With its storied past and rich culture of traditions, Bali is a tropical paradise for all kinds of travelers. Roughly the size of the state of Delaware, this Indonesian island features a burgeoning expat population; diverse geography that includes volcanoes, jungles, rice terraces and marine areas; and a welcoming atmosphere you won’t soon forget.
- Capital: Denpasar
- Area: 2,230 sq. mi (5,780 sq km)
- Population: 4.2 million
- Languages: Indonesian (official), Balinese, Balinese Malay
- Currency: Indonesian Rupiah
- Time Zone: Indonesia Central Time
- Major Airport: Ngurah Rai International Airport in Denpasar (DPS)
- Drive on the: Left
Bali is one of the most popular islands of Indonesia, so expect crowds while you’re there. If you’re looking for a break, head outside of the cities and explore the hidden parts of the island.
The best way to plan your trip to Bali is to choose a home base. Do a bit of research about the major cities and pick the one that best suits your travel style. Head to Ubud for a more laid-back atmosphere, Uluwatu for surfing culture, Kuta for nightlife, or Sanur for a more residential experience. The island is small enough to explore without packing up and hopping from city to city.
Bali’s wet season, which stretches from October to April, leads to a decrease in visitors, due to the exceptionally rainy weather. Dry season lasts from May to September, and the ideal time to visit is during the summer months.
Navigating the Indonesian currency can be difficult, namely because the denominations are much higher than most are used to. For example, one U.S. dollar is equal to about 13,500 Indonesian Rupiah. It’s best to have that calculator or currency converter app ready on your smartphone.
You’ll also want to make sure to have plenty of cash on hand when you get to Bali. Not many locales accept credit cards, so it’s much easier to get by with cash. There are ATMs on the island, but they’re sometimes difficult to find and often temperamental.
When dining out, some restaurants may charge a service fee, so be aware when looking at your bill. It’s not required to tip the wait staff in Bali, but, as always, if you get especially good service it’s a nice gesture.
Before you head to the airport, make sure to pack some sunscreen and bug spray, as bottles of the stuff are known to be especially overpriced on the island.
Getting around the island is relatively easy, so just hop on a moto-taxi, use Go-Jek or Uber, or rent a motorbike for yourself. Just always factor in extra time for your drive, as the traffic can get congested in many of the cities.
While in Bali, you’ll want to make sure that you have some light clothing with you at all times (even when going to the beach). It’s not uncommon for there to be dress codes, so it’s best to have something to throw on if necessary.
There are over 20,000 temples in Bali, so chances are you’ll visit at least a few. Make sure to cover your upper body with a sarong or scarf, though they can be rented at most temple entrances, and always remove your shoes upon entering. The temples are typically free, though it’s nice to drop some rupiah in the donation box. Choose which temples to add to your itinerary by checking out our Guide to Balinese Temples.
Though Indonesia itself is predominantly Muslim, the Balinese people actually practice a form of Hinduism. You’ll likely come across religious ceremonies in your time there, and will definitely encounter canang sari (religious offerings) in the streets. These offerings take many forms — flowers, candles or incense, or small candies — and are complete with a handmade banana leaf or palm basket. Always be respectful of these ceremonial offerings while out-and-about and try not to walk or drive over them.
While exploring the temples and natural areas of Bali, you may encounter stray or wild animals. Always be cautious when around these animals and treat them with care. If an incident occurs, see a doctor right away.
Bali offers something for everyone, so be sure to do your homework while planning your trip. Book a surf lesson, get a massage, take a yoga class, sample the cuisine, wander the markets, or go snorkeling — Bali is a treat for any kind of traveler.
Header image by Adi Sumerta.