The tropical island of Bali is fast becoming a mecca for shopaholics – these days you can even take shopping tours to Bali! The creativity of the Indonesians, skilled craftsmanship and the cheap prices is every shopper’s dream. Recently I experienced the island for myself and was blown away by everything on offer! But there’s a few things you need to know when it comes to shopping in Bali.
Bargaining, money conversions, and foreign languages are all complications when it comes to shopping in Bali, not to mention knowing where to shop and what’s worth buying! In this post I’ll give you a rundown on the basics of shopping on the island, as well as the best wares to look for and exactly where they can be found. Here’s my Ultimate Guide to Shopping in Bali.
The Basics of Shopping In Bali
The Indonesian Rupiah reaches into the tens of thousands before converting to just one Australian dollar! You can quickly be carrying around millions of Rupiah in cash. Make sure you know what the current conversion rate is and can do some quick math (or remember a few amounts, eg $1 is around 9000 Rupiah and $10 is 90,000 Rupiah).
ATM machines are accessible in Bali and some places will take card, but they may incur a 1-2% surcharge. It’s a good idea to carry some cash, especially smaller notes as not all places will have the correct change.
The Language Barrier
Luckily in Bali, the locals are very accommodating to tourists and we didn’t come across anyone who didn’t speak English. Even the basic hand signals, pointing and asking ‘how much?’ is enough to get you through any negotiations. You can also pull out your phone and show them a number on your calculator to help understand prices.
Tips for Bargaining
If the prices are not displayed on items in a store or stall, you’re in for some bargaining! After asking ‘how much?’, the seller will give you a price. Offer around 1/3 of that price and bargain until you meet somewhere in the middle. It is a little intimidating to bargain for the first time, however the stallholders are well used to it (and I think they got pretty good deals out of me! Haha).
My theory is that while a few dollars difference may not matter so much to me, it might to them – the average monthly wage in Bali is around $200. So I wasn’t too concerned about getting bottom dollar. Be aware that some are more aggressive sellers than others, and even so much as casting an eye towards an item will get them trying to sell it to you!
Tips for Importing and Quarantine
Be aware that if you come from a country with strict Customs laws (like Australia), some items may not make it through the airport. After declaring my items, thankfully they were all cleared! It’s important to make sure any natural items aren’t carrying pests or diseases in with them.
As a precaution, try shaking or tapping any products before bringing them home, to help rid them of any bugs that may be hiding within. As long as you declare your items when you return home, you won’t get into trouble. I bought coconut bowls, a woven palm leaf visor and tote, a couple of ‘Roundie’ bags, a wooden candle, leather slides and an amazing glass pendant light which all made it through after an examination.
The Best Balinese Products to Buy
Batik and Indigo Fabrics
Batik is a traditional Indonesian style of dyeing. Wax is applied to material in shapes and patterns to stop the dye penetrating those areas. The waxed areas are generally lighter or have a different colour to the rest of the dyed fabric. Batik fabrics and items can be found in most places. Make sure you check out the stores along Jl. Monkey Forest in Ubud.
Another traditional Indonesian technique of fabric dyeing (and very popular right now) is indigo dyed fabrics. This dye is extracted from Indigo plants, making it a natural and organic method of colouring. Indigo fabrics and homewares in Bali aren’t cheap, but they are beautiful! For legitimate batik and indigo fabrics and homewares, the prices will most likely be set. They most likely won’t be as cheap as other Balinese items, but it’s worth picking up a handmade traditional piece that you won’t find elsewhere!
Woven Baskets and Bags
Made popular by the ’roundie’ bag, this traditional weaving is done by local villages. Apart from the roundie bag, you can also find many varieties of bags as well as bowls, trays, containers and more. Bags can be found literally everywhere you go, while some of the other more obscure woven pieces can be found in boutiques or at the Ubud markets. Expect to pay around $15-20AUD for a medium sized Roundie bag.
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Palm Leaf Weaves
You can find a variety of palm woven items including bags, totes, hats and visors. Colours can range from light, to tan and black. Some items can be found in boutiques, but for the best selection, head to the Ubud markets on Jl. Karna. Around $8AUD for a palm leaf visor, and $10-15AUD for a tote bag.
Coconut Shell Products
Coconuts made into bowls, candle holders, ornaments and even bird feeders! From around $5AUD each.
Bali has a surprisingly great range of leather bags, shoes and other items made locally. Remember to try on your size, as their sizing can be a little smaller than back home. The store I bought a pair of leather slides from didn’t keep a lot of stock on-hand, but rather make their items to order within a couple of days. If there’s something you’re eyeing up, it’s better off to check it out at the start of your trip, to allow a couple of days for them to recreate it in your size.
Keep in mind the prices for leather goods are considerably cheaper than back home but not dirt cheap (it is real leather after all!). Some bartering can be done, but don’t expect to get something for 1/3 of their offer! My leather slides were around $45AUD from a made-to-order leather store. You may be able to find them down to about $30AUD if you look hard enough!
There is so much macrame to be found from dream catchers to wall hangings and even hanging chairs. As these pieces vary in size, so does the price. But as they are abundant in Bali, you can always ask a second vendor for a cheaper price.
Balinese Handmade Lace
This lace is generally made into clothing items like tops and dresses, and mostly in white. Take a look at some of the stores along the main street in Ubud, Jl. Raya Ubud. Handmade Lace vendors will generally have the ticketed prices on each item, so no bartering here!
A Few Noteworthy Places to Shop
In the area of Canggu you will find more up-market boutiques. It’s well worth the window shop as they often stock unique and quality items not found elsewhere. One amazing store to wander through is Bungalow Living. The prices are more Australian-retail set, but the homewares and handmade blankets are amazing! This is where I picked up the giant candle that is so unique.
Seminyak hosts a mix of hipster boutiques and bartering street stalls. This is where I did a lot of shopping and browsing, especially along Jl. Raya Seminyak.
Many items on offer at the Ubud Markets are made by artisans who live in the surrounding villages. While most things are fairly cheap, keep in mind the time it takes them to create each piece. This can be hard to determine when dealing with bargaining, but I find even if I end up paying a few more dollars than I expected, it’s still a lot cheaper than back home.
An honourable mention goes to Jl. Raya Tegallalang, the road that leads north from Ubud to the Tegallalang Rice Terraces. This road is a dream to drive down with 8kms of stores selling furniture, homewares and the most amazing creative pieces! Unlike the boutiques and stalls in the towns of Bali, here each shop only sells one thing – whether that is hand-carved wooden headboards, bamboo chairs, wooden ornaments or pendant light shades.
A lot of the more obscure shops and stalls in Bali aren’t listed on Google maps, and don’t even have a store name! That’s why I created the Bali Shopping Map to help you navigate your way to them. If you’re interested in finding out exactly where certain shops are for your trip, download the map below.
Phew! If you made it this far through the post, congratulations, you serious shopper! I truly hope it’s been helpful in what to expect and what’s worth picking up in Bali. I’d love it if you’d pin this post or let me know in the comments below if there’s anything else you’d like to know. If you’re after more information on where to stay in Bali and accomodation options, check out this post. Thank you for reading!