We have been to Bali many times, but this is the first time we have heard of the Bali Jazz Festival. Kelley, from the blog (Im)migrating With a Purpose and an expat living in Jakarta, recently went and here are her tips for the festival.
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If there’s one lesson that my second trip to Bali reinforced in my mind, it’s that prices are negotiable. From taxis to clothes shopping, a stated price is not the same as the final price. Negotiable prices can be a loose metaphor for life when traveling around Indonesia, an island nation that boasts the world’s largest Muslim population. (Editor’s Note: Indonesia has the world’s largest Muslim population, but the island of Bali is predominately Hindu). In short, be flexible, be open, but be firm. With those three points in mind, an enjoyable experience at Bali’s Jazz Market by the Sea, located in Nusa Dua, is as easy to come by as a plate of nasi goreng.
Entrance Fees and the Jazz Festival
Tickets to Jazz Market by the Sea ranged from 100,000 rupiah for one-day passes to 250,000 for three-day passes (13,160 rupiah to 1 USD as of August 20th). A printed copy of the e-mail confirmation is required as well as the festival wristband. Tickets were also available for purchase at the palm frond and flower decorated doors.
Although doors opened at 2:00PM, music usually began much later. The idea of being flexible really came into play here because the festival organizers defined jazz very loosely. The live acts I heard on the second day varied from rock to ballads to blues. Though originally confused by the musical genres, the stalls packed with jewelry, decorative houseware, leather goods, and clothes made everything crystal clear. When done shopping, there was an assortment of food stalls to choose from as well. While one vendor sold pork burgers, another made chicken satay, and a third advertised Indian food. There were also crab rolls to be tasted, mini donuts on sticks, cold beers, cider, and good ol’ water.
A sarong and a full belly are all a person needs to spread out on the grassy lawn amongst families, friends, and couples. While the musicians performed, a delicate sea breeze kept festival attendees content and cool. In between acts, a brief fashion show took place and two emcees traded banter amongst themselves. If attending Jazz Market by the Sea with small kids, the festival also had a bouncy castle, sand art, fishing (for toys), and a petting zoo.
Things to Do
By early Saturday afternoon, the beach strip Jazz Market by the Sea sat on got jam packed with water sports. Options abounded: snorkeling, sea walking, banana boats, and parasailing, to name a few. Even with official printed prices, people were willing to negotiate. I had planned for both my feet to remain on either sand or grass the entire weekend but keeping the metaphor in mind, I decided to be open. As a result, I found myself dangling above the ocean in a parasail’s harness. The views were gorgeous during the three minute ride (though it was advertised as being six minutes), and the boat rides to/from the parasailing spot were adventures in and of themselves. If a person tired of water sports and beach lounging, signs advertised cooking classes and hawkers pressed their wares.
Currency and the Art of Haggling
Although credit cards are widely accepted, it’s great to have local currency. Thankfully, Indonesian currency is color-coded to help manage the confusing amount of zeroes that show up on any one bill. When negotiating prices for goods, it is best to hand over exact change to avoid a new wave of verbal back and forth. Rule of thumb: cut the original price the vendor asks for in half then work from there. Though not the best haggler myself, I watched my friends secure pants that were originally priced at 150,000 rupiah for 80,000.
Drugs and Alcohol
I feel it would be remiss to not warn people of illicit drug use in Bali. Indonesia is one of the few countries that sentences drug traffickers to death. Bluntly put, harsh drug sentences are common, regardless of whether or not a person is foreign. The risk is not worth it. Alcohol and the ubiquitous Bintang beer, produced in Indonesia, can be found.
Visa and Passport Requirements
As an expat in Jakarta, Indonesia for the past year, I have a work visa. That being said, it’s crucial to research before traveling if you expect to request a visa exemption (one time, less than 30-day stay, non-renewable), a visa-on-arrival (valid for up to 30 days, can be renewed, costs about $35 USD), or a visa in advance. (Editor’s Note: US Citizens with US Passports do not need a visa for stays under 30 days). A passport should have at least two blank visa pages and not be expiring within six months from the arrival date.
Battling Jet Lag
Bali is 12 hours ahead of Eastern Standard Time. My first experience with such a pronounced time difference was brutal. The second go around was almost non-existent. The two biggest factors that alleviated my symptoms were melatonin tablets, a natural sleep inducing hormone, and, well, sleep. I slept as much as possible on the plane and took a melatonin every evening even if I felt like I was tired enough to sleep through the night. Finally, I was in as much natural sunlight as possible. Sunlight helps to regulate the body to its new time zone. After all, who has time for jet lag when there’s a music festival going on?
Airfare, Housing, Getting Around
Plenty of budget airlines fly to Bali. While my festival buddies booked Jakarta to Bali roundtrip flights months in advance with the budget airline AirAsia and paid about $160 USD, a flight with Garuda Airlines (which includes an onboard meal) cost about $270 USD one month in advance. (Editor’s Note: Bali is usually expensive to fly to on a non-Chinese airline, but Jakarta, Kuala Lumpur and Singapore are usually on sale and you can take low cost carriers like AirAsia from those airports to Bali for cheap).
A variety of housing accommodations abound in Bali. A person can choose amongst budget hostels and swanky hotels. I would suggest Google Mapping how far your accommodations are from the activities you want to complete because some places may be more isolated.
Outside the fun that can be had when exploring a city on foot, taxis are reliable. The light blue Bali Taxi is a part of the largest taxi company in Indonesia and is, by far, the most reliable. While a uniformed airport taxi driver wanted to charge me 400,000 rupiah for a 30 minute ride (after asking if I would pay in dollars first) and another company wanted 170,000 rupiah (a price I haggled for), a Bali Taxi came in just under 100,000 rupiah plus the 11,000 rupiah for the toll road to Nusa Dua. As I learned the hard way, you have to cross a small road, walk as if exiting the airport, and head towards the parking lot to encounter Bali Taxis. For taxi rides, keep the bills to 50,000 rupiah max because drivers may not always have change. Tipping is not mandatory, but drivers will take an offered tip and/or presume you’re giving a tip if you don’t give the exact amount. Be firm if a driver does not want to turn on the meter or quotes you an exorbitant price. (Editor’s Note: Uber is available in Bali).
Be flexible, be open, and be firm, but most of all simply be and enjoy Bali.
About the Author:
Kelley Akhiemokhali is a writer and educator interested in travel, schooling and education, cultural identities, and the places in between. She has taught in New York City, Venezuela, and Indonesia. In the midst of relaunching her blog (Im)migrating With a Purpose, she can be found on Instagram (immigratingwithapurpose) and Twitter (@withapurpose).