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Bali - Info for Cruisers

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I was very excited to book a cruise that began in Bali.   When researching the island however, I found there was little information that focused on what a cruiser might experience.  Therefore, I’m sharing my tips for making your Bali adventure a great one, whether you’re there for a day or a week.

I worried about things pre-visit – having stomach problems, getting grilled by Indonesian customs officials about medications, being bothered by jet lag, heat, humidity, mosquitos, and sunburn.  I wasn’t sure my phone would work. (It didn't.)  I was afraid to drink coffee because I was unsure what water was used.  I was confused by the money (millions of rupiah – really?)  Mostly we had no trouble at all, but I was still glad I took the time to research, plan, and be prepared for just about anything.  My advice is as follows:

If possible, go to Bali early for your cruise.  There isn’t much close to the port, and you won’t see much of Bali if you fly in and go directly to the port.  If nothing else, going early will allow you to get a start on overcoming jetlag, and provide a cushion in case your flight is late and the traffic to the port is bad.  (Bali traffic can be unpredictable.)

Hire a driver in advance, whether you just need a few rides to a hotel or port, have only one day on a cruise, or spend many days in Bali.  Other than possible expensive shore excursions purchased from the ship, there aren’t great options for touring other than using a driver.  However, you won’t regret hiring one, and it will cost a lot less than taking a ship’s excursion.  You’ll also have more flexibility in planning your day - for example, if the heat and humidity get to you and you want to come back sooner than expected. If you hire an experienced driver, there’s no need to worry about not making it back to the ship on time.  I booked a driver months in advance on the recommendation of a Cruise Critic poster, and my spouse and I were extremely pleased with his service.  He spoke great English, was extremely knowledgeable, and was very responsive to my emails.  I researched what I wanted to see and then asked if it would be possible to see those things.  He met us at the airport, took us to our hotel in Sanur, and then took us to Ubud for sightseeing the next day.  Then we had a full day of sightseeing around the greater Ubud area with him, and then a trip down to the cruise port in Benoa. His price was very reasonable.  He accepted Indonesian rupiah or USD (and possibly other money), and his car was late model, air conditioned, and large enough for lots of luggage and our aging, growing bodies.  If you’d like to see what he can offer, you can contact him:

Dewa Gede

Email – dgrock1140@yahoo.com

Whatsapp +6285 238 493 089

Line           +6285 238 493 089

Mobile 085 238 493 089

Facebook  dewa dg

In particular, if you want to go to Ubud, he’s an excellent choice, as he has lived there his whole life and knows the area extremely well.  We learned so much. In addition to telling us about what we were seeing, he knew the cost of places we wanted to visit, and took us to restaurants he thought we’d like and our western stomachs would tolerate.  He warned us to be careful when getting out of his vehicle so we wouldn’t be grazed by the ever-present scooters zooming by.  He sensed when I wanted to stop for a picture, and suggested good vantage points at sites we visited. He even took us to his home, where we met his family, and learned about a typical living situation for Balinese people.  That particular day was a Hindu celebration day, and we were able to watch a typical celebration.  Honestly, he was the best driver and guide we could have asked for.  He told us that when he drives cruisers around, the farthest he can go is Ubud, due to the timing involved and distance from port. But since we had extra time there, he took us a bit farther.

OK, so now you hopefully have a driver lined up.  As for what to expect if you fly in to Bali:  The airport is smallish but fairly typical except for a few quirky things.  I had ordered a wheelchair for my spouse.  The young woman who brought it was wonderful.  For immigration there was a long line, but she took us to a very short line off to the side.  I think that was the special line for seniors that I had read about, but I’m not positive.  Baggage arrival was pretty slow, and then all luggage had to be put through an x-ray machine.  (Yes, it’s x-rayed after arrival in Bali).  Then we went to the customs check, handing in our one form per family, despite the fact that Cathay Pacific told us we each had to fill out a form.   We had heard that Bali was very strict on medications, so we had obtained the recommended letter from our doctor listing our medications.  We had also left medications in their original containers, with labels.  All in all, we got out of the airport fairly quickly, although it is apparently not unusual for this to take 2 or 3 hours.  Plan accordingly.  Once you get to the airport exit, if you’ve lined up a driver, you’ll see a huge number of drivers waiting for people, so look for your name.  We had downloaded whatsapp before we left home so we could communicate with Dewa.  I had not used that app before, but found it easy to use and free, at least for us with our T Mobile phone service.  Dewa texted us on whatsapp to let us know he was waiting for us, and we texted back when we got our luggage.  I had also sent a picture of us beforehand so he could look for us.  Once out of the airport, we walked a short distance with Dewa to where he left to get the car.  It’s very congested there (not unlike most airports I’ve been to), but after 5 minutes or so he drove up, put our bags in his vehicle, and off we went on our great adventure.  Oh, and if you hire Dewa (pronounced “day wah”), keep in mind there are many, many men named Dewa in Bali, so make sure you meet up with the right one!  I really left my heart in Bali, and his excellent driving and guiding certainly enhanced our visit.  (We visited temples, a waterfall, Jatiluwih Rice Fields, Sangeh Monkey Forest, Setia Darma Mask & Puppet Museum, small artsy villages like Mas, Goa Gajah elephant cave, his living compound,  a Barong and Keris show, a Tumpek Landep celebration/blessing, and more. We also spent a night at Sanur beach (Segara Village Hotel, another great experience) with its unusual, colorful boats. 

As for Bali, I was not prepared for the extreme humidity – around 80 or 90 percent, I think.  Perhaps bring a wash cloth or towel!  I’m pretty heat tolerant, but found it stifling.  It saps your strength – be realistic about what you can accomplish in the time you have.  Jetlag was a problem.  I woke up at 2:30 or 3 in the morning three days in a row and couldn’t get back to sleep.  But Bali is safe, and at 4 or 5 in the morning it’s quiet, so I went out to explore.  I’ll remember those very early walks for a long time – very memorable.  In Ubud I walked up Bisma, Monkey Forest, and Kajeng, and walked around the area near our hotel (The Runik - small place, great location, reasonable - loved it).  Roosters, dogs sleeping in streets, the smell of incense, and a city waking up turned out to be magical!  But one thing I learned after the first early morning jetlag experience was that it’s a LONG time before breakfast.  If there’s no minibar where you’re staying, buy some snacks and water before you go to bed!  In general, watch out for sunburn and mosquitos, don’t step on the offerings in the streets, put your phone on airplane mode, wash your hands a lot, bring Immodium from home just in case, and look for scooters when crossing a street! Stay to the left on streets.  Be very careful of water.  I tied a string across the sink to remind me to use bottled water. Watch out for the occasional 21 percent lodging tax and the up to 3 percent charge for credit card use at many places.  Use a little cheat sheet or a conversion app to convert Indonesian rupiah to your home currency.  Enjoy the many Australian accents you’ll hear.  Most of all, enjoy the beauty of Bali and its wonderful people. 

As for the port, depending upon the size of your ship and whether there is another ship in town, you will either dock or anchor/tender.  We docked, so I can’t comment on how long the tendering might take.  There is a small terminal at the dock, with several vendors selling Balinese items. There are no prices and bargaining is expected.  I used a small amount of leftover rupiah to buy a small, round straw bag. I assume they accept other currencies as well. They told me they would stay there until the ship left. 

Thanks for listening, and hope my comments help you have a wonderful time in Bali! 

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