It’s been said that paradise starts in the mind…but if it’s cold where you are, you might be too frozen to think about it like that! The Northern Hemisphere is enjoying winter right now, but if the cold temperatures are bringing you down, you might want to make sure that you can get away as much as possible. If you have precious few holiday times to take, you have to think about where you really want to go. Believe it or not, Bali is definitely on the menu in 2013 and beyond. Here’s a few more bits of information that you need to know in order to have a great trip to Bali.
Bali is called the Island of the Gods, and it has a varied landscape that ranges from hills and mountains all the way up to lush rice terraces and even some volcanic hillsides. This is a spiritual land with a rich history. You can go surfing and diving here very easily, or spend your whole vacation looking at cultural and historical attractions. There’s also a ton of other accommodations and attractions. It’s very popular to go to Bali, even though some assume only the rich play here. This isn’t true at all. You can truly get an amazing experience without spending a lot of money. Of course, if you do want a luxury vacation, Bali will have something for you as well.
You have to understand that Bali is actually divided into a lot of different regions. You have South Bali, which is the most visited part of the island. This includes Kuta, Bukit Peninsula, Canggu, Denpasar, Jimbaran, Legian, Nusa Dua, Sanur, Seminyak, and Tanah Lot. There’s also Central Bali, which includes Ubud, Bedugul, and Tabanan. This is considered the cultural heart of Bali, and it also includes the central mountain range.
If you’re looking to get more into nature, you might find yourself in West Bali, which includes Negara, Gilimanuk, Medewi Beach, Pemuteran, and West Bali National Park.
Black sand beaches await you in North Bali, which is just Lovina and Singaraja.
East Bali is very laid back, and perfect for a casual vacation. Don’t expect as much to do here, though. The area includes: Amed, Besakih, Candidasa, Kintamani, Klungkung, Mount Agung, Padang Bai, and Tirta Gangga.
What’s important to understand here is that Bali is just one of more than 17,000 islands in the Indonesian archipelago. The island is home to nearly 4 million people, which means that there is a lot of traffic. You’ll find that the residents of Bali are incredibly friendly and very peaceful.
However, this is an island that runs on tourism, so you need to still keep your guard up. Bali is a great destination that has something for everyone. If you want to get the most authentic experience, then avoiding the southern half of the island is a must. Of course, if you’re a tourist that wants to be in the middle of it all, then you definitely want to hit up the southern part of the island.
If you are trying to go where it’s peaceful, you also want to think about the time of the year. Things get incredibly congested during August and September. Christmas and New Year’s tend to bring in the crowds as well. Australians tend to schedule holidays to Bali in April, June, and late September. Outside of these periods, you’ll find that there aren’t that many tourists around. This also brings the price down considerably to travel during the off peak times.
The culture of Bali is very important to understand. While Indonesia is primarily Muslim, Bali is primarily Hindu. Hindu life permeates every corner of Balinese life, and it’s important to remain as respectful as possible. You will see tiny offerings in every Balinese house as well as in work places, restaurants, souvenir stalls and even at the airport! They are set out with incense sticks burning and sprinkled with holy water. These leaf trays are on the ground and if you step on them — it’s no big thing. Just be careful not to do it on purpose.
Balinese Hinduism differs from what you see in India, so you need to keep this in mind. It’s not quite right to compare the two.
The Balinese are well known for their sculpture work, and there are tons of sculptors all over the place. Dance and music are also popular on the island, and you can see authentic dances at festivals all through the year.
There are quite a few holidays and festivals that you will need to be aware of, especially when you’re trying to plan your trip. You have Nypei, which is the day of absolute silence. This is actually literal — police and security come to make sure that people do not go anywhere. The belief is that they have to fool all evil spirit into thinking that nobody lives on Bali — hence the need for silence. Life is full of ritual for the Balinese, and they expect tourists to respect their traditions to the fullest.
No flights come in or out of Bali during the actual day of Nyepi, so you will want to keep that in mind. Of course, Nyepi changes from year to year. You will want to book your flight by the airline, and then be prepared to get notified that your lfith might be a day before or a day after.
Even if you’re going in winter (as it would be in the Northern Hemisphere), you’ll find that Bali is pretty sunny and dry.
You also want to make sure that you have your visa either taken care of in advance, or handled right when you arrive. The fee is very low, so it’s not too big of a deal.
Getting around can be difficult, but not impossible. The buses are cheap, and they take you just about anywhere you want to go within the area.
Metered taxis can be expensive over time, and you want to make sure that you have them run the meter. This allows you to get a fair price. If you aren’t going to have them run the meter, make sure that you negotiate beforehand.
You can also book car hire with a driver, which lets you enjoy the city without having to worry about getting lost. Drivers like being tipped, and will treat you well if you treat them well.
If you’re going to explore Bali, you must check out the hot springs and the templates. There are thousands of temples across the island. The spa services of Bali are second to none, and if you’re going to check out Bali, you also have to check out yoga. You can get into yoga here very easily. Even though not everyone speaks English, you will get the gist well enough through watching what’s being done.
When the weather is just right, you can go scuba diving, and you can even go white water rafting! Sport fishing is something popular with tourists, and you get to actually eat what you catch!
Shoppers love Bali because you can catch great deals, and this is also a world of artisans. A lot of things that might be too expensive back home are very cheap to have made for you while you’re there on the island. You also get the satisfaction of knowing that you are supporting the artisan’s family as well.
Bargaining is encouraged, but make sure that you are as respectful as possible.
There’s plenty of food to eat in Bali, and you will want to make sure that you bring your appetite. While there are some multinational American chains on Bali, you want to stay away from those! You can already get that at home, so there’s no need to try to replicate that experience while on vacation.
Go with authentic restaurants that offer you something that you can’t get at home.
If you go with local restaurants that are smaller, the food is of better quality and it’s also cheaper. You will also find that you can get great food on the beach from the carts that troll the beaches and even in the public walkways.
There’s lots of chicken, fish, egg, and veggie options. You’re going to eat well for very little money, unless you want to hit up a gourmet restaurant. As mentioned before, Bali really caters to everyone.
Be aware that the Balinese do eat meat, and enjoy it to the fullest. You can also find places to have a beer or two. While drinking is accepted, drunkenness tends to be frowned upon. Know your limits.
You have options for sleeping, and they vary based on location and budget. Clearly, you can spend a lot of money on luxury accommodations and still save money compared to many other holiday destinations.
This is one of the few places in the world that will give you open air bathrooms where you can enjoy the air and lush gardens. You can also get private villas on the cheap, but you do get what you pay for. If you’re going to stay for a long time, you will be able to negotiate a bit for a lower price.
Safety in Bali has gotten better, even though some are still worried after the 2002 and 2005 bombings occurred. You will want to be careful of bringing in illegal drugs to the country. There is a strong crackdown on illegal drugs, with heavy jail times involved. Even if you think you are only getting a small amount for personal use, you could be in big trouble if the uniformed officers get to you. Corruption is still heavy in Indonesia, with these police offers often demanding bribes to look the other way.
This is also a country that has quite a few people who are struggling, so you will need to be aware of scams.
Rabies is also a danger in Bali, so you must avoid dogs, cats, monkeys and any other animal that can carry the disease. You will also need to make sure that you find out where local medical clinics are. The quality of care may vary, but most minor emergencies can get taken care of rather quickly.
Travel insurance is an absolute must if you’re going to be certain of medical care. Ask aware of time to make sure that you will be covered.
This is a pretty long guide and we still didn’t cover absolutely everything there is to see and do in Bali. However, we did give you quite a bit to think about. Will Bali be on your list in 2013 and beyond? We certainly hope so!