Interesting Things to Know About Bali Before You Travel

Indonesia     Destinations
Yes, rice paddies abound on Bali.
Yes, rice paddies abound on Bali.
A few random, possibly oddball things I learned while in Bali including customs and standard etiquette.
I was somewhat surprised to find that there are quite a few traditions that are specific to Bail and not the rest of Indonesia. So although many of these may apply to the entire country, some are only in Bali.

You'll notice that you meet a lot of people with the same name. There's good reason for that! The children are all named in order of birth. Then to differentiate between male and female, they'll put an "I" in front of a male name and "Ni" for a female.
    First Child: Wayan or Putu
    Second Child: Made
    Third Child: Nyoman
    Fourth Child: Ketut
There are a handful of other name choices in the succession. Of the less than 10 or so locals that I'm currently close with, three of them are named Putu (men and women).
Then on top of that, Indonesia has a law that says you can't have more than 2 children (Bali just recently changed this to 4). So can you imagine how many Wayans there must be and the lack of Ketuts??

They grow grapes and make wine in Bali! Who would have guessed that? It's not very good, but still.
Grapes in Bali?! The wine is expensive and not every good.
Grapes in Bali?! The wine is expensive and not every good.
When children are saying goodbye to an adult, they will take your hand and touch it to their forehead as a sign of respect.

Politeness and humility go a long way. If there is ever a conflict, anger or aggression will get you absolutely nowhere. This includes innocent gestures like putting your hands on your hips or crossing your arms on your chest! Patience and etiquette are key as the Indonesians like to avoid conflict at all cost (like me!).

Most nationalities don't have to pay for a visa to get into Indonesia. But there are quite a few types of visas. Upon arrival you can opt ot pay for a visa at the Visa On Arrival desk. It costs $35 and is good for the same 30 days as the free one, but you can renew it once for an additional 30 days for a small fee and a bit of hassle.

Both your arrival day and departure day count as days of your visa stay. So be careful if you are going to max out your visa stay.

Dragons DO exist. Komodo Dragons to be exact. Scoot on over to the island of the same name to check out the beasts in their natural habitat.
Komodo Dragon on the island of Komodo. Head to Flores to take a tour!
Komodo Dragon on the island of Komodo. Head to Flores to take a tour!
You should, must actually walk on the same side of the road as the cars are going in your direction.

Yogurt? Don't even bother. I could not for the life of me find yogurt that was made out of well, yogurt. I gave up after a while. It might be out there but you'll be lucky to find it.

Remember kopi luwak from The Bucket List? Well this is where you can get it. But it seems that the cat-poop coffee has become such a hot (and expensive) commodity that the poor civets are now kept in cages in very poor conditions and are forced to eat and poop coffee berries. So you might want to skip this particular delicacy. I know, you're bummed, right?

Indonesia has by far the loudest geckos I have ever heard. Anywhere.
Tokay lizard - they are very loud at night!
Tokay lizard - they are very loud at night!
"Yogurt" disgusting.
Most of the electrical outlets I encountered were the standard European 2 pin type but what I wasn't prepared for (and neither was my big flat adapter) was that they are inset in the wall about an inch.

Every Balinese teenager gets their teeth filed down as a rite of passage. By smoothing down the pointed teeth, the inherent 6 evil traits of man (similar to the 7 deadly sins) are balanced. I had a proud mama show me photos of her son all dressed up in full Bali dress for his teeth filing ceremony.

Balinese babies are not to touch the ground for their first 3 months as they are still considered attached to the holy world. At 3 months, the family has a big ceremony and the baby touches the ground for the first time.
Once a baby is 3 months old, a ceremony is held where he is allowed to touch the ground for the first time.
Once a baby is 3 months old, a ceremony is held where he is allowed to touch the ground for the first time.
If you get pulled over, the police will likely ask you to pay a fine. Politely say no that you do not want to pay now and to please just give you the ticket so you can pay at the office. Most of the time you will be on your way without a ticket.

If driving a motorbike, keep your bag or backpack at your feet. Bag grabbers are out there that will grab your bag off your back as your are riding which of course causes you to crash but they don't care as since they just want your bag!

Should you have the pleasure of having your appendix taken out in Indonesia, they will give you the organ before you go home so you can have a proper burial ceremony for it. If you refuse, they will be pretty baffled.

Bali sure has become a tourist mecca since I was here last (for an extended period) in 2000. There is a ton of real Indonesia out there! Consider other islands.

Pay attention to your receipts. Sometimes there is a sale item and the discount only shows at the bottom of the receipt. You might be charged for the pre-discount total or there may be other "errors". It's acceptable to always ask for a receipt.

You must carry both your driver's license and International driving permit if you ride a scooter. Police regularly stop bule (white people) and ask for paperwork. If you are riding without the proper documentation, then just make sure you're not carrying too much cash (less than 200K) since you're likely to lose it as a bribe.

There are over 200 motorbike deaths in Bali per month! Although a license and minimum age of 17 are required for locals, neither of these are usually enforced.

Watch your dates! Do not try to travel on Nyepi Day - The Do Nothing Day in Bali. The entire island of Bali is shut down!
Beautiful Bali sunset.
Beautiful Bali sunset.

Living in Bali

Expats are required by law to have "staff". In other words, they must hire a local. The wage is quite low at around 14K/hour and they might only work a few hours a day.

BPJS the health insurance costs less than $10 US a month and is great coverage! A surgery will only cost you some of the medication and follow-up visit cost which is minimal.

Standard Etiquette for SE Asian Countries

Don't gesture for someone to come over by using your finger and even if you use your hand, don't have your fingers pointed upward. It's considered vulgar. Motion palm down more like patting the ground or scooping toward you.

Don't use your left hand for anything; touching, gesturing, eating. It's your poop hand.

Feet are also pretty much universally unacceptable as they are the lowest part of the body. Don't point with your feet and definitely don't point the soles of your feet at another person or a Buddha statue. Just think of the bottoms of your feet as disgusting things that nobody should ever see.

Don't touch people on the head; the highest part of the body and the holder of the soul.

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