Bali has been on the top of many travelers list since years. The country is majestically beautiful. We were also lured by Bali’s charms – beautiful beaches, luxury resorts, the famous Balinese spa, the fantastic cuisine, the spectacular volcano treks and the street shopping. To get a feel of local culture and everyday life, we drove for more than 400 km in 6 days taking small breaks at local restaurants, retail shops, and temples on the way.
Our Itinerary – Ngurah Rai International Airport -> Kuta Market (For buying sim car and renting a self-drive car) -> Ubud -> Lovina -> Kuta -> Nusa Dua
From our road trips, we have made a list of 21 interesting and unique things about Bali that every traveler must know to understand the Balinese way of life and also to save some money while traveling.
1. Split Gateway – Split gateway or Candi Bentar is a typical Balinese entrance gate. You will find it everywhere in Bali. The gate is beautifully carved and painted and is perfectly split in two to create a symmetrical image. The inner surfaces of the gate are always left sheer to show that the gate is perfectly split into two. These magnificent gates create a sense of grandeur at the entrance.
2. Frangipani Flower – Frangipani, Bali’s signature flower is often used as a religious offering. This popular flower is also used as a raw material for cosmetics, spa products, perfumes, essential oils, herbal tea or incense sticks. When in Bali, ensure that you buy/ use anything and everything of Frangipani flavor to get the local feel. It smells good too!!!
3. Ceremonial Umbrellas – The yellow, white and red ceremonial umbrellas are ubiquitous in Bali. Don’t they add to the beauty of the place?
4. Daily Offerings – You will see Canang Sari everywhere, be it a temple, a restaurant, a shop, a resort or a house. It is one of the daily offerings made by Balinese to thank the Sang Hyang Widhi Wasa (The God Almighty). It is a tray made from palm leaf. Different colored flowers are placed inside the tray along with some offering (Sari) in the form of money. Balinese women spend a considerable amount of time every day to prepare this.
5. House architecture – Balinese house architecture is a centuries-old style design influenced by Hindu and Buddhist beliefs. A typical Bali house has a thatch roof, bamboo poles, big windows for better ventilation, huge grassy yard and a high wall surrounding the house for protection and a split gate entrance. It is designed to give you a calm and relaxing feeling.
6. Sarong – Cover your legs below the knee by wearing Sarong before you enter a Hindu temple in Bali. If you are planning to visit many temples, it is better to buy a Sarong of your own.
Bali Roads – The Journey
7. Tourism-driven economy – On Bali roadsides, you will mostly find money exchangers, Apparels Shops, Cosmetics/ Souvenir Shops, Hotels, Resorts, and Restaurants. It looks like the entire economy is driven by tourism.
8. Retail Chains – Every kilometer you drive, you will definitely find one of these 3 retail chains in Bali – Indomaret, Mini Mart and Alfa Mart. To experience what kind of products the Balinese use, check out these marts and buy few local products. We bought some snacks and local beer BaliHai from here.
9. Two Wheelers – You will hardly see any motorcycles in Bali. The entire 2 Wheeler industry is scooters. Honda Scoopy, Honda Beat, and Yamaha Vario are the popular models. With a good power and torque, low body weight, bright colors, and premium features Honda Scoopy is a nice ride and can be seen everywhere on the roads.
10. The absence of heavy vehicles – There were no heavy trucks or buses on Bali roads. For commuting, people use scooters or cars. For goods transportation, they use light commercial vehicles (LCVs). You will not spot a heavy or medium commercial vehicle on the narrow Bali roads.
11. Cycling – The best way to explore Ubud is by cycling. You get free cycles in the resorts. Grab a cycle early morning and explore the local landscape. You will love it!
12. Friendly People – The people in Bali are very friendly. Everyone we met, greeted us with a smile. ‘Hello, how are you’, ‘Thank You’, “Good Morning’ are some of the words that you will often hear in Bali. The Balinese smile and greetings are contagious, it makes you happy!
Tips for going around in city – Save Time & Money
13. Cheap Transport – You will hardly find public transport in Bali. Chauffeur driven cars, taxis, scooters or self-drive cars is the way to commute from one place to other. We booked a self-drive car at USD 19 rent/day. The fuel is very cheap with petrol cost just USD 0.6 per liter
14. Things to check while booking Self-Drive Car – Self-drive cars and Taxis at the airport are very expensive. At the airport, we were getting a self-drive car for USD 30 per day and the same car model we hired from a shop in Kuta market for USD 16 per day. When you land at Ngurah Rai International Airport, take a taxi to Kuta market (3-4 km from the airport), buy a sim card and hire a self-drive car at one of the rental shops. You will end up saving at least USD 12 per day.
15. Risky Roads – Roads in Bali are single lane, extremely steep and dangerously curved, especially the roads near Lovina (North Bali). Make sure you can handle the terrain before you hire a self-drive car or else you can go for a chauffeur driven car.
16. Petrol Pumps – You will not find petrol pumps (gas stations) outside the city. Fill the fuel before you start a 70-100km drive from one city to another. You might find some small retail shops on the highway where they sell fuel. However, they charge a 20% premium over MRP.
17. Currency Exchange – Do not exchange currency at the Airport. You will end up spending more. There are currency exchange shops everywhere in Bali and they offer you the current market rate (a similar rate that you see on Google).
18. Sim Card – It is very easy to get a sim card with internet connection within minutes. Buy the sim card from Kuta market (4 km from the airport) before you start your holidays. Having an internet connection 24*7 makes your life stress-free.
19. Spa – You have to experience the traditional Balinese spa when you travel to Bali. Up in the green Ubud highlands, the spa services are cheaper compared to the touristy beach areas of the south. While preparing an itinerary, do reserve at least half day for Balinese Spa. It is totally worth it.
20. Water Sports – If you wish to enjoy the pristine beaches, then go for Dolphin watching and Snorkelling in Lovina and adventure sports like surfing, scuba diving, sea walking, banana boat ride and flying fish at Tanjung Benoa beach, Nusa Dua.
21. Negotiate – While street shopping, hiring a rental car or paying for water sports, negotiate to get the best price. If the seller quotes a price of $20 for the service or a product, you have to negotiate and bring it down to $10. If the seller refuses to give you the rate that you ask for, walk away. He will definitely come back agreeing to your price and you may get the $20 service/ product at $10-12.
These were the 21 things that we noticed about Balinese way of life. Tell us your experiences in the comments section below.