There seem to be a few camps when it comes to Bali – those dedicated tourists who go year after year for a cheap and cheerful holiday basking in the Indonesia sun; those who have been once and vow never to go back; or those who simply would never set foot on its shores.
Then there are the likes of me, who loved the weather, along with its humidity, the food, the resorts and the landscape –but not enough to make it an annual event.
I’d heard a few stories from friends before leaving, two in particular about hiring a motorbike and being pulled over and fined on the spot – having their wallets emptied. Another couple had their passport taken from them and were separated with no explanation, only to be released some time later.
I guess as a virgin to this Indonesian island these are things you need to hear, but it’s equally important (if not more so) to know the details about entering and leaving the country.
Firstly let me say this. Our resort, the Laguna Resort and Spa at Nusa Dua, was everything I could have ever imagined and more. It looks exactly as the photos depict on the website. The pools, food and climate could not have been better, and the service was exceptional. Although make sure you get your head around the currency before you get there and don’t blindly order a cocktail thinking it’ll be about A$10 only to find you paid A$35 – I did wonder why when serving it the waiter said “Here’s your ‘special special’ drink Madame.” Needless to say my husband gave me a new nickname during our stay – ‘special special’.
Before going to Bali, you need to make sure your vaccinations are up to date. As my doctor said – sure there are those that say it’s being pedantic, but if they’re prepared to risk contracting Hepatitis A from the water or rabies or measles – then that’s a risk which is up to them. I choose to be precautionary.
You need US$25 each to enter the country and Rp 150,000 each to depart.
Once you get to the airport and walk through to get your bags, porters will take your bag from you and start walking towards customs with it, often saying ‘customs’ and nothing else. This simply means they will take your bags to the conveyor belt to go through customs and follow you expecting a small payment. If you don’t have small notes, or want to pay for this service, you need to get to your bag first and firmly but politely inform them that you’ll take your own bag. This often needs to be repeated three or four times.
If your travel agent has arranged a transfer to your resort, they are often from a local tourism venture trying to sell you experiences along the way and they will try and lock you into it right then and there. Should you want some time to consider your options – make that clear. The commute will likely involve your car being bomb checked too.
The alternative to a tourism venture/driver, is to get a taxi, but make sure you get a fixed price up front, or ensure they turn the meter on so no bargaining can be had at the end.
Even in the most exclusive tourist resort destinations, if you walk along the beachfront, you will be approached by hawkers. Even when riding a bike. With the average Balinese earning little more than $5 a day and working often 12 hour days, it’s not surprising they are trying to earn a living this way, and the same person will ask you to buy the same thing from them every time you pass.
If you do want to purchase a tourism experience, bracelet or scarf from those who walk up and down the beaches – be prepared to barter. They expect it, and in fact in some cases, it’s said to be considered polite to barter.
In your resort, typically the water in the bathroom is free, otherwise you pay. Be prepared to pay up to A$10 a bottle in the resorts. It’s best to find a local supermarket and stock up there. In Nusa Dua it’s only a short bicycle ride and you can hire bikes at the resort for less than $10 an hour which is also a great chance to do some local sight seeing and see the local markets.
For drinks, it’s best to go to happy hour to avoid the ‘special special’ experience and stick to the local beer and cocktails. Cocktails from the resorts are exceptionally good, and very reasonable and in Nusa Dua you can walk from resort to resort along a beautifully lit boulevard and visit any bar along the way – we loved the frozen Margarita’s at the Tapas Bar at Melia Bali, and the Chess Club at Nusa Dua Beach Hotel and Resort, where you could get a carafe of good quality Rose for about A$20.
Cornerstone at Laguna Resort and Spa had exceptional Indonesia cuisine – I couldn’t go past the Bakso, chicken meatball soup with glass noodles and fresh celery leaves or try the Indonesian Chicken Curry with sambal, shrimp crackers and crispy shallot flakes; or Bakhmi Goreng with seafood from Jimbaran, vegetable acar, red chilli and spicy sambal.
This was one of the most affordable restaurants we found in the resort area of Nusa Dua, probably because it is back a little from the beachfront, but you dine al fresco in what has a roof top feel, and it was by far the best food we experienced.
So all in all you did well Ketut, and at least I’ll be well prepared next time I enter your shores.