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Drinking arak safely in Indonesia

Friday 2nd March 2012

Bali’s home tipple encapsulates the spirit of Indonesia, and can be found in all the bars - whether its a swanky country club or laidback beach bar.

If you’re visiting Indonesia on your gap year, you might want to consider taking in some of the local culture. See the sights, take in the monuments, chill out on the famous beaches and scale the grandeur of the skyscrapers. You might also want to have a night out, and not implying that you’ll get drunk or anything, but trying one or two of the local beverages whilst chilling out might be just the thing to top off your hectic day.

The arak is Bali’s favourite drink and can be found in almost all the drinking joints you will find yourself in. Not to be confused with arrack, an anise-flavoured spirit popular in the Middle East, this tipple is distilled from coconut palm sap and can be mixed with a number of juices and spices for a specific blend, depending where in Bali you go (the higher- end bars will be typically more sophisticated). Spices such as ginger and juices such as mango and passion fruit have been known to create a unique taste that you won’t forget from your gap year travels. Beware, though - some less reputable places have been known to host ‘arak’ that has poisoned tourists and locals alike, so stick to the well-known and busier bars and resorts.

The best places to check out are the Ku De Ta and the Canggu Club, each with their own unique style and class. The Ku De Ta is elegant and beautifully picturesque, while the Canggu Club is Bali’s answer to a recreational country club with all it’s class and verve. But enough with all that high end hoo-ha. If you’re on a tight budget on your gap year, you can still find your way around the troubles of being virtually penniless in a foreign country and enjoy a cheeky arak or two - just don't drink it to get drunk, instead try one really well made cocktail in a decent bar, where you know it will be safe to drink.

A popular version of the arak is the arak madu, which is laced with honey and fruit juices, and relatively cheap. In general, most things in Bali are pretty cheap, but make sure that food is well cooked and fresh before tucking in, and don't over-indulge in dirt cheap arak in a dodgy bar, as you don't know what you are drinking.

Whether you’re making a flying visit to this beautiful haven of Indonesia, or you’re thinking of settling down for a full year, there are endless opportunities to find your ideal drink in Bali, and have a fantastic time on your year out. For ideas to embark upon your perfect gap year in Asia, take a look at our South East Asia destination page, or if you’re heading that way and are stuck for job opportunities, teaching English as a foreign language could be the way forward for you. Whatever you choose to do, enjoy a classy arak or three while you are there - it’s not to be missed!