Bali travel guide 2019: the complete guide for your Bali trip
Your Bali trip is booked, you’re in the process of sorting out all travel preparations and sussing out where to go and what to do. This Bali travel guide is exactly what you need! We’ve gathered all the must do’s, best places to stay and things to think about before departure. We cover things such as where to stay in Bali, why you should visit Ubud, which beaches you don’t want to miss out on, where to find stunning Balinese sunsets and sunrises, and even share practical details so you won’t have any inconveniened surprises. Make sure you save this guide to your favourites or print it out before you go so you can be sure to have the best Bali trip ever!
Where to stay in Bali?
Still sussing out where to stay in Bali? We get it. There are so many places to visit, and every part of the island has its charm. It can be overwhelming to pick a spot as every location seems to have something to offer. To give you insight into the beach towns in the south this Bali travel guide lays out a short and sweet introduction to the most popular towns on ze island.
Staying in Kuta: great beaches and nice parties
Are you into great beaches and awesome parties? Kuta is where it’s at. This Aussie suburb has a vibrant nightlife, easy waves to surf and is great for shopping. There are a number of impressive clubs where you can party like there is no tomorrow. From Kuta you can easily get to neighbouring areas such as Tuban and Legian, two nice beach towns that are more or less an extension of Kuta.
Staying in Seminyak: hip and happening
If you’re into a classier stay with high-end restaurants, luxurious villas, relaxing spas, nice white sandy beaches and awesome trendy boutique shops, Seminyak is your pick. You’ll find a number of fancy bars and beach clubs and nightlife can get pretty special with some of the hottest trendy venues. During the day it’s easy to beach bum it all out on the beach where surfers can catch some easy waves. At night you’ll hit one of the sleek bars while watching the sunset before trialling one of the fancy restaurants and diving into the vibrant nightlife.
Staying in Canggu: Hipster surf spot with great food options
Canggu is famous for its hipster vibes and chilled out surf spots. It used to be one of those hidden gems in Bali, but is now well-known for its healthy food options, hippie shops, and nice hangouts such as Finn’s Beach Club and Deus. Canggu’s beaches have black sand, are narrow and pretty crowded these days. It’s a big contrast with Kuta and Seminyak. Nevertheless, it’s super popular as surf is good and the next best café is always around the corner.
Staying in Uluwatu: Hidden beaches and great surf
Uluwatu in the Bukit Peninsula is a great spot when you want to avoid the main crowds. The Bukit Peninsula has the most chilled out vibe you’ll find on the island. With the only real partying happening on Sundays and Wednesdays in Single Finn it’s the perfect location to chill out, surf, work on your tan and enjoy stunning sunsets. The Bukit is also one of these places on Bali where you can still have the feeling of explorations. With many hidden beaches you can easily get lost and end up on a little local spot with next to no people there.
Besides world-class surf and hidden beaches Uluwatu is well-known for the stunning Uluwatu Cliff-Temple. An awesome temple that is recommended to visit around sunset for awesome photo’s!
Staying in Sanur: relaxed beach town
You may not find this cute beach town in many other Bali travel guides but in our opinion Sanur is worth your while! Sanur is a seaside town in the southeast of Bali. It’s a great spot for couples and families seeking a relaxing beach holiday. As the beaches are protected by the reef you don’t have high waves crashing into them. This makes it very safe for kids to swim by themselves – something that you don’t find at the other beaches in southern Bali. From May through September the wind conditions in Sanur are perfect for kite- and wind-surfers. Besides that, you’ll find that Sanur offers great conditions year-round for supping or taking a boat out to the reef and surf some of the easy breaks of Sanur. Besides a few bars with some live music you don’t find much going on in the evenings which makes it perfect for people looking for an easy and quiet holiday.
Good to know, if you like to explore other parts of the island then Sanur is an ideal choice as it’s easy to get to anywhere without too much traffic. Read all about the things to do in Sanur, Bali.
Check out our Bali Beach hotels and resorts guide for our hotel recommendations for each town.
Staying in Ubud: Cultural heart of Bali
If you’re not that much into beaches and seek a different kinda holiday, then Ubud makes a great base. Ubud is the cultural heart of Bali and is surrounded by famous rice paddies, fascinating temples, awesome waterfalls and amazing jungle. Great ingredients for adventure trips!
The food scene in Ubud is off the chart with new awesome new restaurants popping up regularly. Another great thing about this artistic town is that it has a spiritual character which also attracts interesting people. Everywhere on Bali you’ll find yoga retreats but those in Ubud truly have something special due to its spiritual atmosphere.
Check out our favourite Ubud activities.
Things to do in Bali
This Bali travel guide wouldn’t be complete without a list of awesome things to do in Bali. Bali is an island full of diversity and offers something for everyone. From a relaxing beach life, a rich food scene, to its spiritual character, mind-blowing nature, and fascinating culture. This magical place has something on offer for everyone!
Beach bumming and catching waves on one of the amazing beaches
In the south of Bali, especially the west coast of southern Bali, you’ll find world-class surfing nearly everywhere. From easy beach breaks in Legian, Kuta and Seminyak to challenging reef breaks in Uluwatu. If you’ve never surfed but are keen to try Bali is a great spot for learning. Opt for a 2-hour surfing lesson and learn how to duck dive, stand up, and catch some of the best Balinese waves on your holiday!
Watch the sunset into the Indian Ocean
Being an island, Bali is, of course, famous because of its many beaches. Whether you’re travelling alone, with friends, or with your partner: you cannot miss out on watching one of the magnificent sunsets into the Indian Ocean. Tanah Lot, Uluwatu and Jimbaran are known for its perfect sceneries at sunset.
Go eat pray love and dive into the spiritual scene
Liking them hippie vibes and spiritual scenes? Go and eat your hippie heart out in Ubud. You’ll find fortune tellers in every way possible: tarot readers, palm readers, spiritual healers, numerologists and everything in between. If you don’t want to waste time we provide some suggestions in our Bali travel guide, like a spirituality experience based on the popular book ‘Eat, Pray Love’. During this adventure, you’ll start with a spiritual walk through nature, to then take a 1,5-hour yoga class, and eat some of the best organic and vegan food you’ve ever had. You can also go for a spiritual cleansing and healing tour in Ubud, where your mind and soul will be purified at the Bali Holy Spring Temple.
Visit one of the islands next to Bali
This Bali travel guide wouldn’t be complete without mentioning the islands next to Bali: Nusa Cenningan, Nusa Lembongan and Nusa Penida. These islands are little slices of Bali that truly offer something special. On these islands, you’ll experience true island life as nothing and nobody ever seems to be in a hurry. Especially Nusa Penida has a lot of highlights to offer which makes it great for exploring. If you’re into the funderwaterzone than a stay on either one of the island is a must. Diving can get tricky due to high currents but the manta rays, healthy corals and mola mola sunfish make it worth your while.
Although geographically they don’t belong to Bali, the Gili Islands are also easy to visit from the mainland of Bali. With no motorized transport on any of the Gili islands, you’ll find yourself in flipflop paradise with picture-perfect beaches and nice cold beers.
Read our complete Nusa Penida guide.
Get your temple fix
The Hindu culture left Bali with more temples than you can visit in a week. In this Bali travel guide we won’t go into all the temples you can visit, but we most certainly can recommend to visit at least a temple or two. Just to get an idea of what Balinese culture has to offer. Our favorite temples are the mother temple: Besakih – in the northeast of the island, the Tirta Empul temple east of Ubud, and the Uluwatu temple on the stunning cliffs in Uluwatu.
Check out all our recommended temples and Bali temple tours.
Eat your way through the island of the Gods
You can’t say you’ve visited Bali if you’ve not explored its rich culinary scene. Ubud, Seminyak, and Canggu are the three most popular areas when it comes to food. Many restaurants offer mouthwatering fusion dishes, authentic Balinese meals and/or super healthy food options. If you’re keen to let yourself be pleasantly surprised then go on of the awesome food safari’s: street food in Bali, best restaurants in Seminyak or the best restaurants in Jimbaran
Explore the island with a private driver
Are you keen to get a taste of all that Bali has to offer? Book a private driver who will proudly show you all the amazing spots his island has to offer. You can explore the island in 10 hours with visits of your choice or recommendations by your driver.
Get out on a day-tour adventure
If you’re in for some day trip adventures then we suggest you look into wild water rafting on the Ayung river or the Telaga Waya river – perfect if you want to get away from the hectic city and just be surrounded by nature. Also, a Quad drive around the island, the waterbomb park or a volcano trek will get your adrenaline pumping.
Diving around Bali
South East Asia is known for its incredible diving opportunities, and some of the best diving spots are those in Bali. If you’ve never tried diving before and want to get familiar with the underwater world, we suggest you to do a trial dive in Padang Bai. During 9 hours you’ll get familiar with the diving equipment in shallow water and the basic diving techniques. This is the perfect choice if you’re afraid to get claustrophobic underwater – with a trial dive you’ll stay close to the surface of the water and you’ll be able to judge whether diving is for you or not.
If you feel more secure and want to literally dive into a new adventure, you can go for your 3-day PADI open water course. If you’re not feeling the commitment but still want to explore the underwater world you can always go snorkelling at Tulamben in Bali.
Bali Travel Guide: practical stuff
Before packing your bags, there are a few practical things you should know. And our Bali travel guide wouldn’t be complete without mentioning them.
Passport and visa
Before departing from your home country it’s a good idea to check the passport requirements for Indonesia for your nationality. In many cases your passport needs to be valid at least 6 months after you depart from Indonesia. If this is not the case, you won’t be allowed on your flight to Bali and your ticket will not be refunded.
Another must-check are the visa requirements. Visa requirements for Bali have become less complicated over the past years, but you still need to check out the different visa options to see what fits your trip best. On arrival, Bali gives you a Visa on Arrival (VOA), which is free of charge. With this VOA you can stay a maximum of 30 days. If you want to stay longer you can get a tourist visa on arrival for around IDR 500.000 which you can extend one time with 30 days which gives you a total of 60 days to explore Bali and other parts of Indonesia.
Bali Belly: is it real and how to prevent it!?
The last thing you want during your holiday is to rush to the toilet every other second while you could spend your time on the beach, climbing a volcano or trialling delicious food. Traveller’s diarrhoea, also known as Bali Belly, is caused by consuming contaminated food and water that contain bacteria, viruses or protozoans. Because of poor sanitation, these pathogens can also sometimes appear in your food. You can prevent Bali belly by being cautious about how and where you eat. Don’t eat of a wet plate, don’t drink water from the tap, and always check the restaurants you’ll eat for hygiene. The more western places are usually not a problem but when you get more local it’s good to check what kind of guests visit the restaurant and how clean they keep the place.
If you do get sick, we advise you to drink lots of water and rehydration drinks. Visit a doctor who will prescribe you antibiotics to get you back on your feet. In any case we suggest you to avoid drinking alcohol and eating spicy food.
Bisa bicara Bahasa Indonesia???
The language spoken in Bali is Indonesian, also known as Bahasa Indonesia – this literally means “Indonesian Language”. Bahasa Indonesia is the language that gets spoken throughout all of Indonesia, however, each island (and sometimes region) has its own dialect. Balinese is a completely different language than Javanese and both also don’t sound like Bahasa Indonesia. Especially in the south but generally in most areas of Bali the locals have no problem at all speaking English. In many cases, they even speak another foreign language such as Dutch, German, French or Chinese.
The local currency in Bali is the Indonesian rupiah. When taking the notes from the ATM you’ll feel like a millionaire as 1 million rups equals about AUD 100/USD 70/EUR 60/GBP 55. At the ATM you receive either 50.000 or 100.000 notes. Depending on the ATM you can take out 1,250,000 up to 3,000,000 at once.