You’ve packed your beachwear, sunblock, and you think everything is set. Hold that thought! Because there’s one more thing you need to pack before stepping on this tropical island far away from home. It’s knowledge about the island and local life. You may think these are trivial, but knowing this information will be beneficial and provide an extra boost to your traveling experience.
I lived in Bali for four years and I have been in and out of this island for more. Had anyone told me these tips before my first visit to Bali, I would’ve been grateful. So, hopefully this will help you!
Learn simple local greetings
Bali is one of the places in the world known for its hospitality. Having been visited by worldwide tourists, Bali has learned a word or two in global languages like English, Chinese, and Portuguese. But learning a small part of the local language, like simple greetings, will surely help you get connected with Bali and its culture.
Balinese greet each other with “Om Swastiastu” (read: ohm sue-was-tee-yas-too) usually with their palms pressed together in front of their chest in a prayer-like fashion. However, this gesture may be omitted. If a Balinese person greets you with such, it’s a customary to reply with the same greeting and gesture. It is not just a simple greeting. It is also a prayer to wish for the gods’ blessing upon you.
Another word that is probably most helpful for you to know is “suksma” (read: sook-smeuh) or thank you. If it’s too hard for you to pronounce, you can always go for the Indonesian version, “Terima kasih” (read: təreema kasee).
Tourist price applies
Don’t be surprised to see that you will be charged a different price, usually for entrance fees and rent, than local or domestic tourists. Many people think it is their way of making things more expensive for foreigners. The truth is that it mostly started with local discounts. As inflation increases, they need to adjust their fees. But as domestic tourists are in the same economical situation, special local prices apply. Since then, local and domestic tourists are given slightly cheaper rates while foreign tourists pay the normal rates, the tourist price.
How much more do you have to pay? Not a whole bunch and not in every tourist spot.
For example, the per person price for a snorkeling tour at Tanjung Benoa, Nusa Dua costs 150,000 IDR (approximately 10 USD) for locals or domestic tourists and 200,000 IDR (approximately 13.3 USD) for foreign tourists. This kind of price difference mostly ranges from 10,000 IDR (approximately 0.6 USD) to 50,000 IDR (approximately 3.3 USD). See? Not a whole bunch.
Online taxi is prohibited in some areas
Thanks to mobile apps like Uber and Grab, traveling is much easier. No more hustling for taxi fare or struggling to ask directions with a language barrier. These apps are also available in Bali. But unfortunately, there have been some disagreements between Uber and Grab drivers and local taxi drivers who have been in charge of most transportation in Bali since before the era of the online taxi.
This disagreement has been solved in most parts of Bali. However, in those areas where it hasn’t, online taxis are not allowed to pick up any passengers. Those include two major tourism areas of Bali: Canggu and Ubud. So, if you’re thinking to stay in these two areas, you probably won’t get any online taxi driver to pick you up.
So, what should you do?
You can use local a taxi. In fact, some of the online taxi drivers here were or are also working for the local taxi companies. The only downside is that the rates are higher than taxi apps. The other option would be renting your own car or scooter. That is the most popular option among expats and nomads staying in Bali.
Scooter rental is fairly cheap in Bali. One day of rental costs 50,000 IDR (approximately 3.3 USD) and monthly rates start from 700,000 IDR (approximately 46.5 USD). However, I would only recommend you rent a scooter if you know how to drive and have been driving one for quite some time. Although most people here, especially tourists, are used to not wearing a helmet, please do wear one when you’re driving. Your scooter rental should provide you with one.
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Pecalang: Balinese local authority
Here in Bali, you will occasionally see men dressed like in black uniforms. Those men are called the “Pecalang.” They are local security officers assigned to protect an area. In some cases, they have more power than the Indonesian national police.
Whenever and wherever they are on duty, Pecalang will wear this distinctive traditional attire. Originally, hundreds of years ago, this special task force was assigned by Balinese kingdoms to keep an eye (and ear) on things. Nowadays, they help secure some areas and manage traffic control, especially during big events and ceremonies, such as Nyepi the annual Balinese silent day.
Pecalang does have the authority to put people behind bars if necessary. While police officers have prison, Pecalang have their own kind of jail. It’s usually within the administrative village office. The reprimands vary from the simplest thing like cleaning their office to being deported from Bali.
What an interesting culture, don’t you think? If you want to know more about Balinese culture, I recommend you read the following article: 5 Things About The Culture Of Bali next, where you can learn about things from offerings to the incineration of the departed.
The island of exotic culture
As you can see now, there is more to Bali than just the exotic beaches and tropical weather. Explore more of this island and you will find amazing things you won’t find elsewhere. Balinese people are known for their hospitality, and this is what I have experienced first hand. And this is one of the reasons why I keep coming back. You, too, can have that experience. Until then, om swastiastu!
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