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Short guide to Bali

These pages contain a number of tips for travelers that are going to bring a visit to the Indonesian island of Bali soon. They are simple tips about the daily life on the island and what to expect when visiting the island. Many things will be just slightly different than at home, but it is important to locals that you at least somewhat adhere to their lifestyle.

If traveling in Bali for the first time, spend some extra money and begin your stay in a nice, comfortable hotel to lessen the initial impact. Once you meet other Western travelers, you'll become part of the traveling community and won't feel so alone. Traveling in the out-areas, you need to get accustomed to the lack of privacy. If staying in a budget hotel, you immediately have to adj (...)

The Balinese are easygoing, courteous, gentle, and kind if you are kind. But don't think that because the Balinese smile a lot and are friendly they make good, long-lasting friends. The villages are tight-knit, almost impossible for non-Balinese to penetrate, and are very business and family oriented. Westerners dislike hierarchy, are suspicious of authorities, and believe in egalitarianism. Balin (...)

There's no place for the individual in this society like in the West. Bali is a crowded island, and its people live in very close proximity. As exemplified in the Balinese banjar and subak organizations, it's the individual's duty to obey the will of the group and the group leader. Loyalty to family, banjar, and village are more important than self-advancement. Emph (...)

Balinese of the opposite sex are not openly affectionate to one another. At public gatherings men always sit to one side of the courtyard and women on the other-gossiping, praying, smoking, gambling, or whatever. Though considered homosexual behavior in Western societies, Balinese males and females frequently touch, link arms, or hold hands with their peers in a social setting. The whol (...)

Inside mandi (bathroom) consist of just a cement tub for bathing, or a bath and toilet combination. Don't jump into the bath water; it's for throwing over you. The floor gets wet, but that's okay. Balinese are surprised and amused when they see Westerners trying to keep their bathroom floors dry. Most outdoor bathing places have concealing walls and separate areas for men and women. The Bal (...)

Be neat, clean, and fairly careful about what you wear. Shorts, tank tops, braless jerseys, or strapless tops in small villages could be insulting, something only fieldworkers and laborers do. This clothing can be worn in the beach resorts of southern Bali, but upland towns such as Ubud and Bangli are not surfing beaches and conservative dress is in order. Old, faded, or torn clothes, b (...)

Ninety percent of Balinese are Hindu; their temples are roofless, open to the air, and very informal. Guests (tamu) may enter a temple any time as long as they are properly dressed and follow some simple but strict rules meant to preserve the temple's sanctity. Since the early 1970s signs in English have been posted in front of temples and government offices showing graphic examples of appr (...)

A Balinese will always offer to share his meal when a visitor arrives at his house, office, or park bench, and he will usually excuse himself for eating in front of you at a warung. If you're offered food or drink in someone's home it is polite to accept or at least ask for a glass of hot tea. A guest may not start to eat or drink until invited to do so by the host with "Silakan" ("Please begin to (...)

Aggressive gestures and postures such as crossing your arms or standing with your hands on hips while talking, particularly with older people, is regarded as insulting since this is the traditional posture of defiance and anger in wayang theater. In an exchange with someone older or in a high office, extend your right arm (but not too far) and bring your left arm across the front of your bo (...)

Even though Bali is one of the world's least policed territories, violent crimes are practically unheard of. Singapore, with about the same population, has five times the crime and five times the police. The secret to the low crime rate is the stabilizing influence of the banjar (village council). When crimes do take place the Balinese almost exclusively blame the Javanese or the Sasaks. As (...)

In the tourist locales street vendors can be unbelievably pushy. Be polite at first, expressing your disinterest while looking them in the eye. They're just trying to make a living like everyone else, and if you ask the price they'll think you're interested and hound you mercilessly until you buy. If the vendor persists, make a stand, stating firmly and unequivocally that you don't want (...)

Tourists who break the law make it hard for those who follow the rules, so give your fellow travelers a break. But don't always assume you need permission to do something or go somewhere. The more questions you ask, the more questions will be asked of you. Humility goes a long way when dealing with Indonesian bureaucrats. If you get into any hassles with annoying cops, customs agents, o (...)

The ultimate hassle in Bali is getting busted for selling or using drugs, an offense the Indonesians take very seriously. You'll be offered marijuana and hash along Jl. Legian in Kuta and Legian, but half the time you'll get ripped off and may risk being turned in by a police informer, hotel owner, or passerby. Indonesian authorities believe that foreign tourists have established a narcotic networ (...)

In the sacred lontar it states that the Balinese must give to beggars. They are accepted members of society, but only if they are crippled, retarded, or have some other health problem. You're not obliged to give money to strong, healthy people. The beggars you see in Kuta and Legian are usually mountain people from the Kintamani area. Traditionally they grow corn, potatoes, and salak, w (...)

Though Bali is a much easier place than Islamic Indonesia for a solitary woman traveler, there are still difficulties. A young, statuesque woman with blonde hair and blue eyes could face even more problems. Balinese "Kuta Beachboys" (i.e. beach bums) flaunt their Western girlfriends or marry Western women and become prosperous. Others now see it as their hope for the future. A single woman will ne (...)

Although muggings and other violent crimes are rare on Bali, stealing is a problem, particularly in resort areas with lots of tourists. Budget travelers are more vulnerable to theft than affluent tourists who take planes, taxis, and rent cars. Since travelers carry their money and valuables on their persons, they are prime targets for thieves. Suspicion and wariness demand constant effort. Not agr (...)

All imaginable precautions should quickly become second nature to you. Always lock your hotel room. If you're traveling in budget places it's even better to bring your own lock and key to prevent inside jobs by houseboys or maids. Quick and quiet, thieves will enter your room through a window while you sleep and steal the camera from the hook above your head or the backpack from underneath your be (...)

If your mind is not on your money, you'll be vulnerable to pickpockets. Don't put your wallet in your back pocket-instead keep money deep inside your front trouser pockets. Be wary of minor accidents-being shoved or bumped, or having your foot stepped on. Don't be taken in by distractions, and be very watchful while attending crowded festivals. One big advantage of traveling with someone is that y (...)

The whole concept of the wallet-in-the-hip-pocket must be discarded while in Bali. Pickpockets know exactly how to get at them, and at purses and shoulderbags. Avoid zippered shoulder bags because the zipper doesn't always close all the way, leaving room for a hand to reach inside. Instead, use a latch or snap which fastens the bag and can be locked, or a bag with a small opening which you have to (...)

Designed to go under your clothes, moneybelts are highly recommended for Indonesia. If you hang a compact pouch on a leather strap around your neck, dangling under your shirt, it can be yanked off in crowds. A tight moneybelt fastened around your waist next to your skin is better. Keep your traveler's cheques, passport, and other documents in plastic covers inside so they don't become s (...)

Fortunately, many of the airline tickets issued nowadays are e-tickets. You have received a copy of them in your email most likely and it is smart to keep them available in your email during your holiday in case you need them. Print one out before you leave, as the immigration officer may ask you for a ticket of a flight bringing you out of Indonesia again. For those who do not have e-t (...)

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