Bali: what to bring, what to buy here

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When we decided to spend two months in Bali as the first leg in our year-long sabbatical, I read as much as I could find about what to bring and what to buy when I got to Bali. The information was scarce, scattered and often dated. Hmmm.

I did my best, but over-packed some items which are abundant and ‘cheap as chips’ in Bali, and didn’t bring enough of some others.

Here are my suggestions for long-term visits to Bali.

Bring

  • sunscreen We did well here. We each brought a two-month supply of aerosols, pump-packs and tubes of sunscreen. It is extremely expensive in Bali (it starts at around 200000R or $20AUD per bottle).
  • liquor We bought liquor duty free and were allowed to bring in 1L each. Mixers are cheap here, so it is an inexpensive way to have a drink at your accommodation.
  • salon hair products I didn’t bring enough. And my hair is paying the price. Pantene and other supermarket hair products – shampoo, conditioner, styling – which are full of sulfates, silicon and other hair no-nos are readily available and are cheap. The good stuff is hard to find, and is comparably expensive.
  • vitamins and supplements These are (pretty much) cost-prohibitive in Bali. They are 2-4 times the price in Australia, and 4-6 times the price in the US/UK/Canada, etc. We ran out of zinc and it was 4 times the price as it is in Australia.
  • ziplock bags We brought a stash of these in different sizes and have used them – a lot. They’re great for using your Kindle on the beach or next to the pool and for keeping snack foods fresh. They don’t weigh a lot and they pack small.
  • re-usable water bottles We brought our own. Many places, including accommodations, restaurants, and gyms, have bottled water coolers or provide filtered water so you can top up your water bottle. Bottled water is readily available, but recycling in Bali is not as prolific or as effective as it is in other places. If you can avoid buying small plastic bottles of water, please do.
  • Mid- to high-end skin care It will be hard to find these products – I haven’t seen them – so I recommend bringing your own.

Buy here

Things that are very cheap – or quite a lot cheaper – in Bali and that you will be able to find in the nearest supermarket:

  • ‘drug-store’ (US/CA), ‘Priceline’ (AU) or ‘Boots’ (UK) skincare products If it is an inexpensive range of skincare at home, you can buy it here – and often much cheaper than at home.
  • toothpaste/mouthwash
  • deodorant
  • shaving cream A little cheaper than home and readily available)
  • bug spray Cheaper than at home and readily available)
  • body/hand moisturiser
  • body wash
  • micellar water (makeup remover) It’s much cheaper than at home
  • tissues/wipes/cotton pads/buds
  • nail polish remover Also, professional mani/pedis are inexpensive here)
  • tampons/pads
  • Yakult It is a LOT cheaper than acidophilus tablets and is readily available – it’s a great way to keep your gut healthy – and a lot cheaper here than in Western countries)
  • coffee beans If you’re a coffee fiend and travel with your own grinder/press, the coffee beans grown and roasted in Bali are very good and around the same price as home.
  • beer Not that you’d bring a two-month supply of beer, but Bintang (Bali’s national brand) is drinkable beer and is super cheap, and you can get San Miguel (and SM Light – low calorie, full alcohol), which is a lot like Corona and is also cheap here.
  • snacks You’ll be spoiled for choice (see the pic)
  • hats sunhats are cheap here and readily available. They’re also hard to pack without squashing them, so just buy them here.

Buy ‘in a pinch’

  • electrical adapters These are much cheaper than at home if you forget yours, but may not work as expected – or at all.
  • Nuts/granola/protein powder/protein bars These are expensive here or may not be available, so if they are very important to you and your daily routine – and you have the weight in your luggage – bring them instead of buying them.
  • Clothes for sun-cover I needed a high-neck T-shirt for sun-cover, and it took me 2 hours to find what I needed, after going in and out of around 15 shops. The sun is intense here. Bring clothes that cover you when you’re out and about; buying them here is a little time-consuming and you will pay close to what you pay at home.
  • Swimsuits Ben lost his in a taxi after a group trip to the beach. The usual surf brands have stores here and you can spend $80+ AUD on a swimsuit (for men or women). We managed to find one on sale for $30 AUD.

Live without it

  • Wine The taxes imposed on imported wine make it 3-5 times the cost of what you’d pay back home. They do make wine here, Two Islands, which is made from South Australian grapes and is okay but pricey for what it is, and Balinese wine, which is made from grapes they grow here and harvest 3 times a year. It’s not cheap for what it is, and not really drinkable. I recommend that you just don’t bother drinking wine.

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