As Bali is a tropical getaway, you may already have a set of clothes in mind to wear. I would like to offer some more recommendations to consider as travel essentials in your packing list.
When planning a trip to Bali, packing light is the general idea because you can easily find lightweight clothes suitable for the weather at affordable prices in Bali itself, and laundry services are also readily available and very inexpensive. So that should be it ? Or is there more that you need to know? Yes, Definitely.
Usually, what we wear on our trips depends on the time of year, weather conditions, planned activities, and, of course, cultural considerations. The same was the case with me. But at the tail end of our trip to Bali, we had to reconsider our choices due to some unexpected events – rain, a small accident, and sickness. I needed things beyond what we normally pack.
As you may have assumed already, we went to Bali for a vacation trip recently, and I couldn’t be more exhausted or exhilarated. ‘Exhilarated’ because Bali is beyond incredible and ‘exhausted’ because Bali Islands offer many activities, places to see, and foods to eat, and I did a lot of that. Bali offers stunning pristine white sand beaches, clear turquoise waters, and many activities associated with the sea and otherwise. And, at the end of it all, I know a thing or two about what to wear in Bali.
In this article I will cover:
What to wear for a Bali vacation – Travel essentials and clothing recommendations
You can wear anything in Bali, but you must wear something. Due to a recent controversy, of a tourist wearing next to nothing near a sacred place, certain dress codes in Bali have become slightly stricter. However, typical tropical wear such as shorts, cotton t-shirts, and summer dresses made of cotton are considered essential for your stay in Bali.
All of those are available in the numerous small shops all over Bali. Do not forget to haggle in tourist areas, if you feel the price is excessive or else, go and shop in inner areas where locals shop. I shopped near my resort hotel when I first arrived and they charged almost double that of what I got clothes for, when I shopped in other clothes shopes in inside lanes, later during my stay.
Clothes for the beaches in Bali
Reaching some beaches in Bali is a challenge. You may have to travel on speed boats that race against the sea, sit in the car for hours, and even walk down steep cliffs. But once you are there at the beach, you forget everything. You can wear anything and have unlimited fun – Surfing, Snorkeling and Diving, kayaking, jet skiing, parasailing, banana boat rides, or flyboarding- the view and water are beyond beautiful.
The temperature in Bali is very comfortable at all times, unless you are near the beach or on the water between 12 am to 3 pm. Then it is usually very sunny. You need hats, sunglasses and lots of sunscreen as protection. For water sports, it is better to wear clothing with some UV protection if you plan to spend extended periods under the sun.
For activities like surfing, kayaking, paddleboarding, wakeboarding, or snorkeling, you can wear the most popular, nylon shorts, ofcourse. But another option is to wear water sports leggings with straps over the leg to keep the pants securely in place and prevent them from riding up or shifting during movement. They give full body coverage from sun and other elements.
There are a lot of places in Bali for trekking. Trekking Mount Agung is the most famous. You can wear sportswear for these. A popular option for women includes spandex leggings with a sports vest and proper hiking shoes. (The hiking shoes are stipulated)
And then there is the challenging Kelingking Beach. It is located on the coast of Nusa Penida Island, and oh my, to reach the beach is one steep trekking trail. Looking at me and knowing my stamina, my family made me sit it out in a restaurant with a tender coconut while they went for the challenge.
You have to wear long trousers for this trek. Because as I heard it, some steps are so steep that you may even have to sit and climb, and there is also the possibility of a fall. Trekking pants made of sturdy nylon or spandex leggings can protect your knees. You also get clothes with reinforced areas or padding in areas prone to impact or abrasion, such as the knees, elbows, or seat, or wear your cotton or nylon shorts – it is your call. This is my opinion. My family disagrees and wants to stick to their trusty nylon shorts, even though my daughter scraped her knee —–
Sitting in my makeshift cafe up the Keliking beach, looking over the magnificent turquoise-colored ocean, I had my own challenge – in the form of a monkey.
The monkey aimed at my tender coconut, and when I tried to shoo it away, it gave me a slap. Monkeys in Bali are said to even snatch phones, caps, etc. And they don’t get scared easily, as I learned. I was scared and ran from there, clutching my bag, the remaining coconut, and my life…
Beware of even more monkeys if you are visiting the Ubud Monkey Forest and keep your belonging safe in a pouch. Learn to make a belt pouch here.
Rainwear for Bali
Weather in Bali during the peak tourist season in July and August is comfortably sunny. April to September is quite sunny. A few tropical showers can be expected at any time in Bali, but the real Rainy season in Bali is from October and March.
Usually, it does not rain round the clock in Bali in June-July-August, but it did when we were there. Our local guide said that it is unusual. It rained for the last three days of our tour and changed all our plans and wardrobe choices. Until then, we walked around in the shortest clothes, but rain and cold forced us into the longest and thickest clothes. I even caught a cold, but it says more about my immunity than anything else. And had to wear multiple layers to combat the cold. And needed lots of masks and hand kerchiefs.
If you do not like to get wet in the rain, you can buy thin plastic raincoats. They are quite cheap and available. You can add plastic pants to these if you want to be fully dry. We didn’t mind, so we only got the top poncho-type raincoat – And they are really sufficient to keep you dry.
You can also get plastic covers for your backpack – these will protect your backpack from getting wet during your trips.
The short showers in Bali give the scenery a nice dark, lush vibe. So that was good. But the continuous rain made us cancel trekking plans to Mount Agung – it is said to be an active volcano and is the highest point on the island of Bali. That was Saad. It is a must-see in Bali. But I do not know if I could have survived trekking (for 2 hours or so on a steep incline) but I at least could have gone to the top of the mountain on a convertible vehicle.
And in the rain, or otherwise, please wear good sturdy shoes with grip – because paths to some seas do not have evenly made steps, which is fun, but you do not want to fall. Young people were going up and down barefoot and flimsy flip-flops, even running up the stairs with not a care, but for a lot of us, falling is not an option.
You also need footwear with a grip if you are going to visit beaches with rocks. There are plenty of such beaches in Bali. Water shoes with gripping rubber soles are more than enough to protect you from falls. Those rubber slippers/flip-flops won’t do. My husband fell wearing one of those on a slippery rock.
One extraordinarily beautiful beach is Suluban Beach, (Blue Point Beach). To reach the beach, you have to come down a lot of steps, but the view is well worth the effort. You have adventure and serenity at the same space and cliffs giving shade over beautiful ocean waves.
And, do not wear sneakers and such shoes any where near water – the smell of wet shoes is horrible, afterwards and packing it back home is even worse. You need watershoes that will cover your feet and protect it from all rocks, shells and corals and won’t fly away with the water.
What to wear in Bali Temples
Temples in Bali with intricately carved stone structures are beautiful. You will pass one such temple every 5 minutes in Bali, and they all have beautiful hand-crafted sculptures and vibrant tropical flowers all over the place. Most of the structures depict scenes from Hindu epics. But visiting them up close is not easy. You should have prior permission and should be wearing appropriate traditional Balinese attire. (I think the stipulation came after a recent controversy I mentioned earlier) or modest clothing which includes, long trousers or skirts, long sleeved blouses. Footwear and hats are to be removed when entering temples.
Dress code for temples includes the traditional clothing of Bali – for women it is a kebaya blouse (usually a blouse made of net fabric) worn with a sarong and a belt made of a fabric piece tied at the waist over the blouse. The belt is usually made of the same material as the sarong, and it is called Umpal. The sarong that forms the bottom wear is made of a 2-meter-long cloth that is wrapped around the body. This sarong is called Kamen.
I have seen some women wear a sarong skirt under the kebaya blouse instead of a Kamen.- more ease of walking and wearing, I guess.
Bali women wear their traditional clothing, usually for traditional ceremonies, cultural events, or special occasions. And as Bali is a tourist-centric place, you will see this dress worn by many service professionals in shops, hotels, etc. It is a quite graceful, figure-fitting clothing.
If you want to try the traditional clothing of Bali on a temporary basis, you can visit the cultural complex below the Garuda Wisnu Kencana statue. The Garuda statue depicts the Hindu deity Vishnu riding the mythical bird Garuda and is located in Uluwatu.
There is a kiosk in the cultural complex attached to the statue that gives you an opportunity to try different traditional clothing of Bali.
My daughter rented the costume of a princess.
And she looked pretty in the flowing gown and gold headdress, and jewelry – necklaces, bracelets, and heavy earrings. It is quite fun, and you get to keep a photo of the costume session as a printed album and also get send a digital file too.
This costume rental is also there in Alas Harum, in Ubud which combines natural landscapes with many adventure activities.
You can swing over the lush paddy fields in costumes that look almost like a Grecian gown than traditional Bali clothing and take several stunning instagram worthy photos. The pictures turn out magnificent as the flowing, brightly colored clothes form a stark and lovely contrast against the lush greenery below.
Special Aquarium-Dinner attire
One memorable occasion in Bali was a dinner at the aquarium hotel in Kempensky Hotel – it is literally inside an aquarium.
You get to eat fish and other savories surrounded by lots and lots of live fish. Disturbing 🙂 but beautiful dining experience, I must say.
And the 5 course dinner menu is wonderful. I do not even want to remember it now, sitting in front of my bread and butter plate.
And there is a dresscode. You have to be dressed appropriately to be allowed to dine there – and as you have to book the table many days in advance you get the time to plan what you will be wearing for the dinner.
According to the restaurant website – “Ladies have to wear long trousers, jeans, smart dress, open shoes, such as decent sandals, summer shoes or closed shoes, round collar or piqué T-shirt or blouse. Gentlemen have to wear long trousers, jeans, fully closed shoes (inclusive of sports shoes), round collar or piqué T-shirt or shirt. No shorts, three-quarter trousers, flip-flops or slippers are allowed.“
A week’s trip is not enough to explore Bali. We left a lot of things unexplored, maybe for another day, another month, another year, hopefully not another life..