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Boundless Life in Bali: Our ULTIMATE practical guide for families.

June 20, 2023
5 min read
Kat Ridgway-Taylor

July 2023 sees Boundless Bali open its doors and welcome our first families for the summer! We have chosen family-friendly Sanur as our Balinese base. This will be Boundless’ first non-European destination and whilst so much will be reassuringly similar, Bali offers a new and unique cultural experience. If you are visiting Bali for the first time with kids - with Boundless Life or independently - this guide is for you!

🦺 Safety first 

Indonesia is generally a very safe place to visit with your family but, like anywhere, accidents can happen and crime does exist. By taking some sensible precautions you can reduce the risk and relax and enjoy your time in Bali. 

Stay vigilant: It's essential to stay vigilant and keep an eye on your belongings. Take precautions like using a money belt.

Sun protection: Bali has a tropical climate, so ensure your whole family is protected from the sun. Use sunscreen with a high SPF, provide hats and sunglasses, and seek shade during the hottest parts of the day.

Water safety: If you plan to swim, ideally choose beaches with lifeguards and stay within designated swimming areas. Keep a close eye on your children and consider using flotation devices for those who are not confident swimmers. Sanur is a great place for children to swim as the reef keeps waves small so children can happily paddle and swim in the shallows.

Road safety: Traffic in Bali can be chaotic, so always hold your children's hands and be cautious when crossing the road. Always look both ways and never assume a driver will stop - even if you are using what appears to be a common crossing point. 

Hydration and food safety: Bali's heat and humidity can lead to dehydration. Encourage your children to drink plenty of water and eat at clean and reputable food establishments to avoid foodborne illnesses. 

Pace yourself with street food: Street food is abundant in Bali, and it can be tempting to try everything. However, take it slow and be mindful of your stomach's tolerance. Start with small portions and gradually increase your intake as you become accustomed to the local flavours.

If you do get a case of ‘Bali-belly’ speak to your nearest chemist who will be able to provide you with appropriate treatment to have you feeling better quickly. Pharmacies are well equipped to deal with most common ailments and can even dispense short antibiotic courses without a Doctor’s prescription. 

Be mindful of water and ice: To avoid stomach issues, it's generally recommended to consume bottled water and avoid tap water. Carry an insulated reusable water bottle to keep mineral water cool and reduce reliance on single-use plastic. Children attending the Boundless Education Centre will be provided with a reusable bottle they can keep for all their adventures.

Be cautious with ice cubes and opt for drinks without ice if you're unsure about the water source.

Mosquito protection: Bali does have mosquitoes which can carry diseases. Use insect repellent liberally and dress in lightweight long-sleeved clothing to reduce the risks of bites. 

Stay together: Bali can be crowded, so it's important to keep your children within sight at all times. Establish a meeting point in case anyone gets separated, and teach your children basic safety rules and how to ask for help if needed.

🚗 Getting Around 

  • Ride-hailing apps are one of the easiest ways to make short trips. Grab and Gojek are the most popular and work in the same way as Uber. There are no surprises with the cost of the journey as this is specified upfront. It’s important to note that these services are prohibited at major tourist attractions like temples, waterfalls, and some beach clubs. If you find that you can’t get a pick-up from your app you will need to use a taxi or private driver instead. TIP: Download the apps before you arrive. Some require you to validate your phone number via text SMS which will cost more to receive if you are away from home.  
  • Taxis in Bali are all blue. Look for the Bluebird branding. These cars all belong to the same company which has built a solid reputation. You will find taxis everywhere so it’s very easy to hail one. 

State your destination and agree on a price upfront or confirm the metre will be running. This will avoid any occasional surprises when you arrive. Metered taxis are incredibly cheap when compared to Europe, the US, Canada etc! Note that you should expect to pay more at night - as much as twice the daytime fare. Drivers may not agree to use the metre at night so pre-agree the price before you set off. 

A general rule of thumb is that taxi rides under an hour - where the price has been agreed upfront or metre running - will generally be cheaper than a private driver. For longer trips, you may prefer to consider a private vehicle and driver instead. 

You may find seat belt availability a bit hit-and-miss. Car seats and booster seats are not typically carried by taxis. If you have younger children it’s best to bring their seats with you and find a taxi that has all seatbelts operational. Isofix anchor points are not too common so be prepared to use the seatbelts to secure any child seats. 

For small children around 4 years and above there are several travel options available that are a little more travel friendly such as the Trunki Boosterpak, the RideSafer Travel Vest, Mifold car seat, and inflatable booster seats. 

For very young children and babies, you may prefer to use a private driver - who may even be able to provide a car seat for you. 

  • Private vehicles with drivers are typically smart and clean with air conditioning. Larger vehicles are available for parties of 6-10. Private vehicles can be booked for a whole day so you can visit multiple attractions. 
  • Self-drive car and scooter hire has been a hot topic in the news lately as Indonesia has introduced tougher rules to ensure everyone’s safety. Make sure you hire from a reputable agency, check the insurance small print (especially any information relating to the deductible/excess you will be liable to pay if damage is incurred), and always wear a helmet if using a scooter/moped. 

You may want to hire a vehicle in Bali to explore further afield. There are just a couple of things you should be aware of before you arrive.

  • You will drive on the left-hand side of the road (with the steering wheel on the right).
  • Traffic can be a little more chaotic than you are used to - especially within towns.
  • Bali is introducing stricter measures around visitors' hire and use of vehicles. This includes the need for International Driving Permits (IDPs). Whilst this has technically always been a requirement it was rarely enforced. Now, however, you should expect to present this when requested by the rental company or the relevant authorities. There are three different types of IDP. You will need the '1949' version for Bali.

How to obtain an IDP

There are some websites advertising that you can obtain an IDP online - including from within Bali. In our experience, this is not the case and these are often scams! Please follow the steps below to obtain your IDP.

If you are from the United States: Head to your nearest AAA, fill out the required form, present your US licence and pay $25. Your IDP will be issued on the spot and is valid for 1 year.

If you are from the United Kingdom: Head to your nearest Post Office (the Royal Mail website can confirm if the IDP service is offered), present your UK licence and a passport photo and pay £5.50. Your IDP will be issued on the spot and is valid for 1 year.

If you are from Canada: Contact the Canadian Automobile Association for a Canadian International Driving Permit application form.

🍥 Food 

Bali - and Sanur in particular - offers a diverse, international range of cuisine and you will be spoilt for choice. Balinese cuisine is known for its rich flavours, vibrant spices, and unique dishes. Here are some tips to help you adjust to the food during your stay. 

Start with familiar dishes: If you're new to Balinese cuisine, start by trying some dishes that are more familiar to you. Famous Indonesian dishes like nasi goreng (fried rice) or mie goreng (fried noodles) are widely available and can be a good starting point. Many restaurants will offer a kid’s menu and/or international dishes that may be more familiar to them.

Embrace local flavours: Balinese cuisine has a distinct blend of flavours, including spicy, sweet, sour, and savoury. Be open to trying new taste combinations and spices such as lemongrass, ginger, turmeric, and chilli. Restaurants can help you select ‘milder’ variations for children to start them on their culinary journey. 

Be cautious with spicy food: Balinese cuisine can be spicy, so if you're not accustomed to the heat, it's a good idea to start with milder dishes. Ask for your food to be prepared less spicy or request condiments like sambal (chilli sauce) on the side so you can add it according to your taste.

Explore local markets: Visiting local markets in Bali is a great way to immerse yourself in the local food culture. You'll find a variety of fresh produce and exotic spices. Take the opportunity to sample some traditional snacks and delicacies or find the ingredients to create your own feast in your accommodation. 

Seek recommendations: Talk to locals or fellow travellers for recommendations. They can guide you to hidden gems and local eateries that offer the best culinary experiences. The reviews on Google Maps and Trip Advisor are also a good starting point. 

Stay hydrated: Bali's tropical climate can be hot and humid, so it's important to stay hydrated. Drink plenty of fluids, including bottled water, fresh fruit juices, and young coconut water, to keep yourself hydrated while exploring the local cuisine.

🛒 At the shops 

Bargaining: Don’t be afraid to bargain on items that you like. Bargaining is a common practice in Bali's markets and small shops. Polite and friendly negotiation is key. Start by offering a lower price and gradually work your way up.

Support local artisans: Bali is known for its skilled artisans who produce unique handicrafts and artwork. Seek out shops and boutiques that showcase local craftsmanship and support the local economy.

Carry small notes and change: It's helpful to have smaller denominations of local currency (Indonesian Rupiah) when shopping in Bali. Shops may not have change for larger bills, so keeping smaller notes and coins can make transactions easier. Smaller denominations are also handy for taxis. Many larger stores will accept credit/debit cards. 

Liquors/spirits: These are expensive to buy in Bali as they are imported. If you have a favourite tipple it might be worth purchasing it at the airport Duty Free. 

Be cautious with branded items: Bali has its fair share of counterfeit goods. If you come across heavily discounted branded items, exercise caution as they are likely to be fake.

Baby and toddler supplies: Baby products can be found at the supermarket. Hardy’s is the closest to Sanur and, slightly further afield in a taxi, Carrefour is larger and has a bigger selection. 

Many baby products are imported so don’t be surprised if they are a little more expensive than other parts of your shopping. 

Supermarkets do stock formula but the range will be smaller than in the US or UK, for example. If your baby has an intolerance and needs ‘special formula’ it might be better to bring this with you. Just remember to declare it on your customs card on arrival. 

📲 Staying connected 

You will find that most restaurants and cafes offer free Wi-Fi to customers. However, you might like to purchase a local SIM at the airport or from a local phone shop to avoid excessive roaming charges elsewhere. To do this you will first need to register your device's IMEI.

What is an IMEI number?

An IMEI number is a unique code to identify a specific device when inserting a SIM card. It consists of a 15-digit number assigned to each phone worldwide. IMEI numbers have various uses, including allowing police or network operators to block a device if it is stolen and sometimes enabling phone tracking.

Why is registration required?

Registering a phone’s IMEI means registering the phone itself, not the SIM card. This is how Indonesia fights against the illegal import of mobile devices. All devices that enter the country legally already have registration. This method of combating illegal phones is not unique to Indonesia.

OK, what do I need to do?

You need to complete the 'Short Stay IMEI Registration (Tourist Registration)'.

For stays less than 90 days, the process is straightforward and you can register your phone's IMEI for free at any official mobile operator's store. Visit with your passport and phone. No tax is required for this registration.

A "tourist" registration is valid for three months and can be extended for another three months without additional fees at the same place where you initially registered.

TIP! Many mobile phone shops offer free IMEI registration when you purchase a SIM card or internet package.

How do I know what my IMEI is?

For Android: Enter *#06# in the phone dialer app, and your IMEI number will appear on the screen.

For iPhone: Go to General Settings > About. Find the serial number; you may need to scroll down to locate the IMEI/MEID and ICCID.

Can I use my phone without a local SIM and use Wi-Fi without registering the IMEI?

Yes, you can still connect to various free or paid Wi-Fi networks at cafes and restaurants.

💵 Money Matters

Most larger shops and the majority of restaurants will accept credit and debit cards, but it’s sensible to also have some cash available in a range of denominations.

Currency exchange is available at the airport or in most large towns - including Sanur. Look for low-fee or commission-free options or, if you have a card that allows you to exchange currencies via your banking app (Revolut is one such example) you can exchange via the app and then just withdraw local currency from an ATM.

Exercise the same caution you would anywhere else when using ATMs. Check for no obvious devices or attachments placed on the card reader that could be used for ‘skimming’. Keep an eye out for someone standing too close behind you or people interrupting you during a transaction. 

Fees for withdrawing cash may vary by bank so it might be worth ‘shopping around’ a bit to find your best ATM option. Most machines will show you the fee and give you the option to cancel your withdrawal request if you feel the fee is too high. 

🕑 Adjusting to a new time zone 

Jet lag is not akin to normal tiredness and results in disrupted sleep patterns, grogginess and irritability. Make sure you get plenty of good rest before your trip, stay hydrated, and allow yourself and your family a few days to adjust before undertaking any big trips or long days. 

Tips for handling jet lag in children

  • If you can, adjust your sleep pattern in your home country to be closer to that of your destination. Do this for a few days before you depart to reduce the impact on the body. 
  • Stay hydrated. Lots of water before, during and after the flight. Avoid sugary drinks. 
  • Pick flight times strategically to allow for sleep. This is where picking a night flight can really help. 
  • On arrival, stick to local meal times. This will help the body adjust to its new time zone. 
  • Lots of fresh air and natural light will help regulate your children's circadian rhythm. 
  • Avoid extra naps and stick to your bedtime routine from home. 

Many of these tips to avoid or lessen the impact of jet lag are equally applicable to grown-ups!

🛕 Customs, traditions and language 

Respect local customs: Bali has its own unique culture and customs. Teach your children about respectful behaviour and encourage them to be mindful of local traditions and practices. Dress modestly when visiting religious sites. 

Shoes: It is customary to remove shoes when entering a home - including your own accommodation. 

Language: Learning some basic phrases in Indonesian will be appreciated by the locals - who can also help you fine-tune your pronunciation. 

Canang Sari: Take extra care not to step on the Hindu offerings placed on the ground as this may be considered a breach of religious protocol. Explain the offerings to curious young children so that they know not to touch them or remove items. 

🌇 Miscellaneous!

Sunset (which is often stunning) is at around 6.00 - 6.30 pm all year round. This may be a little earlier than you and your children are used to so it might be worth explaining this to them in advance.

✅❌ The official ‘Dos and Don’ts Card’ 

The Balinese government has recently introduced an official list of dos and don’ts for tourists. These helpful cards are issued on arrival but, for ease of reference, here they are:

✅ Dos

  • Respect the sanctity of temples, pratimas (sacred statues), and religious symbols.
  • Wholeheartedly respect the customs, traditions, arts, culture, and local wisdom of the Balinese people during ongoing ceremonial processions and rituals.
  • Dress modestly, appropriately, and respectfully when visiting sacred areas, tourist attractions, public places, and engaging in activities in Bali.
  • Behave politely in sacred areas, tourist areas, restaurants, shopping areas, roads, and other public places.
  • Be accompanied by licensed tour guides (who understand the natural conditions, customs, traditions, and local wisdom of the Balinese people) when visiting tourist attractions.
  • Exchange foreign currency at authorised money changers (both banks and non-banks) that are officially licensed and display the authorisation number and QR code logo from Bank Indonesia.
  • Make payments using the Indonesian Standard QR Code (QRIS).
  • Conduct transactions using the Indonesian rupiah.
  • Comply with the applicable traffic laws in Indonesia, including possessing a valid international or national driving license, obey traffic rules, dress modestly, wear a helmet, follow traffic signs, not exceed passenger capacity, and no driving under the influence of alcohol or illegal drugs.
  • Use four-wheeled transportation that is roadworthy and officially registered or two-wheeled transportation that is operated by a legal business entity or association for two-wheeler rentals.
  • Stay in accommodations that possess the required permits according to applicable regulations.
  • Adhere to all specific provisions/rules that apply to each tourist attraction and tourist activity.

❌ Don'ts

  • Trespass sacred territories: Steer clear of utamaning mandala and madyaning mandala, holy and sanctified spots like puras and pelinggihs — unless you're there for a Balinese traditional ceremony, during which you must wear the appropriate attire, and not be menstruating.
  • Touch sacred trees.
  • Engage in behaviour that defiles sacred places, temples, idols, and religious symbols, such as climbing sacred structures and taking indecent or nude photos.
  • Litter and pollute lakes, springs, rivers, seas, and public areas.
  • Use single-use plastics like plastic bags, polystyrene (Styrofoam), and plastic straws
  • Utter offensive words, behave disrespectfully, cause disturbances, and act aggressively towards government authorities, local communities, and fellow tourists, both directly and indirectly through social media, including spreading hate speech and hoaxes.
  • Engage in work or business activities without proper documentation issued by the relevant authorities.*
  • Get involved in illegal activities, such as trading illegal goods, including endangered flora and fauna, cultural artifacts, and sacred objects, as well as illegal drugs.

*Remote work for entities outside of Indonesia is fine. 

Boundless Life families have the benefit of the vast knowledge of our local team who can offer advice and support on all practical matters. This includes a Community Concierge who can help with booking transportation, arrangements for babysitting and a lot more besides.

At Boundless Life we build a collection of thoughtfully designed communities located in beautiful destinations around the world comprised of private homes, co-working spaces, a education system based on experiential learning and locally adapted recreational hubs where like-minded families can develop connections, work, sustainably explore different parts of the world and be immersed in the local cultures.

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