Photo credit: Jean-Marie Hullot
More than 4 million people visited Bali in 2015. The island is no stranger to wide-eyed tourists stepping off of planes at Ngurah Rai International Airport and being taxied away to their resorts near the sea, in artsy Ubud, or one of many other tourist destinations. While experiencing Bali as a full-fledged tourist, snapping photos of the sunset at Kuta Beach and feeding bananas to primates at the Ubud Monkey Forest, is undeniably fun, you'll take more away from your visit if you experience it like a local. These must-follow tips will ensure you dig into the true heart of Bali's street cuisine, everyday life, and the traditions those who live there hold dear.
Trade Your Shorts for a Sarong
Photo credit: savannna-smiles
The first step to traveling like a local in Bali is dressing like one. Of course, many Balinese people dress in jeans and t-shirts as we do in the West, but they never do so when visiting a place of worship or attending a religious ceremony. All Hindu temples on the island require men and women to cover their shoulders and legs above the knee.
Fortunately, Bali is known for its long tradition of batik-making. Batiks are high-quality cloths specially designed, stamped, waxed, and dyed to create brilliant patterns. Find yourself an authentic batik sarong and sash, and wear it to every temple you visit. You'll probably find that sarongs are so comfortable, you'll wear them to stay cool throughout the day as well.
Rent a Motorbike (or Take Moto-Taxis)
Photo credit: D-Stanley
The moment you exit the airport, you'll see motorbikes -- sometimes carrying four or more passengers -- zinging past your vehicle. Traveling by motorbike is more common and more affordable that traveling by car in Bali, and it's not surprising to see motorbikes piled high with construction items, produce, cleaning supplies, and more. You may even find yourself purchasing a hot bowl of bakso (Indonesian meatball soup) or a handmade broom from the back of a motorbike.
In terms of personal transportation, there's no better way to get around than with a motorbike. Bikes can be rented for roughly $5 per day depending on the duration of your stay. However, it's important to rent from a trusted company and understand the rules of the road before taking to the streets.
Attend a Ceremony
Photo credit: Davenbelle
Balinese people celebrate life through daily rituals and religious ceremonies. Their Hindu practices are held dear, and it's an honor to be invited to a ceremony. Spend just a few days in Bali, and you'll see a procession of carefully-dressed locals en route to a ceremony honoring a birth, the numerous stages of a baby's life, puberty, a marriage, death, or another major life event. The friendly and hospitable demeanor of most Balinese people means you'll likely make lasting friendships in just a few days. There's no doubt you should alter your travel schedule to accommodate a ceremony when invited.
Dine at Warungs
Photo credit: Gunawan Kartapranata
Warungs aren't just some of the cheapest places to dine in Bali, they're some of the most authentic and delicious. Warungs range in size from street carts to small stalls and full restaurants with tables and chairs. For right around $1 or $2, you can dine on authentic Nasi goreng (fried rice with vegetables), Nasi campur (rice with small portions of other meats, seafood, vegetables, eggs, etc.), and a number of other traditional Indonesian dishes. When not at home, these are the places where the locals eat, and you'll find that the best come with a long line of people waiting to place an order.
Take Your Time
Photo credit: Ev Röhm
Time moves so slow in Bali there's actually a term for it. Bali time, commonly known as rubber time, refers to the tardiness and flexibility of time that is widely accepted among Balinese people. It's not uncommon for a Balinese person to arrive late to a meeting, and they'll likely expect the same of you. In fact, it's considered rude to put pressure on someone to meet a certain time constraint. It's hard for many Westerners to grasp at first, but slow down, relax, and you'll be experience Bali like a local in no time.