Bali - the island of the gods. They say that when you touch down in Bali, that you can feel the energy of the island. As soon as people arrive in Bali, they "get it". Bali isn't a place to be seen, yet something to be felt and experienced.
Of all the 25 countries I've traveled to around the world, Bali is my favourite. I find myself spending most of my time here these days and it's no surprise that people are constantly asking me for advice on what to see and do, which has inspired this travel guide to help you plan your trip to Bali. Keep in mind, there is a lot to cover so this will be one part in a series of blog posts on the topic.
You should also be warned, 90% of people end up staying in Bali longer than they planned or anticipated - yes, it's that awesome.
The first step in planning your trip to Bali is figuring out the different areas of the island that you’ll want to go. There are a bunch of different towns in Bali, each with their own unique vibe and identity, yet no more than 1.5 hours away from each other. This makes for a lot to see, explore, and discover. Understanding the areas will help you determine where you want to spend most of your time on the island.
I'll start by saying Canggu is absolutely the best place to check out. Ubud is pretty good too, especially if you want a spiritual experience. Finally, you’ll want to also make time for Uluwatu as it has some pretty nice beaches. The “I can see my toes while I swim” type of beaches.
Kuta: Drunken Australians (Beachside)
Avoid this place. It's packed with tourists, tourist shops, and cheap souvenirs. This is the most "rough around the edges" location. This place is full of Australians who are there to get shit-faced. I wouldn't even mention this place, but people mistakingly spend time here so I'll try to save you from a hard lesson learned.
How Long to Stay
Notable Things to See and Do
Seminyak: Resorts but Nice Beaches (Beachside)
Seminyak is essentially a nicer and calssier version of Kuta. There are pretty much two areas of Seminyak. One is just a resort town. Literally, just resorts... so if you're looking for a local and authentic experience, you'll want to avoid this part. The other part is again, touristy, but it does have a really nice beach and some awesome places along the beach to chill, grab a drink and listen to some live music. It's worth checking out for maybe a day to hit up the beach and a sunset.
How Long to Stay
One day, maybe two days. Honestly, if you just check out the beach that has the live music and epic sunsets (shown below) you'll have seen and done everything you need to here.
Notable Things to See and Do
There are plenty of shops, restaurants and places to go out in Seminyak and although some are quite nice, I find for the most part, many places are just over-priced with lower quality of food (compared to Canggu anyway). I would just focus on hitting up the beach for sunset. Google ‘Double Six Beach’ and that’s where you’ll find a set up like the one pictured below.
Uluwatu: Stunning Cliffside Views and Beaches
Uluwatu is my go-to place for day trips. This is a must if you visit Bali. Uluwatu is pretty much a town full of beautiful beaches and cliffs. In terms of shops and restaurants I’m not too familiar with whether or not there is a variety of places to check out as most people just go for the beach.
How Long to Stay
As beautiful as it is, 1-2 days here should be more than enough time. Below is a typical schedule I suggest my friends follow, to get the most out of Uluwatu…
What to Do/ My Favourites
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Beach Day: Padang Padang Beach or Dreamland
What I highly recommend to friends when they visit is to spend the day at a beach in Uluwatu. Padang Padang beach or Dreamland beach are nice options. And dreamlike it is. The sand is white and the water is crystal clear - you can see your toes while swimming! Also, if you have time, Single Fin is a cool beach club to check out, especially at sunset.
Uluwatu Temple is a beautiful temple that overlooks the ocean. Be careful of the monkeys though, they’ll steal hats and sunglasses right off your face so you need to be careful with loose belongings.
It costs about 20,000 IDR to enter the temple, (approx. $2 CDN/AUD, $1 USD).
Be sure to arrive around 4:00 pm or 4:30 pm the latest. That way you have time to get tickets to the fire dance show (listed below).
Kekeck Fire Dance show
The Kekeck Fire Dance show is a cool culture experience. The start time is usually around sunset but you'll have to enter early to grab a seat. Every time I go it's packed! The show takes place on top of a cliff in Uluwatu that is by the ocean and it happens at sunset… so you can imagine how stunning it looks.
Tickets sell out fast for the show and you can only purchase them the day of. I believe at 4:30p or 5:00pm tickets go on sale. Typically your drive can help you out with this. In my experience the driver will usually wait in line for you so you can go explore the Uluwatu temple while he sorts out tickets. That being said, once you get your ticket it’s wise to go grab a seat at least 30 minutes before the show starts as seats fill up fast and you want to make sure you have a spot (and aren’t left to standing).
Dinner On The Beach
Once the Fire Dance show ends, have your driver to drive you to Jimbaran Bay for seafood on the beach. When you arrive, you'll see tables set up on the sand. Yes - you eat your dinner as your toes touch the sand. It's amazing. Here you'll get fresh seafood at an affordable price.
Ubud: Zen, Yogi Paradise (Inland)
Ubud is a bit more inland which means the beach isn't close by. It would take about 1 hour to get to Ubud from the airport. That being said, it's full of:
The most zen-like atmosphere that you can imagine
This is the place people think of when they think of Bali. People go for healing and all those good vibes.
The town itself is quite small - pretty much two main roads, although it is expanding outwards. There are plenty of cafes and restaurants to keep you busy. That being said, the nightlife here is next to non-existent.
How Long to Stay
I would suggest two days, maybe three. Any longer and you'll be bored. After a few days you’ll feel like you’ve seen most of what there is to see in Ubud.
What to Do/ My Favourites
You must also go to Tukie's Coconut shop for THE most phenomenal coconut ice cream ever.
The Yoga Barn is also a must too. It had one of the best yoga classes I've ever had in my life. It's not your typical yoga studio. It's a hidden, magical space of pure paradise. I finally understand why the Yogis flock here.
Otherwise, hire a driver for the day to hit up:
A Temple. Tirta Empul and Pura Taman Saraswati are popular
Tegalalang Rice Field
Tegenungan Waterfall. Once at the waterfall you can have lunch at one of the beach clubs, atop of the waterfall.
Hiring a driver and car for 8 hours to tour you around costs about 600,000 IDR ($50 CDN, $55 AUD, and $40 USD). This is not per person, it’s for however many people fit in the car so if you have a group it’s an incredible deal.
What to Avoid
Do NOT go to Monkey Forest while you are here. I made the mistake of innocently thinking it was a safe sanctuary for the monkeys until I witnessed staff members intimidating monkeys with sticks and using sling shots to get the monkeys back into the sanctuary area. I've witnessed this on multiple occasions. As a traveller, it's our responsibility to leave this world a better place than when we found it and any place that makes me somewhat question the safety of animals I refuse to support.
Canggu - Chill, Surf Beach Town
I saved the best for last. Canggu is a small, chill, surf beach town. I'm torn whether or not to admit the amazing-ness of Canggu. This town has BOOMED since I was first here in 2015. As much as it has grown with tourists, it's still the least touristy of many of the towns. Trust me, make time for Canggu. You won't be disappointed. Every person who I've suggested to go here underestimates how much time they should have allocated for Canggu. There are also a ton of cafes and restaurants to explore here which I’ll save for another blog post.
How Long to Stay
At least three days. Canggu is spread out and there are lots of cafes and restaurants to see. I live here and I'm still not bored of it yet. But if you're traveling here, three days should give you enough time to get a good taste of Canggu.
What to Do
Check out one of the many beaches, surf spots, restaurants, or cafes. Again, I’ll do another post with all the good cafes and restaurants but for now, here are the beaches you should know about in Canggu.
Echo Beach: This is a black sand beach (formed from the volcanic ash). This is a surf beach which means more intense waves. This isn’t an ideal place to swim. It's also a bit rocky but it's a beautiful spot to catch sunset. There are some great spots to grab food and drinks here too. An iconic place to check out is La Brisa. For sunset it's usually at 100K IDR or 150K IDR to enter which you can use towards the purchase of drinks. So really it's just a minimum spend. This is about $10 - $15 CDN or AUD or $8 - $13 USD.
Pantai Batu Bolong: This beach is right off of the iconic Old Man's Bar where everyone goes to party on Wednesday’s and Friday’s. This is a younger crowd - think young, drunk, Australian backpackers.
Also close by is The Lawn, which is a classier spot to chill and enjoy the pool. The Lawn is right on the beach and is a great spot for catching the sunset.
The Lawn and Old Man's close at 1am but on the beach in front of Old Man's starting at 1am is a party on the actual beach. It's called Sand Bar. You're literally dancing on the sand, the ocean touching your toes, and stars in the sky. I LOVE it here. Be careful not to drink the liquor though as it probably has methanol in it. Just stick to the Bintang’s at this spot.
Finns Beach: I'm not sure if that's the official name, but it's the beach that Finns Beach Club is on. Finns is a popular beach club that you can't miss when you head to this beach. Think of Jersey Shore cast and that's the type of people this club is known to attract. So yes, it's cool to check out once for day drinks and sunsets but that's about it. You'll likely have to pay a cover charge, which I believe you can use towards the purchase of drinks but I'm not fully certain. Most beach clubs charge 100K IDR or 150K IDR. This is about $10 - $15 CDN or AUD or $8 - $13 USD.
From a business perspective, Finns doesn’t have a great reputation. You may have heard of the acrobat who was hired by Finn’s to perform but when the equipment failed, the acrobat broke her neck. The company took NO responsibility. The Canggu Community out-lashed with leaving negative reviews on the company’s Facebook page, which the company then removed their reviews section. Not cool, but the reality of Bali is that there are a certain few people in Bali who have all the money and own all the beach clubs/restaurants. Unfortunately money is power here so things get swept under the rug and this was one of them.
Cafes and Restaurants: I have so many recommendations for cafes and restaurants in Canggu that I'll have to do a separate blog post on this. I'll add the link in here once it's up.
Surfing: If you go to any of the main beaches, especially the one by Old Man’s at Batu Bolong you will see a bunch of surf boards for rent and there you can also get an instructor too. I think it’s 50,000 IDR ($4 CDN, $3 USD) to rent a board for an hour or two. I think surf lessons go for 300,000 IDR - 500,000 IDR ($35 CDN/AUD, $27 USD), which should cover 1.5 hours of lessons.
This is just part one of my Bali Guide series. There is so much more to come! Be sure to subscribe below to get updates straight to your inbox.
Other Bali Guide topics will include:
The Different Islands to Check out While in Bali
There are some beautiful islands close to Bali that you must check out. Some are more remote and untouched, and some more touristy, but all of them are stunning and typically have beautiful beaches and crystal blue water. Some of the islands include:
Gili T, Gili Air
Lombok (which unfortunately was the place that got rocked with the earthquakes)
Again, make sure you subscribe below if you want the full guide of The Different Islands to Explore While in Bali.
What you Should Know Before Traveling to Bali
There will be another Bali Guide coming out that will cover everything from how to get around, which drivers to use, how to avoid getting scammed, what you need to know about the alcohol in Bali, insider tips and more! This will make sure you trip goes as smoothly and seamlessly as possible.
The Ultimate Guide to Cafes and Restaurants in Canggu
And finally, stay tuned for the Ultimate Guide to Cafes and Restaurants while in Canggu. I’ll outline my favourite spots for sunsets, food, and co-working.
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