So, you’re planning a trip to Bali!
Bali had always been on my bucket list too. So when a friend invited me to go traveling to Bali three weeks before I was planning a trip through Australia, I just couldn’t say no.
The trip was extremely spur of the moment, so I naturally felt unprepared.
Anyone else like to do a little bit of research before jumping on a plane? If you’re anything like me, that’s probably why you’re here.
I spent those three weeks moseying around with no itinerary. I planned most of the trip as it was happening, wandering around via word of mouth info, internet research, or choosing to stay with friends I had made along the way.
You can easily do what I did and still have the time of your life. But here are some of the things I learned through my travels. I know these 8 tips will be helpful when you’re traveling to Bali!
1. You’ll be surprised by how many different areas there are to explore! These are the main ones:
Ubud is more of the cultural heart of Bali. Away from the beach scene you’ll find more temples, rice fields, lush forests, and highlands. This is also a good spot for yoga, meditation, and observing monkeys!
Kuta is a very touristy area. The beach is mainly filled with beginners learning to surf and locals trying to sell you surf lessons, hair braids, cheap bracelets, and beer. Kuta is filled with tons of cheap tourist shopping. Here you can also find the four-story mega club, Sky Garden.
Seminyak is the “high-end” area of Bali. You’ll find good stores for shopping, nicer hotels, big beach clubs, and a busy nightlife. Expect to spend more money here than in other areas.
Canggu isn’t as developed as Kuta or Seminyak, but it is up and coming and is one of my favorite spots in Bali. They have good food, beautiful black sand beaches, and a solid nightlife with popular spots like Old Mans and Pretty Poison. Canggu is also where you’re going to find most of your Villas. If you’re traveling in a group, I highly suggest renting a villa for a few days to get that unique Bali feel.
*Note: Canggu, Kuta, and Seminyak are all in driving distance to each other. I personally suggest staying in Canggu and maybe taking day trips to Seminyak or Kuta.
Uluwatu is surfer’s paradise! This is where you’ll find surfers from all over the world. You could stay at one of the many homestays right on the beach that give you the perfect laid back and homey vibe. You’ll need a scooter to get around, that way you can find some of their secluded beaches (perfect for nude sun bathing). Also, you don’t want to miss one of the legendary Sunday Sessions at Singlefin!
There are three major islands that make up the Gili’s, which you can only get to by boat. The main island, Gili Trawangan (or Gili T), is for partiers and divers. The other two are smaller and are much more relaxed. You’ll find your honeymooners here or people looking for some solitude. Also, there are many cool spots to take photos scattered around the islands.
*Due to the recent earthquakes, the Gili islands are not currently open for tourists. If you wish to help support some of the people affected, please donate here. All money collected goes directly to some of the amazing humans I met who work and live in Gili T.
2. Scooters are the main mode of transportation and you NEED to wear a helmet.
The busy streets of Bali are littered with scooters. The locals seem to navigate the chaos just fine, but the tourists don’t fair so well. I witnessed at least six different scooter accidents in my time there, one being a local who was not wearing a helmet – who was rushed away in an ambulance. So please don’t forget to wear a helmet. Trust me, you’re going to want to go around on a scooter. Be safe while you do it.
3. Use the GoJek app.
GoJek is a local app that is similar to Uber. You can request a taxi, van, car, or scooter to pick you up (if you don’t have luggage, choose a scooter it’s the fastest). You can even have personal shopping and food delivered! This app relieves all the stress of finding good transportation. You can choose your vehicle, see right away how much your ride will cost, and you don’t have to haggle with people on the streets – and risk being ripped off or taken to the wrong destination! You can pay with a card via the app or pay your driver cash at the end.
This app helped me immensely! It’s common for your drivers to be surprised that you even know about the app. It’s mostly used by locals, so it adds an authentic feel to the journey!
4. Be prepared for little air conditioning.
Most places in Bali don’t have the air conditioning that the western world is used to. Small AC units and ceiling fans are very common. Handheld fans, light clothing, and cool water usually do the trick. But feel free to dive right into your waterside surroundings if you can’t stand the heat!
5. Bali's nicest hotels are extremely affordable.
If you want to treat yourself, Bali is the place to do it! I stayed in a king suite room with a jacuzzi tub on my balcony for about $80 USD a night. The hotel had a rooftop infinity pool with cabanas, a bar, food/beverage service, great music, amazing sunset views, and not to mention a mouth-watering free buffet breakfast. I felt like a queen!
6. The sunsets here are incredible.
Bali has some of the most amazing sunsets I’ve ever seen in my life. No wonder almost every beach has lounge chairs with drink service ready to go right as the sun is setting. Sunsets here are a big deal. Try to catch every single one, because once you return home you’ll find yourself dreaming of them.
7. Watch out for Bali Belly.
When you’re traveling to Bali, take into account that Bali Belly will leave you toilet-side for a few days. Even if you’re only drinking bottled water, any drinks you order with ice will eventually sneak up on you. It’s extremely miserable and mine lasted about 3 days. But don’t let this scare you off! Even though you sometimes get sick, I’m itching to get back to Bali.
8. Magic Mushroom shakes are a thing on Gili Trawangan island.
This island is basically a party island, so don’t be surprised if you get offered “mushy mushies” while partying on Gili T.