Last September my boyfriend surprised me with a holiday to beautiful Bali, Indonesia. From Perth, Australia (where we live) it’s about a 3.5 hour flight to the Denpasar airport. A funny thing about Perth is that everyone uses Bali as a unit of measure like, “$200 for shopping? I could’ve gone to Bali at that price!” And it’s true, flights to Bali are extremely cheap from Australia which is why almost everyone vacations, gets married or has their bachelor/bachelorette parties there instead of traveling domestically around their own country. So for my birthday he booked us a trip go to Bali to see what all the fuss was about.
Has anyone read or watched Eat Pray Love? You know that part of the movie where Julia Roberts lives in beautiful Bali? Well I hate to burst your bubble, but Hollywood films really over glorify Indonesia. Because of that, it seems like a popular honeymoon destination is Bali. After visiting, I personally wouldn’t consider it a honeymoon destination as it’s becoming super touristy but I will definitely go back for another leisure holiday. To each their own!
Bali has everything you could want. It’s full of energy and home to people whose humbleness, hospitality, and kindness are truly infectious. It has a unique culture, excellent food, beautiful landscapes, is cheaper than most destinations and is home to everyone from party tourists to yogi enthusiasts. I’ve listed out some suggestions below to help inspire you or help plan a trip to Bali. Everyone has their individual idea of what makes a “holiday” so I hope you can use these tips to create your own unique experience and enjoy all that beautiful Bali has to offer. If it’s not on your travel list now then I suggest adding it as this is one place you don’t want to miss out on!
This will vary across the island depending on if you’re looking for the party area, family town houses or luxury villas. The Northern part (from the airport) offers different amenities and unique environments compared to the Southern part of the island, it all depends on what type of holiday you are looking for. We stayed in the quieter Seminyak area just around the corner from the beach and near all the restaurants and shopping. We also booked a villa that had our own private pool which made me feel like a goddess. Accommodation spreads across both sides of the pricing spectrum but you can get an amazing deal that includes all the perks you’re looking for if you book early enough.
Northern areas of Bali include Seminyak, Ubud, Kuta, Legian, and Tanah Lot while the popular Southern areas are Jimbaran, Nusa Dua, and Uluwatu (most famous for it’s sunsets).
Some of the best food I’ve eaten in my life was in Bali. I don’t even know where to begin for the best places to eat! This island has become a hub for world class chefs who incorporate all different kinds of cuisines that highlight their passions. The quality of food for the price you pay is unbelievable. I did not expect to have every meal (whether at a restaurant or bar) to be so delicious and every serving staff/bartender to be so friendly. You have a range of all types of cuisines from quick and cheap, to 100% organic, to a full luxury dining experience (still decently priced too). If you want the latter, plan to book the more popular restaurants in advance especially at busy times of the day. I would also advise staying away from street food stalls/vendors that sell meat because you don’t know how long it has been sitting in the sun. Our absolute favorites from our stay are listed out below:
- Ultimo – Italian
- Potato Head – Indonesian/American/Asian fusion
- Sea Circus – Mexican
- Ginger Moon – Asian fusion
- Sarong – Asian fusion
Ultimo is gorgeous and you can sit in a back garden complete with twinkle lights, live bands, and superb pizza. Who would’ve known you could find excellent Italian food in Bali! We went twice as it was down the road from our villa and the portions were nice and large (perfect for my boyfriend.) Potato Head was a delicious surprise and we tried loads of seafood and curries that were rich with flavor (pictured above). We spent all day at their infinity pools and at nighttime it turned into a club with live DJs. Sea Circus was a delicious treat and we indulged in some tasty tacos and appetizers after our amazing massages at Bodyworks right next door (highly recommend this establishment for mani/pedis, hair treatments, scrubs or massages). Ginger Moon was a great lunch stop while we were shopping and the satay chicken and dumplings were scrumptious. The last but definitely not least is Sarong which is a mix between Thai, Indonesian, and Indian. Let me say that this place is sensational. My boyfriend and I shared about 6 dishes, Bintangs, cocktails, and dessert and it all came to around $150 AUD which is super cheap coming from Australia’s prices. I won’t elaborate on all that we ate (I will say pork belly was definitely involved) so let the flavors speak for themselves. This is a MUST to add to your list!
We didn’t try many breakfast places as our villa had a gorgeous continental spread every morning but if we didn’t have that I would have tried either Sisterfields, Earth Café, Watercress or Revolver. These all have highly rated reviews for serving great coffee and produce. Unfortunately, we didn’t have time to check out all of the lunch and dinner spots on our food list so here are few others which got rave reviews from my friends who frequent Bali.
- Barbacoa – Tapas/BBQ
- Mamma San – Indian
- Metis – French fine dining
- Saigon Street – Vietnamese
- Motel Mexicola – Mexican
- Merah Putah – Indonesian
Let’s talk cocktails and Bintangs! (Or fresh coconut water if you don’t drink.) Almost all bars have amazing ocean views, pools for swimming, lazy day beds for tanning, and great waiter service. Bintang is Indonesia’s beer and it is ridiculously cheap and light. I’ve listed some of the most popular bars below but if you want to party then Kuta is THE party area. It’s where all the tourists go to buy cheap cocktails and club all night through to the next morning. Plenty of people go to Kuta for stag parties (bachelor parties) as it’s wildly crazy and perfect for that sort of environment but obviously not for everyone on a holiday. (Side note: I would stay away from really cheap wine and alcohol. Some people make their own alcohol at home from which tourists have died in the past. Stick to the brands like Greygoose, Jack Daniels, Tanqueray, etc…that you know when ordering spirits.)
- Ku De Ta – best at sunset and a great day spot to lounge on a bed
- Potato Head – amazing infinity pool & lounge area so go early to reserve a day bed
- Woo Bar – delicious cocktails and a long happy hour (pictured to the right)
- Rock Bar – amazing cliff side views but go early as lines will get long
- Double Six
- Cocoon Bar Club
- Luna Bar – great rooftop bar with views of the city and ocean
As for activities, the options are endless. You can visit a water park, coffee plantation, monkey forest, rice field, fish market, yoga retreat, go surfing, take a cooking class, get a dirt cheap massage, see the Kintamani volcano, go white water rafting or go scuba diving to name a few. Plus, there are loads of shops at the markets or the designer stores along the streets. If these activities don’t speak to you, remember there is a plethora of beaches all around the island. Most of them are connected so it’s just a nice stroll away to find the perfect space of sand with your name on it.
My suggestion would be to plan just as many leisure days as you plan to fit in activity days. Bali is all about the balance between indulgence, adventure, and relaxation. Everyone is laid back so if you find yourself hungover on the day you’re supposed to go Ubud then just switch it with another day. I mean we all have those days where we just want to drink mojitos and to tan all day long by the pool!
QUICK BALI TIPS
- The best time to travel is May to September but April/October are still okay. We went in December once and it was during their humidity and heavy monsoon season.
- Currency is the Indonesian rupiah and $1 USD is equal to about $13,332.50 IDR.
- Tipping isn’t customary but we tipped for our wait staff, hotel staff, and drivers (they hardly make a decent wage). Service and other charges are automatically added to your restaurant and bar bill so no need to tip there.
- Indonesia is predominately Muslim; however, Balinese are predominately Hindu so you will see offerings, temples, and incense all over the city. Be mindful to not kick or disturb the offerings (which could look like litter to some) that are on the ground.
- While its no longer considered Third World it is by no means First World so try to only drink bottled water and completely stay away from tap water even at restaurants. Also, be sure to pack some hand wipes, sanitizer, and a probiotic tablet to take every day as most places and streets can be quite dirty. You do not want to catch the infamous “Bali belly” or stomach virus when visiting.
- If you can’t afford one of the super luxury hotels or villas don’t fret as you can still enjoy the perks. A lot of these luxury places offer pool, restaurant and bar access for people not staying there. Save your money for the cocktails! The W Retreat & Spa is one example of a resort with a massive pool area and gorgeous grounds that allows any tourist to enter.
- Hire a driver for the day or for your entire trip. This is really handy and a cost effective way to travel around the island. The driver can also provide a local perspective and help you translate as well.
- Rent your own moped. It’s the better alternative to taking a taxi, plus it’s a lot of fun once you get the hang of the roads. Mopeds are the most common way to get around as there is no public transport. Honestly, there are zero road rules in Bali with the only one being to not crash or hit someone else. Petrol is cheap and there are loads of small stops along the roads that sell them out of cute old vodka bottles.
- Bartering and haggling is common and you should use it for everything. Most shop owners expect this so a lot of people are jacking up prices to take advantage of tourists. If you rent the above mentioned moped make sure to barter down the daily price!
- Travel insurance that covers damage or loss of bags and any kind of health/medical coverage is always great to have. It’s always best to be safe and these days you can get some great quotes for your trip.
Interested in a trip to Bali? I suggest following this blog, the Bali Bible. If you can’t dedicate a whole week or two to Bali but you plan to come to this side of the world then maybe use Bali as a stopover for a few days. I’ve done that before on my way to Ireland and it was a great way to relax and unwind before boarding the long haul flights. I hope you found this guide to Bali helpful & enjoy your time!