A complete guide to Bali, Indonesia
Oh what a wonderful choice you have made.
Having travelled through Bali on three separate occasions now, I can absolutely confirm that Bali is a solid decision if you’re looking to kick back, relax and enjoy a tropical paradise at a fraction of the cost of the likes of the Maldives.
I have come to the conclusion that the ‘best places to go’ in Bali change by the year.
In 2013 I would have told you to go Lovina and then get a boat over to the paradise that was Gili Trawangan. In 2015 I would have told you to go to Seminyak and lap up the cafes and sunset spots dotted all along the west coast. After my most recent trip, in 2017, I would tell you to go to Ubud with a taste of Uluwatu and Nusa Lembongan. Although now, even Nusa L shows immediate signs of tourism takeover.
So the first thing I would say when planning your trip to Bali and doing your research is to look at when the advice was given (if you’re looking at online publications). Honestly, I once fell in love with Seminyak and now I would totally avoid it when exploring Bali. That view changed in 11 months – the tourism over there is growing like crazy.
That’s not to say at all though that there isn’t an authentic and absolutely gorgeous side of Bali still to be found. There definitely is.
And remember… Bali is just a very small piece of the large and beautiful puzzle that is Indonesia.
Where is Bali?
Bali is one of the most popular islands in Indonesia, located in South East Asia.
How Much Money Should You Save For Bali?
Bali is definitely not as cheap as it was when I visited three years ago, but when compared to the likes of Europe and the America – life here really does come come at a fraction of the price.
Bali is definitely a great option if you are looking for a gorgeous tropical holiday, without the price tag of the Maldives.
Check out my comprehensive guide to budgeting for Bali here, and you’ll be able to get an idea of just how much you’ll need to save, obviously depending on your personal preferences.
When Should You Go To Bali? What’s the weather like?
In Bali you can expect a tropical warm climate all year round. I guess the rainfall is something worth taking note of, because even though it’s warm tropical rain – the clouds can shadow those gorgeous blues and ocean views.
Rainfall is highest between Nov – March.
The most popular time (and expensive time) to come is July and August.
Saying that though, out of the 3 occasions I’ve been to Bali, I experienced more rain during a June visit than I did in January or March.
How Should You Find Accommodation In Bali?
Whilst Bali most certainly can be done on the cheaper side of things, there is definitely still a presence of your 5 star western resorts, should you seek them. Booking.com is always a great option to see what’s available in the area, and to give you a good idea of the cheap and the luxury options available.
If you’re looking for some super unique and gorgeous experiences in Bali, the Airbnb options there are out of this world. Split the cost of a villa between you and your friends and it works out a similar cost to that of a hostel. The value for money is madness. A lot of the villas come with personal cooks and drivers.
If you are backpacking or you’re just an all round bargain hunter, then hostels or, more common here in Bali, Homestays are going to be your new best friend. A homestay is basically accommodation run by locals. It may be multiple villas, a b+b or even a spare room in a house. They are dotted all over the streets – you really won’t struggle to find one. A few of them are advertised on the internet but a lot of them, because they are run by locals, aren’t.
My top Bali picks…
There are so many gorgeous corners of Bali that you should check out when you visit. Though I have been lucky enough to visit three times now, there are still SO many places that I haven’t got my hands on yet on this beautiful island.
Perhaps kickstart your Bali inspiration by popping over to my ’10 amazing things to do in Bali’ blog post here.
There are a few main places in Bali that you should definitely try and visit:
Ubud is known as the cultural hub of Bali with temples, holistic centres, yoga studios and local markets on every corner of the street. With access to locally grown produce of every variety, it is here in Ubud that the vegan and raw dining culture was born. The food and drink options are incredible, as well as the options to explore the famous rice fields, the nearbyand the legendary Monkey Forest.
Check out my hike up Mt Batur here.
Seminyak is one of the closest towns to Denpasar airport (where you’ll probably fly in) and is home to the likes of W Hotel. There’s only a few seconds per minute where you’ll be without the sound of the taxi horns. It’s busy to say the least but the magic of the sunsets is undeniable. There are some absolutely DE-LI-CIOUS eateries here too. I would suggest only staying a night or two if you decide to come here.
And if you’re a backpacker – definitely check out my stay at Umahku Hostel.
As a result of the tourism takeover in Seminyak, the lime light seems to have now shifted over to Canggu, or ‘the gu’ as locals call it. Canggu is the younger sibling of Seminyak, located just north of Seminyak on the west coast. Canggu is one of the hottest spots on the island with surfers and if you go – you’ll most likely end up with a cocktail or two at Old Man’s as you watch the sun descend beyond the horizon.
Considered one of the sleepier towns and host to many family orientated hotels, Sanur tends to be the underdog with young travellers. I absolutely love it here; it’s the perfect place for a more laid back Balinese experience. Plus, you are right on the gateway to the nearby islands of Nusa Archipelago, Lombok, Flores, Komodo and the Gili’s, all of which you can explore in a day trip or two.
I haven’t yet done a guide to Uluwatu as I’ve only visited on two occasions and each time only explored for the day.
Uluwatu is home to some of the best surf breaks in Bali, to the Pura Luhur temple (see photo below), and some of the most exclusive hotels and restaurants on the island.
If you head here be sure to check out: Rock Bar, Single Fin, Nalu Bowls, Pura Luhur and get a surf lesson!
Kuta was my first ever taste of Bali and if I’m really honest… it was the biggest disappointment ever. As soon as I got out of Kuta I discovered the paradise I had always imagined in my head. In comparison, Kuta was not even close. Kuta is a pretty plain, party orientated town. The energy centres around the Sky Garden which is a multi story club serving all-you-can-eat BBQs on the rooftop. I’m sure there are many that this would suit, but considering I had travelled from the other side of the world – I wanted more. Rumour has it that Kuta is the ‘Magaluf’ equivalent for Australians. Cheap flights, lots of booze and a nice climate. Don’t say I didn’t warn you!
Nusa Dua is an area of Bali with luxury 5* resorts that back onto the white sands of Nusa Dua beach. The hotels and restaurants are all at Western prices – even the water activities are on the pricey side. For a more affordable holiday in the same area, you can find plenty of 5* hotels with 4* price tags in Tanjung Benoa, which is just a 7-minute taxi journey from Nusa Dua beach. You can still access the pool and facilities of some of the exclusive resorts for the day if you wish by purchasing a day pass at the beach side access to the hotels.
In Tanjung Benoa you will also find the home of one of Bali’ s best massage centres. Jari Menari provides a clean, professional setting with indoor waterfalls creating ambience as you are relieved of all your tension (and strains from travelling). There is even a free pick up/drop off service in the Nusa Dua/Tanjung Benoa area, so you can be transported straight back to your bed.
You can make a booking here – firstname.lastname@example.org
When staying in Nusa Dua, the best sunset is viewed at Jimbaran Beach (pictured below) – where the sun sets into the sea (it doesn’t at Nusa as the coast is facing East) – a 15-20 minute taxi away (costing around 70,000 Rupiah/£4). There is music, bars and reggae music set aback from the tranquil beach front.
I haven’t actually explored much of the East, but no doubt at some point I will return to Bali and when I do, a road-trip up the east coast is at the top of my list. There are some gorgeous temples located up the coast alongside rice paddies spilling over countryside left, right and centre. Go and check them out for me and let me know what’s good!
The first time I ever visited Bali we met a local in Kuta and persuaded him to take us to see some of Bali’s finest offerings. He took us to the very north of Bali, to Lovina, where we ate at a local warung before waking up at 4am and heading out to watch the dolphins at sunrise.
It was pure magic.
Check out: Banjar hotsprings, Banyumala waterfall, Bedugul, Banjar, and Sekumpul waterfalls.
Basic itineraries for Bali…
A 1 week Bali itinerary:
- Spend three days in Ubud (take one morning to hike Mt. Batur at sunrise, followed by the hot springs)
- Head to Sanur, hire a moped and float around the east coast for a couple of days. Serangen is an awesome spot to check out if you want to dive into the local culture.
- Get a boat over to the Nusa archipelago and kick back and relax in paradise for two or three days.
A 2 week Bali itinerary:
- Spend four days in Ubud (take one morning to hike Mt. Batur at sunrise, followed by the hot springs)
- Take a day trip to Uluwatu or Canggu and learn how to surf!
- Hire a moped and float around the east and north coast for a few days. Check out the dolphins in Lovina! Serangen is also an awesome spot to check out if you want to dive into the local culture.
- Get a boat over to the Nusa archipelago and Gili Islands and kick back and relax in paradise for three days.
- Spend your last few days on Lombok.
My top tips for Bali…
19 invaluable tips for Bali that will save you money, time, patience and more…
WMGTs’ top tips for Bali…
In case you have totally missed the latest addition to the Where’s Mollie? arm, let me get you up to speed. On the last weekend of April 2017 I had a midnight thought about creating a place where those who wanted to could all get a little more personal, by sharing personal travel recommendations, tips and advice with each other.
Where’s Mollie Global Travellers FB Group was born.
Now as part of my ‘complete guides’ I’m going to add in a section of WM Global Travellers’ tips to give you another perspective and to fill you with even more goodness and inside knowledge for your trip!
Here Are The Top WMGT Bali Tips…
Extending your trip beyond Bali..
Think about visiting…
- The Komodo Islands
Have you been to Bali?
What were your favourite spots? I’d love to know!
Love as always + happy adventuring,
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