Trip Preparation – Bali Indonesia
Bali Preparation Checklist
These are things we always make sure to do before leaving for Bali:
- Passport Acquisition or Renewal
- Research New Visa Regulations
- International Drivers License
- Research Bali
- Decide on Time of Year
- Decide on Locations
- Get Vaccinations
- Find Accommodations
- Get Surfboards Ready
- Prepare Money
- Pack – Checklist
These are common items we think about every time. Everyone is different, however, so take from this what you will.
Passports and Visas
With new regulations implemented in April 2015, Americans traveling to Indonesia for 30 days or less no longer need a Visa. This is also true for residents of the following countries:
- Mexico, Canada, China, Japan, South Korea, New Zealand, Russia, Britain, France, Germany, Holland, Italy, Spain, Switzerland, Belgium, Sweden, Austria, Denmark, Norway, Finland, Poland, Hungary, Czech Republic, Qatar, United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Oman, South Africa, Brunei, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, Myanmar, Laos, Chile, Hong Kong, Macau, Morocco, Peru and Ecuador
Residents of countries not listed above are eligible for a 30 day Visa-On-Arrival (VOA), which can be extended once at any of the three immigration offices on Bali for a total stay of up to 60 days. The standard VOA cost is US $35 per person, and can be obtained at the airport with proof of an onward ticket out of Indonesia within 60 days.
Passports, on the other hand, are mandatory. Make sure it’s valid for at least 6 months past the date of your departure. Realizing that it will expire before the 6 month mark upon arrival can be an ugly surprise, and the last thing you want is to happen is to be forced to leave the country for overlooking this seemingly small detail.
International Drivers License
If you want to drive a motorbike or car in Indonesia, we highly suggest getting an International Drivers License. You can get one for around $15 USD plus a little extra for postage through AAA. You don’t have to be a member, either.
This is important because if you do get pulled over, you will get a ticket that will most likely outweigh the small $15-20 cost of the license. If you get in an accident, you’re in a little better of a place too, though not great. If it’s your fault, you’re screwed. You better be ready to shell out cash. Not fun!
We suggest hiring cars with a driver. You can negotiate for pretty good rates. You shouldn’t be paying more than $40-50 USD for the entire group for a full day of driving around. This includes gas, the driver, any tolls, and a full day of driving. It’s best to get a van with a small group for the day – you’ll save money and take on none of the liability.
Well, you’ve started in a good place. Keep looking around on the web, but also go out and buy some guidebooks. Some Bali Guidebooks we suggest are:
- Surfing Indonesia – A Search for the World’s Most Perfect Waves
(Periplus Action Guides) This one is a must for surfers. It breaks down all the well-known surf spots in detail.
- Bali & Lombok (Insight Guides by Discovery Channel) An excellent guidebook on Bali. It even comes with a fold out map.
- Indonesia – A Quick Guide To Customs & Etiquette (Culture Smart!) A quick little read that will better acquaint you with traditions and customs.
- Bali – The Island of the Gods (Periplus Guide to Bali) We got more out of the Discovery Channel book, but this one is more in-depth as far as history and culture.
What Time of Year is Best to Visit?
This is entirely up to your preferences. If you want less tourism, go in the rainy season from October to April. Keep in mind that with the rain comes a lot of humidity. The most rain comes between December and February.
If you want better surf and better weather, go in the dry season between May and September. You may still get rainfall, but the weather will be better. The waves will also be better, and with the waves come the crowds.
Where to Go in Bali
Before you finish preparations, you should decide where you want to go. Most people stick to the southern portion of the island. If you plan on going North or inland, you may need to get different vaccines and pills. You also may need to prepare for cooler climates at higher altitudes and much wetter areas.
At least loosely research and look into the areas that appeal to you. This way you can better prepare yourself for an amazing trip! Check out our Bali Map for more information on the different areas of the island.
Bali Diseases – What Vaccinations Do I Need?
Though Typhoid and Malaria do occur on Bali as well as on the outer islands, they are less common afflictions in the southern areas of Bali. Dengue Fever is also a problem, but again, it is less likely in the south. (Though we do personally know at least a couple people who have gotten it in this area.)
We highly recommend that you get the following:
- Hepatitis A Vaccine
- Tdap – Diphtheria, Tetanus, Pertussis
Other diseases to be aware of and possibly get vaccines for:
- Hepatitis B
- Japanese Encephalitis
- Herpes B (Monkey Bites)
- Rabies (Monkey and Dog Bites)
It’s also advisable to begin taking probiotics before you visit in order to lessen your chances of ‘Bali Belly’ (aka traveler’s diarrhea), though it’s still a fairly common probability for new visitors to the island. You may also want to see your doctor for some powerful anti-diarrheal pills, and if you can get drops for ear infections, you’d be better off bringing them.
You can find accommodations in Bali without booking ahead of time (especially in off season), but we don’t recommend it. Sometimes you’ll stumble on an amazing deal at a place that no one has heard of, but having places lined up beforehand makes for less stress. Sites like Airbnb and Booking.com are rapidly becoming popular for great deals on accommodations in all areas of the island, but check out our recommendations for Bali Accommodations.
Surfboards and Equipment
You’re going to want to make sure you’re equipped with the right boards. Make sure you have a rash guard, extra leash, plenty of wax, sunblock (they charge an arm and a leg for it), reef booties, earplugs and fins. Board shorts should be packed, but keep in mind that you can buy them in Bali for near to nothing.
Money & Changing Currency
We suggest hitting up the ATM at the airport for enough money to get you in a taxi and to your hotel. You can find better places to exchange money in town – we highly recommend BMC, who have many locations. Also, keep in mind that bigger bills get a better exchange rate, and they often refuse bills that are even slightly torn or damaged. We suggest going to your local bank before you leave and grabbing some large currency to exchange later on. Credit Cards are accepted in a lot of locations, but not everywhere, and you might end up paying a fortune in foreign transaction fees if you don’t check beforehand with your bank. You’ll need the local Rupiah for cabs, local vendors, and much more. Break your big Rupiah bills as much as possible. The locals seem to NEVER have change.
Many people still suggest traveler’s checks, but we personally have had nothing but hassle in foreign countries with this method, and personally consider them an outdated necessity. Theft is not a very popular thing with the Hindu people of Bali, though you should still be cautious. Be especially cautious about leaving cards or cash accessible if you’re staying in an open-plan villa, and ask about in-room safes, which are often offered in higher end rentals. If you’re really freaked out about theft, get an American Express and use your ATM card.
Some places, like Nusa Lembongan (which recently got its first ATM), are notorious for not having easy access to money, so save yourself the trouble and bring rupiah to these places.
IMPORTANT: Make sure that all of your bills are paid or on autopay, and also call your bank and credit card company to tell them where you’re going and when, including any connecting flights or layovers. Otherwise, you may have your card declined or put on hold in a foreign country, and you definitely don’t want to have to deal with that while abroad.
Pack Up and Go!
Make sure to start your packing checklist early on, so that as you think of things you can add them easily. This is an example of a standard Bali Travel Checklist:
Unlocked Cell Phones
PADI Dive Cards
Paper copies of passport, credit cards, drivers license. (Keep in a different place)
International Driver Licenses
Google Translate App
First Aid Kit (hydrogen peroxide, aloe, bandaids, duct tape, advil, excedrin)
Guide Books on waves, customs, maps, etc.
Snacks for the Flight
Socks for the Plane
Camera/Video Camera (lenses, memory cards, flash, flash batteries, cam batteries, tripod, adapters)
Toiletries (tooth brush, toothpaste, floss, hairbrush, shampoo, conditioner, razor, floss, soap, comb)
Clothes (sweatshirt, t-shirts, shorts, one pair of pants)
Wax, Leash, Rash Guard, Reef Booties, Fins, Fix Kit, etc.
Itinerary / Flight Info / Hotel Info
What did we miss? Let us know what’s on your Bali packing list!