I've been in Bali for almost a year now and have privately shared the notes below with friends planning their visits.
About 80% of Bali's economy is tied to tourism, which was devastated during the pandemic. The island has now reopened and getting more people to visit is actually helping the local communities recover.
I'll do my best to update this post when something material changes, but think of this as a cheat sheet to get you broadly oriented.
Many visitors can enter Indonesia with a Visa On Arrival (VOA) granted at immigration at the port of entry to Indonesia, giving 30 days to start and the option of extending by 30 days. This costs about $35.
If you intend to stay longer, you can use a B211A offshore tourist visa. It gets you a total of 6 months, granted as 60 days + 2 x 60 day renewals.
That takes about $300 and 2 weeks to get with a local visa agent who essentially charges to sponsor you. Each renewal costs $200.
It is best to get your visa approved before booking flights and accommodations as the bureaucracy is unpredictable. You will need at least 6 months on your passport as of your entry date to Indonesia for either visa.
Bali has an international airport serviced by global airlines, making it convenient to access. I'd suggest checking routes on Google Flights.
Once here, you can get around fairly easily:
- Intra-city: If you are confident on a scoooter, this is the fastest and cheapest way to get around and a rental costs $100/ month. A helmet is usually included in the price of a rental and gas is widely available for $5/ tank. About 1.5 people per day dies on Bali's roads, so if you're not confident in riding a scooter, save yourself the anxiety and use the ride-hailing apps Gojek or Grab. They have multiple options from riding on the back of a scooter to riding in luxury cars.
- Inter-city and touring: There are plenty of drivers available for $50/ day through your hosts or on Gojek/ Grab. It is also a more comfortable though slower way to travel for longer distance trips, through rain, with a group, out partying etc.
- Visiting other islands: Flights or ferries available, depending on destination.
There are tons of options for stays in Bali on all the major hotel, hostel and homestay booking sites. You can spend anywhere from $6 to $1000 a night, so go wild :)
I've found success with Airbnb and the process is quite smooth if you are diligent in reading the reviews. That's where you'll find out if the photos were representative, the sounds of the neighbourhood and the comfort of the amenities.
I wouldn't stay at anything less than a 4.6 star rating and there is a wide variance in stays, so do your homework.
There are a number of major communities to stay in depending on your vibe:
Ubud - spiritual center, yoga
Canggu - social center, digital nomad hub, bars
Uluwatu - surf town, super clubs, villa parties
Seminyak - swanky, club parties
Amed - diving, snorkelling, sleepy
+ plenty more options if you want smaller communities
Here are the places I like on the island, in case that helps you situate :)
High-speed wifi is widely available with speeds of up to 150 mbps.
Mobile LTE service is also quite good and tested up to 100 mbps.
- Cash: There are ATMs everywhere but you may need to try a couple to see which works with your home bank. The max you can withdraw at one time is 3m IDR which is about $200. You can withdraw much more with your passport at a bank branch and there are crypto cashout points as well.
- Credit card: Accepted widely, though most places prefer cash and some places will pass the fee on to you.
- Digital payment: Wise is convenient for mobile payments - ask for the merchant's bank details and everyone from taxis to spas will share it with you for payment.
Everything happens on WhatsApp and Instagram, moreso than on the web, calls or SMS, so an unlocked phone is a useful tool.
This will allow you to drop a SIM card in upon your arrival. It is best to buy your SIM in Bali after landing because each Indonesian island has its own network.
There are lots of prepaid options and you will need your passport to register your first SIM. A healthy month of service goes for $10.
Everyone speaks a bit of English in Bali because the island caters heavily to tourists. In a pinch, you can always use Google Translate to bridge a language gap.
Indonesian is the national language and relatively easy to pick up with a local tutor or a mobile app like Pimsleur.
Balinese is spoken by the locals, though this can be hard to pick up without a tutor.
Bali is generally safe, though you should always conceal money, jewelry and electronics at night.
The climate is generally temperate, though you'll want to be prepare for rain, sun and mosquitos. The mountains can get cold, so it's worth having a layer than can keep you dry and safe from wind down to freezing temperatures.
The water from the tap is not safe to drink, and many people was avoid brushing their teeth with it to prevent the famous Bali Belly.
You should probably also have travel health insurance.
The official channels are:
News travels more quickly on FB groups and Instagram, though:
+ many WhatsApp, Telegram and Signal groups you'll encounter when you land
Ok, I think that's all the big stuff.