Location and access
Dubbed the Island of the Gods, the volcanic island of Bali is located almost at the center of the Indonesian archipelago and about eight degrees south of the equator. In addition to Garuda Indonesia, many major airlines fly to Bali on a regular basis, making it easily accessible from most parts of the world. The island is on the same time zone as Singapore, Kuala Lumpur and Hong Kong (GMT +8).
Climate and clothing
Bali’s equatorial climate is usually mild. It has a short hot and humid season (November to March) and a longer, cooler dry season (April to October) when the trade winds blow. Temperatures are usually between 28 to 31 degree Celcius during the day but they may drop to the low teens in the mountain regions at night. Humidity is at its highest during the rainy season but the sun is rarely out of sight for long. Comfortable casual cotton clothing is recommended. Ties and suits are seldom worn in Bali. As ultra violet rays can be quite high, headgear and sunglasses are also advisable.
Agriculture and food
Although these days more and more Balinese work in the ever-expanding tourism industry, Bali still retains much of its agricultural areas and beautiful rice terraces. Rice cultivation remains an important social force and much of the traditional culture and religion can find their roots in rice cultivation. The system of subak (irrigation cooperative) is highly visible when one walks along most rice paddies; it is one of the most extensive water distribution systems in Asia. Bali’s cool highlands are also the growing areas for many export crops such as vegetables and coffee.
Whether home grown or imported, food in Bali is plentiful and many restaurants cater to an ever-growing palette of diverse tastes, from Indonesian, Greek, Japanese, Lebanese, Indian, Californian, to popular east-west fusion cuisine. Nowadays some of the restaurants in Bali rival the best in major metropolis.
Culture, social life and arts
Religion and agriculture are the basis of the social system in Bali. As the Balinese calendar has 210 days and is largely based on the phases of the moon, ceremonies (upacara) and processions are an everyday occurrence in many villages and temples.
Visitors are usually welcome to witness and enjoy the celebrations if they are properly and conservatively attired.
With plentiful agriculture providing much of the necessary basic resources, Balinese have developed very rich forms of art, inspired both by the island and other parts of the world. Many famous foreign artists have lived in Bali and there is a vibrant artist community working and living in Ubud area.
Balinese language is a complex one related to Javanese. In addition, all Balinese speak Indonesian (the national language of Indonesia) and most people in the tourism industry speak English, Japanese or other languages.
Bali’s unique variant of Hinduism permeates every aspect of the island’s culture and life. Bali has retained many elements of the fusion between indigenous and Hindu cultures that took place several centuries ago throughout the Indonesian archipelago. From there, the island has evolved its own “Hindu” religion, incorporating many aspects of Buddhism and animism.
While Balinese Hinduism is the main religion in the island, other religions are given the freedom to practice and one can find many churches, temples and mosques there.
Bali is accessible by air through Ngurah Rai International Airport, Denpasar, Bali. Most international flights connect through Soekarno-Hatta Airport, Jakarta, or Changi Airport, Singapore. Departure Tax: Rp 150,000 (international), Rp 30,000 (domestic).
Visitors to Indonesia must possess passports valid for at least six months from date of entry and immigration officials usually request visitors to show their return tickets. Visa on arrival is applicable for certain nationalities. It is advisable for visitors to check with the Indonesian embassy or consulate in their respective countries for visa requirements.
Indonesian customs in Bali are fairly relaxed. However, trafficking of illegal drugs is a major offence in Indonesia and is punishable by death.
220 volts/50 cycles
Currency and exchange
The Indonesian currency is Rupiah. Resorts, banks and moneychangers normally provide exchange services for major currencies, but these services do not always apply to traveler’s checks.
Major restaurants, shops, Resorts and department stores accept credit cards. However, they are unlikely to be accepted in small towns and villages.
Most international Resorts and restaurants add a service charge to the bill, but a modest tip is always appreciated for good service. Smaller places do not add any service charge and any tip left is therefore at the guest’s discretion, depending on the service rendered.
Health and accidents
There are several medical centres in Bali and most quality Resorts have doctors on call. There is however, no world class hospital for major medical emergencies. Hence, ensuring evacuation insurance coverage for any major trauma is recommended. Dental care is available from a range of practitioners. Although it is advisable to consume only sealed bottled water and properly cooked meals, food and beverages in Bali are usually considered reasonably safe. Bear in mind that drinking too many ice-cold drinks and fruit juices or eating too much spicy food may lead to abdominal cramps and diarrhoea (Bali belly).