Looking for a travel guide to Bali – land of amazing food and fantastic beaches? I brought in a local to share her best Bali travel tips – where to go, what to do, and how to do it all cheaply, safely, and respectfully!
I’m Sarah, a 24-year-old photographer living in the jungle in Bali, Indonesia. Last winter I was home in America, between jobs, and the travel bug was biting me hard.
So when an opportunity to teach English and art to Balinese kids materialized, I jumped on the next flight out. Volunteering segued into an amazing job, and now I’ve been in Bali for the better part of a year! It’s amazing where life’s little twists and turns will take you.
Must go in Bali
The Bali beaches!
Kuta, Legian, Seminyak, and Nusa Dua are the most popular, great for surfing and partying. Sanur is quieter and has beautiful views of the neighboring islands. Padangbai, Candidasa, and Amed to the east are chilled out spots great for diving and snorkeling.
All the expats seem to have their favorite secret beaches so ask around if you want to find a hidden gem. I love the fishing beaches of Klungkung, the sand there is glittery black thanks to eruptions from the volcano Gunung Agung nearby.
If you stick only to the southern beach towns like many visitors do, you’ll miss out on what makes Bali special, which is the local culture.
Head up to Ubud, where Balinese arts and culture readily co-mingles with tourism. When you’re in town be sure to see a dance performance, the Kecak dance is my favorite.
Spend a couple days exploring Ubud on foot, there’s something interesting to be found on every side street and if you wander far enough you’ll always be rewarded with stunning rice paddy views.
Visit some of Bali’s incredible temples. There is a Bat Cave Temple
, which is exactly what it sounds like, and an Elephant Cave Temple, which is even cooler than what it sounds like.
The most underrated temple I’ve visited was Pura Pasar Agung
, which is high on the slopes of Gunung Agung, where the views of the island at sunrise are spectacular. By the way, if you’re interested in praying at a temple, go ahead and try it, it’s a very powerful experience. Go with a Balinese friend and have them show you how it’s done.
Must do in Bali
Catch a ceremony procession in the street
In Bali big events like weddings, cremations, and some holy days call for a procession through the town. They are happening all the time so it’s really down to luck if you catch one.
I pass them about once a week when I’m driving home from work but the experience never fails to have a deep impact on me. The haunting sounds of the gamelan orchestra and the women in their brightly colored kebayas is the stuff that great travel memories are made of.
Must eat in Bali
Anything in a Padang
Visit a Padang for a delicious and cheap (under $2) meal with the locals. They are easy to spot because all the dishes are staggered in rows in the window, checkerboard style.
Point at three dishes you like the look of and you’ll get them served up with rice and stewed greens.
Meat eaters have got to try Babi Guling, Balinese suckling pig. The pig is spit roasted for hours and basted in coconut oil and just about every local spice. Mouth-watering!
Cultural tips for Traveling in Bali
Talk to the Balinese locals. This might sound obvious, but talk to people! The Balinese are some of the most hospitable people on earth. A stranger greeting you on the street probably isn’t trying to scam you, so go ahead and have a friendly chat.
Even if you’re being sold a service you don’t want (massage, taxi, handicrafts, etc) a polite “no, thank you” or “terimakasih” is always appropriate.
Cheap travel tips for Bali
Despite the abundance of luxury resorts, Bali is best discovered on the cheap, and you can stay here quite comfortably for under $30 a day. Lodge in a homestay with a local family. Eat at Padangs and markets, many of which run late at night.
If you want something cheaper than a hotel, but more posh than a hostel, Airbnb’s a good bet. Here’s a beautiful, one-bedroom villa for $67 a night and here’s a three-bedroom three house for $97 a night. If you’ve never used Airbnb before, here’s a $40 credit towards your first booking!
Alcohol is expensive except for arak, a rice wine moonshine. Its production is illegal and unregulated, so drink it at your own peril.
Travel by Bemo, the brightly colored buses that run along fixed routes between towns.Take it easy, travel slow, explore off the beaten path, keep an open mind, go with the flow, and you’re sure to have the trip of a lifetime.
Have any of you been to Bali? Any tips to share?
P.S. 7 travel tools I won’t shut up about