/
    • Bali has long been an exotic paradise. The island is a picturesque vision of green rice fields and plantations, soaring volcanoes, cool lakes, rushing rivers, lush forests and palm fringed beaches. It is Indonesia’s number one tourist spot and it is not difficult to understand why. Bali not only has an incredible coastline but also the original charm of the ‘Island of the Gods’ and its smiling people, especially in the many small rural villages and fascinating places of the fertile interior.

      What sets Bali apart from the rest of Indonesia is the prevalence of Balinese Hinduism. Scattered around Bali are thousands of Hindu temples and places of worship. The island’s religious beliefs are evident in the ceremonies, daily rituals and attitudes of the locals, in the offerings of flowers and food that adorn the roadsides, the charms hung inside taxis, and the numerous vibrant festivals that occur throughout the year. It is also perceptible in local reverence for the Holy Mountain, the soaring volcanic cone of Gunung Agung, which is the spiritual centre of the Balinese universe. Art is an integral part of daily life and every village has its artists, from internationally acclaimed painters to aspirational young cow herders. Ubud, the cultural centre, with its streets lined with art and crafts shops, also offers regular performances of traditional Balinese dance and music. Art, together with tourism, is an important source of revenue for the island.

      With its fine beach, the popular resort of Kuta is the most visited destination. There are numerous other beach resorts around the island, with more peaceful settings on the east coast at Candidasa, Sanur, the fishing village of Padang Bai, and on the northern coast at Lovina. There are a number of good scuba diving sites and reef snorkelling spots close by.

      Despite the shock of terrorist attacks a few years ago, Bali is still a tropical paradise with a rich and intriguing culture, and beautiful land and seascapes, attracting those in search of an idyllic vacation. However, visitors are still advised to contact their foreign office for the latest travel advice before travelling to Indonesia, and Bali in particular.


      THE BASICS

      TIME

      Indonesia spans three time zones. GMT +7 (West, including Java and Sumatra), GMT +8 (Central, including Bali, Sulawesi and Lombok), GMT +9 (East, including Irian Jaya).

      ELECTRICITY

      Electrical current is 230 volts, 50Hz. A variety of plugs are in use, including the European two-pin.

      LANGUAGE

      Bahasa Indonesia is the official language, but many dialects are spoken. English is widely understood in Jakarta and tourist resorts.

      TRAVEL HEALTH

      There are a number of health risks associated with travel to Indonesia and medical advice should be taken at least three weeks before departing. Yellow fever vaccinations are required for those coming from yellow fever areas. Vaccinations for hepatitis A and hepatitis B are recommended, and a typhoid vaccination may be recommended for those spending time in rural areas. Malaria is a year-round risk in much of Indonesia, but not in Jakarta or the tourist resorts of Java and Bali. The dengue fever mosquito is found throughout Indonesia and visitors should be aware of a significant increase in reported cases of dengue fever throughout the country during the rainy season. Outbreaks of chikungunya fever, also from mosquitoes, have occurred regularly in Indonesia in recent years. It is recommended that pregnant women, or women planning on becoming pregnant, should postpone their trip wherever possible, as Indonesia has recently been classed as a moderate risk zone for the Zika virus.

      Travellers’ diarrhoea is a major risk; visitors should only drink sealed bottled water and avoid dairy products, uncooked meat, salads and unpeeled fruit. Poor sanitation and eating contaminated food can increase the risk of cholera, typhoid and other diseases. The standard of local medical care is poor and very expensive. It is essential to take out comprehensive medical and travel insurance.

      TIPPING

      Major hotels add a 10 percent service charge to bills in Indonesia and, where it is not included, a tip of between five to 10 percent of the bill is appreciated. Airport porters usually receive around IDR 2,000 per small bag. Tipping taxi and rental car drivers is not mandatory but if you do choose to tip IDR 1,000 is sufficient for taxi drivers and a little more for rental car drivers.

      SAFETY INFORMATION

      Following the infamous bombings in Bali back in October 2005, there remains a risk of terrorism directed against foreigners throughout the country. It is recommended that visitors contact their foreign office for the latest travel advice before travelling to Indonesia. The security situation remains unsettled in central Sulawesi and foreigners are advised to avoid parts of Maluku, particularly Ambon. Visitors are also advised to be cautious if travelling to Aceh. Religious violence and unstable politics are an ongoing problem in Indonesia and travellers should keep an eye on current affairs.

      Indonesia has a high crime rate and theft and petty crime is common in tourist areas and on public transport. Credit card fraud is on the increase. Flooding and landslides occur frequently during the rainy season between December and March. The country is also located on the volatile seismic strip named the “Ring of Fire”, and as a result is often subject to earthquakes, volcano erruptions and occasionally tsunamis. Not all Indonesian airlines are considered safe and travellers should do some research into reputable airlines before booking.

      LOCAL CUSTOMS

      Indonesian people are generally friendly and polite and while they understand that Western culture is different to their own, it will be appreciated if their customs are respected. Religious customs should also be respected, particularly during the holy month of Ramadan when eating, drinking and smoking during daylight hours should be discreet, in accordance with the Muslim culture. Visitors should always be polite and avoid public displays of affection. It is considered impolite to use the left hand for passing or accepting things. Appropriate dress is important in places of worship and women should dress conservatively, covering the shoulders and legs. The concept of ‘saving face’ is very important and public displays of anger, ridicule and blame are considered extremely vulgar and bad mannered. In Jakarta a law bans people from giving money to beggars, buskers and unofficial traffic guides in an attempt to ‘bring order’ to the city. Offenders could face imprisonment and fines. Gambling is illegal. Furthermore, the Indonesian government adopts a zero tolerance approach to those engaged in illegal activities, such as dealing or consuming drugs whilst in the country, or the killing or illegal trading of endangered animals. Offenders have been faced with lengthy prison sentences, and have even been sentenced to death.

      BUSINESS

      Due to the hot and tropical climate, formal business attire in a light, cool material is the best option. Indonesia is largely Muslim so dress should be conservative, especially for women. Business cards are often exchanged and it is customary to shake hands with a slight bow when greeting and departing. Some Indonesian names can be long and hard to pronounce and making an effort to get it right when greeting someone will be appreciated. It is best to use formal titles such as Doctor, or ‘Bapak’ for Mr and ‘Ibu’ for Madam. Business hours vary; government offices are usually open from 7am to 3pm and small businesses from 8am or 9am to 4pm or 5pm.

      COMMUNICATIONS

      The international access code for Indonesia is +62. The outgoing code is 00 followed by the relevant country code (e.g. 0044 for the UK). The area code for Jakarta is 21. Buying a local SIM card is a good option as international roaming fees can be expensive. Free wifi is available in most cafes, restaurants and hotels in main cities, towns and tourist areas.

      DUTY FREE

      Travellers to Indonesia over 18 years do not have to pay duty on 25 cigars or 200 cigarettes or 100g tobacco; alcohol up to 1 litre; perfume for personal use; and personal goods to the value of US$250 per passenger or US$1,000 per family. Travellers not entering on a tourist visa will have to pay duties for photo and film cameras unless these have been registered in their passport by Indonesian Customs. Electronic equipment may not be imported to the country. Prohibited items include Chinese medicines and prints, narcotics, firearms and ammunition, pornography, cordless telephones, fresh fruit or goods to be used for commercial gain.

      CLIMATE

      Lying just south of the equator, Bali has a tropical monsoon climate with two distinct seasons: wet (November to March) and dry (April to October). Bali, and in fact the whole Indonesian archipelago, experiences only slight temperature variations from season to season due to the warm ocean currents that keep heat fairly constant on land. There is also very little variation in daylight hours from season to season.

      The dry season has hotter temperatures, but the humidity levels are much higher during the rainy season. The height of the summer season also brings cool breezes to temper the hot weather. Temperatures are cooler in the mountainous areas and it is less humid. The average annual temperature is about 86°F (30°C). Although it is generally better to travel to Indonesia in the dry season – between April and October – Bali is one of the best islands to visit if you are travelling in the rainy monsoon season as it experiences fewer weather-related travel disruptions and less flooding than many other islands. Even when it is rainy there will often be sunshine to enjoy on a daily basis. May, June and July are generally considered the best months to visit Bali.

      ENTRY REQUIREMENTS FOR SOUTH AFRICANS

      South African citizens must have a passport that is valid for at least six months from the date of their arrival in Indonesia. A visa is required.

      PASSPORT/VISA

      Passengers to Indonesia of most nationalities can obtain a 30-day visa on arrival, provided that: (i) they arrive at a major Indonesian airport; (ii) their passport contains at least one unused visa page for the visa-on-arrival sticker; (iii) they are holding return/onward tickets, and the necessary travel documentation for their next destination; and (iv) they can show proof of sufficient funds to cover their stay in Indonesia (at least USD 1,000 or a valid credit card). The cost of a 30 day visa as of December 2016 is USD 35. Those nationalities not permitted to purchase a visa on arrival must obtain a visa prior to their arrival in the country.

      One visa extension, of a further 30 days, is possible, via an application made to the Immigration Office. Note that the day of arrival in Indonesia is counted as the first day of stay, and that fines will be levied against tourists who exceed their permitted period of stay.

      Visitors wishing to travel to the Indonesian province of Irian Jaya must obtain a special permit (“Surat Jalan”) after arrival in Indonesia from the Dinas Intel Pam Pol MABAK in Jakarta, or other regional police headquarters in Biak or Jayapura. It normally takes about two days to obtain this permit. Upon arrival in Irian Jaya, visitors must report to the local police office.

      Note that a yellow fever vaccination certificate is required, if arriving in Indonesia within six days of leaving or transiting through an infected area.

      NOTE: It is highly recommended that your passport has at least six months validity remaining after your intended date of departure from your travel destination. Immigration officials often apply different rules to those stated by travel agents and official sources.

      MONEY

      The Indonesian currency is the Rupiah (IDR). Foreign currency can easily be exchanged at banks, hotels and money changers in major tourist destinations; the US dollar is the most accepted currency. Ensure that foreign bills are in good condition, as creased and torn notes may be refused. The best exchange rates in Indonesia are generally found in major centres like Jakarta and Bali. Visa and Mastercard are accepted at more expensive hotels and restaurants, however smaller businesses may not have card facilities (especially in more remote areas). ATMs are available in main centres. Small change is often unavailable so keep small denomination notes and coins for items like bus fares, temple donations and soft drinks.


      TRANSPORT

      Bali can be a challenge to navigate, as the aging infrastructure struggles to support rapid development. Road rules are practically non-existent, and traffic can be chaotic with frequent jams in Denpasar and other major centres. Renting a motorbike is an adventurous way to see the island, although only recommended for very experienced drivers. Cars are available for hire with a driver, which can be the most stress-free way to get around.

      There is limited bus service in Bali, and this can be an inexpensive way to get around for travellers willing to be very patient. Shared minivans (bemo’s) are available, however in Denpasar and southern Bali metered taxis are much more common.


      ATTRACTIONS

      Sightseeing in Bali is usually a relaxing undertaking, with many of the island’s best attractions being conveniently centred around its breathtaking beaches. A step away from these sugary white sands and warm waters lands tourists in Bali’s verdant, tropical interior; enough to confirm that there is much more to this popular island than just its glorious beaches.

      Kuta beach is without a doubt the beach to visit for sun and surf, but there are plenty of others worth exploring, such as Legian and Sanur. Seminyak beach is the place for art lovers to peruse the tiny shopping galleries. Nature lovers will have a great time exploring Bali’s waterfalls, such as Gitgit and Blahmantung Falls, while the very fit will love a sunrise climb to the top of Mount Batur, or one of the other volcanoes that form the island’s peaks. After a long day of exploring, the hot springs of Banjar will rejuvenate tired muscles. Tourists can see Bali’s wildlife up close at the Sangeh Monkey Forest, or the Bird Park in Singapadusuch. For something a little more exciting, it is possible to book an elephant safari.

      Aside from the natural wonders available, Bali has many cultural gems as well. Every village is required to maintain at least three Hindu temples, including the largest on the island, the Nine Directional Temples. Pura Luhur Uluwatu, perched on the cliffs above Uluwatu, is regarded as the most spectacular temple on the island. There is also a wealth of local art, best showcased in Ubud’s museums.


      BATUBULAN

      The small village of Batubulan is marked by stone figures of gods and demons on the side of the road. Known mostly for its stone carvings, Batubulan is a popular centre for cultural tourism and attracts travellers looking for a unique souvenir to take home with them. Visitors to the village can even enjoy visiting the workshops and watching the artists at work. Batubulan actually means ‘moonstone’ and stone carving has been the main industry of the village for a long time. Everybody seems to be an expert in the art and children learn how to coax statues out of rock at a young age. The village does also showcase other crafts, like woodwork and textiles, and is known for its antiques but the stone work dominates.

      The temples in the area reflect the traditional talent of the local inhabitants and some remarkable stone carvings are on display at temples such as Pura Puseh. Another of the village’s specialities is the performance of the blessing dance of Barong, which is performed on a daily basis at five different locations or stages: the Puseh Temple, Tegal Tamu, Denjalan, Sahadewa and Sila Budaya. As the village has become such an artistic hub, other villages nearby have perfected their own crafts, and the whole region is slowly transforming in to a vast open-air market.


      GUNUNG BATUR VOLCANO

      The still-active Gunung Batur volcano is known as Bali’s second holiest mountain and symbolises the female element of the island. The male element is symbolized in Gunung Agung, a neighbouring smaller volcano. The walk up Mount Batur is not easy, but the views are spectacular and if you’re lucky you might even spot a few monkeys along the way. Gunung Batur rises from a volcanic crater which also contains a lake and the view of this otherworldly landscape from the crater rim is spectacular. Look out for the remanants of black lava flows on the western side of the mountain from this vantage. There is also a great lookout point for those who’d rather hire a car and drive to the old crater rim overlooking Lake Batur.

      The sunrise walks are recommended, and remain the best way to avoid hiking during Bali’s infamous year-round heat. Unfortunately, those visiting during the rainy season may be unlucky with the views as visibility is often poor. There is a guide hut situated at the bottom of the path and passing by usually attracts a mob of eager locals who insist on your taking one of them along for safety. If you want a guide, then this arrangement is convenient, however the hut can be avoided by taking alternative paths. It is safe to ascend on your own, but caution is always advised for less experienced hikers.


      PURA BESAKIH

      Locally known as the Mother Temple of Bali, Pura Besakih is located on the slopes of Mount Agung and is the biggest and holiest of all Balinese temples. Dating back to the 14th century, the three main temples are dedicated to Shiva, Brahma and Wisnu, and another 18 separate sanctuaries belonging to different regencies and caste groups surround these. The complex has been built over centuries and is very impressive.

      However, the magnificence of the experience can be somewhat blighted by the insistent local touts at the site. Apart from paying the official entrance fee, visitors are coerced into paying ‘donations’ to the temple and are forced into hiring tour guides. For this reason you may be advised to skip Pura Besakih in favour of some of the less famous and less crowded temples. Being aware of some of the common tourist scams, however, does makes the visit easier: it is possible to explore without a guide but you will be endlessly bothered, so it may be preferable to be with a local. If you do visit Pura Besakih, or any other temple for that matter, it is customary to wear a sarong out of respect for local traditions. Despite the hassle of dealing with touts, this is a beautiful and interesting attraction and many will find it rewarding regardless.Address: Desa Besakih, Kec. Rendang, Karangasem, Besakih, Karangasem, Kabupaten Karangasem; Website:www.bali.com/temple_Karangasem_Pura-Besakih_83.html;


      PURA KEHEN

      One of the most valued temples in Bali, Pura Kehen is a garden temple located in the town of Bangli in East Bali and can be traced back to the 11th century. Founded by Sri Brahma Kemuti Ketu, Pura Kehen is the second largest temple on Bali and the most sacred in the region. Many visitors are mesmerized by the temple’s grandeur and the steep steps leading dramatically up to the gateway. Like the Mother Temple of Pura Besakih, Pura Kehen was built on the slope of a hill and has eight terraces. The temple complex is surrounded by palm tree plantations which adds to the visitor’s impression of being a jungle explorer discovering something ancient and profound. The fire god, Brahmen, protects the temple and it is named for him – kehen means hearth or fireplace. The 38 steps lead to an ornately carved entrance and through this doorway there are three courtyards. There is a lot to see but be sure not to miss the remarkable stone lotus throne dedicated to Brahma, Shiva and Vishnu in the third, main courtyard.

      You will need to dress appropriately to visit the temple which means that your legs must be covered and you must have a temple-scarf (sarong) around your waist. You can rent sarongs at the temple.Address: Desa Cempaga, Cempaga, Kec. Bangli, Kabupaten Bangli; Website:www.greenerbali.com/pura-kehen.html;


      SIDEMEN VALLEY

      A typical Balinese village tucked away in a lush green valley, Sidemen is a popular excursion on Bali for tourists looking for peace and quiet. Terraced rice paddies lie under the shadow of a volcano, which offers good opportunities for hiking. Other active pursuits in the valley include cycling and whitewater rafting.

      The village of Sidemen is known for its skilful weavers, who make the intricate silver-and-gold songket fabric used in traditional weddings. The Pelangi Workshop allows visitors to watch the weaving process, and there are several shops in town to buy songket fabric along with other souvenirs.

      One of the most pleasant activities for those who want a relaxed break is strolling through the rice paddies and exploring the enchanting scenery of the valley. Most of the hotels have basic maps to give visitors and there are some beautiful little temples hidden in the countryside. Getting lost round here is a joy. There are some hotels and restaurants to cater to tourists but there are no real banking facilities and only limited internet access. Sidemen is a truly wonderful place to visit if you want to experience a quiet, traditional village, and it is worth spending at least one night to experience the surroundings. Many choose to spend more than that.


      TANAH LOT

      Meaning ‘land in the middle of the sea’, Tanah Lot is an exquisite sea temple built atop a rock formation off the island of Bali. A very popular tourist spot and a great location for photographs, Tanah Lot sits on a rocky island, in waters occupied by poisonous sea snakes which are believed to guard the temple from evil spirits and intruders. If you think its sounds like a fairytale you’re not wrong; the place has a mystical quality. Despite the alleged presence of the snakes it is possible – and fun – to walk or wade to the temple cave at low tide. The temple was built by one of the last priests to arrive in Bali from Java in the 16th century and unfortunately the main temple can’t be entered.

      Sunrise and sunset are the best times to visit, although sunset is the most popular time and the crowds can somewhat ruin the atmosphere. There are a number of vantage points from which you can get lovely views of the temple, so its best to find one of them and settle down to admire the views and take some photographs. The complex is very touristy and commercial, with lots of shops and stalls selling souvenirs, snacks and the like, but it is still a remarkable attraction to visit and the coastline is very beautiful in itself.Address: Located at Beraban village, Kediri district, Tabanan Regency on the South Coast; Website:www.tanahlot.net/home/;


      UBUD

      Set in the hills north of Denpasar, Ubud is the cultural centre of Bali. The major attractions of the town and its surrounding villages are the art museums and galleries, notably the Neka Museum, containing a huge collection of traditional and modern Balinese paintings. An enormous variety of Balinese art and crafts line the streets and crowd the marketplace of Ubud. Frequent performances of traditional dance and music, and restaurants offering some of the best food on the island, compel visitors to stay much longer than intended.

      In response to the demand from visitors all sorts of interesting attractions and activities have sprung up and you can now do things like attend silver smithing classes, learn yoga, or watch locals perform the Kekac Fire and Trance Dance. Ubud is also close to several sites of interest, including the ‘Mother Temple’ of Besakih, majestically situated high on the slopes of the Agung Volcano, and the popular Monkey Forest, where you can feed the many macaques in the temple complex. Hiking in the scenic Batur region with its volcano and lake are popular excursions. Many adventure trips can be organised from Ubud including canyoning, hiking, bird watching tours and the like.


      SHOPPING

      Shopping in Bali is typical of shopping in any South East Asian country. There is plenty of fake designer wear and the usual tourist knock-off goods, and plenty of haggling is necessary. There are also wonderful local batik designs, and plenty of swimwear and surf wear for shoppers to indulge in while in Bali.

      In Kuta, the streets are lined with stalls and shops selling clothing, leather goods, pirated DVDs and handicrafts, as well as great art shops selling Balinese crafts. Kuta Art Market, next to Kuta Square, is the place to go for local arts and crafts, though travellers will also find all the usual international tourist staples. Discovery Shopping Mall on Jalan Kartika Plaza offers fantastic shopping opportunities with its department stores, cafés, bookshops, home accessories, jewellery and international brand outlets such as Sogo, Guess and Esprit.

      Denpasar’s three-storey Kumbasari Market near the river is a great place to shop for clothing and spices. Seminyak and Canggu are the spots to go for trendy boutiques, unique furniture and ethnic chic couture from the corner of Legian Street to Laksmana Street.

      For good local souvenirs, such as hand-made jewellery or traditional wood and stone carvings, head to the surrounding villages, such as Ubud, where some of the best quality can be found. The Bukit Mungsu traditional market in Bedugul is a good place to find dried spices and coffee, which are also popular Bali souvenirs.


      NIGHTLIFE

      The nightlife in Bali is mostly centred around the busy resort town of Kuta, where everything from karaoke bars and pubs, to discos and clubs can be found bustling until the early hours. Enjoy sundowners at a rustic beach bar followed by dinner and a pub crawl, until the bass lines thump and the party animals start crawling out of the woodwork around midnight. Hot nightlife spots include the main drag of Kuta and the Legian Beach area, which is the place for rockers. There are events like full-moon and half-moon parties taking place frequently, especially on Legian Beach – just look out for the flyers. Seminyak also pulsates after dark and countless clubs, bars and sexy dancers can be found.

      Lovina, Nusa Dua, Ubud and Sanur offer a more low-key variety of night-time entertainment, which is mostly confined to restaurants and hotels. However, there is always something happening to keep the young at heart entertained. For a vibe that is halfway between the sleepy streets of Ubud and the heaving clubs of Kuta, head to Canggu. With plenty of hip bars and beach shacks to drink, chill and kick back at, revellers will be up until sunrise, but perhaps without the pulsing headache that the clubs down the coast promise.

      Many travellers like to stop at the Bali bombing memorial site outside Paddy’s Pub, which was destroyed in the 2002 bombings, to pay their respects to the victims. Paddy’s: Reloaded was reopened further down along Legian Street and sees many travellers from across the globe coming together for a toast.


      AIRPORTS

      • NGURAH RAI AIRPORT (DPS)LOCATIONThe airport is situated eight miles (13km) southwest of Denpasar and one and a half miles (2.5km) south of Kuta.GETTING TO THE CITYBuses leave regularly for Denpasar city centre and the main holiday resorts, including Kuta. Metered taxis are available and passengers should insist that the driver uses a meter, even if he claims it is broken.TIMEGMT +8.CONTACTSCAR RENTALAvis, Budget, Europcar, Hertz and Sixt operate from the airport.AIRPORT TAXISThe official taxi counter is located outside the Arrivals hall. Fares are paid in advance, then a receipt is given to the driver.TRANSFER BETWEEN TERMINALSThe terminals are within easy walking distance of each other.FACILITIESThere are shops, restaurants, banks and a bureau de change at the airport. Other facilities include a post office, pharmacy, duty-free, tourist information and hotel reservation kiosks. The airport has facilities for disabled travellers; those with special needs are advised to inform their airline in advance.DEPARTURE TAXWEBSITEwww.baliairport.com