Whether it's changing your money, or getting from A to B, there are many things we have to do as a tourist that we just aren't used to.
The usual budget for a holiday goes something like
- 25% for Air Fares
- 25% for accommodation
- 20% for travel
- 15% for food
- 15% activities and miscellaneous
We are bombarded with cheap air flights and cheap hotel advice, but what about the other things that make up a holiday? Here are my top tips for Bali - which come from my own experiences (and having relatives in Bali)
In part one we look at 5 ways in which to save on travel and getting around.
1. Be wary of hotels
Hotel's are great, and cheaper than you expect, but they will try and sell you everything they can. I'm not against the friendly staff who provide these options, but the hotel's tend to put huge mark ups on everything - travel, food and services - and they love tourists who don't know how to say no. They may try and get you to talk to the guest relations team when you arrive - but if you just arrived it's probably not what you want to think about and it's easy to sign yourself up to the well designed marketing material.
I highly recommend you look around first and get a better idea of prices and get used to the climate. This will help you decide what is and isn't good value, as well as determine what you (and anyone you may travel with) are capable of in a single day.
The services are also likely to be expensive in comparison to smaller businesses near by. Spa and massage packages are the biggest offenders, sure the rooms are well designed and the staff will speak English, but they tend to be taught to be gentle and cater more to expectations than what might actually be the best treatment for someone. You may not start out liking a strong massage but give them a go and you may change your mind!
2. Always use the taxi meter
Bali is hot. Really hot! And most hotels are still 10-15 minutes minimum from the main attractions.
This is the oddest thing I've seen in Bali. Despite most parts of the world having taxi meters and being happy and content to use them, for some reason in Bali tourists forget they exist and assume the driver is doing them a favour when he cuts his first estimate in half.
There are a few companies running standard taxis in the area, most noticeable are those that are part of the BlueBird group. BlueBird are a huge organisation in the Indonesian Taxi business and every taxi driver is expected to use the meter. The drivers can make double if they persuade you to go without the meter, even if the fare is only 25% above what the metered fare would be.
My first experience of this was at the airport, we were offered a taxi ride to our hotel for about $20. In Melbourne that would be a fantastic price for the distance (and traffic) involved. But we stuck to the meter, and despite stopping at a mini-mart for some water, the metered fare was just $9. If you are in Bali for 10 days, and use 3 taxis a day, that's $300 you could have wasted. Get in!
3. Know where you want to go
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(price as of Jan 14, 2014)
The first time I went I used a lonely planet guide to work out which bits I should see (not knowing I would return many times after that)
If you are looking for culture you will probably have to go for a bit of a drive - which leads nicely to tip four
4. Hire a car and driver
Amazingly for the same cost as a a tour tickets you can hire a car and personal driver, A driver will be around $40-50 for an entire day - that includes petrol, it will be an air-conditioned "people carrier" that can seat 5 or 6 people (7 if you include the driver) and the only drawback is the driver will only have limited English (You can get an English speaking driver for maybe $80 a day, but try and make deals direct with drivers - going through a middle man will only increase your cost and reduce the chance of the driver having the level of English you want). But don't forget to add on the cost of the tickets to each attraction you might want to see (usually $15 per car-load).
When making arrangements like these it's always handy to have the drivers mobile number, and agree times before hand. If you say 9am - 9 pm and you finish at 10 you should pay double what you paid for each hour during the day. If you are worried about the drivers English it might be worth while preparing a few notes for important things like food/drink/pharmacy - but most drivers will have a map and a few tourist booklets for you to look through too (they do get pair commission for most places they take you to, but it is customary to pay for the drivers lunch yourself)
Not only do you get much more control over what you see, for cheaper, but you will also find it's quicker and you are less likely to end up in a "handicraft" hall being guilted into buying things you may not be able to get back through customs.
5. Enjoy the walk
The streets of Bali might look dirty and unforgiving, and the traffic might appear to be madness if you come from a more westernised country, but in reality the roads are more than safe enough for walking along. Rather than paying taxi drivers to get you across the street (which I have seen!) just take a stroll.
Whilst waste disposal isn't something that is well run you should find it's easy to avoid the trash on the pavement. Motorbikes and cars however will park where ever there is space, so there won't be much pavement on most streets. You always have the option of walking along the beach for most journeys, but when you have to walk along the road the hardest thing to get the hang of would be crossing the road itself.
First things first.. crossing the road can be dangerous, especially if you are nervous and worry about the traffic. But the great thing about drivers in Indonesia is they are supremely skilled, and they really don't want to have to fix their vehicles. Avoid areas with lots of cars travelling at speed - but if there are motorbikes just start walking slowly. Motorbikes will move to go around you, and cars will slow if needed, but most drivers will expect you to just go across and not change speed or direction. Don't confuse them!
Make the most of your holiday!
Well that's enough travel advice, to come advice on food and shopping in Bali, and how to make the most of your time and money
15 Top Tips for a Budget Bali Getaway - Part 2 - Food and Shopping
15 Top Tips for a Budget Bali Getaway - Part 3 - Activities and budgeting