Airport Notes: It is located in Tuban and not Denpasar as the name suggests. It is the nation’s third busiest international airport preceded by Jakarta and Surabaya. From it, you can easily access Australia, South-East Asia, and the rest of Indonesia. Its new international terminal has fairly modern décor as well as improved signs. The airport has cafes, restaurants and lounges.
Transportation to-and-from the airport: Hotels offer free airport transfers though there are plenty of public taxis available at the airport. Blue Bird Taxi can be flagged down outside the airport. Here’s a tip: the Denpasar airport is actually right in the city of Kuta. Walk out of the airport, and go a couple of blocks north, then flag a Blue Bird taxi from there. It’ll save you a lot of trouble!
Bali Travel Blog – Intra-City Transportation
Bali’s streets are not ideal for walking but it is possible, so is cycling. The Perama bus company’s services are ideal for the budget traveller. There are scheduled bus shuttles that you may use to explore the island’s attractions. Metered taxis are in plenty in Southern Bali with Bali Taksi/Blue Bird being the most reliable. Bemos are flexible and cheapest when shared. Driving is on the left-hand side and somewhat hectic as the island lacks formal driving rules. You are, therefore, better off with a chauffeured rental.
A Note on Taxis: Always ask that your trip be metered. If your taxi doesn’t have a meter, negotiate rates.
South Bali is the most visited with Kuta Beach and the chic Seminyak. Central Bali is its cultural and spiritual center with Ubud. North Bali is characterized by tranquil black sand beaches like in Amed. East Bali, on the other hand, is home to the mighty Mount Agung, an active volcano, and coastal towns like Padang Bai. The Southeastern islands are popular for diving. In West Bali are ferries to Java.
Navigation tips: Get a good map or if you have the internet, use Google Maps – there’s one at the very bottom of this Bali travel blog! Try and memorize your vicinity’s basic geography. For example, once out of the South, the journey is usually either uphill or downhill. Knowing that may come in handy.
Things to do in Bali – This is a copyright-free photo
Best Time To Visit Bali
Average Monthly Minimum And Maximum Temperatures
Average Monthly Hours Of Sunshine
Average Monthly Rainfall Or Snowfall
Bali Travel Blog: Personal Notes
What’s This Place About?
Bali is basically a paradisiac island. Australians are everywhere, there are young surfers everywhere, and there is an intense health and yoga fad going on. Remember that the movie, Eat, Pray, Love, was shot in Ubud, so a lot of Americans and English people head there. What’s the most interesting about Bali is the fact that it is a tiny island in Indonesia that is also the only non-Muslim island of Indonesia. This might be one of the reasons why there so many Westerners that go there to travel, but also to live. Basically, a lot of Westerners move there full-time.
Surprisingly enough, in Amed there are plenty of French people and scuba diving and it is a different vibe altogether than the rest of the island. One more thing – the people, the locals there – are some of the nicest people I have met in any of my travels. They are simply genuine, nice, they smile a lot and they have no bad intentions whatsoever. This is my personal experience.
You know, I was nervous coming out of the airport. People who travel a lot know that the airport is the worst place for touts. In many places in the world like India, some places in southeast Asia, and Africa, there are touts, there are crooks, there are people who want to take your money. But that was not the case at all when I landed at the Denpasar airport
What’s Great and Fun?
Well, Bali is all about enjoying the sun, the beach, the low cost of living, and the surf. For many people, the surf is very important. And, of course, there are plenty of tourist traps. But that is obvious and to be expected because there are so many tourists that go there. On the other hand, you can very easily completely avoid the tourist traps and you can actually find places where you will be the only tourist around. You just have to look for it a little bit. You just need to go a little bit deeper.
Now, Bali is a safe place. It is one of the safest places in southeast Asia. In fact, the only real threat that you will find in Bali is the police. I’ll tell you an anecdote about that. I was in Ubud driving a motorbike and the police had set up, in the middle of the day, a fake one-way street. The main street was a one-way street for the day. It was not like that any other day, it was only that very specific one day that they had set up that one-way street. So, I went in the wrong direction of the one-way street. And my first reaction was, we are in southeast Asia, there are no real laws; they are all suggestions. If you have traveled a little bit in southeast Asia, you know that traffic signs, traffic lights, all of that are just suggestions. I was going the wrong direction without even noticing because there were other motorbikes going in that direction.
Well, a policeman stopped me and before I could do anything, he grabbed my keys from the motorbike. And I was with another person, and that person seemed to be very worried about the situation. So, the policeman took me aside and said, “You were doing something wrong, you cannot do that, you need to give me $25 US.” I managed to negotiate it down to $10, but still, this is the only situation where I felt threatened—that I felt that something could go wrong. Immediately, I talked about that situation with locals and they told me the police are corrupt, stay away from them, they are the only threat. That’s how I feel; I feel this is true.
Again, as I said, the locals are absolutely great. They are happiest, most smiling, positive people, even though it is obvious that not everything is easy in Bali and in Indonesia in general.
What’s great about Bali is that you will find many different vibes. You will have a different vibe in Kuta, that you will have in Denpasar, that you will have in Ubud, that you will have in Amed, and all of the places in between. There are plenty of clubs, electronic music, EDM, and parties of that sort. There are, as well, laid-back pubs with a nice attitude and just cheap cocktails. It is possible to sit at a beach at a cheaper bar where you are by yourself and you can also find places where there are hundreds and hundreds of Westerners all together.
I walked from the airport to my hotel in Kuta. It took me about an hour. As soon as you get out of the airport and you walk out of there, of course there are a lot of taxis and people stressing you to take a taxi and then they try to charge you like $25 for a $2 fare, of course. But if you just walk out of the airport, the city is right there, the city is right in front of you. So, I walked out and I kept walking for about an hour. The beach is right on the west side of the airport. So, you can walk 15 minutes and be right on the beach and the city of Kuta is right in front of you.
The city of Kuta is quite ugly. It is filled with beer-drinking Australians watching Aussie football in ugly pubs on the main drag. There are a couple of gigantic shopping malls close to the beach. The beach in Kuta itself is okay, but the city is really ugly.
Further up north, there is the town of Seminyak. Seminyak is fancier, but still quite cheap by Western standards. There is more of a coastal town vibe with fancier restaurants and bars, some artisanal shopping opportunities like organic clothing, handmade hats, and things like that. You also have larger-scale clubs and restaurants there. The beach is a giant, open air club. So, you can go to Seminyak beach on a Saturday night and you are going to have maybe 2,000 to 4,000 people just partying there with bars and restaurants one next to the other with seating on the beach.
A little bit further north you have Canggu. It is a surfer’s paradise with gigantic waves and there are cheaper accommodations. There are a lot of people who settle there to be entrepreneurs. They want to open a hotel or restaurant. There are bars right next to the beach, but not on the beach itself. It is basically very young surfers that have settled there.
After that, smack dab in the middle of the island, you have Ubud. The city of Ubud is the main tourist attraction of Bali. One of the reasons for that, as I mentioned earlier, is that the movie, Eat, Pray, Love with Julia Roberts was shot there. There are a lot of English and American tourists–a lot of women who go there and want to use it as a spiritual retreat and do yoga like in the movie. Hundreds upon hundreds of opportunities are available to do that in Ubud because there are a lot of yoga studios, a lot of expensive hotels as well as the rice fields. But it is still a beautiful place. It is a bit of a tourist trap, but still a beautiful place.
And then, oddly enough, there is a totally different community where you will find expatriate French people—the city of Amed. It is a tiny town that has black beaches – they’re black because there’s volcanic ashes in the sand. It is a wonderful place to go scuba diving. This is what all of those French people that live there are doing. They are all scuba diving instructors. It is a scuba diving paradise, but also a very laid back place where you can relax on the beach and not be bothered by anyone for hours. On the island, there also are tiny towns where not a single foreigner can be found. These are not part of any tourist guides and neither should they be!
Dark sand on the beaches of Amed – Things to do in Bali – This is a copyright-free photo
Bali Travel Blog: Where to Stay in Bali
Although Bali is not a large island, each beach has its own set of unique features, which means that where to stay in Bali is an important question. Choosing the right beach for your stay in Bali is therefore critical. Ending up on the wrong one may mess up your holiday.
I enjoyed my time in all of the hotels I’ve selected during my time here and all the places I’ve chosen where to stay in Bali.
Pondok Sutya is a small 3-star hotel in Kuta. It’s ideal if you have to go to-and-from the airport or if you want to see Kuta… even if I don’t recommend Kuta.
Seminyak is characterized by its laid back but beautiful sunset beaches and is home to luxury five-star resorts, secluded villas, world-class beach clubs as well as hip sunset venues. It has several dining and nightlife options for the people who decide to choose this place where to stay in Bali.
Canggu is a surfer town and Pande Homestay Canggu is where I stayed, and it’s a good place where to stay in Bali. It’s a very nice 3-star hotel and I’d recommend it to anyone. The hosts are generous, the rooms are beautiful and everything is charming about this place.
Ubud offers a more cultured alternative to the beach scene with its artists’ villages, river valleys and also rice terraced landscapes. To match its backdrop are five-star retreats with amazing spa and wellness programs.
The hotel options in Ubud are a bit more complicated. I stayed in a hotel downtown that I didn’t like, and so I ended up a little bit outside of town at Kenari Guest House, a small family-run hotel. The view on the rice paddies was tough to beat!
Then, Amed, the small town overrun by French scuba diving instructors, and it’s a nice place where to stay in Bali. I stayed at the same hotel for 10 days, that’s how much I enjoyed it. Putra’Lebah Amed Guest House is right on the beach, run by a single family, and offers everything you want!
Satay – Things to do in Bali – This is a copyright-free photo
Glass noodles – Things to do in Bali – This is a copyright-free photo
Bali Travel Blog: Let’s Eat!
Bali Travel Blog – Famous Foods and Specialties
Babi guling (suckling pig)
Bebek betutu (slowly-cooked duck)
Sate lembat (Balinese satay)
Ikan bakar Jimbaran style (grilled fish)
The Best Drunk Food
nasi jingo (rice and side bits that include a little omelette, vegetables, chili sauce and some noodles)
Our Suggestions – Dishes And Restaurants
There are many different restaurant options depending on where you are on the island, yet the best food was consistently found in warungs – small, roadside-type snackbars, usually run by one or two people max. Be aware that expats also have restaurants that they call warungs – especially in Ubud and Canggu – yet the best and cheapest food was found in the warungs run by locals.
The rule is simple: if it’s run by locals and on the cheap, you’ll find the best food. Yet there are a few exceptions to this rule.
In Canggu, there’s a wonderful little restaurant run by expats from Montreal, Canada, called Gypsy. The food there is not only delicious and refined, it’s also relatively cheap. Go, it’s a must.
In Ubud, this hyper-hipster restaurant, this restaurant that is out-of-place and too modern for its own good, that I’d usually avoid like the plague, offers delicious and meticulous food. The beef rendang didn’t have much to do with the traditional version of the dish, but it was one of the best dishes I’ve had in Indonesia. It’s called Waroeng Bernadette.
In Seminyak, famous Australian expat chef Will Meyrick runs restaurant Mamasan. It’s Indonesian and pan-Asian food tortured into pleasing Westerners’ palates. Yet the restaurant is beautiful, service is great and the food was worth it.
And in Ubud, in what is probably the most famous restaurant of all of Bali, Warung Ibu Oka 3 Babi Guling, you can have one of the best dishes in the world, babi guling, or roasted suckling pig. Here’s a video of me getting a bit too excited about what I’m eating:
Bali Travel Blog: Let’s Go For a Drink
Bali Travel Blog – What Do the Locals Drink?
Bintang beer and some sort of rice-based moonshine called arak. It’s sour and around 20 % alcohol.
Drinking in Public
Drinking in Bali is not frowned upon with vendors selling beers on beaches.
Our Suggestions – Bars and Pubs
Bali nightlife slowly starts to come alive when the sun sets. On the western coastline where Kuta, Seminyak and Legian are found is where the action is. Entertainment ranges from dynamic in-house hotel bars to live DJs and even occasional gigs by international acts.
There are also a couple of beach bars between Kuta and Seminyak. They sell cocktails and other drinks. It all depends on your decision where to stay in Bali!
If I had only one bar or pub to suggest on the whole island in this Bali travel blog, it’d be Pretty Poison, in Changgu. Be careful of pickpockets, though: there seems to be a deal between the bouncers and children that come and steal things from party-goers’ pockets.
As regular readers of this column know, I don’t know anything about clubs. Sorry!
Temple in Bali – Things to do in Bali – This is a copyright-free photo
Bali Travel Blog: What to See and Do
There many activities and the ones you choose will depend on your decision where to stay in Bali.
Drink bintang beer or sip a cocktail at one of the trendy beach clubs on the beautiful coastline of Seminyak.
Experience Bali while cycling through Ubud, its villages and its rice fields.
Learn to surf in the perfect waves and amongst the friendly crowds of Legian and Kuta Beach.
Trek up the active volcanic Mount Batur to watch one of the most beautiful sunsets on the island. WARNING: organized crime operates in and around Mount Batur. They’ll force you to bring a “tourist guide” with you. You might get problems with thugs if you don’t pay the “tourist guide”.
Go on a food tasting safari to best sample the island’s food delights.
Explore Japanese shipwrecks, beautiful corals and rich marine life underwater as you snorkel in Amed.
If your idea of a perfect vacation involves beautiful white sandy beaches, the Gili Islands also popular with honeymooners are a must visit.
The Tanah Lot temple sits on a volcanic rock and has the best sunset photo opportunities.
Get a bird’s eye view of Bali as you paraglide over Pandawa beach.
Did you know you could walk underwater? Well at Sanur Beach you can, donning a sea-walker helmet.
Things to do in Bali – This is a copyright-free photo
Bali Travel Blog – Tipping in Bali
Just like in most of Indonesia, it is common to tip if you feel like you have received good service. If there is service charge included in the bill, then you are not required to tip. If there isn’t, 10% of the total cost is a good amount.
Bali Travel Blog: Common Scams & What to Avoid
Bali Travel Blog – Common Scams
The most common scam comes from the police. They will ask for bribes, especially if you are driving (motorcycle or car). The police will pretend that you need to have an international driver’s license to be allowed to drive. They will find ANY POSSIBLE REASON to try to arrest you. It has only happened to me in the city of Ubud, and I have not seen anything happen anywhere else, but we never know.
Mount Batur is teeming with organized crime and bad people. No matter what happens, you’ll have to bribe a man who calls himself a “tourist guide” to climb the volcano. If you don’t pay, you might get in trouble with thugs while you climb. You will not be immune to that if you organize something with guides somewhere else.
Hotels – Where to stay in Bali
There are a few hotel scams, as well. You might show up at a hotel and someone intercepts you before you get there and says, “this hotel is closed and you should come with me”. This is definitely not as common as places like Vietnam, but still be aware that it could happen. Choose where to stay in Bali wisely.
I have not witnessed any pickpockets, anybody on the beach looking suspicious, or anybody stealing things. Nor have I heard of anyone saying that had something stolen on the beach. I have not heard either of any crime whatsoever on Bali, except for corrupt police and on Mount Batur.
Taxis are quite cheap, and if you are traveling as a couple or small group, it is worth it to take taxis from point “A” to point “B”, including the very long distances. For shorter distances, make sure that the meter is on. For longer distances, you might want to negotiate a fixed fee first. This can become a criteria when choosing where to stay in Bali.
Neighborhoods – Where to stay in Bali
I have never heard of problematic neighborhoods however, you have to know that there have been terrorist attacks in the past from insurgent Muslims in Indonesia. The country of Indonesia has the largest Muslim population in the world. Bali is the only island in the country that doesn’t have a Muslim majority and it’s also where most tourists go. It has been a target for quite a while.
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