In March I spent eight days in Bali and despite leaving with the feeling that it wasn’t enough time, I learnt a lot of things that I want to share in this Bali travel guide.
From how to get around Bali, to what to do, where to stay and what each area has to offer, I have a lot to tell you in this Bali travel guide with bonus travel hacks…
Where is Bali
Bali is in Indonesia, but unlike the rest of the country it is mostly Hindu, not Muslim, and therefore drinking is not illegal. In relation to the rest of the world, it is in between South East Asia and Australia.
How to get around Bali
Download Grab! It is the Asian version of Uber (the two companies did a very high value deal and now Uber doesn’t operate on the continent). Grab is the cheapest option by far; local taxi companies will charge you two or three times as much.
Local drivers can get pretty angry if they see you getting a Grab and can even get violent with your driver. Often Grab taxis will send you a message on WhatsApp with a map location and ask to meet there. It is usually a five minute walk from where you are and this is to avoid having any trouble with other drivers.
Many people hire private cars for a day or more, I didn’t do this but balitourguideagung.com was recommended to me by georgiastravel.co.uk.
TOP TIP: When you arrive at the airport you will be inundated with taxis drivers wanting to take you to your hotel. I booked a Grab to avoid being overcharged but soon learned this wasn’t necessary. All the drivers waiting at arrivals have the Grab app open and will put your destination in and take you for the price the app shows. If you pre-order a Grab you have to go to the car park and find your driver – on the way you will be harassed repeatedly so it is definitely easier to have the Grab app ready with a price and go with the first driver who agrees to it.
Bali destinations: where to go
No Bali travel guide is any good if it doesn’t explain the different areas to visit, because it can be a bit overwhelming, trust me.
Uluwatu is at the far south of the island. It is very quiet, in fact not much goes on there at all, but it is the home of the spectacular Uluwatu Temple. More on that below in ‘things to do’.
Kuta is only slightly north of the airport. This is notorious for being an Australian hotspot, an area that many people I spoke to had mixed feelings about. That is all I will say.
Further up the west coast you will find Seminyak, a very bougie part of the island. Here you will find loads of fancy boutique clothing shops, but don’t expect them to be any cheaper than the UK or US. There are also a lot of trendy cafes, restaurants and bars. Generally it is a great place to stay.
A little more north is Canggu, which was described to me as the Shoreditch/Camden of Bali (or the Brooklyn of New York City). It is where you will find a lot of bars and it is where most people head to for a night out.
Ubud is far more north, closer to the centre of the island (most of the tourist action happens in the southern tip of Bali). Ubud has become almost synonymous with Bali tourism. Close to Mount Batar it is lusciously green and has an abundance of beautiful rice fields. There is shopping here too, a bit more market style. This is where you will experience Balinese culture best, everywhere else is extremely westernised.
There are other places in Bali and nearby islands to visit but like I said, eight days did not feel like enough.
Bali destinations: where to stay
I stayed at The Legian Bali and Six Senses Uluwatu. If you are on a budget then take a look on booking.com. You can get decent hotels with a pool and everything for under £30 a night. Just check the location according to where you want to stay and check they have everything you need.
TOP TIP: When using booking.com I always read the reviews, but these are usually ordered to show you the positive reviews. To get a clear idea of whether the hotel is worth your money, however little it may cost, order the reviews to show the newest first. This has helped me avoid hotels where the pool has become unclean or is currently closed and has even shown reviews recent enough to tell me if I stayed there that week I would deal with loud building works.
Best things to do in Bali
If you can bear it, arrange a sunrise hike through Mount Batur. There are loads of companies to choose from, just be aware it usually means getting picked up between 1am and 2am.
If, like me, you can’t bear it, I would recommend doing a bike tour through the mountain and Ubud during the day. They usually include trips to a coffee plantation, rice fields swing, local fruit farmer, waterfall and more.
I did one with Sepeda Bali and it was amazing. It is run by two brothers and the day finishes at their home where they served an Indonesian spread.
The food we had here at their home was the best food I ate in Bali – better than the restaurants at the five star hotels I stayed in. In fact, it was some of the nicest food I had throughout my five months in Asia (maybe I was just really hungry, idk).
Dedicate a day to one of Mrs Sippy’s pool parties, where you will find the islands largest salt water pool and a never ending supply of Instagrammable spots. Think Ibiza chic.
Uluwatu Temple is absolutely stunning. It sits on the edge of a cliff that stems out to sea. I would recommend timing your trip to the temple with the sunset Kecak fire dance show. I didn’t expect to love the show as much as I did. (Tickets are usually bundled in with a guide, which I also recommend investing in).
There are monkeys all over the place is hold onto all of your belongings very tightly, glasses will literally get ripped off your head so when I say all of your belongings I really mean it. When I was there I saw monkeys take glasses from two girls. One pair was gnawed on a bit, but when a guide threw the money some food it used both hands to catch it so dropped the glasses, which could then be returned to their owner. The second girl wasn’t so lucky, as when the money dropped hers they went cascading down the cliff side. If you don’t want to go down to the temple, but do want to see monkeys, head to the Ubud Monkey Forest.
There are many beautiful temples and religious sites to see in Bali, one of my favourites was the lesser known Garuda Wisnu Kencana Cultural Park (GWK). Throughout the park are giant structures of characters from Hindu mythology. You can see traditional Balinese dancing here too, for no extra fee.
Where to eat and drink in Bali
If you like the dark stuff you have to visit Revolver Espresso. You can start your day with a cold pressed coffee at the edgiest place Bali has to offer, before going shopping in Seminyak.
Have a late lunch at Sea Circus. This trendy spot touts itself as a “restaurant, cocktail bar & coffee den” and I can confirm all of those things are true. Breakfast includes acai bowls, quinoa porridge, dirty waffles and a breakfast burrito. Lunch and dinner is more about sharing, with small plates, smoothie bowls and tacos; as well as mains and burgers. Margaritas are half price on Mondays from 5pm to 8pm and tacos are half price at the same time on Tuesdays.
Finish the day at Single Fin’s in Uluwatu. Despite being a bit out of the way if you’re not staying in the area, it is a really famous spot. It sits on the cliff-edge overlooking ‘the surf’, with music and DJs on Wednesdays and Sundays.