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Monday, January 16, 2012

Bali Trip Tip Guide


I always get a few questions about my travels, especially about Bali. So here is my Bali trip tip ramble. I will let you know how I save a few dollars. And what I do to book my holiday and a few tips on what to look out for and what not to do. 

A good place to start is an Airline. You have a few choices here, travel-agent or book yourself direct with the airline, or book online but via a third party website. I prefer to book direct with the airline I watch the sales and request they send me the sale emails. You can pick up some good cheap priced airfares this way.

If you choose a budget airline, like I do. Consider that these airlines add on everything. They charge for booking seats, extra luggage, entertainment and even food and drinks.
I travel with a 40 litre backpack which holds heaps, and it’s within dimensions for hand luggage.  I save money on checked luggage fees getting to Bali. With having everything with me and that’s “No” lost luggage. There’s no waiting for luggage on arrival, its straight out the exit and to the taxi stand.

For the way home, I buy checked luggage from the airline. I buy a number 7 Bali bag to take my shopping home in. Most trips it weighs in at around 20 kilo. I also buy a big roll of tape and wrap it around the bag in-case the zip fails. This way I only pay for checked luggage once.

Paying to choose a seat blows!  First in best dressed I say. But I guess airlines are in it for the money and not to help poor people travel. What you do need to consider is the closer you are to the front of the plane, the quicker out the airport. But it costs more to sit up front. If you don’t care where you’re seated, let the airline allocate you a seat, it’s cheaper.

I always pig out on food before a flight and take a few snacks on the plane to keep me going. The only expense is a drink or two. Some airlines have cashless cabins and require a credit card to pay for your purchases. Others will accept cash in different currencies, but check with your airline first.  

Once my airline booking is finished. I straight away buy travel insurance. I suggest you read the policy and the pre-existing condition policy carefully and make sure it will cover you and your needs. Also make sure it will cover you if the airline or the hotel goes into insolvency.
Make sure you have over 6 month’s validation on your passport before you fly. And two blank pages or you will be refuse entry.


 Travel Insurance Here

30 days before travel. You can purchase duty free. Don’t forget you can purchase a camera, IPod, Video camera, laptop etc etc. And as long as it’s over $300 dollars in value you can claim the GST back. But you need to have the purchased item with you and a bill of sale/receipt and a credit card or bank account number. Take it to the TRS office at the international airport you depart Australia from.

Tourist Refund Scheme Information Here

VOA or visa on arrival is payable in some currencies. I know AUD, UKP and USD are accepted. They do not accept credit cards. On the visa itself it says $25 USD per person for 30 days. I always pay in USD. And just watch the dollar/exchange rate and buy when it’s at its highest. Last trip I payed around $22 AUD to buy $25 USD. 

Indonesian Visa Information Here and Here

As you come down the steps or escalators in the airport, to the ground floor. VOA or visa on arrival is on the left. At the VOA counter I purchased my $25 USD visa and other Aussies where paying $28 AUD for their visas.It's a little quicker paying with USD.

Usually the immigration cards are handed out on the plane. But this time they were handed out after the VOA counter which makes it an even longer process. Make sure you carry a pen or two with you.

After immigration you will get the tear-off part back of your immigration card. This is a departure card; make sure you look after this card and keep it with your passport. You will need this card and 150 000 rupiah departure tax, to leave Bali.

Hotel bookings, you can do things a few different ways here. Directly with the hotel, travel agent or a third party website. I book directly with the hotel 90 % of the time. I have book via a third party website a few time. And I have also just walked up to a hotel and got a room.

Some hotels require payment up front or a deposit others don’t. I have used either pay pal or credit card to pay. If you are worried about payment ask the hotel if you can use pay pal or get a prepaid credit card and just load enough cash on it to pay the hotel. Or use a third party website to book.

A few things to think about while booking a holiday. Public holidays, weather/season, exchange ratesand current news.

Holidays and Events in Bali Here , Weather Here , Exchange Rate Here and World time Here
News Here

In Bali they celebrate Nyepi Day; it’s generally in March/April each year depending on the lunar phase. The day before Nyepi Day, Bali will start to shut down for the Ogoh Ogoh parade, which is held all over Bali in different villages. The parade is fantastic and starts at sunset with flaming bamboo torches, gamelan music and the monster statues telling a story of how they rid Bali and themselves of evil spirits.  Next morning is Nyepi Day the Balinese will stay inside their homes and be silent all day. For the tourist they have to stay with-in the hotel grounds all day till the next morning at 6am. Everything else is shut. Next morning it’s a public holiday and most of Bali is still closed. They have a market on Kuta beach, prices are dirt cheap. My tips for this time are stock up on some drinks and snacks. Don’t leave it to the last minute as the shops are packed with people shopping. Check with your hotel what they will do about lunch and dinner. Also make sure you change a little cash to get you by for a few days. It may pay to rent a DVD player and grab a few DVDs to watch or a good book.


Information on Nyepi Day Here and the Ogoh Ogoh Parade Here

Remember the internet is a wealth of knowledge to the traveller. With search engines and blogs, travel forums and even YouTube, it’s very easy getting up to date information. It always pays to check out your countries Government website for travel warnings, before travel.
Research is the best way to have a successful holiday.


smarttraveller Here

I change $50 at the airport (as you exit) to some large and small notes to get me by. It’s always better to change money on the streets. It’s a better rate.  When travelling I take some cash and my ATM card/s and a credit card as back up.

Porters at the airport will charge like a wounded bull if they can. Don’t let anyone pick up your luggage. Say “NO” and just carry your own bag/case, or bargain a price first before he picks your bags up. There is a sign above the carousel and the price is 5000 rupiah per bag. But I’m sure it will be an argument to get that price.

Hotel transfers, there is a few choices here as well. Travel-agent can arrange transfers for a nasty $60 odd dollars per person, organise a driver yourself which could cost about $10 - $20. Or turn right as you exit the airport and book a fixed price taxi, which is the cheapest way to travel. The only other option is to walk or walk off the airport and catch a local bus. And if you get a fixed price taxi you have payed all fees, only give a tip if you want. Ask who is the taxi driver, he is the only person to let help you with your luggage. Anyone else will ask for payment.

Transport around Bali. There are plenty of options here, a registered tour guide that is insured, or a driver off the streets who most likely isn’t insured and this could be a problem if an accident occurs. Taxis are great for short trips but make sure they use a meter. It’s better to use the light blue. Bluebird taxis, if you have to use another taxi company ask for a meter or bargain a price first. There is also Perama buses which are cheap. If you decide to rent a motorbike, make sure you have a licence to ride it as your travel insurance is void, if you don’t and that could get expensive. Also check with your insurance company if you are covered if you are a pillion passenger on a motor bike.

Booking into hotels, they all require a scan of your passport. They need it for the local police. Some hotels want a deposit or a swipe from your credit card, usually the more top end hotels ask for this. First things first, secure your valuables either in the room safe or the safety deposit boxes at reception. 

Mini bars are great, but usually expensive. Go out the front of the hotel and somewhere along the street will be a small shop. I restock the mini bar with my own drinks and snacks.
Getting laundry done is a lot cheaper down the road from the hotel.

Internet in some hotels is free and others charge for it. Some restaurants or coffee shops/cafes have free wifi if you purchase a drink or a meal. There are a few internet cafes about, but I would be careful as to what you do with them.

Keeping in contact with family and friends can get expensive if you use your mobile phone with global roaming while overseas. I take an unlocked 3g mobile phone and buy a sim card there and get a recharge at the same time. Texting and phoning is cheap and with a 3g phone, you can take advantage of the unlimited facebook some sim cards come with. Keeping in contact on the go can be dirt cheap!

Changing money on the streets is easy, but choosing the right spot can be hard. I use the same money changer as much as I can the rate is always good and they are honest. Things to watch out for, so you don’t get scammed while changing money. Going to the highest rate on the street will most likely end by losing a big wack of money.  Some are good at the slide of hand. Which they count the money and then want to count it out again this is where they will try distracting you usually by his mate doing something at the other end of the shop so you turn around. And this is when they try slip a few notes back in the draw and hopefully you don’t notice. Watch places that have small booths at the back of shops or alley ways and if they start counting out 20 000 rupiah notes should get the alarm bells ringing. All I can suggest make sure you count it and are happy it’s all there before you hand over your cash. 

ATM’s are a good way of getting cash while away , but there is a fee from your bank and a fee from the owner of the ATM plus a percentage of the total withdrawal , which can add up to $6 to $8 fee to withdraw some money. But if you are with the Commonwealth Bank in Australia, you can use a Commonwealth ATM in Bali for a flat $2 fee. But always check with your bank about fee while overseas and inform them that you are overseas.

Credit cards are great backups in-case things go wrong or you spend too much money. But using one in Bali can get expensive; Check you bank for fees and charges.
Bali money can be a little daunting at first with note from 1,000, 2,000, 5,000, 10,000, 20,000, 50,000, and 100,000. It is easy to get confused between the notes. I use the thumb rule, were I put my thumb over the last three “0”. Making them look like this 1, 2, 5, 10, 20, 50, 100, and a lot easier to work out without all the confusing zeros.


Picture of Indonesian Money Here 

Keep currency costs to a minimum on your next overseas trip.

Here

 I always find it a help to take a cheat sheet printed out before I go.


Cheat Sheet Here

Shopping in Bali can be an experience in its self. The large shopping centres are fixed price. And there are a few fixed price market shops as well. Which I covered a few in an earlier post. 

Most market and street stalls, you can bargain, a good price for you and a good price for the shop keeper. That’s what it’s all about.Don’t be afraid to bargain with just about everything in Bali within reason. Mainly transport, markets stalls and hotels. 


Fixed Price Shopping Here

Bargaining is fun at first, these days I much prefer to go the fixed price shops and have it over and done with-in an hour or two. But I also think it’s a good idea for the newbie try out your bargaining skills. A good idea is check out a current price list that is floating around the internet from time to time. Or visit a fixed price shop and see what the prices are and what you can aim for while bargaining. 

Hindu is the main religion in Bali. No one wants to you change faith and become a Hindu, but it is better to show some respect to their way of life and cultural beliefs.  Cover up a bit if you are not at the pool or beach. Try not to step on the offerings in front of shops and businesses. Don’t walk in-front of anyone while they praying. Don’t take photos without asking first, especially priests /holy men. And don’t put yourself higher than a priest or an offering. And women menstruating are not allowed in Temples. Don’t point with a finger; try using your whole hand to gesture what you want. Don’t touch any ones head or point your feet or show the bottom of your feet to others, it’s considered bad manners. Never make a promise with anyone, unless you mean it. Don’t even say maybe or I will think about it. It’s better to say No thank you. Most of all don’t lose your cool. It will get you know where, it’s better to state your case in a calm voice.


 Hinduism in Indonesia Here

There are a couple of scams getting around the streets of Bali. The first one is a survey they ask you to fill out and later you get a call saying you have won something but you need to attend a presentation for 30 odd minute you get the prize . The other is a scratchie card where have a chance to win a prize and again if you attend a presentation to get the prize. Yep time share scams, just say No thanks and go about your day.

Another scam on the streets is name bracelets made from an Australian coins. This scam made me laugh when I first came across it.  They approach you on the street and show you a few examples of bracelets “made from a coin” and say if you give them a gold Australian $1 or $2 coin plus a fee to make the bracelet.  I looked at my friend next to me and laughed and said there is no-way on earth the size of the coin melted down could make the bracelet, how stupid do these people think I am. Anyway I said to the guy I would love two bracelets for my daughters, but I have no coins. He thought for a minute and spoke to the guy next to him in Balinese. Then turned to me and said, Ok. I said how can you make it with no coins, he said he had a few extra coins and he could use and all I had to pay was the fee to make the bracelet. As Charlie Sheen, would say “Winning”. At the airport at times you will see a porter or cleaner walking around with $10 or $20 worth of $1 or $2 coins. He is trying to swap them for rupiah.

Tipping for some reason in Bali it’s getting the way, were its expected and becoming a problem. It’s up to you whether you tip or not. 

Watch walking around on the footpaths, at times they resemble goat tracks. With uneven surfaces and some tops missing off some drains.

Don’t drink the water or brush your teeth with the water from the tap. Use water from a sealed water bottle only. 

Bali is hot and humid so you will only need light casual clothing thongs/flip-flops or sandals. If you plan on trekking up some of the mountains it may be advisable to take long pants and a jumper as well as sensible footwear. Even bike riding or rafting it’s better to take sensible footwear.

With the wet months from October to April the mercury can get pretty high after a rain storm, not to mention the barometer which would be just about to blow up while nearly hitting 90 – 100 % humidity.  At times it’s unbearable, and the comfort of a cool pool or an air conditioner is very welcome, especially in the mid afternoon.  

During the day make sure you keep a good intake of water. And save the beer and cocktails for sunset. 

Slip slop slap in Bali. Bali isn’t far from the Equator and the sun doesn’t take that long to cook you. Bring sun screen from home it’s cheaper and I think its better quality.

Be careful of crime bag snatches do happen from time to time. Usually by riding past on a motorbike and snatching it and knocking the poor women to the ground and some men. It’s better to use a bum bag /fanny pack or even a small backpack, or a bag which goes across your body. 

While I‘m on the subject of loosing or misplacing personal property. I don’t think it’s a good idea to carry all your cash in one spot or even your ATM card/cards and credit card together. Say everything is in your wallet and it falls out your back pocket on the plane with your cash, credit card and ATM card, what you will do until you can get them replaced.

It’s a good idea to make a copy of your travel documents and a scan of your passport printed out. Carry these separately from your originals documents, just in-case. I also have a web based email where I can sign in from anywhere. I also keep copies of my travel documents here as a back-up.

If you go swimming at the beach in Bali, be careful of rips and strong under currents. Always swim in the patrolled area of the beach. 

Don’t do drugs in Bali. It could lead to the death penalty.
 
Outside of the hotel, most toilets are the squat type. Unless you want use your left hand like the locals do I would suggest to take some toilet paper or tissues with you. But don’t put the tissues in the toilet put it in a bin nearby and flush the toilet by either tipping water with a container that is supplied or a hose in the toilet. Most toilets require a small fee to use them; it’s good to carry a few smaller notes with you.

Booking tours before you get to Bali or booking tour while you are there. I think it’s a lot cheaper to book most tour while you are there. Except it’s getting a bit harder to just walk up and be able to book some tours these days. There are a few places that are booked out in advance .Like Bali Dolphin or the elephant ride at the Marine and Safari Park, Biku and some cooking classes. Everything else can be booked while in Bali, unless you want to make sure you are doing a set tour on a set day. Tour’s can be booked at the small tour booths around Bali and don’t be afraid to bargain a cheaper price. 

As I said earlier, research is the key to a great holiday, find a few blogs and read a few travel forums to get help from people who have had experience and want to share their knowledge. But also be careful of the information given to you as sometimes its outdated or given by someone who thinks they know the answer but never really used the service or stayed at that hotel. I feel it’s better to get a few opinions on the subject and not just one.


I strongly recomend you take a look at Australian smarttraveller Here

Australian Customs a Guide for Travellers Here 

 I wrote an article for Hostelbookers. which has a few tip for parents travelling with children read it Here.



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3 comments:

Anonymous said...

Hi Andrew,
Even though I've been to Bali in 2008 and 2011, I still find this Bali Trip Tip Guide very useful for my coming trip again in Bali this April 2013.
You're a very good writer. You make it so simple and clear instruction to read.
Keep up the good works, Andrew.
Loong from Holland
P/S:- I see that you've losing some weight.-))))

Andrew Bennett said...

I'm glad my guide has been helpful to you and thank you for the feed back. I have had a big change in lifestyle and lost a huge amount of weight and feel great for it.

Travel Insurance Bali said...

Bali is one of the most visited place in the world. Thanks for sharing this article. :)

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