Similar to other Southeast Asia locations, any traveler could spend months here and not see everything! So, take what you wish and savor every moment!
Before you go…
I chose to use a budget airline, Jetstar, which means very limited weight allowance for baggage. I only had a 7-kg carry-on, but discovered a few hacks that make packing less of a nightmare.
- Use a smaller suitcase… Large suitcases are great but can be extremely deceiving, especially when faced with a strict baggage weight allowance. For a 7-kg carry on (approximately 15 pounds), I knew this was not much.
- Wear a jacket with lots of pockets… Even when I am traveling to a hot place, I always bring a jacket. It keeps me warm on the plane and also doubles as a rain jacket for the tropical weather which can be quite temperamental. The jacket I bring with me has 6 huge pockets, which I can load with all of my heavy items such as electronics. This brings me piece of mind, in case I do want to pick up that extra souvenir too!
I must also mention that whenever and wherever you travel, be sure to pack:
- A towel – You can grab a small microfiber towel that does not take up much room. This is helpful, especially if you are backpacking. It can also be helpful while on an airplane or train as a pillow or blanket.
- A sarong – It is incredibly important to be culturally considerate. From Southeast Asia to the Caribbean to Europe, bring with you something to cover your knees and shoulders (especially if you are a female). Whether you find yourself in a village or temple or church, respect is extremely important as a traveler. A sarong can also double as a blanket for the beach or grass.
A 30-day visa is free upon arrival for US citizens and most other countries. Customs can take anywhere from 10 minutes to 1 hour.
Organize airport pick-up! My flight arrived late in the evening, I had quite the trek to my hostel, and I was alone. Most hostels and hotels have an option for airport transfer (sometimes it is free!). Most times, I feel comfortable using public transport, but when it comes to taking a taxi in a country where I do not speak the language, I prefer to use reputable sources to avoid being ripped off or end up in the wrong place. Most hostels/hotels are reasonably priced and comparable to the going rate.
This was also helpful, because he took me to an ATM outside of the airport, which is where I will insert a friendly reminder to SET UP A TRAVEL NOTICE WITH YOUR BANK. I forgot to do this and immediately got declined. Luckily, I was able to sign onto my e-mail via wifi and take off the flag on my account. I also had to use two different ATM’s.
Expect to pay cash! In Bali, they accept US dollars and the local currency which is an Indonesian Rupiah (1 USD = 14,000 IDR). I use the app, XE Currency, which is an offline resource for converting several different currencies while abroad. I used this several times a day when haggling for a good deal and staying on budget.
Expect to Haggle! All prices are negotiable. I would recommend starting your bid at half of the price that is stated. Then, you can go up from there. It isn’t rude- it is expected.
Transportation while in country… If you have done any research on Bali or have traveled anywhere in Southeast Asia, you may have heard of GoJek or Grab, which is essentially Uber. Bali is not very accepting of these modes of transportation because it has negatively affected the local taxi driving association. Therefore, it is best to use local taxis. Most of the time, we hired a taxi driver through our hotel. They tell you the price up-front, and you can hire them for the entire day!
Food and Water…
Bali belly is, in fact, a legitimate phenomenon. It is caused by drinking unfiltered water in Bali. Most restaurants and hotels wash their vegetables and fruit with filtered water, so I was able to eat raw salads and fruit and drink water with ice cubes. But if you are unsure or have a low immune system, I would either double check or do not chance it. Bali belly will absolutely ruin your trip with nausea and diarrhea for at least 3 days. Another tricky culprit is the local alcohol- after brewing it, they will dilute it with unfiltered water. So do not drink local liquor! The symptoms may be delayed and not show up for a few days. Just take caution, and there is plenty of options to help you avoid this.
Luwak coffee is unique to Indonesia. Luwak is an animal resembling a possum, who digests coffee beans. The defecated coffee beans are then harvested, cleaned, roasted, and brewed.
April to October is the “dry season” with an average temperature of 84F/27C degrees. November to March is the “wet season” with humidity and an average temperature of 92F/32C.
We visited in late November, and it was certainly humid and hot. What I did notice was after 3 pm, it was certainly more bearable. We learned very quickly to do activities in the morning, stay by the water in the afternoon, and then explore some more after 3 pm.
Ubud is about 1.5 hours from the airport. It is in the mountains and known for its yoga retreats. There are heaps of day trip options to check out, such as temples, waterfalls, etc.
Where to Stay…
The first night I arrived, I stayed at Halaman Depan Hostel. It was ideal for many reasons: $3USD per night, offered airport pick-up, and perfect location to the city and Sacred Monkey Forest where I was meeting up with my friends the next day.
We stayed at Ulun Ubud Resort. They gifted us with the honeymoon suite, which came with amazing view of the forest as well as walk-out access to the pool. The restaurant in the resort was delightful and so convenient, so we ate our breakfasts and dinners there.
What to Do…
Waterfalls in the area include Tegenungan and Kanto Lampo. Kanto Lampo was much better, because it was more remote with less tourists and breathtaking in terms of beauty. This also meant that it was quite slippery and hard to maneuver in some places. Tegenungan was very crowded and there are about 150 paved steps to reach the waterfall. You must pay a few dollars at each location.
On the same day, our driver also took us to the Rice Terrace. This is basically a group of rice paddocks all connected by walk-ways. At each rice paddock you walk through, you must pay the owner of the land a few dollars.
The Sacred Monkey Forest is open daily from 8:30am-6pm with an entrance fee of 80,000 IDR ($5.64USD). People usually spend 1-2 hours here. Although, the monkeys did not seem to like me. Even though I was very mindful to not make eye contact or interact with the monkeys, I got poop thrown at me, and a monkey jumped on my head. There are also instances where the monkeys bite people. Needless to say, I was ready to leave pretty soon after the monkey jumped on my head. The Sacred Monkey Forest is located close to the main street with heaps of yummy restaurants and fun shops.
The Real Bali Swing is a great place to overlook the forest and river, while also getting a picture for the ‘Gram (because that’s why everyone goes to Bali, right?). It consists of a series of swings and nests where you can get in. I recommend getting there earlier in the day to beat the heat and wave of tourists.
Other Day Activities:
- Lake Bratan Ulun Danu Temple
- Munduk Moding Plantation – infinity pool
- Mount Batur – Great sunrise hike, but only go if the weather is clear
- Ubud Market
- Yoga Barn
- Lovina – beach in the North
- Amed – beach in the North
- Mount Agung – don’t hike, just go and see the sunrise
Don’t go chasing waterfalls…OR DO! Other waterfalls located farther North:
- Tukad Cepung Waterfall
- Tibumana Waterfall
- Nungnung Waterfall
- Banyumala Twin Waterfall
- Sekumpul Waterfall
- Aling-aling Waterfall
Places to eat…
Pizza Bagus has an organic market on Saturday’s that supports local farmers and reduces plastic waste. They also have a cafe and small convenience shop with local, sustainable snacks!
- Cafe Pomegranate– Good pizza
- Milk & Madu Cafe– 2 for 1 pizza deals on Sunday and Thursday
- Taco Casa– chain Mexican Food all over Bali
- Gelato Secrets– chain ice cream shop all over Bali
Ubud to Sanur is about 40 minutes. Sanur is basically a beach town with small markets and shops. It is very cheap, and you will see lots of locals. There is not much to see around here, except it is very close to the ferry that takes you to Nusa Penida. But Nusa Penida is also accessible from Seminyak or Canggu.
Where to Stay…
- Inna Bali Beach Garden – We stayed here, although I would not recommend it. The accommodations were beautiful, it was equipped with a pool, and located right on the beach. Unfortunately, the AC never worked, and bugs were a bit of an issue. It was also far from the city center.
- Prama Sanur Beach Hotel
- Prime Plaza
Where to Eat…
Upon arrival, we set up a tour to Nusa Penida by walking along the beach and stopping at several stalls of people selling tours. Again, be ready to haggle! Because it was off-season, we got our tour at half-price (Approximately $40USD per person)!
Some people like to stay on Nusa Penida island, although it would be extremely hard to get around. If you opted to stay in Nusa Penida, it is accessible via ferry. If you book a tour, the ferry is included in the price. Another thing to note is the roads in Nusa Penida are very steep and windy- you may want to bring some meds to help with the motion sickness.
The West Tour of the island includes beaches such as Angel’s Billabong, Broken Beach, Kelinking Beach, and Crystal Bay (great place for snorkeling if you can haggle that into the deal!). Unfortunately, it is extremely crowded at each of the beaches. I can’t imagine how even more crowded it would be during peak season!
For the tour, it starts around 7 am – 8 am, and you will return around 5 pm. Tours will usually pick you up from your hotel lobby.
Where to Eat…
Where to stay…
Nuansa Penida Hostel– they organize tours to take you around the island
Seminyak is a major city just 10 km from the airport. This is where we ended our stay. It has many shops and great places to eat. From here, you can visit Canggu, Nusa Penida, Kuda, etc. The traffic in Seminyak is quite atrocious at any time of day. There are heaps of motorcyclists who whiz around the cars and even go up onto the sidewalks (if there even is a sidewalk). This is why people often opt for a Grab or a GoJek (you can also use these apps to order food).
Where to Stay…
What to Do…
Finns Beach Club is a famous attraction that consists of 4 pools, 9 bars, 6 restaurants, Sushi Bar, daily DJs, live Vocalists, and night surfing. If you want to go here, you might want to book a spot in advance. There are also things for kids and families.
Other clubs include The Lawn, Mrs. Sippy Potato Head Beach Club, La Plancha Beach Bar, and La Favela Club. The vibe in these areas is to go to clubs during the day. Get there early to grab a spot and stay until sunset! I would recommend pre-booking any day club you plan to attend.
Shopping…Great shops with great deals…
- Lost in Paradise
- Bamboo Blonde – this is a chain you will see everywhere!
- Bali Boat Shed
- Asmara – another chain
Where to Eat…
- Coffee Cartel – will print a photo of you as latte art!
- Sea Circus
- Kynd Community – all of the Instagram influencers visit this place. They also have a gelato shop and souvenir shop next door to the cafe.
- Bo$$Man– Burgers
- Revolver Espresso
- Sisterfields Cafe
- Garden Gangsta
- Dough Darlings – donuts
Full of Aussies for a reason, right? This is an ideal location for watching the sunset and getting your party on! It is close to the airport and has great prices.
Where to Stay…
Karma Backpacker House – free dinners
What to Do…
Watch the Sunset…
- Uluwatu Temple
- Jimbaran Beach
- Deamland Beach
- Blue Point Beach
Where to Stay…
- The Farm Hostel – comparably expensive but the place to be
- Koa D’surfer hotel
- Frii Bali Echo Beach
- Capsule Hostel
- Lokha Umalas Villas & Spa – this is where we stayed. We got our own villa with a pool, kitchenette, and dining room. It was quite far from the city center, and the pricing was a bit confusing.
What to Do…
- Serenity Eco Guesthouse and Yoga – I did yoga here on my last day and wish I had done it more! You can also stay here for a retreat or just as a guest. The yoga room has views of the ocean and great vibes. For yoga, you must have a sarong!
- Kuta Beach – known to be full of drunk Aussies
- Tattoo Room Canggu – this is where I got my tattoo while in Bali! They did a great job.
- Tanjung Aan beach
- Sky Garden
- La Brisa Beach Club– good for sunset
- Pretty Poison – Tuesday’s skate park/bar
- Old Man’s Beach Bar
- The Nitemarket for shopping
- The Locals
- Haze & Glory
Where to Eat…
- Kenza Cafe
- Krnk – located in Kuda
- Nüde – Amazing Brekkie
- Crate Cafe – Brunch/Brekkie, Cheaper than most other cafes
- Pablos Pizza
- Roti canai – Good and cheapish food
- Common Cafe – Good brunch
- Hungry Bird Coffee Roaster
- Quince Cafe
- Cinta Cafe
- Warung Bu Mi – Local cuisine
- The Shady Shack – vegan