As I was thinking for a topic for this blog post, I came across the thought of sharing things that surprised me after I came here to Bali. However, instead of going through things that can be found in every corner of the internet, I will be going through stuff that I only learnt once I was already here, some of the things took me over a month to realize. So, in no particular order, let’s start off with gentleman’s agreement.
(pictures often not relevant to topic at all)
Bali, and in my understanding whole Indonesia, has a strong culture of making oral agreements, which the locals call gentleman’s agreement. This can vary from small daily deals all the way to renting a house. For example, my second and third apartments have been rented based on an oral agreement, or at most we got a receipt of our payment but everything else was based around our discussions. Efficient, but also quite risky from a western point of view.
One quite annoying thing that I found out immediately after arriving here was that some restaurants add 10% tax and 5% service charge to their list prices, while others don’t. This is often mentioned somewhere in the menu, so sometimes you will not know if the 15% is added until you have the menu in front of you. The rule of thumb for me has been that the more official the restaurant looks, the more likely they are to add the 15%, but exceptions can be found as well.
Taxi services around here are a bit of a hassle as well. The regular taxis operate around the clock in the most popular tourist areas, but unfortunately they also charge ridiculous prices. Not expensive compared to the prices at home of course, but considering how cheap the transportation can be with online taxi services Uber, Go Jek and Grab, I have not even considered using the normal taxis in the daytime. The online taxi services are normally around half the price of the normal taxis.
The online taxi services come with a twist though. They are not allowed to pick you up at the most popular tourist spots, as the taxi drivers and the companies behind them are ready to vandalize or harm the vehicles of the online taxi drivers if they see someone picking up customers too close to certain tourist places (drop off is usually fine though). For that reason it is often necessary to walk away a bit before ordering online taxi, Go Jek is the one that I have used by far the most. I can get around the city with Go Jek for 1-2 euros if the destination is around 15-30 minutes away.
During the night there is literally a night and day difference with the pricing of transportation. Taxis block the traffic around all the major night clubs, and the prices at least double from daytime prices. Additionally, certain areas are protected by the local cab drivers so outsiders cannot go in to pick up customers. Not a legal thing to do, but the difference between the law and what actually happens in the city can be quite massive from time to time. I have never paid more than 150k idr for a taxi here, which is around 11 euros. Solo travelers can also take a a scooter ride, which is usually 50k at most, depending on how good talker you are.
Another thing to mention, the airport taxis are the biggest rip off you will see here, so if you have the chance to not use them, don’t.
The traffic here is a daily dose of chaos as I have mentioned before, but that was expected. Few things I didn’t expect though include drunk driving, constant presence of policemen, and just how stupid the locals can get in traffic.
First things first, drunk driving here is legal. That sounds very questionable, but to this day I have not heard that it would be illegal anytime soon either. From my point of view the major problem in this are the tourists who drive to the bar, get drunk and drive back home, sometimes hurting themselves or others. Since many tourists also refuse to use a helmet, that is a pretty dangerous combo. Additionally, drunk driving is a serious offence only if you cause an accident, which means that panicking drunk people often might just drive away after causing an accident.
Another thing I didn’t really expect is that there is police officers around many of the major intersections. The funny thing is that these intersections also have traffic lights, meaning that they are effectively overseeing traffic that is flowing smoothly anyway. Sometimes the police officers also set up drivers license inspections in bigger roads, and often times the tourists are the only ones being stopped. If your paperwork is not in order a bribe is often necessary, the police are not actively looking to give people official tickets as that just takes too much of their time.
As a third thing, there is just no limit to the stupid things the locals do in traffic. Some of the locals risk their life on a daily basis driving way too fast when the traffic is not really moving, while some drive so slow it pisses off every other driver in the traffic. And by slow I mean really slow, like 10km/h while normally people drive around 50km/h there. Scooters can carry pretty much anything, and if the traffic stops, the sidewalks become a track for the scooters to take. I could write a whole paper about this, but that probably gives the general idea.
One weird thing that I figured out only after around two months here is that there are two different types of water in the pools here. They feel slightly different, and in the other one you can’t keep your eyes open that well since the water will start hurting your eyes. I still haven’t figured out what causes the difference, but something to consider when renting a place here.
Another interesting thing I found here is that there are minimarkets like the above one all around the city, usually within 200 meters from where you live, in my 3 places so far they have been less than 100 meters away. Convenient, but unfortunately they also charge around 50% extra for most products that tourists buy. Big supermarkets are not around every corner, but finding them is definitely worth it.
That is all I can think of right now, I’m sure there would be more topics to cover as well. I have moved again and I’m now quite close to the first place where I lived two months ago. More on that in the next blog.