An animal lover’s guide to Bali

So you’re not a big fan of the zoo, or seeing animals in cages, or hideous live animal shows, but you love to get up close and personal with creatures great and small? Well, you’re in luck; one thing Bali is not short of is an abundance of interesting wildlife.

Get your cute fix and experience Bali’s animal kingdom in a selection of open-air sanctuaries and wildlife parks.

Ubud Monkey Forest, Padangtegal, Ubud

Ubud Monkey Forest is perhaps the best-known monkey hang out due to its location on the fringe of Ubud’s main centre. Also known as the Sacred Monkey Forest of Padangtegal, and by its official name, Mandala Wisata Wenara Wana, Ubud Monkey Forest is not only home to over 300 grey-haired macaques, but also three holy temples that are sanctified by the local villagers.

Ubud Monkey Forest boasts over 115 different species of trees, unraveling stone pathways, a bevy of beautiful statues covered in moss and tangles upon tangles of dense green jungle.

In addition to being a natural tourist attraction, The Ubud Monkey Forest is also a place of scientific research and conservation and is overseen by Padangtegal village.

Other monkey inhabited spaces include the Alas Kedaton Monkey Forest in Tabanan and the Uluwatu Monkey Forest. The Alas Kedaton Monkey Forest is located in the village of Kutuh, about 25km northeast of Denpasar. This small 12-hectare forest is home to hundreds of grey long-tailed macaques (Macaca fascicularis) and is regarded as the island’s ‘other monkey forest’ after the most prominent and often visited Ubud Monkey Forest.

This is probably due to the fact that Kedaton is located further off the beaten track than the assessable Ubud Monkey Forest. Then there is the Uluwatu Monkey Forest that is perched on stunning white cliffs, has a backdrop of blue sea and features the Uluwatu Temple.


Remember that although wild monkeys are fascinating and cute beyond words, they are still, in fact, wild animals. It’s best to enjoy these long-tailed creatures at a comfortable distance in their natural habitat, as actively seeking out their attention can have interesting and often unexpected results i.e. they are lightening quick, have sharp claws and know that most humans carry a few treats on them in the park.

As tempting as the thrill of feeding the monkeys may be, try not to purchase the peanuts and bananas sold at vendor stands; dependence on tourist hand-outs disrupts their natural feeding cycle and tends to impact their health. Yep, living on a diet of peanuts and bananas is just as bad for monkeys as it would be for humans.

animal lover's guide to Bali

Even if it was good for their health, feeding the monkeys doesn’t always turn out as planned. You may be eyeing off that cute baby monkey to offer some peanuts to, but chances are the little one isn’t going to get anything, and the more rotund and angry monkey will step in for first dibs. You seriously don’t want to get in the way of the older generation either.

The macaques are also not shy about grabbing food from your hand, or grabbing your bag to take a peak at what’s inside. The saying ‘cheeky monkey’ didn’t come from nowhere. They are the animal kingdom’s answer to pick-pockets and are as cunning as they are cute.

Ubud Monkey Forest (Sacred Monkey Forest)
Address: Jalan Wenara Wana, Ubud, Bali
Phone: +62 361 971304

Uluwatu Monkey Forest
Address: Jalan Uluwatu, Bukit Peninsula, Bali

Alas Kedaton Monkey Forest
Address: Jalan Kapten Tendean, Tabanan, Bali

animal lover's guide to Bali

Bird Village of Petulu

At around 5:30 every evening, flocks upon flocks of Kokokan birds (herons) fly from all over the Bali island to congregate in the small town of Petulu.

What is fascinating about this occurrence is the sheer number of birds that bunk down for the night in Petulu. The village is relatively small, so there is usually over 100 birds camped out in each tree, testing the strength of their often fragile branches. Talk about high-density, high-rise living. Space here is definitely at a premium.

The villagers believe that the birds are their supernatural guardians, and hold a special ritual once every six months to honour them, expressing their gratitude in having Petula as the place the birds lay eggs and raise their young before the birds migrate in July and August.  There is a bit of mystery surrounding why the herons turned up in 1965 and have come back every evening since. It is said that the herons are the reincarnation of thousands of Balinese who were killed during the anticommunist massacre in Indonesia in 1965 and 1966.

After the riots in the village, people held a ceremony in Petulu to remember the slain and to protect the survivors. Shortly after the ceremony the birds arrived in the village, and have made a daily ritual of flying in to spend the night in Petulu ever since. Naturally, the villagers believe these birds, the spirits of their ancestors, also bring them a bounty of good-luck.

Petulu is near the Ubud botanic gardens, Kutuh Kaja, so combining a day trip that includes both will provide you with an ample fix of Bali nature and wildlife.

animal lover's Bali

Bali Bird Park

Welcome to Bali Bird Park, where 1000 birds from 250 species frolic around 2 hectares of landscaped tropical gardens.

Located in the Batubulan stone carving village, the Bali Bird Park is a popular day trip and is close to Kuta, Sanur and Ubud.

The park has a number of walk-through aviaries and is a safe haven for numerous rare or endangered species such as the cendrawasih (birds of paradise) from West Papua and the Leucopsar rothschildi (Bali starling).

The park is divided into different areas that aim to recreate the natural habitats of foreign birds, such as those from Latin America, South Africa and Australia.

There is a nocturnal owl house in a specially-adapted traditional Toraja house, as well as informative shows and scheduled feeding times where you can get up close and personal such as by feeding a pelican or holding a macaw. Some birds are in cages, where as others roam about the grounds or sit high in the trees.

A perfect day trip for bird lovers.

AddressJl. Serma Cok Ngurah Gambir, Singapadu, BatubulanBaliIndonesia

animal lover's Bali

Rimba Reptile Park

Located adjacent to the Bali Bird Park, Rimba Reptile Park is for those who prefer their animals footloose and feather free. The park houses around 20 different species of reptiles and over 181 specimens of reptiles and amphibians.

There’s a 1.5 metre Komodo dragon as well as crocodiles, flying lizards, iguanas, frogs and geckos.

The park has an impressively scary collection of venomous snakes including the cobra, tapian and mamba as well as an 8-metre reticulated python and an albino Burmese python. There’s a 1.5 metre Komodo dragon as well as crocodiles, flying lizards, iguanas, frogs and geckos.  An assortment of cold-blooded creatures sun themselves on the rocks of different enclosures that are filled with lily ponds, waterfalls and Balinese plant life.

There is also a large canopied courtyard to sit back in and spot critters in the overhanging trees above. This park won’t be for everyone, particularily if your not a fan of snakes and things that bite.

Address:  Jalan Cok Ngurah Gambir, Singapadu, Batubulan, Bali

Bali Safari and Marine Park, East Bali

The Bali Safari and Marine Park is the kind of place you would pester your parents to take you to when you were a kid. Although it’s located in Bali, don’t expect to find a whole lot of native Balinese inhabitants as it is filled mostly with tourist attracting animals from around the world. Here, you will find over 60 species of animals such as lions, tigers, meerkats, porcupines and the Bali Mynah, a bird that is native to Bali.

There are camel rides as well as a large open air exhibit, restaurants, live shows at the theatre and even a night safari. Basically, this is a great place to take the kids but may not be what you are after if you are looking for a more authentic Bali experience. In saying that, the park provides both education for visitors and conservation efforts, so for that we give it the official thumbs up. It is a member of the CBSG (Conservations Breeding Specialist Group) and is involved in the conservation and release of the Bali Mynah, the Sumatran Elephant and the Sumatran Tiger.

Address: Jl Prof Ida Bagus Mantra Km, 19.8, Bali 80551, Indonesia
Phone: +62 361 751 300

animal lover's guide

Turtle Conservation and Education Centre, Pulau Serangan

Turtles are a bit of a contentious issue in Bali. Traditionally eaten as a delicacy, green turtles have long been captured and killed in Bali. Now, however, with the turtle population rapidly dwindling due to hunting and over development, there is a conservation effort taking place in Bali. It aims to educate locals about how turtles are better off in the sea than on their dinner plate, part of a religious ceremony or sold as a tourist trinket.

The Turtle Conservation and Education Centre (TCEC) is a small compound that provides a protected space for turtle eggs to hatch and for baby turtles to return to the sea. It also houses a number of specialised tiled tanks for larger injured turtles to recover from abuse or illness. It was opened in 2006 by the governor of Bali, Mr Dewa Barata, as part of a strategy to eradicate illegal turtle trading and to empower locals to help through garnering awareness and providing education.

The TCEC is free to visit, but donations are encouraged and should be given based on the importance and dedication of the project and its staff. The centre is run by friendly locals who are only too happy to share some information with you about the turtles in their care.


Beware of fake ‘Turtle Parks’ that are not part of the TCEC. Check with your hotel to make sure you are visiting the real one if you are not sure, as some of the imitations can be a heart breaking experience as they are more about getting money from tourists than giving a hoot about turtles.

Learn more about the TCEC through WWF Indonesia

Address: Jalan Tukad Wisata No 4 Serangan
Phone: +62 361 857 7881

animal lovers bali

Bali Butterfly Park (Taman Kupu Kupu), Tabanan

Billed as being ‘the largest butterfly park in Asia’, the Bali Butterfly park, or Taman Kupa Kupa, is your chance to see hundreds of butterflies from the 15 known species that thrive in Indonesia, as well as various other insects and arachnids such as beetles, stick and leaf insects, and the less-friendly varieties such as scorpions and spiders.

The park preserves several endangered species in its collection such as the Bali peacock (Papilio peranthus) and the paradise birdwing (Ornithoptera paradisea) and it also functions as a research centre. It’s best to visit in the early and mid-morning when the butterflies are at their most active. You don’t have to be an entomologist to enjoy this park, it’s a magical place for both big kids and small kids alike. There is a massive sign outside the park, so it’s not hard to miss.

Address: Jl. Batukaru, Banjar Sandan Lebah, Wanasari Village, Tabanan
Phone: +62 361 814 282

animal lover's guide Bali

Gili Meno bird park and turtle sanctuary

After you have exhausted the animal lover’s circuit on the main land, it is well worth taking a boat ride to Gili Meno. One of the three Gili islands, Gili Meno is renowned for its chilled out vibe and breathtaking natural surrounds. The beach literally looks like the kind of remote island paradise you would see in movies about shipwrecks, which is probably why it is often described as offering a ‘Robinson Crusoe’ experience. In the centre of the island you will find the the Gili Meno bird park. The park is home to over 300 birds such as hornbills, eagles, pelicans, parrots, peafowls, macaws and more. There has been a bit of negativity in the past about the park’s conditions, but management seems to be taking heed and the aviaries are being rapidly upgraded. As with all upgrades – particularly on Indonesia’s smaller islands where everything is transported by boat – things understandably take time.

If birds aren’t your jam, then there’s a turtle sanctuary on Gili Meno as well. Bolong Turtle Sanctuary is a community run safe haven founded by its namesake (local innovator Bolong) for green sea turtles and Loggerhead Turtles to lay their eggs away from the threat of predators (both human and from the animal kingdom).

As with the TCEC, the sanctuary also nurtures sick and injured turtles and gives baby turtles the chance to thrive. The hatchery relies on donations and has made a noticeable difference to the local turtle population. You can see for yourself by having a snorkel or dive nearby! Gili Meno a popular destination for diving enthusiasts due to its crystal clear waters and abundant marine life.

Address: Jl.Pelabuhan Gili Meno – Lombok barat, Gili Meno
Phone: +62 81 339 599644

Places an animal lover should not visit however:

Elephant Safari Park

Elephant ride is cruel.

This kind of animal should never be promoted as people who don’t know anything about this topic could think that this is a nice thing to do with elephants. However these elephants have been terribly abused in order to ‘tame’ them (they will always be wild elephants and therefore always dangerous).

If you’re not convinced that elephant rides are cruel you can check out this site:


Tenganan: home of Bali’s rarest textiles

How many visitors leave Bali without picking up at least one piece of locally crafted textile, usually a sarong? Even if you are a first time visitor, you can pick up one of Bali’s rarest textiles if you know where to look.

Most people are familiar with batik, a method of painting a design onto cloth with wax before dying it. The dye colours everything but the part under the wax, creating a unique, handcrafted print. And most people have probably seen an ikat sarong, produced by tie dying the warp threads that run the length of the cloth, before weaving them with weft threads of a single colour.

Unique hand crafted textiles made nowhere else in Indonesia

Double ikat weaving is much more difficult, making it one of Bali’s rarest textiles. The weaver tie dyes both the warp and weft threads before weaving them together. This requires exquisite tension control. If you want to see – and buy – double ikat, then you need to visit the people in a small village in south east Bali called Tenganan. This is the only place in Indonesia where double ikat is made.

A very traditional Tenganan house

Getting to Tenganan

Tenganan is one of very few villages in Bali that has never submitted to Hindu rulers from Java. Described by a 1930s writer as “rabidly conservative”, the Tengananis have never become part of the Hindu caste system, and continue to follow their own centuries-old aboriginal customs.

To get to Tenganan, you pass through Candidasa and head north along a 4km dirt road. Travelling mostly through jungle, you come to a village with a curious entrance, like a box office in an outdoor cinema, blocking off part of the quiet street behind it. Outside the box office you will see two or three men sitting on chairs, each waiting for his turn to greet a visitor.

He has just picked the cotton from an overhead branch.

A courteous, softly-spoken man in traditional dress immediately offers to take you to his home, but there is no hurry. In near perfect English, Nengah Dika invites you to turn right and stroll slowly past the house at the end of the street. The building looks very old, with walls made of stones cemented together with mud rather than mortar. He stops beneath a cotton tree and picks a little cotton to show you how easy it is to spin the long fibres into a short thread.

The main street – almost overgrown with grass

There is none of the hustle and bustle common to other tourist destinations. Past the next house, you turn left again into what he tells you is Tenganan’s main street. Hardly anyone is in sight, and it is party overgrown with grass. An open shed on the corner has two wood-and-bamboo bins labelled “leaf litter” and “plastic waste” in Indonesian.

There are several temples further down the street, where it is almost covered by grass.

He takes you past several temples, and tells you how the Australian government sent engineers to repair one of the temples after a recent earthquake (with concrete, not mud). They also supplied a deep underground bore and a water tower to provide a reliable water supply. If you are Australian, he thanks you for this.

If you are an Australian “in the know” you may also see the recycling bins as a condition of the aid, like the anti-smoking signs displayed at events sponsored by tobacco taxes.

Bamboo recycling bins.

Despite these occasional modern touches, the place has a timeless feel. He explains how the village grew so large they decided to divide it into two banjars, or wards, “only two or three hundred years ago”.

The Bali Agas – fiercely independent

Nengah Dika tells a little more about his people, the Bali Agas. These were the first people to settle in Bali, more than a thousand years ago, and the island still has a few Bali Aga villages that remain fiercely independent. “We have never been in conflict with each other,” he says, although clearly they were ready to defend themselves against the Majapahit soldiers who took over most of the island in the 14th Century.

Visiting a Tenganan weaver at home

After this leisurely history lesson, you arrive at his house. He takes you straight through the outer compound, hung with brightly coloured banners, to the main building where you meet his young wife, Ni Luh Suryati. And of course, her double ikat weavings, which are continuous loops of cloth in three or four colours: unbleached cotton, yellow, dark blue and red.

A traditional Bali Aga home.

Making Bali’s rarest textile treasures takes about a year

Ni Luh explains the double ikat process – without, of course, giving away any of the trade secrets needed to produce Bali’s rarest textiles. First, the cotton has to be picked and impurities such as seeds and husk fragments combed out before spinning. She then begins tie dyeing the warp and weft threads in a secret practice using home-made plant dyes and lots of prescribed rituals. The trick to achieving a perfect double ikat is not only in tie dying the vertical and horizontal threads to a matching design, but in making sure they weave together perfectly.

Very few women now make double ikat.

Ni Luh achieves this by controlling the tension on the warp threads with a special loom. Sitting on the floor, she passes the shuttle between the long threads in front of her. These long warp threads are also attached to a device on her back, allowing her to control the tension by leaning backwards with more or less pressure. She controls the tension on the sideways or “weft” threads by pulling more or less firmly on the shuttle after weaving each row.

The whole process, they tell you, takes about a year from start to finish.

Buying a double ikat – or two

Of course, you have come all this way – you don’t want to leave without at least one double ikat. Nengah tells you he recently sold an antique piece, in a design no longer made, to a German collector for seven million rupiah.

This piece is very old and has been darned in several places.

The haggling begins. Ni Luh mentions the price of two million rupiah, which of course, you can’t quite afford. Your companions offer to lend you the US and Australian dollars stashed at the backs of their wallets, and you end up settling for two pieces at three million for the pair. She has reduced the price of one single colour piece because it is not a continuous loop, the threads having been cut. They even throw in two carved wooden display hangers. Everyone is happy.

Lontars – traditional palm leaf pictures and documents

On the way out Nengah shows you the lontars he makes. These are traditional Balinese and Indian documents made by carving letters and images on to long strips of palm leaf with a stylus or knife, rubbing in lamp black afterwards. The original Hindu scriptures, such as the Upanishads, were first written on lontars, as were messages from Bali’s kings.

Lamp black is rubbed into the grooves to produce black lines.

As you came to buy a double ikat, and have blown your weekly budget, you find yourself declining.

Why the village is so quiet

Taking your leave of the lady of the house, you follow the host outside and he offers to show you more of the village. It is getting late, and if you are staying in Ubud or Denpasar, it’s an hour’s drive home. Tenganan has no hotels and no shops. Only local villagers are allowed to stay overnight. You politely decline, and quietly head around the block and up the side street towards the “box office”, which you are still wondering about. Apart from the occasional scooter, the most noise comes from a dozen or so fighting cocks in cages, placed to catch the afternoon sun.

Taking the afternoon sun

The annual pandanus fighting

Once a year, Nengah tells you, crowds descend on the village for the annual pandanus fighting. Protected only by thick turbans and double sarongs, pairs of men square off with the spiny butts of pandanus palm leaves as weapons. Each man attempts to wound his opponent’s naked torso, and they frequently go into clinches, flailing at each other’s backs with the primitive weapons. This looks a lot like a drill from previous centuries, to ready the men for hand-to-hand encounters with their enemies. He describes it in such a gentle voice that it sounds incongruous.

He asks how we found out about his village, as most visitors he meets have been to Bali perhaps five or ten times before they hear of it. You smile. If you go looking for treasure, you don’t follow the crowd, do you?

With so little human traffic, grass covers this side street.

Why these treasures are so rare

Back home, your friends admire your new double ikat wall hangings with just a touch of jealousy. They have been to Bali many times. But you, the novice, have been somewhere they have never heard of and picked up something rare.

Double ikat’s future is uncertain. Some traditional designs are no longer made. Only a few women in Tenganan village now practice the art. You find yourself wondering why. In today’s cash economy, other families may have decided not to welcome curious strangers into their homes to buy Bali’s rarest textiles. Perhaps their privacy is just too precious.

Apart from Tengannan, double ikat weaving is made in just three other locations – two in India (Gujarat and Telangana) and one in Japan (Okinawa). If you can’t make a trip to Tenganan, double-ikats are currently for sale on Ebay for between AUD$750 and $3,500.

A guide to people’s names in Bali

You may come to Bali for the beaches, nightclubs, resorts and spas. You might be here to surf, or to practice yoga, or just to sip on a long cold drink as you take in a view of the rice fields. Whatever your reason for visiting the Island of the Gods, one of its biggest delights is the local people.

Apart from the act of buying (or refusing to buy) something, many visitors never seem to start a conversation with the locals – which is a pity as Bali must have the world’s friendliest people.

But where can you start?

How can you get to know a stranger in Indonesia if you have nothing in common apart from buying and selling? Well, you can actually learn quite a bit just by knowing their name.

Name badges, shop signs, business cards  and other media that bear a personal name can also tell you a lot. If you read on, you may like to come on a journey that brings these seemingly dull objects to life. This is a guide to people’s names in Bali.

The most common Balinese names

Imagine you get back to your hotel after a day out, and are told someone called “Ni Wayan” had called, asking for you. The name alone tells you she was the oldest child in her family, female, and Balinese. How do you know this? Read on…

When they introduce themselves, the name most Balinese people will give you is not a personal name at all. In this ancient culture, the most commonly used names simply indicate the person’s position in the family as first, second, third or fourth born child.

We are about to show you four pictures. Each contains the name of someone who is first, second, third or fourth born. When you have finished reading this article you  will be able to decipher them.

A guide to people's names in Bali.
Snippets from an advertising catalogue. Photo via Niluh Djelantik
A guide to people's names in Bali.
Ngurah Rai airport. Via Bali Airport Guide.
A guide to people's names in Bali.
A business card from a public notary.
A guide to people's names in Bali.
A sign for an artist’s studio.

So – each of these pictures contains the name of someone who is the first-, second-, third- or fourth-born child in their family.

This next part is really important:

You have, perhaps, met one or two “experts” in a warung or bar who tell you there are only four Balinese names: Wayan, Made, Nyoman and Ketut, meaning first-, second-, third- and fourth-born. Things are not quite that neat and tidy!

While Wayan is the most common name for first born children, they may have the alternative names Putu, Gede or (for girls only) Ni Luh. Any of these indicate that he or she is the first born child.

The second child in the family is usually called Made, which means “middle”,  but is just as likely to be called Nengah, Ngurah or Kadek.

The third born child is called Nyoman or Komang.

There is only one ‘fourth born‘ name: Ketut. In previous centuries Balinese families were not encouraged to have more than three kids, and may have practised some form of traditional birth control. Nowadays there are plenty of fourth born kids, so a name was needed. Ketut means “little banana” – the smallest banana at the end of a bunch. Some of Bali’s more remote districts have been slow to adopt this name.

What about fifth born child? Or a sixth?

A family with a fifth born child might call him “little Wayan”, the sixth “little Made” – and so on.

As most of these names are also the same for boys and girls, they might add the prefix “I” (pronounced “ee”) for boys and “Ni” (nee) for girls. They are similar in meaning to “Mister” and “Ms”.

Last names

Most Balinese people also have a last name, but don’t fall into the trap of thinking this is a family name or surname – it probably isn’t. While some modern-thinking families have adopted a surname, most Balinese last names are personal names. For example, the well-known Ubud artist I Wayan Karja’s name means “first born son whose name is Karja”. In a workplace or at a meeting where there are several Wayans, he might be referred to simply as “Karja” or, because he is also a teacher, his students might call him “Pak” Karja (more about this a little later). His younger brother’s name is I Made Jodog – and as you can see, their names are no indication that they are related.

The Hindu caste system

This system of names is part of Bali’s indigenous culture, and probably followed by all Balinese until the Majapahits invaded from Java in the Fourteenth Century. Up until then the Balinese, although Hindu, had no caste system. A very few “Bali Aga” villages such as Tenganan and Trunyan, which never submitted to the Majapahits, still have no caste system.

A guide to people's names in Bali.
Rice growers are traditionally of the Sudra caste. Photo via W0jtas

However the invaders brought the Hindu caste system with them, so the ordinary Balinese people got slotted in as, you guessed it, the lowst Hindu caste. They are now regarded as the “Sudra” caste – the caste of rice growers and artisans. The invading Majapahits became the “higher” Hindu castes: the Wesia, Ksatria and Brahmana.

You can often tell if someone is a member of one of these castes by their name.

Wesia names

The Wesia caste (Vaisya in Sanskrit) is a caste of merchants, soldiers and landowners, a bit like the old English Yeomanry.

Wesia people will often introduce themselves, and be called, by the name “Gusti” which means “leader”.

A Wesia man tends to be called Gusti Bagus (followed by a personal name) and a Wesia woman Gusti Ayu (followed by a personal name).

However it is a mistake to think everyone with the title Gusti is a Wesia, as some families in past centuries were somehow promoted to the next caste, the Ksatria. More on this in a moment.

Ksatria names

Ksatria are the aristocracy. All of Bali’s kings are Ksatria. Ksatria people often use the name “Agung” – for example, the well-known businessman and museum founder Anak Agung Gede Rai.

“Agung” means “great”, and Agung names take these forms: Anak Agung (male), Anak Agung Ayu or Anak Agung Istri (female).

However don’t fall into the trap of thinking someone is not a Ksatria because they don’t use the name Agung. Ubud’s most famous artist, I Gusti Nyoman Lempad, was a Ksatria, and as you can see he retained the title “Gusti”, the birth order name “Nyoman” as well as as the personal name “Lempad”.

A guide to people's names in Bali.
From a security guard’s name tag. Photo via Cikaso Lima Dua.

A Ksatria man’s name will often begin with I Gusti Ngurah (followed by other names) and a Ksatria woman Ni Gusti Ayu (followed by other names).

Tjokorda, meaning “foot of the gods”, is a less common Ksatria name reserved for a higher sub-caste within the Ksatria. It is often abbreviated Tjok (for a man) and extended to Tjokorda Istri (for a woman).

Another less common Ksatria name is Dewa. This may take the forms Ida I Dewa, Dewa Agung or I Dewa (for a man), or for a woman Ni Dewa Ayu or Ni Dewa Desak.

A guide to people's names in Bali.
A Balinese king, 1597.

Brahmana names

A guide to people's names in Bali.
Name tags for a medical specialist. Photo via Miftah Advertising.

The Brahmana (Brahmin) are the Hindu priestly caste. This is a bit confusing, as Bali already had native Hindu priests before the Majapahits invaded. These native priests still look after the temples, bless Gamelan players before concerts, make and provide holy water etc but they are regarded as Sudras!

A guide to people's names in Bali.
Dayu Rama, aka Ida Ayu Ramayanti. Photo via Dayu Rama

Brahmana are traditionally teachers, scholars, judges and priests. They officiate at larger ceremonies and festivals.

Brahmin tend to have the titles Ida Bagus (for a man) and Ida Ayu (for a woman), and a personal name. Brahmin people often shorten these names, for example the businesswoman Ida Ayu Ramayanti is usually known as “Dayu Rama”.

Western names

A guide to people's names in Bali.
Graphic for a hair and beauty salon. Image via Ida Ayu Ramayanti.

As you may have noticed, some Balinese use “Western names”, although they are rarely given at birth. Dayu Rama took the extra name “Daniell” when she opened a beauty salon. On her first promotional flyers she was “Dayurama Daniell”, and she now has “Daniell Salon & Bridal” shops in Denpasar and Sanur.

However you can’t assume someone with a Western name is Balinese. In Bali you will meet Indonesians from other islands, some with Western names. If the name sounds somewhat Dutch or Portuguese, for example, you may find yourself asking “is this person Balinese?”.

Is this person Balinese?

We thought you would never ask! Bali has plenty of resident Indonesians from other islands, attracted by business and job opportunities or sometimes just the more relaxed lifestyle. Whether you pick it up from a name tag on a uniform or are straight-out introduced, the first thing you can usually tell by someone’s name is whether or not they are Balinese. Their names will often give you a clue as to where they are from and even their religion.

Dutch and Portuguese names

A guide to people's names in Bali.
Photo via Miftah Advertising.

Many Indonesians come from former Portuguese colonies such as Flores. An Indonesian with a name like Rodrigues or Goncalves is therefore probably a Roman Catholic.

A guide to people's names in Bali.
Arie Soelaijman. Photo via Arie Soelaijman.

You may also meet an Indonesian citizen with a Dutch name who tells you they are “Dutch”. This generally means they had one or more Dutch ancestors. Denpasar businesswoman Arie Soelaijman is a good example. She has a Dutch great-grandfather in her lineage, as well as Javanese and Sundanese ancestors.

“My mother was a Roman Catholic who convert to Islam just like grandma, and I am a Protestant,” she says.

“Dutch” Indonesians tend to be Christians.

Javanese names

A guide to people's names in Bali.
A typical Javanese name. Photo via Miftah Advertising.

Many police and other government officials you meet in Bali will be Javanese, as well as shopkeepers in southern coastal towns. Typical Javanese names end in an “a” or “o” and often begin with the syllable “Su” which means “best”. Indonesia’s first President Sukarno is a good example.

While Javanese people traditionally only have one name, modern-thinking people sometimes adopt a surname which is usually the name of a prominent male family member. My old Bahasa Indonesia teacher, Pak Purwanto, insisted he had only one name. However when it came to publishing his textbooks, his publisher insisted on a surname so he used the name of his father, Danesegondo.

People with Javanese names usually identify as Muslims, but retain a lot of Hindu customs such as the Wayang Kulit shadow puppets which have a long tradition in Jogjakarta and Solo. They may also retain some more animistic beliefs and practises, like consulting a dukan (Javanese shaman) for advice about important decisions. These “syncretic” Javanese are known as “Abangan”.

A guide to people's names in Bali.
Many police officers in Bali are Javanese. Photo via Donum Theo.

 Arabic names

A guide to people's names in Bali.
Name tag with an Arabic name. Photo via Miftah Advertising.

Indonesians with Arab names tend to be from more strictly Muslim provinces like Aceh in Sumatra. Javanese with a more strictly Muslim orientation, known as “Santri” Javanese, may also have an Arab name.

Arab names are also the norm for Malays in Singapore, Malaysia and the Muslim parts of the southern Phillipines. If you have just sat down next to Abdul or Fatima on a plane, you can’t assume they are Indonesian.


The Batak people are another important migrant group. While Batak names are too complicated to explain in this article, it is worth knowing a little about the people.

They are known for leaving their own tribal lands, around Lake Toba in inland north Sumatra, to seek out opportunities. They are typically very entrepreneurial and plain speaking.

Christian missionaries converted most Bataks to their faith in the 19th Century, and also taught them Western music. According to an old saying: “one Batak will play the guitar, two Bataks will play chess, three Bataks will form a choir and sing in harmony”.


A guide to people's names in Bali.
A girls school in 1941. Students address their male teachers as ‘Pak’.

We promised to talk about honourifics or polite and respectful modes of address.

Pak (short for “Bapak”, father) and Ibu (“mother”, often shortened to “Bu”) are honorifics you might like to use with people older than you, or to whom you wish to pay particular respect, such as your teacher. If you wish to tone this down slightly – perhaps for someone of a similar age to yourself – you might like to use the honourific “Kakak” which means older brother or sister. A waiter or waitress in a restaurant might call you “Kakak”, even if you appear to be about the same age. (And yes, if you are curious, a younger sibling is called “Adik”. There is no word for brother or for sister in Indonesian.)

Unless you expect to meet the President, the only other honourific you are likely to need is “Dokter” – used for both medical and academic doctors.

People who change their caste

It is not unusual for someone in Bali to “change” caste, usually by marrying someone of a higher caste. A name often used by Sudra women who marry Wesia men is “Ibu Jero”. If a lady introduces herself as Ibu Jero she has literally changed her name to indicate she has been “admitted” (jero) to another caste.

The Pande – people outside the caste system.

A guide to people's names in Bali.
Photo via Michael Woon.

A Balinese clan that has populated the island while staying outside the caste system is the Pande. Although they now follow many different occupations, Pande are traditionally blacksmiths. They claim descent from a single famous armourer that came to Bali with the Majapahit invaders. Perhaps the demand for their trade gave them certain privileges, such as a temple at the Besakih Mother Temple complex that they regard as equal in status to the Brahman temple.

Some Pande still use names that identify them as members of this group. As one member explained: “if a male Balinese has Pande in front of his birth order name or before his real name, he is from the Pande clan.”

She gave two names as examples: Pande Made Mahardika and I Pande Putu Raka.

“In my family we use family name “Pendit” that came from Pande,” she continued, using her name as an example: “Putu Ayu Nova Andina Pendit”.

Ina Pendit, as she prefers to be known, says it is unusual for Balinese to have family names.

“My great grandpa, like 100 years ago, he started to put his own name Pendit to his children. But only the straight blood can have this name. I got this name from my Dad. My Mom was not given this name. And my Dad got this name from my Grandma as the head of the family, while my Grandpa that married in to the Pendit family was not given this name. And since 50 years ago some other families also started putting their name to their children. Now in my home town (Tabanan) there’s some family names that are famous. ‘Dusak’, ‘Sapanca’ and mine ‘Pendit’.”

A guide to people's names in Bali.
Ina Pendit. Photo via Ina Pendit.

A word of warning

As you can see, for every rule there are several exceptions. You might like to use this article as a starting point as you explore the fascinating world of Bali and its people, but please don’t take it as a template to fit all occasions. For every rule you will find plenty of exceptions, often by making a mistake. People in Bali are generally forgiving of polite “wisita” who don’t always get it right, particularly if you make an effort to speak a little Bahasa Indonesia.

If you are friendly and respectful you will find the local people to be very giving and a lot of fun.

So, what’s in a name? Plenty!


Top reasons to move to Bali: everything you need to know to live in Paradise

As well as being a cultural, spiritual and culinary hub to over 3.2 million tourists each year, Bali has a certain ‘permanent residency appeal’ to it. While many find the step from occasional traveller to full-time paradise resident a big one, we’re here to tell you it’s time to take the next step and say ‘yes’ to Bali. So book that one-way flight and get to your new island home.

Top reasons to move to Bali: the food

Bali’s humid climate and volcanic soil are the perfect conditions for growing and unearthing tropical fruit. You will never be too far from the sweet taste of a fresh coconut which will make Bali’s intense heat completely tolerable.

Mothers and grandmothers, the world’s favourite cooks, are scattered around the island as food vendors. Using recipes that have either been newly crafted or handed-down from past generations, they create comfort food that warms the stomach and can soothe even the most homesick soul.

Top reasons to move to Bali: the food

For green thumbs and those who love creating meals with ingredients sourced directly from growers, Bali will delight. The island’s pasars (local markets in Bali) allow you to handpick ingredients and chat to growers about their produce. This recent transition from supermarket shelves to produce market stalls allows for an interactive culinary experience.

Make the most of Bali’s natural supermarket and visit Ubud’s Organic Market. Here you will find a range of fresh produce as well as medicines, ointments, nuts, wheat-grass, tea, coffee, seeds, raw chocolate, soy milk, cakes and warm bread straight from the oven. There’s even incense, mosquito repellents and cleaning and skincare products on offer.

Top reasons to move to Bali: the food

One of the best things about this organic food movement is that the products are sourced from local independent growers and businesses, and made either chemical-free or with as few chemicals as possible. Not only is it great for you, but you will be saving money as produce from supermarkets is more expensive. Think of the Balinese pasar as your one-stop shop that sells everything you’ve ever wanted from a health conscious store without the pretentious pricing and intimidating shopkeepers.

Top reasons to move to Bali: the people

Having been born in Australia and raised in a proud Filipino family, I have never been deprived of culture and warm hospitality. I feel the same way in Bali. Whether it’s your first or 100th visit, everything is familiar. It’s one of the many reasons why people fall so hard for the island and its people.

It hardly comes as a surprise that a recent study by global market research group Ipsos revealed that, out of the 23 countries surveyed, Indonesia was the happiest.

Top reasons to move to Bali: the people

Around 55% of the people surveyed said they were “very happy” compared to 41% in India who ranked just below. As well as being happy, Indonesians are some of the most welcoming and friendly people you will come across.

With over 20,000 temples in Bali  (that’s at least three in each village), it’s comforting to know that Bali embraces spirituality. The island is made up of a mix of Hindu and Animism followers, despite the majority of Indonesia practicing Islam.

Galungan, a 10-day feast honouring ancestors’ spirits and the creator of the universe, Ida Sang Hyang Widi, is a major event in the 210 day Balinese Pawukon Calendar. During this time, Balinese Hindus celebrate Dharma’s (‘good’) victory over Adharma (‘evil’). Long bamboo poles are placed at the front right side of every home and decorated with colourful fruits, rice, coconut leaves and flowers. Similarly, temples are filled with food and flower offerings from families as a way to show gratitude and pray for protection. Many locals use the day before religious events to prepare, so keep in mind some businesses may be closed on this day too. On the final day (‘Kuningan’), the festive fever rises and streets are coloured with special performances, sacred rituals and pilgrims hailing from all over the island.

Tip: Sakenan Temple on Serangan Island Denpasar’s south is definitely the place to be during this time.

Top reasons to move to Bali: lifestyle and staff

So, how exactly do you turn a chance meeting with Bali into a long-term commitment? A move anywhere, laid-back Bali included, can attract a rather large upfront price tag. But trust us, once you’re settled in to island life, there will be so many perks and cost-savings that you will find it hard to leave.

Top reasons to move to Bali: lifestyle and staff

Domestic staff

Personal chefs, on-call chauffeurs and secluded luxury villas are not just for the rich and famous. Having a domestic staff is actually quite common in Indonesia but be sure to do your research. A good rule to follow is to be clear, respectful and always have a getaway plan. Be straightforward when you outline the salary, expectations and period of time you need the person to work. Check every reference and get a backup contact (in addition to the agency) who will be able to contact the person should you not be able to. Be clear on what you need and when you need it, but also respect their requests to have holiday leave. Catching the flu or needing a day off is part of being human so create hypothetical situations and prepare realistic solutions. Is there a day-care centre or school offering a drop-in program nearby? Can you have groceries delivered to your home? Is there a friend or colleague who can help with carpooling?

Staff usually either stay in your house with you (live-in) or work as if it was like any other job where they arrive at a certain hour and leave at the end of the day (live-out).

Drivers (sopir or supir) are incredibly useful when it comes to navigating the island and minimising stress. Many companies often provide expat workers with their own driver, but there are also agencies available to give you a helping hand.

Aside from driving, a sopir will be responsible for performing routine checks and maintenance on your vehicle, and anything else you both agree on. Be sure to do your research to determine if they are a safe driver. Ask where they travel on a regular basis and what kind of vehicle they usually drive. If their car tail is broken and their front door has fallen off, it’s usually a good indication that safe driving isn’t their strong point.

If you don’t want a driver, be sure to get an international driver’s license to avoid fines. While the cost to use public transport is cheap, journeys can be quite lengthy and uncomfortable.

security guard (satpam) may also be a comforting option for anyone living in Bali alone or for those who would like to feel more secure. Similarly, a jaga is available to screen and deal with unwanted guests and any visitors. Remember, you can be as strict as you like when creating and marking your checklist. You are hiring workers who will be responsible for your safety, health, family and belongings. Like with many services in Bali, English-speaking workers will tend to cost more.

Top reasons to move to Bali: lifestyle and staff


The price tag for most houses, serviced apartments and villas in Bali is,  on average, IDR23,000,000 per year. There’s also the option of finding a room in a luxury villa and prices for this normally range from IDR5,000,000 to IDR6,000,000 per month. Otherwise, you can choose to stay in a terima kos which is essentially just an empty room. Price range from IDR1,000,000 to IDR4,000,000 per month. While a private bathroom will be included in every kos, a kitchen isn’t a given and will slightly bump up the price.

For great living options, Ray White Paradise Property Group has everything you can expect from a popular and familiar real estate name. Their website is easy to navigate and includes detailed information with quality images. Some of the properties are also priced in USD to help compare costs.

Bali Reality is another great real estate company made up of both Western and Indonesian real estate experts with a love and focus for Bali living. The company provides other services such as investment sales and project marketing and development. If you’re dreaming of a fresh start and looking to build your company or home from the ground up, it might be useful to spend time searching for land to make your long-term plan more worthwhile.

Here are some hints on finding the best accommodation to suit you:

  1. Narrow the area to somewhere you have experienced a connection with and have stayed at for a decent amount of time. When you return home ask yourself, “was it just a really great holiday or the final piece of motivation I needed to start the next chapter of my life?”
  2. Read every single review and dig deeper into the negative and positive aspects of each comment.
  3. Find photos that show every angle of the property to ensure you get the most realistic, not just pretty, overview of the place. This will help to show exactly what’s included and how well it has been maintained.
  4. Use the little yellow man in Google Maps to get a street view. Make sure you’re comfortable with the location and how far you have to travel to get to other places as well as what’s available in the area.
  5. Research the source and ask questions. How reliable is the company you’re using to search for a home? What checks and procedures are done to make sure the place meets certain standards? How accountable and easily contactable are the hosts?

If you’re just wanting to dip your toes into Balinese living before committing to anything serious, try renting a self-contained villa offering similar features to what you want in your own home on your next holiday. Consider things such as what kind of access you need to the villa, how many and what kind of staff you’re looking for and what sort of extras you’re wanting.

Top reasons to move to Bali: employment

When it comes to employment Bali is a great place for creatives, self-starters and anyone looking to head in a new direction. Just look at Ben and Blair who took a serendipitous flight to Bali and ended up staying to create Big Tree Farms (aka the largest organic farm on the island). Or there’s our own Britain-to-Bali expert and success story, Liam.

Before arriving in Bali, confirm you have everything you need with the local embassy. Ensure you have a work permit rather than a business visa. A business visa will only allow you to remain in Bali for 60 days and is given strictly to those who can show a letter from their employer stating that the employee will be doing business in Indonesia, as well as a written guarantee to prove costs will be covered.

If you don’t qualify for either of these visas you will need to apply for a tourist visa, which will limit your stay to a maximum of 30 days. But who wants to sort documents when you can dig your feet deep into the sand, rest back on a mushy beach towel and sip margaritas? Not me.

Top reasons to move to Bali: employment

Similar to anywhere else in the world, job hunting in Bali can be tough.  Some Indonesian companies may prefer to employ local workers. There might be other challenges such as applying for a visa and making sure that you and the company have a work permit. So secure a job in Bali or hire an immigration agent before heading on the plane to complete the final stages of your life-changing transition.

If you’ve already arrived in Bali and are looking for work, the most effective way to secure a job is to network. Building relationships and rapport through a more relaxed setting, such as a work lunch, will allow you to get a better insight and to see where you stand. Make yourself known and keep a few resumes on you at all times. Who knows, you might just bump into someone who could become a mentor, employer or client. Joining social groups and becoming involved with charities and organisations are also great ways to meet like-minded people who might lead you to fantastic opportunities.

For up-to-date job listings, check out Bali Times and Indeed.

Fortunately, recent changes to health insurance means that things just got a whole lot more secure for those living in Bali. From January 2014, Indonesia’s own citizens as well as foreigners living in the country, are covered under the Indonesian National Social Health Insurance (JKN) led by Indonesia’s Social Security Organising Body (BPJS). Anyone working as an employer, independent entrepreneur (someone hired to work but is not an employee or agent for that person) and informal workers (those who work without an official contract arrangement) must apply as an individual and pay premiums directly to the BPJS. No more than five members of a foreign employee’s family can be covered under the healthcare program, and employers are responsible for paying employees’ premiums.

Top reasons to move to Bali: retirement

For silver foxes looking to relax, what could be better than a glass of red wine at sunset on Lovina Beach? I may be a few decades away from retirement, but there are still a couple of tips hidden under the wings of this spring chicken.

Retirement visas are available to anyone 55 and over. The visa allows you to get a driving license and buy a vehicle under your own name, open a bank account and essentially have more freedom with fewer legal risks. It’s a good idea to seek advice from an agency such as Visa Bali before applying.

Travel registration is an important thing to check off your list before leaving for overseas. Register your name through the government website to receive important notifications and become easily contactable and identifiable in an emergency.

Australia http://www.bali.indonesia.embassy.gov.au/blli/home.html

United States https://step.state.gov/step/

United Kingdom https://www.gov.uk/browse/abroad/travel-abroad

Sentosa Residence Umalas, a new affordable and secure 6.5-hectare residential space housing 113 homes, is Bali retirement at its best. The exclusive resort has a range of features that will make any family member envious, including several international restaurants, a clubhouse, an outdoor cinema and specialised spas offering a range of treatments from massages to anti-ageing procedures.

Keen golfers will enjoy teeing off at the Greg Norman designed Nirwana Bali Golf Club where many professionals go to play. If golfing is your thing then be sure to enjoy an afternoon game at the New Kuta Golf on the edge of Nusa Dua Island. With awe-inspiring views, it’s the perfect place to improve your handicap.

Top reasons to move to Bali: family values

Family life in Bali is everything you’d expect from a Hallmark card. Family values are a huge part of Balinese life and this makes it a great place to raise children.

There are plenty of opportunities for children to take part in the same clubs and groups as they would in other places around the world, as well as to engage in Balinese traditions and culture.

There are many international schools in Bali. Since most of the students that attend these schools are not Indonesian, teachers strive to help students transition into Balinese life and also foster multiculturalism through interaction. Of course, thanks to Bali’s rich culture and heritage, learning continues outside of classroom

Top reasons to move to Bali: family values

International Schools in Bali:

Australian International School 

Bali International School 

Canggu Community School

Sanur Independent School

Asian International School (Bali)

Pelangi Community School 

Around 15 minutes from Seminyak is the Canggu Club, a family-oriented club where expat families can meet like-minded people. A day pass costs approximately IDR 240,000 for adults and IDR 120,000 for children, while membership costs vary depending on the length of subscription. Family packages are also available. The club has a range of facilities including Cubby House Kids Club which caters to children aged 2 to 12 years. Children will be entertained for hours, learning different skills such as reading. The club also provides healthy meals for the children. Meanwhile, parents can enjoy spa treatments and personal training sessions, or simply hang out with other members at the club’s restaurant and bar.

Jalan Canggu Club

JL Pantai Berawa, Banjar Tegal Gundul


Bali 80361, Indonesia 

On the weekends, families may enjoy learning about Balinese history and culture by visiting a local village. It’s a great way for children to be exposed to a mix of traditions and beliefs and also to see a different part of the island.

Watching television and reading a menu in a restaurant can be an easy way to learn and practice the local language, Bahasa Indonesia.

Finding a family doctor and dentist is an important part of getting settled in a new place. Try to avoid clinics where prices are ‘too good to be true’. Normally they are. Be clear on what type of procedure you need and how you want it done.

The BIMC Hospital Dental Centre in Nusa Dua and Kuta has a good reputation and upfront pricing.

BIMC Hospital (Kuta)

Jalan Bypass Ngurah Rai

100 X Kuta 80361, Bali

(+62 361) 761263 

BIMC Hospital (Nusa Dua)

Kawasan BTDC Blok D

Nusa Dua 80363, Bali

(+62 631) 3000 911

For more tips on making the most of your new island home, check out the article ‘moving to Bali‘.

Keepin’ it real with the Balinese

So, are you ready to live in Bali? Here are four  reality-checks to keep in mind:

  1. Remember, heading overseas isn’t like moving to another state. You’re also transitioning into a different culture and set of norms, a new language, an unfamiliar road system and a situation where visiting family and friends back home takes a few hours by plane.
  2. Consider the possible changes to your current budget. How much are you prepared to invest and what are some management strategies if something unexpected were to happen?
  3. Compare the lifestyle you want to the lifestyle you have now. Are you ready for long-term change? Does Bali help you fulfil your goals in a way you need it to (e.g. If you’re a regular traveller, does the move make it more convenient to see more places? Are the type of opportunities you want easily available?)
  4. A big move involves investing a lot of time, money, and mental and emotional energy. It’s a full-time commitment.

Bali has a reputation for its abundance of fumbling backpackers in Bintang singlets, stunning beaches, cheap beer and ability to sweep travellers away from all that is boring and predictable. In fact, some get so swept away that it becomes one endless, life-changing vacation.

Top tips for Bali first timers

Anyone can tell you the best place to score a Bintang singlet or the latest reflective lens Ray Bans. And you can’t go too wrong bargaining for a massage or hair braids when we’re talking about a few measly dollars. But herein lies the real top tips for Bali. A guide comprising of everything I wish I knew when I first stepped onto the island I now call home, all those years ago.

So strap your bum bag across your chest, slip into your reggae-striped sandals, print out your top tips for Bali and get ready to take on the Island of the Gods like a seasoned local.

Top Tip for Bali #1: Arriving, staying, departing

A 30 day Visa on Arrival is available for many international travellers to Bali and will set you back $35 US dollars. Be sure to have your US Dollars ready (or your local equivalent) in cash. If you have forgotten this, do not panic – simply ask an usher to direct you to the counter offering credit card payment. [See Indonesian Immigration Website for all things official. They don’t take Visa misuse lightly, so neither should you].

On the other side of the airport immigration counter, you will find your luggage spilling out onto the carousels. You may be pleasantly surprised to find friendly porters who will grab you a trolley, carry your bags and help you with the heavy lifting as you head through customs. Even if you didn’t ask for this service, remuneration will be expected. If you don’t want to pay, you need to refuse their help.

Accommodation options are varied, and the spectrum ranges from budget surf stays to exorbitant beachfront resorts. Guest houses and losmans are probably the most cost effective option for stays of 30 days or more, but you can also nab yourself a relatively cheap mid-term villa. The quality of your accommodation will reflect what you are prepared to pay.

If you plan to stay a further 30 days, it is best to use an agent to process your extension. An extension will require a passport photo with a red backing (quite possibly the only red tape you may come across during your time here), and should set you back around 800,000 IDR (roughly $80 AUD/USD). For convenience sake, I use Channel One, located at the end of Sunset Road, Seminyak. Eko takes care of all the logistics for you and is available via Facebook messenger for advice. Because let’s face it, you will be far too busy living the dream.

Do not forget to set aside your 200,000 IDR departure tax, for when your time in paradise comes to a devastating end. I usually keep mine tucked into my passport when I first arrive so there is one less thing on my mental “to-do” list.

Always try to play it safe when it comes to departure timing. Allow at least 2 hours from your accommodation in South of Bali to the airport, and an hour extra if you are coming from Ubud. Bali traffic can be unpredictable, at times nightmarishly clogged, and it’s better to be safe than sorry. If you arrive early, there are airport lounges you can pay to access for a feed and a comfy chair to await your flight. Crisis averted.

Choosing where to stay in Bali…

Do your research. The area you choose will decide the type of experience you will enjoy. My basic rule of thumb? The further out from the tourist hub of Kuta you stay, the more peaceful and quiet your trip will be.

Areas like Kuta are great for family holidays with the kids, with direct access to tourist attractions, themed hotels, and central shopping districts. Spread out to Legian and Seminyak for a slightly quieter stay and access to private villas.

Move beyond these spots to Canggu or Uluwatu for rice paddies, losmans and surf breaks; Nusa Dua for water sports and all-inclusive resorts; or right out to Ubud for culture, yoga and peaceful serenity.

Water Sports action at Benoa Tirta Harum, Nusa Dua
Water Sports action at Benoa Tirta Harum, Nusa Dua

Top Tip for Bali #2: “All about the Benjamins baby”

The first matter of business you are likely to want to sort out is getting your money exchanged, or getting to an ATM for access to some Indonesian Rupiahs (IDR). Currency exchange can be found at every turn. I tend to look for one offering a decent rate with no commissions.

The most common denomination is the blue 50,000rp note (roughly $5 AUD/USD) or the red 100,000rp notes (roughly $10 AUD/USD). Try to get some smaller notes too. If store vendors do not have the correct change, your Rupiah may be subsidized by wrapped candies. Now this is an exchange my sweet tooth doesn’t quite mind!

Make sure you do not leave the ATM without your card. Many foreign visitors report leaving the ATM before their card is returned, as the sequence is different to what they are familiar with at home.

In Bali, you receive your money first, your receipt second, and are then prompted to either end your transaction or proceed with a further withdrawal. Unless you proactively end your transaction, the card is not returned. Using an ATM is an old habit for most, so always double check that you leave with your card. It doesn’t hurt to stash away a traveller’s cheque in case you find yourself stuck.

Top Tip for Bali #3: Staying in touch

The great news is that Denpasar airport offers complimentary WIFI. The lines through customs during high season and peak arrival times can be painful, so be sure to log-in to their free network and use your time in line wisely. You should have a good hour or so to spend on Facebook, reminding your friends back home that you’ve arrived in paradise, and they haven’t.

This WIFI access can be a great way to make contact with your driver, if you have connected before via email or Facebook, to give them an idea how long you anticipate you will be, and give them tips on what you are wearing. Bursting out from immigration to be greeted by a crowd of drivers waving pieces of paper can be enough to drive anyone to a Bintang.

Bintang. Bali's remedy for unexpected airport lines, nightmarish traffic, and 30+ degree days.. or just because really.
Bintang. Bali’s remedy for unexpected airport lines, nightmarish traffic, and 30+ degree days..                                     ..or just because really.

It’s not a bad idea to grab yourself a Bali SIM card for your stay. They are cheap as chips and can be a godsend when it comes to connecting with drivers, tour organisers and friends and family back home. Have your driver take you to a local cell store and grab yourself a sim with about 100,000rp (roughly $10AUD) of “Pulsa” (credit).

Side note: If you plan to use your mobile for data (Facebook and the like), you should purchase a data “packet” separately. Again, around 100,000rp for a month of browsing should suffice. Most cafes, restaurants & bars offer high speed Wifi, so you shouldn’t need to access your own too often, it’s just handy for when you are on the move.

Now, you may notice that your phone from home is locked to your network provider. If this is the case, you can either buy yourself a super cheap, basic little Samsung phone, or take your smartphone to the RIMO centre in Denpasar, where jail breaking should cost you no more than around 500,000rp; a worthwhile investment if you plan to be here a month or longer.

XL and Telkomsel are the biggest and best mobile providers in Bali, but you may notice in some areas the coverage isn’t great. Ask the cell shop what the best provider is for coverage in the specific area you will be staying, and connect your mobile to that.

If you use a tablet, select a different network for that Sim card, and you are almost guaranteed to be connected at all times.

Top Tip for Bali #4: Getting Around

Between the airport and your accommodation, pre-arranging a driver it is by far the most convenient, comfortable and cost effective way to travel. Taxis are available, but be warned: they have paid a premium rental for the airport contract, so it is in their interest to try and recoup a premium fee from exhausted, can’t-be-bothered-haggling travellers. A driver can be arranged from back home, through email or Facebook, and will be awaiting your arrival with a cool bottle of water, a friendly face, and a fixed fee.

During your stay, the reputable Bluebird taxis are the best option for short distance trips, for example Kuta to Seminyak.  Always ask for meters to be turned on to avoid unnecessary negotiations at the end of the journey. During peak times or late evenings, some drivers will try to refuse metered trips. In this instance, either barter a fair deal (bare in mind we are looking at a few dollars here and there for the convenience of a timely trip home), or consider scooter hire.

Now if you chose to use a scooter during your stay (generally not recommended unless you ride licensed back home, and generally not covered by insurance unless you are internationally licensed), always ensure you get a helmet with your rental – and wear it. The roads here are congested and the road rules are very loose. Scooters can be hired for around 50,000rp per day (roughly $5 AUD) or around 500,000rp per month (roughly $50 AUD). They can offer a speedy way of getting around, just be sure to drive cautiously, watching for others scooting up and down footpaths to avoid heavy traffic.

I took myself off to a huge grass oval for rounds and rounds of practice before hitting the road. Not a bad idea for first timers.

I can highly recommend central-Legian based operators Intan Car Rental. Headed by a young, tech savvy entrepreneur, Intan will arrange your airport pick-up, communicate with you seamlessly through her Facebook page and can even deliver a hire car or scooter to wherever you are staying. If you are around Legian, pop in to visit “Mama & Papa Bali” (husband & wife team, Wayan & Wayan); Intan’s mother Wayan will make you Bali’s best cup of Kopi (coffee) and her father Wayan will make you laugh. In true Bali fashion, it’s a one stop shop: water, mobile pulsa, some days even petrol or Kites. Head down Gang 3 Brothers No 5, which runs off Jl. Legian.

You can thank me later.

Bali Driver - Intan Hinata
Bali Driver – Intan Hinata

Top Tip for Bali #5: Smart Supplies

Whether you are staying in the cushy comfort of the W hotel, lapping up some villa opulence, settling in for a budget homestay or claiming a top bunk in a surf camp – there are some situations we all need to come prepared for.

To play it safe, stick to bottled water throughout your stay. It is cheap, readily available and the number one way to avoid any nasty bugs. Eco-warriors will be pleased to learn that re-usable stainless steel flasks are now available for purchase throughout Bali. See Bottles For Earth for stockists, and a range of fun designs (a Bintang bottle anyone?).

Bottles For Earth
Bottles For Earth

Refill at your hotel, most restaurants, or purchase a large bottle from a mini-mart & return the plastic container. They make for great souvenir – afterall there is only so many sarongs one can make use of.

Power adaptors make for an easy trip. Try to get one at the airport, with a built-in USB port, so that you can charge your mobile & laptop at once. If you forgot to pack one, most Mini Marts or “Circle K” stores will stock them, or ask your accommodation manager.

Mosquito repellent is your best friend in Bali. I prefer to steer clear of the super toxic, store-bought bug sprays like “Deet”, favouring natural concoctions like the “Begone Bug” by Utama Spice found at eco suppliers such as Bali Buda or Earth Café in Seminyak.

No matter how you chose to lay your head at night, you are bound to come across a public “squat” toilet during your travels. This can be a shock to the system at the best of times. Carry a small antibacterial hand lotion (such as Dettol) and a packet of baby wipes with you and you will feel back to normal in no time.

.. & Top Tip for Bali #6: A bonus “heads up” from a lover of everything Bali

Your trip to Bali will be whatever you chose to make of it.

By all means, recreate your own version of “What really happens in Bali” and get messy, let your hair down, and go home with a “Bali Tattoo” (the dreaded motorbike burn). My first few trips to Bali were probably quite the same (see The 5 Plagues of Bali.. a fun piece all about “those” types).

It wasn’t until I started to delve into the culture and form friendships with the local people that the beauty of Bali really started to unfold for me. If you get an opportunity to attend a ceremony – Grab a Kebaya and go! If you receive an invite to visit a traditional home – thankfully accept and bring a small gift.

Step off the beaten track. Boldly go where no “Bule” (westerner) has gone before. It is here that you will reveal the true beauty of this mystical place, beyond its superficial guise of Bintangs and beanbags.

Who knows? You may very well unravel a little truth of your own, reflected in what you see.

The true beauty of life in Bali
The true beauty of life in Bali

** Now you know the HOW.. if you are still struggling with the WHY, see the Top 10 Reasons to travel to Bali.

From manic markets to swanky boutiques: a comprehensive guide to shopping in Bali

Even if you’re not “planning” to make your Bali trip a shopping bonanza, chances are you will leave with more in your suitcase than when you arrived. Whether you’re just after a couple of cheap souvenirs to take home for the kiddies or you’re seeking some unique designer threads – there is a perfect destination for all discerning shoppers in Bali. The trick is to know your shopping style, and to then find the right destination to match.

The markets

A modern authentic Bali experience – a little rough around the edges perhaps, but chock full of vibrancy and local charm.

If you want to get intimate with the Balinese shopping culture – get thee to a market asap. The markets are a good place for travellers to meet the locals and get to know a bit more about Balinese culture. Pros: A modern authentic Bali experience – a little rough around the edges perhaps, but chock full of vibrancy and local charm. An opportunity to get your bargaining strategy sorted so that a good price is yours for the taking. Cons: Balinese markets can be intense. There is often a lot going on at once, including foot traffic, music and sneaky pedestrian potholes. If you are looking for a relaxing shopping experience, the markets may not be your cup of tea. Here are our market hot spots:

Sukawati Art Market, Jalan Raya Sukawati, Gianyar

The Sukawati Art Market is Bali’s most well-known and long-standing art market. If you are looking for traditional handmade products for your home or as gifts, then this two-story market is where you want to be. It has everything from wooden sculptures and paintings to handicrafts, textiles and accessories. You will find it on the Jalan Raya Sukawati main road in Gianyar.

Sukawati Market stall

Ubud Art Market

The Ubud Art Market is located opposite the Puri Saren Royal Ubud Palace and is open daily. Ubud is well known for its artistry and here you will find everything from silk scarves to baskets, woven goods and clothing such as shirts and sarongs. Known for featuring items of high quality and variety, this colourful and intoxicating market is perfect for finding special mementos – just make sure that you are getting a fair price that works for both you and the seller.


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Department stores

If haggling at the markets for the best price on a Bintang singlet isn’t your idea of a happy shopping experience, perhaps a western-style shopping experience might be more up your alley. Here you will find the at-home comfort of price tags and brands you know and recognise. Pros: Air conditioning and decent public toilet facilities. Cons: Bargaining for a better price is not really appropriate here. Prices may be a little better than they are at home, but don’t expect to pay next to nothing, particularly for imported merchandise. Here are a few department stores you shouldn’t miss in Bali:

Bali Collection, Nusa Dua

If you are looking for some high-end retail therapy, then make your way to the Bali Collection. Set over eight hectares in the same ‘hood as Bali’s best international five-star hotels, the Bali Collection offers luxury fashion brands, exotic souvenir gifts, spa facilities and restaurants. It’s advisable you get changed out of your beach towel and thongs before venturing into this department complex.

Mal Bali Galeria, Kuta

This large shopping complex is located right near the Simpang Dewaruci landmark. This self-proclaimed ‘family mall’ is popular with both locals and tourists. It features the Planet Hollywood Bali restaurant (yes, they still exist), the DFS Galleria Bali duty free shop and the Galeria 21 Cineplex, Bali’s premier cinema complex. The cinema is a great place to kill a few hours before heading off to the airport for an international flight.

Discovery Shopping Mall, Kuta Beach

This three-story shopping destination is one of the largest shopping malls in Bali. Here, you will find a load of recognisable retail brands and food franchises. If you have a hankering for Pizza Hut or a Starbucks coffee, you will find it here. The mall is located on the Jalan Kartika Plaza, but you can also access it from the beach.

Discovery Shopping Mall Entrance

If you are looking for something a bit different or unique to clothe the bod or enhance the home – boutique shopping might be your perfect match.


If you are looking for something in between the massive retail complexes and the heady hustle of the markets, Bali has some great boutiques featuring both local and international designers. If you are looking for something a bit different or unique to clothe the bod or enhance the home – boutique shopping might be your perfect match. Seminyak is well known as Bali’s designer hub. You will find knots of shop fronts on Jalan Laksmana and Jalan Raya Seminyak. Kerobokan, north of Seminyak, has a lot more to offer than the infamous Kerobokan Prison. JI Raya Kerobokan in particular has a great selection of home-wares to explore. Legian offers a bit of a reprieve from the hectic shop fronts of Kuta; try the main Jalan Legian for fashion boutiques and art shops. Don’t be afraid to explore little laneways and streets off the main drag. Some of the best treasures are often found of the beaten track. Pros: Locate something distinctive among the crazy mass-produced tourist market finds. Something that you would actually wear when you return home. Cons: Bargaining is subjective here. There is no harm in trying your luck, but be prepared for a shut down of epic proportions.

Main street shop fronts

This is where you will find boulevard-style shop fronts boasting everything from low-grade designer fakes and pirated DVDs to beachwear and sarong shops. Here, you are pretty much expected to haggle for the best price. A friendly note, however: if a local business is blatantly selling designer knockoffs such as handbags, sunglasses and jeans, you have some room to bargain. A shop that stocks boutique and original stock? Proceed with respect and caution.  Pros: Lots of tourist merchandise and souvenirs if you are looking for those knock off beauties such as Ray Bans, leather goods and anything with the name Bintang emblazoned on it. Bargaining required. Cons: See ‘pros’. We suggest Kuta Square, which offers a bit of everything and is 50 metres from Kuta Beach. The two-way avenue is full of fashion stores and places to sit and grab a bite. Any main city street near the beach or tourist attractions will usually serve you well.

Village shopping

There are a number of villages in Bali that are dedicated to certain arts and crafts that sell locally and export internationally. Here you will get long roads filled with Balinese artistry and handiworks that are often a stop on tourist tours. Pros: If you after that certain something special, then going to an area that specialises in it should skew the odds in your favour. Cons: Seeing streets upon streets of traditional handicrafts can be overwhelming. Here are a few amazing village shopping experiences not to miss:

Celuk Gold And Silversmiths, Celuk Vill

If you are hunting for some unique holiday bling, the main road of Jalan Raya Celuk is lined up with galleries and workshops filled with high quality and intricately designed gold and silver jewelry and Balinese ceremonial adornments. If window-shopping is more your thing, then you can check out how the artisans actually make their wares by having a sticky beak at the production processes.

Tegallalang Handicraft Centre, Ubud

Tegallalang handicraft centre is famous for arts, crafts and curios. Located in the district of the same name just several kilometres north of the main area of Ubud. Numerous shops feature assorted ornaments, jewelry, furniture, and traditional souvenir bits and pieces. If you are looking for stone carvings, then Batubulan Village, situated in west gate of Gianyar Regency, is well and truly worth a visit. Batuan has great paintings and Mas is famous for its woodcarvings.    

handicraft shopping bali

Main photo by carmenandnatasha.