Bali Travel Guide (Families, Couples & Solo)
Bali Travel Guide: Introduction
We have been living in Bali for eight months now, and have learned a lot about making the most of this wonderful island. We have stayed in hectic Ubud, explored the countryside and are now staying on the coast in Sanur, pretty near to traditional villages and also near to the tourist resort of Kuta. We’ve figured out how to book the best accommodation deals through hotelscombined.com– click to see deals for your next trip!
Here in our complete Bali travel guide you will find information to get you started in Bali, whether you are travelling as a multi-generation family like us, or are touring solo or as a couple. If you have anything you’d like us to add just let us know, and we will add more information as we go along- we will certainly be back to Bali, that’s for sure!
Bali Travel Guide: The Basics
Location of Bali
Bali is a province and a 95-mile wide island in the country of Indonesia, sitting in the Indian Ocean. It is nestled among other Indonesian islands, two miles east of Java and to the west of Lombok and other Lesser Sunda islands. Bali is Indonesia’s most popular tourist destination, especially with Australian visitors thank to the close proximity. Chinese and Japanese tourists have also been visiting Bali in increasing numbers over the last few years.
Languages spoken- Balinese, Bahasa (Indonesian) and English
Currency- Indonesian Rupiah (IDR)
Currency converter HERE
Population: 4.225 million
Capital city: Denpasar
Best time to visit
Rainy season starts in October through to April. We found it really wet in Ubud, and it is rainier than the coast. It’s starting to get more grey and rainy here on the south coast in mid-November, and although it’s not cold it can make it less pleasant to be outside. The kids love going in the swimming pool in the rain, however, so it depends who you ask! Prices are cheaper in rainy season so if you want to see Bali on a smaller budget it might be a good time to come. Check out booking.com for great accommodation deals.
We have a full guide to the Bali visas here as well as how to extend your Bali visa. From the UK, visas for Bali are free for up to 30 days. If you are going for longer than 30 days you need to buy a Visa On Arrival for $35 at the airport, and extend it for another $35 before the month is up, you get another 30 days this way. You can pay agents to do this for you for around $30 per visa if you don’t fancy several trips to Immigration (we did this and are happy we didn’t waste three days in the office).
Bali travel guide: How we did it
Our experience with travel in Bali
Bali travel guide: This has been our first time visiting this island, and we are a three-generation family (myself, husband, three daughters and my Mum). We started in Ubud for two and a half weeks, exploring the surrounding rice paddies and waterfalls, and visiting an animal sanctuary. It is rainy season in Bali now and it hit Ubud first, which made getting around a bit of a challenge. When it rains, it rains HARD! After a fortnight there we headed to the coast and are staying in Sanur, five minutes from the beach.
Getting around Bali is easy, there are taxis everywhere and although the driving looks chaotic, people generally drive slowly and considerately. It is obvious here that you can travel in Bali to any budget; there are shoestring hostels and homestay (as we are doing- our homestay costs £300 a month) and there are super-luxury hotels and villas along the front. Likewise, for transport you can hop on the back of a moped for a few cents or hire a private driver in an air-conditioned van- it depends how much you want to spend.
There are load of westerners here and Bali is a very well worn travel trail. It is probably the best place for people who have not visited Asia before, as it offers traditional culture with the convenience of some westernisation, and plenty of organised day trips- see our faves here!
Cost of travel in Bali
We paid way over what we should have for a taxi from the airport to Ubud, around £30 for an hour’s journey. If you’re heading to Bali get the Grab app before you get here and save yourself bucks. We got taxis everywhere with the BlueBird or Grab apps and this saved us a fortune compared to haggling with drivers. Bluebird is a registered taxi company and you can book them on an app (like Uber) and they arrive and take you somewhere on a meter. If you flag one of their blue cars down off the street, don’t haggle on the price- ask for the meter. Grab is by far the cheapest app, there aren’t always Grab cars around but when they are they will save around 40% of the taxi compared to a BlueBird (and gazillions compared to cabs off the street!) A 30 minute ride with a Grab car cost us 70,000IDR (around £4). A ten minute drive from our house to the beach costs £2 with a Bluebird.
Cheap, great food is abundantly available. We are eating at a local ‘warung’ regularly and three meals (tempeh/tofu, vegetables and rice) cost 30,000 (around £1.90). A happy meal in McDonalds costs £2, a personal-sized pizza at Pizza Hut costs £2, a kilo of mangos costs £1 and a medium-sized watermelon costs around £1.50. Bread is relatively expensive because of imported wheat; a small loaf costs £1 and a 500g pack of pasta is around £1.
There are also higher-end restaurants with main courses costing around £20, but we love the local food and are on a budget so we haven’t bothered with that!
There are plenty of supermarkets (mini marts and K marts) which are convenient. The little locally-run corner shops are often better value and we liked getting our fruit from the local market as it is so much cheaper (and more fun!)
Tours are relatively more expensive than in other countries. The best way to organise a trip to see things is to simply have a look at what you fancy on the itineraries, hire a Grab driver for the day and tell him where you want to go- DIY tour presto! The downside is you won’t have a guide, but a little Googling will give you all the info you need and it’s nice to not have to work to someone else’s time schedule. Drivers for the day cost anywhere from £25 to £70 depending on how long you want them for, how busy business is for them, and how good you are at haggling. Check out the Get Your Guide tours by clicking the pics at the bottom of this post or at the side of our homepage; wherever you are in the world Get Your Guide have great value all-inclusive tours so you can get the most out of your time!
Finding the right accommodation
There are several options for booking accommodation in Bali. One is to book directly with a hotel, but booking.com and Agoda are what we use. I would recommend booking somewhere for the first two or three nights and then simply walk out from where you’re staying and see what the options are around your area and haggle. When we got to Sanur we stayed in a hostel for a week and then Mum found a £300/month 1-bed apartment (short walk to the beach, with a pool) by walking around the back roads to look for places to rent.
The average price we’ve found for a basic hotel room (one double bed) is around £20. Booking.com is great for dinging accommodation (click here to see deals), we book through them all the time and are very happy with the service.
We had no problems at the airport, our luggage came through quickly and there is a taxi desk at the airport where you can pick up a cab to wherever you want to go (at premium rates, obviously). If you need to buy a Visa On Arrival you will need to go to one of the desks before passport control. Often there’s nobody manning them so just ask an official and someone will come over. You will need CASH to buy the visas, not card, so make sure you bring some IDR currency with you. Get an Indonesian SIM card as soon as you can too, to register your Bluebird and Grab apps.
Oh, Bali. You win. The food in Bali is terrific. We recommend the little ‘warungs’ that the locals eat at; we eat at them every day. The food is generally stir-fried in hot oil which kills germs, and eating vegan means I’m less likely to get sick anyway- some of the meat is cooked and left in glass cabinets which is dodge. Some of our favourite local dishes are Gado Gado (a vegetable dish with beansprouts and peanut sauce, Nasi Campur (steamed rice with a random selection of tasty veggies and tempeh/tofu), Nasi Goreng (tasty fried rice) and Mie Goreng (fried noodles). Crepes with shredded coconut and banana fritters are popular desserts, and fresh juices/smoothies and young coconuts are delicious and nutritious drink options. There are also plenty of western places to eat with pizza, fries, pasta etc.
Bali is relatively a very safe island for tourists; crime is fairly low, violent crime is rare and I would feel more comfortable as a solo female traveller here than in many other countries. There are fairly regular earthquakes but these are usually fairly minor- for more information read our blog post about the Bali earthquakes and tsunami risks.
Bali travel guide: Top things to do in Bali
The Must Do Attractions
Our personal posts on Bali)
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