Beginner’s Guide to Bali – What You Need To Know

Beginner’s Guide to Bali – What You Need To Know


Bali has famously been described as the “morning of the world” and it’s a place that certainly lives up to that accolade. I’ve put together a beginner’s guide to Bali, to tempt you to visit and to help you get the most out of your trip there.

WHY VISIT
The reasons are numerous: friendly people, delicious food, incredible sunsets and unique landscapes including the world famous rice fields. Bali represents great value for money yet offers a wide range of luxurious hotels, spas, and shopping. Have I persuaded you yet? Well read on and by the end of this I hope to have piqued your curiosity.

Sunset Jimbaran Bali
GETTING THERE
Bali has one international airport, Ngurah Rai, more commonly known as Denpasar International Airport, located in Southern Bali. There are direct flights with many countries including Australia, Brunei, Japan, Malaysia, Qatar, Singapore and the United States. If visiting Java or Lombok as well as Bali, there are regular connecting ferries.

WHEN TO VISIT
The best time to visit is between April to end of September which is the dry season when humidity is lower. Accommodation is priced considerably higher in July and August, as well as during Easter holidays, Christmas and New Year.

WHAT TO PACK
Make sure to take plenty of loose clothing in natural fabrics as it can get quite humid. It’s a good idea to pack a sarong as you will need one to visit the temples – however if you forget, you can hire one at all the big temples for a very small fee. The roads in Bali can be quite uneven so it’s best to stick to flat shoes if going anywhere on foot. Anti-mosquito spray is a good thing to pack, as is a bite relief device if you do get caught out!

Balinese temple sarong
GETTING AROUND
Hiring a private driver for excursions is very reasonably priced and makes sense considering the state of the roads in some areas. In Kuta, Legian and Seminyak it can get very busy with cars and motorcycles and if you’re walking along the narrow streets, expect constant horn beeping from taxis as they tout for your custom. If you do take a cab, insist that the meter is turned on or negotiate the price first.

CULTURE
A trip to Bali will give you a fascinating insight to Balinese culture. Art permeates every aspect of life here, from the intricate dances with their elaborate costumes to the carved wood masks and furniture. The main religion is Hinduism and the Balinese are particularly devout with over 10,000 temples. Most families have a temple in their house, and we didn’t originally realize that they were houses not temples as they were so impressive.

Balinese temple doors
The Balinese believe that demons and giants live in the sea, whereas gods live in the mountains. Daily offerings are made at the temples, and include areca nut, betel leaf and lime.

Balinese temple offering
PRACTICAL INFORMATION
The currency is the Indonesian rupiah and with the exchange rate, you can easily feel like a millionaire as 1 million rupiah equals around 72 US dollars. In terms of etiquette, it is considered impolite to point with your index finger and you should also take off your shoes before entering a home or temple. It is fine to haggle the price of items in markets but not the done thing in shops. Bali is a very safe place on the whole, whether you are travelling solo, as a couple or a group.

WHERE TO STAY
There are so many wonderful places to stay, from private villas like the inimitable Kayumanis to luxurious hotels such as the Alila Ubud. If you’re looking for unspoilt beaches then Jimbaran and Nusa Dua are excellent choices, whilst Seminyak is perfect for a spot of shopping and some of the coolest restaurants on the island. Uluwatu is famous for its temple and displays of fire dancing, and is a favourite with surfers, as is the rather rowdy Kuta. Ubud is a must-see for everyone – the inspiration for Eat Pray Love and home to Ubud Monkey Forest. Tegalalang Rice Terrace is a picturesque UNESCO World Heritage site north of Ubud.

Monkey Forest Ubud
FOOD AND DRINK
It’s easy to find international cuisine in Bali as Australian, French, Italian and Greek cuisines are all well represented. However, the real highlight is the delicious Balinese cuisine. It’s worth visiting a local warung or café, going to the counter and ordering rice accompanied with meat, fish or vegetables. Nasi Goreng is an Indonesian dish of fried rice with chicken or prawns that you’ll find everywhere in Bali. Coconut milk makes for a refreshing drink whilst alcohol is readily available but expensive due to high import duties. Check out my guide of where to eat and drink in Bali for dining ideas.

Nasi Goreng Bali
WHAT TO BRING BACK
If you like wood carvings then you’ve come to the right place, particularly in the village of Mas near Ubud. Coffee fans may the droppings of the luwat or civet cat – the most expensive brew in the world. Textiles are very reasonable and there are lots of modern boutiques, particularly around Seminyak where a new shopping gallery is being built.

Wood Carving Mas
READING
We picked up Snowing in Bali by Kathryn Bonella at the airport bookstore, it gives a fascinating insight into the darker side of the paradise island. And don’t forget the iconic memoir Eat Pray Love by Elizabeth Gilbert for a feel-good holiday read.

Have you ever been to Bali? What tips would you give to first time visitors?  

  • Angie SilverSpoon

    Great guide lovely 🙂 I love the food in Bali and the accommodation is just of this world!
    Lots of love,
    Angie
    SilverSpoon London

    • Thanks Angie, I agree that the accommodation is spectacular

  • Wow that sunset looks incredible!

    Candice | Beauty Candy Loves

  • Catherine Lux

    Fantastic guide Suze! Your photos are gorgeous – those monkeys are too cute!

    C x | Lux Life

    • Glad you liked it Catherine, and whilst those monkeys may look cute, one of them gave me a bit of a fright when it started hissing at me 😉

  • I’m planning to go next year! I need this. Thanks! 🙂

  • stylentonic Constantinos
  • ♫ Alison M ♪

    It looks amazing, I would love to visit

  • I take this post as a sign that I HAVE to make a short detour to Bali when I’m in Malaysia next month! Thank you Suze 😉 x

    Jasiminne | Posh, Broke, & Bored

  • Ellie Adams

    I’m so glad you’ve written this post Suze, I’ve never been to Bali but really want to go and haven’t a clue where to begin so I definitely needed this!

    Elle
    http://www.theellenextdoor.co
    xx

    • I’m glad that it’s a good starting point Elle, there’s so much to be said about the place!

  • I’m so looking forward to visiting Bali next year Suze, especially after reading your post. Everything about the island fascinates me, I especially want to see the monkeys.

    • The monkeys are so mischevious, especially around the monkey sancturary!

  • Jennifer Jayne

    Amazing post. I would love to travel here. Thanks for sharing this guide.

    Jenn | jenniferjayne.blogspot.co.uk

    • My pleasure Jenn, and I really recommend Bali – stuning place!

  • Danielle

    I would love to visit this island! The sunset there is really beautiful (great photo)! Thanks for this entertaining and informative guide. Have a nice weekend!

    Danielle
    http://www.spring2spring.com

    • The sunsets were incredible and the local people really make the most of the beach at that time of day – have a great weekend too Danielle

  • Love your pics. I haven’t been back to Bali in many years. Loved the craft villages on the road up to Ubud. Time for another visit next time I head back to Asia.

    • Thanks very much May, we didn’t buy anything in the craft villages but it was interesting to see the work that goes into the art

  • A good friend of mine recently visited and I’ve been considering going too at some point. It would be a dream come true.

    http://www.LUXESSED.com

    • It’s really worth a visit, Anouk, I’m sure you would love it

  • Dressed With Soul

    Thank you for sharing this very helpful and interesting tips. Honestly I didn’t think that it is that humid in Bali – but apart from that obviously like in paradise!

    xx from Bavaria/Germany, Rena

    http://www.dressedwithsoul.com

    • It’s pretty humid and we weren’t even there in the wet season! If you’re equipped against the mosquitoes then it really is like paradise

  • I like the look of the Balinese cuisine it looks so tasty! Was it very spicy? Great photographs. Bali is on the hit list without a shadow of a doubt! Laura http://www.shehearts.net x

    • Yes the food was a bit spicy, fine for a while but I had to switch back to less spicy food for one or two days to give my stomach a rest!

  • Velysia Zhang

    The culture is the highlight in Bali, aside from the stunning beach and landscape, not forget to mention the food!

    • You’re right Velysia, the culture is so unique and I’ve rarely met such kind people

  • WhatWouldVWear

    Gorgeous! Definitely on my bucket list! I heard the people and food are amazing!!

    Have a great weekend, beautiful!

    Much love,

    Vanessa

    http://www.WhatWouldVWear.net

    • They certainly are Vanessa – love your new gravatar by the way!

  • Beautiful! I would love to visit Bali!

    http://roadesque.com
    http://ourruins.com

    • There’s so much to see there Valerie, it’s really worth the trip!

  • What a wonderful guide! Would love to visit Bali someday, thanks for your tips 🙂

    http://www.mintnotion.com

  • When I went to Bali back in 2003, it was part of a much larger trip around Indonesia, and so I was quite put off by the touristy feel of Bali compared to all the other places I had been in the country. I would like to go back and experience it again from a different point of view. I’ve heard the vegan food there is amazing!

    • There are some parts that are very touristy, luckily we avoided Kuta and I really enjoyed Ubud and North Bali as well as Jimbaran, the food was amazing in both

  • OMG BAli it’s so beautifull!!! it’s so magical!!!

    http://www.francescagori.com/en_US/are-u-ready-for-the-show/

    • There is something very magical about the place when you find a quiet spot!

  • Agness

    Bali is absolutely amazing! I felt in love with this island once me and Cez visited in back in 2014!! What I love the most was definitely the food – fresh and so fruity!

    • The food was brilliant wasn’t it, just the right amount of spice!

  • A fabulous guide to Bali, Suze 🙂 The idea of hiring a private driver sounds very sensible, especially when in a new country. I had no idea wood carvings were a popular gift idea to bring back, thanks for the tip – now I just need to click my fingers and find myself in Bali!

    Gabrielle | A Glass Of Ice x

    • We took a driver twice, we were debating going to Tegalalang but I’m so glad that we did!

  • Oh my! Bali looks absolutely beautiful. I would love to visit some day!

    madame-ostrich.com

    • I hope that you get the opportunity and thanks for stopping by

  • One of my very good friends who got married this summer, went to Bali on a honeymoon with her husband. It’s an amazing place.
    Thank you for the thorough post. I hope I will indeed visit one day :))

    Lu | http://www.balgarka.co.uk

    • Fantastic choice for a honeymoon, there’s so much to see or you can choose just to relax

  • Corinne C

    Ahhh, look at that sunset! Thanks for the guide, I’d def come back to it if I was going to visit Bali!

    Corinne x
    http://www.skinnedcartree.com

    • The sunsets were amazing, I’d love to go back to see the sunset at Uluwatu

  • Thank you for this guide to Bali! I’d love to go. It looks like a glorious place to visit. Now I have to wait until April through September! :]

    // ▲ itsCarmen.com ▲

  • I loved eating in the warungs in Ubud. We absolutely loved how fresh and tasty the food was in such humble places with immensely reasonable prices! Also found it fascinating the way each family compound has its own temple within – a lovely tradition.

    • It’s impressive how each family has their own temple and we were lucky to be able to visit one such compound

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  • Thank you for this excellent guide to Bali, Suze. I’d love to visit. I heard it’s very beautiful and the people are so friendly. If only I could find the time and money for all the beautiful places I read about … The two of you look so cute in those outfits! I love it!

    • I was worried that the sarong would fall off, there’s definitely a knack to tying it!

  • Creme Rose

    Great Guide, thanks for sharing! Also, the pictures are beautiful! 🙂

    x Arwa
    http://cremerose.blogspot.com

  • What a lovely guide! Bali is definitely a place I wouldn’t mind spending time on, at all. You’ve also shared some very unique photos, loved it!

    N- Naomi in Wonderland

    • There were so many photogenic places and i’d love to go back and get to know the people more, they were really lovely

  • Hey Suze it looks like you had the most incredible time in Bali! I’ve always wanted to visit there and this guide makes me want to go even more 🙂 The Temples are architecture look so stunning. I love how cheap all of these countries are too! It’s such a quick flight from Australia too and I should just book it haha

    Rachel xx
    http://www.thedailyluxe.net

    • It was so cheap for food and clothes were a bargain too, you should just book it Rachel!

  • So jealous!! Bali seems dreamy! I will come back when I visit to put to use those helpful tips!!!

    Dora Bangs Bang | Bloglovin

    • It’s really dreamy, Dora! Hope the tips do come in handy if you visit

  • Bali is a fantastic destination I still think of my trip there 15 years on! 🙂

  • life is a shoe

    What a great tour! I am dying to go to Bali!

    lifeisashoe

  • My goodness this is incredible!!! Bali has been on my list since I read Eat Pray Love years ago:-)

  • Lucy

    Wonderful tips, I happened to visit whilst a 5.6 earthquake took place quite the experience. You can find some wonderful wooden treasures that are so beautifully created. I would love to go again Lucy x

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