Our in destination experts are full of wisdom and advice about their countries and love sharing that information with you to help you make the most of your trip. This expert guide, full of insider tips, will give you everything you need to know for your first trip to Bali.
The Best Time to Visit Bali
Bali has a warm, tropical climate year round. Temperatures hover between 26-28 degrees, which means it doesn’t really get cold. Bedugul and Ubud, however, do tend to be a bit cooler as they are in the hills.
May to September are usually the dry season, and the rains generally fall between October and April, although this can change from year to year.
The busiest times in Bali are July, August, Easter and Christmas. Hotel rates tend to be cheaper in the quieter times.
An important day to note is Nyepi, a day of silence in Bali, usually falling in March. The airport closes, no shops are open, and everyone is confined to their homes or hotels. There is no traffic on the roads, and no lights allowed. This is a magical time in Bali, and one that has to be seen to be believed.
Where to Stay
Bali can be divided up into 5 main areas:
South Bali: Nusa Dua, Tanjung Benoa, Kuta, Legian, Seminyak, Sanur
East Bali: Candidasa, Amed
West Bali: Negara, West Bali National Park, Menjangan
North Bali: Lovina
Central Bali: Ubud, Gianyar
Don’t underestimate the size of Bali, it is actually huge! From the South to the North of the island, it can easily take about 4 hours, often longer, depending on the traffic. Each different area of the island has a different vibe. The atmosphere, the culture and attractions vary from place to place, too.
For your first trip to Bali, we recommend you to stay at South or Central Bali, simply because it is more tourist-friendly and there is plenty to do.
Below is a breakdown of the most popular areas:
If you want to shop and party, then Kuta has some excellent nightlife, amazing beach bars, a huge variety of restaurants and great shopping. Kuta is close to the airport and has a range of hotels from 5* to budget homestays.
Just north of Kuta, and often called Kuta, Legian has a very similar feel to Kuta. The main street, Jalan Legian, runs from north to south (Kuta to Seminyak), and is around 4.5km from start to beginning. Along here you can find nightclubs, shopping and restaurants.
The last 5 or so years has seen a huge growth in Seminyak. With world class restaurants, 5* hotels and some incredible shopping, Seminyak is one of the most trendy areas of Bali.
Uluwatu is more about getting back to nature, the air is fresher, the beaches are beautiful, the locals are laid back. You can easy lose yourself and lose track of time. If you are a surfer, then Uluwatu is the place for you.
Previously a quaint fishing village, Jimbaran is now home to the famous Seafood BBQ dinner! Thousands of people flock here daily to enjoy fresh seafood prepared in a local style. With some of the best resorts hiding in the background, Jimbaran is a real resort holiday.
Situated in the hills, Ubud is a little cooler than the rest of the island. It is a mystical town, full of artists, healers and yoga!
What to do in Bali
The following are just a handful of our favourite activities on the island:
- Trekking through the rice terraces of Ubud
- Exploring Bali’s local village life
- An Indonesian cooking class and blessing
- Jammu organic remedy making
- Surf classes with a Master Surfer
The official currency of Bali is the Indonesian Rupiah (IDR) and is stated as Rp on pricelists.
Generally speaking, exchanging your own money into IDR is best done once on the ground in Indonesia, as rates outside of Indonesia are usually higher.
When you arrive, it’s a good idea change just a small amount at the airport ($50-$100), for your transport and other minor things – rates are typically not so good at the airport, so save the bulk of your exchange for later.
Do not use unauthorized money exchange counters or back-street kiosks – if the rate sounds too good to be true, it usually is. These are the ones who typically use very fast hands to relieve you of your hard earned cash whilst filling up their own pockets.
Debit and credit cards (apart from American Express) are widely accepted throughout Bali, although a surcharge of 2-3% often applies. There may also be foreign charges by your own bank for using your card abroad, so check these with your bank beforehand.
What to Pack
- Pack minimally as you will be spending most of your time in swim or beachwear. You will want to keep cool and dress light while in Bali!
- If you are visiting classier establishments like the Rock Bar, St Regis or Kudeta, you should pack accordingly for the smart casual dress codes.
- Bring trainers/ hiking boots for jungle and volcano trekking and flip flops/sandals for everywhere else.
- Beach Towel – Especially good if you are staying in budget accommodation. Alternatively, you can buy one on arrival to save bag space. If you are staying in anything above 2*, you will not need to bring a beach towel.
- Suncream, after-sun and insect repellent are all necessary for the tropical environment. We recommend using insect repellant during the day as well as evening, as this is when dengue mosquitoes tend to bite.
- Also prepare an emergency health care/first aid kit that includes panadol, charcoal pills and rehydration sachets.
- Shampoo and other general toiletries can be purchased everywhere in Bali.
- Adapter – Power sockets in Bali are 250 vault 2 round pin plug. Most hotels have adapters, but it’s worth investing in a couple yourself to save disappointment if the hotel runs out.
- Phone – Ideally it will be unlocked so you can buy a Bali SIM card for cheaper local calls.
Getting around Bali is relatively easy, and taxis are readily available in most areas. Although, be ready for ‘the meter is broken’, no change, and fixed fare prices.
Far easier is to simply hire a vehicle for a day, or a half day, and go where you please. You can set the itinerary, or work with one of our guides to plan the best day for you.
Motorbikes are easy to hire and cheap to run but we do not advise doing this unless you have years of riding experience.
Other forms of transport
Hire a bicycle in the quieter areas of Bali and see things that you miss when driving. Sanur is a perfect place for cycling, as there is a 7km long boardwalk along the beach – perfect as you can stop along the way for meals and refreshments.
Walking is a great way to see Bali, enjoy the sights, sounds and meet people as you go.
Do’s and Don’ts
- Take out travel insurance prior to leaving home – hopefully you won’t need to use it, but you will be considerably out of pocket if you end up sick or in an accident. A bed in a hospital runs at around USD550 per day, and medical services are additional. Due to the number of volcanoes in Indonesia, we recommend you ensure that volcano eruptions are covered in addition to the usual.
- Remove your shoes before entering a house or temple.
- Wear a helmet if you travel on a motorcycle, as a passenger or rider. Messing up your hair is no compromise when it comes to avoiding head injuries or a police fine.
- Dress for the occasion – especially in temples, public places and government offices (immigration for example). Beachwear is for the beach and should never be worn whilst walking around the shops, despite what you see others doing!
- Be aware of your drinks when in bars and nightclubs. There have been cases of methanol poisoning from locally brewed spirits, as well as drink spiking in busy nightclubs. If your drink does not taste right, don’t drink it.
- Drink the tap water – bottled water is cheap and available everywhere.
- Use your left hand when handing over money or goods to anyone. The left hand is seen as ‘unclean’ because it is used for personal hygiene purposes. Use your right hand only, or both hands together.
- Use your feet to point at anything, or to touch someone, and definitely don’t put your feet up on a chair and expose the soles to people. This is seen to be very insulting in Bali.
- Point at anything using your index finger – it is seen as very bad manners in Bali.
- Swim outside of the flags whilst at the beach. Currents and rips are notorious in Bali, and extremely dangerous to swimmers, even in shallow water.
- Touch anyone on the head – head is sacred in Bali and should never be touched by another person.
- Bargain too hard – gentle, good humoured haggling is fine but remember 10,000IDR is only a dollar.
Indonesia Language Tips
The easiest way to make friends in any country is to try to speak at least a little of the local lingo. By learning the basics, you will find locals want to be more helpful and they can also practice their English with you!
Here are some basic phrases to learn before you go:
Selamat Pagi (s’lah maht pah gee)
Selamat Siang (s’lah maht see yang)
Selamat Malam (s’lah maht mah lam)
Terima Kasih (Teree-mah kah-see)
Nama Saya … (Naa-maa Saiya…)
My name is…
Tidak (Tee dak)
Apa Kabar (ah-pak kah-bar)
How are you?
Baik, terima kasih (baa-eek, Teree-mah kah-see)
I’m fine thanks
Are you thinking about your first trip to Bali? Let our local travel experts in Indonesia design a customised Bali tour perfect for the kind of traveller that you are.