Bali Rice Paddy
Rice paddy (Photo credit: Unsplash)

Bali Travel Guide

QUICK FACTS

  • The island of Bali has an area of 2,232 sq. miles, with a population of ~4.2 million.
  • The most popular tourist destination in Indonesia, Bali enjoys tropical weather year round.
  • The island is well known for its vibrant combination of exotic tradition, astonishingly beautiful temples and green spaces, fantastic dive sites, varied and magnificent food (the city is full of food stalls and great restaurants), and its friendly and hospitable people.
  • One of the 17,000 islands that makes up the Indonesian archipelago.
  • Nickname: Island of the Gods.

PRACTICAL INFORMATION

  • Currency: Indonesian Rupiah (IDR).
  • Spoken languages: Indonesian (Bahasa Indonesia). English is also widely spoken.
  • Best time to visit: April to August for the best ocean breeze; avoid the rainy season from November to January.
  • Arriving via airport: Ngurah Rai Airport (DPS) offers fixed-fare taxis and public Blue Bird taxis that run on meter. Alternately, major international car rental companies operate at the airport, though it is worth noting drivers need an International Driving Permit.
  • Note: all visitors must possess a passport valid for at least six months after the arrival date. Visa fees can be paid upon arrival at the cost of USD $25 for 30 days. A travel tax of IDR 150,000 is levied on all passengers upon departure.

WHERE TO STAY

  • Some of the best hotel rates are available in areas like Kuta (in the South) or Ubud (situated in the center of Bali), the island’s cultural capital. There are numerous traditional homestay bed & breakfast establishments and small local hotels.  Hotel rates in this area start from just $9/night. Many places have pools and beautiful exotic gardens.
  • Bukit Peninsula is recognized as having the best beaches on mainland Bali, which is a tall order when the island itself regularly tops the best list. Surfers, backpackers and high-end travellers alike can be found fighting over lounge chairs in Dreamland, but for rice paddies, traditional warung and a dose of culture Ubud can’t be beaten. The town has long been recognized as the epicentre of fine arts, dance and music and its central location makes it the ideal base for day trips.
  • Seminyak (next to Kuta) also offers good value accommodation.

GETTING AROUND

  • Public transport in the island is relatively cheap, and distances are usually short. There are a wide range of options, including buses, public ferries, boats, buses, trams, and taxis.
  • Shuttle buses are the preferred option for tourists, as they are quicker than other transport options. In addition, their rates are very reasonable.
  • Perama buses connect the most popular destinations around the island but they are often crowded and need booking one day in advance.
  • Renting a car or a motorcycle is also an option, and gives you the chance to explore the island with much more freedom. Bike rentals are available in many parts of the city, such as Canggu.

BALI NIGHTLIFE

  • Drinking age is 18 (not enforced), no official last call.
  • The nightlife scene is concentrated in the areas of Kuta and Seminyak Beach.
  • Kuta is the area of Bali with the highest number of clubs (also known for its noise and traffic jams). Jalan Legian and Jalan Pantai Kuta often have DJ sets lasting till sunrise.
  • Sanur is upbeat, trendy and popular for its thriving bar scene.
  • Note: very strict laws on drug trafficking haven’t deterred the distribution of illegal substances especially in party areas like Kuta. Visitors are advised to refrain from partaking in the consumption of any drug as the penalty ranges from hefty fines to life imprisonment, if not the death penalty.
  • Warning: recent cases of Ethanol poisoning due to diluted alcoholic drinks served on the island should serve as warning of the practice. Only consume bottled drinks that are opened in line of sight and be quick to call for emergency assistance if experiencing adverse symptoms such as blurred vision, profuse sweating and inability to coordinate movement.

UNIQUE LANDMARKS TO VISIT

  • Visit the Uluwatu Temple to watch the exotic and amazing Kacak dance. Enjoy the dance, shadow puppetry, traditional rites, and gamelan music. The island celebrities many festivals and events every year.
  • Besakih Temple may be one out of the thousands around the island, but it’s also one of the oldest and most important as it was spared by volcanic lava during the 1963 Mount Agung eruption.
  • Le Mayeur Museum is the former residence of Belgian artist Adrien-Jean Le Mayeur and now a memorial collection of his artworks.
  • Bajra Sandhi in front of the Governor’s Office is a monument in testament to the people’s struggle throughout the ages.
  • Tirta Gangga and the water palace rise over rice paddies sloping over hills overlooking the sea.
  • Mandala Wisata Wenara Wana, also known as Sacred Monkey Forest Sanctuary, is home to nearly 500 macaque monkeys.

INTERESTING WALKS

  • Go for a walk through Laplapan, a traditional village near Ubud. Some tours offer the chance to visit local families, during which you can witness Balinese family life and customs (for a truly local experience). Make sure you check out the rice fields.
  • Walk through Ubud to observe the island’s natural beauty. See if you can spot the exotic indigenous bird species, including the Kingfisher. Note: beware of the prices of art and souvenirs in Ubud. If you would like to buy a gift to take back home, a much better alternative would be Badung Market in Denpasar.
  • Jalan Sulawesi in Denpasar is a road of fabric workshops selling their wares- traditional batik being the most sought after.
  • Balinese history comes alive at Renon Square. Perfect for an afternoon walk or a picnic.
  • Campuhan Ridge Walk in Ubud takes the scenic route along irrigation channels and unending fields.
  • La Lucciola Beach is perfect from sunrise to sunset. Bring a towel and a basket or dine at any of the popular restaurants.
  • Bali Bird Park is not just for ornithologists. Discover large garden areas, aviaries, treks through jungle areas and even a cosy café.

LOCAL WISDOM

  • The people of Bali are well known all over Indonesia for their friendliness, politeness, and hospitality. They are gentle and love to smile! They are also very devout people, and their 10,000 temples are but a hint of their religiousness. Please be respectful of their practices.
  • The world’s most expensive coffee is produced here, from the palm civet droppings called Kopi Luwak. Visit the Luwak coffee plantation to learn more.
  • Arguably the best surfing spot on the island is West Bukit. Its scenery is simply amazing, and it is a very quiet place where visitors are can ride some waves or simply relax. Note: the best time to surf in this area is during the dry season. While you can surf in Bali year round, the quality of different spots will depend on the season.
  • Avoid Nusa Dua and Tanjung Benoa – these areas are dirty and polluted, and can pose potential health risks to visitors. Nusa Dua is known for high levels of illegal household waste dumped into the ocean.
  • Warning: be very careful about what you bring into the country. There are strict laws dealing the import of drugs, weapons, fruit, pornographic material, anything printed in Chinese, products made from endangered animal species, etc. Those caught bringing drugs into the country could face the death penalty.
  • Where to find good cheap foodUbud and Seminyak have the best warung for traditional Nasi Jinggo (Jinggo rice with meat and egg served wrapped in banana leaf) Babi Gulling (suckling pig) and Sate Kelinci (skewers of rabbit meat in peanut sauce).
  • Dangerous areas: the most dangerous area of Bali is Denpasar. Kidnappings and drive by shootings are common in this part of the island. In addition, this part of Bali also suffers from a street garbage problem. Beware of aggressive hawkers on the beaches. There is a also relatively high terrorist risk in the Sanur, Ubud, and Nusa Dua areas. Legian and Sanur are notorious for drugs and prostitution. Other parts of the island are generally safe.

RECOMMENDED BALI GUIDE BOOKS

Recommended trip duration: 4-5 days


SEE ALSO:
Bali Travel Guide was last modified: September 26th, 2016 by Nick
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