After lugging my backpack around Myanmar, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam, I had finally reached the last destination on my backpacking bucket list. I had finally arrived in Bali! So, after all my previous ‘travel advice’ posts, this is the final one: my guide to Bali, Indonesia.
I couldn’t wait to go to surf school, laze on the beach all day and stretch out my aching back (backpacks are heavy, y’all!) at yoga. However, what greeted me in Bali completed exceeded my expectations.
Here is my full itinerary, budget details, travel tips and general guide to Bali:
Guide to Bali
My Itinerary: I had two full weeks in Bali, with stops in Legian, Lovina, Amed, Ubud and Canggu. However, I don’t recommend all of these places, especially not Legian/Kuta, which are essentially more ‘Shagaluf’-style areas.
Therefore, I’ve written this little guide to Bali to share what I learnt in those two weeks. Because there are places that are ‘don’t miss!’ and places that are ‘omg scratch that off your list right now’.
Having said that, after my experience, there’s a small part of me that wishes I had just spent the whole of my seven weeks here instead of doing a Southeast Asia tour, I loved it so much!
Disclaimers: The prices listed here are in Indonesian rupiah and US dollars, plus some GBP where appropriate. The exchange rate is now roughly 13,000r to US$1, so that’s what I’ve used in my guide to Bali, however when I visited a few months ago in November 2016 the exchange rate was actually more favourable (thanks, Trump).
Of course, as is the rule in most of Southeast Asia, haggling can save you a little bit of money, if you have the knack for it. (I don’t).
Guide to Bali: Before you go
Visa: With my British passport, I can enter Indonesia for up to 30 days ‘visa free’. However, if you want to stay longer (maximum two months), then you need to apply for a visa in advance. Basically, you can’t arrive in Indonesia and decide you want to stay longer than those 30 days. You need to plan ahead.
Then again, always check before you go as to whether you need a visa because the rules are constantly changing. Plus, I always think it’s good practice to travel with some US dollars in cash and a couple of passport-sized photos, just in case.
Vaccinations: I had vaccinations for diphtheria, polio, tetanus, hepatitis A and typhoid before I started my Southeast Asia trip. These were recommended for most places in Southeast Asia anyway. The NHS website is a handy guide if you need one.
There are no high-risk malarial zones in Bali so don’t bother with anti-malarial tablets if you’re just visiting the island, but note that there are other places in Indonesia that have a higher risk.
You can stock up on plenty of mozzy spray anyway to save yourself from itching, though I found there were loads of natural bug sprays sold in Bali that are much better for you than surrounding yourself in a cloud of deet.
Insurance: I had the World Nomads Explorer Plan (Worldwide). They are the only insurers I know of that cover you if you’re already travelling, which I was at the time. This plan cost me £176.23 (US$215) for two months. If you prefer, there is a slightly cheaper plan available, but it doesn’t cover much.
Money: There are plenty of ATMs and money changers around the island. Obviously, if you’re exploring villages and areas that are more off the well-beaten tourist track then make sure you have cash on you, as there may be only one ATM available, if that.
Awareness and Safety: I felt super-safe in Bali, especially in areas such as Ubud. Local people are really friendly and I felt fine walking around the streets alone at night. However, as a solo female traveller, I make a deliberate effort to be careful. I always hold my bag close and I have a visible padlock on my bag. Again, Legian and Kuta are exceptions to this rule, so be careful there.
Bag snatching and pick pocketing is common everywhere around the world in places where there are tourists, so keep an eye on your belongings, just in case. I heard of bag snatching and theft happening on the beaches around Kuta, so be careful not to fall asleep in the sun!
Getting around: There are buses between many areas around the island (ask your hostel), but not everywhere. At the time when I was travelling, Uber was actually the cheapest option as they were offering highly discounted rates.
Unfortunately, this was upsetting a lot of local taxi drivers, who charge a lot more, but who were therefore struggling for business. One Uber driver spoke of how he’d been attacked my local taxi drivers, so be aware of that if you want to get picked up – you may have to walk to somewhere hidden.
Finally, let’s talk about scooters. Nearly everyone hires a scooter to get around, which is fine, but I met countless people who had the typical scooter burn on their leg from swinging their leg over the side, including myself. Be careful just being around those bloody things and if you’ve never used one before, then ask how to safely get on to save yourself losing a chunk of skin off your leg.
Guide to Bali: Kuta & Legian
Let me preface this by saying that I do not recommend staying in Legian or Kuta. I booked a few nights in Legian before I arrived because it was closer to the airport and I thought I’d need a few days to get my bearings before planning the rest of my trip. I was wrong.
In reality, I should have listened to my mates who had been there before and done a Jon Snow aka head north as far away from Kuta/Legian as possible. These are just touristy ‘party’ areas that don’t have much going for them. Even if you’re just looking for a lazy few days on the beach or surf schools, nicer beaches and surf schools can be found at other places around the island.
Accommodation: 60,000r (US$4.5) per night at The Eco-living Hostel (three nights). So, this hostel was cheap as chips and a nice place to stay; great staff, great atmosphere for meeting other travellers etc. But, it was in a car park and at least a 45-minute walk from the beach.
Meals: There is nothing that you will eat in Kuta/Legian that is not just generic overpriced tourist food. I ate some spicy noodles with indecipherable meat from an amused local street vendor for 10,000r (US$0.75), which was the closest thing I could find to authentic Balinese food.
Transport: You will need to hire a scooter to get anywhere. If you want a party, stay in Legian and Kuta. If you actually want to see Bali, then you’ll need to get out. And if, like me, scooters make you nervous, then hire an Uber for the day.
Best attraction: One good thing about staying in Legian was access to the south of the island. In particular, I was really glad I saw beautiful Uluwatu; a set of temples set into the cliffs. Also, Nusa Dua had some scenic beaches and ‘water blows’, where the waves crash against the rocks at high tide.
Guide to Bali: Lovina
Accommodation: 157,500r (US$12) per night at Santhika Bed & Breakfast (three nights). OK, so I ‘splashed out’ a little at this place because it just looked so cool. The hotel is basically a fairy tale garden, complete with hammocks and little pools, with huts and ‘tree houses’ around the sides. I even got a free foot massage on arrival, which was heaven.
I couldn’t resist a stay in my own little tree house, which made me feel like I was Jane or Tarzan. However, downsides to consider are no air con or fans, baby crying (the couple who run the place have a baby) and the nearby mosque, which can be very loud.
Meals: Lovina is a bit touristy, but it’s quiet and sleepy, which was nice after Legian. I ate some really nice fresh salads, smoothies and iced coffees by the beach for around 100,000r (US$7.5) for the whole meal.
Transport: This is the place where I got my infamous scooter burn. BE WARNED: DO NOT SWING YOUR LEG OVER THE SIDE OF A SCOOTER. YOU WILL KNOCK YOUR LEG OFF THE EXHAUST PIPE.
Best attraction: The main thing people come to Lovina for is to see the dolphins. Dolphin tours take place super-early in the morning (pick up at 5am or 6am from your hostel) and include a boat out to watch the pods jumping in the waves.
However, I will say that I wasn’t completely comfortable with the tour that I did. I couldn’t find much information about it, but the boats (which have motors) literally chase the dolphins around the shore, which I can’t imagine is good for them. I was really nervous that one of the animals would be hit by a boat.
Guide to Bali: Amed
Accommodation: 150,000r (US$11) per night at Kelapa Cottage (two nights). Um, so this place is pretty much nirvana. I mean, just look at the pictures for reference. Why don’t I just move here? It’s cheaper than any rent I have ever paid!
Meals: I ate a lot at my hostel because the food was so good. However, I did venture out to another hotel by the sea for brunch, which was a bargain 80,000r (US$6) and a yummy dinner at Warung Enak for 90,000r (US$6.5). There are lots of lovely food options all along the waterfront, so you can’t go wrong.
Transport: My hostel wasn’t right on the waterfront, so I hired a bike and cycled up and down for a bit, but I needn’t have bothered as everywhere is walkable anyway.
Best attraction: If you’re wiser than I am, you won’t have a scooter burn on your leg by this point in your trip, so you’ll be able to enjoy the snorkelling and diving that Amed is famous for. In particular, explore the shipwrecks that are just offshore.
Guide to Bali: Ubud
Accommodation: 70,000r (US$5) per night at Kayuni Hostel (four nights). My mind still boggles that the meals I was eating cost less than a night in this place, which was a perfectly reasonable hostel and included a pretty good free breakfast too. I did see one little stray bedbug, but it scuttled away when I shooed at it and didn’t bother me again.
Meals: So, just about everywhere in Ubud has healthy, reasonably-priced amazing food. Having said that, Bali Buddha is my life. The food there is incredible and the staff are lovely.
Yoga: I feel like if you come to Ubud, and if you come to Bali, you have to try your hand at yoga, even if you’re not a seasoned yogi. I tried a class at the famed Yoga Barn (130,000r or US$9.5), which was good, but the winner had to be Radiantly Alive (140,000r or US$10), where I felt like I actually achieved self-actualisation, the class was really that good!
I only made time to try a couple of classes, but most studios have deals on weekly, monthly and daily passes if you plan on doing more and want to save some cash.
Other things to do: Oh my god, you will not run out of things to do in Ubud! You should definitely go to the Puri Lukisan art gallery and museum, which has some amazing exhibitions on Balinese art as well as an interesting history itself.
Also, definitely go white water rafting to see the gorgeous jungle scenery inland in Bali, complete with breathtaking waterfalls.
I also did a cooking class that included a tour of Ubud market, where I learnt some interesting things about Balinese culture (and how to make the flower offerings that you see everywhere). Oh, and I ate a lorra lorra foods.
Guide to Bali: Canggu
Accommodation: 130,000r (US$9.5) per night at Surfers House (three nights). Despite the name, the resident surf instructor was on holiday, which was probably for the best anyway seeing as my scooter burn wasn’t up for surf lessons. The hostel itself was clean, laid-back, but a little walk from the beach. And it wasn’t really somewhere to stay during the day.
Meals: Canggu is quite touristy, which means there are plenty of bars and restaurants around. The area attracts a slightly cooler, more chilled crowd than neighbouring Kuta and Legian, so restaurants are just tipping the scale on hipster and a little more expensive (starting at 100,000r or US$7.5 for a decent meal).
Old Mans is the main surfer’s hangout, serving up decent Western food in the day and killer cocktails at night. It’s right on the beach, so it’s a great sunset spot too. This is where I hung out, watching the surfers and pining after the waves.
Surf: People come to Canggu to surf. There is some yoga and such going on, but the main activity is riding the huge waves on the main beach. Did I mention how cut up I am about coming all the way to Bali and not be able to surf? *sob*
My Little Guide to Bali
Basically, Bali is a dream. I had expected Bali to be more of a ‘holiday destination’ than a ‘travel destination’. I had envisioned something similar to my trip to Thailand, where I had felt like a stupid white person, constantly feeling like I was being conned and being treated like a walking cash cow.
Also, I thought Bali would be mostly drunk Australians partying all day and night. Oh, and there are definitely elements of that kind of place to be found in Kuta and Legian (and that’s perfectly fine if you’re into that sort of thing, I’m not one to judge).
Then again, places like Lovina and Amed were quiet villages. Ubud and Canggu, though filled with tourists, had a heart and were hives of activity both for locals and tourists; Hindu temples and yoga studios; health cafes and flower offerings on the streets; cocktail bars and local street food.
I wish I had read a guide to Bali to better plan my time there, hence why I’ve written one. Really, I could have stayed much longer on Bali and I plan to head back some day to explore more of Indonesia and finally go to surf school!
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