All things Bali!
Recently, I had a friend ask me about the cities I visited during my stay in Bali. I made her this description with tips for each of the places I went! I figured I may as well share it with the rest of the world, JUST in case you plan to make a trip to the beautiful land of Bali, Indonesia anytime soon.
First of all I need to stress, that out of all the places I have been ever, Bali is at the very top of my list. When I close my eyes and think of my happy place, Bali is it. Bali has the perfect balance of seclusion and hustled and bustle. The energy that I felt arriving to the island was one like I had never felt before. It was as if I came alive there. Seriously. I had never seen more beautiful beaches, kind people, and so much green trees and nature all in the same place.
When I traveled to Bali (in 2012) I stayed for only 12 days. But I’m pretty certain they were the best 12 days of my life.
Financially, the money is simple. Approximately 10,000 rupiahs = 1 dollar. 50,000 rupiahs = 5 dollars. 100,000 r = 10 dollars, etc. I will refer to dollars in this article rather than rupiahs, just for simplistic purposes. But the concept of money is fairly simple. Upon arrival in Bali the entry Visa is $25 (USD preferred) for a 30 day visa. You can pay in AUD as well, but the US currency is always given a better rate. And despite what most people think, the fee is NOT included in any airfare to Bali. It is always bought on arrival.
RENTING A DRIVER:
Rather than paying $30-$70 a person for day trips, you can find a driver on the streets and pay him $30 for 8 hours and have him take you wherever you want to go. We managed to pick up a driver and asked him to take us on a day tour of the best spots in our area. There were 5 of us in the van, so literally $6 dollars each to have our own personalized day trip! Our guy waited for us at every stop with a smile on his face. So good!
WHERE TO FIND HOTELS/HOSTELS:
Depending on your budget and the type of trip you are taking there are several good websites. For our trip we stayed in hotels (there were three of us per room, making hotels just as cheap as hostels). For all of southeast Asia I used Agoda. We found GREAT deals and each time you book or write a review you get agoda dollars, which add up to a free room every now and again. We payed anywhere from $20-$60 a night for a hotel room, making it really cheap if you have two, three, or four people per room.
However, if you have ever travelled before, you know that it is cheaper on-site than to book online. A lot of times traveling, I book my first one or two nights via agoda and then go out and search for a place on my own for the remainder of my trip. Anywhere that is a “guesthouse” is considerably cheaper than a hotel or anything found online. Most are family run and obviously dated, but very cheap and homely! (Some $5-$10 dollars a night for a room!). But just beware. The searching can become frustrating if you don’t know the area or are traveling alone. Get to know your surroundings a bit before you explore. And remember, always always always bargain.
The first few days in Bali we stayed in Kuta Beach. It is VERY close to the airport, but also considered a dirty, young backpacker party town. So you will only want to spend minimal time in Kuta Beach. While in Kuta, we rented motorbikes ($5 for 24 hours per bike). Make sure to bargain, for EVERYTHING! Beware of the petrol prices. We were charged about 700% more than what we should have because we didn’t know better. Petrol is sold on the side of the road in old alcohol bottles, but should only cost $1-2 dollars. Do not pay more than that or you are being ripped off.
*** When renting a motorbike make sure to take pictures of your bike, just in case they try to say you scratched it, etc.
During our stay in Kuta Beach we took a whole day tour with one of the companies selling tours on the streets. We paid quite a bit, $70 per person for snorkeling, turtle island on a glass bottom boat, white-water rafting, dinner on jamalya bay, and 2 hours at the Spa. Seems like a great deal, and it was a GREAT day – but that is really expensive for SEAsia. We learned later that we could have done all of that stuff much cheaper in our own time. The white water rafting (which was amazing), but it was a few hours north of kuta beach, so if you decide to go rafting make sure you are staying near the rafting so you don’t have to drive the 4 hours there and back.
**If I could I would have skipped the rafting on this tour and just done the rafting when we went more North. Would have saved us loads of time. I would suggest finding a cheap tour to turtle island and snorkeling instead (about 20-25 dollars), and then do the spa and rafting yourselves later on.
Kuta Beach is great for cheap shopping. I got 4 dresses for $20. Sarongs for $1-2. Sarongs SAVE YOUR LIFE in Southeast Asia. So invest in some, because they are much more expensive elsewhere. Steer clear of the people selling things on the beach. Much cheaper shopping inland away from the beach. The $10 manicures they are offering seem to be a good deal, but you can walk up the road and get a manicure for half the price in a salon. Massages are also between $5-$10 dollars in the spas. Take advantage!
Ubud is a town about 1 hour North of Kuta Beach. This was one of my favourite places on the island (also where Eat/Pray/Love was filmed). Ubud is full of zen, good energy, lots of green, cheap food, and good people. There are tons of little yoga studios, wellness centers, small guesthouses, rice fields.
*This is also the town near the white water rafting, so I would have preferred to do it while we stayed in Ubud.
*In Ubud, we just got there, walked around and asked people how much for a room – we ended up at this a lovely guesthouse for about 5 dollars per person per night. There are tons of them, or hotels (check agoda.com)
If there is one place that you cannot miss near Bali, this is it. MUST MUST MUST go to the Gilis. The three Gili Islands are a part of Lombok. Gili Trawangan is the most popular of the three and the most tourist-friendly. We spend four days here, and never wanted to leave. The boat transfer to the island is quite expensive comparitive to anything else is Bali, but well worth it. It came to $60 US round trip with hotel transfers (two hours from Ubud). On Gili Trawangan, there are no vehicles allowed. You get around by foot, bicycle which you can rent, or by horse! My boyfriend and I found a little bungalow for 12 dollars a night, 5 minutes walk to the beach. Everything on the island is super cheap, laid back, and beautiful. You can bike the whole island in about half hour. Renting a bike costs about 2 dollars for the day- if you do rent one, make sure one day you ride it to the sunset bar and watch the sunset at around 5-6pm. Snorkel gear is about $2.50 for one person for half a day. The reef was right off the shore so we saw SO MANY beautiful fish and starfish.
If we had more time, we would have gotten our scuba diving certification here. One of the cheapest places to get it and some of the best diving in the world! … As far as nightlife on the islands, there are some great hang-outs on the island. The Reggae bar gets you double vodkas for 2 dollars. INSANE. But great. During the day you can buy breakfast or lunch for about 3 or 4 dollars at one of the little huts by the beach and you can sit there all day and going in and out of the water. You literally get your own little beachside bungalow or comfy seats for next to nothing!
The night market on the island is dirt cheap. Dinner for $1. If you want more upscale, there are plenty of restaurants with seafood, meat, and veggie options. My boyfriend and I found a place where we got steak and a salad bar buffet for 6 dollars each. Either way, this island is the relax and “island time” part of your vacation.
Seminyak is located west of Kuta Beach and the airport, but everything tends to be a little more expensive here. It’s a bit more “posh” as far as the shopping, the accommodation and the dining. If you do find yourself in Seminyak, going to a place called Potato Head is another MUST DO. You will be in heaven. If you spend about $50 between all of your travelers, you are able to sit on the lounges right next to the infinity pool overlooking the ocean. I literally spent from morning till night at Potato Head. The prices are similar to Canadian prices, so a bit expensive, but treat yourselves this day. There’s a swim-up bar, and it is well worth it.
That was just a small, petit review of the beautiful places in Bali. Shortly, I will post about all of the activities you MUST DO when visiting Bali.
‘Till Next Time.