Bali is one of the most popular destinations in Indonesia, and its known for its unique culture, with an Animistic Twist of Hinduism, offering travelers a lovely balance of a slower traditional life with the convenience and connectivity that has also made it a hub for digital nomads. Bali is one of those places you could return again and again, each time finding a new area to explore. I have been to Bali once before, and this won’t be my last visit.
Bali On a Budget
First and foremost, let’s talk about traveling to Bali on a budget. The good news is that once you arrive, your trip to Bali will be pleasantly affordable. The plane ticket is the most expensive part of visiting Bali and if you book your accommodation in advance you can get some great deals. My plane ticket was around $800 from Washington Dulles airport (IAD) to Bali Denpasar airport (DPS), and I booked two months in advance. Plan on budgeting around $40-50 USD per person per day, the amount could be a little more depending on the kinds of activities you plan to do per day.
The most common question I got from family and friends was about the safety, and if you’re wondering the same then this section is for you! The good news is that Bali is relatively safe, and the Balinese are honest by nature. Like any tourist destination in the world, there are thieves that target tourists. The most common thing to be weary of are bag snatchers on scooters. Always carry your bag on the other side of the road and keep bags and valuables under the seat when riding a scooter. During both my trips, I didn’t experience any situation that made me feel unsafe, but it’s always good to take precautions.
At some point you will likely find yourself speeding through a road somewhere on a scooter having the time of your life. From my Insta stories, I often get asked about the safety of scooters in Bali. I myself didn’t rent; due to all the stories I had heard. Instead I requested scooter rides via GO-JEK or Grab for areas less than 5 miles away, and honestly I felt a lot safer riding with a local driver. Regardless of what you decide to do, take these precautions to help protect yourself. Do not rent or ride a scooter without a helmet, and if someone tries to rent you one or comes to pick you up and doesn’t give you a helmet, demand one and walk away if it doesn’t materialize. Follow the traffic laws you’d follow at home, and don’t zip through on the wrong side of the street just because you saw someone else doing it. Another thing to keep in mind if renting a scooter is to not leave valuables in your scooter. There will be storage that’s the perfect size for your helmet but leaving much else in there isn’t a great idea, since it’s not in any way shape or form lockable or secure. The best mode of transportation within Bali is a scooter. Although you can also rent a car for as cheap as $50 per day, the roads are so narrow and the traffic usually heavy that a scooter is probably the best way to traverse a large area in lesser time.
Beware the Monkeys
I know the monkeys in Bali are so adorable, and they know it. They’re also a little evil and can do whatever they please, including stealing your glasses, camera, purse, jewelry and water bottle. They can also scratch you, and pee on you which happened in my case while holding a baby monkey. Another thing to keep in mind with baby monkeys is that their parents are very protective, so don’t go close to one if the parents are near. They are adorable little things but can ruin your life if you mess up with them or their babies.
Here are some tips to keep you and your adorable monkey friends on good terms:
When you’re going to be around monkeys, I recommend keeping everything shiny tucked away safely in your backpack – which should be firmly buckled to your back.
Avoid wearing anything easily grab-able, like a purse, hat, glasses, or sunglasses.
If you lock eyes with a monkey, immediately look away.
If a monkey grabs your purse or bag, let it go. It’s not worth getting in a fight with a monkey, because the monkey will ALWAYS win.
What to Pack for Bali?
The local Balinese culture is a conservative one, despite the influx of foreigners in the past years. You’ll notice that their local people tend to wear clothing that covers their shoulders and knees. There is a relaxed attitude towards foreign visitors and you’re unlikely to have any trouble wearing what you would wear at home. However, when entering a temple it would be respectful and necessary to cover your shoulders and your knees, both men and women. Pack a sarong so that you’re equipped to cover, otherwise you’ll be provided with one and probably charged for it.
Bali is tropical and hot, but the good news is that you won’t have much trouble with mosquitoes or with finding drinkable water. Here are a few essentials I recommend taking on your trip to Bali.
Sun Block: Effective sunscreen is a must-have in Bali. With so many activities taking place under the hot sun, it's essential to put on some sun block before heading out for the day. A good waterproof sun screen should be used if you're going surfing or water rafting, and you should also pack in a sun hat and sun glasses. Throughout Bali (and Indonesia – but especially Bali), the locals know tourists need sunscreen to protect against the brutal sun rays, so sunscreen is extremely expensive. Additionally, to protect the ocean and what lies within it, make sure to use sunscreens that are ocean-safe, and free of harmful chemicals, like oxybenzone.
Waterproof Phone Cover: Whether you’re island hopping or tip-toeing behind the enormous waterfalls of Bali, it’s a wise investment to get yourself a waterproof phone cover. The ones sold on the island are cheap but not great quality.
A Reliable Power Bank: Bali can be a crazy place to get around and as a result, you’ll spend a lot of time looking at maps trying to work out the best route to your next destination. A few hours on Google Maps is a sure way to drain your phone battery, and you will be in need to charge again before you know it. I was using an Anker Powerbank and it was a life-changer. It stays charged, super reliable and gives me 3-4 cycles of phone charge.
Quick Dry Towel: Bali’s beaches and streets are lined with exquisite places to eat. Pack yourself a quick dry towel that won’t take up much space so you can dry off after swimming in the beach and head straight to your favorite foodie place for a delicious meal.
Lightweight Jacket: A Lightweight rain jacket is very handy specially for moped rides, protecting against pouring rainstorms or waterfall spray, you’ll be happy to have one of these in your bag. Bali is known for its great weather but it’s common for there to be a short burst of rain each day.
Worldwide Power Adapter: Charging all your gear can be difficult enough in Bali, it pays to get yourself a good quality adapter that will plug into any wall without fail. If you get yourself a worldwide adapter, it will come in handy for the rest of your travels too. There’s nothing worse than traveling around Southeast Asia and having to buy a new adapter for every single country. Get a universal adapter and simplify your travels.
Hiking/Water Shoes: Water-related adventures can be found all around Bali and so can a lot of sharp, slippery surfaces too. A great pair of water shoes will keep your feet from getting cut up on coral or any other unforgiving surface you might stumble upon.
A Reliable Backpack: A little woven Balinese bag might be a great gift to take home but it’s not going to cut it for the Bali adventure scene. Carrying around a big drink bottle quickly fills up space in any bag before you even add wallet, towels, shoes, clothes and camera gear. If you’re adventurous and heading out for some multiple day hikes like Mount Rinjani, it pays to have a backpack that is supportive, spacious and comfortable.
Clothing: Keep it light: Pack athletic and casual is the answer when you are wondering what clothes to pack for Bali. Also if you plan on hiking or yoga, it would be wise to pack some runners and some lightweight training gear.
Dramamine: Dramamine can come handy on winding drives and bumpy ferry boat rides. Even if you’re not prone to motion sickness, it’s best to bring a few along just in case!
How Long and Where to Stay in Bali?
A week is just about the right amount of time you need to explore the best of this island province. My suggested Bali itinerary is a perfect mix of adventure, relaxation, culture, and nightlife, and I have included suggestions for those who might have more time to spare.
The best thing about Bali is that it is very inexpensive and if you’re travelling in a group or with family, it might be a great idea to rent a private villa (most of them come with beautiful swimming pools, massage chairs, and large bedrooms). for example, a 3-bedroom villa in Seminyak will cost you about $150 per night and will not be far from the town centre. Kuta is even cheaper to stay in as compared to Seminyak. If you’re looking for affordable luxury, some amazing beachside resorts in Jimbaran or Uluwatu will suit your budget. We stayed in Seminyak most of the time we were in Bali, but also had the last two nights in Kuta.
Kuta and Seminyak beach, although very commercial, are gorgeous and have many bars and restaurants with recliners, bean bags, drinks, shisha, and food right on the beach. Relax, take a dip in the clear blue waters, sip on a Pina Colada and just have a great time.
Yet another important part of any Bali itinerary, although Ubud can be covered as a day-trip from Bali’s main centre, I strongly recommend you spend a night in Ubud. The first time I visited Bali, I stayed in Ubud only, and missed on other parts of Bali. This time around I covered it as a day-trip. Not only is it a contrast in landscape (lush green forests and rice terraces), it is also a good base to explore a few other amazing places such as Ulun Danu Beratan, a lake temple, and Mt Batur, an active volcano, both of which are located closer to Ubud than Kuta or Seminyak. This will also give you an opportunity to cover more ground in Ubud and in a relaxed way, instead of rushing as you would have to do if you cover it on a day trip.
Also, If you plan to visit Gili Islands the next day, you may spend another night in Ubud as the ferry to Gili Islands departs from Padang Bai, which is yet again closer to Ubud than to mainland Bali. If you have more than a week in Bali, I highly recommend including a trip to one of the Gili Islands. There are 3 islands to choose from – Gili Trawangan, Gili Air and Gili Meno. Research about Gili Islands to decide which ones meet your needs. In addition, consider exploring other islands such as Lombok and Nusa Penida. Prepare to relax and soak up some sun on any of these beautiful islands.
Things to Do and See While in Bali
Uluwatu/ Tanah Lot Temples
Uluwatu temple is located about 45 min away from Kuta area, this is one of my favorite temples in Bali. Just the setting on top of a cliff jutting out into the sea, with the sound of waves crashing against the rocks is an amazing experience. Beware of the monkeys in this temple, they often snatch personal belongings and can only be distracted by food. Another beautiful temple in Bali is Tanah Lot which is known for yet another incredible sunset. Situated 45 minutes away from Kuta, If you plan to catch the sunset here, make sure to keep enough time in hand, as the traffic while approaching the temple is really bad and you might just end up missing the sunset (like I did, unfortunately).
Both temples offer a Balinese fire dance which takes place right after the sunset and is an amazing artistic masterpiece offering an insight into Bali’s lovely traditions, deeply rooted in culture.
The Bali Swing is the new tourism activity in Bali and it has become such a popular activity in Bali. This is the original and best is Ubud, but today hundreds of others have sprung up all over Bali with breathtaking views. Its located in Bandung, and takes about 20 min drive from Ubud center, and about 1.5 hours from Kuta. This attraction opens every day from 8 am up to 5 pm, and you pretty much need the whole day as lines for the rides could be very long. They have numerous swings ranging from 10m-78m above the ground, regardless of the swing you choose, you will still be guaranteed a pretty spectacular view unlike any other—one that overlooks the river, lush green forests, rice fields, river valley and waterfall. This is worth a visit if you’re looking to experience the freedom and thrill of swinging high above the trees. Get thrilling feelings, adrenaline rush, unforgettable experiences and unique pictures.
Tegalalang Rice Terraces
These rice fields situated around 20 minutes to the north of Ubud are a break away from the usual types of commercialized structures that are seen, and are great for some stunning photographs. These beautiful luscious rice terraces transition softly into paddy fields across the valley. They are famous because they use an efficient 8th-century style of rice farming called Subak.
Sacred Monkey Forest Sanctuary
It is a natural habitat of more than 600 Balinese long-tailed monkeys. The Sacred Monkey Forest Sanctuary is located in Ubud, and it serves as a tourist attraction hotspot due to its wildlife as well as religious value. There are around 115 species of various kinds of trees there and combined with monkeys who are always on the lookout for getting some treats from the tourists, this is a delightful place for nature lovers. The temples in here are built back to the 14th century and are constructed with amazing sculptures and carvings of dragons and monkeys. This is a great place to head to for some fun time with playful monkeys.
Tegenungan Waterfall located about 20 minutes from downtown Ubud, and it is the most popular and one of the biggest waterfalls in Ubud. I recommend going early in the morning to avoid fighting the crowds when you’re swimming in this gorgeous waterfall dream.
Pura Lempuyang Temple (Gate of Heaven)
Perched on a mountain top in Bunutan on the eastern side of the island, about two-and-a-half hours north of Seminyak, it’s one of the oldest temples in Bali (nobody can confirm exactly when it was built but it’s estimated to be at least 1500 years old). It’s a staggering 1700 steps to the summit but you don’t have to hike the whole way to experience the surreal, mystical beauty. The ‘gate of heaven’ is only a few steps in, where a gap in the temple wall perfectly frames a view of a mountain with clouds floating above it. Pura Lempuyang is not easily accessible, and parking is limited. The best way to get there is to hire a car and driver. If coming from Ubud or the beach towns on the south coast, budget one full day for this excursion, and consider pairing it with a visit to the nearby Tirta Gangga water gardens.
Tirta Gangga Water Gardens
Tirta Gangga Water Palace Bali is a former royal palace that’s been turned into beautiful open gardens. Its made of pools and fountains, and surrounded by beautifully kept gardens and many stone carvings and statues. There is also a set of steppingstones that lead around the centre piece – an 11 tier fountain. You can feed the fish in the area and capture a memorable photo at Tirta Gangga to end your visit.
In conclusion, Bali is a stunning Island with so much to offer. The people are kind, the food is delicious, and the atmosphere feels relaxed and lazy.