Travelling To Bali For First Timers
Travelling to Bali for the first time? When people learn I’ve travelled to Bali many times in the past 15-20 years they hit me up for all the best tips for travelling to Bali. I’ve been asked by Kevin’s daughter to write this post especially for people travelling to Bali for the first time.
The following tips and guide about travelling to Bali are completely based on my first-hand experiences plus a few tips from the many friends that holiday in Bali regularly. You’ll notice their input around the best Bali surf report and best places to surf in Bali as I’m not a surfer.
Best Travel Tips for Newbies Travelling To Bali
1. Safety – Is it safe to go to Bali?
You’ve read the Bali travel warnings, had a few discussions (maybe some heated ones!) and worked out that it’s safe to travel to Bali. Let me assure you it is completely safe for you to take your vacation or holiday in Bali.
Of course, just like any other travel destination, I’d always err on the side of safety, not stupidity. Don’t do anything you wouldn’t do at home and remember no matter where you travel outside your home country you are a guest, so observing local customs, religions and culture are a must.
There are two main religions in Bali, Hindu which the Balinese will love to explain to you is different from the Indian Hindu religion. When you are there ask, don’t be shy, the Balinese love it when people from other countries ask about Balinese culture.
The other religion is Islamic. Indonesia has the highest population of Muslim people in the world. Please remember, that although you are holidaying in Bali the rules and government come under Islamic law and may differ considerably from your home country.
2. How To Get To Bali
Unless you cross from Java via a ferry to Gilimanuk on Bali’s west coast, getting to Bali will probably happen for you via your chosen airline. You will land at the Bali Indonesia airport, called Ngurah Rai International Airport, also known as Denpasar International Airport.
Unless you fly with the national airline Garuda your plane will most likely stop on the airport’s apron. You’ll be met by a bus and driven to the main arrival hall where you will pass through immigration, pay your visa on arrival and clear customs.
Since the new airport opened this has been a very quick process with the longest wait at the baggage carousel in our experience.
You’ll definitely notice the humidity as it’s fairly high all year round with the “wet season” from October-April. Although in March this year when we were travelling to Bali we noticed the first few days cooler and less humid than Brisbane.
Clearing customs you’ll walk through a small duty-free store to the arrival’s area where you’ll be met by your Bali driver if you’ve pre-arranged one or a taxi. Just as a side note we have a great, friendly driver we use in Bali if you’d like his details either let me know below in the comments section or over on my Facebook page.
3. Bali When To Go
The Bali peak season is December and January so unless you want to celebrate Christmas, New Year, fight the crowds AND pay more for your accommodation I’d choose another time of year.
Some of the best months to visit Bali are March as it’s pretty quiet and accommodation will be at it’s cheapest. In fact, you could quite easily walk in off the street and negotiate your own price if you can bargain like a pro. If you haven’t haggled for anything before read these tips before you go.
August to mid-October are some other months worth considering when you are travelling to Bali too. It’s shoulder season and if you time it right there are Australian school holidays during this time too which may suit you if you are travelling to Bali with kids.
4. What To Pack For Bali
I’ve dedicated a whole post about what to pack for Bali and your essential Bali packing list here. My main tips are pack light and do some Bali shopping if you leave something behind that you realise that you can’t live once you arrive. You can pick up just about anything there.
5. Bali Food and Drinks
Bali food prices range from cheap and cheerful for less than 10,000 rupiahs (AUD $1) at a local warung or food stall to high-end at around AUD$100 excluding wine. The cost of food in Bali varies from place to place and has become a drawcard for some of the world’s well-known chefs (think Jamie Oliver).
From cheap street food to 5-star restaurants and bars one of the top reasons to visit Bali alone is the food. Every country in the world is represented in Bali restaurants which is very different from when I first started travelling to Bali.
You’ll love the relaxed rules of Bali, cafes overlooking the rice fields, or the bars and restaurants right on the beach while you sip a cocktail or two or a local Bintang beer whilst watching the sunset. You’ll swear you’ve died and gone to heaven!
Some of the best of Bali locations to enjoy great food and views include the areas of Umalas, Seminyak, Legian, Ubud, Sanur, Jimbaran Bay and Uluwatu.
Beware tho Bali food can be hot! The Balinese love sambals and chillies and although I love a bit of heat in my food sometimes it’s a bit over the top for me even if I ask for medium heat. Don’t worry though all the wait-staff are fully aware of our delicate western palates and unless you really hate the heat of chilli you’ll find the dishes quite mild.
Seafood appears on most menus and rice is a staple and accompanies most Indonesian or Balinese dishes.
Get ready to drink a cocktail or few when you visit Bali. They range in price from AUD$7-$18 depending on the cocktail and the venue. Wine is a ridiculous price because of the import duty imposed, expect to pay at least AUD$20 per bottle for very average wine, no make that below average.
If you are a wine snob then brings lots of cash or be prepared to load up your credit card. You CAN drink some great wines in Bali but they will probably be at LEAST 2-3 times what you usually pay at home.
That said I have been known to drink some of the local wines, the Chardonnay and Pinot Grigio’s are more palatable now than they have previously been due to a mixture of Australian wines with Balinese wines or so the story goes.
No doubt if you’ve been doing your research you’d know the local beer is Bintang. Pre my gluten-free days I’ve had a beer or two in Bali and really enjoyed it, and I’m not a beer drinker! Apparently, for those that are beer drinkers they are pretty light, this is due to the humidity, time of day, % of alcohol, the venue… ? and most important whoever is telling you that story! It’s beer with alcohol so my theory is if you drink enough of it, you will get drunk, regardless!
6. Where To Stay in Bali
Where you stay in Bali will largely depend on your budget. If you were hoping for an ocean view for $20 per night it’s highly unlikely you’ll find that type of accommodation now in Bali, those days are gone!
Kuta is the area if you are looking for all night drinking and clubbing. Legion is ideal for families and couples, as is Seminyak. When I first visited Seminyak it certainly wasn’t a destination for shopping Bali. How that has changed! So many boutiques and market stalls line the streets. You’ll also find tailors there if you want a favourite piece of clothing replicated.
Umalas and Canggu are now taking the overflow from Seminyak as the Bali’s south-west coastline and tourist destinations head north up the coast. Many tourists believe it’s a long way from the action. The reality is just a short taxi ride of 5-10 minutes with the pricey sum of AUD$3 or even shorter ride if you hire a motorbike.
Sanur is a quieter area and is very similar to the Bali I remember 10 years ago. The hype of southern Bali hasn’t caught up yet, plus you’ll still find lots of great restaurants and shopping there too plus a beautiful beach.
Click here to read about all things Sanur here. Where to stay, what to do, where to eat and more.
Ubud has grown since that book that made it oh-so-popular. Busy is a word I’d have used about 8 years ago to describe Ubud, now it’s hectic. Traffic jams are common as they are in Seminyak and there is no relief from the heat and a nice cool ocean breeze in Ubud either. You’ll just have to rely on your hotel or villa pool to cool off!
Ubud is considered by many as a “hippie place” if you are into yoga, art, dancing, anything organic, are a vegetarian then you’ll feel quite at home in Ubud. Despite the hecticness of the streets and the heat, I still love it!
7. Places to Visit in Bali
Some of the best places to visit in Bali are the ones that you stumble across yourself on the way to the place someone else has recommended to you! This has happened to us countless times, don’t be afraid to turn left or right out of your accommodation and walk. Sure motorbikes are great for getting you through the traffic and out of traffic jams but walking is where you’ll meet some great people, stumble across a fantastic restaurant,
Sure motorbikes are great for getting you through the traffic and out of traffic jams but walking is where you’ll meet some great people, stumble across a fantastic restaurant, discover a beautiful therapist and the best massage you’ve had in a long time or the little boutique with clothing that fits you perfectly and you’ll keep returning to for years to come.
Gili Trawangan and Lembongan are Bali islands we’ve visited recently leaving the usual touristy places of southern Bali. Next visit we’ll head back to Lembongan Island for 4-5 nights. If it’s total relaxation, mixed with a few watersports and good food then Lembongan could be for you.
If you are interested in the Gili islands off the coast of Bali I’ve written a post here on where to eat, stay and play on Gili Trawangan.
After heading around Bali on a road trip for 4 weeks, my list for some of the best places to go in Bali has changed. Amed now features on my list. It’s a must visit especially if you are heading to Bali diving or snorkelling. We saw more dive shops in Amed than anywhere else on Bali. Mainly because of the USS Liberty wreck. The ship hit by a Japanese torpedo in 1942 lies just off the coast of Tulamben a short hour’s drive from Amed.
We saw more dive shops in Amed than anywhere else on Bali. Mainly because of the USS Liberty wreck. The ship hit by a Japanese torpedo in 1942 lies just off the coast of Tulamben a short hour’s drive from Amed.
It’s well worth the drive if you are going to Bali and visiting Amed, as the wreck is an easy paddle with fins, mask and snorkel from the rocky beach. You’ll spot lots of fish and if you are really lucky you’ll see a black tipped shark or an eel or two!
8. Type of Accommodation
Resorts, hotels and villas are the most popular types of accommodation in Bali. From 5-star to no stars and everything in between. We’ve stayed in resorts, villas and a rustic place or two over the course of 15 years. Now it depends on the type of trip and the duration that determines where we stay.
If you, like most people head to Bali to relax and unwind, then I find there is no better place to do that than in a Villa for the first few days. Villa’s are private, once the staff have come in the morning, made your breakfast, cleaned the villas and pool and made your bed!
Villas are mainly open living except for the bedrooms that are fully enclosed, with air conditioning. Don’t worry if it rains tho as they have bamboo blinds that unravel that keep the rain out.
Villas are usually sprinkled between the gangs (lanes) and rice fields around the Kerobokan, Umalas, Canggu and Ubud areas. We’ve also stayed our entire stay in a Villa, it’s a real home away from home where you have the best of both worlds mixing it with the locals. I love it!
Resorts can be exotic, have some of the most spectacular views and very high end with matching prices. Hotels can be old or new, have small or large rooms and usually have an ensuite.
9. Miscellaneous Tips for Bali
- For a Bali surf report the best place to check the daily surf spots, weather and reports is here
- You will be charged ++ in most businesses that is + 10% government tax and + 5-11% service tax on top of the quoted price unless stated
- Mosquitos surface at dusk so do use a propellant if mozzies find you tasty
- Some dogs in Bali have rabies, those with collars are owned by someone, those without are street dogs
- If you make a mistake, have an accident, run into someone or they run into you, it’s ALWAYS your fault!
- Drugs in Bali are illegal if you buy or take them and are caught be prepared to face a firing squad, I’m not joking, don’t do it!!
- If you are looking for a villa (or other address) in a gang, don’t rely on the numbers of the villas being in sequential order. They are numbered in accordance to the building that was first built in the gang, then the second, third and so on!
Want a specific question answered about travelling to Bali? Ask me in the comments below and I’ll be happy to help.