A few important things you need to know about Bali
Here’s 3 crucial things about Bali that you need to know before you start stuffing gear in your suitcase.
The first applies to you no matter where or when you choose to visit; whereas the second two are more relevant when you think about what places in Bali you will be visiting and at what time of the year.
For women, this means having a light shawl to cover your shoulders and a light dress to cover your legs (more details below in the women’s packing list section).
For guys, a tank top isn't always suitable, so you may need a T-shirt and longer shorts before entering any religious sites.
That being said, when visiting popular tourist temples, like Uluwatu, they do provide items to help you cover up before you go in.
But generally speaking, though areas like Kuta are very touristy and many local traditions have fallen by the wayside, it’s still seen as respectful not to stroll around town in a bikini or swimming trunks; but to instead cover up to some degree.
2. Geography of Bali
In many ways, Bali is similar to other islands in Asia, like Sri Lanka.
When you’re by the coast on any part of the island, the weather tends to be very hot; whereas up in the northern/middle parts of the island, it can get pretty chilly.
I remember riding on our moped back from Ulun Danu Beratan Temple (in the middle) towards Ubud (further south) and being absolutely freezing!
But only 20 minutes before, basking in the sun in my shorts and t-shirt.
The image below should help make a little more sense of it …
You’ll see that as soon as you head north of Ubud, it starts getting a lot hillier.
Whereas in the southern regions, it is all very much more low-lying.
3. Seasons in Bali
What you choose to take to Bali will be very much dependent on what time of the year you visit.
Bali has two main seasons:
Dry season: April - September
Wet season: October - March
Like most Asian countries, the wet seasons can get pretty darn wet, with heavy rain for more than 20 days a month.
Also, during this time, the waters tend to get a lot choppier.
That being said, there’s nothing to say you shouldn’t visit during these months.
In fact, as long as you’re happy to put up with the rain, you’ll find that the temperatures are always relatively high.
Here’s what I would take to Bali for a trip or holiday lasting 2 to 3 weeks ...
4 or 5 t-shirts
2 tank tops
2 evening shirts - Come evening time it can still be pretty warm and muggy in Bali, so I always opt for thin, short-sleeved shirts.
1 pair of jorts
1 lightweight rain jacket - You mostly need this if you’re heading up into the hillier part of the country, or if you’re visiting in the wet season. Outside of that, you will unlikely really need this.
2 pairs of swim trunks
1 pair of jeans - I used these when doing a sunrise hike up Mount Batur; other than that one time I’m not sure I used them again.
4 pairs of trainer socks
1 pair of hiking socks - For any hiking you might want to do; one of the most popular being the Mount Batur sunrise hike.
1 light hoody - Again, the main use I had for this was when we hiked up Mount Batur and it was freezing cold before the sun came up.
1 pair of sunglasses
1 pair of trainers - For most of your getting around in Bali, flip flops are fine; but a pair of great travel trainers are great for riding mopeds, light trekking and visiting waterfalls.
1 pair of flip flops - I’ve always used Reef flip flops for travelling as they are great quality and well suited for longer amounts of walking than cheap flip flops.
Copy of your vaccinations - Many countries in Asia might require you to show proof of your vaccinations before they allow you in. This has not been the case with us for Bali before, but we have it with us regardless.
Copy of your passport and travel insurance - It’s always useful to keep a copy of this when heading to Bali. Some hotels and tour providers might need your passport details, and you don’t always want to be handing over your actual passport. And a copy of your travel insurance is great to have on hand, just in case you do need emergency treatment.
Travel insurance - On that note, ALWAYS, ALWAYS, ALWAYS buy travel insurance. If you're from the US or a number of other countries, then World Nomads can oftentimes be a great value choice for backpackers. If you're from the UK, then they are usually far too expensive. Instead, I always find that Compare The Market offers the best range and prices on travel insurance. I feel really hypocritical now as on my first visit to Bali it took me 4 days to realise that my previous travel insurance had already expired and I had been without cover up til that point (riding mopeds and get taken under by humongous waves when learning to surf!). I then had to pay for emergency travel insurance which cost me £200 more because I was already on my trip. So yeah, buy before you go! Also, check the small print to see how long each of your trips can be. For example, I could only find one UK provider offering me cover for trips of up to 90 days at a time, all the rest are usually 2 - 4 weeks maximum.
Cameras & other tech for backpacking Bali
The reason Bali has become so incredibly popular in recent years, is largely due to how spectacularly beautiful it is.
It really is a very scenic country, with endless rice paddies, gorgeous waterfalls, old temples and white sandy beaches.
In fact, even after exploring many of the other islands in Indonesia (like Java and Nusa Penida), I can honestly say that Bali is the most naturally picture perfect one I’ve seen.
So, when you visit, it’s only fitting you have the right gear necessary in order to take full use of nature all around and capture those Instagram worthy Bali photos.
When we backpacked Bali, here is the camera and other gadgets that we took with us.
A DSLR (Digital Single Lense Reflex) camera is a great way to up your photography game beyond using your smartphone. There are all kinds of DSLRs on the market and it doesn’t matter too much which one you get so long as it’s a good quality one that is compatible with a wide range of lenses. It is then the lenses that allow you to capture different landscapes or objects to their highest possible quality.
As well as the standard lense, we purchased a wide angle lense before our visit to Bali in order to take full advantage of capturing the landscapes (notably the rice paddies up north). I love our wide angle lense and it’s now responsible for many of the wonderful cover images plastering our Indonesia content you see on this blog!
We’ve used this now for a number of years and it’s a great way to capture high quality pictures and videos everywhere we go. It also has great quality sound recording, perfect for then editing together videos from our travels. We use this extensively in our travels, particularly for times when we don’t want to carry the DSLR around with us and need something more compact.
Since we started travelling we’ve trialled a number of different action cameras. But I can confidently say that none have come close to the quality of the GoPro Hero range. Newer models (notably the 7 onwards) have incredible image stabilisation which means that it smooths out any videos you record. They also now come with far better sound recording technology and you no longer need to fit them in a waterproof case. When it comes to photography, you get some really incredible, high quality fish-eye lense shots. You’ll get a lot of use out of these when you’re in Bali, particularly if you plan on surfing. Just be sure to pick up a few surfboard mounts before you visit.
We bought our drone just before visiting Sri Lanka in 2018 and have not looked back! It really is unbeatable in its ability to capture the most breathtaking photos and videos. You simply can’t get the sorts of shots it allows for and it’s also a lot of fun to fly. You’d also be surprised by how easy they are to fly, though I have always stuck to the DJI range which is easily regarded as offering the best range of hobbyist drones on the market.
Nowadays, a smartphone does so many jobs when travelling! We use ours for navigation, photography, social media, emailing, banking and a lot more. We’ve always been staunch Samsung users, so can’t recommend much beyond the flagship Galaxy range. All I will say is that before leaving for Bali, make sure your phone has been unlocked. This will enable you to add a local sim when you arrive. In Bali these are really cheap and for less than 200,000 IDR you can get yourself a sim with 10GB of data which will allow you to stay in touch easily when away from WiFi.
Cazzy and I each travel with a laptop, simply because we work whilst travelling. For us, our laptops always need to be lightweight, less than 15 inches in size and have a good quality processor and RAM.
When you’re taking so many new photos and videos when abroad, it’s easy to lose track of what footage is where. That’s why we decided to pick up a good quality external hard drive which allows us to store and organise everything all in one place. I can’t overstate just how nice it was when we finally bought one of these and got everything in order!
When buying memory cards for your various devices, the one thing you need to consider is what quality you plan on recording your footage in. For example, if you want to push your drone to the max and record in 4K, then you need to buy a memory card that is actually able to store and process that kind of footage. Also, consider how much storage the memory card has. You will quickly eat up 4 or 8 GB recording at such high quality, so you may want to opt for 64GB+.
Once again, with so many devices and so many memory cards, the best way to keep them all organised is a hard case that allows you to remove and store them safely when travelling. Ours also seals tightly so it’s fully waterproof.
A power bank is always handy when you’re heading out for long trips away from electricity. In particular, I recommend getting a solar powered power bank which you can connect to the outside of your bag so that it charges when you’re out and about exploring Bali.
A tripod is another great way to up your photography game. Sometimes it can be hard finding the compromise between size and quality as the smaller tripods are naturally less stable. Here is a great quality tripod that we think fits the bill nicely and that we bought just before our visit to Bali.
A VPN (Virtual Private Network) is what we use to maintain access to all our usual websites when abroad. This is particularly useful for Indonesia where they ban a lot of sites you may use back home. It can also be used to stay connected to your home version of Netflix, though it usually requires you to try a few different IP addresses before finding one that works.
Health & Safety
In Bali, two of your biggest natural hazards are the sun and the mosquitos.
As mentioned earlier, it’s usually 30 degrees and above all year round in Bali, so having a good quality sunscreen is a must-have.
Mosquitos aren’t quite as frequent, but do become more prevalent in the rainy season.
Mosquito repellant spray - Sure it can be a little stinky, but it does the job!
Plug in mosquito deterrent - You plug this into the wall at your hotel or hostel and it emits a high frequency noise that helps keep mosquitos and other kinds of bugs away.
Sunscreen - We usually opt for SPF 50+ because it does get really hot in the midday Bali sun!
Face sunscreen for surfing - I’ve found that having sunscreen like this is much better for surfing as it tends to remain on a lot longer. Ideal if you do plan on making the most of Bali’s famous waves.
Antimalarials - Typically speaking, the risk of malaria in Bali is very low, however it does exist and becomes more common in certain parts of the island at certain parts of the year. It’s best to consult with your travel doctor before visiting Bali to see if you need to pack any antimalarials.
Travel Padlock - We carry around a small travel padlock for all of our bags, which just gives you peace of mind if you ever need to leave your bag unattended.
Here’s a few other items we packed that you may want to consider adding to your own packing list for Bali.
Fold down coffee mug - A great way for Cazzy to maintain her coffee addiction without using up so many plastic cups! Also, the fold down ones are great for packing away when not in use.
Worldwide travel plug - This is a must have for any packing list, not just Bali! Having an international adaptor means that, no matter where in the world you find yourself next, you will always have the right charger at hand.
Pin to open sim card hole on phone - A small yet usually forgotten tool! I carry a small metal opener in my wallet that is there whenever we need it for changing the sims in different countries.
Dry bag - A high quality dry bag can serve lots of purposes. If you plan on doing lots of trips out onto the water around Bali, then get a heavy duty one with straps. This means you can leave all your belongings in the boat, safe away from water.
Quick drying towel - If you’re backpacking Bali and other countries in Southeast Asia, then having a big, fluffy towel simply isn’t practical. It’s one of the few home comforts I really miss, but there you are! We’ve always found that any hotels we’ve stayed at in Bali have provided towels, so you only really need your own one for the beach or day trips to Bali’s waterfalls. So that’s why it’s best to get a small, quick drying towel.
Playing cards - A must have for any seasoned traveller! Do you have any great 2 person card games to recommend for us? Let me know in the comments below.
Earphones - Much more practical than big headphones.
Hand sanitiser - We keep a small tube of this in our day bag so that we can wash our hands before eating when we are out and about exploring in nature; this is definitely a must-have for Bali.
Now that we’ve covered most of the things you do need to take with you, here’s a few things that I don’t think you need in your final Bali packing list.
A bag that is too big - I mentioned it above but I’ll say it again; if you plan on backpacking around a number of countries, don’t take a ridiculously big bag as you will only fill it with stuff you don't need. You can spot couples like this a mile off, sometimes with a giant 70 litre bag each, as well as two overflowing day bags and each carrying a carrier bag. God knows what they have with them!
A sleeping bag - Not necessary in Bali where everywhere will provide you with proper bedding, even hostels.
Other items to add to your Bali packing list
Finally, here’s a few things that we didn’t take with us to Bali but which you might want to consider yourself.
Packing cubes - So many backpackers swear by these as the best way to keep your bag properly organised when travelling for long periods of time. They are probably right, and we definitely need to start using these ourselves!
Money belt/waist bag - Not really my thing, but again lots of travellers carry them.
Kindle - A great alternative to carrying lots of real books around. Personally I just use my phone for this as we have lots of gadgets to worry about as it is!
Hiking boots - We didn’t do a lot of hiking in Bali, except for climbing Mount Batur, and even then these weren’t necessary.
Physical books/travel guides - Nothing beats an actual book, but just not practical for space-saving.
Ear plugs - If you plan on sleeping in a lot of hostels in Bali, then these could be a good investment.
Multivitamins - I’ve taken these on a few longer term trips, but I’m really not sure how much benefit they had.
Waterproof phone case - Personally, I would only ever take my GoPro in the water; but tonnes of people instead used a waterproof case over their smartphone when taking pictures in the ocean and the waterfalls.
Underwater dome for GoPro - We really want to get one of these!
Extension cord - Great for if you plan on having lots of devices on charge at one time; we’ve taken one of these away a few times but it wasn’t a part of our Bali packing list.
Snorkel - If you plan on doing a lot of snorkelling in Bali, then this could be a good shout; alternatively a lot of places do rent these or include them in tour prices.
If you’re just heading to Bali for a relaxed holiday, then you don’t need to worry quite so much about being strict on what you pack. But, if like us you plan on renting a moped and exploring much of this island and neighbouring islands; then plan ahead by having the right sort of day bag that will allow you to carry all you need.
Remember, it gets hot and muggy!
Regardless of whether you’re a guy or a gal, make sure your clothes are lightweight and not made of heavy fabrics. Even once the sun goes in, it’s typically warm and muggy in Bali so loose-fitting clothing is best.
You can buy almost everything out there
Don't panic and pack everything but the kitchen sink. Bali is a very developed country, especially in Kuta where they now have a massive shopping mall! So if you do find you’ve forgotten any clothing for toiletries, then it’s easy to pick up new ones there.
I'm an Economics graduate with a passion for travel. In 2016 I decided to ditch the office environment, work from my laptop and travel to every country in the world. You'll find me working out of a cafe in Bali, perhaps on a riverboat in Brazil or maybe even an airport lounge in New Delhi.