Everything you need to know before going to Denpasar, Bali
From its stunning beaches to ancient temples, Bali's capital city has a lot to offer. Here’s what you need to know before you visit.
- November 2019
Bali’s capital city Denpasar is the gateway to the 20,000 exotic temples, white-sand beaches and glittering nightlife that attracts millions of people to this Indonesian island every year. But it's also home to the city’s most important Hindu temple Pura Jagatnatha, the calming ocean waters of Sanur beach, and the art, culture and history found in the Bali Provincial Public Museum.
And when not sight-seeing the intricately carved Bajra Sandhi Monument or haggling for bargains at the multi-level Badung Market, there’s always plenty of secret family recipes to try down on the street to make your stay even more memorable.
But before you go, there are some things you need to know...
Perhaps the most hassle-free way of arriving at your accommodation from the airport is by organising a pick-up through your hotel. Otherwise, taxis wait outside the Arrivals Hall where you can choose either a metered fare or one with a fixed rate. Ask around for the best deal, and always agree on a price before stepping inside a cab with a fixed rate. From the airport, it takes about 30 minutes to get to downtown Denpasar.
A cheaper option for less than one Australian dollar (Rp 9,6668) is the Trans Sarbagita public shuttle bus, which runs on three routes: from the North (Gianyar) with a stop at Batubulan to the South (Badung) with a stop at Gwk (Garuda Wisnu Kencana).Their most western stop is Ungasan 1 (Badung) and the most eastern stop is Batubulan (Gianyar).
The government has set the standard taxi prices for Bali; however, not all drivers comply and some will take you on an indirect route and/or overcharge. The Bluebird taxi company has the best reputation. But drivers are known to make their cars look almost identical to Bluebird in order to scam passengers. So go online to check out the Bluebird logo then book one by phoning (0361) 701111. The flag fall has been set at 7.000 (.72 AUD) and it’s about another 6.500 (.67 AUD) per kilometre, as per government regulations in Denpasar. Track your location with Google Maps, and it’s always a good idea to text the details, including the photo of the cab to someone you know before leaving.
If you’re more of an Uber person, then download the Balinese-versions of the ride-sharing app called Grab or GoJek to order a local car, motorbike, scooter or food delivery. Or hire a local car and driver, prices start around $60 AUD for one day.
Australia, New Zealand, Japan and Vietnam are among the 169 countries granted a visa-free visit for a non work-related stay of up to 30 days. Your passport must be valid for at least six months from the date of arrival in Bali and you need a return ticket and/or travel itinerary on hand. For each day you overstay, you’ll pay a fine of 1,000,000 (about AUD$103) and could be blacklisted from re-entering the country.
The Indonesian Rupiah is the money of Denpasar, written as IDR for the currency code and Rp for the symbol. It's divided into 100 sen which is similar to how the cent relates to the Australian dollar. Only use Bank of Indonesia-authorised money changers which are recognisable by the green Pedagang Valuta Asing Berizin (PVA Berizin) sticker, or you could be shortchanged. Plenty of ATMS are available but be wary of your surroundings and your bank’s fees before withdrawing from the machines. Carry cash securely in a money belt for those smaller purchases, as many operators in Denpasar will only accept cold, hard rupiah. But many high-end shops, hotels and expensive restaurants accept credit cards with about a 3 per cent surcharge.
The flavours of Bali rise in the steam from carts selling street food, and everywhere you look there are warungs - small family-owned hole-in-the wall eateries that sell traditional favourites such as spit-roasted suckling pig called babi guling or local sweets like the coconut and banana pisang rai.
Stay hydrated with sealed bottles of water, as H2O from the tap is known to cause ‘Bali belly’, otherwise called travellers’ diarrhoea. And avoid drinking the local bootleg alcohol called arak which, if not distilled properly, can cause blindness, coma or death due to the release of methanol. Instead, if you’re over the legal drinking age of 21, play it safe with the iconic Bintang lager which is locally made by Heineken. Or try an Insta-worthy cup of the world’s most expensive coffee called kopi luwak, also known as Civet Cat Coffee (English: cat poo coffee). A single cup of brew, after the rinsed and dried beans have been eaten, digested and defecated by the Asian palm civet, can cost up more than AUD $100.
Bahasa Indonesian is the most commonly spoken language across the more than 6,000 inhabited Indonesian islands. The second most popular language in Bali is Balinese. But as Denpasar is also a major tourist destination, many locals can speak English.
Though, it's always good to know a few Bahasa Indonesian words:
Hello - Hai
Yes - Lya
No - Tidak
Excuse me - Permisi
What is this? – Apa ini?
Thank you - Terima kasih
You’re welcome – Sama-sama
Although Indonesia is a very conservative Muslim country, Denpasar is in Hindu-majority Bali so you can be more relaxed with your street style. But avoid offending the locals by only wearing bikinis or speedos in the water and not while walking the streets of downtown or neighbourhood Denpasar. Pack light natural fibre fabrics such as cotton and linen to help your skin breathe and keep cool in the heat of the tropical weather.
Visitors to sacred sites and ancient temples are required to cover up, so women should pack a maxi dress with a shawl while men should at least wear long shorts with a loose collared shirt.
Customs and etiquette
As with most South East Asian cultures, the left hand is considered dirty so always use your right, or both hands, to give items to people. Never touch the head of a Balinese, as this is considered a very sacred part of the body. Don’t point at people, and never show the soles of your feet, as the Balinese find these gestures very offensive.
Losing your temper is known as ‘losing face’ and is highly frowned upon, which could result in you not being offered much help by the Balinese. And standing akimbo, with your hands on your hips and feet apart, is a sign of aggression. Lastly, always remove your shoes before entering someone’s home.
Year-round temperatures in Denpasar remain around the 30 degrees Celsius mark, with only two marked seasons: wet and dry. Take an umbrella and boots to waterproof yourself from the November to March rains then switch them for a wide-brimmed hat and SPF 50 sunscreen, necessary for flip-flopping through those drier May to October months.
Download the Wiman app to find and connect to one of the thousands of free Wi-Fi hotspots located throughout Bali. But for a more reliable network connection, rent a pocket Wi-Fi which you can book online then pick up and drop off at the airport. Or, if you have an unlocked phone, buy a local SIM card. The three major Internet Service Providers (ISPs) with the best coverage are Telkomsel, XL Aviata and Smartfren. Just remember to disable data roaming on your phone to prevent bill shock when you arrive home.
Australians travelling to Bali will need a plug adapter to convert their three-pin appliances into the standard two-pin type C/F sockets used throughout Bali (and also Europe). But Australians will have no problem with the voltage as both countries run on 230V and 50Hz