So you’re thinking of visiting Bali for your next holiday, but are not quite sure what to expect? Below I’ve put together a quick guide that will hopefully answer any questions you may have about visiting this tropical paradise.
When to go?
Bali has two distinct seasons, rainy and dry. The rainy season runs from November to March and the dry from April to September. The temperature varies very little throughout the year, usually hovering around a balmy 28℃.
Both seasons have their pros and cons, but the extra moisture in the air during the rainy season can make it unpleasantly humid at times.
Before you go
Make sure that you have changed a bit of money, that your passport has at least six months left on it and that your travel vaccinations are up to date (remember you may need to do this several weeks before you travel in order to take a full course).
Typhoid and tetanus as well as hepatitis A and B are all strongly recommended for Bali and there are one or two others you may like to get as well. Malaria medication is not generally needed in Bali as the risk of infection is very low.
Also don’t forget to take out travel insurance.
What to pack?
As stated above, Bali is hot all year round, so packing lots of clothing with natural fibres to keep you nice and cool is a good idea.
Make sure to bring your swimmers and beach gear so you can make the most of Bali’s beautiful beaches. The shops in most parts of the island are pretty well provisioned but it won’t hurt to bring sun cream and bug spray.
Be aware, it can get chilly if you go up into the mountains, so throw in a light jacket and, if you plan to go trekking, bring good shoes.
A sarong is a necessity in Bali (including for the men) as it is compulsory to wear one whilst visiting a temple. If you can’t bring one from home, then you can buy one as a colourful souvenir from a beach stall or, if desperate, most temples provide a few for hire (for a small fee) .
My personal top tip, is to always carry hand sanitiser and a bit of toilet paper, as the public toilets here are not always to the standard one would hope (especially outside the main tourist areas!).
Most visitors to Bali arrive at Ngurah Rai International Airport in Kuta. I you are lucky, you will get through the airport quickly, however, for many travellers this is their first introduction to Bali’s ‘organised’ chaos – hope for the best, but be prepared for a long queue to get through immigration (and be grateful that you are in the new airport and not the old one that had no AC!).
Visa rules have changed in the last couple of years. Visitors from many countries (including Australia, UK and USA) no longer have to purchase a visa on arrival, provided they do not plan on staying longer than 30 days. A visa for up to 60 days can be purchased on arrival for 65 USD per person. If you overstay your visa, you will be fined 300,000 Rp per day.
At the airport, look out for porters trying to help you with your baggage, they can provide a helpful service if you having trouble managing on your own, but be aware they will expect a tip – somewhere around 10,000 Rp.
Once you get outside the airport, the first thing you will notice is the heat and the second will be the cry of ‘transport’ from one of a plethora of drivers all vying for your business. If you don’t have a pick up already arranged with your hotel then you can negotiate a price with one of local drivers (make sure you do this before you get in their car), but you should also know that the airport has its own taxi office that will provide transport for a fixed price to many parts of the island.
Where to stay?
In terms of accommodation, Bali has something to offer from everyone, no matter their budget, from cheap backpacker hostels to some of the most incredible private villas and 5* resorts that you will find anywhere in the world.
The type of holiday you want to have will determine which part of Bali is best for you as each area has its own distinct atmosphere. Most of the tourism tends to be focused in the south, with Nusa Dua, Jimbaran, Sanur, Kuta and Seminyak being amongst the most popular places. The former of these are all good places to take a family, you will find plenty of good resorts, a few nice shops and restaurants and some beautiful white sand beaches. Seminyak is the place for all young fashionistas and has become famous for its trendy boutiques and great food scene. And then there is Kuta, always busy and hectic, this has gained a reputation as Bali’s undisputed party zone and is primarily the domain of young Aussie surfers.
Bali’s interior is mountainous and full of activities for those with an adventurous spirit, including mountain climbing, biking, trekking, whitewater rafting and elephant safaris. Ubud is the most famous town in the central highlands and is often considered to be the spiritual heart of the island. Nowadays, it is the place to go for those looking to ‘find’ themselves and is full of health cafes, spas and yoga retreats. You will also find plenty of art galleries and local crafts, a beautiful royal palace and multiple temples. The accommodation here ranges from camping to 5*.
The north coast has a couple of resort areas, most famously Lovina, and a much quieter pace of life than you will find down south. There are some great areas around here for diving, snorkelling and dolphin spotting as well as easy access to Bali’s only national park. If you are ,expecting white sand though, you will be disappointed as the beaches are all made up of black volcanic sand
Along the east coast are couple of other destinations, most notably Candidasa and Amed, which have both managed to maintain something of a a sleepy fishing village kind of vibe and the latter of which is famous for its amazing diving.
Whatever you may have heard about the craziness of Bali’s traffic, times it by ten (at least)! If you are brave, there are plenty of cheap bike and car rentals available. Just make sure to check the insurance of any vehicle before you hire it and make sure it is good condition. If you are going into the mountains, you will need a 4X4.
Often, a much more relaxing option is to hire a driver for any day trips you wish to take. They may be able to fill you in on a bit of local culture and will often know the best places to go. Plus you have the added benefit of being able to sit back and watch the beautiful forests and rice terraces go rolling by.
For short journeys taxis are a great and affordable option. Try to stick to Bluebird Taxis if possible; this is the most reputable taxi firm in Bali and they always use a metre. Bluebird cars are a light blue with a distinctive bird logo – look out for imitators though!
Buses and bemos run along all the major routes on the island but their depos are often in out of the way places and any fixed schedules will obviously influence your flexibility. If you get a bemo expect to pay a ‘foreigner’ price that will a little more than what the locals are paying.
What to eat
Whatever concerns you may have about food in Bali, forget them, there are some amazing restaurants here that cover all budgets and tastes. International food is available in most places, with Australian, Italian, Greek and Indian cuisines all well represented. Do take the time to try a few local dishes though as most of it is delicious. Bali is famous for its babi guling (roast pork) and nasi goreng (fried rice with some combination of veggies, chicken and / or seafood – if you prefer noodles, ask for the mie goreng instead), is great introduction to Indonesian food. Just look out, the Balinese love their chilis (most places will adjust the spices if you ask them to) and if you are worried about ‘Bali belly’ it may be a good idea to avoid food from the local street vendors.
Places to go, things to do
Whilst there are plenty of things to see and do all over the island, there are a few things that everyone who has spent any time here has ticked off their list.
Visit a temple – wherever you are staying, you will not find it hard to find one. If you are in the south, Tanah Lot and Uluwatu are two of the most famous and easiest to get to and they are also very picturesque (especially at sunset).
Watersports – you will find plenty of opportunities for action in the water, from whitewater rafting in the mountains to to one of Bali’s world famous surf breaks. There are a few excellent places for snorkelling and diving along the east and north coasts of the island.
Waterbom – always a popular choice with both kids and adults. Kuta’s most well known waterpark has enough slides to keep even the most hardened adrenaline junky happy.
Buy some local art – virtually every Balinese person seems to have some kind of artistic gift, whether it be as a musician, a painter or a wood carver. You will find plenty of vendors selling their wares in stalls all over the island. What better way to help out the community than buying a beautiful piece of artwork, which will also serve as a perfect reminder of your time in Bali?
People and culture
Bali has a rich and complex culture, largely focused around the ancient form of Hinduism that is practiced on the island. Everywhere you go, you will see colourful offerings left out for the gods and the nickname ‘ the island of a thousand temples’ is certainly a vast understatement.
The Balinese have a reputation for being friendly and hospitable. Smiling is important, being seen as sombong (arrogant and unfriendly) is considered very rude. If you have any kids, you will find them very welcome here as children are somewhat revered in Balinese culture.
The local people are generally very understanding of foreigners who don’t quite understand their way ways and customs, but, to help you out a bit, here are a few ‘dos and don’ts’ (including a few safety tips).
Don’t touch people’s heads, even children. The Balinese consider the head to be the most spiritual part of the body.
Don’t point with your feet. These are considered to be the most spiritually unclean part of the body.
Don’t pass or point at anything with your left hand (in fact, don’t point at all if you can avoid it) as this is also believed to be spiritually unclean.
Don’t use the tap water, even for teeth cleaning.
Don’t have ice in your drinks outside reputable places.
Do learn a bit of the language – even a simple terima kasih (thank you) will go a long way.
Do haggle in the markets – this is expected and can be a fun experience. Don’t get ripped off, but try to be fair, and remember that the 5,000 Rp you are arguing over means a lot more to the locals than it does to you.
Do pay attention – whilst chaos is part of the charm or Bali, it can result in lacking health and safety measures. Potholes in the road, broken or missing drain covers and guardrails are just some of the potential hazards that could ruin your holiday.
Getting around Bali
There are many different options for getting around Bali. Courageous travelers may choose to rent a car or a moped but, if you prefer a more relaxing experience, then hiring a professional driver to take you between destinations is the way to go. Bali‘s professional drivers are familiar with the roads and traffic and will get you from point A to point B quickly and securely. Hiring a private driver for a day will cost around 400,000 IDR. If you just need to get from attraction to attraction around town, then the best options are either a taxi or one of the two local ride-hailing apps: Grab and Gojek. If you opt for a taxi, then Blue Bird Taxi is the most highly recommended option as it charges by the meter.
5-Day Bali Itinerary | Day 1: Nusa Dua and Uluwatu
Upon arriving in Bali, you should naturally head to the beach, so the first stop on this itinerary is the resort area of Nusa Dua. Located in southern Bali, Nusa Dua is just a 20-minute drive from Ngurah Rai International Airport. It is a fantastic area for families but a great spot for all travelers to begin their Bali adventure and unwind after a long flight. The top activities here are relaxing, shopping, and sightseeing: just what you need to get geared up for your vacation!
Nusa Dua Beach and Waterblow
Nusa Dua Beach is a picture-perfect stretch of clean and well-maintained sand along the scenic southern Bali peninsula. It is flanked by palm trees and beach resorts on one side and warm, blue-green water on the other. You can find all of your favorite beach activities here, including swimming and sunbathing. If you’ve brought along your snorkeling gear, then you can even take in the underwater sights! Nusa Dua Beach is also a prime location for exciting water sports like Flyboard and parasailing, for those who want to start their vacation with an adrenaline rush!
The top, must-see attraction on Nusa Dua Beach is Waterblow. This is an area along the peninsula where large waves from the Indian Ocean crash against the limestone cliffs and are channeled into a narrow crag that sends the water shooting upwards, like from a whale’s spout. During periods of high tide between July and October, the impressive spray can reach almost 100 feet! From Waterblow, you can also enjoy 240-degree views out over the ocean water, which makes for some stunning photos.
For the second half of your first day in Bali, it’s time to head to Uluwatu. Located about a half-hour drive from Waterblow, Uluwatu lies on the southernmost tip of the island. The serene town is known for having a laid-back atmosphere as well as some of the prettiest beaches, bluest waters, and most dramatic cliffs. There is also a great mix of luxury and more affordable accommodations here where you can spend your first night. Before checking out the town and relaxing for the evening, however, you should pay a visit to the most important attraction in the area: Uluwatu Temple.
Just past town, situated on the coast, lies Uluwatu Temple. Perched high on the edge of a cliff, Uluwatu Temple is considered to be one of the most important temples in Bali. You can explore the temple for a fee of just 30,000 IDR per adult and 15,000 IDR per child. Take in the many beautiful carved statues and traditional architecture. You will also likely encounter some of the temple’s resident monkeys. These cheeky creatures are known for snatching visitors’ belongings, so make sure you watch your things and remove any jewelry. The best time to visit Uluwatu Temple is around sunset, when the daily Kecak Fire Dance is held in the amphitheater. As you watch the performance, you can also delight in the stunning background sunset.
Check In to Kubu Nyang Nyang Uluwatu, Step Out to Uluwatu Temple
5-Day Bali Itinerary | Day 2: Seminyak
For day two of your Bali adventure, start with a 40-minute drive from Uluwatu to the upscale area of Seminyak. One of the more developed and touristy resort towns on the island, this trendy locale offers a great mix of beaches, cultural sites, shopping, dining, nightlife, and more. It is also known for having magical sunset views and stellar surf spots. Get ready for a full day, and make sure your schedule includes a stop at each of the following four attractions.
The easiest first stop on a Bali itinerary once you’ve entered Seminyak is Nyaman Gallery, a contemporary art gallery located in the heart of town. The word “nayaman” translates into “cozy” or “comfortable,” and that’s precisely the feeling you’ll get when you walk in. Enjoy traditional Bali charm and hospitality as you view art created by local and Indonesian artists, including paintings, sculptures, ceramics, hand-blown glass, and photographs. Almost everything in the gallery is for sale, so you can even do some shopping for one-of-a-kind art and jewelry to decorate your own home or to bring back as souvenirs for loved ones. Best of all, it’s completely free to come in and look around!
Just like Uluwatu, Seminyak has its own coastal temple known as Petitenget Temple. Constructed in the 16th century, it is one of the only cultural attractions in the area, and so is a highly recommended visit while you are here. Petitenget Temple is an active place of worship, but tourists are welcome to come and look around for an entrance fee of 50,000 IDR per person. It is a fairly small and compact temple featuring traditional Balinese architecture, scenic views, and relaxing garden spaces. Many religious ceremonies take place at the temple throughout the year, and you might be able to catch one if you are lucky.
When vacationing on the coast of Bali, you should never miss an opportunity to spend some time at the beach. Seminyak Beach is a popular stretch of lovely golden sand that tends to feel less crowded than other top beaches in the area. It’s a great place to go swimming, and there are some excellent spots for surfing as well. You can also rent a sun lounger and simply soak in the sun with a cold drink in-hand. There are plenty of public facilities around and numerous restaurants nearby. Once you’re at the beach, you should aim to hang out long enough to catch the spectacular sunset.
Seminyak Night Market
After you’ve taken in the sunset at Seminyak Beach, venture into town again for the Seminyak Night Market. Starting around 6 p.m., the street food stalls around Seminyak begin selling delicious hot meals and Balinese treats. Among the most popular offerings are fish, barbecued prawns, and all sorts of satay meats. Hop from stall to stall until you get your fill of the best Indonesian cuisine. Adding the market to your Bali itinerary is a great way to sample a wide variety of local food in one sitting. Best of all, Seminyak Night Market is known for being easy on the wallet. The popular night market has a lively energy, and the vendors and locals have a reputation for being very friendly.
Check In to Alila Seminyak, Step Out to Seminyak Beach
5-Day Bali Itinerary | Day 3: Canggu
Start your third day in Bali with a 40-minute drive from Seminyak to Canggu. Once a sleepy village, Canggu has risen considerably in popularity over the past few years. It is now home to numerous trendy cafes, affordable resorts, bars, beach clubs, a growing number of yoga studios, and a large population of digital nomads. The village is mainly known for its numerous beaches and its shopping scene, as well as for nearby Tanah Lot Temple. Let yourself enjoy a less structured day and take your pick of some beaches and shops that you would most like to visit.
One of the best ways to start a day in Canggu is by going beach-hopping. The coastline of the village is divided into five beaches, each with its own unique character. Whether you are interested in surfing, swimming, sun tanning, or sightseeing, there’s a beach for everyone in Canggu.
The five beaches of Canggu
- Berawa Beach: Offering panoramic views and great waves, Berawa Beach is a top surfing spot. There are a wide variety of waves to challenge surfers of all skill levels, and it is not usually very crowded here.
- Nelayan Beach: A quieter beach that is home to a small fishing fleet, Nelayan Beach is a favored place for lounging and walking. As the water is calm, it is also good for swimming and wading.
- Batu Bolong Beach: The busiest and most popular of Canggu‘s beaches, Batu Bolong Beach always has a lively atmosphere. It is lined with a variety of restaurants offering a mix of western and authentic Indonesian food.
- Echo Beach: With its strong waves, Echo Beach is not a good place for swimming but a great beach for surfing. There are also sun loungers spread out along the beach so that you can relax, work on your tan, and enjoy a drink.
- Pererenan Beach: Another beach better suited to surfing, Pererenan Beach tends to be quieter and more popular among locals than tourists. It’s easy to find an empty stretch of sand to enjoy.
Shopping in Canggu
Canggu has a higher concentration of fashion stores than perhaps anywhere else in Bali. You will find both boutique island brands and designer labels everywhere you look. It is a great stop to add to your Bali itinerary and a perfect place to upgrade your wardrobe and pick out some new outfits for the rest of your travels.
Best places to shop in Canggu
- Berawa Luxe: A popular boutique store among locals, Berawa Luxe carries easy-to-wear clothing for women that blend functionality with the quintessential bohemian aesthetic of Bali.
- Mila The Label: Another great spot for local Bali aesthetic, Mila The Label sells chic, classy, and comfortable clothing suited just as well to your island vacation as to everyday life.
- FLKLR Surf: Canggu‘s go-to surf shop, FLKLR Surf offers high-quality surfwear and accessories made out of alternative and eco-friendly materials.
- Wanderlust Bikini: If you need new swimwear before heading to the beach, make a stop at Wanderlust Bikini. Find flattering pieces in versatile styles you can wear in Bali and at home.
- Magali Pascal: A homegrown brand, Magali Pascal blends French elegance with the flowing style popular in Bali designs. While there is also a store in Seminyak, the Canggu location is not as busy, allowing you to really take your time.
Tanah Lot Temple
A 25-minute drive from Canggu, Tanah Lot Temple is built on top of a large rock formation just off-shore. The name “Tanah Lot” itself translates to “land in the sea.” The architecture of the temple melds harmoniously with the rocky outcrop. It is accessed via a land bridge lined with a variety of souvenir stalls where you can pick up local handicrafts, food and drink, and accessories like sandals, sarongs, and t-shirts. The entry fee for Tanah Lot Temple is a bit higher than most other temples in Bali, at 60,000 IDR for adults and 30,000 IDR for children. However, the temple’s unique location and status as one of the most iconic temples in Bali certainly make the price worth it. The best time to visit Tanah Lot Temple is during sunset, when the surrounding sea is painted gold.
Check In to Natya Hotel Tanah Lot, Step Out to Tanah Lot Temple
5-Day Bali Itinerary | Day 4: Ubud
After enjoying the best that Bali‘s coast has to offer, it’s time to head inland to Ubud, the spiritual, cultural, and artistic heart of the island. Ubud is the center of both traditional dance and crafts in Bali. There is also an abundance of yoga studios and retreats. The journey through the countryside to reach this special locale is a magical experience in and of itself. You’ll be making your way through scenic rice paddies and picturesque ravines of the foothills. No Bali itinerary is complete without a visit to Ubud. Before making your way into town, however, it is recommended that you make a stop at Tegenungan Waterfall.
Tegenungan Waterfall is located about a one-hour drive from Canggu and half an hour out from Ubud. It is one of the most famous waterfalls in all of Bali, and definitely worth the stop. The entry fee is not too pricey, at just 20,000 IDR. The trail down from the entrance to the waterfall consists of about 100 steps, and the view from the bottom is truly breathtaking. You’ll also find some fun props to take photos with, including a large swing! Because it is so popular, Tegenungan Waterfall can be quite busy. However, there are many secluded vantage points around where you can take a break from the crowds. Facilities include bathrooms, changing rooms, and cafes so that you can stop for something to eat and drink and even go swimming if it’s a hot day! Tegenungan Waterfall is easily one of the top must-see attractions in Bali.
Ubud Monkey Forest
Once you reach Ubud, your first stop should be the Ubud Monkey Forest. Located right in town, it is a sanctuary for Balinese long-tailed monkeys. A visit to Ubud Monkey Forest provides a wonderful opportunity to watch these monkeys in their natural habitat. The reserve doubles as a temple complex, and it is an important spiritual and cultural site. There are more than 700 monkey residents in the forest, in addition to over 150 different species of trees! It’s a great way to immerse yourself in the nature of Ubud. Visitors are asked to please not feed or make any physical contact with the monkeys, but you are more than welcome to come and observe their playful antics. The entrance fee for Ubud Monkey Forest is 80,000 IDR per adult and 60,000 IDR per child.
Shopping in Ubud
Make sure you allow plenty of time on the day you arrive in Ubud to do some shopping. Downtown Ubud is the hub of shopping activity in town, offering a great mix of souvenir stalls, fashion stalls, and traditional art stalls. Whether you still need some souvenirs for friends and family back home, or you’re just looking to do a bit of shopping for yourself, you’re sure to find everything you need to complete your Bali shopping experience. There are a variety of traditional and handcrafted products on sale here, meaning that each one is truly one-of-a-kind. Meandering through the winding streets is also a great way to immerse yourself in the local atmosphere.
Top things to buy in Ubud
- Art and antiques
- Traditional ceramics
- Fashion accessories
- Woven bags
- Gold and silver jewelry
- Home decor
- Bathing suits and surfwear
- Local coffee beans
5-Day Bali Itinerary | Day 5: Ubud outskirts
Travelers owe it to themselves to spend at least two days inland when visiting Bali, and Ubud is the perfect jumping-off point for exploring the surrounding rainforest and rice fields. There is plenty to do within a short distance of town and a lot to pack into your final full day on the island. You’ll want to wake up bright and early so that you can beat the crowd to your first stop: Tegallalang Rice Terrace.
Tegalalang Rice Terrace
Tegalalang Rice Terrace is only a 20-minute drive north of Ubud. It is one of the most visited tourist attractions in the area, and a must-have destination on any Bali itinerary. The lush, terraced rice fields are an agricultural icon and an enduring symbol of the region. Located in a valley, the rice paddies appear to stretch on endlessly. They are brilliantly green in color, which makes for some truly stunning pictures. There is a small entrance fee of 15,000 IDR per person to walk around the rice fields, so make sure you bring some cash. Visitors can also purchase drinks and snacks. If you’re up for a bit of a thrill, you can try out a jungle swing or a zip line as well! A Bali vacation would not be complete without a visit to Tegalalang Rice Terrace.
From Tegalalang Rice Terrace, it is a 45-minute drive to the beautiful Kehen Temple. Built into a hillside, this Balinese Hindu temple was established as far back as the 13th century. It once served as the state temple of the Bangli Kingdom, which is today the Regency of Bangli. Set amidst eight terraces and surrounded by trees, the temple has a mystical and relaxing atmosphere. Kehen Temple is considered to be one of the finest temples in eastern Bali, and it is a fantastic example of traditional Balinese architecture. Stone steps will lead you to the main temple area, which houses three courtyards, a gorgeous 11-tiered shrine, and many intricate carvings. There is a 15,000 IDR fee to enter the temple.
Campuhan Ridge Walk
The Campuhan Ridge Walk is one of the most popular walking trails in Bali. It is located about an hour away from Kehen Temple and just five minutes outside of Ubud. This relatively short and easy trek along a paved walkway offers spectacular views of the surrounding jungle and the distant mountains. Hikers follow the Campuhan Ridge as it gently slopes upwards and leads to the top of the hill. One of the best times to do the Campuhan Ridge Walk is close to sunset, when the temperatures will be cooler and you won’t have to contend with as many crowds. The colors of the sunset will also paint the greenery in stunning shades of orange and pink. There is no entry fee, and it is a wonderful place to take some of your last photographs in Bali. The Campuhan Ridge Walk is a great way to end your Bali vacation on a high note.