Bali is an Indonesian island known for its forested volcanic mountains, iconic rice paddies, beaches and coral reefs. It enchants visitors from all over the world whom return regularly, however you’ll find the majority of tourists are from Australia. The welcoming nature of the Balinese, the incredible value for money ratio, the vibrant and alive culture, and the year-round pleasant climate make Bali a slice of paradise.
Today, after many requests and traveling to the island myself, I’m here to share the ultimate Bali travel guide!
Things you should know about Bali
On arrival: You will arrive at Denpasar International Airport, and I highly advise setting up a driver prior to arrival from your place of accommodation. Bali airport is very overwhelming and it’s easy to get scammed if you don’t know your way around.
Population: 4.22 million
Currency: Indonesian Rupiah (Rp)
Language: Balinese, which is a dialect of Indonesian
Religion: Religion is a very important part of the culture in Bali. 90% of Balinese are Hindu and around 5% Muslim. The remaining five 5% practice Buddhism or Christianity.
When to visit: High season is during the months of July and August. However best time to come to Bali is May, June and September, just before and just after high season. It’s still dry season, it’s less humid, and room prices can be 30-50% cheaper than during high season.
What to Do
There are so many incredible temples on the island that it can be quite overwhelming to narrow down. I would recommend checking out Tanah Lot, Besakih, and Uluwatu temple if any. Catch them either at sunrise or sunset for the most spectacular views.
The Ubud Monkey forest is a place of scientific research as well as a site of spiritual and cultural aspects with temples sanctified by the local villagers deep within its grounds. The monkeys are too cute to miss and end up jumping all over you! Just be sure you’ve had your shots first…
You can’t go to Bali and not see the Tegallalang Rice Terraces in Ubud. The paddies with the best vantage point are just up north from the main Ubud centre, along the road of Tegallalang. Here, roadside stalls and art shops offering items and curios of all kinds line the street, as well as small restaurants offering diners great views.
Pasar Seni is a beautiful art market in Ubud where you can find beautiful silk scarves, lightweight shirts, handmade woven bags, baskets or hats; statues, kites and many other hand-crafted goods. The perfect souvenirs to take home.
Kintamani, located in the Karangasem Regency, is home to Mount Batur and the Caldera Lake. It’s a beautiful sight and there are tours that start around 4am to climb the volcano to catch it at sunrise.
The Safari & Marine Park is Bali’s largest animal theme park with over 60 species roaming freely. If you fancy a bit of a thrill, try the night safari. Instead of the animals being in the cage, they put you in there!
Most of my days are spent at beach clubs in Bali, sipping on extravagant cocktails by the pool. Potato head, Ku De Ta, Karma, Mozaic and Finn’s beach club are my favourites but there’s many more amazing places! Sweet, sweet paradise.
You can also head to Kuta for shopping but you’ll have to barter your way around. Chances are you’ll be overwhelmed (especially if it’s your first time), but once you get the gist of it, you can score some pretty cool things. Although you might need a drink or 10 after. Seminyak is a lot calmer and since it mostly consists of boutiques, everything has a set price.
Waterbom is still the number one waterpark in Asia and such a fun day out. It’s a little expensive but worth the splurge in my opinion. Many fun rides and attractions, and even a bar on site, which makes things all the more exciting.
And if time permits, take a day or overnight trip to the Gili islands!
Related: 10 things you must do in Bali
Where to Eat & Drink
The food is varies dramatically in Bali depending which area you’re in. Rock Bar is a must-visit in my opinion. Located at Ayana Resort, it’s quite pricey ($15-$20 a drink) but the panoramic ocean views make it all worth it. Single Fin in Uluwatu is another wonderful cliff bar with gorgeous sunset views.
There’s many organic and raw cafes/restaurants mainly in Ubud and Canggu. Alchemy in Ubud for amazing raw cakes and freshly squeezed juices, Earth Cafe in Seminyak for vegan everything, and Betelnut Cafe in Canggu as well as Nalu Bowls for the best dragonfruit & coconut smoothie bowls ever.
If you want to know more about the best healthy & organic eats, I’ve compiled all my favourites in the HEALTHY guide to Bali!
And if you’re into seafood, you must head to Jimbaran for an all you can eat seafood buffet on the beach!
Where to Stay
Bali is not overwhelming in size, but with numerous interesting and diverse places to pick from, it can be hard to choose where to stay. The main areas to stay in at Bali are as follows.
Kuta and Legian
These areas have grown into one township during the past decade and spreading further north every month. They are the centers of Bali’s night life and shopping. Although, it is a rather ugly part of Bali and a bit of a nightmare for tourists. It is very cheap therefore attracts backpackers, but I would certainly not recommend for families or romantic vacations. I’ve previously stayed at The Stones in Legian which was very secluded from the area and central, and just down the road there’s the famous Hard Rock hotel.
Recommended for visitors who wish to be somewhat away from the loud party crowds but appreciate easy access to Legian, and Kuta. You’ll find a lot of villas and hotels here, as well as upmarket beach clubs. It’s reasonably priced (although expensive compared to Kuta) and there’s a lot of lovely restaurants and designer boutiques. There are so many lovely places to stay, I would recommend W Reatreat and Amadea resort and villa.
The base of the mountains, essentially in the topical rainforest among all the rice terraces. The main roads are lined with art shops, crafts and many restaurants and cafes. It’s also referred to as “Green Bali” because of all the vegan, raw and organic restaurants, yoga schools, meditation centres etc. There’s both very cheap hotels and beautiful private villas. It’s also where “Eat, Pray, Love” was filmed. Hanging Gardens is a dream to stay at, as well as Komaneka.
Located along the coast and boats Bali’s best beach with nearly white sand. There’s many up-market hotels and the area is very famous for seafood restaurants. The temple and sunset views are amazing from here. I couldn’t recommend staying at Ayana Resort enough, not only for it’s magical grounds but because it’s also home to Rock Bar!
A beach area with lots of surf camps, retreats and popular villas. Much of the area features quietly undulating terrain with the rice paddies that typify much of the South central Bali. Hotel Tugu is an amazing hotel in Canggu, and there’s also The Chill House, which is a fun lifestyle retreat.
Known for it’s spectacular views and home to the best known surf locations in the world, Uluwatu is one of my favourite places to stay in Bali. It’s where you could easily immerse yourself in nature and lose track of time. The locals are much more laid back and the beaches are beautiful. If you can afford it, Alila Uluwatu a real life paradise.
This is where you’ll find all the international 5-star hotels and resorts, as well as all the bloggers and celebrities. It’s a very expensive area and you wont find any locals staying here – it’s purely dedicated to tourism. There’s no night life to speak of and it’s arguably the best “honeymoon” destination. Stay at The Mulia for a taste of luxury.