Useful Family Travel Tips to Help you Navigate Bali From Arrival to Departure and Everything in Between.
Having just returned from my 6th trip to Bali, I was reminded of all the Balinese idiosyncrasies that are important to ensure you have a good first impression of this beautiful island. So often Bali is marred by the horrendous stories of drunken party goers and ill-mannered foreigners that it has deterred many from taking their families there. I can assure you however that it’s one of the best family holiday destinations and after your first visit, you will most definitely be back! So I thought to put together some tips and tricks that will help you ease into Balinese life so that you and your family can have an amazing trip:
BALI TIPS & TRAVEL ADVISE #1
Accommodation. If you are travelling with other families, I highly recommend getting a multi-room villa that comes equipped with a team of staff. Usually this would include a Villa Manager, butlers, chefs and security. A villa is also great if you are travelling with babies or kids with severe allergies as you’ll have a kitchen to prepare your own food if required. If you are travelling as a stand-alone family, you can select from a plethora of family friendly hotels and resorts.
The second point I would highly recommend is to split your holiday into 2 locations. You will find that most of the activities you may want to engage in such as white water rafting, temple visits, cooking classes or visiting the monkey forest are all mainly located in Ubud. It is easier to stay in Ubud in the first half of your holiday so you can save on travel time (usually about 1 to 1.5 hours from Seminyak each way) as well as travel costs (usually about $600,000 Rupiah for the day). Ubud is also cultural Bali with villas set amongst beautiful rice fields. I would then spend the second half of the holiday somewhere more central like Seminyak or Canggu or move further south towards Nusa Dua, so you can access all the great shopping, beaches and restaurants.
BALI TIPS & TRAVEL ADVISE #2
Villa Manager. The best part of booking a villa is your access to a Villa Manager or the agency you had booked it through. Essentially, they are your personal concierge that you can use the minute you make the booking, not just when you arrive. So, I organise EVERYTHING with the Villa Manager. I would email him/her all my requirements such as organising airport transfers, booking activities, restaurant reservations and even stocking the fridge with some essentials! They usually respond quickly and are most helpful. Don’t bother doing anything on your own. This way they also have your itinerary at hand and they can assist if anything were to go awry.
BALI TIPS & TRAVEL ADVISE #3
Airport & Visa. Ngurah Rai is the new airport in Denpasar and it is a far cry from what it used to be! Now that most countries are exempt from having to get a tourist visa, the queues have significantly improved. Please note you are only permitted to stay for 30 days. Some passport holders may extend their stay by getting a visa extension at the immigration office for another 30 days whilst others are not able to. Those will have to leave the country and return if they want to stay longer. Please check your validity prior to departure.
The Bali fast track VIP service has now returned and is an option you can use. This may be booked with your Villa Manager or online for $450 million Rupiah per person. On arrival, you will be greeted personally after the air bridge and what the service does is help you cut the immigration and customs queue. This is highly useful if you have very small children and you just need to bypass this process quickly. They also escort you to your pre-ordered car if you have one and this is most useful as its crazy out there! On departure, you can also pay for a VIP service to assist you on the way out. For $500 million Rupiah, we could have got a red carpet service from Air Asia to help us get through quicker. The queues were crazy!
Another thing to note about the airport on departure, you will be subjected to bag checks on 3 occasions. This was so cumbersome. It didn’t help that the flight was at midnight and we had a tired child. Firstly you have to scan ALL bags before you can even check in at the counter. Then you have to go through a second scan of carry-on luggage before you even get to immigration. And then once again before you board the plane. By the way, you can’t bring bottled water when you board the plane. 3 bottles wasted. I appreciate the security at this new airport but it was tiring nonetheless.
BALI TIPS & TRAVEL ADVISE #4
Taxis. If you are catching a taxi from the airport, please note that they work on a fixed price list depending on your destination. You cannot get a metered taxi as it is a controlled environment.
The 2 main players are Blue Bird Taxi and Ngurah Rai Taxi. They are very accessible and easy to hail no matter where you are. If you are stickler for fairness, you may get irritated by taxi drivers who always have a go at ripping foreigners off by not turning the meter on. I suggest you check that before getting in the car. You may have to give a small leeway for very short trips or if the kids are about to have a meltdown. But don’t go over 40,000 Rupiah! Competition is tough in Bali so someone will eventually take a metered fare. Always carry small denominations as some drivers “conveniently” don’t have small change.
BALI TIPS & TRAVEL ADVISE #5
Transfers. If you are planning a whole day out, instead of catching taxis everywhere you go, it may pay to get a driver with a car. They cost approximately $600,000 Rupiah for 8 hours and $100,000 Rupiah for every hour after that. They are usually a 7 seater car and very comfortable. This way you can come and go as you please with the added convenience of being able to leave things in the car or if the kids just need an extended rest or even a short nap.
BALI TIPS & TRAVEL ADVISE #6
Prams. Bali is NOT pram friendly. Roads are uneven, narrow and littered with potholes. You must have other means of carrying your babies and young toddlers.
BALI TIPS & TRAVEL ADVISE #7
Rabies. Under no circumstances should you touch stray dogs and cats that you’ll see everywhere on the streets nor should you even come close to the monkeys at the monkey forest. Rabies is a big problem in Bali and the last thing you want to happen is for the kids to get bitten.
BALI TIPS & TRAVEL ADVISE #8
Crowds. Bali is crowded. As it’s your first trip, you will most likely be going to the more popular places and this includes shopping areas, beaches and restaurants. The traffic is terrible and it’s not often you can travel any faster than 40km/h.
BALI TIPS & TRAVEL ADVISE #9
Heat. The heat during mid-morning and afternoon can be unbearable. I find that we have about 2 showers a day and as a result of that we change clothes quite often. So when packing my advice is that you pack for a change of clothes for at least twice a day. Laundry services are cheap in Bali so you can always do a round if you don’t want to over pack. Hats and sunglasses are a must.
BALI TIPS & TRAVEL ADVISE #10
Beaches and Ocean. If you are privileged to have beautiful beaches where you live like we do in Australia, you will no doubt find Bali beaches disappointing. Unless you’re heading out to more remote locations the main touristy beaches are not as pristine as what we are accustomed to. This is not to say they’re not great but I remember feeling a little underwhelmed.
The ocean can be rough but a surfers paradise with easy to rent surf and boogie boards. Kids can get some surf lessons too. Most beaches won’t have red flags to indicate rough seas nor do they have life savers patrolling the area. Bali was subjected to tidal waves just recently so the ocean was out of bounds even to well-seasoned surfers. So be careful and watch where you are in relation to the beach as you unknowingly drift across the waves.
BALI TIPS & TRAVEL ADVISE #11
Shopping. Shopping in Bali is not what it used to be. Bargains can still be found in markets but the shops are considered “high end” by some with local designers popping up everywhere. I thought to mention this as people are always surprised by how costly it can be as they came with the mindset of cheap shopping. But then again, how many Bintang singlets can you buy?
Additionally, try not to take the kids shopping if possible. The heat is unbearable and the streets are hard to manoeuvre. The whinging and whining will only make the experience painful.
BALI TIPS & TRAVEL ADVISE #12
Mosquitoes. Mosquitoes are rampant in Bali. Despite putting in place all sorts of measures, we always get bitten. I suggest bringing along at least 2 different brands of repellent, mosquito patches that you can stick onto clothes and even the ultrasound repellent if you don’t want to use chemicals on your children’s skin. Then pack a whole bunch of reliefs in the form of gels and creams. We try to wear thin long pants during the night time to simply cover as much skin as possible.
BALI TIPS & TRAVEL ADVISE #13
Scooters. For some reason, tourists who don’t ride scooters at home suddenly feel they can do so whilst overseas. My advice would be that if you don’t ride motorbikes on a regular basis, stick to the taxis. It’s not even so much that you may not know how to control a scooter; it’s that you are unable to understand the insane traffic protocols of Balinese roads. What may be common sense at home, does not prevail in Bali. I constantly see tourists hobbling around with bandages from head to toe and I can only imagine what a terrible accident they must have been in.
But if you must get a scooter, they are very cheap and readily available. If you’re lucky you could find a villa that has one for guests to use at any time. Here are some quick tips:
- Always put safety first and hire a scooter that is relatively new or in good condition.
- You must have an international driver’s license to hire one.
- Indonesia is left hand drive.
- Toot when you’re overtaking or they won’t notice you!
- Roads are narrow, uneven and don’t always have signs.
- Balinese drivers change lanes without indicating so watch out.
- Drivers enter main roads and cross intersections without looking as they rely on you to give way.
- Pedestrians are everywhere and the locals cross roads as they wish.
- Road rules at home do not apply here.
BALI TIPS & TRAVEL ADVISE #14
Bali Belly. Bali is filled with many food safe restaurants and cafes and there’s nothing to worry about. I would however exercise great caution if you wish to give the local warung a go. Bali belly can also happen in communal pools, which unfortunately happened to us when we went to Finn’s Beach Club. It is also not safe to drink water that hasn’t come out of a bottle and this should include using bottled water when you brush your teeth.
BALI TIPS & TRAVEL ADVISE #15
Avoid Kuta. Kuta really is as bad as they say. It is a tasteless and serious party town. It by no means reflects the true Bali and it shouldn’t be used to judge the island in any way. There’s nothing really suitable for kids in Kuta anyway so there is no need to venture out there.
BALI TIPS & TRAVEL ADVISE #16
Money. It is easy to change money everywhere in Bali. It is advisable to have some cash prior to arrival. Take note that sometimes the exchange rate is better when withdrawing cash from the ATM even if you have to incur some transaction fees. If you are changing money, triple count the cash in front of the money changer. With the money in such large denominations, it’s easy to be cheated of a couple 100,000 Rupiah.
These are just some tips to help you with your first Balinese holiday that will hopefully make your family travel easier and more comfortable. Check out my post about some of the wonderful cultural activities you could engage in with your family. Have a fantastic trip! Just got back yesterday and already thinking about when we would be able to go back again! Thank you Bali for your wonderful hospitality.
Do you have any other useful Bali tips for first timers to add to the list? Tell us in the comments below!
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