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OverHyped by Europeans,Underwhelming 4 SouthAsians
Oct 26, 2009 12:08 PM 17080 Views
(Updated Oct 30, 2009 03:05 PM)

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Its difficult to get lower prices for 5* hotels but Bali is so hyped by Western tourists that it can't really even meet expectations for Indians.


By Indian standards 5* hotels in Bali are much more like 4* hotels here.


So focus on the room rates rather than the star ratingto set your expectations.


e.g., if you are paying less than Rs. 5,000 per night [about US$100], its NOT going to be like a regular 5* that you may be used to.


Compared to Singapore or even Malaysia, we found Bali VERY tourist unfriendly!


Here are the most important things you need to know as a 1st time visitor to Bali:




  1. Visa on arrival sounds awesome for Indians until you see the massive lines at the airport immigration for DPS International.




If possible, save time on arrival by getting a tourist visa in advance and skip the VOA queues!




  1. Avoid arriving in the night since fewer immigration desks are open and it takes even longer to clear the lines of tourists most of who try for VOA.




  2. Like other 3rd world country airports [and we include India in this list], there are separate lines for each immigration counter increasing the stress for waiting tourists and encouraging more line switching.






Just as McDonalds figured it out over a decade ago, there should be a common queue so that luck does not determine how fast you move.




  1. Unlike Singapore or Malaysia, Indian Rupees are not accepted by almost 90-95% of money changers in Bali.




So you have a few options:


a) Take enough hard currency like USD/EUR/GBP etc at about 10-20 GBP [Rs. 1-2 k] equivalent per day of stay assuming you use your credit cards whenever possible.


b) Change INR to IDR at the airport itself where there is a wide variation in rates.


We were offered 140 - 160 IDR per INR so its negotiable like most other services in Bali.


Change small amounts [Rs. 500 - 1000] at a time so if you get a bad rate initially, you can use that as a base for further negotiations.


c) Use your ATM card for cash withdrawals but be prepared to pay bank fees of Rs. 110-200 + taxes depending on your bank.


However, this gives you MUCH better rates than any money changer.


After returning home we calculated it at almost IDR 190to our Rupee [18-20% better rates than the best money changer].


There was no way to know this during our stay else we would not have wasted time visiting a dozen money changers who did not accept INR in town.


On credit cards [e.g, SCB Manhattan] we got over IDR 193 [better than ATM also].


As a point of comparison the credit card & money changer rates are within 1% of each other in Singapore.




  1. Remember to set aside IDR 150 k per passenger [about Rs. 1 k each] after you check-in when departing Bali as airport charges.




They should simply add it to the ticket price like the rest of the world or remind tourists at check-in counters or be able to take credit cards.


We spent all our IDR at the ground floor and went up to the departure gates before we realised this and had to rush downstairs [only up escalators] to haggle with money changers.




  1. No group/bus tours at all - you have to haggle with private tour guides individually.




We were quoted IDR 7.5 lakhs and managed to reduce it to IDR 5 lakhs with credit card for a 10 hour [all day] tour.


Make sure your vehicle has rear AC vents - you'll need them in the day!


Paying cash allowed us to further reduce the daily rate to 4 lakhs IDR without a guide the next time.




  1. The prepaid taxi costed IDR 105 k from DPS airport [Denpasar] to Benoa [Nusa Dua].




We should have used this as a benchmark to haggle with the private cab drivers milling around but did not know any better.




  1. Most 5* hotels do NOT have AC lobbies in Bali since they have a 'resort' theme.




90-95% of 5* hotels do not have A/C in their restaurants either which came as a major shock to us since the daytime temp crossed 30 C daily.




  1. Bali is only geared to one kind of tourist:




a) Someone with 'hard' home currency


b) Those who like to sunbathe or surf and prefer hot weather


c) Those who like to stay at 'resorts' which is a euphemism for no AC in common areas - only in the rooms.


Given that almost 2/3rd of the province's economy depends on tourism, it would behoove them to cater to a wider demographic by introducing metered taxis at all 5* hotels and adding airport fees to the tickets.




  1. Some so-called 5* resorts charge 3% surcharge for credit cards that we managed to negotiate away.




All menu prices in hotels & restaurants add 21% in taxes & fees additionally.


This includes a 10% service charge so tipping is not required [11% is the local taxes].


They should have a law that any place that adds service charges can't also charge 3% for credit cards also.




  1. If you decide to visit the volcano [almost a 2 hour drive from Nusa Dua each way], avoid having the buffet at the eatery facing the mountain.




They have pathetic food and are relatively expensive IDR 80 k per person and don't take cards at all.


Remember to add the 21% in tax & tip also!


Fortunately its 1-2 C cooler than the plains at an altitude of about a mile [1.6 - 1.7 km] with light winds so you may not miss the total lack of A/C.


Their bathrooms are filthy and in the basement down narrow and slippery stairs.


Some don't have flushes like those in petrol pumps with a large bucket of water for flushing!


Western tourists seem to love the rustic/rural 'ambiance' but its just disgusting for the rest of us.




  1. Buying DVDs in Bali




a) Don't pay more than IDR 10 k [Rs. 55-65] for any movie and IDR 35 k for any PC game.


b) Only buy from shops that have a TV so you can test the quality & subtitles before buying.


c) Avoid foreign movies that require good captions since most of them have spelling & grammar errors that can get distracting.


d) Check the surface of the DVD closely for scratches since many shops don't exchange let alone refund.


e) Most DVD shops have offers like buy 10 and get 3 free so you get 13 DVD for IDR 100 k [Rs. 600 approx].


f) Avoid buying TV series since they only have 2-3 episodes per disc and cost IDR 10 k / disc.


So Desperate Housewives cost us IDR 120 k for a 24 episode season even though the disc has space for 4-5 episodes each.


We bought from a nice A/C store at the biggest supermarket in Sanur but they don't take cards.


However they agreed to exchange 'Transporter 3' since the movie would freeze up after an hour of playing despite the fact that we tested the 1st few chapters in the store also.


We had to replace the french movie Taxi 4 [spelled 'T4xi'] since it was dubbed in Russian and the captions were too fast to read so we had to pause every few seconds!


The money changer agreed to go from 140 IDR to 150 per INR also [just next to the entrance of the supermarket].


It should go without saying that if you are paying around $1 per DVD it can't be original!


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