Lessons/Travel Tips from Bali

My most recent visit to Bali (which was in April 2015) had to be the most memorable one. It was the first time that I had ever organized my own trip without any adults’ help as well as the first time my friends and I traveled together without any adult supervision – since according to Indonesian law, most of us were already adults at the time of the trip, having turned 18 before April 20, 2015.

In previous times, after my return from a trip, I would usually blog about the places I visited or things that happened during the trip. However, on this particular trip, I didn’t have time to take a lot of photos, let alone sit down and write. My friends and I had to make a lot of decisions by ourselves during the trip, trying to put heads together without butting heads. Aside from that, being the one with the most experience in Bali sort of puts me as a “tour guide” on the trip.

To summarize, I had to organize the trip, have some fun with my friends, control my spending, decide on where to go, take photos, and try to get some writing in at the same time.

The Bali 2015 trip saw me growing up a lot as a traveler and with all of the things going on in the trip came a lot of lessons as well. Here are some of the things I learned from the Bali 2015 trip.

Cheaper Flights Don’t Always Have to Be Red-Eye Ones

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It’s common knowledge among travelers that red-eye flights cost way less than flights at regular hours. However, sometimes an hour can make all the difference in the world regarding ticket pricing.

My friends and I were split into two flights for the trip: AirAsia and Garuda Indonesia. The split happened due to personal reasons and matters involving parental permit. I was one of the eight traveling with AirAsia. We had spent a lot of time researching until we made the call to book the flight departing Jakarta on April 20 at 8.45 AM and departing Bali on April 24 at 12 PM. What surprised us was that even though both flights were in the prime hours of the day, both of them cost a lot cheaper than other hours. The departure flight was about IDR150.000 cheaper than another AirAsia flight to Bali at 9.35 AM whereas the flight home was IDR200.000 cheaper than another one at 13.35 PM.

In some cases, an hour or two could be all the difference in the world regarding plane ticket prices. My best tip for you is to do a lot of research months before the trip to make an earlier booking and compare prices well.

Research is Your Best Friend…

Ladies and gents, we are blessed enough to live in a time where information is abundant and just at the touch of our fingertips. This means that we just have to put the curiosity cap on and do a lot of research to make sure we get the best prices when traveling.

Thanks to a lot of research on Agoda and TripAdvisor, we stumbled upon Kuta Central Park Hotel which basically provided us with everything we needed at a reasonable price. They had rooms that can be filled with five people at IDR800.000 per night (including breakfast), quite a strategic location to with a convenience store by its side, free and fast Wi-Fi connection, and the rooms themselves were not dingy. If there’s one thing I’m really proud of on the trip, it’s that we hit the jackpot with the hotel. The only problem with the hotel was that it charges parking rates for us, which is still cheaper than the rates in Jakarta so I wasn’t complaining too much about it.

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Our room at Kuta Central Park
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Bathroom

The only thing that might limit you from obtaining information is your own laziness to obtain it – unless there really is no information about the place. So always, always do some (hell, a lot of) research prior to any trip because research might be the difference between spending too much or not on something.

Other websites good for your research on visiting Bali:

… But You Need to Listen to Locals Too

I said earlier that research is really, really important. However, as much as you can look things up online and gather people’s opinions to form your own, at the end of the day it’s locals of the area that would know the place better. If you have any local connections in the area that you’re visiting, I advise you to ask them for opinion and listen to them if they say it’s inadvisable to do something – even if that “something” sounds stupid to you (e.g: the prohibition of women on their period to enter sacred sites in Bali.)

Before the trip, I had been in touch with Mr. Eka (dukebalitour@yahoo.com) who arranged my previous trip to Bali. (Our awesome guide, Mr. Made is actually his brother!) We talked a lot about the itinerary and he helped me a lot in figuring out when to visit a certain place and gave a lot of feedback regarding my friends’ preferences and what I read online. Mr. Made’s local expertise also came in handy throughout the trip. He drove us through a lot of shortcuts and we managed to get around a lot of traffic that way. There was also this time when most of the girls wanted to go to Sukowati Art Market, but we were starving as well. We arrived in Sukowati and he pointed out a stall at the corner of Block B of the market and we had our lunch there while saving a lot of money. Literally, we had a lunch of rice, chicken with chili, tempe, and fried noodles for only IDR10.000. Another example of when locals’ advice came in handy was while doing water sports. The operators said that conditions were not ideal for snorkeling just through having a glance at the sea. When I headed out on a jet ski, they were right. The waves were too choppy while snorkeling required calmer conditions.

I read in a lot of forums that some locals can be shady about their suggestions regarding a place and can misuse their knowledge to deceive people. That is why we should do some research as well – to make sure that we’re not being manipulated by locals. However, when it comes to natural conditions, superstitions and beliefs, directions – don’t ever, ever ignore what the locals say.

Learn from Past Experiences and Observation

If you’ve ever been to the place that you’re visiting prior to the trip, then make sure to learn from your previous experience at the place. Having been to a place before, you would have the advantage of knowing what to expect and what to avoid about the place. Use that knowledge well because it could really save your time and money from unwanted things.

When we visited Pandawa Beach, having been to the place before, I knew exactly where we needed to go. We skipped the more crowded part of the beach, walked for quite a length until we got to a particular spot – Warung Bu Ani (or Anny). In my previous visit, we had rented umbrellas there and the lady was really honest about the money she’d received and even returned the extra money we’d given her. In this trip, she remained as honest as she was and still giving 100% in service. She walked the entire length of the beach trying to find coconut water for us and still rejected the extra money we gave her. She even said “thank you for coming back” when I told her I’d been to her stall before and told us that she’ll be moving a bit more inland next year.

So don’t forget all the notes you took or things you observed on your first time visiting a place. And if it’s your first time visiting a certain place, keep your eyes and ears open and be observant. What you learn now may help you or others on another trip.

If Possible, Avoid Eating at the Airport

Again, this is common knowledge for travelers. In case you haven’t heard it though, let me break it down to you. Meals at airport have a tendency to be extremely costly. A lot of factors can contribute to that price such as high rental fee for an outlet or the complicated policies to even get the ingredients in. With that being said, it’s best to avoid eating at the airport unless you really have to.

I made a mistake of eating there because our departure flight got delayed. I kid you not, I had an omelette with bad mushrooms and dry bread for IDR40.000. On the flight back, I unfortunately had to repeat this action because some of us were late and we would have missed our flight had we had breakfast elsewhere. A tiny bottle of water cost me IDR12.000 at DPS. It’s outrageous.

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The aforementioned omelette

So guys, unless you missed breakfast, have stomach problems, or really, really hungry I advise you to avoid airport food at all costs. You’ll be more grateful when you notice that you calculate your travel spending and spent less money than you needed to.

Cut Back on Souvenirs & Spend Your Money on Worthwhile Experience

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The one thing I regret from this trip is the amount of money I spent on souvenirs. Mind you, I don’t usually buy souvenirs when I go to Bali. Maybe it’s because most of my girl friends like shopping and I kind of got carried away, but the highest percentage of my spending was for shopping. Even if you do want to spend on souvenirs, plot who’s getting what as well as you can before the affair itself to prevent impulsive buying.

Another thing for shopping for souvenirs is to buy things that you can only find in that place that you’re visiting. My best buy in Bali was easily the black and silver tank top with “U Rock Bali” designed in typography on it. Basically, don’t buy knitted tops or flimsy top hats or things that you can find back where you’re from. Make sure you know what something is worth (try asking your local contact this) and bargain if you can.

The same thing goes for experiences. Don’t spend money on things that you can do back home. Ask yourself “can I only do this here or can I do this back home too?” before agreeing to pay on anything. I did this a lot in the trip (and now I’m giving myself a pat in the back for it). On most of the evenings, my friends and I go our separate ways and choose our own way to spend the night. I kind of skipped on things that just didn’t feel right for me, like having fancy dinners. One night, instead of having dinner at Hard Rock Cafe, I caught up with a family friend, had pork sausages which his mom made (and apparently came from pigs that she cut open by herself), visited my uncle, and then got on a back of a motorcycle for a midnight bike ride to the hotel. I wouldn’t have traded that evening for anything.

In short, be a smart spender and only spend your money on things that you know are worthwhile when you’re traveling. Before you buy anything or pay for anything, ask yourself “can I get this back home? Can I do this back home?”

Bring Your Huge Bottle of Water Everywhere

One new travel tradition I came up with during this trip is buying a 1.5-liter bottle of water every evening to carry around with me the next day. This came in handy for a lot of reasons. For one, dehydration has always been my main problem when traveling and I always end up coming home with dry skin and chapped lips. I often forget to drink when I’m on the go and by carrying that huge amount of water I could manage to get at least 1.5 liters in throughout the day. Another reason is that the price of water can vary in different places. It could be IDR12.000 or even IDR 20.000 for a tiny 330-ml bottle. I bought my “tub” of water for IDR6.000 from Circle K and it had saved me from plenty of occasions for I might have spent too much on water. I don’t know if this tip applies for everyone because if you’re not used to or can’t carry weights it could be an issue, but if you’re a rather cheapskate and would like to hydrate yourself better then I advise you to carry your own huge water bottle everywhere.

There’s a Power in Traveling in a Group

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Our traveling team

My friends and I traveled in a group of sixteen: 9 girls and 7 guys. We booked the same flights and stayed at the same hotel and met up for dinner on a night or two and we split up for other times. However, I still traveled with 8 other girls the entire time and I learned a lot of things from traveling in a group.

For one, we get a lot of bargain power. This came in handy at Sukowati Art Market where we used “we’re going to buy a lot of things here, so can you please give us a discount?” a lot. Traveling in a group also encourages us to be more impulsive and take more chances because there are a lot of people to nudge us on. My conversation with Viljam wouldn’t have happened if I had been traveling alone. I wouldn’t have rolled around in the sand and sea at Pandawa Beach without these girls. We wouldn’t have taken a spontaneous yet free dance class at Bali Safari. We had a lot of fun moments together that wouldn’t have happened if we hadn’t traveled together.

However, traveling in a group comes with a big disadvantage: there are more minds to put together. We have different purposes throughout the trip. Some of us wanted to shop, others needed adrenaline-charged activities or lazy beach days or fancy dining. We had to put all those interests together and come up with the best plan to cater everyone’s needs and wants. It’s a tough thing to do sometimes and we butt heads at times or have to concede to others. A solution we did for this is rather than having to be in a place that a couple of us wouldn’t have a great time at, we would break apart on occasions when our ideas just couldn’t come together. It worked a lot because it was a win-win solution – everybody can have their own ideas of fun.

Log Your Expenses into a Journal

I learned this tip from Adel who took notes of everything she spent each day meticulously. I decided to give it a try and logging in my expenses each day really helped me to manage them. There’s a guilt factor that played every time I wrote expenses that I actually hadn’t needed. That guilt factor and meticulous detail in how much I spent and for what helped me control myself the next time I decided to spend money on something. It also helped me a lot when I got back home, went to the ATM and saw how much my balance had decreased after that trip, panicked and thought I’d gotten my money drained or something. Seriously, that happened. I was kind of freaking out until I looked at my expense journal, added things up and realized that the amount of money on my bank account was exactly how much it should be.

I know you might not be the most diligent person when it comes to taking notes and all. But if you’re traveling somewhere on a shoestring, it really helps to keep a journal tracking your expenses.


 

So yeah, those are some of the lessons I learned from organizing and executing my most recent trip to Bali. Bear in mind that some of the lessons/tips I shared here may not apply to everyone so do what’s best for you. There may or may not be second post like this coming up and it sort of depends on your reaction. If you like it, please let me know and I’ll write another one like this.

This post has been rather lengthy and filled with more words than pictures so here’s a picture of the best sunset in Bali from this trip. I hope it represents my utmost gratitude to you for reading this rant.

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