Bali is called the Island of the Gods, and for centuries visitors have come to know its rich cultural traditions and spectacular scenery as a wonderful place to be. People come from all over the world to enjoy this paradise.
Bali's strong cultural history is based on closely related elements such as the unique Hindu religion, the language, the castes, the community life, the land cultivation and beautiful heart-felt expressions of art.
Of the four castes, Brahmana, Satria and Wesia represent 10% of the population, whereas the Sudras (the farmers and craftsmen) represent the great majority. The caste system is still very much alive today, and truly regulates the different levels of the Balinese language along with their religious beliefs.
The Island of the Gods is rich in mystery, beauty, enchantment and serenity with everyone falling under its irresistible Bali spell.
Fabulous rice fields and terraces, volcanoes, lakes, temples and with deeply spiritual and artistic roots make it one of the most often visited places in the world, with a deserving reputation of a true "Paradise on Earth."
The population of Bali is nearly all Indonesian with 95% Balinese Hindu. The average Balinese who deals with tourists usually speaks one of the Balinese dialects in addition to Bahasa (the official language of Indonesia) and English.
Bali Time Zone is GMT + 8 hours.
Located 8° south of the equator, Bali is a tropical climate which is hot year-round. Average temperatures are 30°C (mid-80s°F) and the humidity can sometimes make the heat feel very oppressive.
Bali has dry and wet seasons - From April to October is the normal dry season then October to March the wet season, but there can be rain any time of the year. The best months to visit Bali are from April to September for lower humidity and rains are light and infrequent.
During the day it is recommended light cotton clothes. For mountain excursions you should take along some warmer clothes.
Swimming in the Sea
Currents and undertows can be strong, so always be sure to swim between the red and yellow flags. Do not swim too far out, and do not leave your belongings unattended on the beach.
Bali Island Cultural and Religious Beliefs
Achieving peace and harmony, while balancing the spiritual and material world is the basic aim in Balinese life. The Balinese are amazing in their intricacy or surprisingly simple in their humility, their love of work and affection bestowed on children they live a life of love, given freely to everyone in a smile or a wave.
Currency in Bali
A unit of currency in Bali is the rupiah. Cash and travelers cheques are very easy to exchange in the major centers. Moneychangers are very competitive, but are warned to check your transaction as some operators can leave you shortchanged. Credit card transactions can take some time and American Express Travelers Checks are hard to cash because they are feared counterfeit. CITI Bank credit cards with a pin number can be used at any ATM. Global AMEX card (the green one with the Trojan head in the center) is the only one accepted. They new travelers checks in credit card form with a pin number are good.
Visitors from USA, Canada, UK, Australia, New Zealand, and most of Western Europe don't need a visa to enter Indonesia provided you have a ticket out of the country and your passport has at least six months validity.
When you arrive you will be issued a tourist card that is valid for a 60-day stay. Keep the card with your passport, as you'll have to hand it back when you leave the country. It is not possible to get an extension on a tourist visa, unless there is a medical emergency or you have to answer legal charges.
There are visas, particularly a business visitor's visa, which may be valid for a longer period. The immigration office is in Denpasar. Always be respectful when dealing with officials.
Telecommunications have improved a lot in recent years. Telephone offices (wartels) can easily be found and local, long distance or international calls can be made from these offices. Internet cafes are everywhere and cellular phone coverage is good. Bring your laptop and hook up for a small fee.
Indonesia has left-hand traffic patterns so you are advised not to drive by yourself unless you already have experience with the Asian way of driving. Traffic conditions are completely different to what you know from home and traffic rules are not easily comprehensible for visitors.
Motorcycles and bicycles without lights are an additional hazard in the dark. In Bali always expect the unexpected, always keep your eyes open and your mind on driving.
It is easier, safer and more relaxing to rent a car with local driver to have a worry free trip. You can enjoy the views! Please Note: It is customary to provide your driver/guide with meals when you are out touring all day, but don't worry, food is very inexpensive here.
Food / Meals
With a multitude of restaurants specializing in many cuisines, Indonesian food is the most common and available food across the island. If you enjoy a certain type of food, you are sure to find here in Bali. Beer is popular and cheap so beer drinkers will feel right at home in Bali. The local beer is called Bintang.
Do not drink water from any taps. Bottled or bottled mineral water is highly recommended for your health.
Sampling Balinese fruit can be a real treat because the variety and quality is extraordinary, is plentiful and quite inexpensive. Be sure to try a few local varieties like: Rambutan, Mangosteen, Salak, Nangka and Durian (smells strong, but tastes just wonderful).
Miscellaneous Customs and Traditions
Shorts and mini-skirts are not allowed in and around temples. It is a custom to take off the shoes in temples, on festival grounds and in private houses. It is strongly recommend following these custom to show your respect for the religious traditions.
You should not touch someone's head (including children), or point your finger at someone as it is considered impolite. For the same reason you should avoid standing with your head above someone you are talking to so when in doubt sit down.
Shaking hands is not customary, except on farewells or congratulations. Intimate touches or embraces are absolutely inappropriate.
Nude or topless swimming and sunbathing is forbidden. If you see Balinese taking a bath in the rivers along the streets you should discreetly overlook them and resist the appeal to take pictures.
When handing over or taking something from someone only the right hand is to be used. The left hand is considered unclean.
Bring books if you'd like to read because there aren't many in English here in Bali.
Shopping in Bali
Famous for its crafts in woodcarving and sculptures; silver and gold jewelry, woven cloth, sarongs, traditional and realist paintings, bone and coconut shell carvings, antiques, basket wares and masks. More recently garment manufacturing has increased making excellent designer garments inexpensively available with quick, reasonable tailoring.
Except in fixed-price stores or restaurants, typical shopping is done by bargaining, which is the national sport that can be a lot of fun! One rule is followed and that is that both buyer and seller should end up satisfied, and not lose face or become angry!