Travellers heading to Bali now have a tax to pay.

It seems as though every other week now a new story makes headlines about a tourist in Bali engaging in some wildly disrespectful or outright illegal behaviour. 

We've seen videos of tourists entering sacred temples while naked, public drunkenness, and even shouting at law enforcement after being stopped for riding a scooter without a helmet. Who could forget the moment last year when a travel vlogger published a bizarre social media video featuring tourists and expats appearing to congratulate Bali for being the "whitest island in Asia". 

As a half-Indonesian woman, these stories make me feel equally nauseated and apoplectic. 

Bali is an island heavily dependent on tourism and the local economy suffered profoundly during COVID lockdowns. Now holidaymakers and travellers are returning in shocking numbers - but from now on, they'll be paying a tourist tax.

And fair enough.

Watch: the tourist tax explained. Post continues below.

Video via Sky News.

From February 14, the Indonesian government is imposing a small fee for foreign visitors who are travelling to the province of Bali. People who travel to other Indonesian provinces will not have to pay the tax.

The levy is 150,000IDR per person, which is about $15 Australian dollars. 


Visitors can pay online via the LOVE BALI website or mobile app by bank transfer. Visitors will then receive a voucher by email, which they can then scan upon arrival at the relevant checkpoints. Cashless payments can also be made at Bali's International Airport, as well as any other harbourside entry point, though prior payment is recommended. 

Local authorities have also starting to make it clear that there will be crackdowns on tourists' behaviour.

They are considering introducing a quota that would see limits placed on tourists entering the island. Bali's Governor, Wayan Koster, said that Bali will "no longer welcome mass tourism" and that the quota would see tourists forced to queue to enter. 

"Those who want to come next year can sign up from now. That's the system we want to apply." 

The local government has also previously considered banning motorbikes (a measure that was later aborted) and there are increasing visa crackdowns on foreigners working without proper permits on the island. 

Meanwhile, as the flood of tourists continues (particularly those from Australia) these news stories about foreigners acting appallingly are bound to continue to appear, too. 

All of this should force us to reflect seriously on how we have come to view Bali as a holiday destination and weigh up our personal choices as tourists. 

It's a nuanced conversation - but it needs to happen. 

The relationship between Bali and tourism has long been one erring on the side of exploitation more than symbiosis. The overall contribution of tourism to Bali's economy is thought to sit somewhere in the region of 60 to 70 per cent and during COVID lockdowns, the island suffered terribly from the loss of foreign visitors. 


But over the years, the sheer number of tourists has also led to an overwhelming Westernisation of hotels, restaurants, and clubs, and a distressing depletion of natural resources on the island - according to one 2012 study, 60 per cent of Bali's water is used by tourists. 

I'm not suggesting that tourists need to turn away from travelling to Bali - but certainly we need to be more discerning of our own behaviour when we choose to travel there. 

The people who make headlines are certainly in the minority, but I am led to question other people's choices, like those who exclusively patronise foreign-owned, Westernised businesses when visiting. Handing your money over to international companies rather than spending directly into the local economy is a problem. 

Going to nightclubs and hotel restaurants and ignoring the opportunity to immerse yourself in Balinese culture and lifestyle is a problem.

Drinking green smoothies and eating chia bowls from Australian cafes instead of diving into the local cuisine isn't so much a problem as it's just painfully lame. 

I think the perception of Bali in general also needs to be inspected very, very closely. Too many Australians seem to believe that because Bali is one of Australia's closest tourist destinations, because the flights there are relatively inexpensive and it's a fairly safe bet for a relaxing time, Bali is basically there for us. I've heard people refer to the island as North-North Bondi.


But Bali is not our playground. As much as people might feel energised and a little wild on any holiday, the particular emergence of terrible behaviour in Bali and failure to take seriously its governance and culture is also a transparent symbol of racism that we need to face up to. 

Indonesians shouldn't be diminished, ignored, belittled or - god help me - perceived exclusively as symbols of spiritualism for Western people who want to go on yoga holidays or Eat-Pray-Love themselves. 

And let's face it, there are also reasons that we should take authorities in Bali extremely seriously, including the continued practice of capital punishment in Indonesia that has seen foreigners executed for trafficking drugs onto the island (a Brazilian teenager is currently in custody in Bali for attempting to traffic 3.9 kilograms of cocaine onto the island). 

I would also add that Indonesia, as a nation spanning five main islands and about 18,000 other smaller islands, has plenty of other incredible tourist destinations to offer beyond Bali. 

But in the end, if you do choose to visit Bali (because it is a stunning and remarkable place) it's worth keeping in mind a healthy amount of respect for the island, the people, and the complexity of what you're entering into. 

This article was originally published in May 2023, and has since been updated with new information. 

Image: Getty.