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 Planning a Destination Wedding (Plus some wedding photos)

Hi everyone! I cannot believe I’m sitting down to write this because I have not written a blog post in forever! If you follow me on social media, you probably know that I got married this year April in Bali, Indonesia… the most magical place on earth (well now it is since I got married there)! I wished that I could have taken everyone on this planning journey when it first started but trust me you wouldn’t have actually wanted to be part of it because I was all over the place half the time. The other times when I did have my shit together, it was purely forced, forced by my best friend, who also happened to be my maid of honor (hi Sandy). Now that I do have the experience, I decided to pen down 10 things that you should definitely know before planning a destination wedding, it was no easy task!

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  1. Is a destination wedding ideal for you?

Yes a destination wedding may sound all romantic and magical because you’ll be away with all your beloved family and friends and you’ll all have the most magnificent time exploring the place and just spending time with each other. However, before you send out the “save the date” or tell people you’ll be having a destination wedding, speak to those who really matter to you to find out whether they will definitely be able to make it first especially if you won’t be paying for everyone to be there. Personally, a destination wedding was the most ideal for us because more than half our guests reside overseas (not South Africa) so it worked out that way. Of course we also made sure our family and our closest friends could make it first before we sent the invitation.

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2. Plan ahead

It may sound easy and straight forward because surely you wouldn’t be planning for your wedding 3 months before would you? My wedding was on 13th April 2017 and I started planning in March 2016 which is when I sent my very first email to the resort that my wedding took place at. After that, the conversation carried on for an entire YEAR right up till the wedding week! If you’re wondering, yes it did require an entire year because of all the logistics that came with the wedding and depending on what time of year you’re getting married, I can guarantee you that you probably won’t be able to get the venue on the date you want, or the makeup artist, or the photographer etc so just plan ahead.

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2. Know your style and ideal venue

I obviously made it sound a lot easier than it actually is, that’s because I knew exactly what I wanted for my wedding. All I knew was that I wanted to get married on an island, at a luxury resort that has a beautiful chapel and it must serve exquisite food. One thing I know for a fact is that I didn’t want was a beach wedding, not because they’re not great (I’ve attended one that was amazing!) but because I wanted to wear a traditional wedding gown and high heels. So if you’re sitting there contemplating what kind of wedding you want, ask yourself, what holidays do you enjoy going on? Do you like the beach? Do you like the mountain? Do you want it in the middle of a bustling city or maybe an enchanting garden somewhere?

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3. Research research research

Once you’ve figured out your style and ideal venue, the next step was to make sure that you do enough research. So I had it fairly easy in this regard because I had this venue in mind and I refused to get married anywhere else. Basically I’ve been following the Mulia for the longest time on Instagram because they won resort of the year numerous times since they opened for business so I literally said, “If I’m going to get married overseas, it must be there” *pointing to the picture on my Instagram to Emic* and so that’s how the journey started. Of course I could not have only relied on Instagram pictures, after all, I only get married once in my life so I dug deep and looked through their website, I read reviews on places like TripAdvisor and Expedia etc to make sure their photos aren’t just fooling anyone. Part of the research is also directly speaking to the venue, luckily I was assigned a great wedding co-ordinator to deal with me the whole year (not sure if the feeling is mutual though). Don’t be shy to ask questions and keep asking until you’re happy with the explanation, after all you are parting with a lot of money so make sure you’re satisfied with what you’re paying for before agreeing to it.

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4. Know that you may not end up wearing the dress you’ve always imagined but you need to accept it

One thing I know for a fact is that girls get the most excited about their wedding dress more than anything in the process of planning for a wedding. Just know that what you always imagined yourself wearing won’t necessarily be the dress you end up wearing and you need to accept the fact! Let me tell you that I pictured myself wearing a tight fitting mermaid styled long sleeve dress for the longest time but if you’ve seen my wedding photos, you’ll know that is exactly the OPPOSITE of what I planned on wearing. So the tight-fitting mermaid styled dress didn’t actually look good on my body type, it made me look short and I disliked that, plus I didn’t have enough curves to rock it out. I ended up choosing a princess dress (it was recommended to me by the boutique owner), with beautiful lace and bead corset on the top and SO MUCH TULLE! Why did I not plan on wearing that style of dress? Because I didn’t want to be cliché but I guess it’s in my fate – they say you can take the princess out of the palace but you can’t take the palace out of  her 🙂

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5. Know that your dress needs to suit the venue

Now imagine if I wanted a beach wedding and I wore my long ass ball gown with all that tulle! That would not have gone down well at all because my ball gown deserved to be glided on polished marble floors, not a beach full of sand. I’m not saying that it’s a hard and fast rule but you also need to look at the practicality of things, it would have been a nightmare to try move around and be graceful while doing it if I were to get married in the sand – it simply would not have been practical.

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6. Know your food

I personally think the food you serve at the wedding is probably the most memorable. After some time, people won’t remember your decor, or what dress the bride wore but you can always count on people to remember whether they enjoyed the food. I made it very clear that I didn’t to eat buffet style dinner during my reception and since it’s MY wedding, people will eat what I liked, and I love fine dining with a tasting menu and that’s exactly what I got. The venue even flew the French chef from Jakarta to cook at my wedding (I didn’t even know until after so big ups to them). If that’s what you want too, don’t go looking at a venue that don’t have the capabilities of serving a served dinner for however many people you want there. Make sure and be adamant about the quality of the food you’re expecting and if possible, go for a tasting beforehand so you know exactly what you (and your guests) will be getting on your big day.

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7. Know the prices of drinks

So if you’re not planning on having alcohol at your wedding, then good for you, you can skip to the next one. But if you are planning on having an open bar with alcohol then read this one carefully. We only realized after I had started speaking to the resort that their alcohol was outrageously expensive! Although it didn’t change my mind but the drinks were definitely a hefty cost because Indonesia is a Islamic country which means they tax alcohol very heavily, we’re talking about paying R2000 for a standard bottle of vodka. Corkage – you’re looking at R500-R2000 a bottle depending on what you bring. Since I chose the venue and the country, I couldn’t possibly make my guests pay for their own drinks so we bought a lot of alcohol in SA and asked all the guests to take some for us to Bali. Even though it didn’t solve the whole problem, it did make things a little better.

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8. Know that you can’t invite everyone and not everyone can come

You only have 50 friends and family so you invite them and they all come and everyone had a good time – perfect scenario! Most of the time, it’s not a perfect scenario because you may plan to have 50 people and only 20-30 come or in our case, we expected 50 people to come but we ended up with 80. We only expected 50 people because Bali isn’t exactly a close destination, but we are not complaining because the more the merrier. Since it is a destination, you really have to be a bit cruel when it comes to the guest list. My rule is, if I haven’t met up or at least spoken to someone in a year, that person is not on my list. Some people you just end up inviting out of courtesy and you pray they actually won’t come (just kidding!). I think my rule is fair because at the end of the day, you want those who will be genuinely happy for you at your wedding so if you’re not close enough to speak at least once in the whole year, what makes you think you’re involved in your life at all?

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9. Know the rate of taxes and VAT

I cannot emphasize this enough because you’ll either be pleasantly surprised when you’re paying the bill or you may be left homeless (LOL a bit extreme but you know what I mean). Make sure you know the Vat and taxes at the destination because after everything is added on, it could make a huge difference. In our case, everything quoted to us and on the price list excluded government taxes of 18% and also 10% service charge, which makes a really big difference. Thankfully I found out about it before we paid our first deposit and it didn’t really change our minds.

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10. It’s your wedding so you do you boo

So normally weddings start off with the ceremony, then the guests head off for some cocktails and snacks, then it’s the reception with speeches, first dance, throwing of the bouquet then the afterparty at the same place bla bla bla… Before you just assume that this is what you will have, ask the venue first whether that is the normal schedule for them. Depending on which country, some may have something different with a different kind of ceremony, or maybe it’s more popular to wed in the morning. Do some research first because you may not want the conventional wedding if other options are available to you.

We started wedding celebrations the night before with dinner and some partying on the beach. The morning of the wedding, we had a couples shoot on the beach (7am), then we had a Chinese Tea Ceremony after breakfast (11am) then I went to get ready and the ceremony was at (5pm). After the ceremony the guests were escorted to the Skybar for cake cutting and cocktails, I had such an amazing cake made and I know that people barely touch the cake at weddings and there was no way that was happening at my wedding! While the guests enjoyed cake and cocktails, we had more photos taken, after that was dinner with some speeches and then the afterparty. We didn’t do a first dance, we didn’t throw the flowers or the garter (I didn’t even have one) but that’s ok because you should have the wedding however you want it. Btw, it didn’t make sense for me to throw flowers since most girls were either married or already in couples and I really really loved my bouquet. 🙂

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I hope this compiled list gives you some tips into planning a destination wedding! Even if it’s not a destination wedding, I think my tips may just apply to all weddings! Let me know if you enjoy these wedding posts because I may just have some more up my sleeve. 🙂

With love…xxx