Bali is the kind of place that draws travelers back again and again, but there’s always a first time for everyone. For those who are about to begin your coliving journey on the Island of the Gods, read on for everything you need to know to make your transition into tropical life simpler and smoother. (If you’re yet to wrap your head around the concept of coliving, first take a look at our “What is coliving?” guide.)
Just one of Indonesia’s 17,000 islands, for the past century Bali has enticed far more travelers than any other in this sprawling archipelago. It lies to the east of Java, the world’s most densely populated island which is home to the national capital Jakarta, and to the west of Lombok. As well as mainland Bali, three small islands off the southeast coast, Nusa Lembongan, Nusa Ceningan, and Nusa Penida are also part of the provice. Bali uses Central Indonesian Time (WITA).
Bali’s landscapes are extremely diverse, which is one of the reasons it lures so many travelers and why many end up staying. White sand beaches and dramatic limestone cliffs in the south stretch up to black sand bays in the north. The central highlands offer breathtaking views over forest-fringed lakes and fragrant tapestries of agricultural land. On a clear dawn, Bali’s tallest and most sacred volcano, Mount Agung, can be seen from almost anywhere on the eastern side of the island. Over millions of years, ash from its eruptions has created some of the world’s most fertile soils, which nourish Bali’s rice fields, jungles and river valleys, and crops such as coffee, cloves and cocoa.
The province is made up of eight regencies (kabupaten in Indonesian) and one capital city (kota), Denpasar. Our Canggu coliving and coworking locations are in Badung regency, while our Ubud coliving and coworking locations are in Gianyar regency.
Bali’s is home to just under 4.4 million people, while the entire nation is home to 276.4 million — making Indonesia the world’s fourth most populous country.
Just over half of Bali’s economy is drawn from tourism, while agriculture and fisheries are the other dominant industries. Bali’s tourism sector was severely impacted by the pandemic but it is now well on its way to recovery. (If you’re interested to learn more about how the island was affected by Covid-19, see our post “How Has Bali Changed During the Pandemic?”)
While Indonesia is the world’s most populous Muslim-majority nation, Bali is unique as it is the country’s only Hindu-majority province, with just under 90% of the population identifying as Balinese Hindu. The Hindusim practiced in Bali is distinct from that in India, and incorpotares local animism and ancestor workship, and is also entwined with Buddhist beliefs. This is why, since the 1970s, it has been known as the Island of the Gods.
Along with its awe-inspiring natural environment, the rich and vibrant culture of Bali is also what draws travelers to the island. Almost everywhere you look you’ll find elements of Balinese Hindusim, from the daily offerings to the gods and ancestors in homes and workplaces, to the thousands of moss-speckled, timeworn temples. If you spend more than a week on the island it’s likely you’ll witness a ceremonial procession, involving Balinese walking through the streets in traditional clothing, playing traditional instruments and carrying large offerings. If you ever get stuck in “ceremony traffic,” just breathe it all in and enjoy the colorful sights and sounds. Generally, Balinese people won’t mind if you take photos too.
The currency of Indonesia is Rupiah. The currency code is IDR, and the currency symbol is Rp. ATMs accepting Visa/Mastercard and money changers are available at the airport and abundant in tourist centers such as Canggu and Ubud, where our coliving and coworking locations are.
Although Bali has plenty of supermarkets offering reasonably-priced imported goods (Pepito, Popular Market, Grand Lucky), as well as dozens of well-stocked chemists (Guardian, Watsons, Kimia Farma), there are some essential items that are far cheaper to bring with you. Choices for sunscreen and tampons are limited and quite expensive, so best to stock up on your favorite brand and pack it in your suitcase.
The Indonesian government introduced a “tourist SIM card” in early 2018, which is the only type of local SIM that will operate in smartphones purchased outside the country and is valid for 30 days. We recommend Telkomsel, which is Indonesia’s leading cell provider operating in 98% of the country. You can save a significant amount by pre-registering for one here then collecting it from a Telkomsel stall at the airport. (Here’s a step-by-step guide.)
If you’re staying at one of our colive locations in Ubud or Canggu, our team can happily arrange for a driver to meet you at the international arrivals gate (simply email us with your flight details). If you opt to arrange transport at the airport, be ready to be bombarded by offers from dozens of drivers and companies offering their services.
Gojek and Grab are the market leaders in Indonesia for ride hailing and food delivery apps, but due to the dominance of local offline drivers at the airport, we don’t recommend trying to order one in the area.
As most Balinese own a scooter or car, public transport isn’t a popular mode of travel on the island. However, a new public bus system, called Teman Bus, was introduced in 2020, and the tall, narrow buses are now a regular feature on the island’s main southern roads. You can check the website for routes, but information is only available in Indonesian.
Along with the major supermarkets, Bali is also home to thousands of minimarts where you can buy basic food, beverage, medicinal, and personal hygiene products. The market leaders are Indomaret, Circle K, and M Mart.
Everything you’ve heard about Balinese people being extremely friendly is true. Their collectivist society and over a century of tourism have led to a sense of hospitality that is warm, welcoming and curious. On your way to a colive location, don’t be surprised if your driver asks where you are from, how long you’ll be staying on the island, and where you plan to visit. You might even receive more personal questions such as whether you’re married or have children — this is all just part of the friendly Balinese welcome.
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