Articles · International · Travel

What to really expect in Bali

Traveling is always an adventure, but this trip is one that will hold some of my most special memories yet.

My fiancé and I visited Bali and Hong Kong in May. This was our first overseas trip together and it was one we had anticipated for a little over five months.

We departed an icy cold Johannesburg just as winter hit South Africa. I had been dreaming of basking in the sun, sipping on cocktails and yes, feeling the wind in my hair. Bali did not disappoint. In many ways it lived up to all those island-living hashtags you see on the ‘gram, however, it was an eye-opening experience.

Don’t get me wrong, our holiday was beautiful but there are many aspects of Bali that you don’t see on social media and websites advertising luxury holidays.

Bali is very much a developing island, and while you might be staying at the five-star Viceroy, Four Seasons or St. Regis, the moment you step out of the resort, you’re met with bustling streets filled with scooters, cars, street food and markets.

Bali thrives on tourism and there isn’t a shortage of things to do. I’ve always believed that when you’re in a foreign country, you should be a tourist in every way possible! Do all the touristy things – eat new foods, drink the local beer, take cheesy photographs, visit the hot spots, create your own itinerary, and mingle with the locals – it’s them you learn the most from.

Read more on Bali here: Five must do’s in Bali

While our days were filled with fun activities, new foods, sundowners, shopping and sightseeing, we moved at our own pace. After all, a holiday is as much about relaxing as it is about catching planes and trains.

While I thought that I had grown up in one of the hottest countries on the planet (sunny South Africa), the heat in Bali surely one-upped ours! It’s extremely humid around the clock and the sun scorches every inch of the island. Nevertheless, we were equipped with sun hats and sun block – this one’s not negotiable.

With Bali being one of the most popular holiday destinations this year, some friends and followers have asked for a few tips on how to prepare and what to expect. So here are a few:

  • Money

– Always have cash on you.

– Convert your money to US dollars before departing. We found that it was best to convert your dollars to the local currency at the hotel’s concierge desk – you can sometimes be conned on the streets at ‘authorised money changers’, as they’re labelled. This also saves you a trip to the bank.

– Open your credit cards for international travel and swipe your card for as many transactions as you can.

– In most cases, 21% tax is added onto your bill, and sometimes there’s an additional 3% charge for swiping your card.

  • Food

– While you might want to be adventurous and try local dishes, it’s best you don’t eat from street vendors. Eat at proper restaurants and hotels – there are plenty and many do serve authentic Indonesian dishes.

– Try lots of seafood – it’s great!

  • Street markets

– Always have cash when shopping at any of the street markets. It’s very unlikely that any vendors will have card machines.

– Sometimes sellers can harass you into purchasing something – just go with it 🙂

– Always bargain! (We got this advice from our Balinese tour guide and it served us well).

  • Getting around

– The easiest way to get around is to hire a driver. We secured ours for the entire duration of our stay. Negotiate daily rates with him (you’ll probably have to pay him in cash).

– Don’t pre-book and pay for your activities through your travel agent – do it in Bali, it is far cheaper.

– Chat with someone at the concierge desk to plan your trip on the day you arrive. It’s best to have an idea of everything there is to do and map it out sooner rather than later – you save time this way.

  • Accommodation

Lastly, we are all different types of travellers with various preferences. If you’re used to luxury – please don’t stay in anything less than a 4.5-star hotel. You’re bound to get continental breakfasts, turn down service, top notch room service and luxury extras every step of the way (which is wonderful when you’re on a romantic getaway).
If you’re prepared to rough it a little more to ensure you have more money for activities, shopping and sightseeing – then a 3-star is fine.

Just remember, every destination has its charms. It’s up to you to find them and appreciate them for what they are.

Happy traveling!

For more on which activities to do, read Five must do’s in Bali.

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