Frequently Asked Questions about Bali
Which vaccinations do I need for a trip to Bali?
In general for coming to Bali there are no obligatory vaccinations. Recommended are an upgrade of Tetanus and Polio shots and perhaps a Hepatitis A and B immunization. People being concerned often find medical advice tends to be a little more eager to sell as many vaccinations as possible, which can have the effect of weakening the immune system even before the trip commences. Should one really require more immunizations against other diseases, to allow for intended travel beyond Bali, it would be advisable to deal with this well before departure, so as not to be compounded by symptoms from a long flight and the change of climate.
Is there any Malaria on Bali?
In the last years there have been no cases reported.
How do I communicate there?
English is spoken and understood quite well in all tourist situations.
How is it to travel as a woman alone in Bali?
Generally very safe. Seldom one hears of harassment, but the behavior of the so called “beach cowboys“, ( especially in Kuta, but unfortunately also in other areas of Bali ) with their sometimes very disrespectful and tasteless comments in broken English can be annoying.
On the other hand – from whom have they been learning this language, and
would some of these female tourists in their home situation enter restaurants and shops so skimpily dressed?
Are there many mosquitoes ?
In the coastal areas generally only at dusk, inland a bit more. Best protection is a mosquito net while sleeping, at dusk using a skin protection or make use of the widely available mosquito coils. Mosquito's don't enjoy flying in the breeze of a fan.
Are there poisonous snakes or any other dangerous animals?
There are poisonous snakes, just as there are at home , but the likelihood of encountering one is fairly small. Since the Balinese tiger disappeared long time ago, there are no carnivores on the island, that could threaten a human. Reportedly there are scorpions as well, but in all my 11 years of living here, I have not seen one.
Are there big spiders?
Yes, there are, but mostly they are harmless and prefer to live in trees and very seldom leave their web.
Entrance : Passport with a validity of at least 6 month from time of entry, and at least one empty page for stamping is required. Children need their own passport. The movement of foreign currencies is unlimited.
Visitors from all western European countries, America, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Singapore, Malaysia, Philippines, Thailand and Brunei automatically get a 60 days valid tourist visa on arrival.
Driving License : To be allowed to join the traffic chaos here, ( left-hand driving ) one needs an international driving license. Rental car and motorbike businesses are found in all tourist centers. Also one can rent a car including a driver by paying a little more than for the car alone and so avoid the stress and exhaustion of coming to terms with the relatively chaotic road rules
Money : The currency of Indonesia is the Rupiah, being a floating currency. Currently the rate for 1 US $ is roughly Rp 11.600.-, for 1 EURO about Rp 15.800.-. The most common credit cards are Visa and MasterCard and are accepted in all bigger banks and can be used at the numerous ATM machines. For shopping and restaurants they are useful in the bigger tourist centers south of the island.
Local moneychangers tend to offer the best exchange rates, but check for the sign “authorized moneychanger“ and ask about any commissions beforehand. The foreign currency should be in big, new notes and in good condition. Smaller notes get a lower rate and notes with even only small cuts or ball pen writings on them are hard to change. In exchange for that one receives generally rather dirty, used Rupiah notes but one has become an instant millionaire.
Electricity : The voltage is 220. Adapters are widely available.
Clothes : Light airy clothes, best made of natural materials, a pullover for the sometime quite chilly mountain regions – but remember - not too much. Hardly anyone can resist the temptation of bargain clothes here, be it colorful Batik from the local markets, stylish designer clothes from the shops in Kuta, or custom-made clothes by local tailors.
Luggage : Generally also here – not too much! On Bali there is an abundance of inexpensive product options. The availability of attractive art and gift items at affordable prices is so extensive, that you will surely depart with more luggage than you brought.
Time for coming : In general there is 2 seasons here, the dry – and the monsoon season, the first one lasting roughly from March till October, the second one from October till March. There is hardly any difference in temperature, the average about 28 Celsius or 88 Fahrenheit. Climatically the best time to come here are the months of July and August. But this is also the main tourist season. The highest amount of rainfall and therefore the highest humidity is experienced in January and February. At that time also there are occasional storms coming in from the sea. The rest of the rainy season is more periodically wet and cloudy. Sunny hours change with short but heavy rainfalls, which bring a welcome freshness. Sun worshippers excluded, ( a way to be popular with the Balinese, as here paleness is admired ) most travelers will be satisfied with the amount of sun offered any way at this time of the year.
Traveling with children : The biggest problem for children coming for a holiday to Bali is probably the long flight. Once arrived, most children feel very well here. Bali is probably one of the most children friendly countries of all. The attention and care of children tends to be a collective community concern, which is not left entirely to the parents and will indeed apply to the children of the “orang putih“. Moreover the local people , male or female alike, have a knack of dealing happily with children. There are many examples of the screaming baby, unable to be calmed by it`s own parents, transforming into a bundle of smiles and happy sounds, merely by being picked up and held by a Balinese person. Also babysitters are easy to find, if desired. If already a little bigger and more independent, children will easily befriend local peers and often disappear for hours with a local family, who may treat them with all kinds of unfamiliar wonderful colorful sweets.
Health : Basically the medical standard is assured in Bali. Even in Singaraja, with a population of roughly 30.000 people, there are 6 hospitals. There are also reasonably well equipped pharmacies all around. For personal specifically required medication it would be advisable to take note of correct medical names or the main ingredients. Recommended for the traveler's medication kit are medicines against diarrhea, like carbon, or in more severe cases Imodium, antiseptic or antibiotic cream, as especially during the wet season even little wounds can become infected quite easily, protection against insects and some Aspirin. All of these medications are of course available here. Should any medicine from your travel kit be unused by the time of your departure, and not intended for bringing home, it is a good idea to leave it for the benefit of others here, as the locals must pay individually for any healthcare. It is however recommended to select someone with a reasonable knowledge of the effects and use of these.
Water, either from the well or from the tap must be boiled before drinking! Take care especially the first days that you drink enough liquids.
Etiquette: Here the first rule is – Smile. This is a universal way of communication, or at least an icebreaker. Should something not be to your satisfaction, it makes no sense to start raising your voice and getting excited. With such behavior you will loose face. Either people could turn their back on you amused, or they could become annoyed or even worse, afraid of you. A quiet conversation will be much more helpful. Balinese appreciate quiet speaking, discipline and self-control in all discussions. But be aware, that here on Bali, as in many places in Asia, one will hardly ever receive a clear “no“, due to politeness. “Not yet“ or “maybe later“ seems to be more fitting, so don't just listen to the spoken word, but try to interpret as well the body language.
It is considered impolite to point at somebody using the fingers, and people, especially children should not be touched on the head, as this is considered to be the seat of spirit and soul.
The left hand is unclean, it is only useful in the toilet, and is never used to shake hands with somebody or to give a present.
When visiting a temple, or if you are invited to one of the countless ceremonies, make sure you are dressed appropriately. Sarong, Slendang ( a scarf wrapped around ones wrist) and a blouse or shirt with at least short sleeves are obligatory. Usually Slendang and Sarong are available for hire at the entrance of the temples. Never position yourself higher than the praying people, particularly the priest.
Should you be invited to a Balinese house, remove your shoes before entering. Depending on their means, Balinese are generally very hospitable. Everywhere you will at least be offered, if not something to eat, a cup of the very sweet tea. It is polite to refrain from consuming until the “silakan minum“ ( equivalent to “please help yourself“ ). Make sure also to be dressed respectfully.
The sense of western punctuality has less importance here. “Jam karet“, rubber time is an expression used quite often, so allow yourself and others the diplomatic quarter hour, when having an appointment.
If you are bringing a present for your host, give it still wrapped and don't be surprised if it is put aside without much attention. The recipient would be considered greedy if immediately opening the present and also a later private opening avoids the possibility that embarrassing disappointment maybe sensed.
Always very helpful is the simple word “permisi“, similar in meaning to “excuse me“. Should there for example be people sitting in front of a house, and one intends to enter, one says permisi when passing. When asking various questions it is polite to start the sentence with permisi. Women are addressed as Ibu, men as Bapak.
When calling for the waitress in a restaurant one uses either the already known permisi or indicates with the outstretched arm, gently waving the hand with the palm facing down.
And if still some mistake occurs, - smile and “minta maaf“ ( I am sorry) will definitely soothe the very patient and tolerant Balinese.