Food and Shopping

6. Learn the local language

I don't mean become an expert overnight, but learning any local language enough to give it a go always gives you more respect in the locals eyes. More respect can lead to better deals. If you plan on buying from the market stalls you can find dotted around most of the tourist areas I would highly recommend learning the terms below as well.

  • Berapa harganya? (ber-apa har-gan-ya)
    How much or what is your price?
  • Bisa saya tawar? (Bee-sar si-ya tar-war) 
    Can I bargain?
  • Terlalu mahal! (Ter-lar-lu mar-hal)
    It's too expensive!
  • Bisa kurang sedikit Pak/Ibu? (Bee-sa kur-ang sedy-kit Pak/Ibu)
    Can you reduce it Sir/Madam

 The official Indonesian language is really easy to pick up, there are no tenses and the biggest problem you might face is pronunciation. If you can crack that then reading from a dictionary becomes incredibly easy and you will soon impress the locals with your vocab. A lot of the language is very familiar as well, with words taken from Dutch, Portuguese and English. Taksi, Informasi and Komputer for example are words you don't really even have to learn!

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7. Always ask for a bargain

Indonesians love a bargain, and most vendors will expect you to bargain with them. The key though is patience - remember they are going to be there all day, and you may not want to stick around too long just to save a couple of dollars. Don't seem to keen on what you want to buy, maybe even start by asking the price of something you don't even want just to get a feel for the person you are dealing with.

I would estimate that most initial prices you get will be twice the price the vendor will accept - but obviously this varies from person to person, and also how confident you are when you go to make a purchase. A local might get a price that's only 50% more than the price a vendor would accept, but the same vendor might then try and get 10 times the price from a tourist unpracticed in bartering.

If you are staying in Kuta then most of these products you might see at the small shops and stalls can be found in "proper" shops with prices listed, these will be higher than the prices the market traders would accept, but if you don't want the stress it is the hassle free option.

I warn you bargaining can become addictive, you might start out trying to just knock off 5000 from the price, but before too long I'm sure you will be hooked on getting some great deals!


8. Shop where the locals would shop

There are loads of great places to shop in Bali, but the cheapest ones are usually the locals favourites.

Krishna for example is the best place to go for all your souvenirs, in most cases this is where the market vendors go to get their own stock! They have everything from local snacks and drinks to clothes, woodcraft and even musical instruments. Just ask your driver or grab a taxi - every local will know where the nearest store is.

Indonesians also love department stores and shopping malls. My personal favourite is Matahari - not quite knock-off central, but it is far cheaper than the 'discount' stores you find in the rest of Kuta. You can find a Matahari on the main shopping street between the Discovery Mall and the Hard Rock hotel - be warned though that the first floor is dedicated to souvenirs that aren't usually found in other branches.

If you're not going to be in Kuta then there are plenty of more traditional markets in some of the other towns as well - but be prepared to use your bargaining skills

9. Snacks and water

The heat and lifestyle you will get used to will probably evolve you're eating habits. I always have 2-3 bottles of water in the car and a range of small snacks for the loooong traffic jam journeys. But don't get caught out, most shops and cafe's don't put their prices on things and have huge mark ups for the tourists.

There are however several mini-mart chains with cheaper prices and the added bonus of aircon. Grab a few snacks and cold ones for the road whenever your running low, you'll eat less in the fancy restaurants, buy fewer drinks in cafes and have more time at the tourist hot spots.

Another great thing to try is the "street food". You will probably notice the "Kaki Lima" (translates as five feet, the cart has 3 and the vendor 2!). These are usually the tastiest things you will find, and in most cases will be fantastically cheap too. Be careful though as some of these stalls won't have great hygiene standards, stick to the vegetarian options to avoid the dreaded "Bali Belly".

Some of the most common you will see are

  • Martabak (A kind of pancake with various fillings)
  • Bakso (Meat ball soup)
  • Nasi/Mie goreng (Rice/Noodles fried)
  • Tempeh goreng (a fried soy bean thing, the best thing you have never had)
  • Gudeg (a kind of veg/meat stew)
  • Rendang (A meaty curry)
  • Ronde (A sweet soup with little balls)

10. Welcome to Padang

If you've never had a meal in a Padang style restaurant then.. I cry for you. Padang is a city in Sumatra that is well known for its food. Padang restaurants are everywhere, but you have to ask or have very keen eyes as most of them aren't aimed at tourists.

When you go to eat "Padang" you usually just walk in and sit at a table. Staff will bring you hot tea, a bowl of water and sometimes cutlery. The water isn't for drinking - it's for cleaning your hands (if you opt not to use the cutlery). Traditionally you eat with your right hand, the left one is considered dirty and only used in the bathroom - but if it gets a bit messy you will be forgiven.

You can then ask for a particular style of food, fish/vegie/chicken, or just let them bring everything. Don't worry, you don't have to eat it all, the idea is you take what you want as you want it. Then at the end the waiter will come over and check to see what you've had and charge you for it. Usually each dish has two portions - so if you only eat half don't worry you won't get charged for the other half! The food is usually spicy, but other than that it's a fantastic feast of flavours.

A waiter at a Padang Restaurant brings in the food

Not only is the food great, but watching them bring it out is fascinating!


If you enjoyed this then read on in 15 Top Tips for a Budget Bali Getaway - Part 3 - Activities

Missed Part 1? No worries! Find it at 15 Top Tips for a Budget Bali Getaway - Part 1 - Travel