“Life, religion and art all converge in Bali. They have no word in their language for ‘artist’ or ‘art’. Everyone is an artist” ~ Anais Nin.
Ever wondered what the secret is to having the most enjoyable trip possible? Welcome to my “Be Invisible” series – your ultimate guide for how to avoid looking like a tourist on your next adventure and guaranteed to boost your entire travel experience.
Bursting with helpful tips and tricks, I’ve asked locals from particular cities around the world to share their insider knowledge on the best ways travellers can become “invisible” when visiting their city and enjoy it like a local. If you’re ready to challenge travel stereotypes, overcome language barriers and embrace what I like to call invisible tourism, you’ve come to the right place!
|This travel guide to Bali, Indonesia was written by Mo from Travelust 101. The best way to see Bali is by being an invisible tourist, so I’m very excited to share her top Bali travel tips for how to best blend in amongst locals when travelling. These do’s and don’ts in Bali also provide a great insight to Balinese values and culture to help you make the most of your visit.
If you’re planning a trip to Bali, these tips for visiting from a local’s perspective will help you have a more enjoyable experience and know what to expect before you go. Read on for more!
This post contains affiliate links, at no extra cost to you. I may earn a small commission if you click through and make a purchase.
10 Simple Do’s and Don’ts in Bali to NOT Look Like a Tourist
Bali is an exotic island destination that has been attracting visitors for decades – but the island has been exploding in tourism particularly over the last several years so it’s important to learn some simple do’s and don’ts in Bali.
When I moved to the Island of the Gods in 2014, we did not have “Bali swings” or “Instagram Tours” (yes, there really is such a thing!) and the landscape continues to change drastically. If you are even remotely active on Instagram, you may have noticed that your feed is flooded with popular Bali hot spots such as the T-Rex in Nusa Penida.
In this ever-changing environment, it is becoming increasingly difficult to find non-touristy things to do when planning your Bali itinerary, simply because the island’s economy depends primarily on tourism.
But fear not! There are steps you can take to experience an authentic Bali while minimising your foreign footprint so that we can help protect the true beauty of the island as well!
1. Do dress appropriately
Unless you are on a beach, you should not walk around town shirtless (if you are a man) or in your bikini tops (if you are a woman). Yes, it’s hot in Bali, but as an island that is predominantly Hindu, the local custom is conservative.
Women are expected to cover their shoulders and knees, particularly in sacred places such as temples.
While there are many things to do in Ubud (a town located inland in Bali, far from any beach), one of them should not be women walking around in their sports bras or bathing suits with a see-through cover-up. I see this daily and I have nothing against these attires per se, but there is a time and a place to wear them.
Bali is not where you rock your skimpiest outfits and show off your skin.
2. Do make sure you barter with compassion
If you want to souvenir shop in Bali, especially in street markets, negotiating the price is expected. But be polite and courteous in your approach – don’t be an obnoxious tourist. Remember that a couple of bucks you are saving can provide a meal for a local household.
So while bartering is acceptable, keep in mind the difference in economy, and understand that the currency stretches much further for the locals in Bali.
3. Don’t bother heading to Kuta
If you take away only one tip from these do’s and don’ts in Bali, let it be this: Stay away from Kuta.
Kuta is Bali’s mecca for drunken “bules” (foreigners), tourist traps, bars, and club scene that offers nothing of Bali’s real and natural beauty. Even the beach is underwhelming.
There is nothing exciting to see or do in Kuta unless your objective is to re-live your Spring Break and get wasted during your vacation. Otherwise, save yourself the disappointment and stay as far away from Kuta as possible.
If you need destination ideas for your Bali itinerary, you can check out this comprehensive post.
4. Don’t rent a scooter if you have never driven one
Bali’s population is increasing year after year, not only with tourists but also with a growing expat community and imported Indonesian workers. With the rise in traffic comes rise in accidents.
It seems that incidents of motorbike accidents, injuries, and deaths are often making the news these days. If you either have never driven a scooter or feel uncomfortable driving one, avoid becoming a statistic. Instead, you can hire a driver using GoJek or Grab apps – and they are cheap!
If you do decide to rent a motorcycle, wear a helmet at all times and keep your temper in check. In Bali, there is no such thing as “right of way” that we heed back home. People cut each other off all the time but strangely there is no road range in Bali.
The locals are kind and generous people who yield to those around them. Please observe and return the gesture.
5. Don’t contribute to the litter problem
Although Bali is trying to keep up with the growing tourism and deal with the waste management crisis, the streets, gutters, and ocean are sadly full of plastic and rubbish.
Starting in 2019, the governor of Bali eradicated the use of single-use plastic throughout the island and many cafes, restaurants and resorts are getting on board with “no plastic” movement.
You too, can participate and help reduce the plastic waste on the island by refusing to accept plastic straws, carrying a shopping bag, and using a reusable water bottle.
6. Do explore off the beaten path
Although popular Bali destinations such as Ubud, Canggu, Seminyak, and Uluwatu have their own unique charm and attractions, there is so much more to Bali than beaches, temples and smoothie bowls.
If you want to discover an authentic Bali, get off the popular tourist track and explore the rural villages. Drive through the highlands of north Bali, chase some stunning waterfalls, and discover the magnificent underwater world too!
For inspirations on how to get off the beaten path, check out this post on the 6 incredible hidden gems in Bali!
7. Do ensure you learn some basic Balinese
Two languages are spoken in Bali – the local dialect and the national language of Indonesian Bahasa. Most foreigners tend to pick up some Indonesian Bahasa rather than Balinese, as it allows them to communicate with locals beyond just Bali.
But knowing a few words in Balinese goes a long way! The residents love it when visitors make an effort to learn and communicate in their mother tongue.
Here are some basic words you can start practicing during your next trip.
- Hello – Swastyastu
- Thank You – Suksma
- You’re Welcome – Rahajeng rauh
- I’m sorry – Ampura
8. Do try the local Arak
Although most things in Bali are cheaper compared to the prices in the West, wine and spirits are actually quite expensive. Even the cheapest bottle of local wine costs about USD 11 (which tastes like crap), and an imported bottle that I would pay USD 8 in the US costs about USD 20 – 25 in Bali.
Instead of drinking imported alcohol, try the local Arak, which is a distilled spirit made of coconut or rice. Arak is 40-60% proof, so it’s best to mix it with soda or juice. In local restaurants, an Arak cocktail mixed with honey is a common menu item. And it’s pretty tasty too – give it a try!
Be sure to buy Arak from a reputable source though (such as restaurants). There have been reported cases of “street” vendors selling Arak diluted with rubbing alcohol.
9. Do not expect Western standards
When in Bali, reject all expectations you may have about customer service, prompt responses, or service delivery that you may receive back home. To avoid any stress during your vacation, do not expect western standards in Bali.
For example, if you and your friends go out for dinner in Bali, it is perfectly possible (and likely) that everyone gets their food served at different times. Wait staff will rarely check in with you after a meal is served. No one will deliver a bill to your table unless you ask for it.
Also, public transportation such as shuttles and ferries rarely depart on time. Things are run on an “island time” in Bali – embrace it and don’t sweat the small stuff.
10. Do make sure to look both sides when crossing the street
Motorcyclists in Bali drive everywhere, including pedestrian sidewalks and even on the wrong side of the road. You will find motorcycle drivers in every which direction who pop up from anywhere, so stay alert and look both directions before crossing the street, even if it is a one-way street!
|Mo is a Bali-based scuba instructor whose current passions include coconut ice cream, rescuing street dogs and sharing her travel tips, guides, and resources on her website Travelust 101. You can follow her paradise adventures on Instagram and Facebook.|
Things to do in Bali to book in advance
Here are some exciting things to do in Bali you can book in advance to enrich your trip:
Ready to be invisible with these do’s and don’ts in Bali?
Now you’ve discovered secrets about the do’s and don’ts in Bali by a local, perhaps you’re ready to make the trip! Why not take a look at the latest Bali hotel deals? Or if you’d like some more travel ideas and inspiration, here’s all my articles about Asia to get you started.
For learning my secrets for how to “blend in” anywhere, take a read of my #1 Amazon New Release book!
Do you have any extra tips to add to this list? Let me know in the comments below. I hope you enjoyed this instalment of my Be Invisible series! If you found this helpful, please share it or follow me on Facebook, Pinterest or Instagram for more!
Until next time,
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This guide to do’s and don’ts in Bali contains some affiliate links, at no extra cost to you. I may earn a small commission if you decide to make a purchase and if you do, thanks for your support! This helps with the costs of running my blog so I can keep my content free for you. As always, I only recommend a product or service that I genuinely love and use myself!