About Bali Island

Bali is one of over 17,000 islands in the Indonesian archipelago and is located just over 2 kilometers from the eastern tip of the island of Java and west of the island of Lombok. Bali is located at 8°25′23″S 115°14′55″E the western most of the Lesser Sunda Islands. It is one of the country's 33 provinces with the provincial capital at Denpasar towards the south of the island. With a population recorded as 3,151,000 in 2005, the island is home to the vast majority of Indonesia's Hindu with 93.18% of Bali's population adheres to Balinese Hinduism. It is also the largest tourist destination in the country and is renowned for its highly developed arts, including dance, sculpture, painting, leather, metalworking and music. The island is approximately 144 kilometers from east to west and 80 kilometers north to south and varied landscape of hills and mountains, rugged coastlines and sandy beaches, lush rice terraces and barren volcanic hillsides provide a picturesque backdrop to the colorful and deeply spiritual culture of this 'Island of The Gods'.

One of the world’s most popular island destinations and one which consistently wins travel awards, Bali have something to offer for a very broad market of visitors from young back-packers right through to the super-rich. The word paradise is used a lot in Bali and not without reason. The combination of friendly, hospitable people, a magnificently visual culture infused with spirituality and (not least) spectacular beaches with great surfing and diving have made Bali Indonesia's unparalleled number one tourist attraction. Eighty percent of international visitors to Indonesia visit Bali and Bali alone. Bali is a wonderful destination with something for everyone, and though heavily traveled, it is still easy to find some peace and quiet, if you like.

History

Bali was inhabited by Austronesian peoples by about 2000 BC who migrated originally from Taiwan through Maritime Southeast Asia. Culturally and linguistically, the Balinese are thus closely related to the peoples of the Indonesian archipelago, the Philippines, and Oceania. Stone tools dating from this time have been found near the village of Cekik in the island's west. Balinese culture was strongly influenced by Indian and Chinese, and particularly Hindu culture, in a process beginning around the 1st century AD. The name Bali Dwipa has been discovered from various inscriptions, including the Blanjong charter issued by Sri Kesari Warmadewa in 913 AD and mentioning Walidwipa. It was during this time that the complex irrigation system subak was developed to grow rice. Some religious and cultural traditions still in existence today can be traced back to this period. Hindus arrived on 100 BC in Bali, but the unique culture which is so apparent to any current day visitor to Bali hails largely from neighboring Java with some influence from Bali's distant animist past. The Javanese Majapahit Empire rule over Bali became complete in the 14th century when Gajah Mada, Prime Minister of the Javanese king, defeated the Balinese king at Bedulu. The rule of the Majapahit Empire marks the strong influx of Javanese culture into Bali, most of all in architecture, dance, painting, sculpture and the wayang puppet theatre. All of this is still very apparent today. The very few Balinese who did not adopt this Javanese Hindu culture are known today as the Bali Aga (Original Balinese) and still live in the isolated villages of Tenganan near Candidasa and Trunyan on the remote eastern shore of Lake Batur at Kintamani. The rise of Islam in the Indonesian archipelago the Majapahit Empire in Java fell and Bali became independent at the end of the 15th or beginning of the 16th century. The Javanese aristocracy found refuge in Bali bringing an even stronger influx of Hindu arts, literature and religion.

Despite Dutch demands for surrender, an estimated 4,000 Balinese marched to their death against the invaders. In 1908, a similar massacre occurred in the face of a Dutch assault in Klungkung. Afterwards the Dutch governors were able to exercise little influence over the island and local control over religion and culture generally remained intact. Dutch rule over Bali had come later and was never as well established as in other parts of Indonesia such as Java and Maluku. Imperial Japan occupied Bali during World War II during which time a Balinese military officer, Gusti Ngurah Rai, formed a Balinese 'freedom army'. In the 1930s, anthropologists Margaret Mead and Gregory Bateson, and artists Miguel Covarrubias and Walter Spies, and musicologist Colin McPhee created a western image of Bali as "an enchanted land of aesthetes at peace with themselves and nature", and western tourism first developed on the island. Following Japan's Pacific surrender in August 1945, the Dutch promptly returned to Indonesia, including Bali, immediately to reinstate their pre-war colonial administration. This was resisted by the Balinese rebels now using Japanese weapons. On 20 November 1946, the Battle of Marga was fought in Tabanan in central Bali. Colonel I Gusti Ngurah Rai, by then 29 years old, finally rallied his forces in east Bali at Marga Rana, where they made a suicide attack on the heavily armed Dutch. The Balinese battalion was entirely wiped out, breaking the last thread of Balinese military resistance. In 1946 the Dutch constituted Bali as one of the 13 administrative districts of the newly-proclaimed Republic of East Indonesia, a rival state to the Republic of Indonesia which was proclaimed and headed by Sukarno and Hatta. Bali was included in the "Republic of the United States of Indonesia" when the Netherlands recognized Indonesian independence on 29 December 1949. The 1963 eruption of Mount Agung killed thousands, created economic havoc and forced many displaced Balinese to be transmigrated to other parts of Indonesia. Mirroring the widening of social divisions across Indonesia in the 1950s and early 1960s, Bali saw conflict between supporters of the traditional caste system, and those rejecting these traditional values. Divided among a number of ruling rajas, occasionally batting off invaders from now Islamic Java to the west and making forays to conquer Lombok to the east, the north of the island was finally captured by the Dutch in a series of brutal wars from 1846 to 1849. Southern Bali was not conquered until 1906 and eastern Bali did not surrender until 1908. In both 1906 and 1908, many Balinese chose death over disgrace and fought en masse until the bitter end, often walking straight into Dutch cannons and gunfire. This manner of suicidal fighting to the death is known as puputan. Victory was bittersweet as the images of the puputan highly tarnished the Dutch in the international community. Perhaps to make up for this, the Dutch did not make the Balinese enter into a forced cultivation system as hadhappened in Java and instead tried to promote Balinese culture through their policy of Baliseering or the "Balinisation of Bali".

Culture

Bali is a pocket of Hindu religion and culture in a part of Moeslem majority in Indonesia. Every aspect of Balinese life is suffused with religion, but the most visible signs are the tiny offerings found in every Balinese house, work place, restaurant, souvenir stall and airport check-in desk. These leaf trays are made daily and can contain an enormous range offering items: flowers, glutinous rice, cookies, salt and even cigarettes and coffee. They are set out with burning incense sticks and sprinkled with holy water no less then three times a day, before every meal. Balinese dance and music are also famous and a major attraction for visitors. As on neighboring Java, the gamelan orchestra and wayang kulit shadow puppet theatre predominate. Dances are extremely visual and dramatic and the most famous include:


  • Barong Dance a ritual dances depicting the fight between good and evil, with performers wearing fearsome lion-like masks. This dance is often staged specifically for tourists as it is one of the most visually spectacular and the storyline is relatively easy to follow.
  • Kecak Dance a spectacular dance which is a tale of combating dark magic and exorcising the evil spirits aligned with the witch-queen Rangda. The dance actually invented in the 1930s by resident German artist Walter Spies for a movie but a spectacle nonetheless, with up to 250 dancers in concentric circles chanting "cak cak", while a performer in the centre acts out a spiritual dance.
  • Legong Dance perhaps the most famous and feted of all Balinese dances. Performed by young girls, this is a dance of divine nymphs hailing from 12th century Java.

Festival

Nyepi is the day of absolute silence, very special day to the Balinese as this is the day that they have to fool all evil spirits that no one is actually on Bali hence the need for silence. If this can be achieved, then it is believed that the evil spirits will go looking elsewhere for their prey and leave Bali Island alone for another year. Balinese people are very religious and life is full of ritual, Nyepi is one of the most important days in their calendar. Nyepi also serves to remind the Balinese of the need for tolerance and understanding in their everyday life. In fact, Hinduism on Bali is unique because it is woven into and around the original Balinese animistic religion. The two now have become one for the Balinese - a true sign of tolerance and acceptance. Nyepi or the Hindu New Year is usually in March or April. Also known as the day of absolute silence, absolutely everything on the island is shut down and tourists are confined to their hotels. If you are in Bali in the days preceding Nyepi, you will see amazing colorful giants (Ogoh Ogoh) being created by every banjar. On the eve of Nyepi, the Ogoh Ogoh is paraded through the streets, an amazing sight which is not to be missed.


There are an estimated 20,000 temples (pura) on the island, each of which holds festivals (odalan) at least twice yearly. With many other auspicious days throughout the year there are always festivities going on. The large island-wide festivals are determined by two local calendars. The 210-day wuku or Pawukon calendar is completely out of sync with the western calendar, meaning that it rotates wildly throughout the year. The lunar saka (caka) calendar roughly follows the western year. Galungan is a ten day festival which comes around every 210 days and celebrates the death of the tyrant Mayadenawa. Gods and ancestors visit earth and are greeted with gift-laden bamboo poles called penjor lining the streets. The last day of the festival is known as Kuningan.

Climate

Day time temperatures are pleasant varying between 20 and 33 degrees Celsius or 68 to 93 degrees Fahrenheit year-round. On December to March, the west monsoon can bring heavy showers and high humidity, but days are still often sunny with the rains starting in the late afternoon or evening and passing quickly. From June to September the humidity is low and it can be quite cool in the evenings. At this time of the year there is hardly any rain in the lowland coastal areas. Raining across Bali you can often enjoy sunny days on the Bukit Peninsula which recieves far less rain than any other part of the island. On the other hand, in central Bali and in the mountains you should expect cloudy skies and showers throughout the year. At higher elevations such as Bedugul or Kintamani it gets distinctly chilly and you will need either a sweater or jacket after the sun sets. Important consideration is the tourist season, as Bali can get very crowded in July and August and again at Christmas and New Year. Australians also visit during school holidays in early April, late June and late September, while domestic tourists from elsewhere in Indonesia visit during national holidays. Outside these peak seasons, Bali can be surprisingly quiet.

Time

Bali is in the UTC +8 time zone also known in Indonesia as WITA = Waktu Indonesia Tengah, same as Western Australia, Kuala Lumpur, Singapore and Hong Kong, one hour ahead of Jakarta.

Electricity

Electricity is supplied at 220V 50Hz. Outlets are the European standard CEE-7/7 "Schukostecker" or "Schuko" or the compatible, but non-grounded, CEE-7/16 "Europlug" types. Generally speaking, U.S. and Canadian travelers should pack a voltage changing adapter for these outlets, if they plan to use North American electrical equipment, although a lot of electronics with power adapters will work on 220 volts, check your equipment first.

Geography

The island of Bali lies 3.2 km (2 mi) east of Java, and is approximately 8 degrees south of the equator. East to west, the island is approximately 153 km (95 mi) wide and spans approximately 112 km (69 mi) north to south; its land area is 5,632 km². The highest point is Mount Agung at 3,142 m (10,308 feet) high, an active volcano that last erupted in March 1963. Mountains range from centre to the eastern side, with Mount Agung the easternmost peak. Mount Batur (1,717 m) is also still active; an eruption 30,000 years ago was one of the largest known volcanic events on Earth.[citation needed] In the south the land descends to form an alluvial plain, watered by shallow, north-south flowing rivers, drier in the dry season and overflowing during periods of heavy rain. The longest of these rivers, Sungai Ayung, flows approximately 75 km. The island is surrounded by coral reefs. Beaches in the south tend to have white sand while those in the north and west have black sand. The beach town of Padangbai in the south east has both[citation needed]. Bali has no major waterways, although the Ho River is navigable by small sampan boats. Black sand beaches between Pasut and Klatingdukuh are being developed for tourism, but apart from the seaside temple of Tanah Lot, they are not yet used for significant tourism. The principal city is the provincial capital and largest city, Denpasar, near the southern coast. Its population is around 300,000. Bali's second-largest city is the old colonial capital, Singaraja, which is located on the north coast and is home to around 100,000 people. Other important cities include the beach resort, Kuta, which is practically part of Denpasar's urban area; and Ubud, which is north of Denpasar, and is known as the island's cultural centre. To the east, the Lombok Strait separates Bali from Lombok and marks the biogeographical division between the fauna of the Indomalayan ecozone and the distinctly different fauna of Australasia. The transition is known as the Wallace Line, named after Alfred Russel Wallace, who first proposed a transition zone between these two major biomes. When sea levels dropped during the Pleistocene ice age, Bali was connected to Java and Sumatra and to the mainland of Asia and shared the Asian fauna, but the deep water of the Lombok Strait continued to keep Lombok and the Lesser Sunda archipelago isolated.

Economy

Three decades ago, the Balinese economy was largely agriculture-based in terms of both output and employment. Tourism is now the largest single industry; and as a result, Bali is one of Indonesia’s wealthiest regions. The economy, however, suffered significantly as a result of the terrorist bombings of 2002 and 2005. The industry is slowly recovering once again. Although tourism produces the economy’s largest output, agriculture is still the island’s biggest employer, most notably rice cultivation. Crops grown in smaller amounts include fruit, vegetables, Coffee Arabica and other cash and subsistence crops. Fishing also provides a significant number of jobs. Bali is also famous for its artisans who produce a vast array of handicrafts, including batik and ikat cloth and clothing, wooden carvings, stone carvings, painted art and silverware. Notably, individual villages typically adopt a single product, such as wind chimes or wooden furniture. The Arabica coffee production region is the highland region of Kintamani near Mount Batur. Generally, Balinese coffee is processed using the wet method. This results in a sweet, soft coffee with good consistency. Typical flavors include lemon and other citrus notes. Many coffee farmers in Kintamani are members of a traditional farming system called Subak Abian, which is based on the Hindu philosophy of "Tri Hita Karana”. According to this philosophy, the three causes of happiness are good relations with God, other people and the environment. The Subak Abian system is ideally suited to the production of fair trade and organic coffee production. Arabica coffee from Kintamani is the first product in Indonesia to request a eographical Indication. Although significant tourism exists in the north, centre and east of the island, the tourist industry is overwhelmingly focused in the south. The main tourist locations are the town of Kuta (with its beach), and its outer suburbs (which were once independent townships) of Legian and Seminyak; the east coast town of Sanur(once the only tourist hub); to the south of the airport is Jimbaran; in the center of the island Ubud; and the newer development of Nusa Dua. Another increasingly important source of income for Bali is what is called "Congress Tourism" from the frequent international conferences held on the island, especially after the terrorist bombings of 2002; ostensibly to resurrect Bali's damaged tourism industry as well as its tarnished image. Bali's tourism economy has now recovered from the horrible terrorism incidents. 2008 saw a record number of foreign visitors, just under 2 million. The American government lifted its travel warnings that year. As of 2009 the Australian government still rates it a 4 danger level (the same as several countries in central Africa) on a scale of 5. An offshoot of tourism is the growing real estate industry in Bali. Bali real estate has been rapidly developing in the main tourist districts of Kuta, Legian, Seminyak and Oberoi. Most recently, high end 5 star projects are under development on the Bukit peninsula on the south side of the island. Million dollar villas are springing up along the cliff sides of south Bali, commanding panoramic ocean views. Foreign and domestic (many Jakarta individuals and companies are fairly active) investment into other areas of the island also continues to grow. Land prices, despite the worldwide economic crisis have remained stable. In the last half of 2008, Indonesia's currency had dropped approximately 30% against the US dollar, providing many overseas visitors value for their currencies. Visitor arrivals for 2009 are forecast to drop 8% (which would be higher than 2007 levels).

Religion

About 93.18% of Bali's population adheres to Balinese Hinduism, formed as a combination of existing local beliefs and Hindu influences from mainland Southeast Asia and South Asia. Minority religions include Islam (4.79%), Christianity (1.38%), and Buddhism (0.64%). These figures do not include immigrants from other parts of Indonesia. Balinese Hinduism is an amalgam in which gods and demigods are worshipped together with Buddhist heroes, the spirits of ancestors, indigenous agricultural deities and sacred places. Religion as it is practiced in Bali is a composite belief system that embraces not only theology, philosophy, and mythology, but ancestor worship, animism and magic. It pervades nearly every aspect of traditional life. Balinese Hinduism has roots in Indian Hinduism and in Buddhism, and adopted the animistic traditions of the indigenous people. This influence strengthened the belief that the gods and goddesses are present in all things. Every element of nature, therefore, possesses its own power, which reflects the power of the gods. A rock, tree, dagger, or woven cloth is a potential home for spirits whose energy can be directed for good or evil. Balinese Hinduism is deeply interwoven with art and ritual, and is less preoccupied with scripture, law, and belief than Islam in Indonesia. Ritualizing states of self-control are a notable feature of religious expression among the people, who for this reason have become famous for their graceful and decorous behavior. Apart from the majority of Balinese Hindus, there also exist Chinese immigrants whose traditions have melded with that of the locals. As a result, these Sino-Balinese not only embrace their original religion, which is a mixture of Buddhism, Taoism and Confucianism, but also find a way to harmonize it with the local traditions. Hence, it is not uncommon to find local Sino-Balinese during the local temple's odalan. Moreover, Balinese Hindu priests are invited to perform rites alongside a Chinese priest in the event of the death of a Sino-Balinese. Nevertheless, the Sino-Balinese claim to embrace Buddhism for administrative purposes, such as their Identity Cards.

Language

Balinese and Indonesian are the most widely spoken languages in Bali, and the vast majority of Balinese people are bilingual or trilingual. There are several indigenous Balinese languages, but most Balinese can also use the most widely spoken option: modern common Balinese. The usage of different Balinese languages was traditionally determined by the Balinese caste system and by clan membership, but this tradition is diminishing. English is a common third language (and the primary foreign language) of many Balinese, owing to the requirements of the tourism industry.

Get into Bali

Most visitors will arrive at Denpasar Ngurah Rai International Airport (IATA: DPS). Bali Airport is second-largest airport in Indonesia after Jakarta and a major hub well-connected to Australia, South-East Asia as well as the rest of Indonesia. If you are flying internationally into Ngurah Rai, most nationalities are now required to purchase an visa on arrival (VOA) at USD 10 for 7 days and USD 25 for 30 days. Few other currencies are accepted so it is a good idea to play safe and have the required dollars on hand. Flying internationally out of Bali, you are subject to the airport departure tax IDR 150,000 effective from 1st November 2007 which must be paid in IDR = Indonesian Rupiah. The domestic airport departure tax is IDR 30,000. All passports must be valid for a minimum of 6 (six) months from the date of entry into Indonesia. With an ever increasing number of tourist arrivals and a double queueing system (VOA and then immigration), the arrivals hall is bursting at the seams during obvious holiday periods and throughout the top of the peak season on middle of July up to the end of August. Visitors at those times might want to consider organising a so-called VIP clearance whereby you are met off the plane by a representative who purchases your VOA and clears you through customs. This can save queueing for up to 2 and half hours. The airport won't win any awards for style, but it's functional enough and has the usual complement of overpriced restaurants, duty-free shops, etc. ATMs which accept Cirrus and Plus cards for withdrawals are available in airport departure and arrival areas. Security at the airport has increased considerably and be prepared for rigorous scrutiny of luggage, including carry-on items. Arrivals are passed through customs, visas, a security checkpoint, and finally a mystery chemical puffer that sprays your body with some kind of moist and funny tasting substance. Departing, you will likely pass through a total of three security checkpoints, so be patient particularly when things are busy.

Sports

There are many interesting scuba diving sites around Bali. Particularly popular are the wreck of USAT Liberty Glo at Tulamben in the east, the serene reefs around Menjangan Island in the north-west and dramatic drift diving off Nusa Penida in the south. Bali is a major teaching centre and there are numerous, reputable PADI dive centres around the island. Padang-Padang Beach - one of Bali's top surf spotsWarm waters, crowds of young backpackers, cheap living and reliable waves keeps Bali near the top of world surfing destinations. The southern coast, namely Kuta, Legian and Canggu, the Bukit Peninsula and Nusa Lembongan are the primary draws. Expert surfers usually head for the big breaks off the Bukit Peninsula whilst beginners will find the gentler, sandy areas between Kuta and Legian to be ideal for learning. There is a formal surf school on Legian beach. The more adventurous might like to to try informal lessons from one of the many local self-styled surf teachers to be found hanging on any south Bali beach. Regular surf reports are provided by Baliwaves.

Buy

Whether it is simple trinkets, a nice statue or high fashion boutiques that turn you on, Bali is a shopper's paradise. A huge range of very affordable products are offered to the point that shopping can overwhelm a visit if you allow it to! Clothing is a real draw. Popular sportswear brands are available in a multitude of stores in Kuta and Legian for prices approximately 30% to 50% lower than you would pay at home. If the mass market is not your thing, try the ever increasing number of chic boutiques in Seminyak and support young local designers. The stretch of Jalan Laksmana is a good starting point. Arts and crafts are always popular. Try to head to the source if you can rather than buy in identikit shops in Kuta or Sanur. You will gain more satisfaction from buying an article direct from the maker and seeing the craftsman in action. Bali has a huge range of locally produced paintings, basketware, stone and wood carvings, silver and shell jewelry, ceramics, natural paper gifts, glassware and much, much more. This is an island of artisans. Dried spices and coffee are very popular items. Most supermarkets have specially designed gift packages aimed at tourists or if you are visiting Bedugul buy at the Bukit Mungsu traditional market. Whatever you are buying, make sure you are in your best bargaining mode as these skills will be required except in the higher end stores that specifically state that their prices are fixed. And of course, bargaining is a lot of fun.

Eat

Bali has a huge variety of cafes and restaurants, serving both Indonesian and international food; see Indonesia for a menu reader. For better or worse, some American chains have established a presence here, although almost exclusively confined to the southern tourist areas. You'll see KFC, McDonald's, Pizza Hut and Starbuck's Coffee. Interestingly, the menus are often highly adapted to the local tastes. The menu at Pizza Hut looks nothing like one you'll find in the U.S. Try the smaller local restaurants rather than touristy ones, the food is better — and cheaper. Be sure to try the ubiquitous Indonesian dishes nasi goreng (fried rice) and mie goreng (fried noodles). These dishes should rarely cost more than Rp. 25,000 (sometimes a bit more if you add chicken — ayam — or shrimp — udang), so their cost on a menu can be a good indicator of a restaurant's relative cost and value. Some of the most authentic food can be found from roving vendors called kaki lima, which means "five legs." This comprises the three legs of the food cart and the vendor's own two legs. You can season it yourself, but be forewarned: Indonesian spices can be ferociously hot. Go easy until you find your heat tolerance level! Babi guling or spit-roasted pig, seen here at a stall at a night market in Gianyar, is a popular Balinese dish. Actual Balinese food is common on the island, but it has made few inroads in the rest of the country due to its emphasis on pork, which is anathema to the largely Muslim population in the rest of the country.

Vegetarian

There are plenty of options for vegetarians in Bali - from indigenous Indonesian fare to international cuisine. A word of caution: the Indonesian spice paste "Sambal" is a hot paste of ground red chillies, spices and shrimp paste. Always check to see if the Sambal being served to you contains shrimp paste. You can even get Sambal without the shrimp paste at a few places. Additionally, kerupuk crackers with a spongy appearance, including those always served with nasi goreng, contain shrimp or fish. Instead, ask for emping which is a delicious cracker made from a bean paste - it resembles a potato chip in appearence.

Drink

The Balinese have nothing against a drink and alcohol is widely available. Indonesia's most popular beer Bintang is ubiquitous, but the local brand Bali Hai is nearly as popular. Bintang is a fairly highly regarded classic light Asian beer, but Bali Hai is a rather bland lager. Also available is the Bali-brewed microbrew Storm, available in several different flavors. The other local beer is Anker and both Carlsberg and San Miguel are brewed locally under licence. A wide range of more expensive imported beers are available. Bali produces its own wines, with Hatten being the most popular brand, available in white, red, rose (most popular) and sparkling varieties. Quality can be inconsistent but the red is usually OK and massively cheaper than imported wines, which can easily top Rp. 250,000 per bottle. Wine aficionados are better off bringing their own bottle in with them. Imported wines are readily available but are very expensive relative to everything else. Nicer restaurants will let you bring your own bottle; some will charge a modest corkage fee. Smaller establishments likely won't mind but neither will they have a corkscrew! Bali also produces its own liqueurs and spirits, with Bali Moon Liqueurs being the most popular. They produce a wide range of flavours: Banana, Blackcurrant, Butterscotch, Coconut, Hazelnut, Lychee, Honeydew Melon, Peppermint, Triple Sec, Blue Curacao, Pineapple and Coffee. Vodka and other spirits are also produced locally with Mansion House being the most popular brand. Be aware though that many of these are little more than flavoured rice liquor. Bali Moon cocktails are available in almost every bar, restaurant and hotel in Bali. Liqueurs are available in many retail outlets, just enquire within if you wish to have fun making your own cocktails! Bali's traditional drinks are arak, a clear distilled spirit that packs a 40° punch, brem, a fermented rice wine sold in gift shops in attractive clay bottles that are much nicer than the taste of the stuff inside and tuak, a palm 'wine' which is often served at traditional festivities. Visitors should be extremely careful about where they purchase arak as there have been a number of serious poisoning cases and deaths involving tainted arak. Tap water on Bali is not drinkable, but bottled water is universally available and restaurants usually use purified water for cooking. The most popular brand is Aqua and that name is often used generically for bottled water. "Filtered" water shops are also common, providing on-site treatment of the mains water to a potable standard.

Sleep

Bali has, without a doubt, the best range of accommodation in Indonesia. Many five-star resorts are clustered in Nusa Dua, Seminyak and Ubud. Sanur and Jimbaran offer a fairly happy compromise if you want beaches, nightlife and some quiet. Ubud's hotels and resorts cater to those who prefer spas and cultural pursuits over surfing and booze. Legian is situated between Kuta and Seminyak and offers a good range of accommodation. The newest area to start offering a wide range of accommodation is Uluwatu which now boasts everything from surfer bungalows to the opulent Bvlgari Hotel. Further north on the west coast is the district of Canggu, which offers many traditional villages set among undulating ricefields and a good range of accomodation. For rest and revitalisation visit Amed, a peaceful fishing village on the east coast with some good hotels and restaurants or head for the sparsely populated areas of West Bali. Thanks to Bali's balmy climate, many hotels, bungalows and villas offer open-air bathrooms, often set in a lush garden. They look amazing and are definitely a very Balinese experience but may also shelter little uninvited guests and are best avoided if you have low tolerance for critters. It is important to understand the tax and service charge which hotels are obliged to levy by Indonesian law. All high-end and mid-range (and a fair proportion of budget) hotels will levy a 21% tax and service charge on the room rate (the so-called "plus plus"). When you make a booking you should always ask whether the rate quoted includes or excludes this. Simple budget homestays/losmen and informal accommodation are not obliged to levy these charges. The 21% consists of 11% sales tax which goes to the government and 10% service charge which goes into a pool and is then shared between the staff.

Private villas

One accommodation option for which the island is becoming increasingly famous is private villas, complete with staff. Indonesia's low labor costs result in single villas boasting staff teams of up to 30 people at the really high end. A private villa rental an be a great option for a visit to Bali but it pays to be aware of the potential pitfalls. Not every place sold as a "villa" actually fits the bill. Prices vary widely and some operators claim to go as low as US$30/night (which usually means a standalone bungalow in hotel grounds). Realistically you will be looking at upwards of US$200/night for anything with a decent location and a private pool. At the top of the range nightly rents can easily go north of US$1,000/night. The general rule of you get what you pay for applies here. There are of course exceptions, but a four bedroom villa offered for US$400 and one for US$800 per night will be different in many ways - quality of maintenance, facilities, number of staff, English ability, etc. Look carefully as to who is running the villa (run by the owner or a local company or a western company or local staff who answer to an overseas owner?) and who you are renting through (directly from the owner? a management company? a established villa agent? one who just opened a month ago after his friend Nyoman told him how easy it was...?). Each path has its pros and cons. If it is an agency, see if it has been reviewed in the foreign press. Ask for how long the villa has been taking commercial guests. Villas normally take a year or so to get to best service levels. In the first 6-12 months of operation, great villas may offer introductory rates that are priced below market to gain market awareness.Private villas are found mostly in the greater Seminyak area - (Seminyak, Umalas, Canggu), in the south around Jimbaran and Uluwatu, in Sanur and around the hill town of Ubud. They are rare in heavily built-up areas like Kuta.

Long-term

For long stays it is worth considering a long-term rental, which can be as low as US$ 4,000 per year. Restaurants, shops and bars frequented by Bali's sizable expatriate community, particularly in Seminyak, Sanur and Ubud, are good places to find information about long-term rentals. Look for a bulletin board with property advertisements tacked up or pick up a copy of the local expat biweekly publication, The Bali Advertiser. Remember with a year round tourism trade villas that have everything right are usually available for more lucrative short term rental only. Long term rental houses tend to be older and not as well maintained. If you are willing to be flexible though you can find nice house options over a wide range of budgets.

Stay safe

Behind the cuddly facade lies a cunning thiefBali is essentially a safe destination and few tourists encounter any real problems. Bali was the scene of lethal terrorist bombings in 2002 and 2005 with both waves of attacks targeting nightclubs and restaurants popular among foreign visitors. Security is consequently tight at obvious targets but it is of course impossible to protect oneself fully against terrorism. If it is any reassurance, the Balinese themselves — who depend on tourism for their livelihood — deplore the bombings and the terrorists behind them for the terrible suffering they have caused on this peacefull island. As a visitor, it is important to put the risk in perspective: the sad fact is that Bali's roads are, statistically, far more dangerous than even the deadliest bomb. It is still prudent to avoid high profile western hang-outs, especially those without security measures and the paranoid or just security-conscious may wish to head out of the tourist enclaves of south Bali to elsewhere on the island. Bali is increasingly enforcing Indonesia's harsh penalties against the import, export, trafficking and possession of illegal drugs, including marijuana, ecstasy, cocaine and heroin. Several high profile arrests of foreigners have taken place in Bali since 2004 and a number have been sentenced to lengthy prison terms or (rarely) execution. Even the possession of a small amount of drugs for personal use puts you at risk of a trial and prison sentence, if searched. Watch out for seemingly harmless street vendors looking to sell you drugs (marijuana, cocaine, etc.). More often than not, they are working with undercover police and will try to sell you drugs so that they can then get uniformed officers onto you who (if you are lucky) will demand a smallish bribe for your release or more likely look for a far larger payday by taking you into custody. Just avoid Bali's drug scene at all costs. The unfortunate people who are caught and processed will find there is little distinction between personal use and dealing in the eyes of the Indonesian legal system. 'Expedition Fees', monies paid to shorten jail or prison time, can easily run from US$ 20,000 and 70,000. There is a fair chance that you will offered magic mushrooms especially if you are young and find yourself in Kuta. Indonesian law is a little unclear in this area but with the whole country in the midst of a drug crackdown since 2004, it is not worth taking the risk. Bali is officially a malaria-free zone but dengue fever is a problem and all sensible precautions should be taken against being bitten by mosquitos. In Bali, if you see a red flag planted in the sand, do not swim there: they are a warning for dangerous rip currents. These currents can pull you out to sea with alarming speed, and even the strongest swimmers cannot swim against them — the thing to do is to stay calm and swim sideways (along the shore) until out of it, then head for the shore. The ocean is not to be trifled with in Bali and hundreds of people, some experienced some not, die by drowning every year. Petty scams are not uncommon, although they can usually be avoided with a modicum of common sense. If approached on the street by anybody offering a deal on souvenirs, transport, etc, you can rest assured that you will pay more if you follow your new found friend. Guard your bags, especially at transport terminals and ferry terminals. In addition to the risk of them being stolen, self-appointed porters like to grab them without warning and then insist on ridiculous prices for their "services".

Money Changer

The rule is simple: change money at only authorised money changers with proper offices and always ask for a receipt. The largest is called PT Central Kuta and they have several outlets. If you are especially nervous, then use a formal bank. You will get a better rate at an authorised money changer though. Avoid changing money in smaller currency exchange offices located within shops as they more often then not will try and steal money by utilising very creative and 'magician' like methods. Often the rate advertised on the street is nowhere near the rate that they will give you in the end. Many times the rate is set higher to lure you in so that they can con you out of a banknote or two and when this is not possible they will give you a shoddy rate and state that the difference is due to commission. This even applies to the places which clearly state that there is no commission.

Stay healthy

The midday sun in Bali will fry the unwary traveler to a crisp, so slap on plenty of high factor sun-protection and drink lots of fluids. However there is no need to carry litres of water as you can buy a bottle virtually anywhere. The locals tend to stay away from the beaches until about two hours before sunset, when most of the ferocity has gone out of the sun. Take care in restaurants and bars; although it is very rare nowadays, some may use untreated/unsafe tap water to make ice for drinks otherwise made with clean ingredients. Tap water in hotels should not be used for drinking or brushing teeth unless explicitly labeled as safe. Bali is host to some of the finest yoga and well-being centres and retreats in the world. You can find an abundance of amazing yoga classes to suit all levels in most of the tourist areas. Look for the best yoga centres in Ubud and Seminyak. The HIV infection rate in Bali is increasing, mainly amongst sex workers of both genders and intravenous drugs users. If you engage in any risky activity, always protect yourself.