The ultimate Bali travel guide for first-timers
The island of Bali is one of the most popular destinations in Indonesia, known especially among the sea and surf lovers, passionate about yoga and meditation, but also young backpackers looking for fun thanks to its many affordable accommodations and modern clubs to party all night. Bali truly offers many activities for any traveller that ranges from tropical beaches to relax into big waves for surfers, from hiking into the forest or in the midst of immense rice fields to trekking on the mountains, from visiting holy temples to meditation courses and local cuisine classes. In short, this amazing island will soon become one of your favourite destinations! Some Bali areas have been influenced by western tourism, where you find trendy bars, night clubs and international restaurants; other areas are still quite remote and keep the roots of Balinese culture still intact. We found the island very beautiful, budget-friendly, and full of things to do.
When to go to Bali
Bali’s climate is tropical, so it’s warm all year round. The best time to visit the island is during the dry season months from June to September / October when the weather is sunny and dry. The dry season is the perfect time to climb the volcanoes and participate in water sport activities. The best time to dive is from April to September. The only negative point in this season is that the prices are higher and the island is busiest. The rainy season occurs from November to March, even though rainfall usually comes as intense downpours that only last a few hours.
How to reach Bali
Bali’s Ngurah Rai International Airport (Denpasar – DPS) is one of Indonesia’s busiest airports, with over 20 million passengers in transit every year. It is also easily reachable from many Asian countries thanks to the various low-cost airlines such as Air Asia that offer really cheap rates. For example, we got to Bali from Kuala Lumpur with an Air Asia flight for only 60 USD. The airport is 13 km from Denpasar, the island’s main city, which is easily accessible by 3 bus lines. However, the most comfortable and fastest way to reach your accommodation is by taxi, which you will find immediately outside the arrivals hall. Taxis are metered, but there is a minimum payment of 120.000 IDR. The rate is 6500 IDR per kilometre with a surcharge by zone. If you want to rent a vehicle, you will also find the major rental companies.
Hot to move around
Local transportation is quite cheap. The best way to move around is by taxi (it starts from 7000 IDR, then you pay 4100 IDR per km). Many taxi drivers don’t want to use the meter, so try to haggle the ride’s cost before getting in.
An excellent mean of transport is the Bluebird taxi (it is light blue with a bluebird on the roof), which can be ordered and paid for directly through a specific smartphone app – Blue Bird Taxi Indonesia -. Basically, like the most famous Uber. There are also two other smartphone apps with which to book private taxis or a motorbike (they’ll bring you an extra helmet): Grab (an Uber offspring) and Go-Jek.
Another convenient way to visit Bali’s attractions is to rent a car with a driver through your hotel or with one of the local tourist agencies. Usually, the average daily cost is around 50/60 USD. There are several bike and scooter rental shops in the main tourist city.
Where to sleep in Bali
Bali is a backpacker’s paradise because it offers a great choice of budget accommodation ranging from hostels to homestays and guest houses. There are high-end hotels and resorts with all the services and comfort for those on a higher budget. If you are a group of friends, an excellent choice is to rent a villa and share the expenses. We always book through booking.com or Hostelworlds.com.
- The most popular areas of the island to stay
Bali’s island is quite huge and offers several places to explore or relax according to your needs. However, the most popular locations are not far from each other.
Ubud is Bali’s cultural centre, well known for its holistic Ayurveda centres, yoga centres, cultural performances, craft shops, art galleries, cafes, and organic restaurants. It is the perfect base to get in touch with the local culture, visit the green rice fields, discover numerous charming and important temples, hike in the forest, or climb Mount Batur to enjoy a fantastic sunrise. We slept at the Anumana Hotel.
2. Canggu – Seminyak – Legian – Kuta
These four locations are situated on Bali’s west coast, a short distance from Denpasar and all close to each other. Here, you will find plenty of budget accommodation and beautiful beaches to relax and surf. Canggu is the least developed and with a wilder beach. At the same time, Kuta, Legian and Seminyak are very popular with surfers and young people looking for fun because of the many bars and trendy clubs to spend the evenings and party. Here, the beach is one of the most beautiful in Bali, an endless expanse of golden sand 8 km long. We slept in Seminyak at the Grandmas Plus Hotel, excellent accommodation just a few minutes on foot from the beach.
- Click here to see the best accommodation in Kuta;
- Click here to see the best accommodation in Seminyak;
- Click here to see the best accommodation in Legian;
- Click here to see the best accommodation in Canggu;
- Click here to look for a hostel.
Sanur is located about 10 km from Denpasar, overlooking the south coast of Bali. It is a quieter and ideal location to escape the hellish crowds of Kuta and Seminyak. It is an ideal place for families, couples and people looking for relaxation. The beach is less beautiful than the other more famous areas, but the coast remains sheltered from the wind and strong currents. It has a paved promenade of over 5 km with a beautiful bike path where you can enjoy a nice ride.
Uluwatu is located on the Bukit Peninsula, on the southernmost tip of Bali. High limestone cliffs characterize this area with inlets and small beaches. Uluwatu is the most popular place for professional surfers. Here is also the Pura Luhur temple, one of Bali’s six main and most important temples. In Uluwatu, you will find slightly more expensive hotels and resorts built directly on the cliffs overlooking the sea from where you can enjoy a fantastic view.
5. Nusa Dua
Nusa Dua is located south of Denpasar, along the east side of the Bukit Peninsula. It is known for being an exclusive area with 5-star resorts and hotels overlooking white sand beaches. Nusa Dua has been created for western tourism and is perfect for honeymooners, families with children and anyone looking for a 5-star holiday with all the comforts.
The language is Indonesian and a local dialect, but English is spoken everywhere.
Local currency and method of payment
The local currency is the Indonesian Rupiah (IDR). 1 USD corresponds to 15,000 rupees. You can exchange the euro/dollar at the airport or in the major tourist areas’ money changers. One of the best money changers is PT Dirgahayu. Avoid unofficial money changers, and various stalls as the risk of being scammed is quite high. In the main cities, you will also find dozens of ATMs. Credit cards are accepted in most hotels and restaurants, although the preferred method of payment is cash.
Electricity and plugs
The standard voltage is 230V with a frequency of 50 MHz. The plugs are type C and F, so you will probably need a universal adapter.
Mobile phone and internet
Although you will find wifi in all accommodations and most restaurants, buying a local sim card will make your stay easier. Once landed at Bali international airport, you will find the official stands of the many telephone providers. We suggest buying a Telekomsel Simcard, which has one of the best coverage in Indonesia. We bought a Telekomsel sim (simPati tourist card) with 10 Gb of data.
Traveller’s safety and health
Bali is, in general, a safe destination for any traveller. Just beware of petty thefts, especially in major tourist areas and always use common sense. If you rent a scooter, beware of the hellish traffic in the main cities. When visiting temples, respect local customs and dress appropriately. Although safe, the island (Kuta) was hit by a violent terrorist attack against tourists in 2005.
As in many tropical countries, also in Indonesia and Bali, there is a risk of contracting dengue fever and malaria, especially during the rainy season. It’s always safer to take measures to protect yourself against mosquitos, above all at night, by applying mosquito repellent that contains at least 30% DEET. One of the most common health issues on the island is Bali Belly, often contracted via contaminated food and water. Avoid drinking local tap water and make sure food is cooked thoroughly before eating. It is highly recommended to consult a travel medicine specialist to assess travel-related risks, and have information to ensure your health and safety. In case you need medical attention, three of the best hospitals are the BIMC Hospitals in Nusa Dua, Kuta and Ubud.
Travel insurance: the medical expenses could be very high; therefore, don’t forget to stipulate travel insurance. We always take it out with WorldNomads. In case you need it, they also offer scuba diving insurance.