Bali is an island province belonging to one of the most visited countries in Asia, Indonesia. With charm and ease, Bali provokes images of relaxing on the beach, practicing yoga at sunset, and possibly, sipping a fruity, tropical cocktail in the evening listening to the waves crash ashore.
While easy-going attitudes and light smiles are a main attraction for visitors, the history and culture of the province makes it all the more intriguing to travel within. A far cry from Western society, get used to seeing motorbike taxis zooming in and out of the lines, to avoid car traffic. Trust them, mostly, because most have been navigating the city since they were young.
When in Bali, have an acceptance to live like the Balinese. It is going to give you the best, most stress-free, expansive experience. Isn’t that what traveling is all about?
Bahasa Bali, Bahasa Indonesia, English
Important dates in Bali
While Bali does follow many holidays and dates of its mother country, Indonesia, there are specific dates most recognized in this particular province.
- Nyepi: This day of Silence is the Balinese New Year, when most shops and roads are closed, everyone stays inside, meditating and praying.
- Ogoh-Ogoh: This is a ceremonial parade that takes place on the eve of Nyepi, wherein huge demon puppets are marched to the streets, to chase out demons and cleanse the energy for the new year.
About 83% of Balinese are Hindu. Balinese Hinduism is a local variation of Hinduism, including rituals for ancestors and belief in Buddhist saints. Balinese Hinduism believes in three realms: one where the gods dwell, one where the humans dwell and one where the demon spirits dwell.
The Balinese practice beautiful ceremonies to commemorate the phases of life.
Good to know
The best way to get around Bali cities is by motorbike. They are cheap to rent and necessary to navigate the bottleneck traffic in town. If you are not confident driving a motorbike, there are drivers on the streets with Taxi signs who can take you where you need to go, the motorbike taxis will be much cheaper and faster than the car taxis.
Culture and Etiquette in Bali
The morality of bargaining: Bargaining is woven into the culture of the Balinese people. Unless you are visiting an upscale boutique where there are pricetags, goods are meant to be bargained for. On one hand, get the best price you can, and on the other, respect that this is the mode of living for these artists so feel good to contribute to their craft and sustenance. Meaning, just because you can get something for dirt cheap doesn’t mean you should.
Dress: Ubud is considered a relatively conservative town, with deep religious beliefs. Women traditionally cover from shoulders to knees, but as tourism has grown, the locals have become more tolerant of other ways to dress. Even so, it is best to show respect toward local customs and dress modestly. It is not uncommon to see yogis walk around town in their yoga pants, but this should be kept to a minimum.
Photography: Yes, there are many gorgeous frames to be shot in Ubud. No, that doesn’t mean you can take any photo you want. Some photos to avoid: Don’t do yoga poses in front of temples, these are sacred spaces used for ceremonies, not just a backdrop. Ask before taking photos with people in them and any photos in temples. Avoid flash when possible.
Temple Etiquette: When visiting any of the temples, it is so important to show the utmost respect for the Balinese sacred space. In the temples, it is required to cover shoulders and wear a sarong. Leave shoes at the entrance with the others. Be sure to ask if photography is allowed, there are many temples where it is not.
Tipping: Most restaurants include service charge. Check the receipt or ask your server. At hotels if you would like to tip, 10,000-20,000rp is good.
Gestures: Use your right hand to exchange money or goods. Don’t touch anyone’s head (not that you would, but don’t) because it is considered sacred. Also, avoid pointing and try not to point your feet in any direction, opting to keep them either on the floor or tucked in.