The Ultimate Bali Vacation Guide

by Liberty Stembridge, Lifestyle Columnist


Published in Lifestyle and Entertainment on 7th January, 2019


Why Bali?

Unless you've been living under a rock, you've probably heard of Bali before, but if you've never considered going yourself, let me convince you.

There's no denying that Bali is becoming more and more touristy by the year, but don't let that put you off, Bali is still an incredibly rich destination, full of natural beauty, rich culture and incredible food - all at a very affordable price.

bali guide

For many people the attraction of Bali lies in the fact that it is essentially a tropical paradise with an affordable price tag. A typical hostel in Bali costs only $10-$15 dollars a night and you can find private villas for not much more. Incredible Indonesian food is also readily available and very cheap. All of this set in a place of incredible lush wonder and picturesque beaches - what more could you ask for?

Bali is a culturally diverse country too, the only state of Indonesia where the predominant religion is Balinese Hinduism, and you can see examples of this all over the island. The Balinese have strong customs that have been practiced for many years and still continue today and there are many sacred places both man-made and nature-made to be visited across the island, so you won't be wanting for historical or spiritual experience, just make sure you're respectful.

Where To Go

Kuta

Kuta is a popular, but very touristy destination in Bali, not far away from Denpasar, where you will likely be entering the country if you're coming in by plane. It's one of Bali's most well-known destinations which makes it a hot spot for partying and beachside resorts. It has everything you could want or need as a backpacker or family coming for the first time to Bali, but it is becoming less popular over time as it can be quite crowded and messy. However, there are lots of shops, good food, attractions and beaches to be enjoyed.

Seminyak

Seminyak can be found on the south coast of Bali, not far from Kuta but slightly less touristy and therefore more desirable if you're looking for a calmer, more relaxed stay. There's lots of shopping to be done, excellent nightlife, gorgeous beach sunsets and it's also a popular surfing hotspot.

Ubud

Ubud is one of the most well-known and popular places to stay in Bali, and for good reason. It's famous for its stunning rice fields, rich culture, and hippie vibes. Make sure you book in at least a few days to explore Ubud, as it has a lot to offer. Although if you're a beach bum, you will have to travel further to find the waves since Ubud is in central Bali. Make sure not to miss the monkey forest, the many gorgeous balinese temples, picturesque waterfalls and rice field walks. Ubud is also known to be somewhat of a mecca for veggies, vegans and yogi's.

bali guide ubud

Canggu

Canggu is another popular spot both for tourists and foreigners looking to stay in Bali for longer periods of time. It's got the same spiritual and hippie tones as Ubud, with the added benefits of lot's of beaches and more "western style" cafes while still retaining the Balinese culture. It's a very popular spot for backpackers with lots of cheap hostels available and plenty of opportunities to learn to surf and snorkel.

Nusa Dua

Nusa Dua is a more high-end, resort-based area of Bali, a good choice if you are looking to kick back and relax. It's famous for its long white sand beaches, golf courses and shopping centers and as such makes a good destination for families, but expect to pay more money than you would elsewhere in Bali.

What To Eat

Kopi - Balinese Coffee

For the coffee addicts out there, Bali will not disappoint, Indonesia boasts some of the best coffee in the world. Traditionally made Balinese Kopi drinks are abundant and delicious, in Bali's unique wet coffee processing method. Although you should be careful, there is a type of coffee called Kopi Luwak popular with tourists, made by feeding the coffee to a native Balinese animal called a Luwak and then harvesting the partially digested beans.

Locals say it gives the coffee a different taste, and it may well do - but it's worth being aware that this is not your average coffee drink!

Pisang Goreng - Fried Bananas

Pisang Goreng is a must try Balinese delicacy, bananas fried and often topped with honey, ice cream or coconut flakes. This melt in the mouth dessert is a favourite amongst tourists and best bought at one of the many roadside vendors for an authentic balinese experience.

Mie Goreng - Noodles

One of Indonesia's staple foods, Mie Goreng consists of fried noodles accompanied with veggies and meat / tofu / tempeh. It's a heartwarming local dish and of course, a must eat if you're looking to explore traditional Indonesian food. It can be bought for very cheap from local warungs (balinese cafes) if you're looking for cheap easy meals.

Nasi Goreng - Fried Rice

Nasi Goreng is very similar to Mie Goreng except with fried rice instead of noodles. It's possible the most popular local dish in Bali, because it's cheap and easy to come by since rice grows in abundance in Bali. Oftentimes you will find Nasi Goreng given to you wrapped in paper by street vendors and warungs to take away, which is not only adorable but also much more environmentally friendly.

bali guide nasi goreng fried rice

Nasi Campur - Mixed Rice

Nasi Campur is a fun combination of meat / meat alternatives, veggies and steamed rice. You never truly know what you're going to get each time, since each dish will vary and there is no right way to make it. The timeless asian combination of rice + veggies will never disappoint however.

Gado-Gado

Gado-Gado is another very popular local dish that is essentially a veggie salad with a generous helping of traditional peanut sauce, eaten cold and often accompanied by egg, tofu or tempeh.

What To Do

Hit The Beach

Is it really a trip to Bali if you don't spend a good amount of your time lying around on beaches and soaking up the sun? Bali is a paradise island, surrounded by gorgeous white and black sand beaches, and it's one of the best surf and snorkel spots in the world. If you want to find beaches that are a bit quieter, head over in the off-season and try to avoid the touristy spots. There's a lot of beauty to be found in Bali by straying off the beaten track.

Walk Through Rice Fields

Bali is covered in rice fields, it's the staple crop on the island. These beautiful fields of rice make not only for a delicious dinner, but also an incredible view. The Tegallalang rice fields just north of Ubud are some of the most well-known, offering a scenic view over the sloping rice paddy fields (and excellent photo opportunities).

Learn To Surf

If you're from a cold country with pretty paltry beaches (like me), the idea of waking up in the morning to surf is probably seems like a fantastical dream. In Bali, it's possible and they have some of the most affordable surf lessons in the world here, which you should definitely take advantage of if you are in any way inclined towards water sports.

bali guide learn to surf

Take A Yoga Class

Bali is known to be somewhat of a haven for yogi's, with yoga studios all over the island and yoga classes popping up both on land and on the water. Whether you're an experienced yogi or complete novice looking to relax, there will be something for you on the Island, and if you're feeling adventurous, head out on a paddleboard for one of the many SUP yoga lessons available.

Drink From The Fountain Of Youth

The Goa Gajah (Elephant Cave) is one of the most culturally fascinating, historically rich and spiritually sacred places to visit in Bali - and it's completely free. Upon entering Goa Gajah, you will come upon the statues of six women holding pots that are streaming out water into a large pool below.

While it's usually recommended that you don't drink the water in Bali unless it's from a bottle, this water is safe to drink, and it said to have mystical properties, namely eternal youth. For a small fee you can also hire a tour guide to teach you more about the elephant cave and its history as a school and sanctuary.

Visit Mount Batur

Mount Batur is one of the three volcanoes on the island of Bali, and it's the most active one too, but don't be put off by that. Mount Batur is still a popular tourist destination because of the stunning views that can be seen from the top, and the incredible Batur Caldera lake hidden in the volcano. If you want to witness Mount Batur at its best, with less tourists, you'll need to get up early and hike up to the top to witness the sunset above the clouds.

Visit The Monkey Forest

The Monkey Forest in Ubud is one of Bali's most popular tourist destinations. Stroll for a while through this shady forest and you'll quickly be met by one of Bali's many native monkeys. Since Bali has been a popular tourist destination for so long, these monkeys are used to people and will often jump up onto travellers shoulders, or generally be friendly and playful.

It's a once in a lifetime experience to get up close and personal with these animals in their natural habitat. Although, be careful - they are still wild animals, and can be unpredictable, so proceed with caution.

Day Trips In And Around Bali

Nusa Lembongan

From Sanur beach Nusa Lembogan is only a short boat ride away. Upon this tiny and relatively quiet island just off the west coast of Nusa Penida, you'll find incredible white sand beaches, small cafe's, beautiful snorkelling spots and picturesque lookout points where you can get a view across the ocean and see the looming silhouettes of Bali's volcanoes.

bali guide nusa lembongan

You can pretty much walk all over the island by foot or just spend the day relaxing at the beach. Either way, it makes for an excellent Bali getaway.

The Gili Islands

The Gili Islands have boomed in popularity in recent years, but that doesn't make them any less worth visiting. These three tiny islands just off the coast of Lombok are the definition of tropical paradise. Long stretches of beach, crystal clear water, no cars, amazing fresh food available everywhere - what more could you possibly want? The ferry ride from Bali can be hectic, but for the price and destination it's completely worth it.

Amed

Amed is a long stretch of coastal fishing villages on the east coast of Bali. Although it is slowly becoming a more popular tourist destination, it's still relatively unknown since it's quite far out from the rest of the main tourist spots in Bali like Seminyak or Ubud. However, if you're looking for a relaxing day trip away from the hustle and bustle, Amed is the perfect spot. Lot's of quiet beaches, good food and opportunities for snorkelling and freediving.

Practical Advice

If you're visiting Bali for the first time, there are some practical tips and tricks you should know of to avoid wasting your time, money or potentially coming into harm.

Exchange Beforehand

If you're heading to Bali make sure to exchange your home currency for Indonesian Rupiah well in advance to avoid getting ripped off at the airport exchange counters.

Don't Drink The Water

This one should go without saying, but be careful not to drink the tap water in Bali, it will almost certainly make you sick. In all likelihood you will probably end up dealing with some kind of Bali Belly, but you want to avoid it at all costs.

Try Veggie

Bali is a haven for vegan and vegetarian food, and often times it can be safer to eat this local cuisine since the meat in bali isn't always of the best quality. Luckily, you've still got plenty of options.

bali guide veggie food

Drive Safely

Bali is well known for it's horrendous traffic and crazy drivers. If you're considering renting out a scooter like most people do, be very careful. Many road accidents happen in Bali every year, so you should be extra wary and if in doubt, take a taxi instead.

Learn To Barter

Bartering is extremely commonplace in Bali, so you should get used to it quickly. For some westerners, the idea of bartering and arguing over a price is very uncomfortable, but try to lean into it, it's part of the culture in Bali!

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