The Ultimate Bali Travel Guide For First Timers | Stay, Do, Itineraries, & Food
Updated: March 2019
Our Bali travel guide share’s all our secrets and tips from over 20 years travelling to the islands of gods! To some, Bali is solely a vacation destination, but it has some insanely rich culture waiting to be explored!
The welcoming nature of the Balinese, the incredible value for money, the vibrant atmosphere, and the year-round pleasant climate make Bali a popular haven for all types of travellers. This Bali travel guide will cover everything you need to know before planning your trip to Bali!
As the most popular destinations in Indonesia, Bali is loved by adventure and solo travellers, yogis, families, honeymooners, and digital nomads! Head up to the mountains on Ubud and do some soul searching, or grab a board and ride some waves in Uluwatu!
- 2 Things you should know about Bali
- 3 Bali Resources
- 4 Where to stay in Bali
- 5 Where to eat in Bali
- 6 What do in Bali
- 6.0.1 Climb Mt Batur
- 6.0.2 Shop in Seminyak
- 6.0.3 Try the local Indonesian Cuisine
- 6.0.4 Stay in a Private Villa
- 6.0.5 Learn to Surf
- 6.0.6 Do a Cooking Class
- 6.0.7 Enjoy the Beautiful Beaches
- 6.0.8 Have romantic seafood dinner at sunset on Jimbaran Beach
- 6.0.9 Appreciate the Gorgeous Daily offerings given to the Hindu Gods
- 6.0.10 Visit the Rice Fields
- 6.0.11 Visit Uluwatu Temple and See Kecak Dance
- 6.0.12 Indulge with Spa Days
- 6.0.13 Enjoy Cocktails Daily
- 6.0.14 Try the Weird and Wonderful Exotic Fruits
- 6.0.15 Do Yoga in Ubud
- 6.0.16 Day trip to Nusa Penida
- 6.0.17 Shop at the Famous Ubud Markets
- 6.0.18 Go Snorkeling or Diving
- 6.0.19 Visit the Surrounding Islands
Things you should know about Bali
Jetstar often have sale fares to Bali and takes around 5.5 hours from the East Coast of Australia. If you are coming from someone other than Australia I would recommend using Garuda (Indonesian’s owned airline) and searching for your desired dates via Skyscanner.com
You will arrive at Denpasar International Airport. Walking out of the airport you may initially feel overwhelmed as there is often a mass of people (usually men) that are waiting to give you transport. I highly advise organising a shuttle with your hotel, alternatively, there is a Taxi rank when you exit to your right that is fixed priced; from memory, it is around 120,000 rp to Seminyak area which is about 20-30 mins away depending on traffic.
Although Bali is not huge, there are a lot of locations to visit and several ways you can reach them!
To get to your next destination: The cheapest way to get to your next destination is to hire a Go-Jek (the Indonesian Uber). This works great when Ubers are allowed to operate in that area. There has been a lot of outrage by the communities banning the use of Uber in areas allowing for local driving to set the price. For example, I was able to get a Go-Jek from Seminyak to Ubud for 100,000 rp the equivalent of $10. I then thought I would be able to get an Uber again to the airport from Ubud. This wasn’t the case, no Uber drivers would pick me up resulting in me paying 300,000 rp for a private local driver to the airport. This is also the case around Uluwatu.
The next option and the most expensive way is to hire a taxi, Blue Bird taxis are the main and trusted taxi company as they stick to the metre. If you are happy to bargain a good price feel free to choose a different taxi company.
Another option is to book a shared shuttled. There are varying degree of price points, Perama and Kura Kura are great if you are on a strict budget. I used them from Legian to Ubud one trip and the price was 60,000 rp around $6. The downside of using a shuttle service is they leave at certain times which might not suit your itinerary and you might need to get yourself and luggage to a specific departing place.
Getting around in an area: Hiring a motorbike is an option – although I am never game. I usually get around by organising a local driver for day trips or for going longer distances. For shorter distances, I either walk or use “Blue Bird” taxis.
Cost of Travelling in Bali
The Bali travel guide wouldn’t be complete without discussing the budget! The cost of travelling in Bali really depends on several factors including where in Bali you want to go, your travel style, and what you will be doing. Bali on a budget is easily achieved if you plan and research ahead, stay at hostels or guesthouses and don’t travel around too much. Although the island is small travelling to each hot spot can get expensive especially if you are solo or getting a private driver.
When to Visit
The best time to visit Bali will be determined by what type of travel you are after. For most Australians looking for a relaxing beach type getaway July, August and December are classed as the peak season. Flights and Accommodation are more expensive during this time.
Dec-March is the wet season. If you don’t mind the short rainstorms, visit Bali between November and April. There’s still plenty of things to do, and it’s the cheapest time to go! My favourite would be anytime! Just remember during the wet season the prices are down but the rubbish on the beaches rise!
Population: 4.22 million
Currency: Indonesian Rupiah (Rp)
Exchange Rate: As of 22/09/2018 it was 10,400RP to $1.00 AUD
Language: Bahasa Indonesia, with their own Balinese dialect.
Religion: Religion is a very important part of the culture in Bali. 85% of Balinese are Hindu and around 10% Muslim. The remaining five 5% practice Buddhism or Christianity.
Related: 10 Tips for Travelling to Asia
BALI BUCKET LIST
Where to stay in Bali
In our Bali travel guide, we want to share a little bit about each location in Bali to make your decision on where to stay a little easier. Bali measures around 5,600km, so not too overwhelming in size, but with numerous hotspots, it’s hard to choose where to stay. During our recent 3 week trip, we spent 3 or 4 nights in each location.
A quieter and more relaxed coastal area. Around 30 mins from the airport, it sits on the opposite side of the island to Kuta. A long stretch of beach that offers shallow blue waters. The main street Jalan Tamblingan is home to restaurants, shops and hotels. We stayed at Wirasana Bali on the main street for under $30 a night!
Kuta & Legian
Once the most popular areas of Bali, these neighbouring towns are known as the city centres. They are the busiest and touristy part of Bali. Literally drowning with Restuarant, Shops and Hotels. I usually avoid staying around here, except I found a gorgeous villa on the outskirts of Legian that was just wonderful. Check it out here.
Another beach town but with a cooler edge thanks to the surf scene. The town is surrounded by rice paddies which makes Canggu very beautiful. In town, there’s an array of organic restaurants and cheap gorgeous villas and hotels. Try Bali Dream Villas or Fella Villas via Air BnB for some luxe for less. Or the very cool Pineapple House for an amazing surf and yoga retreat!
I always stay in Seminyak when I come, there are so many cheap gorgeous villas that you can rent long term or stay at for a couple of nights. Although getting busier every time I visit, it has all my favourite cafes that I just love working from! Seminyak has everything including designers boutiques, Bali’s famous beach clubs, Spa’s to fit every price range and fine dining restaurants. Try Alam Bidadari if you are after a Villa or D’djabu if want a budget option!
Related: “Top Seminyak Accommodation for under $200“
Just around the corner from the airport, Jimbaran is famous for their fresh seafood beach restaurants! The long stretch of beach offers calm waves and fishing boats. We stayed at Watermark Hotel and Spa which is around $150 and has a great selection of facilities including 3 restaurants, gym, two pools and Liang Spa. Jimbaran is also home to a bunch of luxury 5-star resorts like Ayana and the famous Rock Bar.
Related: Watermark Hotel and Spa Review
Ubud to me is the cultural hub of Bali, located about an hour’s north of the airport, up the in mountains. It is surrounded by rice paddies and lush rainforest, making it a breath of fresh air. A lot of people come here to recharge, meditate and take part in yoga classes. The calming atmosphere, amazing restaurants, incredible landscapes and culture make Ubud a must stay location! Our accommodation was absolutely magical. Suarti Boutique Village is located just out of Ubud’s city centre, with impressive gardens, stunning rooms and free daily activities!
Up until last year I had never stayed at Nusa Dua, the 5-star resorts always put me off. On our most recent trip, we were working with Inaya Putri Hotel and fell in love with Nusa Dua. Our beach front hotel had pristine ocean views and an array of things to do.
Although Nusa Dua can be very expensive, it’s also extremely beautiful and has an incredibly calming atmosphere! I had a look at Ayodya whilst I was there, as I am planning on staying here next time! Amazing beach front location, colourful bean bags and doesn’t break the bank!
Located at the very south of Bali on the Bukit Peninsula, Uluwatu is most famous for its stunning cliff-top temple and epic surf break! The hilly limestone region is home to scenic luxury villas and resorts, popular for weddings that overlook the Indian Ocean and amazing sunsets. The cliff-fringed coastline is also home to hidden beaches and world-class surf breaks, a mecca for wave riders from the world over. Uluwatu should be a top consideration if you’re looking for a stay that is away from the common crowds of Bali, we stayed at a gorgeous eco resort in Bingin during our time. 3 days in Uluwatu is the perfect amount of time to explore this region.
Off the beaten path….
A two hour drive from Kuta is the charming beach town of Candidasa. Sitting on the edge of a lagoon is where you will also find local villages steeped in tradition and Balinese culture. Visit nearby Karangesam Palace and the stunning Tirta Gangga Water Temple. A perfect base for snorkelling, diving and island day trips – take the walking trail along the headland for breathtaking views and secluded beaches.
Often overlooked by most tourists, the town of Munduk is located 2 hours from Seminyak up in the cooler climate of the mountains.
Trekking is the big call card here and hikes like Waterfall Bonansa Trek and Twin Lake view point are reasons enough to add Munduk to your next Bali Itinerary. Although thanks to instagram more people are adventuring here to get the famous photos of Temple Pura Ulun Danu Bratan and the ‘golf’ gate.
With the myriad of trails through the rainforest to local villages, amazing waterfalls and the coffee and cocoa plantations the amazing Munduk is a must do on your Bali travel guide.
Located on the northern tip of Bali you will find the laid back beach of Lovina. The 12 km of coast strectches West of Singaraja in North Bali and is a welcome break from the bustle of the South.
Where to eat in Bali
Most Bali travel guides seem to skip over ‘where to eat’ in Bali. Let’s face it though eating is my favourite thing to do and Bali is a foodie heaven! You will be absolutely spoiled for choice, with a great range of cafes, restaurants, warungs and beach clubs in each location. Here are some of our favourites.
Rainbow Toast from Kynd Cafe
Dumpling and Taco Bowl from Warung Sopa
What do in Bali
Our Bali travel guide wouldn’t be complete without showcasing the best things to do whilst in Bali. There’s so much to discover in Bali, with a mix of family-friendly activities, cultural spots, beach clubs, great surf and amazing cuisine its no wonder people are flocking here in the masses.
This diverse, eclectic island is just waiting for you to discover it – no matter what kind of traveller you are. Whether you’re here for a backpacking trip, a Bali honeymoon, a relaxing vacation or for a wellness retreat there is lots for you to do on this amazing Indonesian Island!
Below is a short list to get you inspired, but because there is so much, we wrote an Ultimate Bucketlist, 50 + things to do in Bali!
Shop in Seminyak
Try the local Indonesian Cuisine
Stay in a Private Villa
Learn to Surf
Surfing in Bali is on everyone’s Indonesia bucket list, there are waves for everyone whetherer you’re just learning to surf or you have been surfing since you could walk.
Our favourite spots for the experienced surfer are Keramas, Airports – also know as Kuta Reef, impossibles and Bingin.
If you are just starting out I learnt to surf at a retreat in Canggu but there are a couple of good spots in Uluwatu as well.
Do a Cooking Class
Enjoy the Beautiful Beaches
Have romantic seafood dinner at sunset on Jimbaran Beach
Appreciate the Gorgeous Daily offerings given to the Hindu Gods
Visit the Rice Fields
Visit Uluwatu Temple and See Kecak Dance
The Kecak Fire Dance is one of Bali’s most iconic art performances and is mentioned in most Bali travel guides, famous for its dominant use of human vocals in place of gamelan instruments to accompany the dance-drama at its core. Your visit to the island won’t be complete without seeing a show, and the best place to do so is at the cliff-top amphitheatre located just south of the Uluwatu Temple on Bali’s southern Bukit peninsula… and at sunset for added drama.
Indulge with Spa Days
Enjoy Cocktails Daily
Try the Weird and Wonderful Exotic Fruits
Do Yoga in Ubud
Day trip to Nusa Penida
Nusa Penida is a biggest of the three Nusa islands located off mainland Bali. You can get to Nusa Penida by boat and takes around 20 mins. There are many places to organise a day trip in Bali. There are beautiful waters and beaches to visit but the most iconic reason made famous by Instagram is to see Kelingking point!
Shop at the Famous Ubud Markets
Go Snorkeling or Diving
Visit the Surrounding Islands
The surrounding islands of Bali have all the paradise without the crowds. Head to the Gili Islands, Nusa Islands or Lombok. Or adventure a little further and discover the wonders of Flores and Komodo.
That’s our Bali Travel Guide! If you have any questions or need help planning your Bali Trip comment below or email us!
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