BALI is one of the most trending travel destinations currently, and rightly so. Its rich culture, laid-back lifestyle and lush landscapes coupled with stunning beaches make it a coveted vacation spot especially amongst young crowds. Bali also happens to be the perfect tranquil destination for learning the art of slow living. Endless beaches to surf, sunbathe or indulge in adventurous activities if you’re the intrepid kind. A myriad of hiking trails waiting to be explored all over the island dotted with spectacular waterfalls. Ridge walks through acres of lush green paddy fields watching the sun set gradually over the horizon. Magnificent temples can be spotted almost everywhere you go, each with a typical Balinese entrance bearing intricate carvings from mythology.
Bali at its best :
Bali weather is humid almost year round. The best time to visit the island would be between May – September to avoid crazy rains and hot sticky weather.
Getting cheap flights to Bali wasn’t an issue but what we didn’t know was that cheap flights would actually cost us money during the journey. Pick airlines wisely. If you’re booking through travel website, read terms and conditions. Avoid having 2 different PNR numbers on one way flight. We booked AirAsia (via Goibibo)enticed by their prices. The flight itself wasn’t bad but we hit some lows. Check-in luggage charged, no water and no entertainment in-flight.
The process of checking in baggage, going through immigration, security check and running towards what seemed like the farthest possible gate of the airport with 2 bags each, is much faster when you don’t have a family of 6 in tow.
Stay in Bali:
Lodging options in Bali can overwhelming. Deciding on what you intend to do in Bali will help in picking a location for your stay. For beach lovers and surfers, I would suggest staying close to Canggu, Seminyak or Sanur. Stay in Ubud to be centrally located to major attractions. Economically speaking, its best to stay in a villa instead of resort or hotels, when you travel with family. You get privacy, custom made meals and almost no restrictions. For couples, there are countless high-end resorts to choose from. Take a look at Puri Santrian along Sanur coast. Our obvious choice was Airbnb. Picking one from the exhaustive list of luxury villas was made easier by our decision to stay near a beach. We stumbled upon an amazing 3-bedroom villa with an infinity pool right next to Mengening beach. It came with kitchen staff, security, van with a chauffeur and great views. Eureka! Our host and his staff were gracious and welcoming.
Classic Balinese cuisine revolves around pork. If you’re not a fan then Bali has a plethora of organic, vegan and vegetarian food options. That being said, these options are mainly found in touristy towns like Canggu, Seminyak, Ubud and North Kuta. The lesser known towns may not have anything sans anchovies. Vegetarians stick to Curries, Gado Gado and Pisang goreng. For enthusiastic foodies, I would recommend trying the classics – Nasi Goreng, Mie Goreng, Nasi Campur, Bubur Ayam and Sate. Surprisingly, Mexican and Indian cuisine is not hard to find in Bali. Fruits are in abundance all over Bali. Treat yourself with the sweetest and juiciest mangoes, watermelons, pineapples, dragon fruit, kiwis, passion fruits and all varieties of exotic tropical fruits that are cheap and easily available in roadside markets (Haggle!) . USD 8 per person is more than sufficient for a good meal.
$1 = IDR 13100 or more
INR 1 = IDR 1000
In-flight exchange rate is usually lower. Get it exchanged from a reputed agency and beware of scammers who try to distract you while counting bills.
Driving around Bali:
Bali is not excessively developed. They have roads but 80% are two-way single lane roads. Given that, you can anticipate traffic jams on most of the roads during the day. Locals prefer mopeds and motorbikes. Except near the airport and in Denpasar, I did not notice many taxis and buses. Mopeds are easily available on rent. Gas isn’t very expensive unless you go towards the non-residential remote areas. We had a rental car for the family. Parking is available at almost every tourist attraction with a fee. Always download google maps for offline use, its a savior! Not all people understand English but you can point for directions and use few Balinese words like “Warung” meaning restaurant, “Bintang” meaning beer, “Samma Samma” meaning Thank you.
Visiting tourist attractions:
Bali has its own quirky rules to impose certain restrictions at few places like temples. Temples must be entered with a sarong tide around your waist like a skirt. Menstruating women are forbidden from entering a temple. Almost every attraction has an entry fee which ranges from USD 2-15. A bottle of water around such attractions will usually cost higher than supermarkets. Beware of scammers around! They try to make money off of almost everything.
Plenty of activities await for you in Bali. If you’re an avid surfer, Bali has an entire coastline of beautiful pro-surf beaches. There are a number of surfing schools available if you’d like to pursue the sport. Scuba diving, snorkelling and sea-walk tours are available at Sanur beach, Tulamben wrecks and Nusa Penida island. The less trodden paths in Bali are enough to keep a hiker busy. Nothing like spending a day at spa, getting pampered and leaving your worries behind. Eat, swim repeat at your own time in your private villa. People take up cooking lessons at resorts. Bike through paddy fields, savor local organic produce, gorge on healthy acai bowls at Nalu Bowls, sip on fresh fruit juices and watch days float by effortlessly at quaint cafes. Shop your heart out in this boho land. Find chic pieces for your wardrobe or hippy artifacts for your house. Bargain at every stop!
Markets in cities like Ubud, Canggu, Seminyak, Denpasar are loaded with unique and alluring artifacts waiting to catch your eye and travel back home with you. Personally, I loved the cane bags, straw totes and hats, multicolored sarongs and other cool stuff. Being a responsible traveler entails shopping locally to help the locals with their business. However, that does not mean you can’t bargain! There’s no guilt in bargaining because anyway they overcharge tourists so you’re just paying what you think the commodity is worth.
Places to see in Bali:
1. Waterfalls– Bali has some hidden gems all over the island. You just need to put on your hiking shoes and mark your route to all the pristine waterfalls, some of them untouched by tourists. If you don’t wish to go too far, hit the Tegenungan waterfall south of Ubud. Driving north will take you to Sekumpul and Gitgit falls. Tibumana waterfall is my favorite.
2. Islands nearby – Book boat rides from Sanur in advance to go to Lombok and Nusa Penida islands. It takes more than an hour (and a strong gut) to reach Nusa Penida via fast boats. Highly recommend carrying your own lunch/snacks and water. You have to tread through knee deep water to get onto the boat and the rides are rough. Angel’s Billabong, Broken beach and Kelingkling lookout are the most breathtaking picturesque locations on the island. Reef of the island has some of the best marine life so carry your snorkel set, a GoPro and book a tour in advance. Hike down Kelingkling is pretty treacherous and more so while coming back up.
Some tourists prefer to ride bikes on Nusa Penida but honestly I found the 4 x 4 car rides taxing enough to not imagine myself treading on a bike. Roads aren’t the best here and the island is pretty unkempt.
3. Rice terraces – Lush green paddy fields are almost everywhere in Bali but Tegallalang rice terraces are open to visitors(with a fee) for a walk through. Tourists typically spend about a couple of hours here. Hiking or sport shoes, hats are a must.
4. Volcanoes– Bali sits on the ring of fire. Mount Agung, Mount Batur and Mount Bratan are three most famous and active volcanoes in Bali. A hike to Mount Agung is worth the effort. Sadly, it was on high alert and the area around was evacuated when I was in Bali.
5. Temples– I can’t really put down a list of all the temples in Bali because I’d be writing for days. Here are the popular ones – Tanah Lot, Pura Lempuyang, Pura Ulun Danu Batur, Pura Ulun Danu Buyar, Pura Agung Besakih and Goa Gajah. Again, almost all of them have an entry fee. I know its weird to pay for a temple visit but that’s Bali!
I had a hard time planning this trip because there was so much to see and so little time. It was unfair. I’m pretty sure I’m going to be back in Bali to explore the rest of it. I have only scratched the surface yet.
Any questions regarding above details are welcome. All the details are my personal opinions. I’m just an email away if you need help with your Bali itinerary.