Bali is a small island in the center of the Indonesia archipelago, which has an area of 5633 square kilometers for about three million inhabitants. We can easily navigate all of its length by car in less than a day. We can cross it for sure if we are not caught in a traffic jam.
The island is a victim of its success and its transport system is deficient, but it’s the only negative thing I could find in this paradise that people nicknamed “ the Island of Gods”.
Balinese Hindu culture is unique and well known. A major contrast to Malaysia and Indonesia which are ruled by traditional Muslim governments. Bali gives a smile to all tourists who want to stay around forever. The magnificent scenery of rice fields, beaches, emerald waters and warm friendly people of Bali annually attracts over one million visitors. The influx of tourists over the last thirty years, despite the sad terrorist attacks, did not alter the smiley spontaneous Balinese culture and its religion.
Bali is a beautiful island that offers an extraordinary mixture of tribal culture, beautiful beaches, the ancestral temples, exciting activities and world class facilities. Bali is a paradise, everyone finds his own satisfaction from the surfer guy to the small family seeking tranquility.
The history of Bali is born over 1000 years ago and a plethora of historical sites await you. The island is now very modern and offers an exceptional experience and infrastructure at reasonable prices. It is even cheaper for those who can live and eat local food.
Apart from the breathtaking landscape, the thing that impresses most is the culture and its people. They are the real treasure of the island. It’s impossible to visit a business or a private home that does not have a temple, a shrine and some offerings laid on the floor. The religious festivals ceremonies are common and everyone invites you to participate. It is always best to get away from the city and major tourist attractions to discover the real authentic Bali.
Some of you will love to visit temples like Besakih, Ulawutu, Tanah Lot, to Taman Ayun Temple Mengwi or Bratan. Other historic sites and parks are also worth visiting as the bas-reliefs of Yeh Pulu, the burial chambers of Gunung Kawi or the GWK Cultural Park. Finally, the dance performances are a must. The typical Bali music will play nonstop in your head.
The scenery is beautiful with lush paddy fields in terraced volcanoes as impressive as Batur or Agung . The beaches are not idyllic perfection, but pleasant enough. They are heavenly blue with Kuta, Nusa Dua and Dreamland among the finest. Most other beaches are composed of volcanic sand, waves are strong and swimming is often dangerous.
Bali offer plenty of activities
Activities that can be practiced in Bali are unlimited. Beautiful dive sites are accessible, snorkeling is also nice for the less initiated and families but remain quite spectacular. The most famous places for practice are those are Tulamben, the small island of Menjongan or Lembongan Island. Surfing is everywhere in Bali with some of the best and busiest surf spots in Indonesia. Kuta beach is ideal for beginners while the spots of the Bukhit peninsula are reserved for the more experienced. You can also enjoy hiking, biking, mountain trekking to volcanoes, rafting and many other water sports (jet skiing, windsurfing, sailing … ). And of course, the luxurious resorts offer all the possible activities like golf, tennis and spa.
Here’s a guide to different areas of Bali where you can reside.
The capital of the island is Denpasar the south-east city’s is the business hub and where the passengers get to the airport. It is a good starting point for Meet Bali, but a little further we discover the impressive area of Nusa Dua where we find a selection of hotels, restaurant and shop.
In the interior were found several small villages that offer an immersion more faithful to the true Balinese culture. Ubud is located at the foot of the hill leading to the tropical jungle of central Bali. But this is the artistic capital of Bali with an outstanding selection architecture, music, dance and crafts.
Ubud is composed mostly of home workshops offering art galleries of practitioners of numerous disciplines such as painting, culture, silver jewelry and many other forms of traditional crafts. The items offered are good qualities and prices are quite reasonable. The surrounding area is especially beautiful with greenish hills and mountains and even a forest full of monkeys roaming free in the wild. A perfect place to visit to escape the repetitive luxury hotels and breathe the country air of Bali.
Located in the Centre-South of the island, this modern town is the host of the city houses and the government buildings, but there are some cultural attractions worth to see. The temple Pura Jaganatha contains a large collection of monuments and works of art of Balinese heritage.
The place is a real festival of lust and is one of the last regions to be developed in the island. This is where the expensive or trendiest exclusive luxury resorts are located now on beautiful white sandy beaches and coral reefs. It houses a phenomenal marine life too. Shopping is like a major activity that can be found all over the island. You can get lost for months to find a bargain or treasure, but in Nusa Dua you find the only Shopping malls and large brands stores like Gucci brand. Not for me, but if you like it, then it is the place to go.
Kuta is a formerly small fishing village which has transformed now into a luxurious resort area that offers travelers a wide selection of Bali amenities and entertainment venue. Kuta is one of the most popular places to stay on the island. There are rooms for all budgets and a wide selection of restaurants and bars. In the evening, some streets are noisy and attract wild nightlife. It is perfect for the singles and the adventurous, but not for a small family. I suggest you to stay in Seminyak near Denpasar. It is quieter but still offers a good selection of hotels and restaurants.
A village overlooking the beaches with a bunch of popular facilities. Sanur has a long time been the hottest vacation destinations in Bali with its beautiful beaches and numerous water activities. Sanur is located just after the capital and its airport, Denpasar, providing visitors a golden opportunity to go snorkeling, sailing, sun bathing or simply relax.
At northeast of Denpasar, Batubulan is known for its wood carvings, which can be discovered in various surrounding temples. Small sculptures can be purchased as souvenirs in the many shops located on the edge of the village roads.
I should also mention that North of Bali Lovina and Singaraja offers the sea, sand but with less tourist and traffic. Jimbaran near Nusa Dua offers many seafood restaurants along the beach, the accommodations featured the best prices, it is even possible to rent holiday villas for the week or a month.
Avoid tourist traps and tricks:
1. There are people that will give you scratch lottery and certainly you will win something. To receive this, you will attend a boring meeting (sometimes more than 5 hours!) When someone gives you this, ignore it or say you already have plenty in your bag.
2. Do not fill any forms on the streets. This is another scam. They will bore you by calling you every 5 minutes to your hotel.
3. If you need a taxi, always use Blue Bird taxi. Why? Because they are honest. Other taxi services will dry your wallet. Be careful, at first glance many taxis have the same logo with the blue bird, but they are not. Their phone number: (0361) 701111 do not forget the history of my Irish friend, David, in Jakarta.
4. When changing money, always do it in money changers who are authorized (check their license) and always remember to count your money before leaving. It remains difficult to get a good exchange rate with the Indonesian rupiah so have a good supply at your airport before departure; you will have a better rate and also more importantly a peace of mind. One U.S. dollar is about 9100 rupiahs
5. It’s not very dangerous, but still avoid to show off your jewelry and your valuables in public.
6. It’s OK if you want to buy goods in Kuta, or Sanur, but most goods come from the market Sukawati, Gianyar and you’ll pay a lot cheaper.
7. In Indonesia, you can always bargain for anything. If you negotiate something and the seller does not want to budge, just go somewhere else. Trust me the seller within 70% of the time will call you back and agree with the price: D
1. Dream Land Beach, Jimbaran – the most beautiful beaches of Kuta
2. Bali Safari Park, Ubud
3. Bedugul, Kintamani
4. Uluwatu Temple
5. Tirta Gangga, Ubud
6. CGNDB (Bali Tourism Development Center), Nusa Dua
7. Tanjung Benoa for water sports & diving
8. Jimbaran for seafood restaurants on the beach
9. Besakih (3 to 4 hours drive) – the largest temple in Bali
10. Melka Dolphin Resort Bali, Singaraja if you want to swim with dolphins
11. Sanur – beach, restaurants, cafés and beach walk.
For a car with driver, once in Bali you can call Mr. Made to +6281 747 260 30. He is one of the friendliest drivers and is also the cheapest.
Visa and immigration
I almost forget to address the formal side of visiting Bali, the visa. All nationalities can receive a one month visa on arrival by paying 25 USD and at departure a 150.000 rupiah tax awaits you. A total of 40 USD of immigration formality is mandatory.
This completes my guide on a quick trip to Bali to stay connected and a video summary of my wonderful experience in Bali.
This post is also available in: French