Upon arriving in a new country, one of the most difficult things can be how to stay in touch with friends and family at home or how to connect with people you were traveling with in the country you have arrived in.
Many Australians have returned home from a lovely holiday in Bali only to be shocked by the exorbitant fees that have become attached to their telephone plan.
Recently my friends arrived back in Australia from Bali and were horrified to receive a $7000.00 phone bill. They had not realised how much data Facebook used and had made a couple of phone calls. They argued the point with Telstra and finally had their bill reduced to $3000.00, but still a crushing blow after a nice holiday.
However there is a way around this and it is actually rather simple once you know how to do it.
Firstly, you will need to have a mobile phone that you are happy to put a new sim in, alternatively it may be a good idea to bring a second cheap phone with you which you can use as your Indonesian phone for the duration of your holiday.
This way you can use your Australian phone to receive text messages from home and the new phone for everything to do with Indonesia.
There are many places around Bali that can set this up for you, the one I go to is Delly Cellular in Jalan Campuhan in Ubud. They have three locations around Ubud.
It is a good idea if you don't speak the language to check that the company you are going to actually speak English. Many can sell you plans, but if language is a barrier, you not get the best set up for your usage.
There are several carrier to choose from: Telkomsel or Simpati plans both seem to work reasonably well around Bali.
You purchase a phone card and get to choose your phone number, with Telkomsel this will cost 15,000 rupiah ($1.50), then you can charge it up with as much data or phone credit as you like. 100,000rp ($10) will give you 1.5 gigabyte, this is usually enough for 2-4 weeks even with moderately heavy usage (and Facebook certainly uses data). I add 100,000rp to the phone plan which lasts me 2-6 weeks depending on usage.
Its very easy to top up the plans if you need more and although wifi is now free in many locations, considering many 5 star hotels may charge you US$25 per day for wifi, it is a much cheaper alternative.
It is often cheaper to get data on a new phone number than to top up the one you have, this results in the locals changing their phone number every time their credit runs out, which can be confusing and frustrating with saved phone numbers and getting in touch again, but once you realise the large price difference, it is understandable.
To send a message to another phone within Bali will cost you around 2c, if sending a message to an Australian phone number it will cost you around 6c per message.
For phone calls they are relatively inexpensive within Bali.
If you wish to make a phone call to Australia simply add 01017, then the country code (61 for Australia), then the city code (3 for Melbourne), then the phone number minus the 0, adding this prefix to your phone call will result in significantly cheaper international phone rates.
Dial *888# and call and it will show you how much phone credit you have.
Dialing *889# will show you how much Internet credit you have.
You could check your phone credit firstly, make a call and recheck to see exactly what it is costing you. A phone call on a land line to Australia from Bali costs me around $6 for 40 minutes, still expensive but no where near standard international rates which can be up to $10 per minute to some countries.
Just check how long the plans last for, some are only 1 month and then it will delete whatever credit is left on them, some will go longer.
Once it is in place, then you are good to go, you can use your mobile phone as a hotspot for your ipad or other devices, even your laptop and you will be able to make phone calls around Indonesia cheaply.
There is usually a lady on the desk at Delly Cellular - it is a tiny little store just next to a laundry and The Elephant restaurant. Go through the main street (Jalan Raya) heading west, over the bridge and up the hill, continue past Bintang supermarket and it is just a little further on, on the right hand side of the road.
You can telephone them on 0812 394 6011.
The lady's name is an Anom Astina and her e-mail is email@example.com
Many other places around Bali will also offer the same service but this will get you started for those of you located in Ubud.
Another handy things to have in Bali is satellite navigation systems.
If you are using an android phone you can get offline sat nav so you are not actually using your data whilst online, however if you wish to use Google maps or an apple device you will need to have data with you to do this, this will be accessible on the above plan.
Never get too far lost backpacking again - the world just got a whole lot easier!
Please feel free to post any other places you know that are very helpful with phone plans in Bali or any advice you may have for other readers - we look forward to hearing of your suggestions.