35 Useful & Important Things to Know Before Going to Bali

Bali is a destination that rose to great fame in the last 10 years or so. There was a point (I think it was back in 2018) when Instagram was literally flooded with pictures from Bali. It seemed like everyone and their mother went there.

Like many others, I also started to crave seeing the lush island in person. And even though it was several years later, my dream trip eventually happened. But looking back, there are some things I wish I had known before going to Bali.

Some are simply useful, others are downright important, and a few I even touch on a bit in my Bali vs Maldives comparison. So, in no particular order, here are the things I think it’s good to know before traveling to this popular Indonesian island.

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things to know before traveling to Bali

01. While Indonesia is mainly a Muslim country, Bali is over 80% Hindu. This means the locals don’t follow the same dress code (though most will still dress modestly) or rules, including the ones regarding alcohol.

02. Don’t throw your arrival plane ticket until you exit the airport. This one surprised me, to be honest: upon arrival in Bali (we were coming from Singapore) we were asked to show the plane ticket we used to get there.

I never had this happen before, at most I was asked where I was coming from.

Thankfully I still have it since I didn’t see any trashcans after I exited the airplane because I vividly remember that I intended to throw it as soon as possible.

03. The Balinese are really nice and welcoming. You’ll always be greeted with a smile!

04. The best time to visit Bali is in summer. For many of us (especially those living in Europe like me), when we’re thinking about tropical destinations we’re hoping to escape the cold of winter.

But Bali doesn’t quite fit in this category, since that’s when the monsoon season is, aka the cheapest yet the worst time (from a weather point of view) to visit the island.

05. Bali is known as the Island of the Gods or the Island of a Thousand Temples and there are tens of thousands of temples scattered around the island.

But you’ll barely notice many of them since they can come in all formes and size. Some are even temporary (for example, at construction sites or in rice fields).

Gate of Heaven at Lempuyang temple
It’s a beautiful photo, but the water is not real

06. There’s no water at Lempuyang temple. This is more or less common knowledge now, but they take photos in front of Gate of Heaven with a black mirror of some kind placed underneath the camera lenses, so it looks like water in pictures.

07. You cannot visit everything inside the big temples.

Generally speaking, a Balinese temple complex is divided into three courtyards: outer, middle and inner.

While you can enter the first two, the inner courtyard is where the shrines for the Gods are located and is reserved for prayer, sacred dances and rituals. You can’t visit it and I did not know that beforehand.

Because I prioritized Tirta Gangga first thing in the morning over Lempuyang temple, we were faced with quite a line for the famous Gate of Heaven photo.

But I was fine with it thinking that we’d just visit the rest of the temple in the meantime (we received a number in line with our entry ticket).

entry ticket to Lempuyang temple
Entry tricket and photo number-in-line for Lempuyang temple (it was a bit past 10:30 AM)

I mean I was still not really over the fact that the “water” in front of the gate was fake (I discovered this way before my trip), but I also didn’t want to regret not doing something even if it was a bit on the trivial side. It’s not like I would visit Bali every few months.

Well, I ended kind of dissapointed, because upon entering I quickly realized we could only visit the courtyard where the Gate of Heaven is located and not also the upper grounds (aka the inner courtyard). I really should have done my homework better.

Since I had already paid for the entry ticket and a driver to bring me there I stayed and waited a few hours to take the pictures. But it ended up feeling a bit like it was more about the photos and less about the cultural and spiritual aspects of the temple.

And while I know it was also my fault for visiting mid-day and the pics did turn out beautiful, I would have preferred to be able to take my own and risk having people in it instead of waiting for hours in an organized line.

I also think it would be a neat idea to have someone tell people more about temple itself while they wait for a pic or simply visit the grounds.

inside Lempuyang temple Bali
People waiting to have their photo taken at Lempuyang temple

08. I love Instagram, but I feel it kind of ruined the vibe of the island a little. I guess initially the app helped Bali tourism tremendously, but now it seems like things have gotten a bit too extreme.

I mean don’t get me wrong I love taking beautiful photos during my travels (they’re some of my most treasured memories!), but I like to do it at my own pace, while also taking my time to experience and feel the places that I’m visiting.

And I have to admit that in Bali, I felt rushed at times and like everything was just about taking pictures. I visited many other crowded places and it wasn’t quite to this degree.

But I’m not saying this to deter you from visiting the island, rather it’s for you to be aware, prepare yourself, and maybe adjust your itinerary accordingly.

For example, I don’t regret prioritizing Tirta Gannga over Lempuyang as I got to see the gardens as soon as they opened and not many people were around so it was easy to explore every corner.

Offerings on Sanur Beach
Offerings on Sanur Beach

09. Be careful not to stomp on offerings. Every day the Balinese will put together gifts for the Gods called offerings (Canang Sari are the ones you’ll see the most).

You’ll encounter them everywhere during your time on the island, often being placed directly on the ground, so make sure you don’t step on them.

10. Bali is on the Ring of Fire so it experiences earthquakes and tsunamis. If you stay in one of the high-risk areas for tsunamis, make sure you familiarize yourself with the escape routes. Better safe, than sorry.

11. There’s no Rice Paddy season. If you want to time your visit when the rice at Tegalalang or any other rice terrace is all grown and lush, I have bad news.

There’s no perfect moment (like with the Sakura in Japan, the tulips in the Netherlands, or the lavender fields in Provence). And that’s because there are several rice cultures in a year.

For example, the rice fields in front of my accommodation in Tegalalang were lush and green, while the ones near my Ubud villa were already harvested.

Tegalalang rice terraces - Bali
Tegalalang terraces: some rice fields are newly sown, while others are more lush

12. You’ll be asked for a fee to visit or take photos in most places, even at natural landmarks like waterfalls. Sometimes this is justified (the lands you cross to get to a waterfall are private or the locals built a path that goes there) and sometimes it’s not.

13. Be careful with alcoholic drinks, especially the locally-made arak. There were quite a few instances of methanol poisoning in the past in Bali (a simple search on Google will return several stories), so be careful what drinks you order when you’re out and about.

When in doubt, it’s better to stick to bottled alcohol like wine, beer, and other pre-made sealed mixes.

Bintang beer in Bali
Bintang, a local beer

14. Don’t forget to use mosquito repellent.

15. The laws around drugs of any kind are very strict! Not bringing any (no matter what the laws are in your own country) goes without saying, but also if anyone offers you while on the island, ignore and remove yourself from the situation as fast as possible. I never encountered this, but I read it can happen.

Don’t assume it’s ok just because you’re being offered!

16. Don’t drink the tap water. In fact, don’t even wash your teeth with it, unless you’re willing to risk getting Bali belly. On the same note, be careful with ice in drinks (I only asked for it at resorts) and fruits that need to be washed.

17. Don’t have food and hide any valuables when you’re around monkeys. They will downright steal from you.

18. Don’t smile at monkeys. Bearing teeth is a sign of aggression for them.

19. Book a driver or a guide. Traffic in Bali flows on its own rules and you don’t want to put yourself or the locals in danger. During our 2 weeks in Bali, we had several drivers/guides and I really recommend Darwin (you can contact him directly on Instagram).

Not only is he speaking English very well, but it’s so nice talking to him and he’ll tell you more about the Balinese culture. And if he’s not available, he’ll do his best to still help you.

And if you’re wondering, no, I have nothing to gain from this recommendation, I just liked having him as our guide and wished we knew about him from the start.

Tirta Empul Temple
Visiting Tirta Empul temple

20. No matter if you are a man or a woman, if you have long hair, you should tie it back before entering a temple. Also, wear a sarong and cover your shoulders.

While the sarong rule might be quite obvious since most temples will lend you one at the entrance, I only found out about having to tie my hair back from Darwin.

And even though the hair rule doesn’t seem to be as enforced as the sarong, it’s good to know about it and follow it.

21. Grab doesn’t work in Ubud. You probably already know that there’s no Uber available in Bali and that the equivalent apps are called Grab and Go-Jek. But in Ubud, even these won’t work.

It seems the reason is the local taxis which aren’t too happy about the ridesharing apps. And even though we could open both, see cars around, and get estimates, no one would eventually show up, so we had to get the hotel to call us a taxi.

22. There are sea snakes in the waters around Bali and they’re very poisonous. For me, this was a deal breaker as I’m really scared of snakes and when I heard from a friend that she actually saw them when doing scuba and snorkeling I was all like ” That’s it, I’m sticking to pools!”.

Now, you don’t need to follow into my steps, but it’s good to be aware of this and keep your distance if you did see any. The same thing applies to blue-ringed octopuses too.

Mangosteen fruit
Mangosteen fruit

23. Try Manggis (Mangosteen). As Darwin put it, Durian may be the king of fruits, but Mangosteen is the Queen. While I didn’t have the guts to try Durian myself, I fell hard for Manggis and made sure I had a stash for most of my vacation in Bali.

The best thing about discovering Manggis is that it was by chance: we were in a supermarket in Seminyak when an older gentleman approached us and told us how he always gets this fruit when he’s visiting Bali and that we needed to try it.

24. Tirta Gangga is not a temple, but a former royal palace.

25. You shouldn’t enter a temple if you’re on your period (this can also appy to cuts). At Pura Lempuyang, they will literally ask you that before purchasing your ticket, though at most of the others, they don’t.

Flower Bath Bali
Flower bath at Kaveri Spa

26. If you want to take a flower bath, I recommend Kaveri Spa at The Udaya Resorts & Spa in Ubud. You don’t have to stay at the hotel to book a spa session and they have many designs for flower baths to choose from, as well as other spa services. You can even book it online.

27. Don’t touch the head of a Balinese person (children and infants are included). The reason is that the head is viewed as the most sacred part of the human body.

28. Honking is used to announce your presence in traffic.

29. Don’t use your left hand to hand things or to touch people. Like it other cultures, the left hand is considered to be reserved for hygienic purposes.

30. Don’t raise your feet too much from the ground at temples. At Pura Lempuyang, we witnessed some people trying to do Yoga poses that required raising their feet up in the air and they were told off.

31. It may look like a temple gate, but Handara is the main entrance of a gold course. To get pictures there, you’ll need to pay a fee and wait in an organized line.

32. T-Rex Beach (aka Kelingking Beach) is located on Nusa Dua island, a short boat ride from Bali.

Tegalalang swing
I was laughing.. but not really :)))

33. The swings can be a photo op and/or a thrilling experience. I will admit I was in for the view and the pics so I screamed the whole time despite asking them to not push me too hard (and they respected my wish).

My fiance on the other hand was in for the adrenaline and he wanted full speed, so they would literally run and jump to be able to add more force to the push.

He loved the experience, while for me it was more like a milestone (or a mistake – still not sure) in my fight with my fear of heights.

Because it was kinda hard to admire the views when you had your eyes closed half the time :)). But hey, I have some funny videos to look back at.

34. The famous Kopi Luwak is made from coffee cherries that pass through the digestive tract of a small animal. Yeah, you heard that right! Supposedly the Luwak (also known as Asian Palm Civet) only eats the best cherries and its digestive enzymes alter them in a particular way.

Coffee cherries eliminated by a Luwak
Coffee cherries eliminated by a Luwak

35. If you want to try Luwak coffee do your research beforehand: unfortunately, most places turned to intensive farming meaning the poor animals are caged, held in improper conditions, and force-fed the coffee cherries.

So try to find a location where they still go around the plantations and collect the droppings that wild Luwaks leave during the night. Most places you’ll see at the edge of the road advertising Kopi Luwak are sadly not.

I will note that I tasted this coffee at Munduk Moding Plantation Nature Resort (they told us they use the traditional way of collecting Luwak coffee cherries) and didn’t feel it was anything special honestly, so maybe skip trying it all altogether.

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