Packing for a Trip to Bali: the Ladies Guide

You are going to Bali and don’t know what to pack – let me help.

First of all, Bali is hot – always.  It is not as over air conditioned as Singapore – you won’t need to wrap up in restaurants or shops.  Bali is not as conservative as some other areas in Indonesia. Tourists are forgiven transgressions of dress by the gracious Balinese and you will see foreigners walking around the street of Kuta in various states of undress.  But do have some sensitivity. Don’t walk around in a swimming suit, bathe naked in rivers or walk around topless. There is an etiquette to all these things and you won’t get it right, nor will you pass as a goddess or humble village girl.

Now, Let’s start from the bottom. Shoes. Let’s assume that you will not be spending all your time in your hotel. If you are walking around in the tourist areas you will encounter uneven paving, puddles if it is raining and maybe some mud. This is not the time to take those new Jimmy Choos for a trial run. Go for comfortable sandals for day – more rugged shoes if you plan some jungle walking or adventurous activities. At night, you can opt for open heels or clip clop in mules if you want to take it up a notch. There are lots of fancy sandals on sale in Kuta, Seminyak and Ubud.

PACK: walking sandals, shoes for evening, any special footwear needed

Bali is casual and even in  hotels, people normally do not overdress for dinner. You will most likely be eating in open air so light filmy dresses or trousers dressed up by jewelery is a comfortable look. You can take one light wrap- just in case. You can always use it on the plane. There is a club scene here and you can use your own judgement on what to wear – think balmy tropical evening wear. One thing to note: evening lighting in Bali tends to be dim. Great camouflage for travel worn clothing or smudged eye makeup.

PACK: smart casual cool dresses, trousers and tops with jewelry, club clothing if needed.

During the day, it is acceptable to wear shorts out of the hotel in tourist areas, but do use your judgement and err on the side of conservative. Cool cotton trousers, shirts and sundresses are the comfortable way to dress. Jeans are a bit hot. If you plan to visit any government offices, dress respectfully covering your shoulders and knees. Local shops sell a wide variety of cotton dresses, so if you plan to shop, you don’t need to bring too much.

PACK:shorts. cotton trousers, t shirts, skirts and sundresses

One of the highlights of a trip to Bali is a visit to a temple. Most temples require that your legs be covered and in all you need to wear a sash. If you have a long scarf this will do. Sometimes you can rent or buy these at the temple door. Keeping a sarong in your bag with a sash will assure you are ready for all opportunities.

If you are invited to a special Balinese event you can wear smart western clothing. Alternatively, traditional Balinese dress is elegant and beautiful. Invest in a corset (available in Bali) to wear under your Kebaya top, a sarong and of course a sash. You can use all of these in a different way once back home.

Robin and I

PACK: long scarf to use a sash, sarong if you have one.

If you have special brands of cosmetics that you like to use, do bring them along. Some well known brands are available in Bali in large shops such as at Discovery Mall in Kuta or Carrefour, but you may not want to spend half a day driving to Kuta for your eye shadow.

PACK: cosmetics

Hats and sunglasses are available, but you may prefer to have your own.

PACK: Hats and sunglasses

Although most Balinese are not very fond of the water, swimming, diving and surfing are widely available. You can use a locally available sarong as a cover up or bring your own.

PACK: swimming suit, sun screen and possibly dive gear and/or surfboard

There are plenty of internet cafes and it is more than likely that internet will be available in your hotel or villa. It can be a little bit slow but it is worth it to bring your laptop. Don’t plan on downloading movies or TV shows in Bali – gigabytes don’t come cheap.

Bring your mobile or better yet an old mobile that has been unlocked. You can use an Indonesian sim card both for local calls to call overseas. Just e-mail your Bali number to friends at home. It is cheap and practical and beats roaming charges. There is no charge for incoming calls.

Indonesian electrical plug have two round pins, the same as Europe. You may need adapters for your electrical appliances and chargers.

PACK: laptop, mobile, adapters

Periplus book shops located throughout Bali offer some great books on the region plus a limited selection of international fiction. If you have a particular book to read for your next book club meeting, bring it along. Otherwise you will find some interesting reads in Bali.

PACK: special books only

Cash machines can be found everywhere in the southern part of the island. Bring your cash cards for easy exchange of money. Do notify your bank that you will be in Indonesia so that they do not assume the worst and bar access. You can change money at banks if you have cash and some merchants will take foreign currency. money changers do not have a very good reputation in Bali and often charge a fee.

PACK: Cash cards

If you take perscription medicine, you will of course bring it with you. I generally don’t go with much more than a small container of Tiger Balm. Although mosquitos are not particularly prevalent, some mosquito/insect repellant is always a good idea. There are excellent clinics on Bali for minor medical issues. Just bring whatever remedies, medical needs including birth control that you would normally bring anywhere.

PACK: mosquito repellant, your normal medication

Here is one thing you wouldn’t think of: broken bead necklaces. There are some great shops in Seminyak that specialize in creating beaded necklaces. UC Beads and Rainbow Beads are two of them. If you have some bead necklaces that need restringing or refreshing, bring them along. Mix them with some of the locallly available beads and you can have a wonderful new creation.

PACK: Broken bead necklaces

The last thing that you might consider is putting a soft bag in for all the wonderful things you will want to take back from Bali!

15 thoughts on “Packing for a Trip to Bali: the Ladies Guide

  1. Thanks for the great info. I’m heading to Bali tomorrow.
    Still a little confused about the ‘smart casual’ dress.
    I’ll find my broken beaded necklaces now. Thanks

    • You are right Alicia. “Smart Casual” can mean many things. Just bring the clothes that you feel good in to wear in the evening bearing in mind you probably won’t be in aircon and you will fit right in :) Have a great trip.
      Linda

  2. This is exactly what I was hoping to discover before an upcoming 7 week vacation to Bali! Thank you for the fabulous advise!

  3. Thank you for your ideas, what a great list. The wrap and unlocked mobile I hadn’t considered but will definitely take along. Thanks again.

  4. Thank you for your advice – we’re off on our first trip to Bali in a week and was about to start a list and saw your suggestions, all of which I now plan to follow!

    Sonia

  5. Great blog, thanks for enlightening the many European women who think it’s ok to bath topless. I’ve visited this wonderful island 5 times over the past 30 years and am saddened by the increasing ignorance of western women who put vanity ahead of modesty and sensitivity. I will not be back for a while due to the overwhelming influx of crude, ill mannered Russians who match the worst Australian bogans for offensive behaviour as a tourist. There are many other destinations in Indonesia and Asia generally that I would visit before coming back to Bali again.

    • Thank you for your comments Rebecca. I am sorry to hear that you don’t plan to come back to Bali. My first visit to Bali was about the same time as yours and I am still seeing new things and learning more about the Balinese culture. There are many amazing destinations and sights to see in the outlying regions of Bali and I hope to write about some more of them. I have traveled quite a bit in the rest of Indonesia as well, but the focus of my blog is Bali.

      I agree that we all need to be sensitive to others when we are out of our home countries. People will regard our actions as being representative of our whole country and unfortunately the bad impressions are often the ones that stick.

      I will try to be more vigilant writing more on my blog to entice you back!
      Warm regards,
      Linda

  6. My dream is to go on a vacation in Bali. I don’t know whether this dream is going to come true some day but I hope so! Last week I moved to a new home and I have a lot of bills to pay but I am an optimist! Thank you for the incredible information here!

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