My last post was called 5 things I loved about Bali; I think it’s only fair that I talk about the dark side too. Hence, this post.
What could I possibly hate about a place as beautiful as Bali?
Yup, I LOVED it.
When planning this trip to Bali, we decided on staying in Nusa Dua for a number of reasons, one being cheaper accomodation and the other being less crowds. However this meant that we were 20 some kilometers away from Kuta, where all the action is. No big deal, right?
Every time we wanted to go to Kuta meant at least an hour and a half, three hours round trip, stuck in traffic. Nobody follows any rules here, and the hordes of motorbikes don’t make navigating the roads any easier. To make matters worst, the roads are narrow and poorly designed, with two lanes going in either direction. Add the holiday crowds to the equation, and it’s complete gridlock. After a few times we decided that nothing in Kuta was worth the time spent in the car.
We scheduled 3 full hours to go to Tanah Lot to see the sunset. The sunset was at around 6:40, and we left our hotel at 3:15. Our driver told us it should take us an hour and a half to get there, tops. We figured we’d get there a little early, look around, and then leisurely walk to a spot where we could take a picture of Tanah Lot while the sun was setting.
It took us almost three and a half hours to get there.
We literally had to race the sun to try and get the shot we wanted, and still missed it by 10 minutes.
My advice, skip Bali during the holidays. The traffic is horrendous, the beaches are overrun with people and their cameras, and it’s their rainy season.
Which brings me to…
2. The rain
We were lucky that we got three full days of sunshine and clear skies before it started raining. And it rained.
A little rain never hurt anybody…but just think of the poor bellhop that had to drag our luggage through this torrent to the lobby.
Rain means no scuba diving, no surfing, basically no water sports. Rain means that you probably don’t want to go the beach. Rain means the traffic gets worse than it already is. And this kind of rain meant no matter what umbrella you use, you’ll get soaked in a matter of seconds. And because of the humidity, anything that gets wet basically stays wet (unless you stand over it with one of those weak hotel hair dryers for about an hour). It basically sucks.
When I go back, it’s not going to be in December.
When I was a little girl, about 6 or 7, I wasn’t afraid of any bugs. That summer, I visited my grandmother in Taiwan, and she was always smacking cockroaches with a slipper. And those weren’t those tiny cockroaches you’d see in places like Vancouver, those were big tropical ones. Anyways, I was left alone in the room, and I saw one. There was my chance! I grabbed a slipper and smacked.
It broke in half.
And then the head ran off. The butt followed.
Ever since then, I’ve been terrified of cockroaches, and by association, all the creepy crawlies.
It can’t be helped, all tropical climates have bugs and lots of them. Bali is no exception.
There were long black bugs with a lot of legs in the shower (not centipedes, thank god). There were large ants that crawled over any leftover food. And most of all, there were mosquitoes.
I have a mosquito allergy, which means when I get bitten, the bite swells to the size of an egg, followed by hives and sometimes fever. I was bitten twice in Phuket, and over 20 times in Bali. I used mosquito repellent, but any spots I missed (like my feet) would get bitten multiple times throughout the day.
If you go to Bali, get a big bottle of mosquito repellent (I recommend Boots Natural Insect Repellent), After Bite, and if you’re the sensitive type (meaning allergic to everything), anti-histamines or OTC allergy meds like Claritin or Reactine.
Getting around is always a problem when you’re traveling. All taxi drivers know that you’re from abroad (unless you speak the local language), and don’t know where you’re going. Unfortunately, most of them take advantage of that fact and either a) drive around in circles running up the meter, or b) refuse to turn on the meter and instead ask for a fixed, inflated price.
In Bali, we were lucky enough to have a driver that worked our friend Zulfan’s aunt, which saved us a lot of negotiation and hassle. We didn’t have him everyday though, and when left to our own devices, taxi drivers often asked outrageous prices (relatively). Once when we were trying to leave the Galleria in the rain, a taxi driver asked us for 250,000 Rp ($21) to get back to our hotel, when normally it would be under 100,000 Rp. It’s not about the money, it’s that bad feeling you get when people try to take you for a ride.
The language barrier can also cause problems. When my friend tried to take a taxi to meet up with us about 2km away, she thought they’d agreed on using the meter. The driver thought differently. When it came time to pay, the driver asked for 50,000 Rp, and she refused. She pointed to the sign that said “minimum 25,000 Rp” and said that since he didn’t use the meter like they agreed, she would only pay the minimum. He got angry, started yelling in Indonesian or Balinese and it took intervention by another local before he huffily took the 25,000 Rp. Not a pleasant experience for anyone.
Now I’m not saying they’re bad people, everyone’s just trying to earn a living. But it’s not a good feeling not knowing who you can trust. The person smiling at you could just be trying to get you someplace to spend money on overpriced good for a commission. A recommendation could have a hidden agenda. My advice is to do your homework, know what you want to do and how much you want to spend. Then politely decline your driver’s suggestion to take you “somewhere nice”.
Whenever you can, take a Bluebird taxi. They’re the most reputable taxi company in Bali, and apparently government-run. Bluebird taxis always use the meter, so you don’t have to worry about negotiating the price. The only thing is, it’s pretty difficult to find one outside of major hotels and malls, and sometimes you have no choice but to take one of the other ones.
Almost all the taxis in Bali are blue, and some even have a bird symbol on their taxi hats meant to confuse tourists. However, they don’t try to copy the Bluebird exactly (presumably because it’s government-run), and it’s fairly easy to spot an imitation if you know what to look for.
All Bluebird Taxis have a flying bird on its hat, and says “TAKSI”, never “TAXI”. It also always have “Blue Bird Group” on the windshield. None of the imitations would ever have that.
Same color, similar hat, but not a Bluebird.
No “Blue Bird Group” on the windshield.
Also not a Bluebird!
There are a lot of drivers with private cars that you can hire for the day, at an agreed upon price. Generally you can get a driver for about 500,000 Rp – 750,000 Rp for about 8 hours, plus whatever tips you think he deserves. A good driver can make all the difference, although I would quickly Google his recommendations before taking them. The mobile network in Bali is spotty though, so sometimes you just have to decide if you can trust him.
5. The money
Ok, I’m being a little picky, but the Indonesian Rupiah makes it difficult for me to calculate whether or not something is expensive. I agonized whether to leave the maid 20,000 Rp ($1.69) or 30,000 Rp ($2.54) for 5 minutes before I realized it was the difference of $0.85.
The most you can pull out of an ATM at one time is 1.5 million Rp ($127), which can stretch quite far in Bali, but depends on whether or not you’re going to restaurants and spas catering to tourists. Because the largest denomination is 100,000 Rp ($8.47), that means at any given time, you’re carrying a huge wad of bills around. A lot of ATMs also only give out 50,000 Rp bills, which means in order to take out 1.5 million, you’d be carrying around 30 bills. Another problem is that many smaller stores or stalls think of 100,000 Rp bills , or even 50,000 Rp bills as “big bill”, and difficult to break.
Here I’d like to recommend that you exchange USD or Euros or pounds for Rupiahs in Indonesia. You’d get much better rates than you’d get back home, not to mention the fact that the Indonesian Rupiah isn’t widely traded and is probably difficult to find. Be sure to compare several exchange booths, as rates can vary widely in just a few blocks. Also remember to ask if they charge commission, and get smaller bills if you can.
1.5 million Rp in 50,000 denominations. Tim obviously doesn’t hate being baller…
Make no mistake, I loved Bali. This post is just me hoping that when you visit, you’ll be able to avoid all the bad parts and just enjoy the fabulousness that is Bali. I don’t regret going, and neither will you.