Bali is a top destination for so many people around the world- and rightfully so! There is SO much to do and see, even though the island isn't too big. I even felt overwhelmed before coming here because I just felt like there was too much I wanted to do. But now I'm here to help guide you and hopefully make your planning process a little less stressful than mine.
First, let's talk about the different areas and what they're known for. This will help you determine if you want to stay here, just go visit, or completely skip it altogether.
Canggu- a surfer's paradise! This is a super chill area with relaxed vibes, cheap hostels, beaches, and lots of restaurants/bars. It's an amazing place to stay because all of the shops and restaurants are reasonably priced and it's not too touristy, compared to some other parts of Bali.
Kuta- almost the same as Canggu, they're pretty close to one another! It's just a little more crowded with tourists. It has all the same things: great surfing, wild nightclubs, and nice beaches. It's where the modern era of tourism in Bali began, so it's definitely more well-known, which also brings more people!
Denpasar- the capital of Bali! So definitely a lot more populated, but also a lot more shops and restaurants. It's a really popular place to stay amongst travelers because it's close to the airport and provides lots of great amenities. Just know that there will be lots of people and traffic!
Ubud- the yoga and relaxation area! Get away from the west coast of Bali and head inland for amazing nature- rice terraces, waterfalls, monkeys, and so much more. It's usually a MUST for anyone visiting Bali. Whether you want to completely relax and just do yoga, meditation and spa treatments or you want to rent a motorbike and go explore all the natural sights to see- you'll definitely enjoy your time there.
Uluwatu- a beautiful beachy and laid back area south of Denpasar. It's a lot more spread out, so not as easy to just walk around to shops and restaurants. It's more suitable for people staying at nice resorts and wanting to visit nice beaches everyday, because there are SO many in the area.
Where to stay
That's really up to you and what you prefer. My recommendations on where to stay are Canggu and Ubud. Canggu offers relaxed vibes and less tourists, so I think it's a great place to set up a home base. You can still easily visit Kuta, Denpasar, and Uluwatu if you wanted to for the day on your motorbike! Once you're done with Canggu, drive one hour up to Ubud to enjoy a change of scenery.
Although Bali is a small island, their public transportation system is not very good- practically non-existent. So the main ways to get around are renting a motorbike, ride-hailing app, or taxi:
Rent a motorbike- this is always the option I recommend because it's the cheapest (60k Rp for 24 hours) and it gives you the most freedom to just explore and do whatever you want.
Ride-hailing apps: The most popular ride-hailing apps are Grab and Go-Jek, but they also have Uber and a service called Blue Bird. I used Grab to get from the airport and to go to my hostel in Ubud from Canggu and I loved that there's a motorbike option! This means if it's just you, you can order a motorbike and hop on the back instead of paying for a whole car. It's so much cheaper! (*Note: some areas say "no e-taxis allowed" to preserve local taxi business, but usually you can still order them, you just walk around the corner or something so no one sees you!)
Avoid taxis: there's a reason why everyone uses ride-hailing apps and taxi drivers feel threatened here! It's because they are HUGE scammers. They always try to rip you off. So I would avoid taxis at all costs. If you have to use them though, look up the price of your trip on Grab and then tell the taxi driver you're only paying this amount or you're ordering a Grab. They'll usually accept!
What to do
As you can see on the map below, the list of things to do is MASSIVE. I've never been to such a small place with so much to do! I recommend mapping out exactly what you want to see and go see it all first, and then relax after that and take some yoga and meditation classes. Just know that unless you have a couple weeks to spend in Bali, you won't be able to see it all. Pick what's most important to you and make that a priority!
Read more details about what to do based on the area:
Canggu- blue pins
Uluwatu- red pins
Ubud- green pins
There are a couple of beautiful islands off the coast of Bali that you can do in a day trip, or stay there for a couple days to enjoy beautiful beaches:
Nusa Penida: 250k-350k Rp (depending on where you're coming from) | 30 minutes
Nusa Lembongan: 250k-350k Rp | 30 minutes
Gili Islands 200k-350k Rp | 1.5-2 hours
Lombok: 200k-350k Rp | 2.5-3 hours
Now, I went a little crazy when I got to Bali just fully engulfing the mantra "Treat yo'self!" But it still wasn't as expensive as I thought it was going to be. I did lots of shopping, spa treatments, and always ate at very western/hipster cafes and here's my breakdown:
Average overall: $33 USD/day
Accommodations: $7 USD/night ( I splurged for 3 nights and got my own hotel room!)
Food: $5-8 USD per meal for Western or $1-3 USD per meal for local
You can definitely do it cheaper than I did by eating local food and not doing spa treatments/shopping a lot, but honestly Bali is a "treat yo'self" destination! I am one of the most frugal people you'll ever meet, always trying to save every penny and not blow my budget. But I wanted to enjoy Bali to its fullest potential- and that meant splurging a little (which really wasn't too much!)
SIM Card- Even though there is wifi everywhere, I still recommend getting a SIM Card. It's very cheap ($5 USD for 6GB) and works very well. It's nice when you rent a motorbike and are driving all around because you know you'll have service wherever you are in case anything happens.
Plugs- European style plugs! So Americans & UK peeps- bring your adapters!
Cash vs Card- this is actually the place that has accepted credit cards the most out of everywhere I've been in SE Asia. I still recommend getting cash for markets and smaller restaurants, but most accommodations and bigger restaurants will accept Visa and Mastercard.
Airport transfer- ALWAYS use a ride-hailing app. The taxis and airport shuttle services offered by hotels are a complete rip-off. I arrived around midnight (so it's a little more expensive) and the Grab Bike was only 36,000 Rp ($2.50 USD) and the Grab car was $149,000 Rp ($10.50 USD). But my friend got an airport shuttle service from her hostel and it was over 300,000 Rp ($21 USD)!!!!
Safety- I traveled here solo and I honestly have never felt more safe. The local people are so kind- always wanting to help you. I never once felt sketched out or in danger, even walking back to my hostel at night or on a long motorbike ride on a weird, vacant road. Always practice normal precautions to be safe, but just find comfort in the fact that the local people are always willing to help you.
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