money changers are everywhere and open every day.
 
The Indonesian currency is the rupiah. Exchange in June 2010 was Euro 1 = 11,200 rp.
 

 
There are rp. 1,000, 2,000, 5,000, 10,000, 20,000, 50,000 and 100,000 notes with coins for rp. 500, 200, 100, 50. Careful not to confuse Rp 10,000 with 100,000 notes: both have a similar red color.
 
Well-known credit cards are VISA, Diner’s, MasterCard and American Express. The last one is not always accepted as its charges are high. The most popular card is Visa that you sign for a value expressed in Rp. You might be able to obtain cash in most hotels with your credit card and always in the banks which are open Monday to Friday.
 
Only change sufficient money at the airport to pay for your taxi, porter and to tip the hotel waiter who will accompany you to your room. No more than Euro 20 or 30. Local money changers give you a better deal.
 

 
COST OF LIVING
 
Shops, bars and restaurants are relatively cheap.
 
Practically all that is in the hands of the locals or youth tourism is cheap although the Euro is somewhat low at present. You have a wide choice of foods, from the typical local warung (stalls) to “starred’ restaurants. A European standard dinner in a middle-high restaurant can set you back between Rp 100,000 and 200,000 (Euro 10 to18). A pizza and a beer can cost you – inclusive of tax and service – between Rp 45,000 and 60,000 rp. (Euro 5).
 

 

 
Please remember to add to the menu prices 7% tax and 11% service. This is the rule and you will see it written at the bottom of the menu page.
 
Taxis are plentiful and cheap; fuel only costs rp 4,500 per liter – approximately 0.40 Euro.
 
Renting a motorbike costs between 2.5 and 3 Euro per day; a middle-engine capacity vehicle without driver and no km limit can cost between Euro 18 and 20 a day.
 

 

 
Hotel-wise there is a wide choice at all levels although the most convenient accommodation consists of little villas, two-rooms and studio apartments. There are many, some recently built. You will also have more freedom of movement to get to know local life, folklore and the wealth of different cuisines represented in Bali.
 

 

 
TOURIST AREAS
 
The whole island is beautiful and interesting and it would take over a month to see it all, albeit just superficially. I shall address some of the areas where tourism is concentrated.
 

 
Kuta/ Legian/ Seminyak/Kerobokan
 
Kuta is the favourite place of young people: over 2000 shops one next to the other, hundreds of restaurants, discotheques, bars, hotels of all categories, shop centers, night spots. This is the Bali of mass tourism. Shops are open between 10:00 am and 10:00 pm. Many night spots close at dawn, minimarkets are open 24 hours, seven days a week.
 

 

Young people arriving in Bali make a beeline for Kuta, in spite of its crazy traffic and noise.

 

 

 
Kuta’s beaches are magnificent and look as they are infinite; the splendid sunsets have made Kuta famous throughout the world. The sea has excellent surfing waves, even for starters.
 
Next to Kuta, without clear borders as to where one ends and the other starts, are Legian, Seminyak, Krobokan. The latter places are newer than Kuta and host new and elegants shops and restaurants.
 

 

 
Sanur
 
Sanur is situated on the south-east coast of the island; it is much quieter than Kuta although tourism is well developed in this area. There are excellent hotels but less shopping and night life. The coral barrier stretching along the beach front allows more secure bathing.
 
It is a quiet sea village with a long promenade unfolding along the sandy beach dotted with large beach umbrellas, sunbeds and bar tables. To reach the coral barrier, you can hire a prahu, the characteristic Indonesian boat complete with balance bars.
 

 

 

 
Nusa Dua
 
Nusa Dua In Balinese means “second island - the island inside the island”.
 
On the east coast of the Bukit peninsula, Nusa Dua is an enourmous garden with elegantly cut lawns and home to the most elegant and expenses hotels in Bali. “The island within the island” is an artificial oasis, far removed from Balinese tradition and folklore which are only represented by a gamelan orchestra that welcomes guests on arrival and by the personnel’s balinese uniforms. It is an international-style accommodation where even shopping is geared to the rich tourists with an unlimited budget.
 

 
Ubud
 
It is, or better was, a village resting among green forests, and surrounded by rivers and lotus ponds. One of the few remaining ones can be seen in front of the main temple and you can admire it while enjoying an excellent meal at the “Lotus” restaurant. Nowadays Ubud is a destination for tourists who wish to stay away from the sea and enjoy cool, evening breezes while living in an international cultural environment. For young people Ubud is an interesting one-day destination.
 
Here too, the restaurants, hotels, shops are provide a more relaxed atmosphere.
 

 
Many museums – countless the painters’ workshops – because this is the center of naif painting and the heart of cultural Bali.
 
Several european artists lived here such as the German Walter Spies, the Dutch Rudolf Bonnet, the Javanese Abdul Aziz and the Spanish Antonio Blanco.
 

 

 
The North
 
The north coast and its sea are ideal for those who enjoy water sports.
 

 
North-west
 
Menjangan, beach and small island of great interest for underwater diving along the coral reef.
 
The daily passage of dolphins, visible also from the boats, is a beautiful spectacle. Lovinia, close to Singaraja and the island main port during the Dutch period, gathers under its name several places but has limited tourist facilities.
 

 

 
North-east
 
The rocky and dry terrain still carries the signs of the last volcanic eruption of Mount Agung. The soil is ideal for the cultivation of lemons, avocados and borassus palm, whose flowers give an excellent juice to be drank fresh.
 

 
Amed and Tulamben provide good accommodation, small but comfortable for scuba diving lovers (for hire suits and tanks, guides, prahu).
 
In the sea, close to the Tulamben coast – 30 m away from the coast at a depth of between 3 to 30 m – lies the American transport ship “Liberty” sunk by the Japanese in 1942. The relict houses colonies of fish of varied species and is one of the best known immersion points.
 

 

 

 
CLOTHING: WHAT TO BRING
 
Adopt the good habit of bringing as little as possible: shirts, cotton T-shirts, light short and long pants, a pair of jeans. Nylon is not advised as it retains sweat.
 
If you want to be “in” for the evenings in elegant venues, white or blue pants for men with a silk or linen shirt. No need for jackets. A lady who wants to show off different dresses will find locally all she needs at reasonable prices. Bring a light sweather for the evening or if you go on a mountain excursion. A light raincoat – a cheap one to put in your bag if you go out on a motobyke. And, of course, don’t forget your bathers!
 

Famous Italian-owned shop
 
When visiting temples remember that shorts are not allowed: on your way in you will be handed a sarong – a colorful piece of material – to cover the legs and a sash to tie around the waist as a sign of respects to the gods. Its purpose is to “separate” the body between the low, material part and the high spiritual one. Give the guardian a tip of 3 to 5,000 rp for the use of the sarong and sash.
 

 
It is advisable to wear a hat and sunglasses during the day. Many can be found here, branded or ...copies.
 
Leave some empty space in your suitcase: you will certainly do a lot of shopping!
 

 
TIME
 
The Indonesian archipelago is divided into three time zones:
  • Western Indonesia: Sumatra, Java, southwest Kalimantan, 6 hours ahead of Italy Central Indonesia: Bali, southeast Kalimantan, Sulawesi, Nusa Tenggarra, 7 hours ahead of Italy (Rome 12 midday- Bali 19:00)
  • Eastern Indonesia: 8 hours.
  • Remember! When summer time applies in Italy, the time difference is reduced by one hour (Roma 12 noon – Bali 18:00).

SPORTING ACTIVITIES
 
If you enjoy sports, you can practice several of them in Bali.
 
Related to sea and water – first among them – surfing. You can rent the board and practice the sport in various locations with different degrees of difficulty (Kuta for beginners, Canggu for experts and for the really good dare-devils Padang Padang near Uluwatu).
 

 
Then there is scuba diving. The sea is warm all year round, the coral reefs covers several km and the abundance of fish make this a very enjoyable sport.
 
You can snorkle (better bring your own equipment instead of renting it takes little space).
 
Oxygen tanks can be rented at 2 to 3 Euro each. If you prefer, you can rent the complete equipment for 40 Euro a day approximately.
 
Then kyte, windsurf, rivers rafting, forest trekking, excursions on mountain bikes, motorbykes... even on camel or elephant back (but this is not a sport!) .
 
If you enjoy golf there are several great courses: Nusa Dua, Bedugul (Batur lake), Pecatu (towards the temple of Uluwatu), Nirvana (Tanahlot) and a 9-hole course At Bali Beach hotel in Sanur.
 
Rental of shoes, clubs, caddy and use of course costs the tourist approximately Rp 800,000 (about Euro 70).
 

 

 
INSURANCE
 
Rented cars are not usually insured because in Indonesia “civil responsibility” is not mandatory. I do not believe that in Europe it is possible to ensure the driving licence but it is worth asking.
 
You could take out personal insurance should emergency medi-vac be required in case of illness or accident. Just ask Europe Assistance or other similar agencies (usually they offer a comprehensive policy package covering medical assistance, medi-vac, loss of luggage or loss of life).
 

 
LANGUAGE
 
The national language is “Bahasa Indonesia”, adopted in 1928 by linguists to give an official and unitary form to the various languages of the archipelago.
 
Since 1945, when the republic of Indonesia was founded, Bahasa Indonesia is the only language recognized officially and spoken by the majority of the population.
 
In Bali, in addition to Bahasa Indonesia, Balinese is spoken. To be precise, this language consists of three levels : low, middle and high – depending on the caste of the speaker and interlocutor. It is written in aksara characters which you will see on street signs and public offices above the Indonesian language.
 

 
Don’t worry, Balinese is only used by the Balinese among themselves and they have no problem speaking Indonesian. All locals who have contacts with tourists speak English and are very patient if you have difficulties in expressing yourself correctly.
 
English is spoken in many shops, restaurants, hotels owned and or managed by Westerners.