This is Bali for beginners, written by a beginner! I just got back from an amazing 5 day holiday on the Island of the Gods and thought I'd share a more informative post about my trip. I'll also be doing a prettier post about my experiences, but I figured if I split the post up it'll be a bit easier to digest. Here's a break down of my trip with some advice for you.
This definitely needs to be explained a bit because it' can be a pretty foreign concept to Westerners. If you're not sticking to high end stuff in Bali there's a strong chance you'll get to barter the price of things. There are heaps and heaps of market stalls in Kuta, Legian and Seminyak (those are the areas I'm more familiar with but there were more elsewhere too) that are selling a bounty of wares you can barter for. Fake Nikes, Beats, Karen Walker sunnies, Hurley singlets, dream catchers, beaded necklaces, cultural items and more, don't settle on the first price at the first place you see. I did. Rookie mistake. I probably paid double what I could've paid.
There are places where you don't barter, like the malls or the stalls that explicitly say "Fixed Price, No Bullshit." A good rule of thumb is if it has a price tag, that's a set price. Go lower than you expect to pay if they're asking you how much you want to pay or if they suggest a price look shocked and go for around 1/3 or 1/2 of that and meet somewhere in between. You should be paying around $5-$10 for a knock off hat, singlet, watch or sunnies, maybe $5 for a sarong or those fun Bali pants.
Don't forget, yes these people are trying to rip you off, but it's because they have mouths to feed, so don't just haggle for the sake of it if you aren't planning to buy. That said, walking away is sometimes part of the game, they might run after you or offer you a better price the next time you pass by. Also try get in really early as many will give you a "morning price" and if you're they first purchase of the day they might rub your money on all their products for good luck.
I flew with Tiger which was super cheap ($620 return including insurance, arranged by travel agent) with no frills. Literally. I have no complaints but a few other passengers seemed to, but I couldn't figure out what their issues were so who knows who is to fault. Melbourne to Bali was roughly 6 hours there, 5 hours back. It was a lot longer from Auckland; my friends got really cheap flights but had to stop over in Sydney for 9 hours. There's a reason so many Aussies visit regularly.
The first place I stayed in was an Air BnB that my friends had organised, called the Royal Kuta Villas. It slept all 7 of us comfortably, had its own pool and breakfast was prepared in the villa for us. It was nice and central but I was only there for 1 night so can't really give the best review.
The second place we stayed in for 3 nights called the Melasti Beach Resort & Spa, located in Legian. It was an excellent place for us to stay in, for $46/pp per night we had a fairly basic, but well equipped room (the booking was for one room but they gave us one room with two single beds and another with a double). We had access to three different pools, two with swim-up bars that were really reasonably priced, free Wifi in the rooms, free buffet breakfast and beach access. It was a really family oriented place so it was pretty quiet but we had everything we needed for a great price. I remember paying similar rates in Hawaii for very basic backpackers in shared rooms.
When I arrived in Bali I was greeted by an overwhelming number of taxi drivers but I knew they would all try scam me so I tried walking past them. Soon realised I had no idea where I was going so I just got in a taxi with one who followed me. 400,000 Rupiah for a 15 min taxi ride is a huge rip off so I would recommend bartering with a few. My return trip was 200k and that was without haggling.
In Bali there are several ways to get around. I got laughed at when I told potential taxi drivers I was going to walk to the beach. Sure, exploring by foot is great, but when you want to get somewhere in Bali it's super cheap to get transport and you won't end up sweating buckets.
Hire a scooter to ride yourself for $6 a day and it'll only cost you $2 to fill up the tank with a bottle of petrol on the side of the road if you run out. It's a super cheap way to travel and if you get lost you can just pull up next to someone and ask for directions.
This isn't for everyone but personally I wish I'd done it more days, I had a blast. You can also jump on the back of a scooter for a bit less than a taxi, depending on your bartering skills and it'll be much much faster. Taxis are a pretty cheap option too or you can organise a driver for the day. We had a few that were just recommended to us by the hotel (one of the guards at the Melasti, Marijuana, kept sorting us out with cheap drivers). We paid 450k to get to Tanah Lot temple one day and he waited for us, would've taken us to Ubud for that price too but we decided not to go. Another day we went to Sunday's Beach Resort in Uluwatu for 35k which was a way better deal and split between 7 made it really cheap.
You can end up paying western prices in Bali depending where you go, but there are so many cheap places to eat. A lot of the touristy places, like the Australian Bar we went to will charge you Australian/NZ prices, maybe a little cheaper. But beware; like in America, they add tax at the end so it ends up being a little dearer once you go to pay.
There are plenty of street vendors around selling interesting things but were quite bad and didn't try much. We had breakfast at the hotel, most days were too hot to eat lunch then we had dinner every night at the Legian Beach Festival, where we had outstanding ribs for 37k. They were just so damn good and so cheap that we kept going back. There's plenty of cool new fruits to try, I've never seen dragon fruit (pictured below) or mangosteen in New Zealand but they're both so interesting.
People warn you about the food over there but most of us were fine, we had a couple of false alarms but we ate whatever we wanted and brushed our teeth with the water from the hotels, just didn't drink it straight. The food and water standards seem to have gotten much better in recent years. But that doesn't mean you won't get Bali belly, I promise nothing!
I am terrible at math and this doesn't change when it comes to dealing with foreign currency. I was constantly giving people 20k notes when they needed 200k notes etc. Bali uses Indonesian Rupiah (IDR) and it's actually really easy to work out for Kiwis/Aussies, if you have half a brain unlike me. You pretty much take off the last 4 zeros and boom, that's how much it is in dollars (Australian in particular is bang on, for Kiwis it's a little more). How I couldn't grasp this concept myself is a mystery.
Didn't get any, fingers crossed. The doctor recommended I get the Hep A/Typhoid but it was a little pricey so I skipped it...
Unfortunately this needs to be mentioned. It's the sad truth that Bali has a lot of corruption and tourists can get really ripped off. We were lucky enough to not see much, but I have heard a lot of stories about people getting sucked into buying stuff they don't want, having their phones or wallets nicked when they were a bit drunk or getting harassed by the cops.
Three of my friends were on scooters and got pulled over by a couple of police and "fined" 600k. We told one of our drivers later and he told us how to deal with this situation next time. Straight away you should take your key out of the ignition and put it in your pocket; never give it to them. Don't give them your passport or licence either, as long as you've got a helmet on you can't get in trouble so they're just trying to get money out of you, or worse. He told us you should keep asking them why they pulled you over, and offer to go down to the police headquarters in Denpasar to see their superior, which often will send them running. We heard you can also take out your phone, take a photo of them and ask for their name, which also scares them off. Worst comes to worse offer them 20k and drive off.
Don't let that scare you off though, as long as you keep your wits about you and be sensible you'll be fine and have a terrific time. You can have a fantastic island getaway for a great price in Bali and I would highly recommend it!
Have any more tips for first timers in Bali? I would love to hear them, I was only there for 5 days so my knowledge and experiences are limited, feel free to share below!