Bali is on most people’s island getaway list. Truth be told – it isn’t at all what you’ll be expecting. My friend Eben summarised the location in three words and I think they’re extremely fitting:
Beautiful. Filthy. Temperamental.
Our arrival in Bali did not start well at all. We landed at 2am and arrived at our hotel at quarter to 3. I’d booked through a travel agent who had booked through a partner in Bali. We’d checked out the hotel on the internet beforehand and, on arrival, it was not at all what we expected. The rooms stank of sewerage and, on lifting our duvet we found blood stains on the sheets. The friends I was travelling with had lipstick marks and oil stains on theirs. Yeah… yuck! Getting hold of your travel agent in SA at 3 in the morning isn’t exactly easy and, of course, arranging other accommodation. My brother and I had originally planned to stay there the entire week but, after wheeling our bags down the road at 3am to find another spot we decided to tag along with our friends who were planning a road trip to a host of locations during the week.
Starting in Seminyak we headed to Uluwatu, Bedugal, Menjangan, Ubud and ended in Legian. Here are some tech travel tips when visiting Bali that I found really helpful and you might too.
Lets start with accommodation because obviously that was a bit of a stuff up for me. I’d originally gone the route of a travel agent because it seemed like the “safe” bet in a country where English is not the first language. Well that worked out well. Luckily for us, we’d booked off season so the first night we walked to a nearby half decent spot and then, from there, I relied completely on Booking.com. My friends also used the website because their current bookings were done through the same travel agent and they didn’t want to risk similar experiences throughout the week. So we logged on and started looking. We based bookings on ratings, reviews and some friends suggestions.
Not only did we get some great discounts but we stayed in incredible hotels that were stunning. The only hotel I was somewhat disappointed with was the final one in Legian – the pictures on booking.com were somewhat misleading.
My top tech travel tip: Make sure your hotel has a swimming pool and WiFi. Bali is unbearably hot at times and you will want to take a dip. You think you won’t need one but you will miss it – unless you’re in Bedugal, the mountain region, it is cool enough there to forgo that. Air cons are pretty standard so don’t stress too much about that. WiFi – well, that’s my next tip.
Phone connectivity and WiFi
When I travel I have a KnowRoaming sim sticker. This is because I travel a lot and to various places. The sticker allows me to purchase data and roaming data. It also allocates a UK and US number to me. If you travel regularly it is a really great investment and you can read a bit more about how it works here.
However, if you’re not hoping on a plane lots it likely doesn’t make sense to purchase the sticker. So you’ll probably be looking for a Sim Card at the airport. You’ll struggle to find one and will likely have to go to a cellphone shop in one of the towns. There is going to be a language barrier. So rather just forgo regular connectivity and “switch off” for a bit. The signal is really bad in many parts of Bali anyway, so even with the sticker I battled to get reception.
My top tech travel tip: There is free WiFi in Ngurah Rai International Airport in Denpasar and make sure your hotel as WiFi – you’ll be good to go. We were road tripping and simply downloaded offline Google Maps for the routes we needed to take and that worked reasonably well, which brings me to my next point:
Transportation in Bali
The roads are chaos. First note. We were heading a road trip so my friend hired a Jeep. We went through three Jeeps during our stay. They were in terrible condition with the first stopping at not starting when breaking, the second having zero power on inclines and the final one was great but still in not such great condition. Despite the terrible condition of the vehicles renting one still costs an arm and a leg.
Most of the population use scooters to get around. However, the majority of accidents in Bali are caused by tourists on scooters because the roads are pretty insane. Lots of hooting and LOTS of traffic – the traffic never dies down, whether it is 2 in the morning or 6am. Rush hour is every hour every day of the week. We met one New Zealander who had fallen off his scooter twice. With no helmet laws and the heat, you can imagine what his face and legs looked like.
If you’re going to rent a scooter (which is relatively cheap) at least rent a helmet too.
Alternatively there are many cabs you can use. Be warned, Uber is not received well in Bali with many areas banning the ride share service from picking up passengers in the vicinity. If you choose to rent a vehicle ensure you have extra money on hand. If the police pull you over they will ask for a bribe, for no reason, your ethics will tell you not to pay but being stuck in a Bali jail will make sure you do. We had this experience and it really isn’t fun.
My top tech travel tip: Book transfers to and from the airport via your hotel or booking.com. The traffic to the airport is rather insane so ensure you have decent travel time allocated.
There are a host of airlines that fly to Bali but most are going to involve stop overs. We flew with Qatar airlines from Johannesburg to Doha to Bali. I’m never a fan of stop overs but, for the most part, our flights weren’t bad. Qatar is a great affordable airline with new planes and a great inflight entertainment selection so definitely value for money. They’re also part of the One World Alliance.
My top tech travel tip: If airplane food makes you gag order a low calorie meal. I find them to be fresher and offer a tastier option than the standard starch heavy meals made available.
Final quick tip: all our hotels only required a two pin plug so I was easily able to charge my devices. I had my GHD there but never used it because – beach hair!