Bali is a dream destination for me, so I took an extra care to plan for this memorable getaway. I searched for detailed travel guides, managed my budget, and crafted an itinerary literally for months! However, I realized I overlooked these common pitfalls that could have made my trip even more enjoyable and meaningful. So, even before I start my Bali travel guide series let me start with these top mistakes to avoid in Bali so you can enjoy the Playground of the Gods to the fullest!
Speeding through the Tourist Attractions
We often commit to this one because we can all agree, we’re not sure as to when we’ll be back to the place or if we’ll still be able to. We think that by doing so — that if we can visit as much places as we could, it means that we’re making the most out of it.
However, one of the common mistakes to avoid in Bali is speeding through Bali’s tourist spots. Doing so without really soaking in each place can be a huge mistake. Bali isn’t just about famous landmarks — it’s the culture, food, landscape and more that make it special. If you rush, you might miss out on the real Bali. It’s better to take it slow, enjoy each spot, and immerse into the local culture for a more meaningful trip.
Pursuing Bali’s tourist hotspots on Instagram
To be honest, I found myself questioning as to why we spent more or less two hours waiting for our turn at Handara gate which is just an entrance to a fancy hotel & resort. This is one of the top mistakes to avoid in Bali that first-time travelers would inadvertently make — and I’m guilty.
I hate to break it you (and I know it will pull some strings) but: Ditch the quest for Instagram-famous spots. While you might check out a couple, the reality is you’d be spending hours in queues just for a few quick snaps in these hotspots.
Not minding the Bali traffic
Trust me when I say Bali’s traffic is something that you should not underestimate. Expect traffic jams here and there especially around Kuta, Canggu, Seminyak — even in islands like Nusa Penida. This is when renting a motorbike becomes ideal. However, reckless and inconsiderate motorists are just around the corner. For your safety then, always wear helmet and bring your driver’s license, too.
Visiting Nusa Penida for a day
Nusa Penida is divided into three different regions: the East, West and Central. Visiting the island for a day means visiting one region only or one spot of each. Nusa Penida has so much to offer that a day wouldn’t suffice to see its beauty. Perhaps two to three days would.
Take note as well that the roads in Nusa Penida are narrow. It gets congested usually around the harbor and the tourist destinations. Also, since it’s a popular destination for tourists visiting Bali, the popular photo spots usually get packed that it takes several minutes to an hour to fall in line for your turn. On top of these, you also need to consider that you need to be by the harbor at least before 4:00 to 5:00 PM depending on your booked fast boat that will take you back to mainland Bali. You may possibly not enjoy the trip with the thought of all these.
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Drinking tap water
Take one of the mistakes to avoid in Bali seriously: If there’s one thing that you may not want to experience while on a fun trip around, it’s the ‘Bali Belly’. It’s a coined term for Travelers’ Diarrhea that tourists usually get from drinking natural or tap water. Travelers may suffer from stomachache, vomiting, bloating and even fever for a few days due to the consumption of contaminated water.
To avoid the Bali Belly, go for properly sealed and packaged drinking water sold in shops as these are guaranteed safe and well-treated.
Not dressing modestly when visiting temples
While Bali is quite a place to dress up tropically fancy, it is still a must that some of the top tourist spots include temples. Some temples have sarongs for rent while some don’t so might as well bring one or a shawl to cover your exposed skin. Pack more than one skirt or pair of pants with you to cross this one out among the mistakes to avoid in Bali.
[For women] Visiting temples when on a period
Majority of Balinese follow Hinduism. This religion, along with others, believe that temples are a sacred place of worship and purity. Anything nor anyone who may taint the purity will be refused of entry. Among those are the women on their periods. They believe that menstrual blood is impure or ‘dirty’ hence must not be allowed to enter.
Though they won’t have a way to find out if you are on your period or not, attempt not to enter the temples in respect to their religion and beliefs. If your visit then will fall on the days of your menstruation, might as well modify your itineraries.
Not getting a local sim
While Wi-Fi is accessible in restaurants, airport and hotels, navigating through Bali’s busy traffic or checking currency exchange rates during outbound travels may require mobile data. Get then a local prepaid SIM card as it is a smart move. These SIM cards are available at airport service counters, convenience stores, and supermarkets. These provide affordable call and data options for your smartphone. Make sure that you’ll choose a prepaid data plan enough for your entire duration.
Exchanging all your pocket money at the airport
While the goods and services’ prices are high, the exchange rates, on the other hand, are a bit low inside airports. This guide is not telling you though to not exchange your money at the airport. Rather, it’s telling you not to exchange ALL of it. You can and you should exchange a few especially if you’re doing a DIY trip and you’ll need some IDR to take a cab to your accommodation.
Take this as a reminder as well not to exchange your money to Rupiah outside Bali. Rates are way better in the island province.
Exchanging your dollars to makeshift moneychanger stalls
Such moneychangers usually have the tendency to scam tourists. They can exchange your money especially if you need it and you don’t have any Indonesian Rupia left but make sure you know the current exchange rate, you’ll keep an eye to the money they are counting, and you count your money before you leave.
To avoid scams, exchange your money in reliable moneychangers in the city or town center (i.e. around Kuta, Canggu, Seminyak) and make sure you’ll have enough for your trip.
Not eating in Warungs
Believe me: it’s a huge mistake you’re making if you miss out on Warungs! These are not just your small, local eateries on the side of the road. They are a door leading to the Balinese culinary culture. By skipping Warungs, you’re not just missing a meal; you’re missing on a chance to experience their local food culture. From savory satays to flavorful nasi goreng, Warungs provide a gateway to the diverse and delectable world of Indonesian flavors.
Taking the taxi all the time to go around
While taking the taxi is indeed convenient, this is still among the common mistakes to avoid in Bali. Take note that you cannot rely on taxi entirely when going around Bali especially when traveling to outskirts or to areas other than the southside. Though services like Grab and Gojek are the top, most reliable transport services in the island, it may be costly to be taking it all times for tours. Hence, it is always cost effective to either rent a motorbike, a self-drive car or a bicycle in small islands.
Bringing food or stuff out when monkeys are around
Balinese coexist with monkeys. They are everywhere. Monkeys are considered as sacred animals in the island province. While they may seem cute to watch and take some photos of and with, be sure that you won’t have anything dangling on you when you approach them as they could get nasty and grab your stuff from you. They are everywhere and very quick. Next thing you know, a monkey has snatched something from you.
Not bringing extra layers when exploring Bedugul
It may get hot in some areas in Bali but not in Bedugul. The shawls or sarongs that you’ll bring with you to cover yourself up when visiting temples may also come in handy when visiting Bedugul as it gets cold especially late in the afternoon and in the evening. If you easily get cold, do not make that mistake of not bringing extra layers when exploring this side of Bali. It’s not just an added layer for protection, it’s also a way to stay modest in the temple.
Assuming that everything is cheap
While you’d often come across people and contents saying that it’s cheap to travel in the Playground of the Gods, take note that NOT everything is cheap in Bali. Warungs or restaurants charge taxes and service fees on top of the price of the food that you eat. There might be hotels accommodations that are cheap but go over the reviews. They may not be as ideal as advertised. The rates of fancy AirBnBs that you see on Instagram, on the other hand, starts at $200 and the others are skyrocketing. These are just some of the things you’ll probably spend most of your bucks on so be smart about it.
Talk to few Balinese and learn about the usual rates so you won’t have to be surprised telling them that you thought it’s cheap to travel around Bali. It is and it could be, actually, if you have researched well enough.
Not minding about service charge and taxes [in Warungs]
If you’re traveling on a strict or tight budget in Bali, consider service charges and taxes especially when dining in warungs (small restaurant). Ask if they charge any or if not or if they’re applied on the price stipulated on the menu. In this way, you won’t be surprised when the bill comes.
Not minding the time you spend on a tourist spot when on an organized tour
One of the most convenient ways to explore Bali is through booking organized tours. They may either be exclusive or a joiner type. However, take note that these are time-bound regardless of the exclusivity. They are limited to either 10, 9 or 8 hours. If you booked one, be mindful of your time as they usually charge IDR 100.000 in every additional hour.
Not haggling or Haggling Hard
Like in any other tourist-concentrated areas, some local vendors and tour operators have the tendency to overprice. Hence, learn how to haggle as they can possibly give it at a lower price but don’t haggle too much. To be safe, you may ask about the ideal price to your local tour guide [if there’s any] or any other locals other than the vendors themselves. If you do not have anyone to ask, test your haggling skills without lowballing their products way too much.
Mistakes to Avoid in Bali, In a Nutshell
Did I regret doing these things? Not really. They’re all charged to experience. It’s not that we did not enjoy our Bali getaway. It was definitely one of the most memorable as I’ve also got the best company — even went home engaged; but I just thought we could have made the most out of it if not for some of these mistakes. By most I mean more meaningful and relaxed. This just means that we’ll definitely be back to the Playground of the Gods with all these mistakes to avoid in Bali in mind.