So you’ve made the decision to travel or move to Bali – or more specifically to Canggu, the über-hip province that is home to Dojo Bali and a thriving community of co-workers. A very warm selamat datang to you. Welcome to the island of the gods – a place of tasty waves, digital nomadism, yoga, salty skin and sambal so spicy it will make your tongue sizzle. But as exotic as relocating to Bali sounds, we know moving isn’t always easy, so the Dojo has compiled this handy guide to help ease you into the transition.
When you go land and go through customs, if you’re from one of more than 140 countries, you’ll get a stamp for visa-free entry that allows you to stay in Indonesia for 30 days. Your arrival day counts as day one, and any days you overstay, you’ll be fined. Overstay more than five days and you could get in serious trouble!
If you do want to stay longer than 30 days, you will need to buy a tourist visa on arrival as you go through immigration, which will set you back 500,000IDR. This will also be valid for 30 days, but in the last week of its validity, you can contact a visa agent and get them to extend it another 30 days for you.
When your visa has been extended once, if you want to continue to stay in Indonesia, you will need to do a visa run. Singapore, Kuala Lumpur and Perth are your cheapest options. Alternatively, you can explore other visa options: a social budaya visa, a multiple entry business visa or, if you’re directly employed by an Indonesian company (or have one of your own), a work visa, known as KITAS.
Buying a sim in Bali is ridiculously easy – just waltz into any shop marked ‘CELL’, and you can snap up a sim loaded with data and calling credit for super cheap. The kind shop assistants will almost always set your phone up for you too. Some stores are starting to demand ID when you buy a sim now in accordance with new government regulations, so be sure to bring your passport with you just in case.
Scooters are the most convenient form of transport available: you can avoid traffic jams, and nothing beats the freedom of driving your bike through roads lined with rice paddies. You can even get a bike with a surfboard rack! Officially, you need an international license that states that you are allowed to drive a scooter in your home country (most motor vehicle licenses allow you to drive any bike up to 250cc). If the police stop you, your international license is the first thing you have to show, and if you don’t have one, they will either fine you or make you go to court. If you choose court over a fine, they will confiscate your scooter, so maybe give that option a miss…
If scooting isn’t your thing, taxis are cheap and reliable, as are rideshare cars like Uber and Grab Taxi, though be wary of getting them in areas where signs expressly prohibit you from doing so. Just like everywhere else in the world, rideshare apps are eroding the income of private car and taxi drivers, and understandably, they’re not too happy about it.
You can fill up your scooter with petrol for about 10,000IDR a litre. All the big petrol stations are all located just outside of Canggu, so you are better off buying your petrol at one of the numerous local warungs (eateries). Along the streets, you will see little wooden stands with old Vodka bottles that contain a yellow fluid. This is petrol – restrain yourselves!
The quality of Bali’s main hospitals—BIMC in particular—are extremely high. In Canggu, there are no hospitals, but for emergencies, there are ambulances (they’re slow though – best to get a taxi) and plenty of clinics around. However, if you think you have broken a bone, spare yourself the trip to a local clinic, as they don’t have X-ray equipment and will just refer you to a bigger hospital (and still probably charge you). Note that if you get bitten by a dog or a monkey, you’ll need to get the wound cleaned immediately (and rather painfully), which can be done locally, but to get a rabies and immunoglobulin shot, you’ll need to go to Hydro Medical and one of the hospitals.
This app is the best thing that will ever happen to you. Not only can order a scooter-taxi, but you can order a scooter butler. The services on offer include food, package and supermarket delivery, as well as home massages and other ridiculously good luxuries! Just be sure to tip your driver.
Don’t drink it straight from the tap; not even the locals do – there are water coolers at most accommodations, or you can buy water in bulk at the convenience stores for cheap. Try to be super frugal with your use of plastic bottles: plastic rubbish is a huge problem in Bali, and we don’t want you to contribute to it.
Beware of Thieves and Pick-pockets
Always take care of your handbag and wallet. We also advise you to put your bag under the seat of your scooter when you’re driving (as opposed to over your shoulder), and wear your helmet. Don’t leave anything precious in your bike seat when you’re not on your scooter, as the seats can easily be pried open. Also don’t scoot along with your wallet and phone in the bike’s cup holders – thieves are very great at nabbing stuff out of them.
In many places in Bali, you cannot pay with your credit or debit card. The best and cheapest thing to do is to go to an ATM and withdraw 3 million IDR in one go to avoid high transaction fees. The ATM at Canggu Club allows you to withdraw this amount, and the others around Canggu vary between letting you take out 1.25 – 2.5 million IDR. Do be wary of card skimming. Hide the cash in your room and take however much you think you will need for that day with you. This way you avoid spending or losing lots of money. If you have several bank cards with you, never carry all of them at once.
If you brought cash to Bali, exchange it for Indonesian moolah at a BCM money exchanger. Scams are pretty common, but at BCM, they have cameras and give reasonable exchange rates.
Bali can seem more Westernised and tolerant than other islands in Indonesia, so much so that it is easy to forget you are in Asia. Different cultural rules apply here, just like in any other country, and in order to be respected as a tourist or migrant, you naturally need to give respect to the locals and their customs.
Do not scoot around in a bikini or shirtless, and don’t take dumb yoga photos in and around temples – at which you should always dress modestly. When bartering, stay friendly and polite. Smile, be kind, ask for a special price, give them your puppy eyes and laugh a lot, and you will be more successful as well as more respectful in your bargaining. That way you make it a pleasant experience for both parties. Whenever you feel ripped off and offended, remember that it is a dollar you are fighting over, and that you can probably afford it.
Never use your left hand to touch or give. The Balinese use what we call a “bumgun” instead of toilet paper, and use their left hand for hygienic purposes down there. The exception is when you use both hands to thank someone – this is considered a compliment. Another common mistake is using your index finger to point or beckon. If you need to call attention to someone, beckon them to come by extending your hand and, with palm facing down, making a downward wave. Touching someone’s head is off limit as well. The head is where the soul resides, and that counts for children too!
Do not flush toilet paper down the toilet! Balinese sewerage systems can’t cope with it. In fact, don’t even use toilet paper. The bum gun is so much cleaner and more delightful, and it’s so hot outside that our privates dry so quick anyway.