The Ultimate Bali Travel Guide For First Timers

The magical island of Bali has so much to offer, from rice fields, to volcanoes, to waterfalls, to beautiful beaches, to temples, and amazing restaurants and bars. Traveling to Bali for the first time, requires some proper planning, because the island itself is huge and it’s hard to choose which area to stay in to fit everything you want to do during your tropical vacation.

After several trips to Bali, I’ve put together an informative guide to help you choose where to stay and eat, along with the top activities not to miss in Bali.

Bali Rice Terraces

The Ultimate Bali Travel Guide

When to go to Bali: Bali has warm weather year round with 2 main seasons, the dry season (April to September) and wet season (October to March). During the wet season, it rains almost every day, but usually for a couple of hours, after which everything looks even more green. It does however get very hot and humid as well.The high season is July/August which is the peak of the dry season, but the island gets extremely overcrowded and hotel prices surge pretty high compared to other months. The best months to visit are May, June and September where you can enjoy the beautiful weather without the crowds.

Bali Travel Guide

Currency & how to avoid money exchange scams in Bali: The main currency in Bali is Indonesian Rupees (IDR) and it’s best to always have cash with you because lots of places don’t accept credit cards (mainly in the markets). Make sure to exchange your money only in “authorized” money exchanges that have cameras installed inside, because there are loads of unauthorized places that can scam you right in from of your eyes. The exchanges all look similar, but authorized ones have cameras and will always give you a receipt. Another option is to use one of the many ATM machines available in all the main areas on the island.

Language: Indonesian is the main language in Bali, but lots of people speak English in the tourist areas. It’s generally very easy to communicate with the locals, especially because they are so welcoming and helpful.

Getting around: My favorite way to get around in Bali is on the back of a scooter. There are several apps that you can download: Go-Jek, Grab, and Uber all offer bike services, where a driver on a motorbike comes to pick you up and gives you a helmet. It’s so affordable as well with rides starting from $1 only! You can also use Grab and Uber for taxi services, but watch out because some areas (especially around Canggu) have banned any online pick up service, because local taxi drivers were getting highly affected by the cheaper fares that the apps are offering. Use this link to get your first free Uber ride.

For public taxis, make sure the drivers turn on the meter, because a lot of them will try to ask for a fixed price which is usually much more than what you would pay for a metered fare.

Travel can change your life

Where to stay in Bali

This is the most confusing part for first time visitors, because each area offers a completely different experience than others. First I will give you a quick overview of the top areas, followed by my recommendations on how to divide your time in Bali.

Here are the top areas to stay in Bali:

1. Kuta – for surfers & party lovers

Kuta has become the most popular beach area in Bali and one of the first parts of the island that started development for mass tourism. The area is especially famous for surfing, with several long stretches of beaches and perfect waves year round. It’s also heaven for party lovers, because it’s filled with lots of bars, clubs and beach clubs that throw some amazing parties.

Kuta Bali Travel Guide

Positives: great place for surfing, partying and finding affordable backpacker style accommodation

Negatives: overcrowded with tourists, lots of construction and beaches have become quite polluted

2. Seminyak – for sunset beach bars, luxury restaurants and shopping

Seminyak is a great area to be based in, because it’s very central and has great beaches, some of the best restaurants in Bali, beautiful sunset beach bars and loads of accommodations options ranging from budget to luxury. It also has an amazing shopping area with very hip boutiques selling everything from typical souvenirs, to trendy clothing, accessories and beachwear.

 

Seminyak Bali Travel Guide

Positives: perfect place for affordable luxury accommodation, amazing bars & restaurants, great shopping

Negatives: a bit overcrowded, pricier than other areas, very commercialized

3. Canggu – for laid back boho chic beach lovers

Canggu is the new kid on the block. It’s an up and coming area located next to Seminyak and has officially become my favorite area to stay in the South of Bali. It’s still not swarming with tourists vs. the neighboring areas of Seminyak and Kuta, but is very central at the same time. The area is home to surfer beaches, cute and stylish cafes, rice fields and gorgeous villas.

Canggu Bali Travel Guide

Positives: stunning views of rice fields, affordable private villas, great cafes & restaurants, not too commercialized

Negatives: a bit calmer than other area and online taxis or bikes are not allowed

4. Uluwatu – upscale clifftop resorts and beach clubs

This area is famous for the Uluwatu clifftop temple and has several luxury resorts and beautiful beaches. It is much calmer than other areas and is perfect for spending a night or two.

Uluwatu

Positives: Amazing luxury resorts with views of the Indian Ocean, great beaches, peace and serenity

Negatives: secluded and an hour drive from the main area in Seminyak, pricier than other areas

5. Ubud – for serenity, stunning nature and peaceful getaways

Ubud is by far one of the most beautiful places I’ve visited in my travels. It’s also the cultural hub of Bali with so many artists and local craftsmen. It’s the kind if place that will give you a sense of serenity like no other. In beautiful Ubud you will come across endless rice fields, monkeys, temples and locals dressed in their colorful prayer clothes with baskets on their heads which are offerings to their Gods, waterfalls, volcanoes and the friendliest and kindest locals you can ever meet. My only advice is to rent a scooter and get lost in the area. Don’t just stick to the main tourist areas, but just take a map and chase some of the lesser known waterfalls and temples.

Ubud Bali Travel Guide

Positives: one the most peaceful places you can visit, rice fields, temples, monkeys, waterfalls, kind locals

Negatives: 2 hours away from the beach areas, not much to do at night

6. Nusa Dua – for family getaways and water sports

Nusa Dua is the perfect place for a family getaway with loads of all-inclusive resorts. It’s also one of the best areas for water sports and activities, such as diving, snorkeling and parasailing.

Nusa Dua Bali Travel Guide

Positives: a great family spot and perfect for water sport lovers

Negatives: far from the main areas in Bali and more difficult

Jetsetter recommendations on where to stay in Bali:

Spend 4 to 5 nights in either Seminyak or Canggu, followed by 3 to 4 nights in Ubud.

Seminyak & Canggu are located right next to each other and from these 2 areas, you can visit Kuta, Uluwatu and Nusa Dua. Ubud is quite far from everything else, so it’s best to spend a few nights there instead of just doing a day trip, because there is so much to see and do in the area. The best waterfalls and the most stunning temples are closer to Ubud, so it would be easier to base yourself there to discover other parts of Bali.

Choosing your hotel in Bali

The next big decision is which hotel to stay in Bali, but don’t worry I’ve done the research for you and i’ve put together the best hotels to stay in Bali with a private pool for under $150 a night.

Bali is a great place to take advantage of the affordable accomodation options and enjoy the luxury life without paying the high rates that come with it in other destinations.

Here are the top places to stay in Bali with a private pool for under $150:

affordable villas Bali

Best places to stay in Bali with a private pool under $150

February 15th, 2017 thejetsetterdiaries This beautiful island offers so many affordable accommodation choices, that it's hard to figure out the best places to stay in Bali. The island itself is huge and has so many beautiful areas, which makes it even harder to choose. The great news is that you can stay in a luxurious villa with a private…

For luxury hotels in Bali, here are my recommendations by area:

Kuta: The Anvaya Beach Resort

The Anvaya Beach Resort Kuta

The Anvaya Beach Resort Kuta

Seminyak: The Elysian

The Elysian Private Pool Villa Bali

The Elysian

Ubud: The Chedi Club

The Chedi Club Ubud

The Chedi Club Ubud

Top things to do in Bali

Temples not to miss: Tannah Lot, Uluwatu, Saraswati (Ubud), Purah Besakih (The Mother Temple), Ulun Danu Beratan, Tirta Empul Temple

Tanah Lot BaliTanah Lot

Bali Travel Guide

Uluwatu Temple

Pura Besakih Bali

Pura Besakih

Ulun Danu Beratan Bali

Ulun Danu Beratan

Saraswati Temple Bali

Saraswati Temple

Rice fields: Tegallalang Rice Fields Ubud, panoramic views from Mahagiri Restaurant, Jatiluwih, Belimbing

Tegelalang rice terracesTegelalang rice terraces

Mahagiri Bali

Mahagiri Restaurant

Waterfalls: Tegenungan (Ubud), Secret Waterfall (Tukad Cepung), Aling Aling, Gitgit, Sekumpul

Tegenungan BaliTegenungan Waterfall

Secret Waterfall Bali

Yoga classes: The Yoga Barn, Radiantly Alive (try the swing yoga here), Seminyak Yoga Shala

Yoga Bali Travel Guide

Shopping: Seminyak is great for trendy boutiques and stylish finds. Ubud Market has an amazing selection of local arts, crafts, souvenirs and cheap finds for clothing and accessories.

Massages: you can get cheap massages literally everywhere in Bali. There are loads of spas on every street and prices start from as low as $8 for a 1 hour massage.

Massage Bali Travel Guide

Monkey Forest Ubud: get ready to be surrounded by hundreds of adorable monkeys! You do however need to be very careful, because these little cuties are very cheeky and can get quite aggressive if provoked.

Here’s a quick monkey forest survival guide: a) Remove all food and drink from your bag b) Don’t touch the monkeys c) Don’t look them in the eye d) If you see them fighting don’t get close to them e) If you decide to feed them bananas (which you can purchase inside) they will most probably climb on you, so don’t touch them. Just let them eat their banana and leave. f) If they sit on you there is a slight chance they might pee (it happened to me!), so go with an open mind and enjoy!

Monkey Forest Bali

Ubud Monkey Forest Bali

Volcano trekking: Watching the sunrise from Mount Batur is an incredible experience. The hike will take approximately 2 hours uphill and another 2.5 hours downhill, but it’s well worth it. You will also have to wake up in the middle of the night at 2 AM to start your journey and catch the sunrise on time. It’s best to book a tour ahead of time.

Public beaches: Kuta, Canggu, Nusa Dua, Sanur, Seminyak, Jimbaran, Benoa Beach (for water sports)

Benoa Beach Bali

Benoa Beach

Beach clubs: Potato Head, Finn’s Beach Club, Sundays Beach Club, Kudeta, The Lawn

Bali travel guide

Potato Head Beach Club

Sunday's Beach Club Bali

Sunday’s Beach Club

Bali Swing: There are 2 spots where you can ride a swing with epic views in the background and both are located quite close to each other in Ubud. There’s one located in an Airbnb property called Zen Hideaway and you will have to message them directly to make sure you can pay a visit on your chosen day, because if the property is booked, they don’t allow outsiders to come inside just for the swing. The other one is called Bali Swing and there’s a small entrance fee of $2 plus a $20 fee to try 3 different swings. It’s quite pricey, but definitely a cool experience. Here’s some more info.

Join Airbnb with this link and get $25 off your first booking.

Bali Swing

Bali Swing

Bali Swing other activities

Where to eat in Bali

Breakfast & coffee shops: Revolver, Sea Circus, Nalu Bowls, Bali Bowls, Strawberry Fields, Milk & Madu, Livingstone

Bali Travel guide for first timers

Revolver Coffee Shop

Where to eat in Bali

Srawberry Fields

Where to eat in Bali

Milk & Madu

Livingstone Bali

Livingstone

Sea Circus Bali

Sea Circus

Lunch: Nook, Peloton Supershop (Vegan), La Finca, Deus Ex Machina, Betelnut, The Bistrot, Sari Organik, Cafe Pomegranate

Bali Rice fields nook

Nook Restaurant

Peloton Bali

Peloton

Where to eat in Bali

The Bistrot

Ubud Rice Fields

View from Sari Organik

Dinner: Mamasan, Bambu, Merah Putih, Sardine, Ginger Moon, Motel Mexicola (book in advance for these popular dinner spots)

Motel Mexico Bali Restaurant Bar

Motel Mexicola

Sunset spots: La Plancha, La Laguna, Woobar, Old Man’s, Rock Bar, Single Fin

La Plancha Bali

La Plancha

La Laguna Bali

La Laguna

Old Man's Bali

Old Man’s

Others: Tukies Ice Cream shop in Ubud for the best coconut ice cream, Anomali Coffee for coffee blends from all over Indonesia

Tukies Ice Cream Shop Bali

Tukies Ice Cream Shop

What to Pack for Bali

Waterfall, Beach & Suncare Essentials:

Aloe Vera Gel $14.95

Resting Beach Face Hat $19.97

OFF! Deep Woods Insect Repellent $12.39

Swimming Shoes $18.69

 

Adventure & Photography Gear:

Dry Bag + Waterproof Phone Cover $19.99

GoPro Hero 5 from $355

Ultra Compact/Lightweight Tripod $69.98

Collapsible Water Bottle $24.95

 

Stylish Finds:

Leather Backpack $69.98

Ray-Ban Erica Sunglasses $153

Palm Leaves Hi Lo Hem Dress $49.99

Michael Kors Activity Tracker $95

 

Ultimate Bali Travel Guide

2 Responses to “The Ultimate Bali Travel Guide For First Timers

  • This a very informative article. I will definitely use this as a reference guide when I go. It seems like no matter where you go local taxis are always trying to take advantage of tourists. It is part of the price we pay I guess for traveling. A price I am willing to pay.

  • Thank you for this comprehensive list! I am dying to go to Bali- your pictures look wonderful. I will be pinning for later so I can look back to your list when I plan my trip 🙂

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