Originally written and published for LUEX.com
For the most part, Bali is pretty safe. And how couldn't it be?! A tropical island graced with world-class waves, great vibes, and a hipster scene only spearheaded by San Francisco (Ask Forbes!) has nothing really too much to worry about.
Bali has been inviting tourists from all over the world before Kelly Slater won his first world title, and well before the digital nomads moved into Canggu. The island of gods treats you kindly if you offer kindness, respect, and a hint of common sense in return.
Nevertheless, Bali isn't all "La La Land." Like in any other country, there are things you need to be aware of - especially if you have your heart set on a Bali surf trip for the first time.
Are there sharks in Bali? Is it safe to rent a bike in Uluwatu? Are there any beginner spots for my kids? All these and more are questions our surf travel agents get asked daily, and we figured it is about time to debunk the myths, address the concerns and answer your most pressing questions on how to enjoy sweet living in Bali on your next surf trip.
Are There Any Sharks In Bali?
Let's get the heavy stuff out of the way first. Short answer; Yes, there are sharks in Bali. There is a great deal of White Tip and Black Tip Reef Sharks around the reefs of Nusa Dua and Padang Bai, but they are pretty shy and no threat to humans. Bali waters are as peaceful as they come, and as a surfer, you should be more worried about flying surfboards, lineup traffic, and Bali tattoos, aka, reef cuts.
In fact, Bali has had a total of five shark attacks - none of which were fatal - since 1990 and they all happened in a small surfing village on the west coast of the island. We know that the locals are pretty protective of their little strip of black sand paradise, so we won't be dropping any names, but it's safe to say that it's a solid 1.5h commute from the Bali hotspots of Canggu and Seminyak.
The latest attack was in 2016 that resulted in a crowdfunding campaign and an Air-Vac en route to Singapore for American surfer Ryan Boarman to treat his severe injuries to his arm muscles and tendons, most likely caused by a 2-meter Bull shark. It was exactly this attack, the surf media latched on to like a pack of rockstar groupies. The story was virtually everywhere and resulted in an influx of panic-infused emails to our surf travel experts, asking if Bali is still safe to surf. Although 1095 (give and take) days have passed since the attack, our answer remains the same; YES, Bali is safe.
Bali is one of the safest places to surf, looking at stats and data available from surf spots around the world. And just to put in into perspective for you folks. Next time you order that tasty, ice-cold coconut for that mandatory #bestlife selfie beach shot, have a long hard look at it. A refreshing post-surf beverage for many, but also a suspect of killing 150 people every year! How's that for a comparison?!
If that doesn't put your mind at ease, then here are some tips to make sure you avoid encounters with the men in the grey suit while in Bali. Don't surf after heavy rain and stay clear from river mouth waves and murky waters up on the west coast.
Know Where You (Should) Go
If you`re reading this, you probably know; Bali is a world-class surf destination with an abundance of waves available for every shape of a surf craft and every style of knee drop. From the Bukit Peninsula to the concrete jungle of Canggu to Kermas and the West Coast, waves are everywhere. The island is one big playground, but you have to know how to play!
Know your limits and don't show up at spots you might feel out of depth because it can lead to trouble. Many waves in Bali are no joke, as they break over shallow reef with a lot of power. The usual suspects like Uluwatu, Padang Padang, Keramas are (high) intermediate - pro territory only, even on a higher tide.
There are plenty of fun, more mellow waves for beginners and intermediates all around the island, though. Berawa Beach and Old Man's in Canggu are probably the standouts for user-friendly waves around Canggu, while Kudeta and Kuta Beach are a great alternative for when it's bigger, or if you have set up shop around Seminyak.
Even the Bukit Peninsula has some pretty fun waves at Balangan and Dreamland Beach to get amongst it, even though you might have to navigate around a few heads in the water and of course, REEF!
Bali waves come with a reputation, but if you keep looking past the well-known spots, respect the locals & the rules, you'll definitely going to score, no matter what level of surf you have.
Visa-Free Entry For 169 Countries
Yes, Indonesia is incredibly kind to travelers. Most nations are subject to visa-free entry for up to 30 days as long as their passports are valid for at least 6 months. If you think you want to spend more than 30 days in Bali, you can always get a Visa On Arrival, which you can extend for another 30 days at the immigration office in Jimbaran.
The process is pretty simple. You have to pay USD 35.00 at the payment counter in the arrival / immigration hall before proceeding to the immigration checkpoints. Once the payment is settled, you'll head to one of the immigration counters where a border patrol officer will place a sticker into your passport and tell you to not forget to extend your visa.
You are all set now, just make sure you'll go to the Immigration office at least 7 days before the initial 30 days are up to get another 30 days. Check the immigration website for more info (link http://www.imigrasi.go.id/index.php/en/public-services/visit-visa#general-info) or get an agent to take care of it.
Riding A Motorbike In Bali Isn't Like Riding A Motorbike Anywhere Else!
Riding a bike in Bali is one of the funnest and most terrifying things you can do. Fun, because you really get to explore every corner of the island like a local. Terrifying, because traffic, rules, and practices can be out of control at times.
We can't stress this enough. If you have never ridden a motorbike in your life before, then Bali is definitely not the place to change that. Driving in Bali, and that includes any type of vehicle, is an art - an art that needs to be mastered first. It can be really intimidating to navigate your scooter through the Bali rush hour and definitely something that shouldn't be underestimated. Accidents happen, and they often involve foreign tourists without proper health or travel insurance.
So for what it's worth, get adequate cover before you decide to ride a bike in Bali! Talk to your health insurance provider and clarify whether you are covered scooting around the island.
P.S. Get an international driver's license in your home country and always carry it with you in case you get stopped by the police. Oh, and kind of a no brainer, but it has to be said; Always Wear A Helmet!
ATMs Aren't Always Safe
In the wake of the rapid rise of ATM scams in Bali, we figured it'd be worth mentioning how you can protect your favorite piece of plastic from being copied, stolen, skimmed, or all of the above.
First of all, NEVER withdraw cash from a free-standing ATM machine. You might be totally fine doing it, but it's just not worth the risk. Always withdraw money from ATMs that are part of a group or close to a bank.
Don't let anyone see you punching in your code, and it might be worth the effort to check for loose cables & wires or any other dodgy utensils that shouldn't be there.
Also, don't get distracted! Don't let anyone talk to you or, worse, give you tap on your shoulder while you're waiting for your money. If that happens, don't turn around, and don't react until you have your card and your money safely stashed away in your pocket.
No Vaccinations, No Worries
One of the more popular questions that land in our inboxes. Although vaccinations are recommended when traveling to developing, more tropical countries, Bali is an exception. The island is much more developed than other areas of Indonesia, and it is not necessary to get any vaccinations specifically for your trip.
Just be mindful. Don't drink water from the tap. Go easy on the street food. Don't get bit by a dog, cat, or mosquito. And don't start trouble with the monkeys (yes monkeys!) in Ubud, and you'll have nothing to worry about.
In case you are getting sick or run into any other safety hazards, make sure to get checked out by a doctor at one of the many clinics or hospitals. Most clinics offer great first care, and hospitals like Siloam and BIMC are fully equipped, close to western standards.