Balí is not named after the Indonesian island. An educated local said that it is from the word "Vali" that means "Prince" This contradicts the Lonely Planet's guide book that says it is from the old Turkish word for "Honey" (honey was produced there during the period of Turkish rule).
Wearing black is a local custom and you'll see both men and women do it. Cretans are mainly orthodox Christians, so most shops outside of pure tourists villages like Balí close on Sundays, though restaurants are open also on Sundays.
Heraklion and Rethemnon both have ports and Heraklion has an airport. You can get from these towns to Balí by bus or taxi from there. If you want to leave or arrive by bus, try fitting the schedule in with the little tour-bus/train that runs around Balí, so you don't have to walk all the way to or from the main road which is 2 kilometres from the village centre. If it's really hot just wait in the shade until the little train comes, so you don't have to walk in the sun into town. There are no benches, and the concrete slab where the train stops is hard, so a soft seat pad will come in handy if there's a long wait.
Some tour operators like Ving.no do not include nor offer bus transfer to and from the Heraklion airport, so keep the taxi-fare of 50Euro or more in mind. You can order a taxi in advance on-line, but the price seems to be higher than when you get a taxi ups arrival.
Using a taxi isn't very practical for short trips, since they must be ordered from Rethemnon or Irakleo. Use the little train if possible if you want to avoid walking when the sun is too bright. The little train is not just a tour - it is a practical way of getting around Balí. Wait at one of the signs or hail it anywhere and get in when it stops, the conductor will look you up on one of the next stops and sell you a ticket.
There are several companies that offer rental cars (and scooters) in Balí, so you should be able to compare prices. Remember to bring an international driver's licence if you come from a non-EU/Schengen-agreement country. Wearing a helmet while driving a motorcycle is mandatory, but not too strictly enforced, but remember that your health-insurance may be void if you have an accident while not wearing a helmet.
- Diving: Go on an arranged dive, or get your International Padi divers licence at Hippocampus diving centre. Go to the port and follow the sign next to the cruise booking office. There are also day long excursions by boat to other beaches and towns. Some include lunch. Book at the harbour or in one of the booths close to the more remotely situated hotels.
There are lots of "tourist shops" all over the village that sell souvenirs, food and beach-stuff. Go to the bigger towns Heraklion and Rethemnon for all other shopping.
Don't go to Heraklion or Rethemnon on Sunday for shopping as everything is closed.
Don't expect all bars/restaurants to accept credit cards. There is an ATM on the road up from town (Between the doctor's office and Mythos restaurant), so withdraw before you dine.
Posto Café Snack Bar (In the middle of the harbour). Serves hot and cold meals and drinks, and has both an Internet-enabled PC and Wi-Fi if you want to bring your own laptop. Has vegetarian options, and the menu is written in several languages. The staff speak many languages. It is covered, so the entire restaurant is shaded from the sun.
Don't come to Balí for the wild parties that last all night long as they don't seem to exist. There are other destinations (and other Greek islands) that have a more happening party scene.
There are two nightclubs: Crazy town on the main road close to town and the Highway club (outdoors) closer to the main road. These open at 22:30. Crazy town is a western-themed disco is supposed to be oriented towards a younger clientèle than the Highway Club. Drinks cost 5 Euros. The Highway club was closed at the time of writing (July07) and is supposed stay closed a few months.
Raki is the local grape-derived spirit, which is somewhat similar to grappa. The local wine is Retsina, a dry white wine.
Athina apartments (+30 2834094230) has relatively large apartments. They are simple, but new and spotlessly clean and all rooms has a patio or veranda with chairs and a table and clock radio in the room. Aircondition is available. Has a house restaurant (also spotlessly clean) for the hotel guests that serves breakfast and dinner, and a few drinks. A nice, small, well kept pool with deck-chairs and a bar open a few hours from around 16:00. Friendly staff that speaks many languages. Bar and restaurant opening hours seems to be loosely followed guide.
Some of the hotels are very remotely situated and a long way from the beach (like “The Stone Village”), while others are beach front. Look them up before you decide on a hotel.
People camp in caravans close to the beach as well. Uncertain if these campers are tourists or guest workers (many of these are from eastern Europe).
The local police seem to have a very low profile, probably since there seems to be very little crime in the area -unless you count traffic offences.
Drive safely, especially at night. There are big light poles for the pedestrians so they won't get lost or injured at night.
Hotel doors should be locked the whole time you are in your room.
If you don't like air-conditioning, bringing or buying a fan if you stay in the middle of summer is recommended. You can get a small desk-fan in Rethemnon for as little as 13 Euro. Otherwise, most hotels offer air-conditioning.
Water is heated mainly by solar power, so don't expect warm water for showering when there is no sunlight.
Don't flush down the paper, use the bin.
Don't come to Balí if you are mobility disabled and don't have assistance - the entire island of Crete seems to be ridden with wheelchair obstacles. Balí hotels are often situated on the steep hills around the village, and I haven't seen any lifts nor escalators anywhere.
Cretans seem to smoke a lot and smoking is allowed/tolerated almost everywhere including at the McDonald's restaurant in Heraklion. Don't expect smoking bans to be enforced 100%.
Go to the bigger towns Heraklion and Rethemnon for shopping — though beware that everything there will be closed on Sunday. Use the little train up to the main road and remember to buy a rerun ticket from the attendant in the booth before entering the bus. Both Heraklion and Rethemnon bus-stations are fairly well organized and has some of its most important information written in English and German on signs/monitors. The buses are modern, well maintained and have air-conditioning on a comfortable level that shouldn't give you a cold. Heraklion can be a good starting point for island hopping by boat, since it has an active port next to the bus station.