Hints for traveling to Bali with babies / toddlers and young children.
Bali is a great destination for families with plenty to see and do. The Balinese love children and most accommodation is well suited to families. Some areas are better suited to families due to the beach conditions, traffic and other factors, asking on the forum for advice about where to stay is advisable. Sanur is one great option.
Traveling by plane and staying in a foreign country can take some planning and raise a lot of questions.
Below is a collection of helpful hints and useful information to help you prepare for your holiday. Please note that not everything written below will be suitable for your child(ren). Use what you think will help you and your child and ignore what is not applicable due to your child’s age / stage of development. I have tried to cover a broad range of information. Further posts regarding traveling with children can also be found on the Bali forum.
BEFORE YOUR TRIP
Take your time and research your destination. Spend some time on the Bali forum gaining as much helpful information as you can. Take out travel insurance. Check the fine print to ensure you have adequate coverage with low excess.
Advise family and friends of your accommodation details in case of emergency. Register your travel plans on your government travel site. Take photo copies of your passports, travel insurance and travel itinerary in case you lose anything. Take adequate money, back up credit cards. Ensure your passports have 6 months validity.
Tell your financial institution you are traveling to protect your credit cards.
Visit your doctor in advance and ask about any vaccinations your child may require and discuss any health issues, ask for a letter describing any medical condition / medications your child requires. This can come in handy when taking medications into Bali and on the plane and also in case your child needs medical attention in Bali. Fill prescriptions, take some infant / child paracetamol or similar and pack a small first aid kit. Sunscreen a hat and insect repellant are essential items to include. Ear plugs are useful when swimming.
ENSURE that ALL prescription medication is clearly labelled and keep ALL medication in the original packaging.
A soft muslin wrap or a sarong or small cot sheet and a couple of clothes pegs are useful to provide shade over your pram / stroller. IF your child has any food allergies ensure you have more than one Epi pen (if they need them) and any other allergy medication. Get a couple of copies of a translation which explains your child’s food allergy to show at all restaurants. Ensure this clearly states not only what your child is allergic to but also explains that all utensils and even cooking oil which has traces of the allergens must not be used to prepare your child’s meal.
Take all medication in your hand luggage in case your luggage is lost / misplaced.
Bali has rather bad footpaths and you need to consider carefully about taking a pram / stroller. It is advisable to leave your ‘good’ pram at home. Either purchase a second hand one from a garage sale, op shop etc, these can be purchased very cheaply and can even be left in Bali at the end of your holiday. This option is cheaper than hiring in Bali. There are some good ‘new’ prams / strollers available that fold up and will fit in overhead storage on the plane, if you are a frequent traveller you may wish to check these, The Quicksmart stroller is popular and folds to the size of a cabin bag.
What ever you do, remember that a small, compact and most importantly light weight stroller is much much easier to use in Bali. Footpaths are uneven, blocked by obstacles, narrow and you do find yourself needing to lift your pram over and around these things. Apart from the footpaths, the small warungs and local restaurants, and even department stores have very little room for a large heavy pram. IF you want to use taxis then a small stroller is easier and faster to fold. A baby back pack , baby pouch and similar products are hot to use in Bali, a baby is more comfortable in a pram away from hot sweaty body contact. A pram will also be useful at a restaurant as a baby seat as high chairs are not readily available at smaller establishments.
As for car seats, these are very uncommon in Bali. Taking your own is not advisable. Even IF you take one, cars / taxis don’t have anchor bolts. Some cars don’t even have seat belts in the back seats. IF you take one you are left with the problem of what to do with it when you get out of the taxi. Using taxis is very common in Bali, fares are very cheap and you can find yourself in and out of them numerous times each day. Roads are narrow and in the busy south tourist areas there is very little opportunity for cars to pull over while you get a car seat in and out. Cars go much much slower in Bali due to the traffic and most people just hold their children on their laps. It is common to see lots locals on scooters with mum, dad and 2 or 3 kids all crammed on board along with the weeks shopping. Not many locals have cars. On the recommended drivers list we have compiled (you can find this on the Bali forum home page) we have a list of highly recommended drivers. Some of these drivers have Australian Standard baby car seats that myself and other regulars have donated. You can contact these men in advance to book them for day trips. This will save you hiring a car seat in Bali for day trips.
There are some reliable hire companies in Bali where you can hire car seats, cots, prams and all sorts of baby products.
Before you do this check with your hotel / villa as to what they provide. Many have cots but you may like to consider taking a mosquito net from home.
CHOOSING YOUR ACCOMMODATION
Consider where to stay in Bali. The location of your accommodation can make or break your holiday. Being in a very busy area with lots of traffic and loads of tourists and a beach better suited to surfers does not suit all families so IF you want a more peaceful, quieter area then book accordingly. Once you are happy with the area(s) you want to stay look at the accommodation reviews on trip advisor and also look at where the accommodation is positioned. ie is it a long way from beach, shops and restaurants, do you want a beach front property ??
IF you are booking a villa be aware that not many have pool fencing so IF you require this do your research otherwise you will spend your holiday worrying about your child’s safety.
Do you want a resort with a kids club? Most kids clubs have a minimum age requirement...Usually 3 years, younger children must be accompanied by a parent or baby sitter.
Kids clubs are usually provided at 4 and 5 star resorts and these kids clubs have been operating for years and are well set up. Some have clubs to suit both younger and older children. Cost can be free or a minimal amount is charged. Kids clubs either charge by the hour, half or full day. Food is supplied at a charge.
When you have chosen your hotel, you may wish to keep in mind that some hotels don’t have the best railings on balconies, (this is very common in Bali). It is also easy for young children to climb on chairs / tables on balconies and risk a fall. For this reason you may prefer to book ground floor rooms. Not only are they ‘safer’ many lead directly onto a garden so your child can play while you sit and watch them.
FOR THE PLANE
A dummy, lollypop or similar are great to help children’s ears during take off and landing. A flip top travel cup, or a drink bottle with lid comes in handy so you can transfer airline drinks into to prevent spillage.
Pack snacks of favourite foods in small resealable snap lock bags. Fruit, sandwiches, biscuits, noodle cups, juice sachets, formula powder for baby bottles, packaged baby food etc all should be taken to ensure there is no shortage of enjoyable food as some airlines don’t have a big choice of food. This also saves money. Most airlines don’t have a problem with you taking food even if they advise no food they never seem to take it from passengers. Ensure you declare on your customs card that you are taking food into Bali. (Taking food into Bali is not a problem BUT you MUST declare it).
Take some wet wipes and hand sanitizer.
A change of clothing and a warm cardigan can also come in handy on the plane. Take a small blanket (or similar), socks, a small cushion, or inflatable pillow, these will help your child have a restful sleep.
Take pencils, crayons, colouring in and sticker books, activity packs, children’s packs of cards, small craft items, plasticine, small travel games, books to read, magazines, favourite soft toy etc.
A trip to a discount store will pay off, purchase some of the cheap toys / games and wrap them up. Kids love to unwrap them and play with them on the plane. A couple of $2 ‘gifts’ will be well worth it after boredom sets in on the plane. Play ‘I spy’ kids love this on trips.
If you have a DVD player, I Pad, laptop, Nintendo DS or I Pod take these as they can help pass away the hours.. remember to pack the headphones for everyones sake.
If your child is old enough to carry their own carry on luggage pack most of their things in there but save some of the ‘wrapped gifts’ for later in the plane trip. Having their own bag will also keep them occupied at the airport while waiting to depart. ‘Trunkie’ cases are ideal.
FOOD AND OTHER ESSENTIALS FOR YOUR BABY / CHILD IN BALI.
Obviously the following information is more suited to babies / toddlers or children with food allergies:
You can take as much food into Bali as you will need for your holiday. (this also includes any favourite snacks for yourself). As mentioned above simply declare this on your customs card. Not declaring can lead to problems, as you are signing a legal document so you must declare this.
It is a good idea to take any packaged baby foods / formula and other favourite snacks, breakfast cereals and food that your child likes to eat. Imported baby food and formula in Bali is not cheap, the range is limited and some has been on the shelf for some time. Having what you want in your suitcase is more convenient that running to shops trying to get what your child likes.
Having said that IF you need to buy baby food there are some larger supermarkets such as Carefour and Matahari, Hardy’s and Bintang supermarket, just to name a few that have baby food. Carefour has a larger range. There are also some smaller convenience stores as well. Ask at your hotel for the nearest one and take a taxi.
Bali does have fresh milk and UHT milk. Fresh milk is harder to find in smaller convenience stores but the larger supermarkets do have it. There is also fresh yoghurts and cheese and an assortment of fresh fruits. You can also buy fruit juice poppers and all sorts of food as well. As these are usually different to what your child eats it is easier to take long life foods for a fussy eater or child with food allergies.
Yakult is very cheap in Bali and it is a good idea for everyone in the family to have a couple each day.
Fresh baked bread is available, I find that Carefour and Bread Talk has the best selection as it is baked on site.
Restaurants are very accommodating. They are happy to modify meals where appropriate and a lot of restaurants have a reasonable selection of children’s meals.
There are also KFC and McDonalds and the odd Pizza Hut for the occasional treat. You find that KFC and McDonalds deliver.
As for baby wipes, disposable nappies, creams, baby talc, toiletries and other essentials these are very cheap in Bali. There are well known brands and also many others you may wish to try. The quality of disposable nappies varies, mama poko is just one of the better quality nappies on offer. Swimming nappies (little swimmers and such) would be best taken from home if you use them.
Keep in mind when packing that baby / children’s clothing is very cheap in Bali and there are some fantastic designs. Price and quality does vary so shop around. Accessories, such as hair clips, shoes, socks, hats are all cheap as well. Leave plenty of room in your suitcase for the shopping! Local markets sell the usual t shirts, shorts, dresses, caps etc then you also have larger department stores. Ramayana in Denpasar, Matahari in Kuta square, Matahari and specialty stores in Bali Mall and the Centro Discovery Mall shopping centre and Carefour all sell clothing. The local markets are basically where you need to bargain, a few are set price but the larger department stores are set price and they will accept credit card as well as cash. There are also some specialty children’s clothing shops and surf outlets which sell well known brands. Local shopping is usually cash only (rupiah). Rupiah is also what you need in department stores, other currencies are not accepted.
Local laundries are also extremely cheap, cheaper than hotel laundry service. You can find these outside your hotel, signs will direct you where to go, if not ask a local. Prices are either by the piece or by the kilo. Usually you drop your clothes one day and collect the next.
ARRIVING IN BALI
When you arrive in Bali have one person line up at immigration with the children and designate one person to purchase the Visas for everyone and then join the others who will by now be waiting at immigration. This will help get you all out of the airport faster and makes it easier for the children by not having them walk from one line to another. Toilets are available near the visa counter should your child need to go in a hurry and there are more near the luggage carousels. Have some money ready to exchange at the money changers to pay for a taxi and also get you started on your holiday to buy bottled water, pay for your first meal etc. The taxi booking counter is just to the right as you exit the airport, have one person line up and order and pay for your taxi while the other takes care of the children away from the bustle which will greet you in this busy part of the airport. A driver will be designated to you. The taxi driver will assist you with luggage and direct you to his taxi. Taxis are air conditioned. Be aware that you will be offered assistance to carry your luggage both here and at the luggage carousels and these ‘porters’ will ask for well over the recommended price. IF you don’t want help say ‘no thank you’. There are trolleys at the luggage carousel free of charge.
IF you need a larger van and or choose not to use the pre paid taxis at the airport book one of our recommended drivers in advance. The drivers at the airport will and do try to overcharge you. IF this is your first trip to Bali you don’t want to pay more than necessary or be bothered bargaining with the flood of drivers waiting at the exit.
IMPORTANT THINGS TO REMEMBER
Do not drink tap water, try to prevent your child swallowing bath / shower water. Keep your child hydrated, it gets very hot and humid in Bali. Ice is safe in drinks but the ice in cooler boxes / eskies is NOT.
Bali has medical clinics / hospitals, IF you need medical assistance ask to go to somewhere like the BIMC (bali international medical clinic). Hotels also have doctors on call and there are numerous ‘Apotiks’ - chemists that sell a lot of over the counter requirements.
Baby sitters are offered by most hotels / villas, and there are also agencies in Bali. Ask on the bali forum for feedback and check older posts where this topic has been covered in the past. Be aware that many Balinese cannot swim or are not strong swimmers so IF you want someone to take your children swimming book someone who is competent in the water.
Allow time to spend with the baby sitter BEFORE leaving her alone with your child(ren), so they get to know her and ensure you and your child feels comfortable before leaving them with any babysitter. IF in any doubt you can always ask the baby sitter to accompany you and help with the children in that way. Many people hire a baby sitter to help on outings but do not leave their children. Do what suits you. Often the baby sitters offered at larger hotels / resorts are off duty staff from the kids clubs and this can be an advantage if your child has already spent time in the kids club.
OTHER USEFUL ITEMS YOU MAY WISH TO PACK
A plastic container and milton tablets to disinfect bottles, dummies, teats when in Bali.
Disposable cutlery, plastic bowls, plates etc so you can cut up / peel fruit or serve yoghurts etc. Some small disposable containers and or plastic snap lock bags are great to pack snacks for your child when you are out and about. Rehydration ‘ice blocks’ you can freeze in bali can come in handy.These are available from chemists.
Take any favourite item your child may like to have in their bed at night to help them sleep.
If you plan on taking your child snorkeling take their mask, snorkel etc from home, this way you know they fit your child. Children’s snorkeling gear is available in some areas but not as readily as adult gear.
Rashies / sun shirts, ear plugs, swimming goggles are also better from home, they are not as easy to buy in Bali.
Water / reef shoes are also handy to take should you be taking your child snorkeling and or to beaches that are tidal, there are some corals and sea urchins.
Buckets, spades and beach toys are cheap in Bali.
Please use this information as a helpful guide. More discussions about traveling with children can be found on the Bali Forum. Do a quick search of the forum as most questions have been asked and answered numerous times. If you can’t find the information you are looking for then post a question.