Travelling to Bali Guide
When your friends talk about their Bali holiday and all the things they did, you’ll probably see a glow in their eyes. ‘Yeah, Bali’s great,’ they’ll say. ‘You’d love it.’ But why? Here’s a guide of things to do in Bali, with the best and brightest of this lovable island.
Getting to know Bali
Bali is an Indonesian island and province, east of Java. Its capital, Denpasar, is in the south. The province includes the main island of Bali, as well as smaller islands off its shores, and boasts a strong Hindu heritage that gives it a distinct culture in this region. Located northwest of Australia’s shores, its thriving arts, wellness and spirituality culture – along with its quiet, stunning beauty – has made it a very popular holiday destination, with TripAdvisor naming it the world’s top destination in its Traveller’s Choice Award in March 2017. Tourism-related business makes up 80% of its economy. Bali has a population of more than 4 million – a tiny speck amongst Indonesia’s 261 million people. This makes it comfortably populated, but not too crowded. You won’t see high rises here. Expect winding roads, with lush greenery, temples and smiling locals at every turn.
As part of Indonesia, the currency in Bali is the Indonesian Rupiah. Get ready for some serious currency conversions, because 10,000 rupiah will buy you 96 Australian cents (as taken from Xe.com on 15/12/17). Foreigners quickly become millionaires in Bali. For the best rates, always pay in cash. Many smaller restaurants and shops might not accept your credit card, so it’s best to keep a supply of cash on you. It also pays to have a currency converter on your phone, as the rupiah zeros can quickly add up. Before you head off on your Bali holiday, make sure that you have a travel budget planned out.
The most commonly used language is Balinese, and most speakers also know Indonesian. Thanks to the thriving tourist industry, most hospitality staff speak English too. Learning a few phrases is certainly worthwhile, though, as a ‘terima kasih’ (‘thank you’) will never go astray.
When to go to Bali
Let’s be clear – Bali is hot. Sitting just eight degrees south of the equator, Bali is typically humid and sweltering, with average temperatures remaining between 26C and 28C year round. The best time to visit is May to July, when it’s slightly drier and cooler. Leave your jumpers, jackets, closed-toe shoes and jeans at home. You’ll need light cottons, shorts, skirts and, most of all, your bathers. The wet season is long – October to April – so if you go then, remember an umbrella. If you enjoy cooling off, and a fan and infinity pool just doesn’t cut it, it’s wise to get accommodation with air conditioning.
How to get there and when to book
As one of Australia’s closest northern neighbours, it’s easy to get to Bali. Most airlines offer flights, at usually reasonable prices, and with a flight time of just six hours from Sydney or Melbourne, and less than three hours from Darwin, it’s no long haul. Flights arrive in Denpasar, in the south, and it’s worth organising your airport transfer in advance, as public transport is minimal. Taxis are reasonably priced, though, and they’re everywhere. Booking flights in advance can really pay off, too, with airlines offering great deals if you book early. Also note that Australians don’t need a visa if they’re staying less than a month.
Things to do in Bali
People love Bali for different reasons – some love the beaches, the surf, the great cocktails and food, the lush greenery, the friendly people. Some love the nightlife and party culture, and endless days of sun. Others come for the yoga and meditation, the waterfalls and mountains, and that deep sense of spirituality that is steeped into the island. This diversity is what makes Bali so appealing. You can literally have all that, in one holiday. There aren’t many places as small as Bali that offer that. If it’s relaxation and tranquillity you’re looking for, you might want to check out these yoga retreats in Indonesia.
In the south, you’ll find a range of beaches from the high-cliffed surf beaches of Uluwatu and Bingin, to the more spacious sunbathing beaches like Dreamland. The south tends to be quieter than the more popular Kuta and Seminyak, which are just outside Denpasar. Here you’ll find the bars, clubs and parties, as well as beautiful beaches and resorts.
The northeast and east of Bali offer the best places to snorkel and dive, with incredible coral, a diversity of fish, several shipwrecks and good underwater visibility. Check out Menjangan Island (in the Marine National Park) in the northwest, Tulamben and Amed in the northeast, and Nusa Penida, Nusa Lembongan and Nusa Ceningan (a string of islands) in East Bali.
Thanks to its rich Hindu history, Balinese have been practising yoga and meditation for over 1000 years. Today, there are many quality yoga and meditation schools, and wellness resorts and retreats. Ubud is the spiritual heart of Bali, with tons of yoga and meditation schools and vegetarian, vegan and organic restaurants.
Then there’s the food. With a mix of indigenous Balinese, Indian, Chinese and western influences, the food in Bali is delicious. With a focus on health and wellbeing, there are also plenty of healthy options for those looking for a health kick. Try an incredible smoothie, local kombucha and raw-food meals, though don’t forget to try the local street warungs, where you’ll get a taste of real Bali.
One of the best things about Bali is the range of accommodation. You can stay in high-end resorts, with every creature comfort, and pay a high-end price. You can rent an air-conditioned villa for a modest price and enjoy your own infinity pool and household cook. Or you can get a beautiful shack on a cliff, with just a fan, and call that your home for the week. In Bali, there are no high rises and the peaceful feeling pervades, no matter where you stay.
Stay safe on the roads of Bali – wear a helmet on scooters. There’s always plenty of traffic, so be careful on the winding roads. The Wi-Fi is slow almost everywhere, so download maps if you don’t want to pay for data roaming. And don’t worry about anything. Someone will always be around the corner to help, offering a smile.