All you need to know before you travel to Bali

Hi everyone! I’ve also filmed a video on this topic and if you’d prefer watching the video on Youtube, click here. I’ve put together a list of tips for you if you’re planning on traveling to beautiful Bali, the island of the Gods in wonderful Indonesia. This is not a list of things to see or activities to do so if that’s what you’re looking for then this post isn’t for you. These are just some tips that I’ve put together to help you travel here smoothly and also some things to watch out for.

1. Money

The currency used here in Bali is called Indonesian Rupiah and you can pretty much exchange it anywhere here in Bali as long as you have a major world currency with you. We prefer traveling with US Dollars and particularly in USD100 bills because we noticed that many money exchange shops give better rates to those with USD100 bills than USD1 bills. You can find money exchange counters just about anywhere but be careful in making sure to choose an authorised money exchange counter because if a rates they are offering you that day seems too good to be true then it probably is! There are money scams out there so be careful.

At restaurants, hotels and bars, the food and drinks prices listed are exclusive of government tax and service charge, depending on the establishment, you can pay up to 25% extra on your bill from the tax and service charge.

2. Sim Cards

Oh how we all need to stay connected! Although wifi is generally free and very common in places like restaurants, bars, hotels and even convenience stores, I would recommend getting a local sim card when you arrive. Last year I bought a sim card at the airport at the arrivals from a little kiosk but then I realised that I was charged almost triple the price of a sim card which you can easily find at cell phone stores all over. This year I decided to wait and bought my sim card at a little shop in Kuta but unfortunately I didn’t know that at the end of last year, the Indonesian government changed its regulations and required everyone who bought sim cards to register their sim card with the service provider. Now over 2 weeks in, my sim card is blocked so I will have to buy another sim card and this time register it with my passport.

3. Street vendors, tourist information and taxis

This is something I’ve observed amongst foreigners which I would like to point out. If you didn’t already know, Bali is growing in tourist numbers every single year and a lot of people and families out here rely on the tourism industry for a living. Which means they put food on the table and school their kids with the money they earn from the tourism industry. I know a lot of tourists are also very wary about street vendors and constantly being asked if they require a taxi or certain services, but please be mindful of them and have the respect to decline politely if you don’t need their services, don’t outright ignore them! That’s just rude. Give them the same courtesy as you would to your own because after all they are welcoming you into their country and their culture.

Regarding street vendors, of course when you want to purchase goods they will give you a high price at first, they expect you to haggle and if haggling isn’t your thing then perhaps you should go to a souvenir shop where the price is set. Otherwise haggling is rather fun and not only do you get to walk away with a bargain but you have also supported a local and small business.

 

4. Seasons

High season in Bali is from June to September and that’s because it is also the dry season. Low season is from December to April but that’s also the rainy season. June through to September, you can expect a lot of foreign tourists and from December to February you can expect a lot of local tourists, particularly those that live in major cities in Indonesia and looking for a local getaway. Although we were lucky when it came to rain, April is still the end of the rainy season but fear not because the rain comes quickly and leaves equally quickly.

 

5. Food and water

I know some people have gotten sick here in Bali which is why I wanted to share some of our own tips with you. Firstly you cannot drink the water from the taps but every hotel and resort offer complimentary drinking water daily anyways and if you’re not staying at a hotel, drinking water is cheap and very accessible. Secondly, we have not gotten food poisoning since coming here to Bali and we have eaten a variety of meats as well as seafood. We are generally very careful when it comes to these things anyways and to make sure we always eat at a restaurant that seems busy because then we know there is a faster turnover of food and secondly when in doubt, always ask the staff for the popular items on the menu or just order local food. You can never go wrong with nasi goreng or mie goreng (friend rice and fried noodles).

6. Transport

Getting around is relatively cheap and easy. You can either get around in the more popular areas like Kuta and Seminyak by hailing a cab (make sure they switch on their meter) or you can also hire your own driver for a full day. Hiring your own driver gives you the flexibility to go anywhere you want and depending on how you negotiate, the rates is generally around USD50 for 8-10 hours.

You can also rent a scooter and there are daily rates for this, the longer you rent a scooter for, the lower the rates. Most hotels and resorts can organise you a scooter upon your request and they generally don’t ask you for an international license, although I would recommend getting one before you come to Bali. If the police decides to stop you, at least you’ll be abiding the law in a foreign country. Also I would suggest you wear your helmets although many of the locals don’t. Just know that the traffic is really bad in Bali especially in Kuta and Seminyak so unless you’re a frequent rider, I wouldn’t recommend attempting to ride there.

7. Service

I have to commend the Balinese people when it comes to service, whether you’re staying in a 3 star hotel or a 5 star hotel, the service is absolutely outstanding. Their hospitality is unparalleled and they provide you the great service without expect tip. Although you should if you feel that they deserve it. The indonesians are kind, patient and friendly people and they also work very hard for their money so come with an open mind and an open heart.

8. Ubud

We absolutely love Ubud! In Ubud you can expect the jungle and slightly cooler because it is in the mountains. It is an area with lots of vegan restaurants, yoga studios, temples and everything is truly embraced in the Balinese culture and traditions. We hired a scooter here and rode around everywhere because the roads are less busy so it was safer for us. Metered taxis are definitely less common here because the roads are very narrow so if you wish to go exploring for the day, I would recommend hiring a driver and let them know where you want to go because the further you go, the rates may be higher.

9. Kuta and Seminyak

These two are separate areas but I decided to group them together. I love and hate Kuta and Seminyak at the same time. I love the restaurants and the shops that they have to offer but it is just too busy for my liking. There isn’t just terrible traffic within the area but also getting in and out takes long because of the traffic. Also expect very touristy prices here and you can pretty much find any cuisine here. The beaches here are also not ideal, they are dirty and crowded, same goes with the streets, so if you’re looking for a place to party then you’ve found the right place.

10. Nusa Dua

Full disclosure – I may be biased towards Nusa Dua because it is where we got married. Read my wedding planning post here.

Nusa Dua is a coastal area and it is a lot less crowded than Kuta and Seminyak. The roads and beaches are also a lot cleaner and more looked after. Here you can find all the major hotels lined up around the beaches  and they definitely don’t come cheap. It’s still not far off from where the action is though, it takes about 30min in a taxi to Kuta and Seminyak so we prefer staying here because during the day you can enjoy clean and less crowded beaches and night time you can go into town for dinner and drinks.

11. Sanur

We stayed in Sanur for one night purely by chance because I had miscalculated the dates when I booked the hotels and I had left out one day. It was a blessing in disguise because I ended up booking a night at one of the resorts in Sanur, which is also a coastal area. It is very quiet in Sanur, probably even quieter than Nusa Dua because they say that it is very suitable for honeymooners and retired people and they’re not wrong. We probably saw a handful of people our age at the resort and the rest and not younger than 50! LOL! The beaches in Sanur are beautiful, clean and serene. You can also find shops and restaurants on the main strip where all the hotels are.

12. Climbing Mount Batur

I’ve actually written about climbing Mount Batur in a previous post, click here to read.

 

Hope you all enjoyed my tips and pictures!

With love…xxx

Rights for the use of photos are reserved. 

10 Things You Should Know Before Climbing Mt Batur in Bali (Volcano)

If someone came up to me 7 years ago and asked me to climb some volcano, I would have outright laughed at that person and walked away. Me climbing a volcano? Never! Which brings us to the present, I’m an adult female who goes to gym 5 times a week, I train with my personal trainer once a week, I do cardio, I do weight training, I do boxing and on top of going to gym, I do yoga twice a week. Fit? Yeah kinda… so I shouldn’t even batter an eyelid when comes to hiking up a volcano in Bali… or so I thought (read on to find out why). Now that I’ve been there, done that, printed the t-shirt, I’ve compiled a list of 10 things you should know before climbing Mount Batur in Bali, Indonesia.

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  1. It’s an active volcano

When I say active volcano, I’m pretty sure the first image that pops up in your head is boiling lava bubbling its way up the volcano. Well sorry to disappoint but that’s not Mount Batur, it’s an active volcano but there’s no lava. You can expect lots of steam coming up from all directions once you get to the top but there won’t be any lava.

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2. You DEFINITELY need sports shoes

Two of our friends (Hi Kyle and Drew) who also came on the hike thought it would be an easy hike and doable with slops, it’s funny now but if they didn’t go out and buy sports shoes the day before, it would not have been funny. Make sure you pack a pair of socks that fit like a glove and decent pair of sports shoes (preferably hiking shoes but it doesn’t matter). The reason why socks matter here is because on the way down, the soil is very loose and if your socks aren’t that great then chances are, you’ll be stopping every 10-15min to take off and empty out your socks.

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3. Carry a warm sweater

After a few days in Bali you’ll probably regret carrying any form of long sleeves or jackets because it’s a waste of space and absolutely not necessary in Bali’s hot and humid climate. However if you’re planning on climbing Mount Batur, you might just regret not carrying a warm sweater with you. Sure, you’ll be sweating the whole way to the top but once you reach the top, mark my words, it is cold and it is windy so make sure you carry something warm with you.

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4. Know your essentials

If you’re an amateur hiker, leave that backpack at home, you will thank me later. All you need is a warm sweater, a small bottle of water, sunscreen and a torch (make sure the battery is full). You also probably won’t be climbing the volcano alone because there are many tour companies with tour guides that take you up the volcano. If that’s the case, they normally will give out a bottle of water and a torch to each person before the climb. As for sunscreen, trust me you will need it on your way down.

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5. It’s a bumpy ride

Since we stayed in Nusa Dua, which is further from the volcano, we were told that the driver will be picking us up at 1:40am. Yes, you read right, 1:40AM! It was 2 tortuous hours in the car because the road is bumpy and my motion sickness was progressively getting worse as we got closer. Luckily for me my stomach was empty otherwise its contents would be everywhere.

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6. It’s safe, just don’t do anything stupid

If you’re concerned about your safety, just know that you’re safe in the hands of the tour guides. They are professionals who climb up and down the mountain every single day with tourists. Make sure you stay close to your guide and your friends because it’s very dark on the way up since the sun hasn’t yet risen. Don’t do anything stupid once you get to the top because we heard that a tourist fell inside the crater and died a few years ago.

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7. Carry some cash with you

It’s nifty to have some cash with you because on the way up the mountain, there are vendors who sell cooldrinks, bananas and certain snacks to keep you going. Once you get back down, there’s a family run store that sells snacks and drinks and has a toilet (which you’ll have to pay for if you use it). Lastly, don’t forget to thank and tip your guides because if you contacted a tour company, chances are these tour operators are not actually the people who took you up that mountain. So get to know these guides, get to know their stories and their lives in Bali.

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8. It’s a slippery slope

Climbing up is strenuous but going back down need guts! My legs were literally trembling like jelly when we started our descend and I’m not particularly scared of heights. Just understand that there is black, loose soil that covers the mountain on the way down and it’s almost impossible to prevent yourself from slipping and sliding. I was one of the lucky few who made it down without falling on my bum but that’s only because the Balinese guide held my hand the whole way down (yes I was the weakest link but I was used to that by then). If you happen to own a hiking stick, take it with you but if you don’t have one, don’t go out of your way to buy one just for the hike.

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9. Don’t have your wedding 2 days after the hike

For some insane reason, I did the hike 2 days before my wedding. Only after the hike, did I realize the hundreds of possibilities that something may have gone very wrong during the hike, which means I will probably end up cancelling the wedding. Ok that’s a little extreme but I would not be happy limping into the chapel! Luckily for me, we had amazing Balinese guides who took turns holding my hand at the request of my then husband-to-be because he would hate to see me fall on my face. With that said, I wouldn’t advise doing the hike right at the beginning of your holiday because you just never know.

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10. It is NOT EASY… but there’s an alternative

The whole misconception about this hike started when I read somewhere online that this hike was an easy to medium difficulty. Let me just tell you that IT IS NOT EASY, medium to hard maybe! Clearly whatever I read online was not speaking to the majority of us, which are amateur hikers. Since my expectation was not managed properly, I really suffered going up that volcano, although I’m pretty sure my lack of sleep the night before and also the car sickness didn’t help with that. If you are not the hiking type, just know that this is not your only way to see the volcano. You can also get a private tour guide to drive you and your loved one to a restaurant up a mountain with a full view of the volcano, which is what my family did instead.

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Thank you for reading! Share this with someone who is crazy enough to climb the volcano!

With love…xxx

All photos belong to Drew and myself. Please don’t use without permission. Follow him on Instagram (@toastedswimmer). 

10 Things You Should Know Before Traveling to Japan (with photos)

I must admit that I have not done a travel intensive trip in the longest time until Japan. We headed to Japan to catch the cherry blossoms in April 2016 and boy was it worth it. We travelled to Tokyo, Hakone, Kyoto and Osaka, our trip was in total 14 days and it was more than enough time to travel those 4 cities. I decided to compile a list of 10 things that you should know before traveling to Japan.

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  1. Know your routes beforehand

Since we will be heading to 4 different cities in Japan, the first thing we researched on was how to travel to the different cities. There are numerous options but the easiest is by train and trust me when I say that Japan the king of convenient rail transport country-wide. The easiest option is the JR Pass, which is only available for use by foreigners, it allows you unlimited travel across Japan on rail, buses and ferries. You can purchase 7, 14 or 21 days pass but it’s not cheap. We didn’t opt for the JR Pass because our first stop after we arrived in Tokyo was Hakone and JR trains don’t go all the way to Hakone (this is why I always research in advance) so we decided to buy our tickets along the way. With that said, it doesn’t matter what form of transport you use to get to places, just make sure you plan your routes in advance because it saves you a lot of time and money if you already know the best option to get to your destination.

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2. Cash is king

Like any other Asian country, Japan is very cash orientated and it makes your traveling so much easier if you carry cash on you (or at least know where to get cash from). Sure there are shops and restaurants that have card machines but there are also lots of local restaurants and food stands that don’t so rather be safe than stranded somewhere hungry without cash.

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3. Learn how to say “thank you” in Japanese

I must admit that I was fairly surprised that people didn’t speak much English at all for the first few days we were in Japan. I eventually got over it and adjusted. I mean the amount of effort and hand signing it took me to explain to the lady at the counter that I required a sim card was ridiculous! The Japanese are very polite people, they certainly won’t be rude to you if you don’t speak their language but learning how to say “thank you” can make all the difference so make an effort. If you’re wondering what “thank you” is – Arigatō gozaimas – you’re welcome!

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4. Convenience stores are your best friends

Apart from Hakone, all the other cities we travelled to had convenience stores everywhere, which were mainly 7-11s. They sell everything, band-aids, cool drinks, magazines, makeup, sweets and food but not just any food, you can get wholesome and delicious meals from 7-11s in Japan and for cheap just incase you get stranded somewhere hungry AF.

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5. Check the cherry blossom forecasts before you book your flights

If your sole purpose is to go see cherry blossoms then make sure you check out the forecasts before you go because the last thing you want is to rock up and not even get a glimpse! The cherry blossoms bloom at different times every year but it generally falls between April and May and they only last for about 2 weeks (May is pushing it so April would be a safer bet). We traveled to Japan during the second week of April and it was in full bloom so basically by the end of our travels, the cherry blossoms have already fallen but they were a spectacular sight none-the-less.

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6. Japan is not a morning place

If you’re an early bird and hope to get things started in the morning, just know that majority of the shops and restaurants will not be opened. I remember one of the days we wanted to catch a bus somewhere quite early, like around 8am and we walked around and couldn’t find a place that served breakfast. Even Starbucks wasn’t open that early, we ended at a little cafe that was also a bakery and we had breakfast there.

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7. TIPPING in Japan

If you’re from South Africa or the United States, you’re probably very used to tipping by now that it is almost second nature to you, regardless of whether you actually like it. Just know that tipping is not customary in Japan (and most Asian countries) because all shops, restaurants and hotels who offer a service include service charge in the price. Everyone gets a salary for the work they put into it, so why add more as tip?

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8. Vending machines are everywhere

The one thing that caught our attention traveling around Japan was that there are vending machines everywhere! Those vending machines mostly sell drinks, all sorts of drinks, beers, coffees, teas, soft drinks, juices etc. You don’t only find these vending machines in malls or the lobby of the hotel but they are also everywhere on the streets, so if you are thirsty and wandering around somewhere, you should definitely make use of these vending machines when you see one, also the prices of these drinks are cheaper than the shops.

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9. It’s not easy buying a sim card

We really struggled finding a sim card or should I say a pre-paid sim card with just data in Japan. We wandered around the streets of Kyoto for aaaages before we finally found a cellular shop that sold pre-paid sim cards. Some of the other cellular shops we found didn’t sell pre-paid sims at all. Although most places had wifi, I always prefer buying a local simcard with data so I can at least search for destinations on Google Maps and do some quick research before heading somewhere.

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10. Know that Japan is not cheap

If you’re used to traveling around other parts of Asia, you probably know that food and transport are super cheap and you can probably score some bargains no matter where you go. Before you go to Japan, throw that thought out the window because Japan is NOT cheap! I would say it’s comparable to cities like New York and London, ok maybe a bit cheaper but not all that different (especially for South Africans). Our first stop after Tokyo was Hakone, and since Hakone is a small, touristy town, it was by far the most expensive city all the way from hotels to food. How do I judge this? I compared the prices of a Japanese staple across all 4 cities – ramen. The cheapest ramen was none other than Tokyo, which isn’t surprising because it’s the capital and competition is high, there are hundreds if not thousands of ramen shops spread across the city. A bowl of ramen at a basic lunch spot can cost anything between US$8-US$12 in Tokyo.

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I hope you find this post informative and share this with someone you would like to go to Japan with! Happy Traveling! 🙂

All photos belong to me and my friend Drew (IG: @toastedswimmer), please don’t use without permission. If you would like to check out more traveling photos, check out Drew’s Instagram.

With love…xxx