In all honesty...it is all quite overwhelming! So overwhelming that Sarah and I have made ROOKIE TRAVEL MISTAKES that we would never usually make! Hence this post...10 things that will help you save money, time and your sanity whilst you acclimatise to a destination like no other :) :) :)
1. DO NOT CONVERT YOUR MONEY IN AUSTRALIA
I can't believe we did this! You need US $25 to purchase your visa on arrival and THAT IS ALL! Do not get your Indonesian cash at the Australian airports...you will be ripped off!!! We got a rate of AUD $1 to IDR 8000 when we could have gotten AT LEAST IDR 9000 on arrival at the money exchange booths at the Denpasar airport! We basically lost over 10% of our cash before we even arrived - don't make the same mistake we did!
2. TAKE A METERED TAXI
After a few short taxi trips I think we finally figured this one out. Our first taxi rides were set fares agreed upon before getting in the car...for example, 50000 IDR for a trip from Kuta to Legian (around AUD $6.50). We then got into a BLUE BIRD TAXI which has a meter (just like the taxis back home) and the same trip came to a total of IDR 20000 (around AUD $2.50). Look for the blue bird and save a fortune :)
3. THERE IS NO 'MORNING PRICE'
Stroll the streets of Legian or Kuta before 11am and you will be assured by stallholders that you will get a great 'morning price' - this is ridiculous - their bottom price will be the same at any time of the day...don't be drawn in.
4. HOLD YOUR GROUND DURING NEGOTIATIONS
Bali stallholders EXPECT you to negotiate on price. DO NOT pay them how much they first ask for unless the stall has FIXED PRICES (and even then it is worth asking). On our first day of shopping I purchased 2 pairs of shorts and a t-shirt and was asked for IDR450000 (around $55) and ended up paying IDR 150000 (around $18). The shop owner was happy with this price and I felt like I got a fair deal too (in all honesty I probably still paid too much!)
5. STALLHOLDERS HAVE MANY TRICKS
Within an hour of walking around, you will begin to realise that the stallholders have specific tricks to lure you into their shops. You will be called 'mate', 'boss' and 'my friend' more times than you can count. You will be guided by hands on your shoulders and prices will be shouted out at you. Surprisingly, it was the lady who said 'I'm not pushy, if you want to look that's fine' that probably ripped us off the most. We had spent the day being hounded and it was really nice to meet someone who was not intending to bother us. We got to try things on, put things back, chat about our trip etc. But when it came to negotiations, she knew she had us! We ended up paying IDR 420000 for 6 items ($10 each!) - WAY MORE than we should have. Clever lady I guess :) :) :).
6. IF SOMETHING IS WRONG WITH YOUR ACCOMMODATION, TALK TO A MANAGER
I cannot stress this enough. On our first night in Bali we were given a Standard Room (which is what we had arranged). It was pretty basic, but it was late and it had a bed :) In the morning, however, we found that the shower did not work properly and that the rest of our family had been upgraded to a deluxe room for free. After negotiating with reception, we managed to speak with a manager who gave us a new, larger room with a WORKING shower. Thanks to my sister, Samantha, for her awesome negotiating skills on that one!
7. NO ICE
Seriously, everyone knows that you don't drink the water here! But asking for 'no ice' needs to become second nature too. On the first day both Sarah and I bought drinks that had ice and just drank away - thankfully no Bali belly for us but who knows, we may not have been so lucky the next time!
8. HAVE YOUR DVD'S TESTED
If you are like every other tourist in Bali it is likely that you will take home a DVD or seven. You can ask to have the DVD's tested in store and the shop owners are happy to oblige (they do want your money after all). This is particularly important when you are purchasing new release movies! You have been warned!
9. BEWARE THE KNOTTED PLASTIC BAG
I don't know if this is part myth, but it's worth mentioning. Apparently, if you purchase something from a stall and they tie up your plastic bag it is a sign to other stallholders that you are an easy mark. Basically, it advertises that you are willing to pay higher than other tourists. If this happens to you, as it did to us, you have probably paid too much for something. Don't stress - you still got things heaps cheaper than back home! Just make sure you learn from it and UNTIE THE KNOT before you go into another store :) (Even if it is a myth, it's worth the couple of seconds it takes :))
10. HAVE FUN WITH IT
Everyone here is just trying to earn a living. Yes it can be overwhelming, and yes you will pay more than you should for things, but if you have fun with it you'll be fine. Smile, joke around, try stuff on and try to haggle with the master negotiators that own the shops! If you are getting to the point where you are well and truly over it just ignore everyone and head somewhere for a break - your hotel, a bar, a restaurant, the beach - until you are ready to hit the streets again :)