Something about Bali evokes a sense of wonder and freedom in all of us. But it’s important to take into consideration locals and their sense of culture and tradition and most importantly, the law when visiting Bali
An island so rich in culture and customs, as a foreigner it can be hard to grasp what boundaries and taboos to be mindful of. The best thing to do is sit back and observe and be informed to make sure your time in Bali runs smoothly, here are some tips on how to be a respectful visitor in Bali!
Recently due to an increasing number of cases of foreigners acting in indecent and illegal ways, the local police and even immigration have been forced to impose strict penalties for offenders. These include fines, deportation and even jail time. As a foreigner, you may not have the same rights within the legal system, so it is very important that you observe Indonesian law.
First and foremost when on a moped you must wear a helmet AT ALL TIMES. With the surge in motor traffic in recent years, locals are taking road rules very seriously and to be safest on bikes it’s advised to wear helmets, long sleeves and pants when on a scooter. Covered shoes are also recommended as if you get into even a tiny accident your feet will be somewhat protected. As great as it may feel to cruise the streets of Bali with the wind in your hair, this is a big no-no. And the traffic police are enforcing this very strictly with fines and more. Not to mention, if you do have an accident and aren’t wearing a helmet, your travel insurance will not cover your claim.
Some more tips for staying safe and compliant on the roads:
- Do not drive under the influence of alcohol
- Make sure you have the correct international driver’s license. You will be asked for one if you are pulled over by the police. They will also want to see the registration paper for the moped so make sure it is under the seat before taking off from your rental place.
- It is important to have the correct license for insurance purposes also. A regular car license DOES NOT cover you to ride a motorcycle/scooter in Bali.
- Make sure you observe road rules like traffic lights, one-way streets and parking restrictions.
- Stay situationally aware and drive at a safe speed.
- Use the locals as a guide on compliance and safety.
- As a rule of thumb, if it’s not ok in your home country, it’s probably not ok in Bali.
- If stopped by the police, be polite and cooperative. They just want to make sure you have your helmet and license. If you do not have these, you may get fined for an on-the-spot cash payment. Usually, this is around 250k ($25AUD) but it can be more. In some cases, you may get referred to pay the fine at the police office in Denpasar.
The Governor of Bali, I Wayan Koster is currently reviewing the laws around scooter rental for tourists. In the future scooter rental may not be available for people on tourist visas. As always, we recommend the safest approach of taking a transport car or using Grab to get from A to B as safely as possible as it can be hard as a tourist to get things right on the roads. Taking a Grab Bike is a great way to still have the efficiency of travelling on a bike, without risking fines or not being covered by your travel insurance.
Stay tuned to Bali Buddies for the most up-to-date info on the regulations that affect you!
Indecent Behaviour in Public
We definitely want you to let your hair down a little while holidaying in Bali, but make sure you stay mindful that you are a visitor to this beautiful and complex island. It may feel like there are fewer rules and regulations in Bali than in your home country, but actually, there are probably more, and the Indonesian authorities are becoming more and more vigilant about indecent behaviour by tourists.
Some tips on how to stay respectful:
- Avoid drunk and indecent behaviour in public. Generally speaking, Indonesians do not consume alcohol the way some Western Cultures do, particularly not in public. So it can be confronting for them to see Westerners intoxicated and acting out after a night out. Particularly if they are being disruptive or putting the public at risk.
- Skimpy beachwear is ok at the beach and in beach clubs and resorts, but they do not belong out in public, on scooters and definitely not near places of religious significance.
- Do not post offensive or vulgar images on social media. This includes content featuring breaking of the law, inappropriate dress or behaviour, or anything that is offensive to locals like indecent behaviour at sites of religious significance.
Culture and Religion
Historically Indonesia is a blend of many different groups forming a country abundant in culture, tradition and religion that it is today. Bali particularly is a unique pocket of Indonesia with Hinduism deeply rooted in every aspect of life for the Balinese. There is also a large Islamic population living in Bali from other parts of Indonesia as well as some Christians, Buddhists and more.
There are so many opportunities to learn about religion and culture when holidaying in Bali. Even a day out and about can be an immersive experience in Balinese Hinduism with vibrant religious ceremonies taking place every day. It’s good to note that karma is a huge part of Balinese Hinduism so make sure you keep vibing high! We have seen karmic action in place on the island!
Tips on learning about culture and religion:
- Ask local people around you lots of questions about their religion and culture.
- Visit sites of cultural and religious significance. Make sure you observe all the rules set out at sites like a proper dress. Often you can borrow a sarong at the entrance to cover bare legs, but it is best to bring your own. In Bali, most places of worship like temples ask women who are menstruating not to enter. The rules are usually sign-posted at the entrance. If unsure, best to check with someone local.
- Be patient and respectful around ceremonies, they can be responsible for traffic delays. Balinese ceremonies are almost always vibrant so take the opportunity to watch and take photos.
- If you happen to be in Bali over big religious holidays, consider yourself in for a treat! There are often processions, decorations and parades that will stimulate all of your senses. It is best to observe from nearby however, do not try to insert yourself into religious events unless invited. During the day of silence, Nyepi however, you might want to immerse yourself by taking a restful day away from your devices and the noise of the outside world.
- Know the difference between the different religious groups. Although they coexist harmoniously, there are fundamental differences and it is not so nice to lump them together.
- Note that people of the Islamic religion generally have more conservative values around showing skin, public displays of affection and more.
- The Balinese are very polite and warm by nature, so be kind, humble and courteous back.
Is Bali Gay Friendly?
In recent decades, Bali has been a gay-friendly destination. You will find there are some locals who are out and proud even though there are still some conservative views about homosexuality. In tourist areas, people will be happy and welcoming. A lot of villas and hotels advertise that they are gay friendly. As with straight couples, we would recommend laying off the PDA a little, however! There has been a recent debate within the Indonesian Government about whether to enforce laws around homosexuality but for now, Bali is gay-friendly and safe. There are also NO CURRENT laws or regulations at this stage around staying in accommodation with a sexual partner and being unmarried.
Working in Bali
Like other countries around the world, correct working permits and visas are required to work legally in Indonesia. With an influx of tourists, digital nomads and expats in Bali, the immigration authorities are working around the clock to track down any illegal activity. There are even undercover operations in action to pin foreigners working without the correct paperwork. The repercussions are serious- they include deportation and even jail time.
- If you are on a tourist visa, under no means should you be partaking in any business activity while visiting Bali.
- If you are on a B211 visa, there are some things you can do, like attend meetings with your agent to set up a business. But you cannot take part in first-hand business activity. This is also the current recommended visa if you are working as a digital nomad (which absolutely does not allow you to conduct business or take money within Indonesia, but allows you to work online). This is a huge gray area so make sure you consult with your agent.
- Even on a Kitas (resident visa) and working permit, make sure you are working within the guidelines of your permit as there are still strict restrictions on what you can and can’t do.
- Not all professions can be conducted by foreigners in Indonesia, like photography and tour guides for example. Best to check with an agent as the penalties are serious and undercover operations are in place to catch people out.
- Make sure you are registered to pay tax through NPWP if you are living and working in Bali.
- Make sure you observe the validity of your visa as there are huge overstay fines.
The visa structures are constantly under review, so make sure you consult with a trustworthy agent for the most up-to-date info.
We all need to strive to do a little better to keep our favourite holiday destination safe and harmonious for visitors and locals. This info is applicable not only to Bali but to travel around the world. If you have any more questions on how to be a courteous visitor to Bali, feel free to reach out to Bali Buddies!
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