Bali, with its wide range of tourist services and facilities, is the favoured destination for travellers with disabilities since it is much easier to find suitable amenities and adapted accommodation. Sanur and Nusa Dua – where the higher-end hotels and resorts are located – are more wheelchair-accessible than Kuta, Legian and Seminyak, although there are accessible beach walks in all of these locations. But expect high kerbs, few kerb cuts, badly maintained and crowded pavements (sidewalks), and steps into many establishments. Help, however, is always readily at hand.
Most temples are only partially wheelchair accessible at best, stairs being an integral philosophical part of every Hindu temple. However, there is often a way around these stairs – ask a caretaker for a local. Pura Ulun Danu Bratan is entirely accessible, Pura Taman Ayun, Pura Luhur Ulu Watu and Pura Tirta Empul have ramps to most areas. Taman Tirta Gangga, Taman Ujung water palace and Jatiluwih Rice Fields are also accessible to a great extent, making them well worth a visit.
Bali One Care (balionecare.com/en) Can arrange accessible transport and supplies a wide range of mobility and medical equipment, as well as care, nursing and even babysitting services.
Bali Beach Wheels (877-6508-5812; balibeachwheels.com) This brand-new company has three Hippocampe beach/all-terrain wheelchairs for hire by the day, week or month for easier access to the beach and rice paddies.
Download Lonely Planet's free Accessible Travel guides from http://lptravel.to/AccessibleTravel.
Disabled Holidays Bali (www.disabledholidaysbali.com) Villa G at Ellora (Sanur) has three accessible rooms with accessible bathrooms and a movable hoist available. It can also arrange airport transfers and it has access to a wheelchair-accessible vehicle.
Villa Sunset View (www.villa-sunsetview.com) Luxury resort in southern Bali, 18km from Ngurah Rai International Airport, has four double rooms and one single room, with all facilities wheelchair-accessible to international standards, including a stepless infinity pool equipped with a pool wheelchair. (German language website.)
Maso Christian (http://masochristian.com) The owner of this luxury eco-resort in the rice terraces around Canggu is a wheelchair user, which means that the resort – including the infinity pool – is 100% wheelchair-accessible.
Gardenia Guesthouse Small, inexpensive guesthouse in Sanur with two accessible cottages.
Villa Pertiwi in North Sanur, can be rented via Airbnb and has ramps ready to make the premises all accessible as soon as a wheelchair using guests arrives. Run by the owners of Wheelchair Traveller (https://www.reisenmitrollstuhl.de/en/).
Travel Agents & Tour Operators
Accessible Indonesia (www.accessibleindonesia.org) The owners are knowledgeable and well connected and work with local organisations for the disabled. They offer tours principally to Java, Sulawesi and Bali, as well as day cruises, diving and snorkelling expeditions and wheelchair-accessible transfers. They are well used to problem-solving to overcome infrastructural barriers. There is access information for international airports and basic access information about the destinations they serve on their website. They have a beach wheelchair for hire in Bali.
Bali Access Travel (www.baliaccesstravel.com) Specialist travel agent in Bali, providing wheelchair-accessible transport, equipment hire and fully licensed nursing services, as well as tips for accessible accommodation. They can also help to arrange disabled diving and snorkelling expeditions for the more adventurous.
Bali Deaf Guide (www.balideafguide.com) Specialist tour guide for deaf travellers who runs off-the-shelf and custom tours, including to Bali’s deaf school and deaf village. Wahyu is a fluent signer, but we are not sure which sign language he uses.
Bali International Diving Professionals (www.bidp-balidiving.com) Offers dives for qualified disabled divers and diver training for people with a physical disability. Also offers training to able-bodied qualified divers to become a dive buddy for divers who have a disability. They have a purpose-built boat. Contact them to discuss your particular needs.
Water Worxx Dive Center (www.waterworxbali.com) Also experienced with disabled divers.
Bargaining can be an enjoyable part of shopping in Bali. Try following these steps:
- Have some idea of the item's worth.
- Establish a starting price – ask the seller for their price.
- Your first offer can be from one-third to two-thirds of that price.
- If you don't like the price, walk – the vendor may go lower.
- When you name a price, you're committed – you must buy if your offer is accepted.
Dangers & Annoyances
It's important to note that compared to many places in the world, Bali is fairly safe. There are some hassles from the avaricious, but most visitors face many more dangers at home. There have been some high-profile cases of visitors being injured or killed on Bali, but in many cases these tragedies have been inflamed by media sensationalism.
Boat travel carries risks. Take precautions.
Outside of reputable bars and resorts, avoid arak, the locally produced fermented booze made from rice or palm. Deaths and injuries happen – especially on Bali and the Gilis – when unscrupulous vendors stretch stocks with poisonous chemicals.
Numerous high-profile drug cases on Bali and Lombok should be enough to dissuade anyone from having anything to do with illicit drugs. As little as two ecstasy tabs or a bit of pot have resulted in huge fines and multiyear jail sentences in Bali's notorious jail in Kerobokan. Try smuggling and you may pay with your life (remember the Bali Nine?). Kuta is filled with cops posing as dealers.
Hawkers & Touts
Many visitors regard hawkers and touts as the number one annoyance in Bali (and in tourist areas of Lombok). Visitors are frequently, and often constantly, hassled to buy things. The worst places for this are Jl Legian in Kuta, Kuta Beach, the Gunung Batur area, Lovina and the temples at Besakih and Tanah Lot. And the cry of 'Transport?!?' – that's everywhere. Many touts employ fake, irritating Australian accents ('Oi! Mate!').
Use the following tips to deflect attention.
- Completely ignore touts/hawkers.
- Don't make any eye contact.
- A polite tidak (no) actually encourages them.
- Never ask the price or comment on the quality of their goods unless you're interested in buying.
Keep in mind, though, that ultimately they're just people trying to make a living, and if you don't want to buy anything, you are wasting their time trying to be polite.
Bali has a number of 'fake' orphanages designed to extract money from well-meaning tourists. If you are considering donating anything to an orphanage, carefully research its reputation online. Orphanages using cab drivers as hawkers are especially suspect.
Kuta Beach and those to the north and south are subject to heavy surf and strong currents – always swim between the flags. Trained lifeguards are on duty, but only at Kuta, Legian, Seminyak, Nusa Dua, Sanur and (sometimes) Senggigi. Other beaches can have strong currents, even when protected by reefs.
Be careful when swimming over coral and never walk on it. It can be very sharp and coral cuts are easily infected. In addition, you are damaging a fragile environment.
Water pollution is a problem, especially after rain. Swim far away from any open streams you see flowing into the surf, including the often foul and smelly ones at Double Six Beach and Seminyak Beach. The seawater around Kuta is commonly contaminated by run-off from built-up areas.
Violent crime is uncommon, but bag- and phone-snatching from motorbikes, pickpocketing and theft from rooms and parked cars occurs. Take the same precautions you would in any urban area. Other common-sense tips:
- Secure money before leaving an ATM (and don't forget your card!).
- Don't leave valuables on a beach while swimming.
- Use front-desk/in-room safes.
Traffic & Footpaths
Apart from the dangers of driving in Bali, the traffic in most tourist areas is often annoying and frequently perilous to pedestrians. Footpaths can be rough, even unusable, and sometimes motorbikes will recklessly swerve on to them. Gaps in the pavement are also a cause of injury. Carry a torch (flashlight) at night.
It's hard to say when an 'accepted' practice such as overcharging becomes an unacceptable rip-off, but be warned that there are people in Bali (not always Balinese) who will try to rip you off.
Most Balinese would never perpetrate a scam, but it seems that very few would warn a foreigner when one is happening. Be suspicious if you notice that bystanders are uncommunicative and perhaps uneasy, and one person is doing all the talking.
Locals (often working in pairs) discover a 'serious problem' with your car or motorcycle – it's blowing smoke, leaking oil or petrol, a wheel is wobbling or a tyre is flat (problems that one of the pair creates while the other distracts you). Coincidentally, a brother/cousin/friend nearby can help and soon they're demanding an outrageous sum for their trouble.
Many travellers are ripped off by money changers who use sleight of hand and rigged calculators. Always count your money at least twice in front of the money changer, and don't let them touch the money again after you've finally counted it. The best defence is to use a bank-affiliated currency exchange or ATMs (although there has been a rash of fake card skimmers attached to ATMs, so check authenticity and cover your hand as you enter your pin number).
Government Travel Advice
Government advisories often are general and guaranteed to allow for bureaucratic cover should trouble occur. However, the following sites also have useful tips.
New Zealand (www.safetravel.govt.nz)
Embassies & Consulates
Foreign embassies are in Jakarta, the national capital. Most of the foreign representatives in Bali are consular agents (or honorary consuls) who can't offer the same services as a full consulate or embassy. A lost passport may mean a trip to an embassy in Jakarta.
The US, Australia and Japan have formal consulates in Bali (citizens from these countries make up half of all visitors).
Indonesian embassies and consulates abroad are listed on the website of Indonesia's Ministry of Foreign Affairs (www.kemlu.go.id). There is a handy search function under the 'Mission' menu item, which also gives contact details for other nation's embassies and contacts in Indonesia.
Australian Consulate The Australian consulate has a consular sharing agreement with Canada.
Emergency & Important Numbers
The international access code can be any of three versions; try all three.
|Indonesia country code||62|
|International call prefix||001/008/017|
Entry & Exit Formalities
Arrival procedures at Bali's Ngurah Rai International Airport are straightforward, although it can take some time for planeloads of visitors to clear immigration; afternoons are typically worst.
At baggage claim, porters are keen to help get your luggage to the customs tables and beyond, and they've been known to ask up to US$20 for their services – if you want help with your bags, agree on a price beforehand. The formal price is 10,000Rp per piece. Luggage carts are always free.
Once through customs, you're out with the tour operators, touts and taxi drivers. Ignore the touts as they offer no service of value, except to themselves.
Indonesia's list of prohibited imports includes drugs, weapons, fresh fruit and anything remotely pornographic. Items allowed include the following:
- 200 cigarettes (or 50 cigars or 100g of tobacco)
- a 'reasonable amount' of perfume
- 1L of alcohol
Surfers with more than two or three boards may be charged a fee, and this can apply to other items if the officials suspect that you intend to sell them in Indonesia.
There is no restriction on foreign currency, but the import or export of rupiah is limited to 5,000,000Rp. Greater amounts must be declared.
Your passport must be valid for six months after your date of arrival in Indonesia. Before passing through immigration you may fill out a disembarkation card, half of which you must keep to give to immigration when you leave the country.
Visas are easily obtained but can be a hassle if you hope to stay longer than 30 days.
Renewing Your Visa
You can renew a 30-day Visa on Arrival once (but not a Visa Free). The procedures are complex:
- At least seven days before your visa expires, go to an immigration office. These can usually be found in larger cities and regional capitals. The best one for south Bali is the immigrasi office near Jimbaran.
- Bring your passport, a photocopy of your passport and a copy of your ticket out of Indonesia (which should be for a date during the renewal period).
- Wear modest clothes (eg men may be required to wear long pants).
- Pay a fee of 355,000Rp.
- You may have to return to the office twice over a three- to five-day period for fingerprinting, photos and other procedures.
One way to avoid the renewal hassle is to use a visa agent such as ChannelOne on Bali, who (for a fee) will do most of the bureaucratic work for you.
Fines for overstaying your visa expiration date are 300,000Rp per day and include additional hassles.
If you have a good reason for staying longer (eg study or family reasons), you can apply for a sosial/budaya (social/cultural) visa. You will need an application form from an Indonesian embassy or consulate, and a letter of introduction or promise of sponsorship from a reputable person or school in Indonesia. It's initially valid for three months, but it can be extended for one month at a time at an immigration office within Indonesia for a maximum of six months. There are fees for the application and for extending the visa.
The three main visas types for visitors:
Visa in Advance Visitors can apply for a visa before they arrive in Indonesia. Typically this is a visitor’s visa, which is valid for 30 or 60 days. Details vary by country; contact your nearest Indonesian embassy or consulate to determine processing fees and times. Note: this is the only way to obtain a 60-day visitor visa, even if you qualify for Visa on Arrival (VOA).
Visa on Arrival Citizens of most countries may apply for a 30-day visa when they arrive at major airports and harbours. The cost is 528,000Rp, payable by cash (no coins) or credit card; other currencies are accepted in amounts equivalent to the fee in Rp. VOA renewals for 30 days are possible.
Visa Free Citizens of most countries can receive a 30-day visa for free upon arrival. But note that this visa cannot be extended.
If you have obtained one of the coveted 60-day visas in advance, be sure the immigration official at the airport gives you a 60-day tourist card.
For further info on Indonesia’s visa situation, contact an Indonesian embassy.
Indonesia is a pretty relaxed place, but there are a few rules of etiquette.
Body language Use both hands when handing somebody something. Don’t show displays of affection in public or talk with your hands on your hips (it’s seen as a sign of aggression).
Clothing Avoid showing a lot of skin, although many local men wear shorts. Don’t go topless if you’re a woman at any pool or beach.
Photography Before taking photos of someone, ask – or mime – for approval.
Places of worship Be respectful in sacred places. Remove shoes and dress modestly when visiting temples and mosques.
A travel-insurance policy to cover theft, loss and medical problems is essential. There is a wide variety of policies, most sold online; make certain your policy will cover speedy medical evacuation from anywhere in Indonesia.
Theft is a potential problem on Bali and elsewhere in Indonesia, so make sure that your policy covers expensive items adequately. Many policies have restrictions on laptops and expensive camera gear, and refunds are often for depreciated value, not replacement value.
Worldwide travel insurance is available at www.lonelyplanet.com/travel-insurance. You can buy, extend and claim online anytime – even if you’re already on the road.
Checking insurance quotes…
- Free wi-fi is common in cafes, restaurants, hotels and malls. Internet cafes are uncommon.
- Internet speeds are reasonably fast, especially in south Bali and Ubud.
- 3G data and faster is universal.
The Indonesian government takes the smuggling, using and selling of drugs very seriously and the drug laws are unambiguous. If caught with drugs, you may have to wait for up to six months in jail before trial. As seen in high-profile cases involving foreigners, multiyear prison terms are common for people caught with illegal drugs, including marijuana. Those found guilty of dealing can be subject to the death penalty.
Gambling is illegal (although it's common, especially at cockfights), as is pornography.
Generally, you are unlikely to have any encounters with the police unless you are driving a rented car or motorcycle.
In Bali, there are police stations in all district capitals. If you have to report a crime or have other business at a police station, expect a lengthy and bureaucratic encounter. You should dress respectably, bring someone to help with translation, arrive early and be polite. You can also call the Bali Tourist Police for advice.
Some police officers may expect to receive bribes, either to overlook some crime, misdemeanour or traffic infringement (whether actual or not), or to provide a service that they should provide anyway. Generally, it's easiest to pay up – and the sooner this happens, the less it will cost. Travellers may be told there's a 'fine' to pay on the spot, while others may offer to pay a 'fine' to clear things up. How much? Generally, 50,000Rp can work wonders and the officers are not proud. If things seem unreasonable, however, ask for the officer's name and write it down.
Stopping Child-Sex Tourism
Strong laws exist in Indonesia to prosecute people seeking to sexually exploit local children, and many countries also have extraterritorial legislation that allows nationals to be prosecuted in their own country for these crimes.
Travellers can help stop child-sex tourism by reporting suspicious behaviour. Reports can be made to the Anti Human Trafficking Unit of the Indonesian police. If you know the nationality of the individual, you can contact their embassy directly.
Bali is a popular spot for LGBT travellers owing to the many ways it caters to a rainbow of visitors. There is a large gay and lesbian expat community and many own businesses that – if not gay-specific – are very gay-friendly. In south Bali and Ubud, couples have few concerns, beyond remembering that the Balinese are quite modest. Otherwise, there's a rollicking strip of very-gay-friendly nightclubs in the heart of Seminyak, although there's no part of Bali any LGBT person should avoid.
Having said that, gay travellers in Bail (and Indonesia) should follow the same precautions as straight travellers and avoid public displays of affection. However, as the nation becomes more religiously conservative, any form of closeness between people of the same sex may be unwise.
- Gay men in Indonesia are referred to as homo or gay; lesbians are lesbi.
- Indonesia’s community of transvestite and transsexual waria – from the words wanita (woman) and pria (man) – has always had a very public profile; they are also known by the less polite term banci.
- Islamic groups proscribe homosexuality, but physical harassment is uncommon.
- GAYa Nusantara (www.gayanusantara.or.id) has a very useful website that covers local LGBT issues.
- Bali's gay organisation is Gaya Dewata (www.gayadewata.com).
ATMs are common and it's easy to exchange money. Credit cards are accepted at more expensive establishments.
There are ATMs all over Bali and in nonrural areas of Lombok. Most accept nonlocal ATM cards and major credit cards for cash advances.
- The exchange rates for ATM withdrawals are usually quite good, but check to see if your home bank will hit you with outrageous fees.
- Most ATMs allow a maximum withdrawal of one million to 2.5 million rupiah per transaction.
- ATMs have stickers indicating whether they issue 50,000Rp or 100,000Rp notes (the former are easier to use for small transactions).
- Most ATMs return your card last instead of before dispensing cash, so it's easy to forget your card.
- Card skimming is a widespread problem in Bali – try to use ATMs attached to banks if possible and keep an eye on your bank balance after making withdrawals.
Accepted at midrange and better hotels and resorts. More expensive restaurants and shops will also accept them, but there is often a surcharge of around 3%.
For current exchange rates, see www.xe.com.
US dollars are by far the easiest currency to exchange. Try to have new US$100 bills.
Follow these steps to avoid getting ripped off when exchanging money:
- Find out the going exchange rate online. Know that anyone offering a better rate or claiming to charge no fees or commissions will need to make a profit through other means.
- Stick to banks, airport exchange counters or large and reputable operations such as the Central Kuta Money Exchange (www.centralkutabali.com), which has locations across south Bali and Ubud.
- Avoid exchange stalls down alleys or in otherwise dubious locations (it sounds obvious but scores of tourists are ripped off daily).
- Common exchange scams include rigged calculators, sleight-of-hand schemes, ‘mistakes’ on the posted rates, and demands that you hand over your money before you have counted the money on offer.
- Use an ATM to obtain rupiah.
Restaurants Tipping a set percentage is not expected in Bali, but if service is good, 5000Rp or 10% or more is appropriate.
Services Hand cash directly to individuals (drivers, porters, people giving you a massage, bringing you beer at the beach etc); 5000Rp to 10,000Rp or 10% to 20% of the total is generous.
Hotels Most midrange and all top-end hotels add 21% to the bill for tax and service.
The unit of currency is the rupiah (Rp). Coins of 50Rp, 100Rp, 200Rp, 500Rp and 1000Rp are in circulation. Notes come in 1000Rp (rare), 2000Rp, 5000Rp, 10,000Rp, 20,000Rp, 50,000Rp and 100,000Rp denominations.
Indonesia has plans to redenominate the rupiah by removing three digits from the currency, although the timing of this has been debated for years. For example, the 20,000Rp note would become the 20Rp note. The exchange value of the new notes would remain the same. Changing the national currency is likely to be a very complex process.
Typical opening hours are as follows:
Banks 8am–2pm Monday to Thursday, 8am–noon Friday, 8am–11am Saturday
Government offices 8am–3pm Monday to Thursday, 8am–noon Friday (although these are not standardised)
Post offices 8am–2pm Monday to Friday, longer in tourist centres
Restaurants & cafes 8am–10pm daily
Shops & services catering to visitors 9am–8pm or later daily
Every substantial town has a kantor pos (post office). In tourist centres, there are also postal agencies, which provide postal services and are often open long hours. Sending postcards and normal-sized letters (ie under 20g) by airmail is cheap, but not very fast.
From Bali, mail delivery takes two weeks to the US and Australia, and three weeks to the UK and the rest of Europe.
Most post offices will properly wrap parcels over 20g for shipping for a small fee. Don't use the post for anything you'd miss.
International express companies like DHL, Fedex and UPS operate on Bali and offer reliable, fast and expensive service.
The following holidays are celebrated throughout Indonesia. Many of the dates change according to the phase of the moon (not by month) or by religious calendar, so the following are estimates only.
Tahun Baru Masehi (New Year’s Day) 1 January
Tahun Baru Imlek (Chinese New Year) Late January to early February
Wafat Yesus Kristus (Good Friday) Late March or early April
Hari Buruh (Labour Day) 1 May
Hari Waisak (Buddha’s birth, enlightenment and death) May
Kenaikan Yesus Kristus (Ascension of Christ) May
Hari Proklamasi Kemerdekaan (Independence Day) 17 August
Hari Natal (Christmas Day) 25 December
The following Islamic holidays are celebrated by Bali's large Muslim population; in addition, many Indonesians travel to Bali at these times. Dates change each year.
Isra Miraj Nabi Muhammad (Ascension of the Prophet Muhammad) Around April
Idul Fitri (Also known as Lebaran) This two-day national public holiday marks the end of Ramadan; avoid travel due to crowds. Around June.
Idul Adha (Islamic feast of the sacrifice) Around September
Muharram (Islamic New Year) Around September
Maulud Nabi Muhammad (Birthday of the Prophet Muhammad) Around December
- Bali has a smoking ban that covers most tourist facilities, markets, shops, restaurants, hotels, taxis and more. In practice, adoption is uneven.
The international access code can be any of three versions, try all three. Mobile phone numbers in Indonesia start with 08.
|Indonesia's country code||62|
|International access code||001/008/017|
Cheap local SIM cards (from 5000Rp with no calling credit) are sold everywhere. Data speeds of 3G and faster are the norm across Bali. Any modern mobile phone will work.
- SIM cards come with cheap rates for calling other countries, starting at US$0.20 per minute.
- SIM cards are widely available and easily topped up with credit.
- Watch out for vendors who sell SIM cards to visitors for 50,000Rp or more. If they don't come with at least 45,000Rp in credit you are being ripped off. Go elsewhere.
- Data plans average about 150,000Rp for 10GB of data.
- Telkomsel, a major carrier, often has reps selling SIM cards in the airport arrivals area just before the 'duty-free' shop. They cost 50,000Rp, and come with credit, plus they offer good data deals. This is an easy way to get set up, but make sure you're not dealing with a faux vendor charging outlandish rates.
Useful numbers include:
|Indonesia's country code||62|
|International access code||001/008/017|
Bali’s landline phone numbers (those with area codes that include 0361, across the south and Ubud) are being changed on an ongoing basis. To accommodate more lines, a digit is being added to the start of the existing six- or seven-digit phone number. So 0361-761 xxxx might become 0361-4761 xxxx. You’ll hear a recording first in Bahasa Indonesia and then in English, telling you what digit to add to the changed number.
Bali is on Waktu Indonesian Tengah or WIT (Central Indonesian Standard Time), which is eight hours ahead of Greenwich Mean Time/Universal Time or two hours behind Australian Eastern Standard Time. Java is another hour behind Bali.
Not allowing for daylight-saving time elsewhere, when it's noon in Bali, it's 11pm the previous day in New York, 8pm in Los Angeles, 4am in London, and 2pm in Sydney and Melbourne.
- Western-style toilets are almost universally common in tourist areas.
- During the day, look for a cafe or hotel and smile (public toilets only exist at some major sights).
The tourist office in Ubud is an excellent source of information on cultural events. Otherwise, the tourist offices in Bali are not useful.
Some of the best information is found in the many free publications and websites aimed at tourists and expats. There are also numerous Facebook groups, although some are simply forums for the intolerant.
Bali Advertiser (www.baliadvertiser.biz) Has excellent columns with info for visitors including 'Greenspeak' by journalist Cat Wheeler and 'Bali Explorer' by legendary travel writer Bill Dalton.
Bali Discovery (www.balidiscovery.com) The weekly online news report by Jack Daniels is a must-read of events in Bali.
The Beat Bali (http://thebeatbali.com) Useful website and biweekly publication with extensive entertainment and cultural listings.
GU Guide (https://cangguguide.com) Female-run website highlighting the hippest happenings in Canggu.
Ubud Now and Then (http://ubudnowandthen.com) Run by famous photographer Rio Helmi and other luminaries; has Ubud-centric info and features as well as excellent Bali-wide cultural listings.
The Yak (www.theyakmag.com) Glossy, cheeky mag celebrating the expat swells of Seminyak and Ubud.
Travel with Children
Travelling with anak-anak (children) in Bali is an enriching experience. Locals consider kids part of the community, and everyone has a responsibility towards them. Children of all ages will enjoy both the attention and the many diversions that will make their holiday as special as that of the adults.
Best Regions for Kids
Kuta & Legian Though crowded and crazy, and sometimes sleazy, beachfront resorts near the sand, surf lessons and all manner of cheap souvenirs will entice kids and teens.
Lovina Modest, quiet hotels near the beach, limited traffic and a reef-protected beach make this place a good choice far from the rest of Bali.
Nusa Dua Huge beachside resorts with kids' programs, a reef-protected beach and modest traffic.
Seminyak There's traffic and the surf is strong, but there are also large hotels on the beach and an appealing mix for all ages.
Sanur Beachside resorts, a reef-protected beach, light traffic and proximity to many kid-friendly activities.
Ubud There are many things to see and do (walks, monkeys, markets and shops). Evenings may require greater creativity to keep younger kids amused, although many will be entranced by the dance performances.
Bali for Kids
Children are a social asset when you travel in Bali, and people will display great interest in any Western child they meet. You will have to learn your child's age and sex in Bahasa Indonesia – bulan is month, tahun is year, laki-laki is boy and perempuan is girl. You should also make polite enquiries about the other person's children, present or absent.
The obvious drawcards for kids are the loads of outdoor adventures available. But there are also many cultural treats that kids will love.
A guaranteed snooze right? Wrong. Check out an evening Barong dance at the Ubud Palace or Pura Dalem Ubud, two venues that look like sets from Tomb Raider right down to the flaming torches. Sure, the Legong style of Balinese might be tough going for fidgety types, but the Barong has monkeys, monsters, a witch and more.
If young explorers are going to temples, they will need sarongs. Give them 100,000Rp at a traditional market and let 'em loose. Vendors will be truly charmed as the kids try to bargain and assemble the most colourful combo (and nothing is too loud for a Balinese temple).
Best Water Fun
Best for Animals
Best Cool Old Things
Tirta Empul, north of Ubud Kids will love the Indiana Jones–like pools at the ancient water palace and park.
The critical decision is deciding where to base yourselves.
There's a huge range of accommodation options for families.
- A hotel with a swimming pool, air-con and a beachfront location is fun for kids and very convenient, and still provides a good break for parents. Fortunately, there are plenty of choices.
- Many larger resorts from Tuban north through Legian and also at Nusa Dua have special programs for kids that include lots of activities during the day and evening. Better ones have special supervised pool areas and other fun kids' zones.
- Many hotels and guesthouses, at whatever price range, have a 'family plan', which means that children up to about 12 years old can share a room with their parents free of charge. The catch is that hotels may charge for extra beds, although many offer family rooms, which can accommodate four or more.
- A family might really enjoy a villa-style unit in Seminyak, Kerobokan and the Canggu area. Within your own small private compound you'll have a pool and often more than one TV. Cooking facilities mean you can prepare familiar foods while the relative seclusion makes naps easy.
- Many hotels can arrange a babysitter during the day or evening.
- Hotel staff are usually very willing to help and improvise, so always ask if you need something for your children.
- At family homestays and guesthouses, especially in Ubud, young travellers might just feel part of the family as they watch offerings being made and people their own age going about their daily business.
What to Pack
Huge supermarkets and stores, such as Carrefour in south Bali, stock almost everything you'd find at similar shops at home, including many Western foods. Nappies (diapers), Western baby food, packaged UHT milk, infant formula and other supplies are easily purchased.
Babies & Toddlers
- A front or back sling or other baby carrier: Bali's barely walkable streets and paths are not suited to prams and pushchairs.
- A portable changing mat, hand-wash gel and so on (baby changing facilities are a rarity).
- Kids' car seats: cars, whether rented or chartered with a driver, are unlikely to come with these.
Six to 12 Years
- Binoculars for young explorers to zoom in on wildlife, rice terraces, temples, dancers and so on.
- A camera or phone that shoots video to inject newfound fun into 'boring' grown-up sights and walks.
Eating with Kids
Eating out as a family is one of the joys of visiting Bali. Kids are treated like deities by doting staff who will clamour to grab yours (especially young babies) while parents enjoy some quiet time together.
Bali, especially, is so relaxed that kids can just be kids. There are plenty of top-end eateries in Seminyak and elsewhere where kids romp nearby while their parents enjoy a fine meal.
If your children don't like spicy food, show caution in offering them the local cuisine. For older babies, bananas, eggs, peelable fruit and bubur (rice cooked to a mush in chicken stock) are all generally available. Many warungs (food stalls) will serve food without sauces upon request, such as plain white rice, fried tempeh or tofu, chicken, boiled vegetables and boiled egg. Otherwise, kid-pleasers like burgers, chicken fingers, pizza and pasta are widespread, as are fast-food chains in south Bali.
The main danger to kids – and adults for that matter – is traffic and bad footpaths in busy areas.
The sorts of facilities, safeguards and services that Western parents regard as basic may not be present. Not many restaurants provide highchairs, places with great views might have nothing to stop your kids falling over the edge, and shops often have breakable things down low.
Given the ongoing rabies crisis in Bali, be sure to keep children away from stray dogs.
For any activity, it's worth checking out conditions carefully. Just because that rafting company sells tickets to families doesn't mean they are well set up to cater to the safety needs of children.
There's a plethora of opportunities to lend a hand in Bali. Information sources include the Bali Advertiser (www.baliadvertiser.biz), under 'Community Info', and Bali Spirit (www.balispirit.com/ngos). There are also Ubud organisations helping Bali's dogs.
The following organisations need donations, supplies and often volunteers. Check their websites to see their current status.
Amicorp Community Centre (www.amicorpcommunitycentre.com) This organisation is building a community centre in the village of Les in northeast Bali; tours and programs including culinary classes, permaculture training, Balinese gamelan and dance workshops.
Bali Children's Project (www.balichildrensproject.org) Funds education and offers English and computer training.
East Bali Poverty Project (www.eastbalipovertyproject.org) Works to help children in the impoverished mountain villages of east Bali.
Friends of the National Parks Foundation (www.fnpf.org) Has volunteer programs on Nusa Penida aimed at wildlife conservation.
IDEP (www.idepfoundation.org) The Indonesian Development of Education & Permaculture has projects across Indonesia; works on environmental projects, disaster planning and community improvement.
JED Organises highly regarded tours of small villages, some overnight. Often needs volunteers to improve its services and work with the villagers.
ROLE Foundation (www.rolefoundation.org) Works to improve well-being and self-reliance in underprivileged Bali communities; has environmental projects.
Smile Foundation of Bali (www.senyumbali.org) Organises surgery to correct facial deformities; operates the Smile Shop in Ubud to raise money.
Yayasan Bumi Sehat (www.bumisehatfoundation.org) Operates an internationally recognised clinic and gives reproductive services to disadvantaged women in Ubud; accepts donated time from medical professionals. Founder Robin Lim has had international recognition.
Yayasan Rama Sesana (www.yrsbali.org) Dedicated to improving reproductive health for women across Bali.
YKIP (www.ykip.org) Established after the 2002 bombings, it organises and funds health and education projects for Bali's children.
Weights & Measures
- Indonesia uses the metric system.
Bali is generally safer for women than many areas of the world, and with the usual care and common sense, women should feel secure travelling alone.