I’ve been meaning to write this post for quite some time and I finally had a great excuse to get around to it – I’m heading back to Bali for the third time! I’ve booked a one-way ticket and I’m going with my group of very best friends for a special occasion so I’m super excited.
I absolutely fell in love with Bali the first time I visited. It’s a stunningly beautiful island, the culture and people are so lovely, there is so much to do as well as being a perfect place to retreat and relax if that’s what you’re looking for. Not to mention the shopping, weather and food are all amazing!
It’s my absolute pleasure to write this Bali travel guide overview and tips for top things to do and be aware of if you’re heading there for the first time.
July and August tend to be the peak months where prices will usually go up due to the high volume of tourists, therefore April, May, June and September are good months to aim for. However, I went late November once and the wet season hadn’t started as it was late, but it was very very humid. The plane tickets during that time though were extremely cheap!
Where to stay depends on what type of holiday you are looking for.
The three most popular and main areas to stay in are Seminyak, Kuta and Ubud.
Seminyak, being the more upscale choice of the three, is spilling with high-end boutiques, restaurants, spas and luxury accommodation. This relaxed area is great for couples, families and those wanting to be near the beach, great food and shopping.
I personally enjoy staying at The Breezes – a mid-range 4-star resort and spa, which is a bit more affordable that those dreamy beachfront villas!
Kuta is generally popular for the surfers and younger, party-centric crowd. There are a lot of raging nightclubs and has a noisier party atmosphere. I stayed there the second time and didn’t enjoy that area nearly as much. However, there are still plenty of nice beachside accommodation resorts or cheap hostels if that does happen to be your thing. There’s a big waterpark in Kuta if you have kids and the beach is a great spot to catch a wave.
Ubud is for those looking for some real peace and quiet away from the touristy areas and shops, loud drinking people and so on. Ubud is often referred to as the heart of Bali.
Not only a paradise for yogis, vegetarians and vegans, it is also the island’s cultural and spiritual centre- thanks to the movie Eat, Pray, Love. It’s a lot quieter and there are less food choices, but there’s still plenty to do and it’s where most of the amazing artwork is made.
|The Breezes Resort & Spa in Seminyak|
From the airport
How to get around Bali? The only way I would recommend is by the official Bluebird Taxis (Taksi). Even from the airport. Don’t do what I did the first time which was book a package that included hotel transfers. The transfers cost over $50 each way… but we had no idea at the time that price was five times more than what we would pay if we just hopped in a taxi at the airport!
It should cost you no more than $10 AUD to Seminyak, which is about a twenty-minute drive away depending on the traffic.
|Official Bluebird taxis|
There is no shortage of taxis anywhere in Bali and you will know this from the incessant honking they do to let you know their taxi is available (annoying at times until you actually need one!).
A short trip from one end of town to the other can take up to half an hour in bad traffic, but it will still cost you less than $4. Always ask beforehand if they will run the meter; only hop in if they say yes (most will). Never accept a fixed price or get into a taxi that is unofficial as they will charge you a lot more.
You can hire your own personal driver for the day if you want to do a full day trip somewhere. Many taxi drivers will outright ask you if you need one and will offer a fixed price for a certain amount of hours.
I have used this method three times and all have been great experiences. Your driver will pick you up from your hotel and take you wherever you wish to go, and if you’re not sure – they know plenty of popular hot spots to go to. You get dropped at each place and they wait for you however long you take and then will drive you on to the next place.
I have done two day trips north to Ubud and a trip south to Uluwatu and it cost between $30-$50 for 7-10 hours which is an extremely good price. We always gave them a very good tip because their service and friendliness have always made that trip all the more special.
1. Visit the temples
There are so many incredible temples to visit and all are unique and beautiful in their own way. Some favourites well worth visiting include:
Uluwatu Temple – an 11th Century cliffside temple in the south where you can watch a traditional ‘Kecak and Fire Dance’ sunset show.
Entrance fee: 40,000 IDR.
Optional show fee: 100,000 IDR.
Pura Tirta Empul – a beautiful and sacred water temple in central Bali said to have holy water with healing properties. (Also pictured as the header image).
Entrance fee: 15,000 IDR.
Goa Gajah – or ‘Elephant Cave’ is a 9th Century archaeological site in Ubud of significant historical value that once served as a sanctuary.
Entrance fee: 15,000 IDR.
Tanah Lot – is an ancient Hindu shrine and one of Bali’s most important landmarks, famed for its unique offshore setting and stunning sunset backdrops.
Entrance fee: 30,000 IDR.
2. Take a day trip to Ubud
If you decide not to stay in Ubud, then you at least have to visit for a full day as there is so much to do there and getting away from that main tourist hub will show you a more authentic side of Bali. About an hour’s drive away, here are some top places to visit:
Tegalalang Rice Terraces – this is a must-see in Ubud, famous for its beautiful scenes of vibrant green rice paddies and terraced rice fields.
Entrance fee: 10,000 IDR.
Monkey Forest – it’s one of those places you have to see once in your lifetime.
A nature reserve and Hindu complex, it is filled with monkeys of all sizes roaming freely.
You can buy bananas there to feed them if you wish and get a picture with them but watch your things because they will try to steal from you!
Entrance fee: 40,000 IDR.
Bali Pulina – there are a number of Luwak coffee plantations you can visit in Bali, but this one is by far my favourite thanks to the incredible scenery of rice paddies you have while you sip on different tea and coffee tastings. The tastings are free but if you are brave enough to try the Luwak coffee itself (also known as cat-poo coffee!) that costs 50,000 IDR.
Tegenungan Waterfall – if hiking through a jungle to a hidden waterfall is your idea of paradise, then this is a beautiful and scenic place to visit and come for a dip.
Entrance fee: 15,000 IDR.
Also, as mentioned above, be sure to visit the Goa Gaja and Pura Tirtha Temples while you’re in central Bali!
3. Enjoy the beaches
The beaches all along the coastline are very nice and perfect to relax on a lounger, go surfing or do some fun water activities.
Along Seminyak, Legian and Kuta beach you can find loungers and comfy bean bags with umbrellas dotted everywhere. Pay 50,000 IDR to hire one unlimited for the day and you can enjoy swimming and can purchase and be served cold drinks as you please.
You will constantly be hassled by sellers however, so it might not be as relaxing as you’d like it to be and the toilet situation isn’t the greatest, but it’s still a great activity to watch the surfers as the sun sets.
If fun and adrenaline-rush activities are your thing – then get stuck into the watersports on offer in either Kuta or Nusa Dua. You can go banana boating, donuting, jet skiing, parasailing and snorkelling just to name a few.
Balitobali.com is a company that offers packages, for example you can go parasailing, on a banana boat and jet ski all for 300,000 IDR ($30 AUD) which is an excellent price for so much fun!
I haven’t been snorkelling myself yet in Bali but here is a good website which shows the best beaches to do that: bali-indonesia.com. I remember looking at snorkelling full day trips and they are still quite pricey- at least $120 USD each.
If you’re keen to give surfing a go prosurfschool.com has a great reputation. Open year round, they are located at Kuta Beach and teach anyone of all levels from beginners to pros.
|Watersports in Nusa Dua|
There are some very nice beach clubs along the coast of Seminyak where you can lounge, enjoy infinity pools, delicious cocktails, food, listen to local DJ’s and of course watch the epic sunset with a drink in hand!
The most famous in Bali is the Potato Head Beach Club. It’s a very popular spot for sunset drinks so arrive early in the afternoon if you want a seat with a good view! Bring your swimwear to enjoy the infinity pool, they have changing rooms and full facilities to use.
Cocktails go for $10+ AUD, so not the cheapest but you’re paying really for being in an awesome place- it’s great to do at least once.
Other notable sunset venues include Ku De Ta (also a fine-dining restaurant), and Double-Six Rooftop (atop a luxury hotel).
4. Treat yourself
It’s always nice to relax while you’re away on holiday, but for me – I tend to still wear myself out as I like to explore everywhere on foot and get out and about every day.
I’m not normally one to get my nails done or get a massage or facial (too expensive), but when I discovered in Bali you can really pamper and treat yourself for such a good price – I am all over that!
There is no shortage of beautiful spas all over Bali, so there is plenty to choose from.
One that I particularly like is Bali Spa, which has stores in both Seminyak and Kuta (both are great). The service is wonderful and the cost even better. A full mani-pedi costs $10 AUD, an hour long facial is also $10 and an hour traditional Balinese massage costs $15, and there is a huge range of treatments and types of massages to choose from. If I were to get all three of these at home it would cost me over $250 – so definitely make the most of it!
|Fresh nails done at Bali Spa|
Hair & Beauty
If you’re in need of a haircut and colour or any beauty services then get it done in Bali!
A place I went to last time and loved is Smart Salon and Spa in Legian/Kuta.
I have been getting blonde foils in my hair for years and I have never had such a good job done on me – I was so pleasantly surprised! The hairdresser was immaculate in his attention to detail and spent so much time on my hair- which turned out perfectly and cost half what I would normally pay ($80 AUD).
They also offer plenty of beauty services including makeup, lashes and brows, massages etc so you could make a full day out of it if you wanted to!
|Happy with my new hair|
If you are thinking about getting a tattoo – Bali is renowned for it. There is a tattoo parlour on practically every corner, but do, as always be careful which one you select. Do your research and find a parlour with a great reputation and perfect reviews.
One that I can highly recommend is Bali Tattoo Studio which is located in Legian/Kuta.
I got my sixth tattoo done with them last July and it was as good as any other I had gotten from my most trusted tattoo artist back at home (except it was half the price!).
They are global award-winning artists, highly professional, talented and most importantly perfectly hygienic.
As a tip: try to book in for your final day there, as you can’t swim with fresh tattoos. You don’t want to miss out on the pool in such hot weather!
|Loved my tattoo done by Bali Tattoo Studio|
5. Food & Shopping
Along the same lines of excellent prices – enjoy the delicious food and the shopping too. There is a large range of food options as well as a price range, but if you mostly stick to traditional Balinese food in local places you can eat like a king for little to nothing!
Local family-owned restaurants are called Warungs and that is where you will find delicious and well-priced meals. I have written a post on Top Places to Eat & Drink near Seminyak, Bali so check that out for more information.
But quickly, one of my favourite places to eat is called Warung Padmasari which always has exceptional local Balinese and you can get a three-course meal and a drink for literally $20 – it’s astounding and so yum! I’ve been there three times for both lunch and dinner.
|One of my all-time favourites – nasi goreng and satay skewers|
Being quite westernised in Seminyak and Kuta there are a lot of Australian-owned cafes and restaurants as well where you can find any kind of food from Mexican to vegan and there are plenty of Asian food options like Thai and Indian if you get sick of Balinese!
There is also a variety of shopping you can do from thrifty markets to high-end fashion stores. There are some really amazing art, antique and homeware shops selling locally made goods that go for a decent price. You can pick up plenty of knockoffs in street shops and stalls if that’s your thing, from ‘Gucci’ handbags to ‘Nike’ runners. Make sure you barter in the streets and don’t accept the first price – knock it down by at least a third.
If you prefer real labels and designer clothes there are heaps of legit Australian owned surf shops selling Roxy and Billabong for half the price you would pay back in Australia and there are many unique boutique stores in Seminyak that any shopper would love.
You can find really nice souvenirs for yourself or gifts all over the place for very cheap prices.
|One of my favourite stores in Seminyak- sold only skull things!|
- As of June 2015, 30 more countries were added to the free entry list – New Zealand included. Which means we don’t need a visa or to pay the $35 USD fee hooray! (Australia was added in 2016).
- Your passport must be valid for at least six months from the day you plan on leaving Indonesia.
- The currency is Indonesian Rupiah – 10,000 IRD is around $1 AUD which is easy to remember.
- Balinese people are highly religious and practise Balinese Hinduism, which is why there are so many beautiful temples and offerings laid daily on the streets.
- Only use bottled water, even to brush your teeth. You can pick up large 1.5-litre bottles for around 50 cents so stock up whenever you get the chance and carry around a refillable smaller bottle during the day.
- Bring or buy a sarong, you’ll need it – even males. Whether it’s covering up for a temple visit, using it as a beach cover-up or as a seat cover.
- Do stay somewhere with a good pool. It’s really hot year round with average temperatures of 32॰C and daily dips are necessary!
|Having a place with a pool bar- even better!|
- You’ll probably experience a case of ‘Bali Belly’, so bring Imodium. Consider yourself warned! Also be sure to bring panadol, tissues and hand sanitizer.
- You can find free wifi in most cafes and restaurants.
- The island of Bali looks like a chicken… just a random fact!
- You can hire a scooter really cheaply and you don’t have to wear a helmet by law – but you’d be mad not to!
- Beer and drinks such as coke are very cheap from local stores. The local beer is Bintang which are around $1.50 for a large bottle from the stores, so take a bunch back to your hotel room to drink if you have a nice balcony for example. It’s probably a third of the price at least than buying it from your hotel.
- You are also allowed to drink in public places such as walking in the streets and at the beach.
- The local people are very friendly but the sellers on the streets and in public places can be very pushy at times. This is their job though so do just ignore them if you aren’t interested and keep walking or just say no thank you.
- Both the locals (mostly men) and every second tourist smokes because they are dirt cheap in Bali, so you might get a bit of a shock if you’re used to smoke-free zones. It’s not surprising to see young boys smoking or children selling cigarettes either.
- Do get as much cash out that you think you’ll need before you arrive. There are ATMs available but I personally was the subject of credit card fraud the last time I went (and I only used an ATM machine once in a convenience store). Better not risk it!
- You’re not expected to tip, but it’s a nice gesture if you receive a good service. The Balinese people are lowly paid, and yet extremely generous and hospitable.
- I highly recommend seeing a cultural performance of traditional Balinese dance. It’s a very ancient dance tradition that is beautiful and unique, and is closely connected to religious rituals. Many places offer ‘dinner and a show’ and they are well worth experiencing at least once.
|Balinese dance performed at The Breezes in Seminyak|
Once Bali gets under your skin, don’t be surprised to find yourself returning again and again. Some Australians holiday there annually; others never return back home (Bali is full of Australian ex-pats). There’s something magical, ethereal and beautiful about Bali.
Be sure to get out beyond your hotel to find it!
|Pin it! 🙂|