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What to bring to Bali

In Bali for a weekend? A week? Longer? Here is a handy guide on what to bring. Read carefully, as some things are needed depending on where you plan to go.

Swimmers: A couple of swimsuits will do. There are boutiques that sell them, and the range is good. However, they won't be much cheaper than at home, and plus sizes are hard to find.

Sunscreen: Yes, this is readily available in chemists and convenience stores, but it's expensive. Buy some good quality sunscreen at home and bring it with you.

Tampons: Tampons are hard to find and expensive in Indonesia. Bring as many as you will need from home. I use a cup on heavy days, but I find these are a messy annoyance when you're travelling.

A hat: For the beach and wandering around, particularly in the south of Bali, a hat is important. The sun is vicious between 9:30 and 3 ish. However, there are plenty of places to buy nice straw hats, and likely a stallholder will send a kid wandering around with a pile of hats to buy, so don't panic if you forget your favourite.

Sandals and/or flip flops: Frankly, you'll spend most of your time in these. I wear flat sandals out to dinner, but you might prefer heeled sandals or wedges. You'll only need one pair of heeled sandals if you prefer a bit of height for a nice restaurant, and maybe sneakers if you're planning to hit the gym. If you want to hike Mount Batur, your sneakers will also be fine, and you really don't need hiking boots. I live in a great Indonesian brand of sandals called Cortica — there's a store in Ubud —, which are cheap, well-made and have arch support (!!). Anything else is taking up luggage space and adding weight for no reason.

Clothes: My Bali uniform is loose cotton or linen trousers and a singlet top. I prefer trousers for riding the scooter — you don't get sunburnt thighs, and you have a thin layer of protection in the off chance of a fall. If you aren't expecting to ride a scooter a lot, shorts, skirts and dresses are fine. Heavy cotton and polyester t-shirts will be unpleasantly hot during the day; go for light linen and cotton singlets or blouses. I wear a long-sleeved cotton shirt over a singlet top if I'm driving a longer distance expecting to be in the sun for any length of time to protect my shoulders. For going out, I tend to wear nice maxi dresses, which can be rolled up for travel. I'm also fond of a coverall for wandering around hotels/beach clubs/pool clubs. Hotel laundry tends to be pricey, but there will likely be a local laundry around the corner from anywhere. These will have your clothing clean and dry within 24 hours to wear again, and you won't pay more than $5 a kilo. My rule of thumb when travelling for any length of time is to pack your bag and then take out half. This is especially true in Asia where you can get inexpensive replacement items. Plus, the boutiques of Canggu and Seminyak are excellent.

Mosquito repellent bands: I think the repellent bands for kids are great — mozzies (Australian slang) particularly love white people and their 0+ blood. It's something we just have to deal with for our privilege. Though you can't get the bands easily in Bali, standard repellent in a spray or lotion (Obat Nyamuk) is easy to find and cheap in chemists and grocery stores like Cocomart and Delta. Villas, upmarket restaurants and hotels will often spray the grounds, so this is unlikely to be a major problem in these places. But I do take a little bottle of spray in my purse everywhere I go in the evenings, as the little buggers seem to love me.

Wine: Staying in a villa? Visiting a friend who lives here? Bring wine from home — you are allowed one bottle per adult through customs. International wine is very expensive in Bali. When you're out to dinner, take advantage of happy hours and cheap cocktails. Bali brand Isola is quite good for their rose and half-decent red; the other local brands are reconstituted rubbish.

Chocolate: For a place that produces chocolate, this is surprisingly expensive — at least double what I would consider paying in Australia. If you are someone that needs a hit, bring a few bars (or some for your chocolate deprived friends that live in Bali). Alternatively, there are loads of great local snacks for a sugar hit.

Power adaptor: Indonesia uses plugs with 2 round pins. You can also get power adaptors very easily (and probably a bit cheaper) in chemists and grocery stores in Bali. Many mid-level to luxury hotels will have Australian plugs in the rooms, adapters to borrow and USB ports.

Leave at home

Sarongs: You can buy these for $5 at the markets.

Boots: Too hot. Don't bother. If you're planning a Mount Batur hike, wear sneakers — some even do it in sandals.

Jackets: Again, if you're hiking Mount Batur or scootering over the mountains, you will need a light jacket and trousers. If you are spending your time mostly in the south, Amed or Ubud, don't bother. There are a couple of places where I take a pashmina at dinner just in case and have worn it once or twice due to too cold aircon. However, this is a tropical island with an outdoors lifestyle, and even high-end restaurants are outside in the balmy tropical air. You can buy beautiful scarves in Ubud also — I will do a separate shopping post.

Jeans: If you are going to be motorbiking, up to Kintamani or over the mountains, bring jeans. I've been in Bali long enough to feel the cold and wear jeans a few evenings in the Ubudian winter (such that it is), but anywhere else they are just taking up space and weight in your bag.

Waterproof Phone Case: This is useful if you're going to one of the islands of Bali, but a zip lock bag is just as good.

Neck Wallet/Bum Bag: We aren't in Europe where pick-pockets are rife. Seriously, Bali is very safe compared to other tourist destinations. A neck wallet screams newbie, is a pain to get things out of and is hot and uncomfortable. A normal bag is just fine. Note that there have been instances of women being targeted by motorbike riders grabbing bags from their shoulders, particularly around Kuta and Canggu. Put your bag in the motorbike seat and don't drive holding your phone.

Activated Charcoal/Diarrhea tablets: I debated with myself about what category to put this in. Bali Belly is relatively common for those travelling to Asia for the first time. Even I eat something dodgy from time to time — it's an unpleasant way to lose a few kilos. However, these items are available cheaply in chemists all over Bali. If you're by yourself (with no one to send out) or staying somewhere out of the way, bring these items from home. I'll do a post about food at another time, but you should try the street food in Bali and don't panic about getting sick. You're more likely to get Bali belly from a salad in an upmarket restaurant or from swallowing shower water.

Cash Rupiah: Another optional item. There are ATMs all over the island, but there is the usual extortionate exchange rate your bank will charge along with ATM fees. It's cheaper to get out enough money at an ATM at home and bring the cash then change your currency at the kiosks in the major centres (forget the airport). Just change a small amount at first; some kiosks are dodgy. Do the calculation yourself first before taking the money and, if they're good, change more. Try and get them to give you smalls (R50,000 or less). Note that cash is still king in Bali, and even larger tourist attractions like temples still take only cash. Markets will also have this problem, and some smaller warungs only take cash. For travel, I now have a WISE account and a crypto account both with debit cards — and both offer good exchange rates and no extra fees for international ATMs.

Drugs: Do not bring illegal drugs of any kind. Just don't. And don't take any drugs while you're here. It's not worth it.

What to bring to Bali


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