Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Bali Travel Tips and Book Packages also

Last Update 24-07-2014
Bali Visa On Arrival
On October 1st 2015 the Visa On Arrival Fee was meant to be waived for Australians, this is yet to happen so still need US$35
As from February 2015  the Departure Tax is now included in your plane ticket, no need to pay at airport

(All Money is quoted in $AUD or IDR converted at $AU1.00 = IDR 10,000)
We have traveled to Bali over a dozen times now and every time we learn something different so I would like to share some of our experiences, what we have seen, hotels and locations and dealing with the people, where to shop and what to avoid.
There is a bit of bad publicity about Bali and even a TV show called "What Really Happens In Bali" that seems to show mainly bad things, generally the accidents here are caused by peoples stupidity, don't be put off by the bad publicity because this stuff "Really Happens" anywhere in the world, would you go walking the streets of Northbridge or Saint Kilda late at night with your kids for example? basically if you want trouble you can find it and equally you can easily avoid it, in all I trips we have never been ripped off or had any trouble of any kind so read on and enjoy. 
I guess the best place to start is booking the trip, this can be a mission in itself, we have used travel agents and booking agents but I have found the best and cheapest way is to build your own holiday and one of the best tools is Trip Adviser click the link and join it's free, you need to be a member to review but not to read reviews but always review as it helps others.
We like reading the bad reviews as they are good for a laugh and you see the stupid things people complain about, you will find plenty of hotels with 3.5 and above star ratings with 100's of reviews so go bar the overall rating and not a couple of bad reviews.
We use Expedia  which is great and very easy to use and in many trips we have never had a problem booking online.  
When you get to the result page you can filter by destination (IE Kuta, Sanur, Legion ETC) or price when you see something that appeals then you can review the hotel in trip advisor, a tip here is make sure breakfast is included in the package, if not pick another hotel, some give you an option to upgrade cheap enough.
When reading reviews read a few of the worse ones also, you will find if the hotel has 100+ very good to excellent reviews and only a few poor - terrible the poor & terrible reviews were written by born whingers, look for hotels 3.5 star and above and the quality is much the same, a 3 star Bali hotel would be as good if not better than a 4 star Aussie hotel in my opinion, below 3 star and you are at backpacker quality which is fine if you only want a bed.
Another good tip is try a couple of searches with different amount of days, the last trip we went on was going to be $1500 ($750 each) for 7 days, I changed my arrival day to 1 day later and stayed 8 days and it cost $1200 ($600 Each)
Where To Stay
We like to stay in the Kuta/Legian area as it is fairly quiet (we are both just 50 and like a good time (but not the night club life) close to Centro Shopping Centre, our last 3 trips we have stayed at the White Rose Hotel which is near the Bomb Memorial on JL Legian St and has people around our age mainly or quite types.
Kuta/Tuban is fairly quiet and mainly shopping has 2 shopping centres Centro and Lippo Mall, Lippo just opened in April 2014 and new shops added all the time, Kuta Square has many Designer Label shops and a Matahari's Department Store, Waterbom Park is across from Centro plus plenty of food and coffee places
Legian has more 18-30 year olds with no kids with many night clubs but also has some nice restaurants and sports bars, we hang out at Bagus Pub on Poppies Lane 2 which has plenty of AFL and Aussies, plenty of genuine surf label shops and heaps of street stalls also the Beach Walk Shopping Mall (Next To Sheraton Hotel)  can be found here with more upmarket shops and plenty of cafes and restaurants. 
Seminyak has many beach cafe's and restaurants but when we visited in 2013 it seemed very dirty and a few sleazy people were hanging around and we didn't like it much, shopping wise it has much the same as Kuta/Legian 
Sanur is quiet and has a lot of European travelers, if dead quiet is what you want and lazing on the beach then this would be for you. 
Nusa Dua is mainly resorts and bit more expensive to stay, very nice and plenty of security, basically yobo free, more higher class and a lot of richer Asian travelers, again fine if you want quiet.
For first time travelers I would stay in the Kuta/Tuban area, a taxi anywhere is average 20,000 - 50,000, ($2 - $5) unless you want night-life only then choose Legian.

Once you have found your package you can change a few flights make sure your selected flight has a baggage allowance, generally 20-23kg is the normal, our last trip I selected 15kg and then upgraded my return flight to 20kg.
No matter if it's snowing in Australia you will never need more than a T Shirt and Shorts in Bali at any time of the year and don't pack towels as all hotels have towels and pool towels for free, pack light going over as clothes are cheap in Bali as you will see later so buy them their.
Once you are happy with your hotel, plane flights (for the cheapies I have used Air Asia, Virgin, Jet Star and all are ok, probably Jet Star was the best, Air Asia the cheapest but still fine) you proceed to pay, I have never had a problem with an online booking or paying online
Once you have paid you will receive an email copy of your itinerary, print off a copy for each traveler as you will need them at the airport, also a good tip is email a copy to a web based email like Hotmail and save it online in case you need a copy or you can also get a copy by logging into Expedia if you booked with them.
Book a couple of months in advance as it will be cheaper.
Before your flight go to the site of your airline and do an online check in, here you can change your seats or luggage allowance also, this will speed things up at the airport also, you may need to register  at their site. If at any time you need help with booking or anything on this blog you can email me Paul nocky50@gmail.com or message on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/pwa61 put Bali in subject, I will get back and if you're in Australia you can call me, I will give you my number on request.

The Big Day, Ready To Go
So we're ready to go, the big day has arrived, other than pack the bare minimum you will need comfy shoes or thongs, Bali ground is very uneven and a favourite pass time for me is watching ladies walking Bali in High Heels, can be very funny, because of the humidity feet blister easily, thongs with canvas straps like Surfer Joes will kill between your toes, I find Boat Shoes or Velcro Strapped Sandals, Canvas Shoes even thongs with leather or rubber straps, my wife wears flat shoes and sandals.
Now have you got your travel docs, itinerary and passport? Get to the airport 2 hours before you take off, check in first and check in luggage. 
Another important thing is money, you will need $US35 per person (Including Children) to pay for an entry Visa in Bali, you can pay in $US, $AUD or Credit Card but best having $US as it is much faster getting through as they convert $AUD to $US and then have to give change and this will take about 10 minutes which will really annoy the others in the queue, if you have a bigger note than needed you will get change in IDR which comes in handy for taxi's soon enough. 
You can get $US at the airport before you leave but the exchangers charge a commission and give a lower rate, if you Get $US at airport generally you can get IDR commission free and again at a lower rate, we generally get 500,000rp to get started, you can get $US commission free at any post office but you have to get a minimum $250

Another tip for money in Bali; we prefer not to use money changers in Bali as some are a bit tricky and try to confuse you, you can't trust them all (Most are fine but you can get a bad one), we have had a bad experience with money changers and in my opinion it's not worth the hassle.  
ATM's are all over Bali and you get the full Exchange rate and my bank (ANZ) only charges $1 - $2 per transaction so less than using an ATM in Australia (I always use BNI or Mahidara Bank ATM's and never a problem, (To update I used an ATM in Lippo Mall that Charged me $10, there was no BNI so avoid Lippo ATM's) you can get machines that dispense 50,000 or 100,000 notes, when you start spending in Bali use bigger notes in the stores to get smaller notes in your wallet 10,000 and 20,000 notes are hard to come by so collect a few when you can, they come in handy for taxi's and stalls, also be careful as the 10,000 and 100,000 note looks similar.
Before you take off buy your duty free either to take with you or to collect when you return, saves time buying before you leave to collect when you get back.
Arriving & Airport Taxi's
So now you're on the plane, sit back and enjoy the 3.5 hour flight (From Perth), what to expect when you land? Hot! so be prepared, follow others and all will be simple, you will get locals that will want to carry your luggage, they do this for a small tip, politely say no thank you if you don't wish to use them (We don't use them as we generally have minimal luggage and they keep putting their hand out and can be annoying). As you are walking through the airport you will see a sign (before you get luggage) to Get A Visa, make sure you do this or you will need to go back later, this will cost $US35 each so have it ready, from here again follow everyone else or if you have a porter follow him, have your passport ready all the time, once you get through you will be at the pick up or taxi point, if you were lucky enough to get hotel transfers with your package look for a driver holding a sign with your name on it, if you don't have transfers, as you walk out the main door turn to right and about 20 metres along you will see a place to book and pay for a taxi, get a ticket and a driver will come to you, expect to pay
Kuta 100,000 ($AU10)
Legian 100,000
Prices available for other area's, this is fixed price so don't try and haggle, just pay, they work for airport and don't rip you off. If you choose to find your own driver be mindful of the prices above, drivers will try and charge more if you don't have a ticket, agree a price before you get in.
We don't tip fixed price taxi's but we do others, if we go on a longish trip and fee is 35,000 we give 40-50,000, same if it's 10,000 or less we give another 5,000 - 10,000, remember 10,000 is only $AU1 which is nothing to us and plenty to the locals.
You should now be at your hotel, take time to get relaxed, need to brush your teeth? under no circumstances drink the local tap water, all hotels give a couple of free bottles of water a day and you can buy it in stores extremely cheap, 3,000 (30c) a 1lt bottle, if you drink the water you will have a upset stomach for sure. 
Taxi's & Transport
Where ever you go in Bali there will be people offering Transport and the operators based at hotels are better for newbies but have a look at pricing below in Tours & Attractions section and this is generally what you can expect to pay. 
Once you get an idea of what it costs in a taxi to get around you can ask the taxi drivers for a no meter fee, some will try as high as possible so if you don't like the price just say no thanks turn on the meter, they will drop the price generally, I have found the most trusted taxi's are Bluebird Group, these taxis have www.bluebirdgroup.com on the windscreen and rear fenders and are sky blue in colour (Pic Below), these guys are generally meter only and if new to Bali I would suggest to use only Bluebird with Meter On, as mentioned once you have an idea on trip prices you can haggle no meter with other operators and you will find with no meter they will find a shorter way :-), I have had two bad experiences with Wahana Taxi which are Dark Blue so avoid.

Example of Bluebird Taxi

Bali Sim Card
We got our Sim at a stand at the airport near where you book taxi's, ours was a Telkomsel and the people at the stand put it in and got it working, I paid 300,000rp ($30) and got unlimited text and 50 minutes talk time plus 8gb of data, we could of got 4gb of data with same talk time for $20 but I use a lot of data so went bigger, I have heard you can shop around and save a few dollars but to us not worth the effort.
With Telkomsel I never once lost a signal and went to Jimbaren, Ubud, Sanur, Nusa Dua and I even accessed Facebook whilst rafting down the Telaga Waja River, one thing to keep in mind is your phone needs to be unlocked, I have heard some re sellers can unlock phones but this may cause drama's when you put your own sim back in, if you don't need data then you can get much cheaper deals (around $5 or 50,000rp) but I like having data available and not have to rely on free wifi that can be hit and miss, the Bali phone signal is 3G but quite fast and reliable, sort of makes you wonder how I can have signal in the jungle of Bali and can't get a signal 10 km's out my town in West Australia :-) 
Shopping and Bartering
If it's your first time to Bali your first venture outside can be daunting if you're not prepared, street vendors can be overwhelming to newbies but it gets easier each day, never lose your cool, if your not buying simply say "No Thank you" and keep walking, if not buying also try and avoid eye contact without being obvious or rude, if you stop then they will try and get you to buy, as you will see there are many vendors selling the same stuff so they never let a chance go by.
Tip, never fill in a survey, as soon as you write your name and hotel on a form you will be bombarded with tour company's calling your hotel, most asking you to fill in survey's will say they work for the Government Tourism Board and have ID but they generally work for a company, second you will be offered scratch cards with a chance to win accommodation etc, never accept them just say no thanks and keep walking, they always say "I'm not selling anything" they will be a little pushy and rude sometimes, most stand on corners and some pull up on bikes, basically they are selling time share and if not careful you will get burnt so best avoid, you will get this more in Legian and Seminyak.
We like to have a look around Centro Shopping Centre on our first day, it gives you an idea of prices so you know the maximum to pay on the street, generally you will do much better by haggling on the street, example would be a Sarong 79,000 at Centro, on the Street 40,000 or less, pay what you think it's worth, you can screw them down heaps but they need to make a living as well.
I paid 280,000 for 10 Bintang singlets so $AU28, you would pay $10 - $20 for one in Australia, I could have done better but again the locals need to make a living and a couple of dollars is nothing to us and a lot to them, sure you want a bargain but $2.80 for a singlet is a bargain to me, they will always start at a price 4 or 5 times more than they know they will get. 
This is to test your knowledge, if they ask how many times you have been to Bali never say "first time", always say 2 or more times, they can pick a newbie though.
An example of haggling say for a Singlet, they say 150,000 just smile shake your head and say 10,000, they will laugh loudly and say 80,000 so you say 15,000, they will laugh less now as they know you will be a little tough so they will try 40,000, eventually you will be at 20-25,000, if you can't get to what you want to pay then smile and say thank you and walk off, 9/10 they will accept your last offer and call you back and if they don't call you back you know you were too low so go a little higher next time. 
A rough guide to what to pay be (Prices in July 2014):
Bintang, Everlast etc Singlets maximum 25,000 but can get for 20,000 (Max $2.50)
AFL, NRL type Singlets are better quality so 45,000 - 60,000
Board Shorts; look at the quality but anywhere from 25,000 - 40,000
AFL, NRL Shirts I got a guy to 130,000rp ($13) and he was sad and I think this may be the limit but good quality West Coast Eagles Shirt that would be $50 in Oz so next time I will settle at 150,000, again I don't like ripping them as they have to live, I bought this guy 2 cans of Coke after the sale which made him much happier
AFL, NRL Shorts, Best I have done is 75,000rp ($7.50) 
Ladies long cotton pants; 40,000 (remember 10,000 = $1)
Straw style hats; 30,000 - 60,000 depends on quality
Peak Caps; 25,000 - 40,000
Sunglasses; 25,000 - 50,000
Watches; 30,000 - 300,000 ($3 - $30 as a lot of varying quality)
Six Pack Stubby Holders; 25,000 - 35,000
Hair Cut Men:  30-40,000rp ($3 - $4) Ladies: Varies but my wife gets a cut and style for 45,000rp ($4-50. I kid you not and these are qualified hairdressers) and you get coloring for around $5 and extensions etc for similar, ridiculous pricing as a standard haircut in WA for my wife is around $70 and I think the Bali cut is better, we always use the hairdresser across from the Bagus Pub on Poppies 2 next to the CD Shop.... Tell them Paul & Teresa sent you and no haggling at hairdressers generally but hey they are cheap enough already so why bother.
Remember that my pricing is at 10,000rp to $1 or 100,000 to $10 and also be aware you may get them down lower than the prices above but with the knowledge that the locals have made a little money from me makes me feel a lot better.
CD and DVD shops can be found all over the place and a couple of the better ones can be found in Centro Mall or our favorite is across from Bagus Bar on Poppies Lane 2 
CD's and DVD's are 10,000 ($1) each and you get extra the more you buy, buy 10 and get 5 more free for example, PC software is a little more, WII and Playstation etc requires your device to have a Bali Chip, remember all of this stuff is copies so buy and import at your own risk, don't buy a suitcase full or you could be suspected of attempting to resell pirated material.
This should get you started, if you are buying one item be prepared to pay closer to higher price, locals tend to work on what they make per sale rather than per item but they still like to make money.

Wine and Spirits are not that cheap, Spirits much the same as in Australia and Wine can be double Australian Prices, most of the Local wine  is worse than Aussie Cask Quality.
Cool Drink varies in price from 15,000 - 30,000 this is for a smaller can or small glass coke bottle.
Bintang and Bali Hai are the local brews, Bintang bar far the most popular and very drinkable, Bali Hai is generally slightly cheaper.
Bintang varies in price, a 24 can or stubby carton is around 330,000 ($33) and they are 355ml. 
In Bars prices vary a lot, you can pay 18,000 during happy hours and I have paid as much as 47,000 at Gracie Kelly's, 25,000 per stubby is normal.
Kuta, Legian and Seminyak have bars on the beach that have Fridges and Esky's and very cold drinks, they all charge 20,000 a stubby and most sell spirits, pre-mixed vodka an cool drinks/water.
Our favourite beach bar can be found on Kuta Beach near the Conservation Turtle, Jimmy's Bar! Either walk through Centro to the beach board walk and head up towards Kuta Beach until you come to a Huge Turtle on your right, directly in front you will see a Jimmy's Bar sticker on his Esky, tell him Paul Nock sent you, you can also taxi to Kuta Beach Gates and follow path to the Turtle, this is the best spot to sit and watch a sunset and Jimmy has plenty of chairs, if you just want to drink at bars you will soon find the best priced ones but you will find most people at beach bars from 4 - 7pm  and Jimmy's is the most Popular.
Food is everywhere, most places are very reasonable with prices, some places include tax in prices and some not, if you see ++ on a menu or sign then this means + 10% Service and + 11% Government Tax, this applies to drinks as well but this should only add a couple of dollars to your bill. Some places will take US & AU dollars but with a poor exchange rate so pay in IDR
It really depends on where you go and what you eat, we have never got Bali Belly from the food, stick to the hotel restaurants and shopping centre cafes and restaurants, you don't have to stay at hotel to use their bar or eat their food, all Hotels, Restaurants and CafĂ©'s have a menu out front on the footpath so check out the prices before you go in. An idea of pricing for a good size meal, (My wife has trouble eating all);
Local Dishes; 50 - 100,000 
Burgers/Sandwiches and Chips; 40,000 - 80,000
Steak and Vegies/Chips; 100,000 - 150,000 (You can see steak as low as 70,000 but lower the price the lower the quality, a $15 steak meal in Bali would cost me around $38 at my local in Oz to give you an idea)
Surf & Turf; 120,000 - 160,000
Pasta/RiceDishes; 30,000 - 80,000
Chicken meals are slightly cheaper than Steak, Lamb is rare and generally more than Steak, Prawn Dishes are cheaper than Australia by a long way and around 150,0000 and even crayfish is a good price, Lobster Thermidor I have seen for around 250,000, Nusa Dua & Jimbaran Bay is higher priced and expect to pay Aussie Prices here, Kuta, Legian, Seminyak, Sanur are all around the same, maybe slightly cheaper in Legian, you have McDonald's, Burger King, Star Bucks, Dome, Pizza Hut etc and all are much cheaper than the Aussie equivalent 
Most places do vegetarian or salads, a Caesar Salad is around 45,000, I haven't seen anywhere advertise Vegan but I'm sure they could accommodate.
Tours & Attractions  
Shopping, eating, drinking everyday gets to you so you need a break, Tours and Attractions vary in price and most are set so don't bother haggling and as prices change all the time where possible I will give a web link.
Most hotels have tour operators based in the lobby everyday they will ask if you want Transport, talk to them and they will show you a list of tours they do anything from half to full day and you pay 350,000 to 500,000 ($35-$50) this doesn't include entry to any events etc you may attend but wherever you go the driver waits for you. As some one pointed out, you can haggle with tour operators but hardly worth it for a couple of dollars, $40 for a driver for the day isn't bad if you compare prices to Australia for instance, and again these guys need to make a living.
Tour operators are in street stalls everywhere and I don't have a problem with them and you will get a price that includes transport, check the internet to see what the normal price is of your tour so you will know you are not getting ripped off, we mostly book our tours online as is always cheaper.
A must for young and old is Waterbom Park, this is across from Centro Discovery Mall in the Kuta/Tuban area.
Waterbom Park is water slides of every description, they even have a lazy river where you sit in your tube and float with the flow and a couple of mildish rapids thrown in. Since we visited in 2011 they have added more rides so another visit needed soon, the highlight for me was a ride called Climax, after climbing to the top you stand inside a capsule, count down and the floor opens up and down you go, up to 70kmh with a corkscrew finish, Awesome, they cater for kids and I have seen 80 year olds having a great time so this is for everyone. Click Here To Visit Web

Bali Segway We have been here twice now and costs $50 each for around 2 hours but well worth it, you do a bit on the road and a lot on the beaches, they are based in Sanur so allow for transport, we go to Segway and call into Bali Mall Galleria on the way back and pay about 300,000 ($30) for transport, Click Here To Visit Web

Bali Bird Park is another amazing place to visit and allow a full day for this one. They have 100's of birds and many shows during the day, the eagle show was brilliant, you can also get photo's taken or take your own with many species of birds and the entry fee is quite reasonable, we used a hotel driver for the day and this cost us another 350,000 ($35) and he called into some other places on the way their and back Click Here To Visit Web

Kintamani Volcano Another Full day tour we booked at our hotel and cost around 500,000 ($50) and included entry to the volcano, coffee farm, rice terraces plus silver works and wood carvers it cost another 100,000 ($10) each for lunch at the volcano, views from our lunch table were unreal as our restaurant was built on the rim of the volcano, the tour included a stop at Santi Coffee plantation where you get a free sampler of different tea and coffee plus some Luwak coffee (Google It) also a stop over at the Tegalalang Rice Terraces which is truly amazing, during the tour you get to see a lot of Bali country side and villages and well worth the day out.

Bali Safari and Marine Park is a big zoo and great setting, again a full day, you can book online and get the Safari Bus from most places in Bali it picks up at 9am in Kuta and returns at 3pm and 5pm, we preferred to use Transport as you get to see other things along the way and you can leave any time you want, it can be expensive with the cheapest package at around $US50 per adult but you get to see a lot of animals, safari bus tour to see animals in the open and various animal and elephant shows during the day plus lunch is included, you can pay more and get elephant rides included also Click To Visit Web

Lembongan Island We went to the island with Bounty Cruises and the boat was fine, the food was fantastic, they have their own 48 meter long pontoon just off the island , the pontoon has a water slide and you also have access to unlimited banana boat rides, glass bottom boat and snorkeling with plenty of fish to see, you also get a 2 hour trip of the Island in a open air type bus, get to see the seaweed farms and an underground house that was chiseled out buy a farmer over 15 years (he must have been short), Bounty was a good host but the pontoon was a little tired looking and toilets were blocked which is common if you read trip advisor, but toilets were on the boat, we will return and do another trip to Lembongan but will try another operator, all have a pontoon.

Bali Discovery Tours We have used them for a most of our tours and they are always cheaper than booking direct, click the following links and then click a tour for full info and pricing
Land Cruises    Sea Cruises    Cycling & Rafting    Theme Parks
Krishna Shopping They have 4 stores and we have been to 2, one on Sunset Boulevard is about a 20,000 ($2) taxi fare from Centro and is mainly clothes and souvenirs and you will pay the cheapest prices of anywhere for Singlets, Shorts, Dress, Sarongs and most souvenirs you see out on the streets, newbies should pay a visit to get a better idea on pricing, no haggling here everything is fixed price.
Time To Go Home
Sad but true, if you don't have free airport transfers then ask at your hotel for transport to airport and will cost 100-150,000 depending on time of day, allow 1 hour to get to airport and get to airport 2 hours before flight leaves, it will cost 200,000rp for each person departure tax (We pay this in Australia also but it is in ticket price so not a rip off) make sure you have passport, boarding pass and departure card you filled in on the plane when you arrived.

I have more to add, so stay tuned, 
Fell free to post comments or tips also

I will be updating so save this spot, we have just got started

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