* Beginners Bali Guide -


A Long-Time Visitors Guide to BALI.

Bali is firstly for shopping and eating - even for the long-time traveller!

Magnificent and varied sight-seeing follows.

Interaction with the real Balinese is a reward to be savoured.


Discovery of the culture, life style and history is the ultimate that may never be achieved but is an enthralling journey.

When you’re packing think of things in 3 groups

– things you’ll NEED in the first 3 days (you can cheaply buy or have things made beyond that),

- things you’ll consume or leave there as gifts,

- things you’ll have to bring back again. Keep these to a minimum. Fill up your half empty case with little gifts for the children on the beaches or in the schools or the orphanages, the children of the girls who clean your hotel room and of those who serve you at breakfast.

At home weigh your suit cases when empty, you'll be surprised at the result. Get cheap, lightweight ones.
Take a couple of sets of swimming gear (or buy them there if you're an average size) as they take a while to dry and you'll probably be in the pool at least once every day. You might also wear your swimmers when you go shopping for clothes as it's  a lot easier and less embarrassing to try them on if you're wearing bathers.

You don't need expensive airport transfers in your holiday package. As you leave the airport building turn right and you'll see the Taxi office which is fixed price and  perhaps a quarter of that asked by travel agents. No bargaining required. get your ticket and hold it up to be 'claimed' by a driver. 'Easy peasy'. It's often a lot quicker than waiting for every one else on your shuttle bus to get through immigration and baggage too. There are ATM's at the airport too. They give good rates (MUCH better than changing at home with Thomas Cook etc) and you'll have some local money for the cab and some safe drinking water.

Shopping will certainly feature large on the first-timers program.
While Bali has supermarkets, department stores and local shops, shopping at the villages and markets which abound and where great bargains are to be found will be a daily event for you.
Nothing (except more experience) will prepare a westerner for shopping in these places. Bargaining is the order of the day and you might think you can handle this but remember that it is the way of life on Bali and the person you're dealing with has perhaps been doing it since the age of 5 or 6 years.
They are the real experts!

Don't bargain for anything on your first day, just get a feel for the atmosphere and listen to some of the other tourists bargaining. If you must buy then go to the department stores like Matahari, Ramayana etc where the prices are fixed. This is also a good way to get an idea of what the real prices for things are. Beware of the nail cutters, hair braiders, watch sellers, tome share touts and all the others that hang around the entrance doors. They are some of the best con merchants in town. Skilful travellers have developed a knack of ignoring them which seems awfully rude to westerners but really is the best way. Look right through them as if they do not exist. Even saying, 'No thank you,' is taken as an invitation to persist.

Don't bargain for 'fun'. It's considered to be very rude to enter into the process with no intention of purchasing and just walk off when your amusement wanes. If the shopkeeper accepts your last offer you are expected to purchase the goods. That's the local rule.
Keep a perspective on the price being offered. Remember that a few hundred rupiah above your desired price is really only a few cents.
Remember also that a 'few cents' can feed a Balinese family for a day!

Make bargaining a happy and even a theatrical event. You will enjoy it and so will the Balinese. And after all, didn't you come on holidays to be amused, entertained and to be happy?

Keep your receipts, including the print-out you should get when changing money. These will be handy reminders of what things really cost when you get home. Take a business card holder with you. or buy one there. Everyone in Bali has a business card and if you collect them and file them in daily order they are a great way to remember and re-live your holiday months, even years later.

Prices given here below are in Aust$ and are based on an exchange rate of about Rp4500 to A$1.00 . It's handy to bear in mind that Rp50 is worth about 1 cent. Rp100 (their smallest bank note) is worth about 20 cents. Rp10,000 - ten thousand rupiah – (sounds a lot doesn’t it!) is worth a bit less than $2.00 !!

A small ready reckoner like the one to be found by using the link buttons on the left column of our
opening screen could be very handy to keep in your shirt pocket. Try 'Shoppers Aid' or 'Cheat Sheets' and 'Currency Converter'.
When you start bargaining for an 18 carat Thai gold bracelet, with an opening price of 150,000 Rp.! You’ll know where you are - that's under $30.00.

I well remember bartering for a very good quality, but un-finished painting (about 1m x 0.8m in size) from Made (pron. Mardee) Karmayasa in the Monkey Forest, UBUD. The opening price was one and a three quarter million rupiah! (Rp 175,000,000). Ones first reaction is two take two steps backward very quickly. The final purchase price though was under Aus$300 and well worth it for over 2 months of his work.

Street money changers (they all claim to be Authorised) may offer a few more rupiah to the dollar but be warned. They have lapses in counting sequentially, their calculators are unreliable, they are better than David Copperfield at making notes disappear and swift counting can easily see you end up with a bundle of 5,000 rupiah notes instead of a bundle of 50,000's. Try to always have someone with you when you change money and check it before you even stand up to leave. Make sure that NO ONE but you touches the money after you've counted it - NO ONE!

Department stores now frequently have in-store moneychangers who are reliable, if not offering the best rates. They are a good place to start if you're a bit nervous. Kodak shops are getting into it and are very reliable but don't want to change your Travellers Cheques unless you can show them your passport - and that should never leave the hotel safe until you're ready to fly home. Wartels, which are government telephone shops, are often money changers too. They are as good or even better than the Kodak shops and supermarkets or department stores, especially if you want to change a Travellers Cheque as they will accept a photo copy of your passport as identification - and it doesn't matter if you lose this or have it stolen as long as you don't keep it in the same place as your cheques. Make a few copies of the first page before you leave home as the humidity will destroy them in a few days of heavy shopping. Ask at your hotel desk where the nearest Wartel is located, but don't change money at the hotel as they will only give you a poor rate. To find out more about money and how you can be short-changed have a look at our '
MONEY' section.

Internet cafes and access to computers at many hotels make it easy and cheap to keep in touch with friends (and brag about the weather, the bargains, the scenery etc etc). However, unless you can remember all of the addresses in your computer it’s a good idea to print a copy of your Address Book file and take it with you. Some people set up a bulk mailing list on Hotmail before they go, which makes general mailings easy, but I still like my Address Book details for special queries such as “Can u find the price of a leather jacket at home for me?”

Have some business cards made and exchange them where you can and when appropriate. Collect business cards from shops, drivers etc and put them in order in a card book as they become good reminders when you get home as are minder of where you went and who you spoke to. They are impressive when you show them on your return to Bali in the future. Some will get you a 10% discount as a valued customer.

Leather handbags $20 - $30 or up to $100+ for brand names.
Elephant Temple or Goa Gaja - (excellent buys and goods)
In the Kuta Market and up the street from Kuta Market
Leather Jackets - approximately $A100
Dolphins Leather in Sahadewa street in Legian - off Melasti Street which runs from Kuta (highly recommended for made to measure skirts, coats, shoes etc.)


Your first purchase , perhaps even before you get to your hotel, should be a 10 litre container of water (Aqua). DO NOT DRINK THE WATER FROM THE TAPS, even in your hotel. Bali Belly is not nice.

Early in your trip visit Makro which is halfway between Tuban and Sanur. Your driver will know it. This is a bulk purchase outlet where multiples of a huge range of products are about as cheap as you'll get.
Don't carry a lot of cash around. You'll find many handy ATM's if you need to top up. Keep big local notes and your home cash in a separate location from your smaller, 'ready cash'.
Don't walk with your shoulder bag on the road side of the footpath. You probably wouldn't do it at home so don't do it in Bali.

Matahari Department Store (Denpasar & Kuta). - Also Mayang Bali, the jewellery store on the acute corner opposite the entrance to the Kuta Matahari store is well worth a look. Don’t be put off by the expensive look.
Ramayana Department Store (Denpasar) - Platinum Multimedia (within store) for computer software CD's at about $10 per CD for programs such as Windows OS, MS Office Premium and Pro, MacAfee virus programs and so on. Most common PC programs are available but the range for Macintosh is limited (try 'pcMac' in Denpasar). Try to check the disc’s file in a computer. I’ve had two (in more that 40) that were not true to the outside label. Tough at $10 each, eh!? E-mail platinum@dps.mega.net.id for lists before you go. Also good for make up and perfume at Tax Exempt Price. Excellent for Kids clothes
Nintendo games (need an adaptor to make work) Sony Playstation Games (approx $2.00 each) – work on modified Playstation systems
Kuta Market - Excellent for everything
Harry's Computers, Jalan (Road) Teuku Umar 173 Denpasar, Email
dwiufo@indosat.net.id, is also good for computer stuff. Check the latest version numbers of programs that you want before you leave home because some programs (anywhere in Bali) can be a bit old.
Denpasar Department Stores - try tins of Lipton Iced Tea for a pick-me-up.
Ask the shop girls to pick you some good fruit!!
"Tony Marrone" in Jl Wana Segara near the Balihai or "John Farnam" in front of Kartika Beach Hotel in TUBAN for watches Just ask a local, everyone knows everyone else in Bali.
Wood Carving - Nyoman Sujana - Balihai Resort


Eat away from your hotel frequently. The local restaurants and cafes are safe to eat at, are MUCH cheaper than your hotel and you'll get some of the tastiest food in all of Bali.
Remember what your Grandmother told you. Going to the toilet before you leave the hotel is always good advice to follow. When you come across good toilets let them know how much you appreciate this, and the good quality will spread. Likewise let them know, gently, if you don't like their toilets. The very best advice is to ALWAYS carry toilet paper with you as the Balinese see no need for it.

If you're booking in somewhere ask about free pick-up and return.


The Pantai is right on the seafront at Tuban  - the service, price and food are good. The managers name is Fransiskus Ruben, and if you want to make a hit take a small present for his little daughter, Maria Christani Emma, a budding teenager in 2004.  This place is at an unbelievable location for dinner.
Green Garden Kuta
TJ's - Mexican Poppies Lane KUTA - watch out for the chilli!
Bali Seafood, Kuta (a little expensive)
Rama Bridge Kuta (opposite market) good & clean toilets. Prices increased in ’99 for some reason.
SA Cafe, Tuban. Just great. Always reliable. Try an icy Bintang here on a hot afternoon.
Pantai Tuban On the beach front near Bali Hai/Dynasty hotels
Hard Rock Hotel, Legian - Expensive - and you have to ask for your change!
The Pub Legian (don’t waste your time!)
Dolphins Cafe in Legian. Next to Dolphins leather. Good breakfast/snacks.
Mama Lucia’s Legian Street (fantastic Italian food).
Palm Garden Kuta (general eating).
Kin Khao Kuta (Thai food – excellent).
If you like Indian then get a cab and go to the Gateway of India in Seminyak. There are two others but this one is the best.
Kori's Restaurant in Poppies Lane 2 - (absolutely the best place I have eaten at, says Nell.) - not cheap.
The Hann Rest. Jl Pantai Mengiat 88 , BUALU, NUSA DUA. Walking distance from Hilton Hotel. Not a happy experience for us in 2000. We will probably try others in Bualu or frequent the numerous cafes along the main road to Benoa in future.
Lotus Garden in Nusa Dua, Ubud, and Tuban, etc.
Puri Ayung, Ubud. On the side of a forest valley. Nice people, good food when the chef is 'IN'.

Take photos, with the manager in the group, and try to get a copy back to him/her. Great PR if you want to use them again, or for the next Aussies.

Take a local Bemo (small bus for trips in your local area) or hire a driver and Kijang for longer trips. - Try Wayan Suka Ph 411965 around Sanur and Nusa Dua or Made Dera, Ph 081 239 465 31 around Tuban, Kuta, Legian and Seminyak. We can recommend both

Tanah Lot (1/2 day)
Kintamani Volcano
White Water Rafting
Bali Hai Cruise - Day or Sunset
Ubud (excellent watches) & Monkey Forest
Uluwatu (temple on cliff) & excellent monkeys
Elephant Temple
Hot and Cold Springs
Git Git Water fall
Bedugul/Lake Bratan – Water Temple (just beautiful).

Watches coloured approx $7
bracelet $10
Dive Watches $10
Men’s bracelet $15
Leather bags $15
T-Shirts $4
Shorts $4
Reeboks/Nike shoes – beware Reboks/Nikee @ $8.  Beware of fakes, even with the right names, and even in reputable stores. Know your product well for good bargains. Test the stiffness of the sole and the heel support. Genuine shoes are solid.
Caps $1
Sunglasses $4
Belts $6
Leather sandals $9
Women’s shoes coloured $4
Women’s shoes embroidered 7
Try Bali Crystal natural deodorant. $2
Computer software (pirate) $10/disc or even less in quantity.

Soft drinks, Beer & Bottled water are cheap. Take with you, from home, casks of wine and glasses (in suitcase) and Fruit Boxes. If you have kids take plastic bowls and spoons, with a day or so supply of long life milk and packets of cereal so they can get fed early in the morning.
Also take lots of nibbles and biscuits for kids to take on trips e.g. small packets of chips, fruit tingles etc.
Wines and spirits very expensive - take your own and buy mixers in Bali - We often take a hip flask and fill it up with duty free booze and then use it whilst out at dinner Most hotels have a Happy Hour(s). It pays to get to know the bartenders (Shayesta at O'Brien's, Balihai Resort). Be happy and polite and leave a tip. Balinese love a story or a joke.
Many restaurants are happy for you to drink your own wine if you’re friendly & you've bought a beer or two from them first. Invent a birthday and invite the manager to join you in the first toast.
Have some small notes (Rp5000 – about A$1.00) for cover charge/tip if service is exceptional. Most restaurants have a service charge already on the bill. Tipping is not required. If you want to give, do it discretely and directly to the person who has pleased you so much.
Take a photo!

Change travellers cheques or cash at Money Changers in street at your own risk although this is where you can get the best exchange rate if you don't get cheated. However, take a friend, count your money and check the exchange rate on your own calculator - they are 'Javanese' and will usually try to cheat you!!!!
Don’t hesitate to walk out if they do, and don’t go back.
Don’t leave if they say they’ve ‘run out’ of the last small notes, unless you take your cheque/notes with you.
If they don’t try to cheat you leave a small tip as encouragement.
Don't take your passport onto the streets. You can change travellers cheques with just a photocopy for ID at Wartels (local telephoning shops) many of which are friendly, reliable and honest money changers.
The Exchange Rate is marginally better for cash notes than for TC's but there's really only a few cents in it and the safety of TC's is worth it.
Most traders will not take coins because they can not change small quantities at the banks.
Make sure you take some small Australian notes ($5) to give to the porters in the airport. Use the porters as they will get you through customs and into a ‘taksi’ very quickly.

If you want to know more about the pitfalls and promises of money and Bali go to our HOME PAGE and look for "Money' in the 'Forum, Recommendations' page link.

Taxis are very good now (particularly light Blue Group Taxi's) and they are air-conditioned (sort of - but it's better than nothing)! Insist that the meter works (get out if not) and pay only what is on the meter rounded up to 5000 (60c) for a tip if the service is to your liking.
Good for short trips, shopping, for 3-4 people. It will also give you an idea of what you should aim for when bargaining with a hire driver for similar trips.

Hire drivers and their Kijangs - need to barter hard. You'll find many offering, 'Transporrrrrt Boss?' outside your hotel. Use several for short trips and find one that you get on with. Establish a rapport and use him frequently for long trips for which you negotiate a day rate. We estimate a very good day rate (6 hours) that they are happy with is about Rp200,000 which includes the cost of fuel. Don't be conned into believing that more passengers means more money. They will take you wherever you want to go, wait for you, carry shopping for you and look after your belongings if you go sight-seeing. Make sure you go where you ask and not to a similar shop where he'll get a commission from the owner later, and which will be padded into your shop bill.

Learn a few words to use on the streets - not 'Salamat datang' (welcome) as the Balinese think it a bit strange when you, the visitor, welcome them to their own country. Use it if the tailor comes to your hotel room. They will say Salamat datang to you on the streets or in their shops, and you could respond, - Matur suksimu - thank you.
- or -
Salamat pageee Good morning (to about 10 am)
Salamat siaang 10.00 to 2.00
Salamat soree Good afternoon 2.00 to 6.00
Salamat malaam Good night
(The Salamat is often dropped in a reply.)
Salamat tingaal Goodbye
Salamat jalaan Bye - bye (more informal)
Apa kabarrr How are you? The reply is Baik (Pron: 'Bike') - well.
Bagus (Bagooose) Good.
You will find most Balinese are named Wayan (first born), Made (second born), Nyoman (third born) and Ketut (last born). Use these names to introduce yourself: ie I am 'Made Bill'. They will love it because place in families is significant to them.
Be happy and friendly and the Balinese will respond. They like a good joke, within the bounds of the language difficulties. 'Javanese' or 'off islanders' may not respond in the same way but this is probably the result of a different upbringing rather than a desire to be rude.
Ask about their families and children. Small gifts, especially for their children, are always well received. Stock up on little 'Aussie' things before you go.

Go down to the beach in the morning and have a relaxing local massage. Rp 50,000 ($10) for the first time, perhaps reducing to 25,000 if you are a regular. Bring a friend, make a booking for tomorrow at a quiet time. Ask about their children and bring a small present (coloured pens/pencils/crayons balloons, used T-shirts, shorts etc). Give them a bottle of your favourite oil and leave it with them - similarly nail polish, lipstick etc.  Want a list of suitable gifts to disperse around Bali? 
Try here, the 'Oleh oleh' (gift) section of the Forum Recommendation file on our Home Page.
Look for Wayan or Mystri or Adi in front of the Balihai/Dynasty/Kartika Beach Hotels at TUBAN. Tell them 'Papa' from Adelaide sent you.
For hand crafted, beautiful kites try Peter in front of the Balihai – dearer but much better quality than in markets. Real works of art.

Try the local fruits. Anything you can peel before eating should be safe no matter where you buy it. The large passion fruit are unbelievable, bananas taste more ‘bananery’ than you would believe, salaks are easy to peel with the finger nails and their crisp white flesh segments, with large brown seeds like loquats, is very refreshing. Mangosteens are orally orgasmic! In the supermarkets the assistants will select good quality, ready to eat produce for you, just ask with a smile.

The local beers, Bintang, Anker, Bali Hai and San Miguel (about $3.20 for a large chilled bottle served or about $2 from a village store), are usually quickly served, icy cold and in frozen handle glasses. They are a great defence against dehydration! ;-))

Use a local laundry. Most are good and they are all cheap.


Lay back and relax! Don’t get uptight – remember you left all your worries behind you. (But you have got traveller's insurance, haven't you?)
Let it all wash over you and soak up the local flavour.

Log on to
www.balitravelforum.com for a week or so before you go.

Look at 'Bali with Kidz' on our
Home Page. You might consider yourself a big kid if you're planning your first trip.

Look at 'Forum Recommendations' on our Home page if you think you can handle more information. Perhaps print off a copy and take it with you just in case?

Above all -

JANELLE AND PHIL with a little help from Billy.


- fan8 - new4