Traveling through Bali and Indonesia in general can be genuinely exciting and amazing. The wonderful culture, people and scenery make for an excellent holiday destination for any length of time. However, as with any visit to a foreign country, it is important to understand the local laws and culture. Below is a summary of some simple advice to help you make the host of your holiday.


Scooters and Motorbikes

Scooters and Motorbikes are a fantastic and often fun way of getting around in Bali. It is however, the most dangerous activity most people undertake. Always take great care when riding scooters in Bali. Insist on a helmet when renting or riding any motorbike. Be aware that most travel insurance policies do not allow you to ride a scooter or motorbike. Even if riding a motorbike is covered, if yourself or the driver are unlicensed or drunk this will definitely cause problems if you are involved in an accident.


Motor Vehicle Accidents

Be aware that if you are involved in a motor vehicle accident in Bali – particularly if a person is killed – you can often be held liable. It is not uncommon for other parties to demand money, and also for the police to request bribes. Often it is best to leave the scene immediately if possible, potentially after paying a sum of money to the other party. In Indonesia, the logic of determining who is at fault is that if a Westerner wasn’t there, the accident would not have occurred regardless of the circumstances. Acceptance of simple logic is not necessarily a common occurrence in Indonesia!




Despite the recent media hysteria regarding Arak (locally distilled rice wine), there have been relatively few deaths among tourists from drinking Arak. Nonetheless, poor distillation processes can leave traces of methanol in Arak. Methanol is a poison which can cause severe abdominal pain and nausea when consumed in small quantities, and blindness or even death in extreme cases. Caution should be exercised particularly in the tourist areas of the South, where it is common for cocktails to have Arak substituted for commercial spirits. Sometimes it is better to just drink Bintang!




Indonesia takes a very dim view of drugs, in particular towards those who attempt to import drugs into the country. Those caught can face the death penalty or long jail sentences. The ‘Hotel  K’ – Kerobokan Prison – should not be on your list of accommodation when visiting Bali. It is extremely common in the main tourist areas in the South to be offered drugs in clubs/bars or even on the street. Dealers are often in league with police who will demand large bribes to make the problem ‘disappear.’ The same is true on Gili Trawangan, a veritable ‘Wild West’ which is a major drawcard for Australians and Europeans alike.



Dealing with corruption is simply a necessity in Indonesia for locals and tourists alike. Most ‘problems’ can be solved with a small bribe to officials. This extends to issues with almost every type of public official, including the police. Be prepared to be offered to solve any issues ‘on the spot’ instead of in court. It is considered wise to  carry 50,000 rupiah (approx. USD $5) in a separate pocket. Any money shown to an official will magically become the amount you will need to pay to clear up the issue.



Bali is an amazing island with beautiful people, activities and scenery. The mistake that visitors often make is to arrive with the misconception that the same rules which apply at home also apply in Indonesia. With the right attitude and a reasonable amount of street smarts, your holiday in Bali will be memorable for all the right reasons.

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