The Ultimate Bali, Indonesia Holiday Guide
The Ultimate Bali, Indonesia Holiday Guide
It’s no secret that many Australians love Bali. Now, with travel restrictions lifting, many of us are thinking of booking a Bali holiday. Bali may be a small island, but it sure serves up a never-ending list experiences… Making it perfect for any type of traveler looking for a relaxing and affordable island holiday.
Bali is the only part of Indonesia where Hinduism is the dominant religion. This makes Bali a unique destination full of beautiful temples, cultural elements, and incredible landmarks. One thing my kids absolutely love are the acnestral offerings left along all the roads by families. It’s little experiences like this that make Bali a fantastic introduction to Southeast Asia for families.
Bali is also an incredible destination for kids. To find out more, read my complete wrap up of Bali for children.
Note: This post contains affiliate links. If you click through and make a booking, I earn a small commission at no cost to you.
Current COVID-19 situation in Bali (as of April 2022)
Bali is now open to vaccinated travellers. The Welcome Back To Bali website has some excellent information, as does Australia’s Smartraveller site. The main things you need to be aware of are that you’ll be required to provide proof of full, current vaccination. You’ll also need travel insurance that includes coverage for COVID-19.
Things to know before travelling to bali
how to get to bali
Currently there are eight airlines resuming direct flights to Denpasar from cities including Perth, Brisbane, Cairns, Melbourne, Adelaide, Darwin, Sydney and even Port Hedland.
The average flight time from the east coast is just over five and a half hours from the furthest airport (Melbourne airport), with an average flight time of two and a half hours minutes from Darwin or Port Hedland.
From other parts of the world, it’s a much longer journey that will likely require a stopover in one of the Asian hubs such as Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, or Bangkok.
Is bali safe?
Bali is a safe destination to visit, especially if you’re planning to travel to Bali with kids. However, you really need to be mindful of a few things.
Food and water-borne diseases are present, so it’s really important you don’t drink the tap water. Good hotels will always provide bottled water. To give you a bit of an idea as to why I stress this so much, read my post on getting a parasite on my honeymoon.
Tourists are at higher risk of falling victim to petty crime and scams. To be on the safe side, keep any valuables locked away out of sight. When using ATMs, always use your hand to cover your PIN, and give the card reader a quick pull to make sure a skimmer hasn’t been placed on.
Health care is reasonable in Bali, however it’s not as resourced as we might be accustomed to. You’ll get good basic care but for something really serious, you may need to be airlifted to Australia or Singapore. Recently, an Australian woman was involved in a very serious moped accident and has had to be airlifted back to Australia. Google “moped Bali accident” to find a litany of horror stories.
ALWAYS take out travel insurance to cover any unforeseen incidents.
Getting around Bali is easy and affordable.
Taxis (Blue Bird – identifiable by the blue vehicles – are metred so you won’t get ripped off) and Grab (Southeast Asia’s ride-sharing option) are easy to hail down or order in all busy areas.
Private drivers can be organised easily at tour desks, hotels, and with villa operators. Sometimes you might see them on the street – it’s usually fine to do this but do proceed with caution and know how much you should expect to pay first. Hiring a driver for a day can be a good way to cover more sights or longer distances. If you arrange a driver in advance, you can request child restraints as well, which is a relief.
Mopeds are everywhere in Bali. As mentioned above this isn’t something I recommend, and may not be covered by your insurance, but it’s an option for those who want it.
Money and currency
The local currency in Bali is the Indonesian Rupiah. Many places including local markets and street vendors prefer cash payments; however, card payments are becoming more common across restaurants and bars.
To avoid scams, try exchange cash at reputable exchanges either before leaving Australia or do some research for some on the island with the best rate and lowest commission.
For more information on the costs involved in travelling to Bali, read our 2022 Bali Cost Breakdown.
Best time to visit bali
Bali has a dry season and a wet season. Temperatures are stable year-round (expect an average of around 30C/85F) but rainfall can vary dramatically.
With that in mind, the best time to visit Bali is between April and October. These are the driest months of the year.
Visiting during the months November to March is still fine, but you will find yourself negotiating frequent downpours that could interfere with your plans.
Places to visit in south bali
There is so much to see in South Bali that a lot of the time, people tend to forget that there’s more to Bali than just the south hotspots.
As the most popular area for tourists, with countless accommodation options for any budget, local and trendy eateries, bustling bar scene and of course plenty of local cultural sights to see, there is reason the south is a great area to spend an entire holiday, and perfect if you want to venture out for day trips to other areas of the island.
Kuta is Bali’s most renowned tourist hotspot. Traditionally Kuta has been where people tend to stay when they visit Bali for the first time, although this is changing. However, Kuta is a great option for young adults and those looking for some nightlife. Kuta also has a wide selection of resorts catered to all sorts of travellers. If you like to stay where almost everything is happening, Kuta is a good option – you’ll be surrounded by loads of bars, restaurants, nightclubs, shops, markets and a bustling beach. To be honest, the beach here isn’t the nicest Bali has to offer, but it offers lots of fun experiences.
My favourites? Heading to Waterbom Park for some waterslide fun, then getting some energy back at Bubba Gump Shrimp Co.
The Legian-Seminyak area is located just north of Kuta. Here you’ll find more boutique resorts as well as private villa rentals. In general, I find Legian and Seminyak more laid-back than the vibe in Kuta.
It is a great spot to find some trendy beach bars, popular with tourists who like to crack open a Bintang beer at sunset.
Prior to the pandemic, Seminyak specifically, was a popular spot to find stylish boutiques, trendy cafes, and top-rated restaurants.
Another popular destination, especially for yogis and digital nomads, Canggu over the years has grown to be a place where you can find several laid-back beach bars, eco-resorts, yoga retreats, and a top spot for some great vegan and vegetarian cuisine.
Canggu is my favourite place to stay along the Kuta-Legian-Seminyak-Canggu strip because it has a bit of a hippie/wellness vibe but is more low-key than the other spots.
Here are my favourite things to do in Canggu.
For more information, here’s the best places to stay in Canggu, and my Jadine Bali Villa review – one of my fave places to stay in Canggu, and Bali!
If you enjoy quaint local beach towns more than the touristy ones, then Sanur is a great way to do Bali with kids, or for couples looking to get away from busyness that is Kuta.
As Bali’s first tourist spot, Sanur has now transformed as eight kilometres of stunning beaches, that you can enjoy all the best bits of Kuta and Legian beaches, but with a much more laid-back vibe.
Ferries to Nusa Lembongan also depart from Sanur.
Nusa Dua is famous as an area sprawled with luxury five-star resorts and spas. A great place to stay if you have a bit more in your budget to splurge.
It’s great for families or couples that want a quiet resort-style holiday, but with the ability to pop into Kuta or its surrounding areas within 20-30 minutes.
Make sure you read our Nusa Dua Resort Guide.
Uluwatu refers to the southernmost part of the Bukit Peninsula.
Despite being close to the airport, Uluwatu is home to some of the most stunning cliff top resorts and beach bars on the whole island. Many of Bali’s most luxurious resorts are found in Uluwatu.
You may have seen Instagram snaps of lush infinity pools and beaches with dramatic cliffs – this is Uluwatu.
These hotspots in South Bali are home of the Beach Club: my absolute FAVOURITE thing to do in Bali. Click through to read my guide to the Best Bali Beach Clubs.
Jimbaran is another small fishing village on Bukit peninsular, this time on the western coast. Seafood fans rejoice – Jimbaran is famous for its seafood restaurants, golden sands, and surrounding limestone cliffs.
In recent years, Jimbaran has boomed. While a decade ago it was the place to go for dinner and probably not more (maybe a surf), these days you’ll find many luxury resorts. Like Nusa Dua, this makes it more favoured by mature travellers or families.
Places to visit in east bali
Moving to the east of the island, you’ll find several locations that are lesser known as tourist hotspots but still have some great affordable places to stay, ancient villages, and picturesque beaches to explore. It takes about 90 minutes from Denpasar airport, with similar times from the Kuta and Legian area. Read this East Bali itinerary for more information.
Padangbai is small coastal port town where you’ll find the ferries that take you to the island of Lombok.
Due to being a bustling harbour town, many people miss some out on the fact the beaches around this area are spectacular for snorkelling and diving.
If you are more adventurous and love a good trek through less explored terrain, then adding a few nights stay in the quaint town of Candidasa should be a priority.
Here you’ll find some of Bali’s most stunning temples that benefit from their remote location in the east, and several beaches where you can walk along black volcanic sand without having travel to the North of the island.
Another area somewhat unknown to tourists (though becoming more popular) is the 14km strip of 8 fishing villages known as the Amed area.
As an area still developing its tourism prospects, you’ll mostly find travelers that are avid divers and snorkelers. There’s an awesome Japanese WWII shipwreck that’s popular with divers.
The beaches along this strip also have black volcanic sand as it is quite close to Bali’s largest active volcano, Mt Agung.
Leaving the coast in the east province you will find Kintamani, a village and a district where many people come to enjoy the sights of Mount Batur, another active volcano on the island. This one is surrounded by a lake and is really spectacular.
Places to visit in central and west bali
The further west you go from Kuta, the less touristy it begins to get (once you pass Ubud, that is). The central and western areas of Bali are slowly becoming home to some high-end accommodation options, but are still less developed than the east and southern provinces.
Ubud gets a particular mention as it really is the cultural heart of Bali. A one-hour drive from the hustle-bustle of Kuta, you will find one of Bali’s trendiest hotspots located amongst luscious rainforest and endless rice terraces.
Famous for its unbelievable eco-resorts and countless cultural and artistic activities, some of the best things to do in Bali can be found in this area including a visit to the Monkey temple, Tegallalang rice terrace, and Ubud Royal Palace (Puri Saren Agung). You should also take in a cultural show when you’re here (they’re incredible!)
For more Ubud inspiration, check out our guide to the best places to stay in Ubud, and the best activities in Ubud.
Some other areas that are worth a look in the central/west region are Bedugul, a mountain lake resort area and Tabanan, an area with rolling green hills connected to the coastline, where avid hikers can trek Bali’s second highest peak, Mount Batukaru.
If you move even further west, you can visit the region known as Negara which is where you’ll find West Bali National Park, a sanctuary for hundreds of wildlife species. The park covers 77,000 hectares and one of the least visited areas in Bali, due to its remote location.
Places to visit in north bali
The north of Bali is best catered to those who really want an authentic and secluded Balinese experience.
Despite being less than 100km from Kuta, the weaving drive passing through rainforests, mountains and rice terraces takes just under three hours to do.
Once you’re in the north, the resorts, beaches, and key sights require motor transport to travel between.
The Lovina coastline is a tranquil and quiet tropical oasis, perfect for those that like all sorts of water activities and a great spot for dolphin watching.
At sunset, you can find many beach bars set up, perfect to watch the sunset from the north’s famous black volcanic sands.
Just a tad east of Lovina is the port city of Singaraja, which funnily enough is the second largest city in Bali.
Despite its size, it rarely attracts too many tourists even though it’s a place of significance in Balinese history and a great place to eat authentic cuisine in local warungs.
Islands near bali
If you have some more time or you’re looking for something a bit different, there are several groups of islands an easy ferry ride from Bali.
Nusa Lembongan is a 45-minute ferry ride from Sanur. On Lembongan, hit the gorgeous beach bars of Lembongan and nearby Nusa Ceningan (the short but famous Yellow Bridge connects the two islands). You can also head to Nusa Penida, a bigger island home to many Insta-famous outlooks such as the tree house. These islands are amazing for snorkelling and diving – you can even see manta rays!
Regular ferries connect Lombok (and the Gili Islands that surround the coast of Lombok) to Bali. The ferry from Padang Bai in Bali’s west to Lembar in Lombok takes approximately four hours. Lombok and the Gilis are famous for scuba diving and for being a more chilled version of Bali. Why not give them a try?
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What a great guide! Thank you.