Bali has been on my bucket list for a few years. You can easily say I was influenced to go, as many of the greatest travel influencers I follow have settled in Bali in recent years. Bali is indeed an incredible place, with its lush landscape, stunning beaches, endless rice fields, and a very welcoming culture, it’s very easy to fall in love with the island in Indonesia.
Bali is predominantly Hindu, and you’ll see it everywhere. Offerings on every corner; placed several times a day in front of every house or at the family temple. You certainly get that spirituality is a way of life. All together it sums up to be one the most easy going countries I have ever been to.
The further north you go the more chilled and less turisty. If you want to party you’ll love Kuta, if you like me, like it more chilled, you’ll love Ubud, and go to the north coast if you only want to be surrounded by locals.
You will quickly notice the traffic, which seems chaotic at first, but everyone seems to give space for each other and stay very alert of tourists. If you are up for the challenge, you can hire a scooter and explore the island on your own – most is within reach, if you are comfortable enough to sit on a scooter for a few hours. If you don’t like the idea of a scooter, you can also hire a local taxi driver for a whole day. Most of them speak enough English to guide you around. Be very mindful of telling your driver exactly what you want to see and NOT see, so you don’t end up at all the worst tourist attractions.
So, if you’re planning a holiday to Bali, here is my experiences if you want to follow my footsteps to make the best of your trip. BUT first, a little video to get you in the right mood.
Where to stay in Bali
I chose to opt for a more local approach to our accommodation in Bali. You can easily find many stunning resorts and 5-star hotels, but we wanted smaller, unique experiences. Splitting the time across the two sides of Ubud was nice to experience the different areas.
Green Village // Set along the terraced slopes of the Ayung River, Green Village is a master-planned community of eighteen dramatically unique homes, hand-constructed by the Ibuku team. Each home is custom designed and rigorously engineered to embody the inherent strengths and versatility of bamboo. There are many great bamboo houses to be found on AirBnB and the houses in Green Village is just some of them – we loved every bit of our stay. Perfect spot if you want to explore more of the outer areas of Ubud.
Stone House // Just off the busiest streets of Ubud, all you see from the street is a stone wall with a door tucked away behind huge green plants. As soon as you enter, you feel the calmness settles over your body and soul, the Stone House is truly a sanctuary away from the busy streets of Ubud. Stone House is 4 uniquely designed rooms with many great finds from all over Bali spread around for an amazing and outstanding interior. The staff is extremely welcoming and the always smiling women in the kitchen prepares the best food, we ended up eating all our dinners here, instead of venturing out on scooters at night time. The grounds are so lush and green all surrounding a very nice pool, where you can easily spend hours on end.
10 Things to do in Bali + what to skip
Bike through rice fields // And I mean real bikes, not scooter. We had a local guide take us around the narrow paths through the rice fields surrounding Ubud. The pace is way slower, and also very unique. You get to see the real Bali and quite possibly meet a lot of very charming and smiling locals.
Get close to the monkeys // In Ubud you’ll find a sacred Monkey Forest. Walking around the free, very cheeky and very fast monkeys is a bit overwhelming and at times a little bit scary, I am not gonna lie. If you want the monkeys almost to yourself, be sure to be at the forest as the gates open. We left at 11am, right when major busses started to unload their many passengers.
Indulge in massages // The Balinese knows how to pamper you to the fullest. There are literally a spa on every corner. Indulge in a one-hour massage for less than $10. If you pay just a little bit more, you can enjoy your massage at your own surrounding of your Airbnb.
Chase waterfalls // Bali is full of waterfalls, many of the greatest ones are north of Ubud, and you might have to drive for 1+ hours to get to one, depending on where you stay. Many of the most popular waterfalls have been turned into a tourist attraction, meaning that you have to pay quite a lot in Bali standards, go in groups and with a guide. We skipped waterfalls like Aling Aling and Sekumpul because of this and found the less popular (for some very odd reason) Tukad Cepund, an underground waterfall, perfect for us. We arrived at 9am, and with only a handful of other visitors.
Explore temples // There are 45.000 temples scattered around Bali, one greater than the other. However, they are all pretty similar. The Ulum Danu Bratan Temple is very popular because of its location, but if you want a more secluded, but just as beautiful, go to the near by Para Hulun Danu Tambligan temple. You see glimpse of this temple in the video above.
Watch the sunsets // If you find yourself anywhere near the southern part of Bali, this is a must. The colors are like nothing you’ve never seen before.
Tagalalang Rice Terraces // There is only one way to go about seeing this one: Wake up early and get to the rice terraces for sunrise. That way you’ll get to experience them all to yourself, it won’t be quite as hot, and you’ll have the best light for photos. Make time to explore it all, it’s definitely the spot to bring out your drone too.
Bali Swings // Unless you want that same photo you’ve seen over and over again by now, skip this one. Since the first Bali swing was made popular, you can now find them pretty much on every corner of any place with a view. The most famous of them all is the one at Zen Hideaway, and let me tell you, it’s not a cheap swing to try.
Handara Gate // Another epic photo opportunity, but if you make your way up north anyway, stop by here. It’s hard to shoot these gates in a new way, as it’s done a million times already, but it’s still so Bali. You pay a little fee to take your photos, but do bring patience as chances are, you won’t be alone.
Hang out for coffee // When you are done exploring around Ubud, find a cool local coffee shop, which all seems pretty nice. Speaking of coffee, Bali takes pride in their locally grown Kopi Luwak coffee (aka. Poop coffee), I’d say skip it. It’s really not as tasty as they claim and they charge a lot for it also.
Things to know and expect before you go
- Upon arrival, especially as a first-comer, first customs can be grueling, expect long lines, and when you are finally through the taxi mayhem that hits you with a sledgehammer is even more overwhelming. If you do not know you way around already, I suggest you pay the extra bucks and make prior arrangements for pickup driving you to your destination.
- Mosquito spray is an absolute must – especially at night time.
- Bring a big wallet, a fanny pack is a good option, you’ll be carrying a lot of notes, ie. 100.000 IDR is just 7 USD. You use cash almost everywhere.
- Negotiate with taxis and anything you see in the shops.
- Cover up when you enter temples.
- Don’t touch the monkeys, cute from afar, not so much when they bite you.
- Remember water should only be consumed from a bottle.
- No need to book excursions from a third party. Find a taxi driver you like and just tell him when and where you want to go.
- Anything in Bali is pretty much best explored by the crack of dawn, except the sunsets of course, but Bali is popular, very popular, so any attraction gets packed quickly. We made sure to be at our first location of the day by 6am and the last before 10am, that was we had it more or less to ourselves.
- Rent a scooter, it really is the fastest way to get around, especially if you are just exploring locally. Be very mindful, traffic is crazy and opposite than what most of us are used too. If your route is more than 1+ hour, get a driver and go by car. And do remember to use your turn signal and not getting upset or afraid when people use their honks, you’ll be ok.
- Garbage is a massive problem in Bali – and unfortunately the locals haven’t figured out that plastic just doesn’t disappear the same way as banana leaves. A lot if just left or dumped roadside, which can take away the pleasure of it all.