“Is it safe for women to travel to Bali?”
I often see women ask this question on online communities and groups. As a woman who has traveled solo to Bali in 2009, and who has since made the island a home, I continue to support women to visit Bali and provide as much information as I can.
In Bali women can travel safely and comfortably as long as basic care and attention are given. Compared to other parts of developing SE Asia, Bali is efficient, convenient and safe for women, even for solo travelers.
After living in Bali for several years, I learned a few things about getting by on this island. Below are 10 tips I compiled to make your vacation in Bali as stress and hassle free as possible, and help make it your best vacation yet!
1. How to Survive the Shark week
Let’s get straight to business.
Every girl hates having to worry about their period during their travels! Worse is not being well prepared.
In Bali women do not use tampons, so tampons are not commonly sold in your local convenience store. The likely places that will carry tampons are pharmacies such as Guardian or Kimia Farma (you can find both branches throughout Bali).
Since tampons are imported to Bali, the prices are hugely inflated. I have seen them being sold for nearly a dollar a piece.
That’s right, for ONE tampon.
Once on Nusa Lembongan, I saw one being sold for $2.
Many travelers will recommend that you pack as light as possible since you can buy most necessities abroad. They are right, except when it comes to monthly feminine products in Indonesia.
2. Much To Do About...Toilet Paper
When you visit for the first time in Bali, you will notice that a trash bin is placed in every toilet stall, accompanied by a sign that reads “please do not flush any paper or napkins.” It is a custom in Bali to not flush toilet paper. Do not ask me why – I don’t know if this is due to the inadequate plumbing system, or a waste management issue.
The inability to flush toilet paper is actually common throughout SE Asia. Due to this practice, some public toilets do not provide toilet paper at all. Instead, there is a “shower” or a “hose” that is placed next to the toilet so you can rinse yourself clean.
Yet in other places, you will find toilet papers placed on the wall in a common area of the bathroom, rather than inside the stalls (see photo).
When you enter the stall, have a look around first. If you don’t see any paper, try to look around for a “community toilet paper roll.”
Carry your private stash of toilet paper just in case. The accessibility to toilet paper is never reliable in Bali.
3. Visa 101
Here’s a quick lesson on Visa to Indonesia. If you have a passport from one of the 140 countries exempt from visa requirement, you can enter for up to 30 days for free. Once you enter Indonesia with this free 30-day visa, your stay is NOT extendable.
If there is a chance that you will want to stay longer, (but no more than 60 days), you’d be safe to buy Visa On Arrival (VOA). You can buy it at the International airport for $35 USD (there is a counter before you get in line for the immigration agent).
If you buy this 60-day VOA, you must go to the immigration office to extend your visa around seven days before you hit the 30th day in the country.
Note: the arrival day and the departure count as one day, so make sure you count your days correctly! You will be penalized Rp300,000/day for overstay.
You can hire an agent for about $50 to take care of your visa extension, which will require you to go to the immigration office only once. DIY extension saves you about $25, but you will need to visit the immigration three times. It is obviously your choice, whether you’d prefer to save time or money.
I use an agent, who picks up my passport and takes care of all the paperwork. The agent informs me when I need to get to the immigration office. On the day of the appointment, I spend about 30 minutes at the office (waiting to be called, taking photo & fingerprints) and it’s all done. Once the extension is approved, the agent drops off my passport at my apartment. For me, the convenience has been worth the extra $25.
4. Be A Queen
Ok, let’s get to the fun stuff!
Every girl needs some pampering – am I right?
Your first time in Bali is the perfect opportunity to indulge in western-standard salon and spa services at affordable prices!
Whether you are on a long-term travel or on a quick “drive by” trip, you really don’t need an excuse to be spoiled in Bali.
When I was backpacking in SE Asia for a year, my personal maintenance pretty much went out the window. Looking after my hair, face, or nails was not my priority. But when I finally landed in Bali after six months of traveling, I was in dire need of a hair cut, and I finally decided to treat myself!
I went into Shampoo Lounge in Seminyak for a full body make-over, and it was love at first sight.
I booked myself for a manicure, pedicure, signature massage, and a haircut – after spending the afternoon being pampered, I felt and looked like a million bucks.
Wanna know how much I spent on this “splurge?”
Haircut: Rp 329,000 ($24 USD)
Spa Manicure : Rp 206,000 ($15 USD)
Spa Pedicure: Rp 247,000 ($18 USD)
Signature Massage (60 min) : Rp 200,000 ($15 USD)
Total: Rp 982,000 ($71 USD)
Since my first visit to the Shampoo Lounge, I have been to many other salons throughout Bali.
While I have found other favorites, the Shampoo Lounge remains my “go-to” one-stop shop. They provide consistently great services! By the way, they offer a ton of additional services such as a bridal package, eyelash extensions, facials, and waxing.
If you get to try the Shampoo Lounge (TSL) at Seminyak for a haircut/treatment, ask for Tari! She’s fantastic. Also, don’t forget to try their signature massage with Juni. I guarantee that Juni will leave you on cloud 9.
There is a new branch at Nusa Dua as well so take your pick!
If you don’t get a chance to head to TSL, make sure to book yourself for a Balinese massage before you leave Bali. You will be hooked, for sure!
5. A Foodies Dream
If you are a foodie like me and obsessed with eating, Canggu or Seminyak is your access to heaven. Don’t get me wrong; there are many fabulous restaurants throughout Bali. But I have found that the top rated restaurants congregate around Canggu and Seminyak areas (or at least my top favorites!).
In addition to a wide range of cuisine options, you can also find many restaurants that cater to dietary preferences (such as vegan, paleo, gluten-free).
Even though I live on the other side of Bali in Sanur, you can bet that I hop on my bike for a special treat to some of my favorite spots in Canggu or Seminyak. And I LOVE getting my hands on some salad bowls, breakfast bowls, smoothie bowls…or any bowls, really. They are oh, so delicious.
Here are my faves:
Don’t believe the hype.
Avoid Kuta (or even Legian) like the plague. There is nothing attractive or appealing about this area of Bali. Kuta is now overrun by tourists, and nothing remains of the “Balinese” culture or beauty. Do yourself a favor and spend your time and money where you will see and experience the exotic allure of Bali.
6. Don't Be THAT Tourist
Please, ladies, respect the local culture when visiting Bali.
I have seen so many women sunbathing topless or in a thong – which is perfectly okay if you were in Brazil or Miami beach.
I used to hang out on nude beaches in New York, so I personally don’t have anything against being naked. But there is a time and a place for everything. Bali is just not the place for being half naked.
Bali is predominantly Hindu, and the people are conservative and modest. You will never catch Balinese women in bathing suits – if you ever see them in the water, you will notice that they wear clothes such as T-shirts and shorts without revealing too much.
I am not suggesting that you don’t wear a bikini or cover yourself from head to toe. But as a visitor in a foreign country, you should be sensitive to your environment and acclimate accordingly.
Aside from being in the water or sunbathing in the sun, it may be wise to cover yourself up in a sarong.
If you are a solo traveler, it is even more critical that you avoid drawing attention to yourself. To travel safely is to be aware of your surroundings and make smart choices. Please be mindful and respectful of the local traditions, customs, and expectations.
7. Avoid Police Extortion
Renting a motorbike in Bali is easy and convenient; perhaps more so if you are traveling solo. For about Rp 60,000-70,000/day, you can have access to your own transportation without relying on someone else to drive you.
Even though you are required to possess an international license to rent a motorbike, the renter will not enforce this. Be warned, however, that if you ever get stopped by a police and you do not have an international license, you will receive a fine.
What to do: Always carry one Rp 50,000 bill in your wallet, and nothing else. Stash away the rest of your cash in another wallet, or in another part of your purse. When the police officer pulls you over, he will ask for Rp 100,000-200,000 as a fine. Show him your wallet with only one Rp50,000 bill in it, and tell him it’s all you have. Hand over the bill and be on your way. The police will not push it if you show that your wallet is empty.
I have been pulled over by police more times than I can count. Believe me, this works!
If you are new to riding scooters, seek other transportation option. The services are relatively affordable (compared to western taxi fares), and much safer than driving yourself around on a scooter, particularly around some crowded areas of Bali.
Motorcycle accidents have been on the rise every year over the last several years, and getting in a crash and risking your health (or life, for that matter) is not worth it, especially over a few bucks.
8. If It Seems Too Good To Be True, IT IS.
If you ever need to exchange currency, be aware.
When you walk around and compare exchange rates, you will notice a few places that stand out for offering higher exchange rate than others. Well, it’s because they are scammers.
One scam that happened to a friend went like this:
My friend “A” gave USD to “the guy” behind the counter.
“The guy” counted rupiah equivalent and placed the bills on the top of the counter for “A” to see. Then as “the guy” collected the bundle of cash and made a motion to organize the bundle on the countertop, he swiftly and sneakily dropped bills towards his side of the counter. It happened so fast that “A” did not see this action behind the counter.
When “A” returned to his hotel, he realized that the amount of rupiah in his possession did not match the exchange made at the counter.
Avoid money exchange counters that offer a higher rate than the published exchange rate (check on XE). This is a sure sign of a scam.
Always count your money on the spot, even if the other person just counted the money in front of you. Count it again yourself and confirm.
Also note that the money exchange places in Bali only accept USD bills printed after 2009.
9. Hacking the Outbound Ticket Rule
Indonesia is one of many countries that requires proof of outbound travel before entering the country. This can be a dilemma for some women who are traveling on an open ticket and do not yet have the itinerary figured out. I have been in this exact scenario many times.
Unfortunately, the airline personnel or customs agents do not give a damn about your exciting one-way adventures. They are paid to enforce the rules.
So, what do I do to get around this?
The day of your departure to Indonesia (to be precise, within 24 hours of your arrival to Indonesia), go to Expedia and buy a ticket out of Indonesia that has a “free cancellation within 24-hours.” This feature allows you to cancel your booking within 24 hours. As soon as you arrive in Bali, cancel the booking.
When you land at DPS (Ngurah Rai International Airport), you will have immediate access to free wifi at the airport. You can cancel your booking straight away if you are cutting close to the 24-hour mark.
10. Avoid the Airport Mafia
Your initial excitement of arriving in the exotic land of Bali can quickly fade when you walk out of the International Arrivals gate.
A wave of taxi drivers starts to swarm toward you, and it can feel overwhelming especially in a jet-lag daze on foreign land. To make things worse, Blue Bird (a reliable metered taxi) or Grab Taxi drivers are banned from picking up guests at the airport, leaving with you stuck with outrageously inflated taxi rates at the arrival terminal.
A private pick-up service can run higher than alternative budget options, but it does save you the stress and the aggravation.
Just to give you a comparison of estimated taxi fares:
|Grab Taxi||Blue Bird Taxi |
(with no traffic)
|Airport Taxi||Hotel Pick-up|
|To Sanur||~Rp 80,000||~Rp 110,000||~Rp 200,000||~Rp 300,000|
|To Canggu||~Rp 120,000||~Rp 180,000||~Rp 250,000||~Rp 400,000|
|To Ubud||~Rp 180,000||~Rp 270,000||~Rp 350,000||~Rp 450,000|
While it is not as easy or efficient as hiring a private or airport taxi driver, it is possible to save 50-70% on your airport transfer to your hotel. You just need a little bit of adventurous spirit 😉
Read the Guide to Bali Airport Transfer on tips to avoid the taxi mafia.
Ready to start planning your trip?
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