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Bali Highlights

Overview

Bali Travel Guide

Bali has long been equated with an exotic paradise, a picturesque vision of green rice fields and plantations, soaring volcanoes, cool lakes and rushing rivers, lush forests and palm fringed beaches. It is Indonesia's number one tourist destination and as a result suffers from commercialisation and overcrowding, but this is confined to a few main areas. The original charm of the 'Island of the Gods' and its smiling people is still very much in evidence, especially in the many small rural villages and fascinating places of the fertile interior.

What makes it distinctive from the rest of Indonesia is the prevalence of Balinese Hinduism, which incorporates the ancient Indonesian animist conviction that natural objects are inhabited by good or bad spirits into every aspect of local life on the island. Scattered around the island are thousands of Hindu temples and places of worship. The island's religious beliefs are evident in their ceremonies, daily rituals and attitudes, in the offerings of flowers and food that adorn the roadsides, the charms hung inside taxis, and the numerous vibrant festivals that occur throughout the year. It is perceptible in their reverence for the Holy Mountain, the soaring volcanic cone of Gunung Agung, which is the spiritual centre of the Balinese universe. Art is also an integral part of daily life and every village has its artists, from the internationally acclaimed painter to the aspirational young cow herder. Ubud, the cultural centre, with its streets lined with art and crafts shops, also has performances of traditional Balinese dance and music. Art, together with tourism, is an important source of revenue for the island.

With its fine beach, the popular resort of Kuta is the most visited destination, but there are numerous other beach resorts around the island, and many more peaceful settings on the east coast at Candidasa, Sanur, and the fishing village of Padang Bai, and on the northern coast at Lovina. There are a number of good diving sites and reef snorkelling close by.

Despite the shock of terrorist attacks a few years ago, Bali is still a tropical paradise with a rich and intriguing culture, and beautiful land and seascapes, that attracts those in search of an idyllic vacation; however, visitors are still advised to contact their foreign office for the latest travel advice before travelling to Indonesia, and Bali in particular.

Indonesia Contacts

Bali Tourism Authority, Bali: +62 (0)361 222 387 or
Indonesian Embassy, Washington DC, United States: +1 202 775 5200.
Indonesian Embassy, London, United Kingdom (also responsible for Republic of Ireland): +44 (0)20 7499 7661.
Indonesian Embassy, Ottawa, Canada: +1 613 724 1100.
Indonesian Embassy, Canberra, Australia: +61 (0)2 6250 8600.
Indonesian Embassy, Pretoria, South Africa: +27 (0)12 342 3350.
Indonesian Honorary Consulate, Dublin, Ireland: +353 852 491 465.
Indonesian Embassy, Wellington, New Zealand: +64 (0)4 475 8697/8/9.
United States Embassy, Jakarta: +62 (0)21 3435 9000.
British Embassy, Jakarta: +62 (0)21 2356 5200.
Canadian Embassy, Jakarta: +62 (0)21 2550 7800.
Australian Embassy, Jakarta: +62 (0)21 2550 5555.
South African Embassy, Jakarta: +62 (0)21 574 0660.
Irish Embassy, Singapore (also responsible for Indonesia): +65 6238 7616.
New Zealand Embassy, Jakarta: +62 (0)21 2995 5800.
Emergencies: 110 (Police); 118 (Ambulance).

Customs

Indonesian people are generally friendly and polite and while they understand that western culture is different to their own, it will be appreciated if their customs are respected. Religious customs should also be respected, particularly during the month of Ramadan when eating, drinking and smoking during daylight hours should be discreet as it is forbidden by the Muslim culture. Visitors should always be polite and avoid public displays of affection. It is considered impolite to use the left hand for passing or accepting things. Appropriate dress is important in places of worship and women should dress conservatively, covering the shoulders and legs, especially in Muslim areas. The concept of 'saving face' is very important and public displays of anger, and personal ridicule and blame are considered extremely vulgar and bad mannered. In Jakarta a new law bans people from giving money to beggars, buskers and unofficial traffic guides in an attempt to 'bring order' to the city. Offenders could face up to six months in jail and $5,000 fines. Gambling is illegal.

Passport/Visa

Passengers to Indonesia of most nationalities can obtain a 30-day visa on arrival, provided that: (i) they arrive at a major Indonesian airport; (ii) their passport contains at least one unused visa page for the visa-on-arrival sticker; (iii) they are holding return/onward tickets, and the necessary travel documentation for their next destination; and (iv) they can show proof of sufficient funds to cover their stay in Indonesia (at least USD 1,000 or a valid credit card). The visa fee is USD 25.

One visa extension, of a further 30 days, is possible, via an application made to the Immigration Office. Note that the day of arrival in Indonesia is counted as the first day of stay, and that fines will be levied against tourists who exceed their permitted period of stay.

Visitors wishing to travel to the Indonesian province of Irian Jaya must obtain a special permit ("Surat Jalan") after arrival in Indonesia from the Dinas Intel Pam Pol MABAK in Jakarta, or other regional police headquarters in Biak or Jayapura. It normally takes about two days to obtain this permit. Upon arrival in Irian Jaya, visitors must report to the local police office.

Note that a yellow fever vaccination certificate is required, if arriving in Indonesia within six days of leaving or transiting through an infected area.

NOTE: It is highly recommended that your passport has at least six months validity remaining after your intended date of departure from your travel destination. Immigration officials often apply different rules to those stated by travel agents and official sources.