Do’s and Don’ts in Bali | Solo Female Travel
Bali is an exotic island. There is something about it that attracts several tourists to its folds every year. From stunning beaches to beautiful religious sites, from delicious food to gorgeous rice terraces, from breathtaking waterfalls to adventure activities, there is something for every solo traveller out there. When a travel destination offers so much in a single package, you would want to experience everything, right?
The internet can sometimes be a scary place. There is so much information about how certain rules and regulations are to be strictly followed in Bali. And this can make some of us a little worried before we plan on visiting Bali. Although not every piece of information on the internet is true, some of it is.
But having travelled to Bali myself a couple of times, I can say that the rules are quite simple and can be easily followed. The Balinese people are very warm and are always happy to cater to the visitors on their land, and it is only polite not to insult their culture. A little consideration of the Balinese culture will go a long way!
Considering the amount of information available on the do’s and don’ts in Bali, it can get a little confusing for you to go through everything. This is why I have listed down all the possible do’s and don’ts that the island has and expects its visitors to follow.
Do: Dress appropriately
This one goes without saying. You are expected to wear decent enough clothes in public. However, if you are on the beach, you can walk around in your swimwear or bikinis. But once outside, you have to cover yourself up.
I can understand that Bali is an island, and the climate is mostly hot, but the dominant religion is Hinduism, and things can get a little conservative in some areas.
When I visited Bali on my first ever solo trip, I saw a lot of women walking around in public places in their bikini tops and shorts. Even though I saw this majorly in areas around the beach, it was still frowned upon.
Don’t: Rent a two-wheeled vehicle if you do not know how to ride
Over the last few years, Bali’s population has increased drastically. And it’s not only the increase in the population of the locals but also the number of tourists Bali sees each year. With an increase in population comes congested roads and traffic.
So if you have never ridden a two-wheeled vehicle before or are uncomfortable riding one, avoid renting it. Instead, you can opt for taxis and cabs. And these are pretty cheap in Bali.
Also, if you decide to go ahead with your decision to rent a two-wheeled vehicle, always keep your helmet on. Another thing to consider here is keeping your temper in check. When I visited Bali, I saw that people cut each other off on the road most times. So I would suggest you ride your vehicle carefully on the roads of Bali.
Do: Cover yourself up at religious sites
Wearing appropriate clothes in public is one thing and covering yourself up in temples, and other sacred sites is another. The difference here lies in the fact that you are free to wear whatever you want in public places (read appropriate clothes). You can wear jeans, shorts or tank tops when you are in public.
However, the rules are different when it comes to religious sites. You cannot enter a temple or a sacred site in shorts. In some cases, you might even be asked to cover your head up with a scarf or shawl. If you do end up wearing shorts or sleeveless tops, you can wear a sarong over it to cover yourself up. Some temples provide sarongs at the entrance to women who are in inappropriate clothing. But I would suggest you don’t rely on this and always carry a sarong and scarf or shawl in your handbag/backpack.
Don’t: Contribute to the litter problem
Even though Bali has been working on dealing with the waste on the island, places like gutters, streets, and oceans are still full of garbage and plastic. You can avoid contributing to the litter problem by making use of reusable water bottles, carrying a cloth shopping bag with you, and refusing to accept plastic products such as straws or cups at restaurants and cafes.
Check out my blog on Top things to do alone in Bali.
Do: Leave your shoes outside wherever needed
It is considered a bad manner to keep your shoes on while entering certain places. This rule is strictly followed when it comes to visiting the locals’ houses as well. Although the chances of a tourist being invited to a local’s house are fairly low, it would not hurt to keep this rule in mind.
Apart from people’s houses, the rule is followed by many restaurants and cafes as well. When you roam around on the streets of Bali, you might notice a fair number of restaurants and cafes following this. You will see a designated area for shoes and slippers outside of these places.
For this rule, I would suggest you wear footwear that can be easily worn and taken off. Sandals, flip-flops, or slip-on shoes can work really well in such situations!
Don’t: Use your left hand
After travelling solo to several countries, I realised this is one of the many common rules that most countries have. It can sound a little weird to some of you, but using your left hand for doing certain things, such as giving or receiving money, is considered disrespectful. Even having food with the left hand is kind of frowned upon.
But if you make an effort to follow their customs, the locals will appreciate it and help you in any way possible if needed.
When I visited Bali on my first solo trip, I made the mistake of using my left hand to give cash at a restaurant. I had my wallet in my right hand, and I was in a hurry, so I ended up using my left hand to give out the cash. The guy at the cashier was very sweet and explained to me why I should not use my left hand to give or receive cash.
So, on my second solo trip to Bali, I made sure I specifically followed this one, thanks to the cashier who taught me in the most polite manner during my first solo trip!
Do: Make sure you learn basic Balinese words
In Bali, two major languages are spoken. One is the Indonesian Bahasa, and the other is the local Balinese. Many tourists focus on learning Bahasa rather than Balinese as it allows them to converse with people from other places of Indonesia too. But if you do not have plans of exploring the rest of Indonesia, you can go ahead and learn a few basic Balinese words and phrases.
Now, I understand that learning a whole new language in a few weeks for a solo trip that will last a maximum of 10 days may not sound doable. But learning basic Balinese words such as ‘hello,’ ‘I am sorry,’ ‘thank you,’ or ‘you are welcome’ is definitely doable. You are sure to impress the locals with your sincere effort and interest. Also, if you still feel uncomfortable speaking in Balinese, it is okay. Bali is a tourist destination, and most of the locals would try and make an effort to speak in English even if they’re not completely fluent in it.
To make things easier for you, I have mentioned the Balinese words for those above four English words.
- Hello – Swastyastu
- I am sorry – Ampura
- Thank you – Suksma
- You are welcome – Rahajeng rauh
For more basic Balinese words and phrases, check out journeyingtheglobe.com.
Don’t: Expect Western standards
When you travel to a foreign country, you may have certain expectations regarding customer service at restaurants or hotels or service delivery. But, when you visit Bali, it would be better if you leave all these expectations behind. Bali runs on an ‘island time’ where things don’t work out the way they do in other Western countries.
For instance, when I visited a restaurant in Bali, I was rarely checked upon after my meal was served. Also, I had to ask for the bill once my meal was over. However, these things happened only at one restaurant, so I cannot speak for every restaurant out there in Bali. But this is how things may seem when you visit the island.
If you want to have a peaceful stay in Bali, do not have any western expectations and enjoy what the island has to offer you!
Do: Try out the local Arak
Even though Bali is quite a budget-friendly travel destination and most of the things you get here are cheap, alcoholic beverages can get a little heavy on the pocket. Even the cheapest bottle of wine in most restaurants in Bali will cost you about $11 or more. A friend of mine mentioned that an imported bottle of wine in the US costs about $8 and costs around $20 or more in Bali! Such a scam, right?
So instead, you can try the local Arak. It is a distilled drink made up of rice or coconut. Since the local Arak is 40 to 60 percent proof, it is best to have it either with juice or soda. In most restaurants in Bali, the local Arak mixed with honey is a common drink.
During my solo trip to Bali, I tried out the local Arak to see what the hype was about. And honestly, it tasted quite good compared to most of the alcoholic beverages!
Here is a thing you need to keep in mind while trying out the local Arak. Always have it at a reputable place, such as a restaurant. Many scams have happened on the streets of Bali, where local vendors sell the local Arak mixed with rubbing alcohol.
Don’t: Touch people’s heads
Yes, I know what you are thinking after reading this. But the Balinese consider the head to be the most sacred part of the body. An action such as ruffling a child’s hair may be considered impolite. You should avoid doing it even in a playful manner.
Although I did not experience any such incident on my Bali trip, I spoke to a few locals there who explained how the head is considered the most sacred part of the body. And why touching someone else’s head even in a playful manner is considered impolite. Strange, but true.
Do: Look both sides while crossing the roads
After visiting Bali a couple of times, I can say that the roads of Bali are not safe, even for pedestrians in some cases. I saw motorbikers riding on the pedestrian sidewalks as well. To ensure you are safe and do not end up mangled on the road on your solo trip, I would suggest you look at both sides before crossing the roads. And also while walking on pedestrian sidewalks.
Don’t: Overthink about the rules that you see on internet
I know it is natural to look for too much information online before any solo trip. But sometimes, when we overdo it, we might end up losing our peace of mind and begin to overthink a lot. So keep it cool and be relaxed. It’s not like you’re going to get jailed for eating with your left hand or wearing your shoes to a cafe. Just go with the flow and make your best memories out of your solo trip.
Read my blog to know if solo travel is safe for women.
For a quick recap, I have tabulated the do’s and don’ts below so that you can remember them easily for your next solo trip to Bali.
Do's in Bali
Don'ts in Bali
Rent a two-wheeled vehicle if you do not know how to ride
Cover yourself up at religious places
Contribute to the litter problem
Leave your shoes outside whenever needed
Use your left hand
Learn a few basic Balinese words and phrases
Expect Western Standards
Try out the local Arak
Touch people's heads
Look both sides while crossing the roads
Overthink about the rules you see on internet
Now that you know all the do’s and don’ts in Bali, you are all set to have one of the most amazing experiences of your life. It might seem like Bali has a lot of rules and regulations for tourists and foreigners, but trust me, it’s not. All you need to do is keep these simple points in mind and have a great time. The people of Bali are extremely warm, so even if you do end up doing something impolite, they will surely help you out. So stay safe and enjoy your solo trip, ladies!
An introverted blogger who is looking to make unforgettable solo travel memories with one short life.