After a short trip between Brisbane and Sydney, as I previously told me, Aurélie and I are flying towards the most famous destination in South East Asia from Australia: Bali. After spending three weeks there, I can say without a doubt that I understand why it’s so famous.
For this adventure, I’m gonna divide in 3 articles, one about how to get prepared (according to the title, this one) and two for the trip. It’s not exactly what I initially planned but after what we lived in Mount Batur, I decided that it needed its own article. Spoiler alert: DO NOT GO THERE.
Here, as I tried to introduce, I will give some tips and try to answer any question you may have if you want to go there.
For once, everything is smooth at the airport. Even though the queues are pretty scary at the immigration counter, but since they are effective it is fast enough.
However, first choc, hello again humidity. I didn’t miss you. Second choc, much more violent, are the taximen (and as we will learn the hard way later, all sort of merchandising), extremely pressuring. I’d like to emphasize on “extremely”. Saying “no” is just not enough. It might get annoying, yet I advise you to stay polite and just say “no”. Sometimes you can ignore them, it’s also alright. And it crosses border outside of Bali, it will be the same thing in the Lombok islands, the three Gili.
Merchants will also send their kid so that you take pity on them. Be careful about this, it may be hard to witness such poverty, but I heard there was a traffic with them so I would avoid buying to any child.
I remember that once on Nusa Lembongan, we wanted to browse some bracelets by a street and children were forcing us by putting the bracelet almost in our eyes, while the ladies were screaming “oooh, come on!!”. Needless to say, we left the place pretty fast.
As soon as we arrived, we bought a SIM card mostly for internet. Something you should actually consider when traveling in South East Asia because it’s really convenient. At the airport you can find two different shops, Telkomsel and XL next to each other selling approximately the same thing. After reading some reviews on the internet, I saw that Telkomsel has the best coverage around the country, but they are apparently all good. Another company is Indosat, that’s the three main companies, and I think you can find some others.
So, we bought a 16go card when we arrived at the airport, note that it will probably be more expensive, but at least you can use it right away to get out of there. We used the card every day and after one week and a half (I lost the card after that…) of GPS, internet browsing and social media use, we didn’t even use 1go. I have to admit that we still tried to limit our consumption and used the Wi-Fi as much as possible. But I still believe that you will not need 30go for a month, unless you’re an internet holic, like massive holic.
Moreover, just in case you didn’t know, whenever you take a taxi or a Grab / Gojek (which I will explain right after), if you’re in a place with Wi-Fi or have data, load the itinerary with the location on, and once you’re in the car you can stop internet but with the location on and it will still work. So now, you can follow the way and you don’t have to blindly trust your driver!
So, let’s talk about Gojek and Grab. You most certainly already heard about Uber, however if you didn’t let’s say that it is a company which allows an almost random (they gotta get checked) person offers a service (delivery, taxi, massage and so on) to another random person to an noncompetitive price.
There’s a debate about this company yet I’m not going to start it here, we used it to go from one place to another. Some cities forbid the use of Gojek or Grab and they are not available everywhere, but I still advise you to install the app. Gojek is usually cheaper than Grab. But if you’re low on space on your phone, know that Grab is used in other Asian countries.
Nevertheless, like everywhere, the drivers tried to trick us on the price, while the price is set on the app beforehand. So if you can have the exact amount, that would be perfect or they’ll try the “I don’t have change” trick (even though we were always asking if they had change before they came picking us up…). If so, just say “let’s make change in the nearest shop”, the look on their face is priceless. Then, a guy was really nice once so we gave him a tip, of course that’s always an option.
This leads me to another topic : everything is about money. All the time. That’s the major issue of the destination. Maybe it’s because of tourism, but that’s not the point.
If you like to bargain, you’ll be king there, but if you are like Aurélie and I, you will most likely be tired of this pretty fast. Especially when the numbers are so huge as 100 000 Indonesian rupiahs are equal to $10AUD (which is pretty convenient) or about 6€. So always double check, and in front of them and stay alert all the time. For example, if you order at a restaurant, check the bill. Many times our bill was way over what we calculated because “they made mistakes”. That’s a bit sad because maybe some people were genuinely mistaken, but in such an environment, you end up not trusting anyone…
Sometimes, we had to pay some people for a parking fee where when talking with people we learnt in was not a genuine fee. I also almost got into a fight with a local because he couldn’t tell me why I had to pay, and suddenly two scooters came and no one asked them money…
Oh yeah, like it is shown at Mount Batur, if you refuse to pay, they can become pretty aggressive, so stay safe of course, it’s better to just leave, or pay.
Still, inform yourself before going to a place to know which fee you’ll have to pay and how much, and which one you shouldn’t.
Well, see the bright side of things, you’ll become more assured and strict. Also, to be fair, once money is not in the way, the locals are absolutely lovely, talkative and ready to help.
Half of them speak English, which can be convenient but as a result I only know one word in Balinese : suksumah, which means ‘thank you’ (and in Indonesian it’s : terima kasih).
Talking about money, huge warning sign here. Along the journey, many times we met people saying “my card has been hacked, I’ve got the block it but they already withdrew 400aud (250€)”. Let’s avoid such a thing happening, I think we all agree that it can be a critical problem during a trip. To do so, always withdraw to an ATM inside a building where you can spot a camera. Of course always hide your information on your card when inserting in the machine and hide your code to anyone who could be behind (but I hope that you are already doing that).
Well now, for something much more interesting : food and drinks! You’ll have heaps of choice when it’s about food, either fried rice (nasi goreng) or fried noodles (mie goreng). That’s pretty much it. Whatever is nasi means ‘rice’ and mie means ‘noodles’. To be fair, you can find some other things but in the long run even though it’s tasty it’s very repetitive and often you won’t even know what you ordered but you will always find two cucumber slices.
Each meal will be about 0.8aud to 4 aud (amazing when you just leave Australia, right?). Also, fruits are delicious! And while you’re there, try the ‘avocado shake’.
About alcohol, two main names often came in discussions with people, tua or arah. Except if you are a Russian living in Siberia used to drink bleach as water (no offence), I highly recommend you NOT to accept it. You don’t know what is inside, neither do I, but I bet that you don’t wanna check. I only heard that it is extremely dangerous for the brain, so stay away.
Anyway, I would like to talk about this sweet old Bali belly, a much prettier name for food poisoning. While I am writing this, Aurélie is most likely one victim of this, and she can assure you that it’s really painful.
Hygiene is not the best in Bali as you may guess, so wash your hands, don’t pet the stray cats and dogs too much (unlike me), and try to avoid fish (unlike the following pictures suggest). Well we also heard that the vegetables can be not washed properly either and the meat is sometimes doubtful so unless you’re on rice diet, just try to ask more information about the meals. Because Aurelie got hers in a fancy restaurant, so you know… We couldn’t have any appointment with the doc before leaving Australia so we have no pills or whatever but it’s always a good idea to see your doctor before leaving what you need and what to do!
And while you’re with your doctor, mention the mosquitoes. They are hungry over there, but most importantly they may carry dengue. One mosquito repellent may be a good idea but it’s probably better to buy it while you’re in Bali as I don’t think that a European mosquito repellent will be powerful enough for the tropical destinations.
Before departing, add in your bag a long light scarf since if you wanna enter a sacred place such as a temple, you will be required to wear something which covers the legs and shoulders, so you won’t have to rent it every time or buy it. Another “funny” thing we read: woman on period are not allowed to enter a sacred place. Well, depending on your feminism and level of religion, except you shout it to everyone, who could know?
Or we even saw “women forbidden in this place”… Sweet.
Lastly, one very important topic. Driving in Bali. A friendly reminder for whoever reads this: I’ve only been to “developed” countries and Bali was my first “developing” country, hence my first experience in an absolutely chaotic traffic.
And yet, despite this fact, despite the fact that I never drove a scooter in my life before (I just trained a few days before in Australian outback to drive a motorbike for 2 days… outback is not exactly a crowded place, in case you didn’t know!), I started as a good masochist driving there. Well, be reassured fellow traveller, it is far from being impossible. Whoever feels confident enough with their own driving won’t have any trouble driving there. Of course we met some people who fell badly, but follow some simple rules and everything should be fine. First golden rule: honk is life. Whenever someone overtake, if a dog walks too close from the road at night, if chooks cross the road with a line of their baby chooks. Honk. Honk is a language by itself there, so use it as well.
If there’s any roundabout, first they are not round and second, no one cares. You pass whenever you can. Which is another rule. To be safe, follow the locals, they know.
Always care about what is in front and let the others care about what’s behind. But there’s a hierarchy on the road, trucks are kings, then cars and scooters. Pedestrians are the peasants in this world and never have the priority. Anyway, it will not be rare not to have any mirror on your vehicle, and the helmet is also often optional so be sure to always ask for it.
Oh! Don’t forget to ask for your international driving licence before leaving. Otherwise you may develop an unpalatable (?) fear of the cops like myself. By the way, if they stop you (and I read everywhere that everyone had been stopped at least once, I was not, so… Lucky me!) take back your keys because corruption is flowing in this country. Even if you have everything in order, they may try to find something to make you pay, so having your key would be a good way for them to blackmail you. Thus, never take all your money with you, only what you will need for your scooter day, so you can show your wallet and tell them that it’s all you’ve got.
Also, what I tried and worked, before they try to stop you, you can look straight so straight that you can act as if you didn’t see them, but chances are they won’t even follow you.
About the road conditions, well, I hope you like it bumpy. On Nusa Penida we even decided to go back because it became really painful and dangerous for the scooter (and ourselves). Never, ever, drive somewhere you don’t trust. Still, the conditions are better than I expected overall, so not too bad, right?
I have to mention as I never saw any green fuel before, so you may wonder the same thing. I did some research, they add some dye to the taxed fuel (undyed) and non-taxed ones (dyed in red, green or blue), used worldwide apparently (I didn’t travel enough yet).
If you want to know about public transportation, unfortunately I cannot really help you as we only used boats. A boat full of tourists will be obviously more expensive (and less genuine), so try to ask the locals! At first they may tell you about the touristic one, but insist that you want a local, that will do.
That should be it, I don’t think that I forgot anything but if you have any questions, ask it! I will add it later on.
Oh well yes! Bring your own snorkelling mask, snorkelling there is amazing and you shouldn’t miss the chance (except if you don’t like turtles and manta rays ;p). You’ll save plenty having your own and you can go wherever you want and just jump in the water!