Bali is part of the Indonesian archipelago of 18,500 islands and lies approximately 8°C south of the equator. The overwhelming majority of the inhabitants of Bali are Hindu, (Well in actual fact a mixture of Hinduism, Buddhism and Animism) one of the reasons the island has remained an oasis of calm in the turbulent times since the fall of the autocratic Suharto dictatorship in 1999.
Because Bali is blessed by nature with a short, hot wet season and a longer, cooler, dry season tourists flock here year round, with more choosing to arrive in the dry season - which nowadays stretches from April to late November. The busiest period is during the European holiday of August, which is also the coolest month.
As A Holiday Destination
Bali, the perfect holiday destination for all ages, offers something for everyone.
The primary gateway to Indonesia is the Sukarno-Hatta International Airport of Jakarta (also known as Cengkareng CKG), but there are increasingly more international airlines that offer direct flights to Bali.
Regions And Attractions
Find information on Bali's major regions, main centres, attractions and places to visit.
Bali Photo Gallery
More pictures of this wonderful paradise.
Bali Rice PaddiesDon't Pack too Much
Bali is a Shoppers' Paradise so travel light or you will face an overweight baggage problem on your return!
Humidity is always high so pack light, natural fibres to stay cool. In Southern Bali you can buy almost anything you need in the way of toiletries and suntan products in local convenience stores, supermarkets and Matahari department stores.
The Indonesian currency is the Rupiah and you will become a millionaire the day you arrive. Once you have got your head around all the extra zeros it's fairly easy to work out the prices in your own currency.
Bring travellers cheques or US $100 but be aware of the following: Notes must be the new ones with no tears or markings and many moneychangers are there to cheat you.
Never change money where the moneychanger is operating a booth inside another shop. The rate is usually higher and you may be short changed by sleight of hand. Use establishments which are moneychangers only and count your money before you leave.
The best rate is obtained from ATM machines. These are now everywhere and they don't try to rip you off either! However - the local machines do not automatically spit your card out with money and receipt so it is very easy to leave your card inside the machine. You must wait until the screen asks "Do you want another Transaction - Yes or No". Press no and out pops your card. Why this is, nobody seems to know but 100s of cards must be lost daily. You have been warned!
Bali TransportGetting Around
Taxis in the south are plentiful and cheap but make sure the driver turns on the meter. If he refuses and tries to set a price, get out and take another taxi. Usually the act of opening the door or demanding he let you out is sufficient for him to see the error of his ways.
For longer trips you can negotiate for a minivan or Bemo but for two or three people a taxi is often the most comfortable and coolest choice. Bargain directly with a newish looking taxi and you will be surprised how cheap a 6-8 hour booking can be especially if you offer to top up his tank.
Local buses are the cheapest way of getting about but they are hot and often overcrowded with people who could do with a shower. They also have the charming habit of stopping with no indication or attempt to move off the road so there is always the worry of a rear-ender from the following tailgater.
Bali TransportSelf Drive
Providing you a valid International Drivers Licence you may rent a car or motorbike. Both are cheap by international standards but there are a couple of points you should be aware of. Road conditions are dangerous! Indonesians do not sit for a licence, they buy it!
Accordingly driving skills are low. Nobody knows let alone obeys traffic rules and indications of turns and sudden stops are rarely given. Indonesians drive on the leftish side of the road, normally with one wheel over the centre line, and larger or older vehicles have right of way. I.e. Trucks and buses have right of way over cars, a beat-up Datsun has right of way over a BMW, and cars over motorbikes and cycles.
The roads around the southern tourist areas are busy but even the wonderful country roads have pitfalls such as dogs, children, chickens, loads of sand and the quaint habit of villagers sitting on the road for a chat.
In the event of an accident, as a visitor you will be accorded the courtesy of being at fault, no matter what the circumstances and you will be required to pay for any damage to either vehicle. As 100% concentration is required the driver doesn't see much of the scenery, so it is probably best to hire a car and driver, especially if your aim is a stress-free holiday!
Bali is a Third World island and medical services are not to the standard of Western countries. So be wise and arrange travel insurance with your ticket. There are two good clinics at the Kuta roundabout who can provide treatment, refer you to the best local specialist or hospital, or if necessary arrange vaccination. These are the Australian B.I.M.C and the International S.O.S.
Bali is a veritable Shoppers' Paradise, once again the centre being the Kuta area. For clothing (other than the t-shirt and shorts variety) start at Kuta Square which boasts a well stocked Matahari department store and lots of designer outlets such as Amarni, Polo and Calvin Klein at much cheaper prices than at home.
The trend over the last few years is for air-conditioned shops with fixed prices including the major surfing labels, but there are still plenty of small street front places offering a dazzling array of merchandise from gaudy woodcarvings to cheap holiday clothing to something you will fall in love with. Spend some time poking around - it takes time to spot the gems amid the junk, but believe me there are gems for everyone to find.
Sterling silver jewellery is a good buy - go to silver shops and you will be offered stylish, genuine sterling silver at very cheap prices - don't go to the so called Silversmiths if you happen to take a tour. The guide collects a 30% commission and the styling is generally atrocious.
Shoes, both men's and women's, handbags, men's business shirts, travel goods, CDs and surfwear should also be on your list.
Bali Resorts Made to order clothing in both fabric and leather is another great buy. Bring your favourite jacket or suit and have it copied by a tailor or leather shop. Good quality at a very reasonable price.
Because labour is so cheap labour-intensive clothing is great value. Anything embroided, beaded or sequined is fantastically priced. So load up with party-wear!
For sarongs, take a taxi to Jalan 66 (double six) and wander towards the beach, purchasing from the numerous wholesalers as you go. (You don't get "business price" for one or two items but prices are cheap. Go late morning so you can enjoy lunch at one of the beachside cafes on "Sunset Boulevard" or later in the day in time for a cocktail as the sun drops in the Indian Ocean and another tropical evening begins.
There are some really stylish boutiques in Seminyak that are definately worth a look -it's cooler in the late afternoon, and then to Kura Kura Bar for a well earned drink.
Bali ResortsLately some great homeware shops have opened and arts and crafts abound. Fakes - watches, sunglasses, perfumes and clothing - are everywhere. Whatever you feel about fakes, the watches go, the sunnies look cool, the clothing wears and the perfume smells like its namesake for around two minutes. Don't buy the perfume except for someone you detest.
The newish shopping centre in the Gallerea complex by the Kuta roundabout on the Sanur bypass is a stylish addition. While not fully occupied by any means it's breezy, peaceful and boasts a Matahuri store and supermarket, hairstyling, books, CD's, fabric, homeware, restaurants etc, plus a Planet Hollywood.
Having sung the praise of Kuta, good shopping is also to be had at Nusa Dua and Sanur but without the depth or variety.
Where is Bali?
The island of Bali is part of the Republic of Indonesia and is located 8 to 9 degrees south of the equator between Java in the West and Lombok and the rest of the Lesser Sunda Islands (Sumbawa, Flores, Sumba and Timor) in the East. Flying time to Jakarta is about 1.5 hours, to Singapore and Perth (Australia) 2.5 and 3 hours, and to Hong Kong about 4 hours.
Bali Volcanoes Geography
The island of Bali has an area of only 5,632 square kilometers (2,175 square miles) and measures just 55 miles (90 kilometers) along the north-south axis and less than about 90 miles (140 kilometers) from East to West. Because of this it's no problem to explore the island on day tours. You can go wherever you want on the island and return to your hotel or villa in the evening.
Located only two kilometers east of Java, Bali's climate, flora and fauna are quite similar to its much larger neighbour. The island is famous for its beautiful landscape. A chain of six volcanoes, between 1,350 meters and 3,014 meters high, stretches from west to east. There are lush tropical forests, pristine crater lakes, fast flowing rivers and deep ravines, picturesque rice terraces, and fertile vegetable and fruit gardens.
The beaches in the South consist of white sand, beaches in other parts of the island are covered with grey or black volcanic sand.
Bali Waterfall Flora
The wide variety of tropical plants is surprising. You'll see huge banyan trees in villages and temple grounds, tamarind trees in the North, clove trees in the highlands, acacia trees, flame trees, and mangroves in the South. Bali has grow a dozen species of coconut palms, and even more varieties of bamboo.
There are flowers, flowers everywhere. You'll see (and smell the fragrance of) hibiscus, bougainvilleas, jasmine, and water lilies. Magnolia, frangipani, and a variety of orchids are found in many front yards and gardens, along roads, and in temple grounds. Flowers are also used as decorations in temples, on statues, as offerings for the gods, and during prayers. Dancers wear blossoms in their crowns, and even the flower behind the ear of your waitress seems natural in Bali.
Bali Fauna Fauna
Elephants and tigers died out in Bali early last century. Wildlife, however, includes various species of monkeys, civets, barking deer and mouse deer, and 300 species of birds including wild fowl, dollar birds, blue kingfishers, sea eagles, sandpipers, white herons and egrets, cuckoos, wood swallows, sparrows, and starlings. You can watch schools of dolphins near Lovina, Candi Dasa, and Padangbai. Divers will see many colourful coral fish and small reef fish, moray eels, and plankton eating whale sharks as well as crustaceans, sponges, and colourful coral along the east coast and around Menjangan island near Gilimanuk.
You can expect pleasant day temperatures between 20 to 33 degrees Celsius or 68 to 93 degrees Fahrenheit year-round. From December to March, the west monsoon can bring heavy showers and high humidity, but usually days are sunny and the rains start during the night and pass quickly. From June to September the humidity is low, and it can be quite cool in the evenings. During this time of the year you'll have hardly any rain in the coastal areas.
Even when it rains in most parts of Bali, you can often enjoy sunny days on the "Bukit", the hill south of Jimbaran Beach. On the other hand, in Ubud and the mountains you must expect cloudy skies and showers throughout the year (this is why the international weather reports for "Denpasar" or "Bali" mention showers and rain storms during all times of the year). In higher regions such as in Bedugul or Kintamani you'll also need either a sweater or jacket after the sun sets.
Bali's population has grown to over 3 million people, the overwhelming majority of which are Hindus. However, the number of Muslims is steadily increasing through immigrants from Java, Lombok and other areas of Indonesia seeking work in Bali.
Most people live in the coastal areas in the South. The island's largest town and administrative centre is fast - growing Denpasar, with a population of over 370,000. The villages between the town of Ubud and Denpasar, Kuta (including Jimbaran, Tuban, and Legian, Seminyak, Basangkasa, etc), Sanur, and Nusa Dua are spreading rapidly in all directions, and before long the whole area from Ubud in the North to Sanur in the East, Berawa/Canggu in the West, and Nusa Dua in the South will be urbanised.
Bali Culture Economy
This southern part of Bali is where most jobs are to be found, either in the hotel and tourist industry, the textile and garment industry, and in many small scale and home industries producing handicrafts and souvenirs. Textiles, garments, and handicrafts have become the backbone of Bali's economy, providing 300,000 jobs, and exports have been increasing by around 15% per year to US$400 million in 1998. Textiles and garments contribute about 45%, and wood products including statues, furniture and other handicrafts 22% to the province's total income from exports. Silver work is ranked third (4.65%) with 5,000 workers employed. Main buyers are the US and Europe with 38% each, and Japan with 9%.
Important agricultural products besides rice are tea, coffee, tobacco, cacao, copra, vanilla, soy beans, chillies, fruit, and vegetables (there are now even vineyards near the northwest coast). Bali's fishing industry and seaweed farming provide other important exports.
The new free-trade regulations will create some problems for Bali's exporters as they do not allow the employment of children. Most children here work for their parents, and this is part of the process of acquiring professional skills and a kind of informal education which has been very important in Balinese society for centuries.
Bali Culture What makes Bali so special?
There is the combination of the friendly people, the natural attractions, the great variety of things to see and do, the year-round pleasant climate, and the absence of security problems. And then there is Bali's special "magic", which is difficult to explain.
As soon as you step off the plane you might sense the difference. In the villages you'll notice the quietness and wisdom in old people's faces, and the interest and respect in the young. Old men sit at the road side caressing their fighting cocks. Beautifully dressed women walk proudly through rice fields and forests carrying offerings on their heads to the next temple. There is the smell of flowers, and in the distance you hear the sound of gamelan music.
Gods and spirits have been an important part of Bali's daily life for hundreds of years. Gunung Agung - Bali's holy mountain - is internationally regarded as one of the eight "Chakra" points of the world. This may be more than an coincidence. Watch out, the moment you feel the magic of this island, you're addicted for the rest of your life.
What and Where is Bali ?
4/ 5Oleh Andi Mudji