Bali is the most popular island of Indonesia for backpackers, especially young people looking for beaches, surf and epic parties who meet up in the South of the island, in Kuta, or backpackers in search of relaxation, spirituality and inspiration, sometimes inspired by the book/movie “Eat, Pray, Love” in which Julia Roberts spend three months in Ubud, in central Bali, to find balance in her life.
Bali is the only island in Indonesia which is still Hindu (the rest is Muslim). There are about 20,000 temples in Bali! Each family has its own temple in their garden.
This little paradise is unfortunately very (too) frequented by tourists, which sometimes makes it lose its authenticity and makes magical places like the temples of Tanah Lot or Uluwatu really crowded. It must be said that 80% of visitors to Indonesia visit only Bali. Also, prices are higher and scams are common. Try to avoid the tourist season (August, September and year-end holidays) and Australian students (beginning of April, June and September).
There is no longer need for a visa to enter Indonesia for most tourists (since April 2015)! Attention: take a few dollars for the airport tax. If you pay in Rupees or Euros, it’s more expensive.
WHAT TO VISIT IN BALI?
Check out our complete itinerary here.
THE BEST: UBUD AND RICE TERRACES
Be charmed by Ubud, the artistic capital of the island.
What to do in Ubud:
- Shopping: many boutiques of local and foreign artists and art galleries.
- Enjoy a Balinese massage (1 hour, full body between Rp 70,000 and Rp 100,000).
- See Kecak dance in one temple (leaflets are distributed on the street for these shows). This is quite unique, a sort of musical in capela, with a set of singers who form a circle around the stage. The show tells the story of Prince Rama who is trying to save Sita’s life, kidnapped by the king of Lanka.
- We also visited the Monkey Forest (Rp 20,000), which I recommend if you have 1 or 2 hours to fill and if you want to be in contact with hundreds of monkeys. Touristic but many pictures opportunities !
- Rent a scooter for the day to stroll around Ubud: both the coolest and cheapest way for you to go to the rice terrace Jatiluwih, or the Tirta Empul temple, very authentic where locals are taking sacred baths. This is an opportunity to go through small villages and see the real Bali.
BEACHES IN BALI
- Kuta, in the south, is the hub of surfers, tourists, Australian students on holiday and backpackers course. Many shops and a vibrant nightlife, with many bars and clubs and cheap alcohol.
- The northern beaches are less frequented by tourists. Permuteran is ideal for a day of diving near the island Menjangan, one of the best diving spots in the world. There are a lot of possible dive courses too. Lovina is another option, rather quiet.
- Amed, traditional fishing village in the east of Bali, was advised by some friends for snorkeling, which allows to see a wreck in the sea. We unfortunately didn’t get the time.
TEMPLES IN BALI
There are more than 20,000 temples in Bali, but here are the most scenic ones:
- Uluwatu, south of Bali, is a temple on top of a cliff, which gives it a very dramatic side. Very popular to see the sunset.
- Tanah Lot (Rp 10,000) is one of the most photographed temple in Bali, also located oceanfront. Very popular to see the sunset.
- Another temple in a sublime setting is the Ulun Danu temple on a lake in the central-northern region of Bali, but we did not have the time to see it.
The Mount Agung and Batur dominate Bali and may be worth a hike. We have not gone as we did the Mount Bromo and Kawah Ijen crater in Java just before.
There are superb views of the lakes Buyan, Tamblingan and Beratan, north-central Bali, where we asked our taxi driver to stop on our route between Lovina and Ubud. I do not remember what lake it is exactly . The view was great, and many monkeys roamed around the view point which gave us a lot of pictures opportunities.
HOW TO go around BALI?
The island is very small so all trips are quite short (between 30 minutes and 3-4 hours maximum wide). The problem is that there’s no train and almost no bus, so you will inevitably have to take a taxi if you have luggage (and you suddenly feel much less “backpacker”). Prices start from Rp 5,000 for the first two kilometers and 5000 Pr for each kilometer thereafter. Most taxis will refuse to put the meter to better rip off tourists. Insist or negotiate a price in advance which seems right to you.
Another option is to rent a scooter but be careful because there are regular accidents, and it is not very easy with the backpack. Make sure to have a helmet, not only for your safety but also because you risk a fine. The hard part is also to find your way. It is better if you have a GPS on your phone and then you’ll need to buy local data, because there are very few signs.
WHERE TO STAY IN BALI?
Grannys HOSTEL (KUTA)
We recommend Grannys Hostel (Jl. Pura Martasari 28, Rp 150,000 per bed), not so close to the beach (have to take a taxi or a scooter, 20-30 min walk) but with a great atmosphere! The perfect place to meet backpackers and pre-party before heading with your new traveling friends to bars and clubs. The hostel has a very large dormitory but brand new and very convenient, and a large garden where they sometimes organize BBQ, movie nights and can even turn into a dance floor. They organise tours and can arrange taxis and shuttles for you.
ArjunA HOMESTAY (Permuteran)
A real favorite! Arjuna Homestay is not a hostel but a nice little hotel + dive center, run by a French, and also offers a very clean dorm for backpackers (Rp 75,000)! You’ll enjoy the lowe price, the swimming pool and you can book a tour to go diving on Menjangan island. Super convenient! If you are French and it is your first dive, it is ideal to understand the instructor.
HAPPY MANGO TREE HOSTEL (UBUD)
The hostel is small, friendly and well located in the heart of Ubud. Very cheap, pretty relaxed, it is a good base for exploring the city, and to meet other travelers. We had a private room that was correct.
WHERE TO EAT IN BALI?
Due to its popularity with tourists, Bali offers numerous varieties of restaurants (called “Warung”). A meal in a restaurant for tourists will cost between Rp 20,000 and 50,000. Of course, the most authentic and the cheapest is, as always, the small local restaurants. You will find there the Indonesian specialties Nasi Goreng (fried rice), Nasi Campur (steamed rice with meat and vegetables) and Mie Goreng (fried noodles), for about Rp 15,000.
If you want to eat seafood, do not miss Jimparan Bay because the atmosphere is very pleasant. All restaurants are facing the sea, and you eat the feet in the sand in the light of candles. The prices are really much more expensive than the usual local food, but if you like seafood, this is the place.
A very nice restaurant in Ubud: Fair Warung Bale, which is slightly more expensive than the local restaurants but because they donate a portion of their profits to charity. The restaurant has a very nice decor and the food is DELICIOUS! One of the best-rated restaurants on TripAdvisor.
WHERE AND WHAT TO DRINK IN BALI?
The Bintang is the most popular beer in Bali. You will also find many fresh juices for about Rp 15,000.
Very popular for the sunset, grab a cocktail at Ku De Ta in Seminyak (south).