If you've found this post, you're probably planning a trip to Bali. Congratulations! You've made a great choice. I spent two consecutive months in Bali in 2019 where I circled almost the entire island visiting both popular and off-the-beaten-path destinations.
Spending two months in a foreign county that I had not previously visited was a big deal. I wanted to learn as much as I could about living in Bali before arriving so that I would be prepared, safe, and ready to have the best trip of my life.
I spent countless hours researching which vaccines to get, whether or not I needed a driving permit and more. I'm here to share what I've learned so that you can save yourself time and energy when planning your trip to Bali, whether you're visiting on holiday or staying long-term.
To enter Bali, passports must be valid for at least 6 months from the day of arrival. Double check your expiration date in advance and apply for a fresh passport if necessary.
Travel insurance is always a good idea. Bali is very safe, but there are still unique risks to be aware of, like earthquakes, motorbike accidents, and illness (bali belly, dengue fever, etc). I honestly don't spend too much time worrying about scenario XYZ, but the truth is, shit happens and it's a smart to have protection.
Driving a motorbike in Bali is risky business. Traffic is congested, there's no official speed limit, and dogs like to take naps in the road with zero fear of becoming your speed bump.
If you're injured in a motorbike accident, travel insurance will only cover your medical care if you're properly licensed to drive that motorbike in your home country. To be considered properly licensed, you need an international driving permit. To get an international driving permit, you need a motorcycle endorsement on your driver's license.
If you already have a motorcycle endorsement, you can skip this step. I didn't, so I had to complete a 16 hour motorcycle skills course in my home state, then pass an exam, and then go to the Department of Licensing to add the endorsement to my Washington state driver's license. Whew! Yeah, it was a lot.
An international driving permit (IDP) is a great idea for the reasons mentioned above, but also because the Balinese police are cracking down on foreigners who are driving here illegally. Getting an IDP is easy, inexpensive, and it's valid for 1 year. Visit your local AAA office and apply in person.
Here's what you'll need:
Completed IDP application form
Two original passport pictures
A valid U.S. driver's license
$20 permit fee
Valid for 1 year
Don't forget: If you are getting an IDP because you plan to drive a motorbike in Bali, you need a motorcycle endorsement first, otherwise you cannot get the IDP.
I was hesitant to see a travel doctor because the fee was quite high and my health insurance didn't cover it. Plus, I'm quite capable of doing my own research so paying someone to tell me what already knew felt excessive.
I ultimately decided to see a travel doctor after spending hours (errr, days) stressing out about whether or not I needed two very expensive vaccines: rabies and japanese encephalitis. I wanted to get the right information so I could avoid potentially unnecessary immunizations that were going to cost me thousands of dollars.
Seeing a travel doctor ended up being 100% worth my time and money. Not only did I get clarity on which vaccines were needed, but I learned other travel safety tips like how to avoid drowning and what to do if someone tries to mug you.
Vaccines are a personal decision and you have to decide what's best for you. I'm an anxious traveler and my tolerance for risk is low, so I would rather err on the side caution than skip a recommended vaccine.
I opted for the following vaccines:
Tetanus (Tdap) booster
Antibiotics to treat traveler's diarrhea
Japanese encephalitis (got in Bali)
I am not offering medical advice, I am merely sharing my own experience. Talk to your doctor about your travel plans and decide which vaccines are best for you.
My Verizon Wireless plan wasn't going to work in Bali, so I chose to freeze it for a fee of $10/month rather than pay for my full plan, which saved me over $100. Check with your carrier and see if a similar option exists for you. Also, be sure to unlock your phone if you plan on purchasing an Indonesian SIM card.
Looking back, I stand by everything I did to prepare for long term travel in Bali and I would do it all again. If you found this overwhelming or don't have enough time to complete everything on this list, let's prioritize starting with what's the most important:
International drivers license & motorcycle endorsement
Seeing a travel doctor (easily skippable)
I hope you found this helpful. If you have questions, leave a comment below. Have a wonderful trip to Bali!