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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.

A note for women travelers
Tips for first-time travelers to Bali

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 never receive so many marriage proposals in her life.

Women are much more likely to get raped in the U.S., Europe, or Australia than on Bali, but you can expect men to pay you a lot of unwanted attention. To cut down on the attention, choose your clothes with care and do nothing to invite advances. Except when going to one of Bali's southern beaches, it's not a good idea to wear short shorts or skirts, braless tanktops, or strapless tops. Don't ask a man to accompany you to the beach at night for protection. He might misinterpret this as an invitation to have sex, because Balinese men don't realize American and Australian women fear they might be raped, robbed, or murdered if they go to the beach alone.

It's almost incomprehensible to Balinese men that a woman can live and travel alone. Women in Bali are afraid of living alone. They need their families to perform religious rites for their ancestors. Strong obligation to care for family members also keeps them at home. Men feel a particularly strong obligation to care for their households and ancestors. So here comes an unmarried, unaccompanied woman-she must want to be cared for and protected. Balinese men have an innate charm and graciousness, and when you ask a question, you're likely to get a sensitive answer. They feel they are responding naturally and instinctively to what women really want.

For years Australian men have gotten a big kick out of telling naive Balinese men that all Western women like dirty talk and sex, and if they say no they mean yes. They encourage the Balinese men to keep pushing because all Western women want it. Then they laugh about what fools they've made of the Balinese. As a result, men will ask if you're married, have a boyfriend, or if you've ever slept with a Balinese man.

Answer very directly and even become rude to get rid of them-whatever it takes. The polite way is to say "Saya senang sendiri" ("I prefer to be alone") or "Saya mau lihat-lihat saja" ("I'd like to look around by myself"). As a last resort, take off your sunglasses, turn your face away expressionless, and say emphatically "No!" If they ever acted this way to Balinese women, they'd be knifed.

Some drivers say such filthy things that eventually women don't feel safe getting into taxis. If you want more comfort and convenience than a bemo provides, hire a car, but avoid situations where intimacy might develop with your driver. Never take one driver for long-terms or overnight, don't sit in the front seat with him, and don't eat meals with him. Give him money for his own food if necessary. Another way to discourage sexual harrasment is to say you're married and your husband is waiting in the next village. Wear a wedding ring to back it up. Confidence is important.

Don't give out your room number to men, and don't hug a Balinese man as it will invariably be misunderstood. You can also join other travelers for out-of-town trips. It might be best for some single women to join a group tour. But try to avoid turning every comment made by a Balinese man into a sexual innuendo. Don't become livid at your roomboys when they always ask "Where are you going?" In Indonesian culture, this is a courteous inquiry along the lines of "How are you?" Politeness is not a sexual advance so keep an informed and balanced point of view.

Last revised on January 30, 2010
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