Bali Travel Guide

Bali travel guide

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

Capital: Denpasar

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.

Tanah Lot Temple
Tanah Lot Temple
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…

Tegallalang Rice Terraces in Ubud
Tegallalang Rice Terraces in Ubud

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.

bali travel guide.
$2 lunch with a million dollar view: Mount Batur

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!

Mozaic Beach Club
Mozaic Beach Club

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 Bali
Waterbom Park Bali

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.

nalu bowls
Nalu bowls

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.

Seminyak

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.

Ubud

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.

Jimbaran

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!

Canggu

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.

Uluwatu

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.

Nusa Dua

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.

Related: 43 reasons you will fall in love with Bali & Healthy Guide to Bali

  • The views are breathtaking!

    Candice | Beauty Candy Loves

    • They’re magical! Especially in Ubud and Uluwatu :)

  • I’m hoping to go to Bali sometime this year. Thanks for the ideas!

    Shannon // That Daring Darling

    • I hope you get to visit Shannon! It’s the most beautiful place :)

  • I love this post. Before I wasn’t too interested in going to Bali but after reading this I think my mind has been changed!

    http://www.littlemisscamellia.blogspot.com/

    • Aw that’s so cool! You will LOVE Bali – it’s almost impossible not to :)

  • Been seeing a lot of pictures from Bali in Instagram lately. Would love to visit someday. Your photos of the place are just lovely!
    Caffeine Rush

    • It’s paradise. The most gorgeous island! I hope you do get to visit some day soon, Louise :)

  • Lys

    Bali seems beautiful! I’m hoping to go there somewhere in the next couple years

    • You’ll fall in love, and probably return many times :)

  • Bali really does seem like a lovely destination and it’s now been reaffirmed as a place I have to visit one day. This travel guide will almost definitely come in handy one day!

    Jodie | Jodie Loue

    • It’s the most beautiful island! I really hope you get to visit sometime soon Jodie :)

  • Oh wow – I’ve always wanted to visit Bali, it looks like such a beautiful country xx

    Gemma ♥ | Miss Makeup Magpie

    • It’s paradise! I hope you get to venture over there one day, Gemma! :)

  • I’ve been in love with Bali ever since I read and saw Eat Pray Love! The pictures are so gorgeous! If I ever go I don’t think I’d ever come back!

    • It’s even more gorgeous in real life! haha I have that same dilemma when I visit.

  • I’m going to New Zealand and Australia in two weeks! Hope I get the time to visait Bali as well, looks beautiful! :)

    • How exciting, I hope you do too Ellen! Where abouts in Australia are you headed?

      • I’ll be backpacking from Sydney to Cairns! :)

  • I’ve seen a lot of guides on Bali, but this is one of the most well put together posts I’ve read. Thanks for sharing and teaching me more about the culture there :)

    http://www.mintnotion.com

    • Thank you so much Eden! That was so sweet of you to say :)

  • Oh my gosh! Bali looks utterly gorgeous & I certainly would love to visit at some point. Earth Cafe sounds like a delicious place to eat. :]

    // ▲ itsCarmen.com ▲

  • Sepideh

    Oh goodness, this is making me daydream about traveling. Bali is on my list of places to visit, and this reinforces it!!

    http://www.elleisforlove.com

  • Oh man the pictures are so dreamy! Awesome tips – I hope to get a chance to go when I go to Australia soon!

  • Julia Garcia Enet

    I hope you may reconsider including Elephant rides as a recommendation. I understand that there are many well meaning tourists who adore animals, to whom this sounds magical and appealing. However, this is an extremely unethical practice, as these elephants are mistreated, exploited, and physically harmed.

    Please consider doing these gentle giants an enormous favor by helping to spread the word on the negative effects of elephant rides:

    http://ecohearth.com/eco-zine/travel-and-leisure/1675-never-ride-an-elephant.html

    • Emma

      I was just about to leave the same comment. Thank you Julia !
      Bali is amazing enough without torturing those poor elephants. If you want to ride something people, get on a bike!

      • Julia Garcia Enet

        Well said!

    • Ahhh I’ve heard so many mixed things about this! Is this the case with all elephant parks in Bali? I have done a lot of research into this, and it seems they are treated fairly & ethically. They are not caged up and free to roam in both parks in Bali (Taro & Elephant Safari), and from what I saw, the trainers absolutely ADORED them and vice versa. I have seen many parks where the elephants are mistreated and it makes me sick. If you don’t mind me asking, where did you hear about unethical elephant parks in Bali?! xx

      • Julia Garcia Enet

        Oh, I don’t mind at all! I first heard about this while traveling through Zimbabwe/ Botswana/ South Africa. The travel group we used, Intrepid Travel, is very passionate about eliminating the use of elephant training for tourism throughout the world. Yes, while there are parks that treat their elephants significantly better than others, it’s not a good idea to support this kind of entertainment. Here is a great video on this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wkO9qa_0OTE

        And another great thing to read through is this article, which talks about not just the poor treatment of the animals through training, but also the physical harm cause by carrying the weight of humans on their backs, as their spines are not meant to support that kind of weight. (If ridden, it should always be on the neck and not the back.) https://journals.worldnomads.com/responsible-travel/story/81053/Thailand/Why-Elephant-Riding-Should-Be-Removed-from-Your-Bucket-List

        A bonus read is this article, which shows a list and explanations of which animals you should never ride. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/07/09/animals-you-shouldnt-ride_n_7762286.html

        • I know that Elephant riding is a big issue in Thailand, but I never knew in Bali! I have removed it from the list regardless :) I agree, whether they are treated fairly or not, they shouldn’t be used as a tourist attraction. x

  • Brittani

    Hi! I’m going to Bali in a couple of months with my husband and I stumbled upon your blog. I was wondering where can you find the location of the picture in the bottom middle of your collage. I hope that makes sense but it’s the one on the top of the webpage. Those circular pools look amazing! Thanks!

    • Martin J Clare

      Hanging gardens in Ubud