I have always wanted to go to Bali. I’ve heard about Bali from a lot of friends, fellow yogis and spiritual buddies as the place to go, and yes, okay – I did see it in the movie, Eat, Pray Love. So when I had the chance to take trip to Bali, I jumped at the chance!
Bali is an island that’s part of Indonesia. It has a population over 4 million people, with the economy depending on mostly agriculture and tourism. More than 80% of Bali’s population practices Balinese Hinduism. A lot of the places to go in Bali are influenced by the religion, including temples and parks.
How to Get to Bali
There are no airlines that fly directly to Bali from Los Angeles or anywhere in the United States, so that makes for a pretty long travel time. You usually have to stop over at another country in Asia to get a flight into Bali. When you do get there, it’s pretty easy to get around since it’s so cheap to hire a driver instead of doing group tours.
Planning Your Trip to Bali
I was only able to spend five short days in Bali as I did it a side trip when I went to the Philippines. I met others there that were spending a month or more on the island, and it seems like one to two weeks would be ideal. I was only able to visit a lot of the main places in Bali but there were lots of other spots that I would have been able to see if I had more time. In addition, Bali is only a small part of Indonesia so you might want to take more time to travel through the rest of the country.
Where to Stay in Bali
Bali is split up into various neighborhoods and I recommend choosing your accommodation based on where you would like to be. I stayed in Seminyak for a few nights and then stayed in Jimbaran on my last night in Bali. It really depends on the type of scene you’re looking for . Here’s a list of all the areas in Bali where you can stay:
Seminyak – This area is good for those who want a semi-quiet neighborhood, but close enough to the nightlife in Kuta. This area has a lot of great hotels, resorts, and restaurants. The streets can get pretty crowded here in the high tourist season.
Kuta – This is the most famous beach in Bali but also the loudest. This is where the island’s major nightlife hotspots are and also where the surfers go to catch some great waves. It’s also a favorite option among budget travelers and houses the largest waterpark in Southeast Asia.
Ubud – This is the island’s spiritual and cultural center point located in the center highlands. This is where many of the temples are located as well as the Monkey Forest and rice terraces. This neighborhood is located inland so it’s not accessible to the beach unless you take a car and mostly everything here closes early and is not the place to be for nightlife activities.
Jimbaran – This is located in the Southern part of Bali and is known for beautiful beaches, sunsets and proximity to seaside temple, Uluwatu. There are many five-star resorts located here for those looking for luxury accommodations and fine dining. I stayed at the RIMBA Jimbaran which I highly recommend for the gorgeous rooms, dining options and access to all the amenities at the AYANA Resort & Spa.
Nusa Dua – This is Bali’s most exclusive area, filled with five-star resorts with beachfront access. It’s a self-contained, remote location with no access to local culture, so you’ll have to venture outside of the resort enclave to get a real feel of the island. This is where many celebrities and dignitaries stay, often booking out the whole hotel.
What to Do in Bali
See the monkeys at the Sacred Monkey Forest Sanctuary in Ubud – This is one of my favorite things I did in Bali! The monkeys here roam freely and are just hanging out everywhere. The sanctuary feeds them, but they will try to take things from you and your bag – so watch out! If you buy some fruit to feed them, they’ll smile for a picture!
Visit the Tegalalang Rice Terrace in Ubud – These are fun to see especially if you’ve never seen rice terraces before! There are bigger ones in the North and in other countries but this is a great stop on the way to Saraswati Temple.
Meditate at the Saraswati Temple in Ubud – I was lucky enough to come here when it was fairly quiet and not crowded at all. You will have to wear a sarong here unless you’re wearing pants, out of respect for the religion and culture.
Get a massage at Murano Spa – I found this spot on Trip Advisor in Seminyak and I’m so glad that I did! This place is not a five-star place but it’s decent and the services are great – which is what’s more important to me. I got the Green Tea Bath which includes a massage, scrub and bath.
Warning: When you turn over during the massage, your chest area is not covered like it usually is here in the United States and they massage around that area. I’m sure you can ask them not to if you’re not comfortable with it but I think it’s a regular part of the treatment. Luckily I got a female masseuse so I didn’t feel too terribly weird. This also happened when I got a massage in Lithuania and my therapist was a guy – but I’ll save that story for another time!
See the seaside temple, Tanah Lot – There’s a few seaside temples in Bali and one of those is Tanah Lot. This is actually a really small temple and during high tide, it disappears under the water. It’s very beautiful and scenic, with a great view for sunset.
Learn more at the Garuda Wisnu Kencana Cultural Park – My driver took me to this park on the way from Seminyak to Jimbaran and I learned a lot about the Balinese religion and the god/deity, Vishnu. I was also able to watch some traditional Balinese dancing here with live music and performers.
Watch the sunset at The Rock Bar – One of the best places to watch the sunset while having a cocktail is at the Rock Bar at the AYANA Resort & Spa located in Jimbaran. The actual bar is located on seaside rock formations and accessible via an inclinator (and some stairs of course). They also have an excellent dinner menu with fantastic seafood options.
Enjoy the private Kubu Beach at Ayana – Many are discouraged to go down to this private beach because they’ll have to walk up 200 steps to get back up. That of course made me want to go even more as I knew there probably wouldn’t be that many people down there. There was only one other group that was down there and left pretty quickly so I was able to enjoy the whole beach and sunset to myself. Definitely another reason to stay at RIMBA Jimbaran!
Get up early for the Mt. Batur Sunrise Hike – This was my absolute favorite thing that I did in Bali! It does require a bit of planning and will lead to lack of sleep. Depending on where you’re staying in Bali, pick up will be anywhere around 12-2am (yup that’s AM – in the middle of the night) because you have to get to the top before sunrise to actually see it.
You’ll start hiking around 3:30am for about two hours depending on the pace of the group. At the top, there’s a place to get hot tea, coffee and some breakfast. On the way down, you’ll see some free-roaming monkeys, the crater, and some smoke coming from the active volcano that you just hiked.
Bathe in the natural hot springs at Toya Devasya – After the sunrise hike, you’ll have the option of going here to spend some time in the hot spring. Don’t expect it to be like the typical hot springs that we have here in United States, because the water really wasn’t that hot (I was expecting more like a hot tub type temperature).
Tips for Traveling to Bali
Exchange rate – You’re at an extreme advantage if you’re coming from the United States, Europe or Australia. The exchange rate hovers around 13,000 rupiah to 1 USD. Yes, the currency can be pretty tricky!
Rainy season – Like most tropical countries in Southeast Asia, there is a rainy season. It’s best to travel to the Bali during the dry season from March to July. I went in February and it was perfect as it’s just before the summer starts and there are less tourists. It didn’t rain at all during my trip and was quite hot inland during the day.
Don’t get conned – There are a lot of drivers offering rides and some are not all honest. When getting a random ride, ask for the taxi with a meter. Some drivers try to negotiate the price ahead of time and one time someone was offering me a ride for 100k and when I took the metered taxi, it was only 25k! So they were charging me 4x the amount!
Hire a driver – If you’re looking to go to many different areas, it’s best to hire a driver for the day. I hired Putu, who was recommended to me by a friend in LA. Rates range only from $50 per day, which is an absolute steal for a whole’s day work. He’ll also be a tour guide for you and tell you all about the culture, religion and everything you need to know.
Be respectful – It is a very religious place and it’s best to adhere to all the rules and respect the requirements at the temples. Be considerate when taking pictures or talking when silence is to be observed.