In November 2021, just as the Australian borders opened up for international travel for the first time in almost 2 years, my fiance (Mandy) and I packed up all of our things to make the permanent move to Bali.
We had been eyeing Bali as a potential living destination for a while, it all started when we were watching youtube and starting seeing the amazing lifestyles all of these young digital nomads were living on the island of the gods.
I have been coming to Bali on and off for my entire life, starting as a young child on family holidays, although we didn't exactly experience much of the local culture from our all-inclusive resort in Nusa Dua.
Mandy had never been to Asia, let alone Bali and from what she had seen on the many vlog channels we were following it looked like a place full of wonder and the perfect place for two online entrepreneurs like us to set up shop for good.
Although we've both now settled into our new lives in Canggu, and can honestly say it's the best decision we've ever made. It did take a little while for us to find our feet and figure out the how-to best navigate the differences of Bali life to back home.
There were a few things we wished we had known when we exited Denpasar airport around 11.30 pm after a full day of travel and plane delays, first of which would be which one of the "taxi drivers" we could trust to deliver us to our guesthouse without ripping us off or worse.
In this list I'm going to share with you 10 things I wish we had known before coming to Bali, these are the most important pieces of information that would have saved us a lot of time and money.
Gojek is an all in one digital delivery platform that provides services to the Indonesian public such as food delivery, transport, shopping, medical, mail delivery and pretty much anything else you can think of.
Gojek has easily been the most valuable tool for us while travelling around Bali and Indonesia, I can safely say not a day has gone by where I haven't used one of its online services to help me get my daily tasks done.
Everything from getting food delivered whenever we're too busy or tired to leave the hotel, delivering our luggage from Uluwatu to Ubud when we wanted to ride our scooters around Bali, getting medicine brought to us when we were too sick to leave the room, and even shopping for us when we didn't know where to buy a new toaster from.
Gojek is the best one-stop-shop for any service you need in Bali.
As soon as you step off the plane you should be downloading the Gojek app so that you can order a car to pick you up straight from the terminal, not only will it give you the best possible but you can feel at ease knowing you're using a professional ride-sharing service.
And don't worry, if you have any issues uploading your foreign credit card to the app (like we did), all Gojek drivers accept cash so you will be able to pay for your ride so long as you've brought some Indonesian Rupiah with you.
This brings me to the next item on the list...
Unlike Australia and other western countries that seem to be moving towards a digital currency age, many Balinese still operate using cash as the preferred method of payment.
Make sure you have some cash on you when you arrive, as the last thing you will want to do when getting to Bali is drive around all day looking for an ATM.
I make a point of always having enough cash on me to cover things like meals, fuel and even the odd payment to the boys in blue if necessary.
That's not to say I don't use my credit card to pay for a lot of things, but too many times I've been caught out at a bar or restaurant only to realise I don't have enough money to cover my bill, trust me when I say there's no bigger buzzkill than having to leave your I.D. at the bar while going on a 20-minute walk in the dark to extract enough cash for your night out.
3. Google translate
While learning Bahasa Indonesia is something we're making a priority for 2022, and also many of the locals can speak basic English.
There are still so many instances where google translate can come in handy, whether you're wanting to ask a taxi driver questions without having to resort to sign language, or about to drive your scooter over the biggest bridge bypass in Bali with no idea if you're even allowed to travel on the road (speaking from experience, and no we weren't allowed).
Google translate can save you a lot of time and headaches, my advice would be to download the app as soon as you board your flight to Bali, it will help you navigate the first few days in Bali with ease.
4. Tourist sim card and re-charging
When entering Indonesia for an extended period, if you plan on using a local sim card you are required to register your IMEI number at customs and pay any import taxes required.
This must be done within 2 months of arrival, after which you will not be permitted to register your phone, you will have to provide your passport and boarding pass to the customs officer.
The only reason we didn't do this on arrival was that by the time we got into Denpasar airport everything was closed for the day, not to mention we were exhausted from the 4 am wake up call.
However what we didn't know was that you can purchase what's known as a "tourist sim" which the phone provider will register for you, this sim will work just like any other sim card for 3 months, after which you will need a new sim to continue using your phone.
It's also helpful to know that when buying more credit for your phone all you have to do is go to your local Indomart store and ask for an internet re-charge, use your google translate to make things easier, they only accept cash so make sure you bring some Rupiah.
5. Dengue Fever can be deadly
When we were planning our trip to Bali the biggest fear we had was one we shared with most of the world, what happens if we get Covid while overseas?
Well as it turns out, Covid was the least of our worries as we both contracted dengue fever within the first 7 days of arriving in Bali. Although we ended up making a full recovery it was a hellish 10 days of IVs, blood tests and just feeling horrible in general.
Although dengue is a mosquito-borne virus, and I would highly recommend using a good quality mosquito repellant (the one sold in most stores seems to be the best), I would also recommend avoiding the temptation to drink too much alcohol when you first get to Bali.
Partying, drinking and lack of sleep can all lead to a weakened immune system and that's when the virus will attack you and you could end up with a long stay in the hospital or even worse.
Try to get acclimatised to the local food and change in environment for the first week or so to ensure you're in good shape to fight off any sickness that may come your way.
6. Everything can be delivered
I can't tell you the number of times we had to jump on the scooter in the rain to go and pick something up because we just figured there was no other option.
Well unlike what you may be used to back home basically everything can be delivered in Bali, for an additional fee course.
But don't worry the small fee will pale in comparison to the time you can save yourself trying to find the place you're looking for in pouring rain.
7. (Almost) everything is negotiable.
Generally speaking, when you're given a price for a product or service the figure is just a starting point.
There is more likely than not a bit of room for negotiation, of course, this excludes things like menu items such as food and drinks, anything from major chain stores and beauty services such as massages or hair cuts for instance.
Don't take offence to the local way of trading currency for products/services, it's simply their way of doing business and there is no ill intent if you don't think something is worth the amount they are offering then tell them and they will usually play the game.
We have found that we're usually happy to pay a little over what we know to be the actual price, simply because it doesn't make as much of a difference to us as it does to the locals and we like the feeling of generating some business for the people who have suffered through the pandemic.
As most of Bali has wifi available and data plans are so cheap, pretty much everyone here only uses WhatsApp for communicating via phone.
Whatsapp is a downloadable app that uses end-to-end encryption, meaning your messages and calls are secured so only you and the person you're communicating with can read or listen to them, and nobody in between, not even WhatsApp.
It is also a way for businesses to create a catalogue to showcase their products and services with customers, you can forget to use your regular text and phone call options on your phone when you get here.
The real beauty of Whatsapp is you can start using it before you arrive in Bali to communicate with hotels, scooter hire and/or tour guides for example. making it a lot easier to get your situation sorted once your boots are on the ground.
TransferWise, much like WhatsApp, is the app of choice for most people/businesses on the island. It makes for a very simple way of doing transactions without the costly credit card/bank transfer fees you would usually get.
All you need is someone's full name and bank details to transfer them IDR instantly, in fact when we were sitting on the beach watching the sunset and a local woman approached us to buy some of her handmade jewellery we were thought we were being pretty smart telling her we didn't have any cash on us.
She looked us dead in the eye and told us it was fine, we could just transfer her the money using Wise, well played ma'am, well played.
10. Hard water.
This is something that we had heard of but weren't prepared for just how much it would affect us.
It started a few days after arriving I noticed I started breaking out in a rash around my abdomen area, although I've always had sensitive skin this was on a whole new level.
Mandy's blonde hair was no match for the high mineral content either, after a couple of weeks, her hair started falling out sporadically and became extremely dry.
Luckily we both were able to find temporary solutions for the water issue, we would recommend making sure you have plenty of body moisturiser and the right kind of hair treatment depending on which type of hair you have.
If you are planning on staying longer we would suggest a water filter for your shower head, this can help counteract the harshness of the water.