I recently got back from an amazing trip to Bali! (the kind you don’t want to come back from or come back home and immediately look for ways to get back). Since several people asked me for more information about my trip, I’m writing this post as an introduction to Bali travel. Last week, I posted my 7 day Bali itinerary and this Bali guide, coupled with the itinerary should hopefully help you plan the perfect trip to Bali.
Bali is one of the 17,000+ islands that make up the archipelago of Indonesia and is Indonesia’s most popular tourist destination. Here are some of the basic facts about the island along with some helpful tips and recommendations to plan your travels.
Bali experiences two seasons: the rainy season and the dry season. Regardless of the season, daytime temperatures hover between the upper 80’s to the lower 90’s fahrenheit for most parts of the Island. Temperatures in the central hills like Ubud can be lower during the nighttime. Bali is very humid throughout the year.
Wettest Month – January
Hottest month – May
Most humid month – December
When to Visit
The best time is visit is from April to October which is Bali’s dry season. The high season is considered to be from July to August. Low season follows immediately, except in December when tourist flock to Bali from the neighboring countries.
Where to stay
This really depends on what you want to do in Bali. Distance wise, it only takes 2-4 hours to drive from the north to the south or from the east to the west. Being an island, Bali has amazing beach resorts everywhere along the coast. The ones in the south/south west (from Canggu to Uluwatu) are more popular while the ones in the north and east are quieter. Kuta is known for its party scene and might be best avoided unless that is what you want to do. Uluwatu is renowned for surfing and cliffside bars while Seminyak is a shoppers and foodie’s paradise.
Bali is also known for its lush green rice fields and Ubud is the popular destination to experience this. There are lots of accomodation options in Ubud that are in the middle of rice fields and jungles providing for some ultimate rest and relaxation. Ubud is also Bali’s cultural center where arts, crafts and dance is prevalent.
Where I stayed
I chose to stay in Ubud for the first few days of my vacation. The reason for this is because Ubud was central to some of the placed I wanted to visit in the east, north east and central Bali.
Vrindavan Ubud Villa
This hotel is situated about 15 minutes from the heart of Ubud and is located on a rice field. The property has private villas with pools and is a great place to relax. Although, the place is completely isolated, they offer a free shuttle to take guests to and from the Ubud city center.
HERE is the link if you want to check the place out.
This villa is located in Seminyak and a very short distance from all the restaurants and the beach. Although Seminyak is crowded we didn’t feel it at all because the villa is in a quieter back road. I fell in love with this place the minute I walked in and didn’t want to leave.
HERE is the link for Villa Alamanda
Although resorts and villas in Uluwatu are much more quieter, Seminyak is known for its food and bar scene and I wanted to be in the center of all that having spent our first few days in a quieter location.
How to Get Around
The best way to get around Bali is to hire a driver. The cost depends on the distance and time. Drivers will usually quote for half day (5 hours) or full day (10 hours) tours. Click here for my driver recommendation (2 separate friends recommended him to me and he was great!)
If you can drive a scooter that may also be an option to consider. One word of caution about the way people drive though! (Might be not for you if you are not used to a hundred other scooters weaving in and out of traffic)
For short distances, your options are,
- Blue Bird Taxi – Metered taxi. Keep their number handy
- Go-Jek and Grab – App based like Uber
Note – Neither Blue Bird nor the app based taxis are available in Ubud. You will have to haggle with a local taxi driver. Some of the app based taxis may also not be available in certain beaches in the south.
What to See
There is so much to see and do in Bali. I covered this in much detail in my Bali itinerary post last week . See a sample in the pictures below.
Check out my Bali itinerary post HERE
Check out my post on visiting Nusa Penida HERE
What and Where to eat
Bali is a food lovers paradise! Food is a massive part of why I want to go back to Bali so desperately! From traditional Balinese cuisine to more contemporary flair, Bali has got you covered!
Bali is known for their warungs or small restaurants, offering traditional indonesian cuisine and is a big part of Balinese food and culture.
Popular Indonesian Cuisine
Nasi goreng/mee goreng – Fried rice/fried noodles. usually comes with satays and crackers
Satays – Meat on a stick smothered with sauce! (need i say more?)
Nasi campur – The Indonesian version of rice and accompaniments like vegetables and meats. Every single flavor is distinct and pure. Ask for sambol (spicy sauce)
Lumpia – Spring rolls
Tried and Tested Restaurants
(no means a comprehensive list)
Clear Cafe, Ubud – Has an extensive menu that focuses on clean and healthy eating.
Sweet Orange Warung, Ubud – This warung is situated in the middle of a rice field, and you have to walk along a ridge surrounded by rice fields to get to the restaurant. The food here was so amazing! Highly recommend this place and the experience!
Balinese Home Cooking, Ubud– Even if you don’t go anywhere else, you have to check this place out! It’s owned and run by a few families and is situated in a lovely garden setting. Try the nasi campur or indonesian pork ribs (wow!)
Crispy Duck, Ubud – This restaurant was situated next to the tegenungan waterfall and serves some really good satays.
Nalu Bowls, Seminyak – Creative, beautiful and super healthy smoothie bowls. The restaurant upstairs has a full breakfast menu.
Sister Fields, Seminyak – Your classic and upscale brunch spot. The food was amazing and beautifully presented. Call ahead to reserve.
Biku, Seminyak – Indonesian cuisine in an upscale setting than a Warung. They also have high-tea and an extensive dessert and cake bar (which they made up sit next too!)
Made’s Warung, Seminyak – Popular restaurant for traditional Indonesian cuisine.
Jimbaran bay, Jimbaran – Seafood in a beautiful beach setting. The entire bay is full of restaurants with colorful tables lines up on the golden beach. You can either order ala carte or from the set menu. We paid $25 each for all the seafood shown below plus rose’ and dessert. The meal also comes with steamed rice and vegetables. Best time to go is just before sunset! We ate at Made Bagus Cafe.
Red Carpet Champagne Bar, Seminyak – This champagne bar is situated right in the heart of Seminyak and has an extensive champagne and cocktail menu. The music was great too and had people getting up from their tables and dancing the night away. Oh and the best part? Free hors d’oeuvre! Staff walked around every 15 minutes or so carrying trays of various appetizers and bite sized desserts!
La Plancha, Seminyak – Cocktails and sunsets in a colorful setting.
Single Fin, Uluwatu – Perched on a cliff overlooking the ocean, Single Fin is a hip place to hang out, have a drink, eat and watch the surfers out on the ocean all while grooving to the beats.
Gaya Gelato – Sweet relief from the heat! Gaya is situated right next to Saraswathi Temple.
What to Pack
As I mentioned, Bali is hot and humid throughout the year and cotton clothing is probably the best for this kind of weather.
It also goes without saying that Bali is a photographers paradise, so, if you are female and plan on taking pictures bring a couple of long flowy dresses for those perfect instagram shots!
You have to cover up at most temples and the good news is that a sarong or wrap is included in the ticket price. However, if you don’t like to wear what another person wore before, bring a wrap or long skirt to cover your knees when visiting temples.
Bring sneakers if you plan on hiking!
Bali has round 2-pin style sockets, so bring an adapter that will work in Bali (especially if you are traveling from America)
Bali is hilly and is full of steps everywhere. You will have to climb up or down stairs at most attractions, including beaches.
If you need relief from sore calves and quads, get yourself a massage! There are so many spas and massage places in Bali and the rates are unbelievably cheap (by any western standard!) and I cannot recommend this experience enough! You can even get a massage therapist to come to your villa.
I very rarely carry money with me and pull out cash from a local ATM when I get to a country. I have found that an ATM always gives the best rate (usually the rate you see on google), even with the $5 fees my bank charges.
I hadn’t been to Asia in a while and had completely forgotten that this is not the case there. In Bali, ATMs had a cap of how much you could withdraw, and both banks charged a fee (the locale ATM bank and my bank) which made it very expensive to keep pulling out money. Luckily, I had a few dollar bills but you get the best rate for $100 bills (this is common in Asia). All things considered, my recommendation is to carry $100 USD bills to convert to rupiah. You will need cash to pay for attractions and your driver.
One thing to be extremely careful about is where you change your money. Only go to an authorized money changer. You will see many places that offer rates that seem higher than usual (I especially saw this in Seminyak). THIS IS A SCAM! (capitalized for emphasis!) Google is a great way to check the ongoing rate. If the rate advertised looks too good to be true, it definitely is! From all the authorized money changers, the airport changers definitely had the lowest rate so only change a minimum at the airport.
Places like restaurants and bars will take credit cards. Make sure to get a card with no foreign transactions fees and to let your credit card issuing company know that you plan on using it in Bali. Some places may charge you a fee for using your credit card, so overall, liquid cash is probably your best bet in Bali.
Considering how expensive roaming can be and how cheap a local sim card is, it’s honestly not worth it to pay for roaming. In fact, I always get a local sim card whenever I travel. The only caveat here is that you need to have an unlocked phone.
You can either buy a sim card at the airport or at a convenience store along the streets. Although expensive, I recommend buying a sim card at the airport because they register the card for you. This is a new law that came into place and convenience stores cannot do this for you.
You will see the sim card shops on your way out of the airport (after collecting your bags). They will ask you how long you are staying in Bali and recommend a package for you and take care of the registration.
Language and Religion
While the official language is Indonesian, Balinese is the native language and is spoken throughout the Island. English is spoken in all tourist areas.
Hinduism is the main religion in Bali. 83% of Balinese are hindus and hinduism is very much a part of everyday life. Devotees dressed in traditional attire, engaged in rituals and ceremonies is a common sight in Bali.
What to book in advance vs. what to book there
You can buy tickets to most attractions (temples, rice fields, waterfalls etc.) when you get there. The only things I recommend booking in advance are your accommodation and a driver. Restaurant reservations, dance performances and massages can be booked once you get there.
Did you find this guide and tips useful? Please let me know by liking/commenting below or sharing this post on social media! Thank you!!
HERE is my Bali itinerary post again!