I went on the trip of a lifetime to Bali, Indonesia. Here are 4 things I wish I knew before visiting.

  • In April, I went on a trip to Bali, Indonesia.

  • In 2020, my trip was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic so I was thrilled to finally visit.

  • I enjoyed my vacation but there are some reasons I’m unlikely to rush back to the island.

Earlier this year, I went on a trip around India. Before returning home to the UK, I took a detour to Bali, Indonesia.

I’d seen remote workers and holidaymakers on TikTok promoting the idyllic island as the perfect chilled-out vacation and was excited to see it for myself, especially after canceling a trip to Bali in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

I’m happy I experienced the warmth and hospitality of the locals, which admittedly was the best part of my trip. But after seeing several parts of the island, there are four things I wish I’d known beforehand.

I previously had a trip to Bali, Indonesia, canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and was thrilled to finally make it to the island.

The author at a beach club in Bali.The author at a beach club in Bali.

The author at a beach club in Bali.Priya Raj / Business Insider

I started my month-long trip to Asia earlier this year in India, and made my way to Bali for the last week of my trip.

I had seen Bali become a popular vacation destination on social media, and was excited to experience it for myself.

I experienced an earthquake during my first couple of days, and soon learned these are common in this part of the world.

A screenshot of a map of Indonesia showing an earthquakeA screenshot of a map of Indonesia showing an earthquake

The author felt an earthquake on the Island.Priya Raj / Business Insider

Two days into the trip, my friend and I were getting ready in our hotel when the sliding door of the bathroom began shaking — it wasn’t until the whole room began swaying that I realized we were experiencing an earthquake.

Reuters reported that this 6.6 magnitude earthquake was in the Java Sea, not Bali, but could be felt over parts of Indonesia. The hotel staff informed us that earthquakes are fairly common in Bali, and there was no tsunami risk on this occasion so not to worry.

Hearing the word tsunami sent warning signals to my brain and I couldn’t help but think of the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami. Though I knew we were fine, it made the rest of the trip unsettling.

This is a reality that, in my experience, was glossed over in social media coverage about the island, but something all travelers should be aware of.

If I had known about this before visiting, I don’t think it would have changed my decision, but I would have been better mentally prepared.

Bali caters to the needs of tourists, meaning some areas won’t make for an authentic Balinese experience.

Beachwalk shopping center in Kuta, Bali.Beachwalk shopping center in Kuta, Bali.

Beachwalk shopping center in Kuta, Bali.Priya Raj / Business Insider

Like other major tourism spots, Bali’s industry was hit heavily by the pandemic. Business Insider reported in 2021 that Bali had only 45 international tourists from January to October that year.

The Jakarta Post reported in 2020 that 80% of Bali’s economy was dependent on tourism, which was clear from the hordes of Australian and European tourists I met while there.

In central areas like Seminyak, Kuta, and Canggu you can find shopping malls and international cuisine, and in my opinion, feels similar to other major cities.

That’s not to say you should cancel your trip. Jimbaran, a coastal area in the south of Bali, is perfect if you’re looking for a serene resort experience with breathtaking views. Ubud, a landlocked area in the rainforest, is a perfect escape from the Balinese city life and also has temples dotted throughout.

Popular attractions are spread out, and the only way to reach them is by scooter or car – meaning traffic gets worse as the day goes on.

A view from the inside of a car to the road in Bali.A view from the inside of a car to the road in Bali.

The author didn’t realize how much traffic there would be in Bali.Priya Raj / Business Insider

The friend I was traveling with had been to Bali numerous times, so I was aware the island wasn’t accessible on foot. Many tourists opt to hire a scooter, however, taxis are an affordable and easy option bookable through a local app called Grab.

I wasn’t prepared for the journey times which are easily over two hours between destinations. We heard that Rock Bar, a coastal bar in Jimbaran, was a must-see, but we spent over 3.5 hours in the car going there and back to our hotel in Seminyak.

We were only in Bali for one week so rather than packing our itinerary, we opted to spend our time relaxing.

I’d recommend coming to Bali on a longer trip and splitting your time between hotels in different areas to allow you to see more. If I had more time, I would have split my time between Ubud and Seminyak.

The heaviest monsoon season is between October to April, however it’s common for rain to appear spontaneously.

A view of a flooded street in Bali.A view of a flooded street in Bali.

The aftermath of one day of rain in Bali.Priya Raj / Business Insider

BI previously reported that monsoon season in Bali runs from October to April. I traveled at the end of April, but the forecasts were dry for weeks leading up to my trip.

One day I woke up to the sound of rain against the window. The weather in my home country, Scotland, isn’t good at the best of times, but I had no idea how heavy the Balinese rain could be, and how badly it affects areas of the island.

Our hotel receptionist said the rain in Bali can come from nowhere, and once it starts, it often doesn’t stop for a week.

While in a taxi later in the day, the streets were completely flooded. Though the driver was unfazed, I had never seen anything like it.

The locals in Bali are what makes this part of the world so special, and worth at least one visit.

Two girls posing at La Favela in Seminyak, Bali - the one on the left has two fingers up in a "peace" sign whereas the other is smiling.Two girls posing at La Favela in Seminyak, Bali - the one on the left has two fingers up in a "peace" sign whereas the other is smiling.

The author at La Favela in Seminyak, Bali.Priya Raj / Business Insider

Though the trip, for reasons out of anyone’s control, wasn’t all it was cracked up to be, the star of the trip was the locals on the island.

Speaking to them about their country, and hearing how proud and happy they are to open their doors to tourists reminded me of the warm reception people give tourists in my home country, Scotland.

We also had a minor accident when my travel companion slipped by the pool, which resulted in a trip to the hospital. The staff in our hotel rallied to make sure we were taken care of.

I can see why remote workers who fell in love with the island, and its people, don’t hastily leave.

Though I would like to explore the rest of Asia first before returning, this trip changed my perspective on travel.

Two girls standing in front of a pool in a pink painted building.Two girls standing in front of a pool in a pink painted building.

The author at Bali’s BodyWorks spa in Seminyak.Priya Raj / Business Insider

In recent years, I’ve begun being selective about the kind of vacations I want to go on.

I’ve done five-star luxury vacations to Switzerland and Dubai, and though I enjoyed those, I’m now looking for a sense of spontaneity – and Bali certainly didn’t disappoint in this aspect.

I don’t feel the need to rush back now that I’ve seen the island, and it wasn’t quite as advertised on social media, but I am excited to explore more of Southeast Asia to find my next adventure.

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