*I’ve been to Bali twice and spent a total of 3 weeks on the island. I absolutely love it! Inside of this Bali Travel Guide, I am going to give you an overview of the island, and provide travel tips and recommendations for things like culture, attractions, food, nightlife and more. Everything you read is based off my own experiences.
General Thoughts on Bali
Despite the negative reputation that Bali has received over recent years, I am here to tell you that Bali is absolutely incredible, and always exceeds my expectations.
As an island and province in south central Indonesia, Bali is about as tropical as an island can get. The climate is hot (sometimes unbearably hot), the ocean is crystal clear and the landscape is filled with greenery. There are literally rice fields everywhere. The fresh fruit and coconuts that grow on the trees are outstanding. Especially the corn and bananas — they are both sweeter in Bali than anywhere else I’ve tried them!
Aside from the natural beauty of Bali, their culture is fascinating. There are several thousand temples in Bali, based off Hindu beliefs. Believe it or not, Bali has the highest Hindu population in Indonesia (although Indonesia is a predominantly Muslim country).
Each temple in Bali is just as impressive as the next one. They all have similar architectural style and design. You really have to come here for yourself to see what it’s like!
Alright, now a word about the tourists on the island (which has given Bali a bad rep):
Yes, there are tourists everywhere, with a huge portion of them being Australian. The same way that Americans vacation to The Caribbean islands, Australians escape to Bali. The beaches (especially Kuta Beach) are flooded with young Aussies who take just a 5-6 hour flight to get to Bali. There are also a handful of Americans and Europeans that are wandering around the island.
That being said, Bali is so big (there are 3 million people) that you can easily get away from the tourist traps and explore untouched local areas and see the countryside. There are many perfectly maintained rice fields, back alley neighborhoods and natural wonders (think volcanos) around Bali that are worth seeing.
Transportation around Bali island is efficient (although quite hectic) — you can rent a motorbike for just $5 USD/day and drive around wherever you like. However, be warned that the streets are super narrow, busy, and there is ALWAYS traffic. On any given road, expect to see cars, trucks, taxis and a LOT of mopeds weaving in and out of every direction. But somehow, all drivers flow together smoothly to make it a relatively safe environment (please remember to wear your helmet).
Bali is Cheap! Everything from taxis to accommodations to food is very cheap. As long as you avoid the touristy restaurants (around Kuta Beach & Seminyak), you can get a delicious local Balinese meal for $2-3USD. Additionally, my friends and I hired a private driver to take us around for 8 hours and it was only $30 total. Not too shabby.
Side note — The currency in Indonesia (called Rupiah) is REALLY inflated. Just to give you an example, one USD = 13,500 Rupiahs. When you go to the ATM machine, you will be taking out millions of Rupiahs — haha!
Alright, let’s dive into some quick facts:
– Currency: Indonesian Rupiah (IDR)
– Language: Balinese and Indonesian
– Population: 4.2 million people on Bali island
– The religion breakdown in Bali is 84% Hindu, 14% Muslim, 1% Christian, and 1% Buddhist (although Indonesia is a Muslim country.)
– Bali is known as “The Island of the Gods”
– There are over 10,000 temples on Bali island
– Bali was first inhabited around 2,000 BC
– The Balinese calendar has only 210 days
– The capital city is Denpasar, which is also where the main airport is located
– Bali is part of the Coral Triangle, which is the area with the highest biodiversity of marine species
– Bali is world renowned for it’s various art forms, such as sculpture, painting, woodcarving, handcrafts and performing arts
Culture and People of Bali
Balinese culture is world famous for its sophisticated art forms, such as woodcarving, handcrafts, and performing arts.
Balinese dance shows are also common art, which often display stories from Hindu beliefs. It is worth it to see a live Balinese dance show which happen every night around the island (I’ve been twice)!
The overall lifestyle in Indonesia is similar to rest of the countries in Southeast Asia (especially The Philippines, Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam). Even though living conditions aren’t the highest for most people, almost everyone has a smile on their face and seem to be very happy.
Which brings me to my next point: Balinese people are some of the friendliest, most down to earth, and happiest people that I have ever met. And I am not just saying that to say it — it’s 100% true!
Here’s a quick story about Balinese people — On my very first day in Bali, I arrived a few hours early at our guesthouse before my friends arrived. It was about 10PM as I was waiting, and I instantly made a connection with the local guy working at the guesthouse and his friend. They were about my age. After chatting for about an hour, they invited me on a journey, so I hopped on the back of their motorbike and they drove me to a local grocery store to buy a local liquor called “arak.” We played drinking games all night and had a great time together! One of the guys monkey climbed up a tree to get me a fresh coconut, and it was awesome.
Just like those two guys, everyone else I met around Bali were extremely kind and welcoming. I mean, just look at the smile on this guys face!
However, you do have to watch out for scams — like street vendors, taxi drivers and anyone else that deals with tourists. Be aware of these greedy people, and just use your common sense (as I’d advice you to do all around Southeast Asia).
What to Do in Bali?
You can never run out of things to do in Bali!
Almost everywhere in Bali has something to offer. You will find many street markets selling cheap hand made goods, shirts, souvenirs, bags and all other gifts in different parts of the island. Make sure to bargain a lot at markets, because they will try to over charge you!
My favorite place in Bali was Ubud, and I highly recommend going there. Ubud is the cultural center of Bali and it’s located just an hour drive north east of Kuta. Many people go here to shop, eat, explore nature, experience the arts and crafts, do yoga, and enjoy life. The atmosphere is very laid back and you will get a real sense for Balinese culture in Ubud. When I was there, I hiked an active volcano for sunrise (Mt. Batur Volcano), went to the rice fields, saw some famous temples, wandered thru a monkey forest, drank fresh coffee at a Balinese plantation and explored the old town.
Here’s a look at the view from the top of Mt. Batur volcano during sunrise:
When you’re feeling lazy, head over to a spa and get a $4 Balinese massage for an hour. Or pay $10 to get all the wax cleaned out of your ears! Apparently, it’s a famous thing to do in Bali (though I never tried it).
And the beaches? They are outstanding! Like, straight out of a movie gorgeous. If you’re a sucker for beaches, then you might just never leave Bali. Golden sand, warm ocean water, nice weather and amazing sunsets … You can never go wrong with that.
For a complete list of things to do in Bali, check out my post “10 Things to do in Bali“
The Food in Bali
Indonesia has a large variety of food due to its abundance of supplies (fresh fruits, vegetables and rice). Also, the country is well-known for its fresh spices (such as cinnamon and cloves), which have been of interest to many other countries for centuries. Almost everything you’ll eat is a combination of fried noodles (mie goreng), fried rice (nasi goreng), meat on a stick (satay), some kind of curry and fresh vegetables.
The local booze is called Arak, and as I told you before, I drank it with those locals that I met on my first night. It’s really strong and tastes like shit.. But it gets you drunk! The local beer is called Bintang and it’s good and cheap. You will probably drink a lot of it and buy the classic “Bintang” tank top shirt that everyone sells on the streets.
Fresh fruit is everywhere, and it’s so cheap! My favorites in Bali are bananas, watermelon and coconuts!
Rice is an important staple in Indonesia culture, and this country is known to have some of the greatest rice growers in the world. The location of Indonesia near the equator gives it fertile soil that is perfect for growing rice.
All around the island, you can find open-air food markets which are must-gos for a unique Indonesian food experience. Most street vendors cook their own produce like meat on a stick (satay). They are also the cheapest option for eating!
For a complete list of the best foods in Indonesia, check out my post called Top 7 Indonesian Foods
The Nightlife in Bali
Here we go! Bali is one of the best party islands in the world, and it has as a long and rich history of crazy nightlife and positive vibes.
About 50 years ago, the island was a popular place for hippies and surfers to gather, and its relaxed culture has allowed a thriving party scene to grow over the decades.
Bali is geographically located in the center of Australia, Korea, Singapore, Japan and many other thriving Asian countries, which makes it an ideal place for people to party together in paradise.
Most of the fun in Bali is located around the southern part of the island in Kuta and Seminyak. Here, you’ll find hundreds of bars, pubs and clubs all around the beach.
That being said, keep in mind that most clubs and bars will be packed with foreigners… If you are like me, then you’d prefer to party and socialize with the locals, but unfortunately that’s not the case in Bali. However, that’s not to say that it isn’t fun! I have spent several nights raging all night long and had a wonderful time. I am sure you will do the same 🙂
On any given day of the week, there is something fun going on in Kuta or Seminyak. But nothing really happens until midnight and goes all night/morning.
The top nightclubs to check out in Bali are: Sky Garden, The Bounty, Jenja, District and Mint Bali.
Where to Stay in Bali?
From cheap hostels to luxury condos and hotels, Bali has a large variety of places to stay that will satisfy your budget needs. Below is a list of some of my favorites places to stay around the island.
For a more comprehensive list of accommodations in Bali, check out this page on Agoda.com and book your stay today!
Best Places to Stay in Kuta/Seminyak Area:
For Budget Travelers — The Agung Residence (Book Online Now)
*rates: $12/night for a private cozy room
The Agung Residence is a very low cost hotel, but it’s clean with nice staff and centrally located. If you are just looking for a place to crash, then this is your place. It’s has everything you need, and it’s a comfortable to stay for people on a tight budget.
–> Book your stay at The Agung Residence right here.
For Mid-Price — TS Suites & Bali Villa (Book Online Now)
*rates: $104/night for a superior room with breakfast included
You will be impressed by the friendliness of the staff at TS Suites & Bali Villa. The customer service is fantastic (the staff will even remember your name) and the facilities are clean and nice. There is a 24 hour pool and they even offer airport transportation service. This place is the best bang for your buck.
–> Book your stay at TS Suites Bali and Villas right here.
For Luxury — The Santai (Book Online Now)
*rates: $322/night for a huge bedroom villa (with private pool + breakfast)
The Santai is nothing short of Spectacular. I had the privilege to stay here for 2 nights, and I had a really relaxing time. Our villa was massive, with a private pool, huge living room & bedroom, and an amazing outdoor bathroom (with 2 showers and a bathtub). It was spotless clean, and the staff is very kind and helpful. Highly recommended for a luxury stay in Bali!
–> Book your stay at The Santai right here.
For Luxury — Four Seasons Bali (Book Online Now)
*rates: $670/night for a 1 bedroom villa with private pool + breakfast)
Not only is this the best hotel in Bali, but it’s one of the most beautiful and desirable properties on the planet! I stayed in a full-renovated and redesigned Premier Ocean Villa for a night and I was blown away by the 5-star service, the incredible views and the delicious restaurant. We had our own infinity pool overlooking Jimbaran bay — can you believe it? Highly, highly recommend staying at FS Bali at Jimbaran Bay during your trip for an unforgettable experience.
–> Book your stay at the Four Seasons Bali right here.
Best Places to Stay in Ubud:
For Budget Travelers — The Unique Homestay (Book Online Now)
*rates: $11/night for a standard room with breakfast
All budget travelers should check out the “Unique Homestay” for exactly what you’d expect — a unique homestay! The rooms are comfortable with hot water and A/C, and the made-to-order breakfast is delicious. The owner and staff of this hotel will make sure that you have a nice stay, and they will give you some nice recommendations around town.
–> Book your stay at Unique Homestay right here.
For Mid-Price — Anumana Ubud Hotel (Book Online Now)
*rates: $104/night for a big suite with lagoon view (breakfast included)
This hotel is perfect, and a great value for the money. The staff is very accommodating, delivering flawless service. The hotel infrastructure and location are both excellent, as our the clean rooms. It also has a rating high 9.1 on Agoda!
–> Book your stay at Anumana Ubud Hotel right here.
For Luxury — Hanging Garden of Bali (Book Online Now)
*rates: $554/night for a duplex family pool villa (with breakfast)
Look no further if you want luxury in Ubud, as this is the best place in the city. Relaxing ambiance, great atmosphere, nice people and tasty eats. It’s located in the middle of a lush, tropical forest, but not too far away from all the tourist attractions of Ubud (rice fields, monkey forest, etc). Wait until you see this place with your own eyes!
–> Book your stay at The Hanging Garden of Bali right here.
Thank you for reading my post, and I hope you enjoy Bali! Please write all of your questions in the comments below, and I’ll answer them 🙂