An Introduction to Bali
Bali is one of
seventeen thousand islands and also a province. It is a very well-known holiday destination
for visitors from both the West and the East. The island lies about 8 degrees south of the Equator, southeast of
(a little over two hours flight time).
While Bali is accessible by
a short ferry crossing from Java,
with Indonesia's capital Jakarta
and cities like Bandung,
Surabaya, most visitors fly to the
Bali capital Denpasar, near the southern tip of the island.
The distance by air from Jakarta to Bali is about 1,000 km (600 miles).
Overland, it's considerably more.
Foreign visitors to all Indonesian provinces, including Bali,
need an Indonesian visa, available in
most cases on arrival, or from an Indonesian Embassy abroad. Visa-free
entry is granted to some (but not all) ASEAN nationals
(Indonesia is an ASEAN Member) and passports of
some other countries. See our
Visa Page for more information on visa requirements for
Bali, Indonesia and other Asian countries. Full details of
Indonesian and all other country visas can be found at
Vacation rentals in Bali are ideal
for families and small groups, an alternative to what can be expensive
hotel accommodation is a vacation or holiday rental. These are usually
well-appointed villas and larger houses, ideal for a few days or longer
stay. An example area is Canggu
near the beach at Kuta, where there are many available property rentals;
the cost per person per night can be considerably less than a good hotel
The island of Bali is a
vacation destination for tourists of
many nationalities, especially Australians, including
divers, surfers and others, both young and old, as other Western and Asian visitors. There is a sizeable ex-pat community too, some with
their own businesses (usually joint ventures with an Indonesian partner), sporting and accommodation facilities to serve the
many tourist activities. There are other nationals who have made permanent or
on the island, including British, American, Germans, Dutch and Italians.
to some is the size of Bali
– an area of 5,600 square
kilometres (2,200 square miles); Bali has a similar area to
Brunei, one of
Indonesia's neighbours; it's about half the size of the Big
Island of Hawaii in the South
Pacific or Cyprus in the
Mediterranean. From north to south, Bali is about 90 km
(55 miles) and east to west 140 km (90 miles).
Attractions and Accommodation in
Accommodation all over Bali
ranges from homestays and guesthouses to luxurious hotels and resorts.
Few visitors spend much time in the
Denpasar when there are so many
attractions, restaurants, shopping malls and facilities near the famous
Sanur. South of
Bali's Denpasar (Ngurah Rai) Airport are more tourist areas on
the Nusa Dua
Peninsula and Uluwatu.
About a half-hour to an hour's drive north are several fair-sized towns
including the famously unique 'arty-crafty'
and its surrounding villages and resorts like
Payangan; there are also
Gianyar. Driving north past the
rice fields and terraces to dormant volcanoes and picturesque lakes,
after a few hours you
will reach the less-populated north coast and Singaraja,
with nice beachside hotels and resorts at
Anturan. The road to the west of
Bali, either from the south which passes through Negara
or from the north, leads to the port of Gilimanuk and the ferry to East
Java – about 3km distant. The west of Bali is relatively undeveloped
and there are limited
Heading east from Singaraja,
the road mostly follows the coast towards the eastern
side of Bali where there are quieter beachside resorts
and diving spots near Amplapura (Amlapura) and
(pronounced CHAN-didasa) and to the south, the peaceful fishing village,
port and beach at
Padangbai (see picture) where there are
ferries to Lombok and other
Indonesian islands further east of Bali.
Bali's Unique Hindu Culture
One of the chief attractions of Bali is Balinese culture
Hindu religious ceremonies and rituals that are an integral part of the daily lives of most Bali natives.
This is even more apparent in the outlying villages and smaller towns than in
Denpasar itself, which as the main commercial centre, is inhabited by
several different ethnic groups,
including Muslim Indonesians from Java and other islands, Chinese and other
Culturally, Bali differs from
most of the rest of Indonesia which is the
largest Muslim-populated country on earth with some 213 million
of them. Bali is also a province, so has its own local
government authorities, but the economy is controlled to a great degree by the
Islamic-majority government based in Jakarta.
(including cremations) are a famous tourist attraction on their own, and many
spectacular performances of dancing and local culture demonstrations
are put on specially for the visitors. However, as a resident who has 'seen it all before' they can
intrude into normal daily life; even be an annoyance, especially for those not really interested in
religion or 'pagan rituals' like these offerings to the gods.
Artists, Stone and Wood Carvers
Not all ex-pats come to Bali to find their
'inner spiritual selves', most preferring the beaches, water sports and
nightlife. However, there are many that do and there is a smaller community some distance inland in the mountains that will suit these people better. It is called
a refuge for both foreign and local artists and art students, and where
there are many art galleries with paintings and shops selling handicraft, handmade
hardwood and cane furniture, and wood and stone carvings to tourists who flock there daily. The areas of
Payangan are also known for their luxurious and
extremely expensive villas and
spa resorts, with beautiful panoramic views over rice fields and over steep ravines, with even a Mt Fuji-type dormant volcano on the horizon.
Bali appears to be
idyllic in many respects, and visitors are
invariably impressed when seeing it, especially for the first time, daily life for a
long-term foreign resident can have its drawbacks due partly to poor infrastructure; utilities like
electricity, phone and internet connections
being among them.
hotels, guest houses and residential accommodation, restaurants and facilities for foreigners are
mostly of a high standard, many exceeding those of other popular
ex-pat locations, technological advances have been slow in reaching the island. Bali is
'the end of the line' of Indonesian telecommunications (still
government-controlled), including land and mobile telephones, fax and internet.
Fast, reliable connections are not guaranteed even in the most populous areas.
like most Asian countries still suffers from political corruption, both past and present. Much of it is still in evidence,
but accepted by those who live there. Tourists are not really affected
and will see little or no evidence.
Indonesian Government and Islam
It was thought (hoped) that the government of
Indonesia under President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono,
known by all as 'SBY'
would bring in positive
change on all fronts. Sadly this
does not look promising. From 2006 to 2010, proposals continue in Jakarta to impose Sharia
Law in Indonesia despite warnings
that adopting it
would adversely affect Indonesia's relations with other states.
Indonesia has the world's largest Muslim population. Sharia law has
implemented by the self-governing region of Aceh.
Bali is unlikely to escape
in spite of its high Hindu religious majority or the billions of tourist dollars generated
there. Anti-pornography and promiscuity measures are likely to be
imposed, highlighted by several recent cases which have received world
English is spoken in tourist areas, Bahasa Indonesia is the main
language and understood by most Balinese who also have their own
is more difficult to learn, but Bahasa Indonesia will work very
well in most situations. An English to-local-language dictionary is
essential. Many people find
Talking Dictionaries to be invaluable while travelling around Asia!
They are available for many languages and not only from English into
There's also a Flash Card program you can download to your mobile phone. This is an easy and fun way to learn Indonesian
general vocabulary, business, legal,
medical and computer terms. It runs on most phones using the Symbian operating
Indonesian <-> English Flash Cards for Mobile Phones
Bali is excellent for a
holiday, vacation or
Bali is a
popular honeymoon destination, with many
hotels and resorts
at beaches like Legian and Seminyak that cater to newly-weds
and romantic couples. See local reviews and
Around the Island
Although it's easy to take a 'bemo' or taxi for
short trips, hire a small self-drive jeep or car to go further
afield, most couples and small groups prefer to have a
professional driver who can show them the many attractions of
Bali in a comfortable, air-conditioned minibus.
far more relaxing, and in this respect
I can recommend my former
personal assistant and driver, now with many years of experience
as a licensed Balinese driver and tour
guide (many of these guides are not actually from Bali.
can be found
Bali-Driver.blogspot.com where you can get details of his tours
including a day trip to the Kintamani Volcano and Lake
Batur. See many photos and comments from Ari's
passengers, some of whom have since become his friends.
Check out some great accommodation deals in Bali!
our next page about the contrasts to be found in Bali
that makes it such a unique place to visit.
Other visa information for visitors to
Indonesia and other parts of Asia can be found on our