Bali Travel Survival Guide: Digital Nomad Edition

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How to travel like a God during your voyage to Bali.
Table of Contents

Inspired by an interview with Lydia Lee, who left her six-figure job in Canada “in pursuit of a path less conventional”, I decided to retrace her steps to Indonesia, to the Island of the Gods (Bali) and a place there called Ubud.

What follows is a guide to travel like a God during your visit to Bali, formed from my experiences over a three-week period in late 2016.

Planning ahead

Make sure your passport is valid for at least six months upon arrival. Be sure to verify entry requirements prior to travel in the case of changes.

Book airfare using the Hopper app to know when to fly and buy. Personally, it was my first experience using the app. But it was so good I decided to use it for my very next booking.

Finding a place to stay is as easy as booking a villa with HomeAway or hotel with Orbitz. Villas start around USD $40 per night, and boutique luxury hotels for $60 if you book at the right time.

Challenge yourself to become a carry-on traveler, and use a backpack instead of regular carry-on luggage. To learn about the benefits of carry-on travel snag a copy of The Carry-On Traveller: The Ultimate Guide to Packing Light.

My Tortuga Travel Backpack packed for the trip to Bali.
My Tortuga Travel Backpack packed for the trip to Bali.

Call ahead and set travel alerts on any plastic you intend to use during your trip. While you’re at it, inquire about foreign transaction fees as well.

Traveling alone?
If you’re an OKCupid user, consider modifying your location two or three weeks prior to the trip to meet some matches before you get there. And if you really want to spice things up, sign-up for an account on AsianDating once you land. I did, and received over 100 messages on my first day alone from all over Asia, and more than 200 during my first week active.

While away, keep family from worrying by using Kayak Trips to create a sharable itinerary that’s easy to keep up-to-date. To build your itinerary simply forward booking receipts to trips@kayak.com and the digital assistant does the rest.

Depending on your bank you may not be able to use the ATMs in Bali. Plan ahead and bring enough cash if this is the case. As a backup, consider also bringing some travelers cheques or a money order made out to yourself—just in case.

Upon arrival

Carry-on travelers enjoy first pick of taxis while most others wait for their luggage at the carousel. Head outside to meet a driver before the crowd thickens. Drivers will accept major foreign currency, so don’t worry about converting at the airport. And don’t agree to pay more than a few bucks for a ride unless you’re headed far, far away.

CABIN HACK. Bali is a tourist destination. As such most Balinese taxi drivers at the airport aren’t big fans of Uber. If you’re going to use it to hitch a ride get out of sight before hailing your ride.

Handling money

To convert money during your trip look for signs on the roadside stacked with different numbers. These are exchange rates and are posted outside money changers, which you will find just about anywhere there are tourists. If you’re staying at a hotel, ask the front desk and they may also be able to convert for you as well. Note that smaller bills tend to fetch a lower exchange rate than higher bills, and that money changers and banks are not likely to accept bills with tears in them.

If you’re traveling for business be sure to collect receipts. If you already have automated invoicing simply take photos of your receipts and upload them with your phone. Use the Fancy Units App to convert currency quickly and write the amounts onto your receipts before upload.

Meal write-offs. If you’re from the States, you can deduct 50% of your meal expenses, so be sure to collect those receipts as well.

Getting around

Once you’re a reasonable distance from the airport you can more comfortably use apps to hail rides. Carry-on travelers can use the GO-JEK app to order up a GO-RIDE and move between destination for less than half the price of an Uber.

CABIN HACK. In a hurry? GO-JEK allows you to make multiple requests simultaneously, particularly helpful when you need to get somewhere post haste. Just remember to cancel extra orders once someone responds.

Rent a scooter! Traffic can get heavy depending on the time of day. If you’ve got a carry-on backpack you can rent a scooter to save time and money. I used Lovarindo Tour & Scooter in Seminyak with a price prearranged by Boihan of The L Hotel and felt like I got a OK, but not great, deal at $5/day for a one-week rental. The staff at Lovarindo were helpful in giving me a quick overview of the bike, and even made me a cup of Kopi Bali upon my return.

If you’re headed to Lombok or one of the Gilis GO-RIDE isn’t going to get you there. Instead, pick up the Gili Islands chapter of Bali & Lombok by Lonely Planet for help getting there and back, while making the most of your stay.

Telecommunications

Depending on your mobile provider and plan, you may get some freebies while traveling abroad. For example, upon arrival, T-Mobile texted to let me know I would receive free 2G data access and free international text messaging in Indonesia. I had to dial 511 and verify with T-Mobile because it sounded too good to be true—but they weren’t kidding.

If you’re not fortunate enough to receive free data and text messages, consider purchasing a SIM card upon arrival. They’re relatively inexpensive and can provide higher speed data transmission for those times when you’re not on WiFi.

Use the Signal app by Open Whisper Systems for free cross-platform texting and video calls during the trip. Signal features E2E encryption, disappearing messages and makes it easy to share photos from your photo gallery.

Eat Pray Cowork

If you were to view Bali solely through the lens of Hollywood you might come away thinking of it simply as a place of beauty, spirituality and love. And while that portrayal isn’t far off, Bali has something not winked at in the film: a vibrant startup scene and ample coworking options for digital nomads.

A photo of me working in Bali
A photo of me working in Bali by Robin Lindholm

Coworking spaces can be found all over the island, including hubs, cafes and coliving spaces. Check out the full list of coworking spaces for locations and reviews of each space including WiFi benchmarks.

Extending your stay

Many visitors end up extending their stay, which may help explain the six-month valid passport requirement. If you booked air using Hopper as suggested above, call their customer service team during working hours and coordinate with them directly to increase your stay.

Upon departure

As of 2015 there are no exit taxes when flying out of Bali. Fees are included in your ticket price now—no need to bring any leftover Rupiah to the airport.

Speaking of the airport, be sure to arrive at least three hours before your scheduled departure. Queues at DPS can get long; don’t risk missing your flight.