1. Sim Card, WhatsApp and WiFi
Like most South East Asian countries, WhatsApp is king. Just find a wifi signal and chat away (available at most restaurants and coffee shops). This works for all your friends at home on Facebook Messenger too! However, you’re gonna wanna get a local SIM card for your phone to really be connected round the clock. First, make sure to call your carrier before you go, and ask for a travel unlock. It’s free and easy, and available by law on all US provider networks (the one caveat is that you’ll have to pay off your contract if you’re on one of those old sucky year-long family plans). You can grab a card (choose Telkomsel Flash 4G) right at the airport across the street from the entrance in the parking garages. Be sure to get a package that includes data and a little bit of plusa (call credit). It will cost you 100K ($10AUD / $7.50USD) for around 4 gigs and some chat time. Download the free MyTelkomsel app to track your remaining balance.
2. Driver at Airport and Getting Around
Bali is a chaotic mess of motos and taxis that can be shocking for first timers. There are seemingly no rules of the road, so DON’T rent a car, you’ll regret it. Instead, arrange to have a driver meet you at the airport and take you to where you’re staying. Get out your WhatsApp and message Intan at +62-0819-9964-7927, she’s young, fun, speaks english, and knows every spot on the island. If she’s not available she’s got a cousin who is. She’ll be holding a sign with your name on it when you get past immigration. Maybe you were thinking of using Uber - that’s another first-timer mistake. The local taxi drivers will chase them away with knives and sticks when they pull up to get you, and then fight with you over a price. Airport pickups run 250K ($25AUD / $19USD) and not a penny more (unless you’re going to Ubud or some other far flung location then just trust Intan to give you a good price). While Intan is taking you to your accommodations, ask her about delivering you a motorbike for easy travel around the island, she’ll have it delivered, no extra charge. If you don’t have an international drivers license, keep 50K in your front pocket (and all the rest of your money safely tucked in your bike) just incase you get stopped by the police. You can take the ticket, or pay the fee - always pay the fee, and always wear your helmet or expect to pay more.
3. Canggu over Seminyak
You’re young, hip and wanna have fun while seeing the local culture, and Seminyak is the spot right? Wrong. Avoid the “New Kuta” and travel 20 minutes farther north to the chill surfers paradise (also known as The Beverly Hills of Bali), Canggu! You can still get a ride to Seminyak anytime you wanna get crunk and you’ll be so happy you’re not surrounded by overpriced shops and tourist traps day and night. Trust me, Canggu is the paradise you’ve been looking for and at 1/2 the price.
4. Forget Expensive Hotels, Save Money and Upgrade your Experience.
Holy crap you have a LOT of options when booking your accommodations. From surfer hostels to super villas and everything in between. Avoid the choice paralysis and decide on how much you wanna spend first, then get on AirBnb. All the best spots are listed on there and you can narrow down your perfect lodging based on things like wifi and exact location. A few choice locations in Canggu for the budget traveler not listed on AirBnb are Frii Hotel, Bima Sakti, and Ayok Surf & Stay.
5. Have Anything Delivered
Looking to just hang out at your villa? Forget to bring along a few essential items? No worries! You can have anything you need delivered from food and drinks to toiletries! You’ve got two great options, Go-jek or Nyoman. For food, and hard alcohol, try Go-Jek. This is where your local SIM card will come in handy again. First download the free app. Then punch in your local number and you’re ready to go, no credit card needed, it’s all cash. They’ve got a menus from all the nearby establishments ready to go, just order what you want and they’ll be at your villa soon. For beer, water, fresh coconuts, fruit and toiletries, get out your WhatsApp and send a message to Nyoman at +61-0813-3986-4098, he’s your “local guy” on the ground. Beers might be 25k a bottle at Old Mans, but their only $13k when he’s delivering a case right to your door.
6. Bali Belly Prep
I know, you’ve read the blogs and you’re scared to drink the water or eat the local food. Don’t be, that’s a classic beginner mistake. You’ll just be missing out on some of the things that make Bali amazing. Instead, ask if the water in your glass is bottled (it always is), and have some activated charcoal on-hand. It’s available for pennies at any Guardian drug store. The Balinese version of Gatorade (tastier too) called Pocari Sweat will keep you hydrated and it’s carried at every corner shop. Chances are you have NOTHING to worry about, this is just in case. Don’t let click-bait generated fear keep you from enjoying everything Bali has to offer.
7. Changing Money and ATM Skimming
Finally, a few words about getting and using money in Bali. Bring crisp new hundreds with you and exchange them at the airport. Tell the money-changer how much you have and wait to hand over your currency till you have counted it yourself and your fresh bright new rupiah is in your palm, simple. If you have to use an ATM, avoid the once scatted through out the town (they often have skimmers on them), and take the extra few minute ride to a nearby bank.
For more great advice, check out Lani Ricefield’s Top Tips For Bali First Timers