Bali … the definition of dream destination! Recently, I thankfully had the chance to go for two weeks recently. Today I present to you an in depth guide on everything you need to know about this Indonesian pearl.
Bali, nicknamed the Island of the Gods, is one of the smallest islands in the Indonesian archipelago. It is also one of the most beautiful. The strength of the island is that no matter what kind of holiday you are looking for, you will find happiness; pristine beaches, nature, lively cities, cultural pursuits, surfing, diving, luxury resorts… there really is something for everyone.
There are sadly no direct flights to Bali, but this should not be enough to deter you. You can pick up some flights on Skyscanner for around €700-800 from Dublin if you save your pennies for a few months. A ‘mix and match’ approach to finding flights is best, as you could be using different airlines to complete your journey when you include the potential for stopovers. If you wished to book a more stress free approach, I would recommend using Emirates as there is only one stopover.
Best time to go : The best season to travel to Bali is between May and October, as it is the dry season. Although the climate is mild throughout the year it, is better to avoid the months of December and January.
Documentation : if you go to Bali for less than 30 days, your passport will be enough to enter the territory. Beyond 30 days, you will need a tourist visa that you can get from the Indonesian embassy for €40. Do not forget to start the process 60 days before.
Money/Currency : The national currency of Indonesia is the Indonesian Rupiah: €1 corresponds to approximately 15,000 IDR. You can choose to exchange your currency before leaving, but you should know that you will find exchange offices open 24/7 in all the cities of Bali. It will also be easy for you to withdraw money from many ATMs, but most of them allow withdrawals up to a maximum of IDR 1,500,000 (€ 100).
Electricity : During your trip to Bali, you will need a similar adapter to the one you would need on the European mainland
Transport : First of all, I should warn you that if you have never driven scooters before, do not try to use Bali as practice, as you may end up in hospital because of other’s and their renegade driving tactics. It is very easy to move on the island using taxis. If you have just arrived at the airport, you will be approached by many taxi drivers looking to drop you at your hotel. When you take a taxi, do not hesitate to negotiate prices! A cheaper alternative is to opt for Grab, the Asian equivalent of Uber.
Other important info :
Prices in Bali are all displayed without taxes, which are added at the time of payment – about 15%.
If the prices are not posted directly on the items (referring in particular about shopping and taxis), do not hesitate to negotiate to as low as half of the price verbally quoted to you.
Although the locals in Bali are extremely welcoming and willing to share secrets only a local would know, it has often occurred that tourists can be preyed upon. Be particularly vigilant when it comes to change as sometimes locals can take advantage of tourists not familiar with the currency.
Good news for smokers: a pack of cigarettes only costs about 22,000 rupees (€ 1.50)
If you want to go on a private excursion or enjoy a surf lesson at the best price, do not hesitate to leave a comment, I will give you the right contacts;)
When you arrive in Bali, it is very likely that you will spend one or two nights in Kuta, the closest city to the airport. Known to be a party hot-spot and certainly not the quietest or most typical example of regularity on the Indonesian island, Kuta still has something endearing about it. A decent session can be found here easily enough (see my paragraph Bali’s nightlife a little lower down), but Kuta also has a huge golden sandy beach that is great for swimming. Here you can sunbathe, learn to surf, relax and drink a few fresh beers. Here, you can also witness beautiful sunsets, so do not hesitate to add Kuta beach to your list of musts!
Bedugul and Ulun Danu Temple
Definitely one of Bali’s best-known landscapes, the water temple of Ulun Danu in Bedugul should definitely be on your bucketlist! Located on the shores of Bratan Lake, this Hindu temple is dedicated to the Goddess of Water. is located 50 kilometers north of Ubud. You can get there by scooter, but it is a winding road. Many local guides will offer a day trip to discover the Ulun Danu Temple and its surroundings. Entrance to the temple costs 50,000 rupees (about €3)
Mount Batur is an active volcano located north of the island of Bali. It consists of a huge caldera and a summit that lies 1717 meters above sea level. During your holiday, you will certainly hear about the ascent of Mount Batur to admire the sunrise and I couldn’t emphasize it’s beauty enough. Certainly, you will have to get up early (about 2 hours prior to sunrise), to start your ascent under a starry sky, accompanied by a guide of course. Once at the top, you can enjoy panoramic views of Lake Batur and the island with the sunrise as an unforgettable backdrop! The climb with a guide takes about 5 hours (2 hours ascent and 3 hours descent) and costs about 400,000 rupees (about €25).
The island of Nusa Lembongan is a small paradise located 25 minutes by boat from the southeast coast of Bali (about 425 000 rupees return). The island is particularly known for its snorkeling and diving spots: you will probably have the chance to see many multicolored fish, Manta rays and even sea turtles. You can also visit the mangrove by canoe in the north from the island or swim on the beautiful strands of Dream Beach. Nusa Lembongan is the opportunity for a few days of rest in a paradise setting!
Tegallalang Rice Fields
Located less than 20 minutes from Ubud, the rice fields of Tegallalang are certainly an iconic symbol of Bali’s beauty! Very easy to find, you will only have to walk the path through the different levels and enjoy the breathtaking view. You will have to pay a gratuity to the local farmers, but it will cost you less than 2,000 rupees.
Temple of Tanah Lot
The Temple of Tanah Lot is a real must during a stay in Bali. This temple is located in Tabanan which is about an hour drive from Seminyak and the entrance fee is 60,000 rupees. It is mainly known for its beautiful sunsets and is surrounded by the ocean during high tide. You can take a stroll in the park around and enjoy the exceptional nature. If you want to avoid the crowds of tourists, I recommend you to go early in the morning to enjoy the quiet and solitude for a more memorable experience.
Blue Point Beach
One of my favorite beaches in Bali, Blue Point Beach is at the southern tip of the island, in Uluwatu. It is located between the beautiful Uluwatu Temple and Padang Padang Beach, which are popular spots for surfers. You will arrive at the beach at the top of cliffs cliffs and you will have to go down a lot of steps and sneak through the rocks, but your efforts will be rewarded with a magical place! It’s also a great place to enjoy breathtaking sunsets, including a cocktail at the Single Fin Bar!
What is a holiday in Bali without visiting the famous Sacred Monkey Forest in Ubud? The entrance is 50 000 rupees (about €3) and gives you access to a forest where monkeys roam freely. Pay close attention to your belongings, sunglasses, phone, food … that could easily catch the attention of curious monkeys. While in the forest, you can admire stunning temples and lush nature. In general, the monkeys will not come to you if you do not give them food (the locals sell bananas to you so you’re able to take pictures with a monkey on your shoulders).
Cascade of Sekumpul
There are many waterfalls on the island of Bali, like Git Git, Tegenungan or Jembong, but my favourite is Sekumpul, in the northern part of the island. It is actually a set of seven waterfalls that you can take in during the course of a walk that lasts 2 hours. You can swim under the waterfalls and take beautiful pictures. Compared to other waterfalls like Tegenungan, there are very few tourists in Sekumpul which makes the place even more magical. You can venture alone to discover this natural site, but I recommend you take a guide for about 30,000 rupees, who will show you the most beautiful places and provide a bit of contextual info too about their origins.
Technically not located in Bali, the three islands of Gili are a must for a holiday on the island of the Gods. It is very easy to get there, because everywhere you look, you will see different offers for transport. These usually include transfer from your hotel to Padang Bay Harbour. Here you will board a boat to one of the Gilis Islands and reach your destination in less than two hours. These islands are the very definition of an island paradise: stretches of golden sand as far as the eye can see and crystal clear waters perfect for snorkeling. If you want to enjoy a night out, I recommend the island of Gili Trawagan, if you are travelling with a family or want to go diving, go for Gili Air and Gili Meno which are more suited.
Where to Eat in Bali ?
The reputation of Balinese cuisine is well established. In corner of the island you will find cafes, restaurants and various markets serving up exotic scents and colorful dishes. Here are some tips for you to make the most of Bali’s cuisine, whether you are looking for traditional Indonesian food or something more original.
The value for money in Bali when it comes to food is unbeatable! For less than €10, you can eat like a king, especially with traditional cuisine and authentic street restaurants, which are called Warungs , often run by local people where you can taste the finest local delicacies.
Nasi Goreng and Mie Goreng
You will probably soon cop that rice is a constant in Indonesian cuisine. Nasi Goreng is a fried rice dish with a variety of vegetables and an Asian sauce to which you can also add chicken or pork. Mie Goreng is the same dish, but with fried noodles. These dishes usually do not cost more than €3 and is a real treat for the taste buds.
There is not really a family meal culture where the whole family meets around a table for a meal. In Indonesia they eat when they are hungry more so than at set times. However, during important festivities, Indonesian people often find themselves around a Babi Guling: a spit-roasted pig that is stuffed with spices, turmeric and coconut oil. If you want to try this specialty, I recommend the Warung Selingsing Cepaka in the area of Tabanan and advise you to book in advance due to high demand.
These are grilled chicken skewers and exist in many forms in Bali. For example, at Gourmet Sate House, there are more than 22 different skewers on the menu, including the most famous version, stuffed with hazelnut sauce.
Even for those with more of a sweet tooth, you will get your money. If you still have room for dessert, you should try these sweet cakes made of rice -simply majestic.
Vegetarian and Vegan Options
As meat and fish are a bit more expensive in Bali, it is not uncommon to go vegetarian. For example, most curries are made with coconut milk and rice is an essential part of Indonesian cuisine. This makes things a lot easier for vegetarians who often have a lot of choices on the menu. It is also paradise for exotic fruit lovers: mangoes, papayas, pineapples, bananas are available everywhere on the island. For people who want to eat healthy during their holidays, you will find many cafes that serve smoothies in every possible colour, such as at Shelters or Cafe Organic.
Now, let’s look at a few more of the “extreme” Bali delicacies which are a little more “Bear Grylls” than anything else. What do you think of grilled bats that are eaten whole, including the skin. You will also have a wide selection of grilled insects: fried dragonflies, skewered worms, mixed salads with bee larvae. It doesn’t stop there, you will even find goat genitals or cobra blood that the Balinese use as a “potion of love”. Who is first?
Where to Party in Bali ?
Bali is rightly known as a peaceful retreat where you reconnect with nature and practice yoga but it’s also a great place to party with backpackers from around the world. Here are some of my favorite places to party the night away.
Going out in Bali :
Kuta is for the party animals
Seminyak has many trendy clubs
Every day is party day
Drugs are totally forbidden in Bali
Going out alone is easy
It’s safe for women also
Potato Head Beach Club – Seminyak
Surely one of the best known places in Seminyak, the Potato Head Beach Club offers free admission. All you have to do is find a table or a deck chair and enjoy a delicious cocktail. The prices are very high for Bali and closer to what you would pay at home, but if you want to treat yourself, this is the perfect place to do just that.
Sky Garden – Kuta
A real institution of Kuta’s nightlife, the Sky Garden has a very special offer – “all you can eat & you can drink” for only 100,000 rupees (about €10) from 5pm until 9pm, which allows you to start the evening slowly without breaking the bank . The buffet is surprisingly good and the choice is very wide. For drinks you have the choice between beer and cocktails. From 9pm, the music starts to take over the conversations and you can dance into the early hours.
La Favela – Seminyak
The Favela is a restaurant during the day and turns into a night club in the evening. You will feel like you’re in the jungle, because the Favela looks like a colonial building in the middle of a Brazilian rain forest. You’ll even find a replica Corcovado upstairs!
Single Fin – Uluwatu
Overlooking Blue Point Beach, the Single Fin is Uluwatu’s trendiest bar. During the day, you can enjoy watching surfers in the distance. As evening approaches, the bar is packed with people taking in a magical sunset before the night’s festivities kick off. This is a place most packed with Spanish and South Americans, which gives you an idea of the music you can expect ;)
Old Man’s – Canggu
Old Man’s is a trendy bar located in Canggu, right in front of Batu Bolong Beach. During the day, you can come and drink a Bintang for 25,000 rupees or eat simple dishes like hamburgers or salads for less than 80,000 rupees. Happy Hours are daily from 5pm to 6pm where you can enjoy buy-one-get-one-free drinks promotions and every Wednesday, the bar turns into giant disco, with people coming from all over Bali.
Engine Room – Kuta
Returning to Kuta, in the main street Jl. Kegian Kaja, you have a placed by the name of Engine Room. A club that opens every day and where admission is also free. The club opens early in the late afternoon and usually welcomes party goers who are starting out their club tour. It fills up after midnight when tourists from around the world come to dance and enjoy the relatively cheap alcohol.
Rock Bar at l’Ayana Resort – Nusa Dua
The Rock Bar at Ayana Resort is a magical place open from 4pm to midnight. Perched on a fabulous rock formation, the Rock Bar is a popular venue for a sunset cocktail, 14 meters above the Indian Ocean. A place with a particularly glamorous atmosphere, you can often enjoy the presence of international DJs: a perfect settomg for a romantic moment!
As I said before, the island of Gili Trawagan is a Mecca of celebration within a paradise setting. You will find an incredible number of bars and clubs on an island only 15 km² in size. I can however recommend Reggae Bar Sama Sama or Rudy’s Bar where you can eat Indonesian specialties while enjoying some great tunes.
Your Holiday in Bali
As you may have seen, Bali is a dream holiday destination, which combines incredible natural landscapes, beautiful jungles, surfing, snorkeling, dream beaches and a vibrant culture. Whether you want to go alone with your backpack, as a couple, with friends or with your family, there is something for you here. It’s amazing how this “small” 5637 km² island manages to be so rich and varied: from the cliffs of the southern tip to the rice paddies of Ubud, to the impressive waterfalls of the north and endless beaches, you will be able to live both sports, relaxation, festive or nature holidays!
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