Bali travel tips: things to know before you go

Henry Fry

written by
Henry Fry

updated 11.06.2024

With its coral-speckled beaches, luscious green rice terraces and blissful azure seas, Bali has long been a haven for surfers, sun worshippers and yoga junkies alike. Whether you’re planning the adventure of a lifetime, a week of relaxation or a family holiday, here are Bali travel tips to help you make the most of your visit.

The information in this article is inspired by The Rough Guide to Bali & Lombok, your essential guide for visiting Bali.

1. Head west for waves, east for snorkelling

The surf in Bali is world-renowned. West Coast spots like Canggu and Kuta boast incredible waves, while the Rip Curl Surf School in Legian runs daily classes for novices. The calmer waters to the east are great for scuba diving and snorkelling, and headgear is readily available pretty much everywhere.

Experience Bali with this stunning tailor-made trip to Bali's Beaches and Temples. Marvel at ancient temples like Tanah Lot and Pura Besakih, soak in stunning sunsets, stroll bare-footed along the best beaches in Bali and haggle at local markets – experience all of this, and much more, with this unique trip!

Sea turtle

Sea turtle © Daniel Wilhelm Nilsson/Shutterstock

2. Be aware of the rainy season

Just eight degrees south of the equator, tropical Bali has fairly constant year-round temperatures, averaging 27°C in Bali’s coastal areas and the hills around Ubud. Bali is hit by an annual monsoon, which brings rain, wind and intense humidity from October through to March.

The best time to visit is outside the monsoon season, from April to September, but you should be prepared to get rained on in Ubud at any time of year. However, the prospect of a daily rainstorm shouldn’t put you off: you’re far more likely to get an hour-long downpour than a day-long drizzle. Mountain climbing, though, is both unrewarding and dangerous at monsoon time

3. Get the right visa

For most travellers, there are three main kinds of visas available. The free-entry visa is non-extendable, so if you think you might end up staying longer than 30 days you should pay for the extendable visa on arrival (US$35.00), or get a 60-day visa before leaving home.

Silhouettes of people at sunset on the beach of Kuta, Bali, Indonesia © Netfalls Remy Musser/Shutterstock

Silhouettes of people at sunset on the beach of Kuta, Bali, Indonesia © Netfalls Remy Musser/Shutterstock

4. Order a tourist SIM card in advance

Most mobile phones will work fine in Indonesia. Virtually all travellers these days choose not to use international roaming (as costs can be prohibitive) but use a local SIM card, which will provide 3G or 4G mobile internet. A local SIM is very cheap. Mobile coverage is excellent in Bali and there are phone shops everywhere.

Staff may have to unblock your phone first and will also advise on the best SIM card for your needs, bearing in mind local and international coverage. Top-up cards are sold at mobile-phone stalls everywhere.

5. Stick to bottled water - one of the most important Bali travel tips

One of the most important Bali travel tips is to not drink untreated tap water, as it is likely to contain disease-causing micro-organisms and cause a Bali belly (an upset stomach condition). Bottled water is available everywhere and refilling facilities are becoming more widespread (cutting down on plastic waste).

Or you can buy purifying tablets, water filters and water purifiers from travel clinics and specialist outdoor-equipment retailers. Note that in some losmen drinking water is often served hot in a Thermos indicating that it has been boiled. Indonesians are very much aware of the need to boil water before drinking it and generally water, tea or coffee served hot is safe to drink.


Watching dolphins in Lovina, Bali © Piotr Kala/APA

6. Bring bug spray with you

Bali is within malarial zones and you must seek medical advice at least a month before you travel. Malaria, which can be fatal, is passed into humans through mosquito bites (one is all it takes). The appropriate prophylactic drug depends on your destination but all are taken to a strict timetable beginning before you enter the malarious area and continuing after leaving.

However, none of the antimalarial drugs is a hundred percent effective and it is vital to try to stop the mosquitoes from biting you. So Bali travel tips in this case are to wear long sleeves and long trousers in infected areas, burn mosquito coils, and use repellent on exposed skin.

The most powerful repellents should be brought from home. DEET is effective but can be an irritant and natural alternatives are available containing citronella, eucalyptus oil or neem oil.

7. Embrace mopeds as your transport of choice

While initially daunting, particularly in jam-packed city centres, mopeds are cheap to rent and give you the freedom to explore the island’s more out-of-the-way attractions.

Make sure to check the tank, as they’re often left empty by the previous rider. If you do run low, petrol is easily purchased (usually in vodka bottles) from almost every roadside shop. And don’t forget to ask for a helmet.

Ready to explore Bali? Plan your transportation with our in-depth guide.

Family on moped

Bali's mopeds © Shutterstock

8. Don’t miss the Gilis

Regarded as some of the best Indonesian islands, the three Gili Islands lie off the west coast of Lombok, and are less than two hours' boat ride from Bali. They are a laid-back haven for partying, swimming, snorkelling and scuba diving.

One of the top Bali travel tips is to rent a bike and head around the stunning white shoreline, stopping off to swim amid tropical fish and the occasional sea turtle. Boats run between the islands constantly, but make sure to catch a public one, rather than pay through the nose for a private speedboat.

Looking for even more options for travelling? Check out our selection of the best holiday destinations from around the world

Gili Meno

Gili Meno © Luciano Mortula - LGM/Shutterstock

9. Watch a fire dance at Uluwatu

Traditional dances are performed everywhere, but none in so spectacular a location as the ancient cliff-top temple of Uluwatu, on the tip of the southern Bukit Peninsula. If you’re travelling by moped be aware that you’ll be returning in the dark, so make note of your route.

This tailor-made trip to the best of Bali will take you from modern-day Bali to the traditional one. Bali has many adventures to offer, tour the countryside with a Vespa or glide through the hidden canyons. You will also be able to enjoy visits to enchanting villages, where you can take in the local way of life.

Rough Guides tip: To have a chance to explore everything that you are interested in in Bali read our guide on how many days are best to spend here.

10. Take a trip to Nusa Lembongan

Nusa Lembongan retains its village ambience – you can sense the island atmosphere as soon as you wade off the boat. Even the hawkers are half-hearted. Given Nusa Lembongan’s focus on diving and surfing, a trip into the mangrove swamps that fringe the northeast coast is one of the more unusual diversions on a visit.

It’s an eerie experience: boats are punted with bamboo, so there’s no engine noise to disturb the crabs and birds that inhabit the muddy forest floor. The trip is best at low tide when the roots are exposed.

Any journey doesn't start until you get to your destination. Find out about how to get to Indonesia.

Mushroom bay on Nusa Lembongan Bali Indonesia  © Shutterstock

Mushroom Bay on Nusa Lembongan Bali Indonesia © Shutterstock

11. Be vigilant with money

Use ATMs as much as possible and try to avoid money-changers, as they can undercut you. If you have no other option, the best Bali travel tip is to do your own calculations and double-check theirs. Notes are large and some changers play on tourists’ confusion, giving you less than you’ve agreed on.

From your base on Bali's renowned beaches, you'll island-hop your way around glorious Hindu temples and heritage sites. See komodo dragons, partake in a traditional Balinese ceremony, meet with a Hindu High Priest and visit local villages: this tailor-made trip to Indonesia ticks all the tropical getaway boxes.

12. Get a health kick in Ubud

Ubud is Bali’s traditional cultural hub and now lies at the heart of the island’s holistic wellness movement – part of Eat, Pray, Love was filmed here. Head to one of the many classes at the Yoga Barn and stop off at The Seeds of Life, a raw food restaurant, for a detox.

Yoga Bali

One of the essential Bali travel tips is to take a Yoga class in Bali © zjuzjaka/Shutterstock

13. Or just eat everything

From the traditional famed babi guling (a whole spit-roast pig) to Japanese, Chinese, Thai and American fusion cuisine, there’s always something to fill your belly in Bali.

Try the Potato Head Beach Club in high-end Seminyak for some multicultural dining in an unusual horseshoe-shaped building, or head to Gili Trawangan for the night market, where you can sample grilled king prawns straight from the ocean. Make sure to order the Indonesian staple gado gado, a salad of boiled vegetables and eggs, at least once on your trip.

14. Relax!

There is such a wide range of activities on offer in Bali, that it can be overwhelming. Whether your stay is long or short, let the Balinese spirit in chill out, breathe and enjoy the ride.

Enjoy a luxurious stay in Bali, with hand-picked 5 Star Hotels. This tailor-made trip to Royal Bali includes privately guided tours as well as leisure time, ideal for families with kids. Highlights include the sea temple Tanah Lot, Jatiluwih rice terraces and Uluwatu temple with its famous Kecak dance.

Looking to relax and rejuvenate? Discover the perfect hideaway in our guide to 20 of the most relaxing holiday destinations.

Denpasar market © Piotr Kala/APA

Denpasar market © Piotr Kala/APA

Find more accommodation options to stay in Bali

Ready for a trip to Bali? Check out the snapshot of The Rough Guide to Bali & Lombok.

If you prefer to plan and book your trip to Bali without any effort and hassle, use the expertise of our local travel experts to make sure your trip will be just like you dream it to be.

We may earn commission from some of the external websites linked in this article, but this does not influence our editorial standards - we only recommend services that we genuinely believe will enhance your travel experiences.

Top image: Rice terraces in Bali © Dudarev Mikhail/Shutterstock.

Henry Fry

written by
Henry Fry

updated 11.06.2024

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