Gay vibes, local and expat community, nightlife and what to expect from the gay side of the Island of Gods.
Bali. A gay island?
Bali has been described as a heaven on Earth and became a second home for many gay men from all around the world
So is Bali a “Gay Destination”? Simple question with actually quite complicated answer. Yes and No.
Does Bali have everything you can ask for during your holiday on a tropical island – such as decent beaches, stunning nature, unique culture, superb restaurants, great choice of accommodation and vibrant nightlife? YES. Is Bali openly gay? NO.
While religion is a public matter and it is perfectly fine to ask anyone about it, even a total stranger, the sexual orientation is not.
After I’ve been living in Bali for a while I found two layers of gay life on the island – the touristic, flamboyant one and the local, less visible one.
Coming to Bali for a holiday
If you’re coming to Bali as a tourist you will be definitely pleased with all the facilities focused on gay clientele. Gay men, after all, spend a lot of money so it is perfectly fine to provide tailor-made services for them and the rest of LGBT community.
Young boy with an older man is a common sight throughout the Kuta and Seminyak and nobody seems to care. However, the truth is that those pay boys coming mostly from other parts of Indonesia and their families have no idea about their “profitable” job.
Most of the hotels and guest houses have no problems to accommodate a gay couple in a room with double bed. Having said that, it might be though an issue in some remote areas in northern parts of the island where the traditional and conservative way of life is still very much present.
Living in Bali
If you fall in love with Bali after your first stay here you won’t be the first one. The expat community is huge and diverse. Hundreds if not thousands of people from every sphere of life, part of the world and, most importantly, sexual orientation have found their home in Bali. It is easy to guess why. Quality of life can be much better than back home. Less stress, beautiful weather most of the time, low prices and many other things. But how about gay life outside of big resorts and touristic centres?
There is almost no public transportation in Bali so can forget about that. Unless you happen to stay somewhere near one of the stops of Kura-Kura busses. They operate in southern Bali (Kuta, Seminyak, Legian, Bukit, Canggu, Sanur) and also go to Ubud.
Online services – Go Jek, Grab and Uber
To order transport on-line is very popular and widely available in Bali. All you need to do is to download an application to your smartphone.
Go Jek is by far the most common and available all over the island. You can arrange a car or just a bike. They are fast, cheap, quite reliable and the cars are usually new. Other alternatives are Grab and Uber. Please be aware that some hotels or even villages do not allow online transportation services to operate within their area.
Renting a bike or car
Traffic in Bali can be chaotic and overwhelming at the beginning but you can get used to it in two or three days. A motorbike is almost always a better choice than a car in Bali. Trafic jams are very common in the south of Bali and roads are narrow in the north. Driving a car can be a painful experience and you might end up spending much more time behind the wheel than you expected.
The motorbike is on the contrary faster and inexpensive alternative. It cost somewhere between 50 and 70 thousand rupiahs per day for automatic scooters and bit more if you prefer to rent a powerful motorcycle. Always check the condition of the vehicle as bald tires, lights that do not work and other problems are quite common.
To stay healthy during your vacation in Bali you should take a few basic precautions.
Tap water is not drinkable so always use bottled water. In order to be environmentally responsible, we encourage everyone to use refillable bottles and ask to refill it in your hotel or to use one of the free stations located in many touristic areas.
Try the local food but check the place at first. Some food can be simply irresistible but take a look around you first. Is the place clean, are there many people? You don’t want to get diarrhoea and spend half of the holiday in the bathroom.
The sun can be more dangerous than you think. Alright, everybody knows it. Yet the desire to get tanned as quickly as possible is so strong, that some of us end up red instead. Sunscreen with SPF 30+ is actually a bare minimum what you can do for your skin.
Pharmacies & Hospitals
Pharmacies widely available in Bali. The most recommended with professional chemists is Kimia Farma.
Hospitals are also easily accessible and if you have good travel insurance you will get a high-quality health care in local facilities. Siloam and BIMC hospitals are oriented to foreign clientele with English speaking staff and western standards. Besides them, Prima Medika and Balimed are renowned clinics.
Bali is a fairly safe destination for all travellers including LGBT people
Pickpocketing is, of course, common as anywhere in the world and thefts from rooms might occur, depending on the security measures of your hotel. However, in general, you don’t need to worry too much when on holiday in Bali. Touristic areas are pretty safe day and night and taking the same precautions as in any other urban area should keep you out of trouble.
Gay travellers are welcome. There is a number of hotels, bars, spa salons and even tour providers – Bali Gay Pub Crawl being one of them – focusing on gay clientele. Men only hotels, some of them clothing optional, are quite common in the south of Bali. Thanks to the majority of Balinese being Hindu it is an open and liberal society. In spite of that, public display of affection is considered being rude regardless sexual orientation.
Exchange offices, payment cards and ATMs
The official currency in Indonesia is Indonesian Rupiah (IDR). Even though USD, EUR or AUD are also accepted in some big places as well as payment cards it is essential to have enough Rupiahs in cash.
Exchange Offices can be found almost anywhere. You can’t get a fair rate at the airport and most of the hotels. In addition, do avoid small suspicious places, especially in Kuta, with very favourable rate – you will end up with half of the money you would get in an authorized money changer. PT Central Kuta, BMC and Valuta Prima have both a decent rate and good reputation. You will find their offices all over the island.
In most of the big hotels, restaurants and shops payment cards are accepted – Visa and Master Card in particular. However, even if they declare that cashless payment is possible you should never rely on it and have some cash anyway. Most of the other places accept only cash.
There is an ATM at every corner in Bali. It is safer to use those located in banks though. Payment card scams are common in Bali and thousands of cards are copied in adjusted ATMs every year. It is a good idea to set a limit with your bank before travelling to Bali.