I haven’t been to many countries. And although I go places often, there is always a familiar feeling of being lost the first time I set foot unfamiliar ground. Arriving in Bali wasn’t an exception. The advantage is, we booked an airport pick-up to lessen the challenges at this time – no proper sleep (flight began at 12:00 midnight, layover for 3 hours, and arrived Bali at 8:30AM), no breakfast and our bulky backpacks. I was with three friends from work, of whom two were on their first international flights. Amazing huh? In every trip I plan, I always read about the place in blogs, reviews and articles, and watch loads of vlogs beforehand. While I did ask Chiko and Che to do their homework, I had to anticipate other things too. In this blog I’m going to talk about my takeaways as a first-time traveler to Bali.
I would say Bali is like the Philippines but with temples. The climate is similar, we look like the locals, and we have terms that are almost the same, like “asam” in Indonesian is “asim” in Filipino (which means sour). We have been spoken to in Indonesian so many times that I’ve stopped counting! It wasn’t really a surprise as I had a similar experience in Thailand, but it was amusing.
What I loved about Bali is how they are able to preserve their culture and their sense of identity. The moment you step into the airport, you’ll see how the architectural design shows the Balinese culture, even up to the gate. As we drove along, hospitals, schools, and restaurants almost always had a touch of Balinese in their aesthetics.
People are generally warm and friendly. Some taxi drivers and vendors could get annoying at times, but I guess that’s necessary to make a living. You need to haggle whenever you buy some souvenirs in the market or ride a non-meter taxi. When we were in Ubud market, Dale found a pair of shorts he liked which was priced at Rp625,000.00 (approx. USD41) for one. Imagine how expensive that is! Chiko and Dale said it was too expensive, tried to bring the price lower and as they walked away, the man offered two pairs of shorts for Rp200,000.00 (approx. USD13 for two pairs)! See how HUGE the difference is! When we asked the hostel and other another driver how much transport was from Uluwatu to Ubud (which takes about 2 hours) would cost, both quoted Rp600,000.00 (approx. USD40), but we were able to find a driver who would do it for only Rp350,000.00 (approx. USD23). So when given a price, always make an attempt to bring it lower. They have an app called Go-Jek which can be helpful for transport. Some towns allow Go-Jek drivers to make pick-ups, but Uluwatu and Canggu only allow drop-offs. They do this to ensure that the local taxi drivers don’t get out of business. I find Go-Jek helpful for getting an estimate of how much transport from point A to B should cost. If Ubud to Canggu (which takes about an hour) is quoted at Rp105,000.00 (approx. USD7), then you can definitely decline a driver who asks for Rp250,000.00 (approx. USD16). The prices of the transport I mention here are for a car for four people.
I honestly haven’t tried Indonesian food except for the nasi goreng, mie goreng, and satay. I’m pretty adventurous with food (scorpion in Thailand, stinky tofu in Thailand), but I was cautious because countless blogs talk about the renowned “Bali belly,” or traveler’s diarrhea. When I asked one of our taxi drivers about it, he said that we might not get it as we are Asians and we have more or less similar ingredients for food. I met four Caucasian tourists in our hostel who experienced it and they didn’t eat the same things. One of them asked if I used tap water to brush my teeth where I said ‘yes,’ “That’s ballsy!” was the response I received. Despite this but still without eating street food, we didn’t have upset tummies.
Here are other tips to help if you’re also travelling to Bali for the first time:
Bali is a wonderful place. Six days was nothing. I would definitely return to see more of what the island has to offer. Feel free to share your Bali experiences in the comments!