NOTE – VISA is not required by citizens of most of the countries (no VISA on arrival) for tourist purpose for a duration up to 30 days. All you need to do is to present your passport to the Immigration Officer upon your arrival to Bali and he will stamp your passport for arrival. There are a lot of videos on YouTube asking you to be prepared for a long queue and that you should take the local currency etc. for the VISA on arrival etc. but all those videos are outdated as of May 2017.
NOTE – Depending on where you are staying in Bali, it might be a good idea to get a local SIM at the airport itself. If you are staying in a locality with a lot of 5-star hotels in the vicinity (e.g. Nusa Dua), sellers sell more expensive SIM cards in that area.
It might also help to book your airport pickup in advance. You can either arrange this with the hotel you are staying or contact a local (to Bali) travel agency BEFORE your arrival to Bali. If you arrange it with a local travel agency, you can also agree on a daily rate of the car/bus for your travel during your stay in Bali. Renting a car for the entire day is not very expensive in Bali and during May 2017, it costed us USD 55 for the entire day including the diver and the fuel for the day.
Unlike travel to most other countries, buying Indonesian currency in your home country and taking it to Bali is not a good idea. First of all, Bali’s local currency (Indonesian Rupiah – IDR) is not sold in most of the countries. Secondly, even if you managed to get local currency, the exchange rate will be very bad. When we were trying to buy IDR in India for our travel to Bali, most of the travel agents quoted IDR 150 for Indian Rupee while the published exchange rate was 207! The best idea is to take US Dollars which is readily accepted at most of the Money Exchange outlets in Bali. If you carry 100 dollar bills, you get the best exchange rates. There are many Money Exchange outlets in Bali and it is very easy to exchange USD to local currency. It is also suggested that you only exchange what you need for the day so that you don’t end up in a lot of IDR on the day of return to your home country. Converting IDR to your home country’s currency will be very difficult. Actually, the travel agent who we bought US Dollars for our travel suggested that we do not bring any Indonesian currency home because, he said, no one will accept it back in India. Just like SIM cards, converting USD to local currency in a posh locality like Nusa Dua will be more expensive than at the airport or some other area. Best is to ask your cab driver and he will take you to a place with a reasonably good exchange rate. There are many posts on internet suggesting that money exchange is one of the 5 biggest scams in Bali but we did not face any problem. Also, we were converting 100 dollars at a time and it was easy to count the exchanged money!
Select your flights carefully. Some low costs airlines have an irresistible deal on the ticket price but has a lot of hidden charges. For example, you will have to pay for checked-in luggage for some low cost airlines and they are very particular about the carry-on baggage. The charges for checked-in luggage could be as high as ticket sometimes. The other problem with low cost airlines is that they land and take off as low cost terminals in Asian countries (Malesia and Thailand). The food options are very limited in those low cost terminals and specially if you are vegetarian, you have far lesser options.
Places to visit in Bali
We visited Bali during the month of May and stayed there for 8 days. Since we were traveling with kids, our itinerary was kids friendly.
Bali is know for multiple temples and most of the local population is Hindu. However, please remember that you will not be allowed inside any of the temple in Bali irrespective of your religious faith. This was a big let down specially because most of the temples are very beautiful and having gone that far, it would have been a good idea to see those temples from inside. All the temples charge an entrance fee to get inside the temple premises but you are only allowed inside the compound of the temple.
We visited the following places.
Ulluwatu Temple : This is a nice temple at the sea side and about an hour from Nusa Dua. All visitors are required to drape a sarong below the waist (men or women). There are many monkeys inside the temple premises so be careful about not carrying food in open. Our driver also warned us against wearing jewelry and spectacles although we didn’t face any problem.
If you are planning to watch the Cachak Dance while in Bali, this is the best place to watch it. You sit in an open air amphitheater facing the sunset while the dancers perform. We also watched the same dance at a couple of other places but this was the best.
Ulan Danu :
This is one of the most picturesque temple in Bali. Situated at the banks of a fresh water lake it is about 90 mins drive from Nusa Dua. Like most temples, you pay an entrance fees to get inside the temple compound but you can’t really enter the temple. Looks like most people come here for taking pictures or for a boat ride at the lake. Important thing to remember that food options are limited and finding vegetarian food is a challenge. Therefore, please carry food with you while visiting this place
Tanha Lot: Situated at the Western shore of Bali, this temple can only be visited while on low tide. Again, you can’t get inside the temple and there are a lots of shopping opportunities outside the temple and the on the roads leading to the temple.
Submarine Ride : About 2 hrs drive from Nusa Dua, this place has a submarine where visitors can get upto a depth of 120 ft. below sea for a hefty fee or USD 90 each. The submarine ride is for 45 mins only. The biggest let down is the reef where the submarine dives because it is all bleached and washed out. You see many verities of fish because the submarine has a fix feeder and they constantly dispense food in the water. Our overall expression was that we could have avoided the ride altogether. First of all, it takes 2 hrs to reach there and on top of it you don’t see much more than what you would probably see inside an aquarium.
Bird’s Park : This is a good place to spend a day along with children. The fee to get inside is steep (IDR 450,000) but kids enjoy this place a lot. There is a restaurant inside the park with plenty of choices. Don’t forget to take your cameras.
Ubud: The town is supposed to be the cultural center for Bali. For visitors from outside Ubud, there are shopping areas and good restaurants. Many people like to stay in and around Ubud and there are a lot of home stays here.
Rice Terraces : Many people go to visit rice terraces which are near Ubud. If you have never seen terrace farming, it might be worth spending a couple of hours in this activity. However, if you have already seen terrace farming (or any crop for that matter), you won’t find anything new here. More interesting would be to read and observe the water management system for these terrace farming called Subak but since there is no one to explain it there, you can only read about it. This water management system was developed in 9th centaury.
Shopping: Wood carvings, paintings, souvenirs
Water Sports: We didn’t get a chance to do any water sports – not because it wasn’t possible but because our schedule and plan with kids didn’t permit us to do it. If you are planning to go for snorkeling, scuba diving or other sports, it might be a good idea to talk to a travel agent outside your hotel. It will be very expensive to do it through the start hotels.