Authored by Diane Wuthrich (Contributor)
If you haven’t been to the Island of the Gods yet…. You’re missing out, big time.
in 2017, Bali was declared the world’s best travel destination, as voted by travellers for the TripAdvisor Traveler’s Choice Awards 2017, eclipsing other popular favourites such as Paris and London. Is it really that surprising after all? The magic of this amazing Indonesian island continues to cast a spell on travellers, even for first timers to Bali, time and time again – it’s no wonder that many keep coming back annually, and in some cases, they just never leave.
However, the magic of Bali is hard to put into words. The experience is different for everyone, whether it’s the quality of the surf breaks, the charm and hospitality of the Balinese, the mystique of its deeply spiritual culture, the breathtaking natural beauty, or the never-ending adventure it offers. And that’s barely even scratching the surface of what Bali has to offer.
That being said, the ways in which you can plan a trip to Bali to your liking is virtually limitless. It all depends on the kind of experience you’re looking for. As a bonus, Bali is inexpensive; making it suitable as a destination for long-term travellers; this alone makes it a no-brainer when it comes to thinking about where to go for your next trip.
A Traveller’s guide to the Island of God – Bali – Indonesia
Where to Stay in Bali
Deciding where to base yourself in Bali is critical. Each of the major tourist areas has its own specialty and unique character. You may find yourself attracted to more than one, but the good news is that it’s fairly easy to break your trip up into chunks (depending how long you stay) so that you can experience more than one place at a time in at times breathtaking or budget accommodation.
The most popular spots in Bali include:
If you’ve heard bad things about Kuta, you’re probably right. It suffers a terrible reputation for being the party headquarters and travel scam central of the entire island. Kuta has seen its heyday, but that’s long gone now. It’s devoid of culture, packed with bars and nightclubs, as well as young kids partying into the small hours of the morning. Unless this is what you’re after, stay away.
Seminyak is a stylish, chic beach area punctuated by luxury hotels, opulent nightlife, fine dining, and tons of shopping. It has a more relaxed vibe compared to Kuta, and is well-known for its many luxury villas, beach clubs, fancy restaurants, and beautiful sunsets.
Canggu has made headlines over the last few years as the new “it” place in Bali. In fact, many even refer to it as the “new Seminyak”. But Canggu’s character is different; it screams surfer and chill vibes (and in a good way!). You’ll find many terrific brunch spots, third-wave coffee shops, a laid-back beach vibe, and a handful of co-working spots. Canggu is a great place to base yourself in if you’re a digital nomad, love the surf, or both!
Sunsets, seafood, and tranquillity: everything about Jimbaran makes it the ideal honeymoon spot. It’s known for amazing sunsets, a smattering of upscale hotels, and fresh seafood right on the beach.
Once synonymous to great surfing, Uluwatu has evolved to become a hot spot for beach clubs as well as Cliffside temples. For those who want to experience a little bit of everything including nature, culture, surf, as well as high-end villas and beach clubs, look no further than Uluwatu.
Ubud always has been and always will be the cultural mecca of Bali. For many, experiencing the real Bali doesn’t get any better than staying in Ubud. It offers a plethora of new-age wellness techniques, there’s tons of renowned yoga studios, majestic temples, delicious vegetarian fare; plus, it’s home to the famous Monkey Forest and world heritage site-listed rice terraces. Oh, and the art! Authentic Balinese art is everywhere in Ubud.
Amed is a sleepy coastal town north of Bali, known for legendary scuba diving but not much else; although that’s what so many people love about it. It’s characterized by black sand beaches and tons of dive shops. The nightlife is restricted to music being played in small beach shacks but if you’re after world-class diving and perhaps free diving lessons, Amed is the place to be.
For the perfect balance between nightlife and quiet family time on the beach, head over to Sanur. It is one of the oldest resort towns in Bali, and it still has that vibe about it. It’s not as modern and hip as Canggu and Seminyak, but the beach is great for swimming.
If you have time, you may also want to check out the other nearby destination. Nusa Penida makes for a great day trip out of Bali, while Nusa Lembongan and the Gili islands are recommended for a two or three-night escape.
In Bali, as well as the rest of Indonesia, the local currency is rupiah (IDR). Money comes in massive denominations from IDR 50 coins to the larger IDR 100,000 bills. Exchange facilities are found throughout the island’s main tourist areas, and they accept major currencies such as Australian dollar, US dollar, and the UK pound. The best place to get your money changed would be the bank; it’s also the safest way to withdraw from your ATM. Otherwise, you can resort to hotels or authorized money changers.
Bali is notorious for having bad roads and traffic jams that sometimes don’t end well. While motorcycle and scooter rentals are widely used in Bali, these should be reserved for those who are staying long-term, and are thus more familiar with the crazy roads here. If you’re an experienced driver and are confident about it, then go ahead, but be sure to bring travel insurance. Depending on the area you’re staying at, there are other safer options available such as bicycle rentals. But for further distances, car rentals are best in Bali.
There is an incredible variety of accommodation choices in Bali. From hostel beds that will only cost you spare change, to the most luxurious of villas that cost easily a thousand dollars a night. All major tourist areas have a little of everything, from budget to mid-range and luxury.
Internet is so readily available in almost every establishment in Bali, save for the small warungs, so there’s no real need to get a local sim card. But if you do, sim cards are cheap and can be found everywhere.
The food offerings in Bali can cater to every kind of appetite, and you’d be hard-pressed to find a mediocre meal. Balinese food, Aussie brunch favourites, smoothie bowls, vegan, gluten-free, and all kinds of international fare can be found here. When it comes to prices, they run the gamut too; there’s easily something for everyone and you definitely won’t be going hungry in Bali.
When to Go
Bali draws in the crowds all year round because of its terrific tropical climate. The island gets 12 hours of sunshine a day, no matter what time of year it is. Although there are more chances of rain between October to April, these are usually intermittent showers and the sun will always come out right after.
No matter how modern Bali has become; some meals may provoke the phenomenon known as Bali belly (translation: traveller’s diarrheal). However, this is avoidable. Just make sure not to drink tap water, only dine at places where lots of locals or tourists frequent, and wash your hands frequently. It’s also good to note that you should avoid arak, which is a local alcoholic beverage that, when badly made, can kill someone. If you’re going to participate in dangerous sports, make sure that your travel insurance is up to date.
- Temple Etiquette
In Bali, the culture is as much of an attraction as the place itself. However, tourists may unknowingly offend the local Balinese by failing to understand the basic tenets of Balinese culture. Before you enter a temple, make sure you are dressed modestly. Temple visitors are expected to cover their shoulders and the upper arms, as well as the legs and waist. Bring a sarong around with you since this can be used to provide appropriate coverage.
Safety in Bali
Just like every other destination on earth, visitors to Bali are encouraged to do some research and practice common sense for safety. While it promises the holiday of a lifetime, you still have to be cautious everywhere you go. Here are the most important safety tips to keep in mind:
Don’t even think about it. Bali’s drug laws are recognized as among the strictest in the world, and it’s not meant to be taken lightly. Don’t bring any kind of drug into Bali, but just as well, don’t be tempted to purchase some while you’re there. Drug dealers have been known to lurk in some streets of Kuta, whispering drug solicitations to unknowing tourists. If you come across this, simply walk away; otherwise, you could get caught in a drug sting.
Bali is known for surfing, but that doesn’t mean it’s completely safe. There are risks of serious undertows and rip tides especially in the portion of beach that stretches from Canggu to Kuta. Unless you’re an experienced surfer, stick to the swimming pool or areas that have calmer beaches such as in Sanur and Seminyak.
The Bali Heat
Bali gets very hot, so you’ll need to stay hydrated to prevent heat stroke and don’t forget the sunblock. Just don’t drink the tap water since this can cause Bali belly, or even worse, amoebiasis. For your medical needs, head over to the nearest pharmacy (known as apotek).
With these tips in mind for the average traveller to the Island of god, you’re well on your way to an unforgettable holiday in Bali!