Indonesia : Bali : Island of the Gods
I recently visited a majority of the island with three close friends and we had quite the adventure. We planned only two out of three accommodation locations and zero out of dozens of activities… we took the whole “play it by ear” thing to a new level. I’ve compiled a few tips + pics below about where to visit, where not to visit, safety, money, where I stayed, and where I would have gone if we had more time… hopefully they’re helpful for anyone keen to travel around Bali!
Some Favorite Places to Visit/Activities to Do
Aling-Aling Waterfall : Ubud
Probably my number one favorite thing I did when I was there. It’s kind of hidden in the back of a town and not very well known (I’m talkin’ – our day driver had to ask locals how to get there), but really beautiful turquoise waters and an amazing rush when you jump off the falls. You have to jump (ok you don't have to but you have to). I am usually somewhat of a dare devil, but when I got to the second waterfall jump it really phased me for some reason but with reassurance from the local guides and peer pressure from all my friends down below, I made the jump – and was SO happy I did. It’s such a rush and unlike any other jump I’ve done before.
One of the tips they told me when I had the jumping jitters was to look forward and have confidence!
Ulun Danu Bratan Temple
Beautiful temple floating on water, took my breath and words away. Of course you’ll see many temples in Bali, but if I were to recommend one and only one it would be Ulun Danu… Make sure to bring small change if you need to use the bathroom! You have to pay!
There’s also a great buffet area just a drive down the street, it’s about ten Australian dollars to eat there (pricey for Bali), but it’s a good chance to try lots of really yummy foods.
Padang Padang Beach: Uluwatu
With its high surrounding cliffs and shallow waters it’s a very nice place to relax in while watching the sunset,
early morning swim or just lazying around for a day. Just before the stairs going down there are usually monkeys hanging out so have your camera ready — but don’t let go of it! Those monkeys are thieves!
Fun fact: it’s where Life of Pi was filmed!
Tegenungan Waterfall : Ubud
Breathtaking waterfall to photograph, cool off in, or simply embrace all that it has to offer. If you’re looking for a waterfall to jump off and swim in, I recommend Aling-Aling. This one is too shallow for major activity, but definitely worth the trip.
Holy Water Hot Springs
Holy is right! This warm pool is so magical. I could have stayed here for a good hour or so freely moseying in and out of the warm water, but unfortunately we were on a tight schedule that day. It was incredibly green and the water felt like you were sitting inside a warm cup of milky tea… the kind where you leave your tea alone for 20 minutes and totally forget about it but then go back and realize it’s still fairly drinkable warm, not the scorching hot kind. With that being said, it was milky… they have outside showers provided so I would recommend hopping in one of those for a quick rinse after you enjoy the wonders of the hot springs.
Parasailing, Surfing and Snorkeling
We went parasailing in Nusa Dua which was so thrilling! It was only a few minutes but such a rush and well worth it. We also went snorkeling in Padang Bai, that was really fun and a good place to go if you cant make it out to the Gili Islands for snorkeling. There was a lot of trash where the waves were crashing which was really sad to see, but once you swam out it was very clear and the fish were not shy at all! We surfed in Seminyak and Kuta, I preferred Kuta since it was deeper you could ride out the waves longer! All of these activities can be done in many places around Bali, but that's just where ended up doing them!
Places People Are Known For Visiting, But I Would Just Pass On
Monkey Forest: They steal you're water bottles, it’s hot, and you see monkeys all around Ubud anyway.
Bali Zoo Elephant Ride: Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE elephants and I’m very glad I was able to do this, but it was pricey (around $70 USD), and it was a short ride with the elephants. There were little basket carriers you sat on, on top of the elephant, and if I had done my research right I would have gone somewhere where you could actually sit on the elephant and play, instead of have a carriage ride. Afterward we did get to pet the elephants, looking into their eyes was an experience I will never forget and don't have words for. But for $70 I think there would have been a better option out there.
Be prepared to pay an entrance fee for just about everything, the fees are only around a dollar (or less), but just make sure to have some small cash on you.
An easy way to get a rough estimate for how much you're spending when converting the Indonesian rupiah is just to move to the left four decimal places.
ex: 5000 IDR = $00.50 AUD (then from AUD you can convert to USD or wherever you’re traveling from)
I never had anyone try to steal my wallet so that shouldn’t be a top concern, but obviously just be aware of your surroundings.
When shopping at the markets don’t go buying the first thing you see for the first price they say! The locals who sell at the markets know travelers have a lot of money (compared to what they’re used to), so you have to haggle to get the right price. It’s not rude (unless you offer some ridiculously low price like one cent which is 1000 IDR, just tell them you made a mistake if you accidentally do this). Our driver, Putu, who was a local to Ubud told us to always try to get a 40% discount. So start really low and work your way to a meeting point with the crafters!
You don’t typically tip at restaurants because they include it in the bill.
Taxi drivers! Make sure you get a metered Blue Bird taxi! These are the certified taxi drivers. Or come to a negotiable price before you get in the cab if they don't have a meter.
When it came to leaving our stuff on the beach while we swam in the ocean, we didn’t have a 100% vibe with what to do. We ended up having one person stay with the stuff while others swam (or two and two, etc). We didn’t wanna risk anything, but we never saw anyone try to take or stuff.
People will come up to you at the beach all the time and try to sell you stuff… it’s just how it is on public beaches. Unless you’re at a private beach living the good life, You’ll just have to get some tropical braids or tell them you’re not interested.
Locals and other tourists (mostly other tourists) will come up to you and ask you if you can take a picture. They do not mean take a picture of them, they mean with them. This is up to you if you’re comfortable with it or not. We said ok to it a few times but when it was a solo man coming up to a group of four girls in bikini’s on the beach we said no thank you and they respectfully leave.
Where I Stayed
Seminyak: New Seminyak capsule hostel, fairly cheap and really nice compared to other hostels I’ve stayed in. Fresh white sheets, comfy bed, wifi, nice clean rooms, and AC. There was also a cute breakfast place two stops over that gave you 10% off if you stayed at the hostel.
Ubud: Praety homestay, love love love! The family was so cute and adorable and wonderful. They have two little sons who were just fantastic to play with after a long day of exploring. It was a bit pricer, but splitting between a group was not bad, plus breakfast (an amazing beautiful breakfast) was included. They didn’t have AC which was probably the biggest issue we came across, but they did have two fans and the rooms were gorgeous.
Kuta: Ayu Lili Garden Hotel. This was extremely last minute, but a great find for so last minute. Very affordable and wonderful AC! Ok wifi, clean sheets and comfy bed (and pull out bed), and A POOL! No breakfast included, but down the street there was a cafe called California and it had really great meals with a friendly staff.
Where I Would Have Gone
Last but not least… I would have gone to the Gili Islands. Unfortunately we didn’t have enough time to do this, but it looked so fun. Give yourself a few days to spend there. It’s a $50 boat ride over and $50 back (something like that, please don’t quote me) but worth that if you have a few days!