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Shopping in Bali

11 December 2010 One Comment

Rows of painting shop at guwang market sukawati

Painting shops at Guwang Art Market Sukawati

We are often asked about shopping and general expenses for a Bali holiday. Common questions in these topics include: “How much money to budget for each day of stay?”, “What exactly can we buy in Bali?”, and “I’m not used to bargaining, what is the fair price to ask for?” Having learnt things the hard way, in this article we will share with you some tips on shopping in Bali.

Unlike other places which are well-known to be notoriously expensive or cheap, Bali is the holiday destination that can at any juncture be either cheap or expensive. This happens for several reasons. First, to find the best deals you may have to travel to different parts of the island, which specializes in the production of certain kinds of handicraft. You can also visit the wholesale markets for better prices. Second, even if you are in the right area, finding the right seller can be a challenge in itself. Most businesses in Bali are privately owned small enterprises, so each production center can have up to hundreds of stores selling roughly the same thing. Third, most of the shopping that is done is Bali involve some level of bargaining. Other than in fixed-price department stores, supermarkets, and chain stores, you can bargain almost everywhere else. This can also be difficult for visitors who are not used to the art of haggling. To make the case worse, once you are identified as tourist a seller might overprice their goods.

Not to worry though, we have compiled a brief FAQ on shopping and related matters, which hopefully can give you a tip or two on how to best spend your hard-earned cash and time while shopping in Bali.

Bali Shopping FAQ

General Queries

Q: How much cash to budget for each day of stay?

A: The answer to this question depends pretty much on what you intend to do, but we’ll help to give some cost approximations. Eating out can cost as little as Rp.20,000–30,000 (USD2-3) a meal at a warung (road-side food stall), or from Rp.50,000 (USD 5) upwards at a restaurant. Paying for activities may form the bulk of your spending, for example Waterbom admission costs $26, whitewater rafting costs around $60, and cooking classes approximately $45. Be sure to check the costs of each individual big-ticket activity that you intend to partake. Temple and museum entrance tickets are generally much cheaper at between Rp.15,000-50,000 (USD 2-6). Transport and car rental costs are discussed in further detail below. One final advice, always budget for unforeseen expenses.

Q: What exactly is there to buy in Bali?

A: The Balinese are skilled artisans, and over the centuries have perfected unique styles of painting, sculpting, and metalworking. Craft shops can be found almost everywhere around the island, but there are famed production centers for the different types of craftwork. For example, the village of Celuk is famed for its silversmiths, Batubulan for its stone carvings, while Batuan is well known for its paintings and wood carvings.

Q: I’m not used to bargaining, what is the fair price to ask for?

A: We recommend starting the negotiation at a quarter of the asking price, slowly moving upwards. Don’t be afraid to slash prices when bargaining, you are doing no one a disfavor. You will know if you have quoted a too low price when the vendor simply ignores you. Don’t fret if the first seller you meet won’t give in, there usually is no shortage of vendors selling similar goods in a particular market or street. Haggling is a fine art, keep practicing and you will master it in no time.

Q: Any tips for bargain hunting?

A: One obvious tip is that if you buy in bulk you will get bulk discount, remember to use that to your advantage. Other than that, it is good to know that Balinese storekeepers pay great importance to the first customer of the day. It is believed that if a seller can close a deal with the first customer of the day, it will bring good luck for the remainder of the day. Conversely, it is bad to lose the first customer of the day. This attitude generally lasts all morning. Wake up early and get to the market early on your shopping days.

If you are an inexperienced bargain hunter, start your trip by visiting a department store or a fixed-price store to get a rough idea on how much things should cost. You might also want to pay attention to other people bargaining to get a rough idea on prices.

Q: What not to do while bargaining?

A: Remember that vendors make a living from selling their wares. You are not obliged to close a deal after rounds of negotiations, but at least be sincere while bargaining. They might get offended if you back out after the price has been agreed upon.

Q: Is tipping necessary?

Most restaurants and hotels have a 10% service charge included in the bill. While tipping is not necessary, it is very much appreciated as a sign of job well done; even if the sum is only a few thousand Rupiahs. It is also common practice to round up taxi fares, and give meal allowances for hired drivers.

Where to Shop

Q: Where is the best place to go souvenir shopping?

A: The most famous one-stop handicraft market in Bali is located at the village of Sukawati, about 40 minutes drive north from Kuta. This is supposedly the wholesale market where smaller stores all across Bali come to get their supplies. All sorts of small handicraft items ranging from bracelets, to paintings, to carvings are on sale. Make sure to go through each store slowly, as some items have unique designs which may not be available at any other vendors. The market is almost always packed, mostly with local tourists. A second market has been built at Guwang, also in the vicinity of Sukawati. The market at Guwang is the bigger of the two, consisting of several buildings. Pricewise, we did not notice any stark differences between the two markets.

Q: Should I shop at a department store?

A: Department stores in tourist areas (such as the Matahari in Kuta Square) can provide good shopping experiences, as they are well stocked with handicrafts and other travelling necessities. Prices are generally higher in these stores.

Q: I’m looking at buying branded goods, where can I find them?

A: Your best bet is to make your way to Bali Galleria Shopping World (adjacent to Bali Galleria Mall). You can also check out the Discovery Mall near Kuta.

If you are looking for unique brands, the upscale locale of Seminyak has a selection of boutiques lined up along the main street.

Transport Trivias

Q: What is the cheapest way to get around in Bali?

The cheapest way to get around is on Bemo, a network of bus (minivan) lines that runs through major roads all over the island. As this is the primary mode of public transport for the locals, you won’t see many tourist faces on the Bemo. Perama, a local tour operator, runs shuttle services between major tourist locations which are popular with budget travelers.

Q: How much does it cost to rent a car?

A: A day’s worth of car rental inclusive of a driver (10 hours, additional hours are charged separately) and fuel costs on average Rp.400,000 (as of 2010), while car only rental is about Rp.250,000 per day.

Q: Which taxis should I take?

A: In general taxis are plentiful in Bali, and based on our experience they are safe (we mean the licensed taxis, not illegal ones). However, many taxis do not run by meter (even if there is one installed) and is likely to overcharge. Negotiate for the rate before getting in. Blue Bird taxis are well known for their safety reputation, and they always run by meter, so these are probably the safest around. From the airport, get a taxi from the taxi counter, which charges fixed rates based on your destination.

Money Matters

Q: Should I change my foreign currency into Rupiah at home or in Bali?

A: Check the rates before you leave. For many currencies, the exchange rate is better in Bali than in their respective countries. However, note that not all currencies are readily accepted by money changers in Bali. Passports are required for changing notes at banks. Many establishments only accept crisp notes.

Q: Where should I change my money in Bali?

A: You can change money at local Banks and money changers. When using money changer, only use authorized ones. Look out for the green-colored authorized money changer poster with the sign “PVA Berizin” (licensed money changer).

Q: Can I use my bank card from home to draw cash in Bali?

Yes, many local bank ATMs can accept cards with ‘Cirrus’ (Mastercard) and ‘Plus’ (Visa) logo.

Q: What is this ‘departure tax’ I have been hearing about?

A: To be clear, there is no tax levied on departing passengers. However you need to keep Rp.150,000 per person (in 2010, check the latest figures before you go on your trip) in your pocket for airport tax. Yes, in Bali you need to pay this amount in cash at the airport, instead of the practice of having it included in your ticket price at most other airports in the world. Be sure to set aside the required amount at the onset of your trip.

Travel Info

Perama Tours & Travel – http://www.peramatour.com/
Waterbom Bali – http://www.waterbom-bali.com/
Discovery Shopping Mall – http://www.discoveryshoppingmall.com/

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One Comment »

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