Bali, the “land of the Gods”, has quickly become a traveller’s hotspot in recent years. This little (well, actually quite big) island paradise welcomes thousands of travellers from all over the globe daily, many of them arriving from Australia due to proximity. Indonesia or “Indo” as it is passionately known, is home to a large expat community, thriving surf scene, and even many start-up bikini and fashion labels. But when travelling to Bali it really is a case of knowing where to go, as each area offers a completely different experience. So here’s a quick guide to Bali to help you plan your trip!
Population: 2.04 million +
City Motto: City of Gods
Climate: Tropical Climate around 30 degrees celsius year-round with 85% humidity!
A Quick Guide to Bali
Prior to Arrival
Visas are available on arrival and can be paid in cash or card. Some nationals will even qualify for a visa waiver. It is important to note that your passport must be valid for a minimum of 6 months and your passport must have a minimum of 2 free pages available. When packing, remember Bali is hot tropical weather – so less is always more! December – March is monsoon season, though the rain showers can be quite refreshing in the humidity. When booking flights, the national carrier is Garuda Indonesia who offer great connections worldwide. Alternatively, many international airlines fly to Bali or have codeshare flights.
Arrival will be into Ngurah Rai International Airport or “Denpasar airport” (DPS), a huge international airport that has become very ‘westernised’ over the years. Many hotels offer free hotel shuttles services, though if not, head to the “transfer desk” outside of arrivals after collecting your bags and book an official taxi to your destination (the drivers wear blue shirts). These will be set rates and are the most reliable way to reach your hotel or villa.
This is highly dependent on where you decide to stay and what you plan to do. If staying in a central location (i.e. Seminyak), getting around the neighbourhood is best done on foot. Then, if you plan to go further afield, the most popular options are to a) hire a private driver for the day or b) rent a motorcycle. Be aware that renting a motorcycle comes with obvious risks and traffic can be chaotic. Private drivers available for hire for a half or full day rate are very reasonable by international standards.
Balinese is the official language spoken, which is a dialect of Indonesian. Here are some quick phrases to help you get by, even though English is widely spoken in the tourism industry:
Excuse Me, Sorry: Permisi
Thank You: Terima Kasih
What to See
If you want to see all the recommended sights and attractions in Bali, you will need to hire a driver or pay taxi rates point to point, as everything is extremely far apart. Here are the WOW picks for the best sights and attractions you must see in Bali:
Uluwatu Temple, Tanah Lot Temple, Ubud Old Town and Monkey Forest, Tegallalang Rice Terraces, Mount Banur (sunrise hike), Seminyak (shopping) and Canggu (great cafes + surf).
What to Eat & Drink
Indonesian food varies dramatically throughout the various regions, however you will find some absolutely fantastic choices from right across Indonesia right here in Bali. For vegetarians, there are many great options – be sure to try the tempeh (fried bean curd) with sweet soy sauce!
Some of my favourite places to eat (that I return to each and every time) include Betelnut Cafe in Canggu (pictured above – the famous “Naga Bomb” smoothie bowls), Warung at Alila Uluwatu for local cuisine, Potato Head for western food + incredible day club scene and Single Fin Uluwatu for the best cliff bar (best at sunset).
Where to Stay
The neighbourhoods in Bali are distinctly different and will play a large part in what type of holiday you have in Bali, so it is important to choose the right area for what you are after whilst you’re here.
Jimbaran Bay is just 15 minutes from the airport and has become one of the best kept secrets in Bali as it flies so well under the radar. This area is great for a relaxed vacation with very few people on the beaches, as well as in great proximity to nearby Uluwatu and some great beaches away from the crowds you’ll encounter further North along the coast. This area is also renowned for its seafood offerings. I stayed at Intercontinental Hotel Bali and really enjoyed my time there, however would recommend paying the extra to get all the club benefits like complimentary afternoon tea, canapes and cocktails, and a fantastic a la carte breakfast included in your rate.
This is by far my favourite neighbourhood in Bali. The cliffs, the views, the clifftop bars… I love everything about Uluwatu. Hotels here are typically very expensive, though you really do get what you pay for. My favourite is Alila Uluwatu. If you can’t afford to stay here, stay nearby in Jimbaran Bay or Nusa Dua and visit the area on a day trip, it is a mere 15 minutes drive away from each.
Nusa Dua is an area really close to the airport but feels a world away. This is a great choice for honeymooners who want huge swimming pools and a large beach with fewer people. I can recommend The Mulia Bali, a huge resort with a wide range of room types, though I hear Bali Rani Hotel and Suji Bungalow are great for a more moderate budget.
Seminyak has become the heart of Bali for 20s-30s travellers who are willing to forego a budget and spend whatever the cost for an upmarket holiday in Bali. This area has everything – great shopping, great cafes, and a great range of luxury hotels and villas. The W Hotel is here and Alila have just opened a new property here too.
Ubud has long been considered the cultural heart of Bali, however over the past decade or so it has become really touristy. It is still a great place to find sanctuary inside the gorgeous luxury hotels that have all popped up here. I can recommend the Four Seasons Sayan and the Ubud Hanging Gardens.
Located further North of Seminyak on the coast is an area that is quickly becoming more and more popular for holiday makers; Canggu. This area is where you will find all the surfers and plenty of private villas, making it a great location for longer stays. The Chill House is also here – my favourite digs in the area and a great choice for solo travellers given the community vibe.
Legian is a great choice for family travellers as the area is still really family oriented. From Legian you can easily walk to Seminyak and Kuta, though with its party goer reputation, there really is no need to make your way there (unless you insist, then by all means!) Padma Resort is recognised as the best in the area.
Sanur is a great option for a more modest budget, though has become really popular over the years so don’t expect complete tranquility! Prima Cottage comes recommended as one of the best hotels in the area for those on a budget.
The most popular day trip outside of Bali is to visit Lombok or the Gili islands off Lombok. If you are looking to go further afield for a few days for a more authentic experience, head for Sumba Island – dubbed to be “what Bali was like 30 years ago”.