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The Ultimate Guide to Bali, Indonesia

Known as the Land of the Gods by visitors and locals alike, Bali is an island with a vibrant culture, stunning natural landscapes, and a place where you can truly experience something new. Whether you're a Bali frequent flyer or a first time visitor, this guide from Skyscanner Australia will tell you everything you need to know to make the most of your trip.

In this guide, we’ll cover the basics of Bali as well as a few lesser-known spots you should explore during your visit.

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Why should you visit Bali?

One of the best things about Bali is that there is an activity, region, and landscape that will suit every type of traveller. Couples can find romantic, secluded beaches. Families will love spending time together going on adventures. Solo travellers will find Bali a great place to navigate and adventure. Groups of friends will enjoy making memories all throughout the island.

Bali has a distinct culture and landscape that can’t be found anywhere else. You’ll walk along beaches to the sound of chiming music, enjoy the smell of burning incense, and feel like you are somewhere with a strong sense of place. You can stick to the tourist trail or venture to sites rarely visited by outsiders. Bali is what you make of it.

Enjoy this video? You can also experience Bali like Sam Evans!

Things you need to know before you go

Language: Bahasa Indonesian
Currency: Indonesian Rupiah
Climate: Tropical with average temperatures from 25 to 28°C all year long. Humidity tends to be between 80-90%.
Visa: Australians can obtain a free 30-day visa upon arrival.
Power outlet: Two pin socket, type C and F.

The best time to go to Bali

Bali has two distinct seasons, dry and wet. Dry season is from April to October, while wet season is from November to March. Bali gets the most visitors during July and August, so it’s best to visit in April, June, September, and October to take advantage of the clear skies and uncrowded attractions.

Should you still visit Bali in the wet season? We think so! Rainstorms in Bali tend to be heavy but brief. Check out our guide to Bali during the wet season.

bali villa lookout

What to pack for Bali

Since the weather is so warm and humid, there’s no need to pack cold-weather clothing unless you plan to trek Mount Agung or Mount Batur. Even then, you might be better packing a few light layers. Here are a few essentials you’ll need in addition to your base clothing items.

  • Mosquito repellent
  • Sun cream (oxybenzone-free to help preserve Bali’s fragile coral reefs)
  • Wide-brimmed hat
  • Sunglasses
  • Rashguard and bathers
  • Shorts
  • Shirts
  • Undergarments
  • Toiletries
  • Sandals
  • Comfortable walking shoes
  • Water bottle and water purifier

How to get around Bali

There are a few ways to get around Bali depending on how many people you are travelling with and your preferred mode of transport.

Taxi: The most reputable taxi company are the light blue Bluebird taxis. Request that they run their meters as the fixed per-trip price is rarely cheaper than the metered fare.

Motorbike: Tourists can rent a motorbike for around 50,000 IDR per day. However, you should have an international license to drive one. Indonesia is very relaxed about following this law, but you might get fined or be pressured to pay a bribe if you’re caught driving a motorbike without a license. Motorbike crashes tend to be one of the biggest risks to tourists in Bali so if in doubt, hire a car or catch a ride elsewhere.

Private driver: Private drivers can usually be hired for around 500,000 IDR per day. This is a great option if you want a full or half-day tour around a region as it can often save you from having to sort out a ride as you go from place to place.

Uber/Lyft/rideshare apps: While there is Uber in Bali, it is not as smooth-running as it is at home. There is a rivalry between Uber and taxi drivers, with many taxi drivers intimidating and even assaulting Uber drivers. Many neighbourhoods ban Uber, so you may have trouble getting a ride to-and-from tourist-heavy towns. If you are taking Uber, it’s best to keep your phone out of sight and tell nosy bystanders that you are waiting for a private driver.

Car hire: Some people choose to hire a car for their trip to Bali. While you should only do this if you’re comfortable with driving through windy roads and heavy traffic, it’s an option that offers the most freedom for those who want to explore regions outside of the Bali’s southern side. A car hire might not be great for those spending time on the Bukit Peninsula, because finding parking can be a challenge.

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Bali breakdown: The best regions to visit in Bali

South Bali and The Bukit Peninsula

Most tourists who visit Bali spend their time in the Bukit Peninsula, the southernmost point of the island. Here, you’ll find relaxing beaches, luxury hotels, all types of restaurants, boutiques, temples, world-class surfing, and more.

Uluwatu region: Surfers hail from all around the globe to try their hand at surfing Uluwatu’s iconic surf break. Homestays with ocean views, cafes with yoga classes, and fresh fish stands line the cliffs around Uluwatu. The neighbouring beaches of Padang-Padang, Balangan, Bingin, and Dreamland are worth a visit as well.

Uluwatu Region

Perched atop an oceanside cliff, the Uluwatu Temple is a beautiful cultural site that hosts a Kecak fire dance each night, where you can watch the story of the fabled white monkey.

Once you’re ready to wrap up your day, make your way to Single Fin, a surf shop and bar with incredible views that has been hosting washed-up surfers for many years.

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Kuta area: Kuta is Bali’s rambunctious town where visitors tend to lounge at the spa by day, dance and drink at night. Tourists tend to be Australians, Brits, and Americans with a penchant for partying. It’s an interesting place to shop and try your hand at surfing – without forfeiting the comforts of Australian life.

Seminyak

The beaches north and south of Kuta tend to be much cleaner, safer, and quieter – with all the same appeal. Families will love spending time at Legian, where the waves are mellow, the beaches are wide, and there tends to be less hagglers in the streets competing for attention. Seminyak, to the north of Kuta, is a trendy beachside town filled with boutiques, bars, and international restaurants.

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Jimbaran: Bali’s hidden town amidst the island’s most popular attractions. This town is known for its seafood and wonderful beaches that border along Jimbaran Bay. Spend your days getting a spa treatment, visiting the nearby sites, going for a boat ride, or sampling freshly caught fish. Read our full guide to Jimbaran.

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Sanur: A mellow, white-sand beach town with resorts lining the shore. If you’re looking for upscale hotels, nice restaurants, and interesting bars without the chaos of Kuta, Sanur is an ideal place to spend your time. You can walk or cycle along the beachside sidewalk to tens of resorts and restaurants.

sanur

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Canggu: North of the Bukit Peninsula is Canggu, a beach town that’s quickly developed into a safe-haven for expats and digital nomads over the past few years. Think vegan cafes, boutique thrift shops, street art, rice terraces, and a beach with decent surf. It’s Bali’s hip and upcoming tourist town that is quickly losing its grip with traditional Balinese culture.

Central Bali

While most tourists flock to the coastline, there’s adventures and top cultural sites to be had in the mountainous region of central and inland Bali.

ubud offering

Ubud: Made famous thanks to Elizabeth Gilbert’s hit book and movie Eat, Pray, Love, Ubud is a lush town with organic cafes, yoga studios, boutiques, and spas lining each street. On one end of Ubud is Monkey Forest, a sanctuary for monkeys who have no fear when it comes to rummaging through your bag.

Rice terraces

Ubud is an ideal base to see the Tegallalang Rice Terraces, a UNESCO world heritage site made of hundreds of rice paddies. Go early in the morning to beat the crowds and spend the day wandering admiring one of Asia’s oldest forms of agriculture.

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East Bali

If you are looking for an authentic Balinese experience with hospitable hotels and homestays, charming warungs, and a landscape that has yet to be completely tainted by tourism, East Bali is an offbeat region to visit. From world-class wreck dives to mountains said to touch the heavens, this region will capture the spirit of any adventurer.

Mount Agung: With its summit at 3,142 meters, Mount Agung reigns as the tallest active volcano in Bali. When it’s not at risk of erupting, travellers can complete a grueling trek to the top of Mount Agung and watch the sunrise. Since Mount Agung tends to be much more challenging to climb than the neighbouring volcano, Mount Batur, its trails are rarely crowded.

Amed/Tulamben: Amed is still one of Bali’s biggest secrets, where you can experience how life in Bali once was. There is virtually no hassling and most accommodation options are homestays run by a lively Balinese family.

Scuba divers, snorkelers, and freedivers should make their way to the bordering towns of Amed and Tulamben during their holiday in Bali. There are tens of dive schools to choose from to explore the many dive sites off the black sand beaches.

Tulamben hosts the U.S.A.T. Liberty wreck, one of the best and most accessible wreck dive sites in the world. The U.S.A.T. Liberty was built in 1918 and torpedoed by a Japanese submarine just off of Bali’s coastline. On a clearwater day, snorkelers can see the top of the ship wreck while divers can go beneath.

Just a few minutes inland is Tirta Gangga, a water palace with elaborate statues, public pools, and ponds filled with koi fish.

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Kintamani (Mount Batur): Mount Batur is a sacred volcano in Bali where you can watch the sun rise over the top of Mount Agung. Before your trek to the top of Mount Batur, spend at least a day relaxing at one of the hot spring spas in Kintamani – on the shores of Danau Batur.

Mount Batur at Sunrise

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Padang Bai: If you plan on making your way to Lombok or the Gili islands via a ferry, you’ll likely spend some time in Padang Bai. This port town is mellow place to relax on the beach, go for a dive, and dine at funky warungs until your departure.

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The Outer Islands

Many visitors argue that mainland Bali has been tainted by mass tourism and development. The outer islands of Bali still retain traditional Balinese charm and are a respite from the chaos of Bali’s southern peninsula.

Nusa Lembongan: If you had to gather the best of Bali and put it in one small package, it’d be on Nusa Lembongan. With uncrowded beaches, top-notch surf breaks, dive and snorkel sites, paddleboarding coves, boutique homestays, beachside restaurants, and more, it’s truly a tiny paradise off the coast of a larger one. You can drive around the island in just a few hours, discovering many quaint warungs and areas along the way.

Nusa Lembongan

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Nusa Dua: If five-star luxury is what you’re looking for, Nusa Dua is where you’ll find it. This tiny resort island off the Bukit Peninsula is great for honeymooners and families looking for an all-inclusive style of relaxation. Spend your days playing golf, lounging, getting spa treatments, or visiting the nearby temples and museums.

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Nusa Penida: Nusa Penida is untouched, authentic Bali. Few tourists make their way to Nusa Penida, so the chance of grabbing a beach or view all to yourself is high. As you drive around the island, you’ll see locals tending to their homestead and might find yourself driving through the midst of a wild jungle. There are few accommodation options, so book your stay on Nusa Penida well in advance.

Nusa Penida

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The best temples in Bali

Religion permeates every aspect of Balinese culture and daily life. All throughout the island, you’ll see women placing canang sari, daily offerings, on multiple platforms. Each offering is a gift to the gods – both malevolent and benevolent – and are done as an action of gratitude.

Balinese Hindus tend to be very inclusive when it comes to learning about their religion and how they celebrate. If you want deeper insight into the cultural and religious life of Balinese Hindus, then make your way to the best temples in Bali.

Lempuyang Temple (East Bali): Lempuyang is a series of six temples placed along 1,700 steps. Walking to the top is a spiritual experience, even if you are not religious. One of the lower temples is often referred to as “The Gates of Heaven” because of its stunning vantage point.

Lempuyang

Uluwatu Temple (South Bali): Long-tailed macaques swing from tree to tree surrounding Uluwatu Temple, a temple overlooking a turquoise sea. Visit during sunset for the best pictures

Pura Besakih (East Bali): Pura Besakih is a complex of over twenty temples known to be the most ancient of all the Balinese temples. On any given day, it could be crowded with practicing Hindus performing and participating in ceremonies.

Ulun Danu Beratan Temple (North Bali): Ulun Danu Beratan Temple almost looks as if it came from a fairytale. On a calm day, the temple structures are perfectly mirrored on the waters of Beratan Lake. Paddle around the temple with a canoe and spend a day photographing the temple from the blooming gardens.

Tanah Lot (South Bali): Experience a sunset you’ll never forget at Tanah Lot, a temple standing alone in the sea. While it is one of the most visited temples in Bali, you can find a unique viewpoint by walking in either direction of the temple’s main platform.

tanah lot

Tirta Empul Temple (Central Bali): Observe a sacred water ceremony at Tirta Empul Temple, near Ubud. Practicing Hindus from all over Bali come and receive a blessing from the sacred spring flowing into the temple’s grounds.

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The best things to do in Bali

Go trekking: Mount Batur and Mount Agung are top contenders for trekkers interested in seeing a side of Bali that few do. There are trails that weave through rice terraces, up mountains, and along the coast. Many trails are built to access temples, so you’ll likely be surprised along the way.

Mt Batur at Sunrise

Mount Batur at sunrise

Get a spa treatment: Bali has a thriving wellness industry with spas and retreat areas just about everywhere.

Go diving: Whether you’re an experienced diver or wanting do dive for the first time, Bali has a reputable diving industry and is home to many world-class dive sites. You can see manta rays and mola mola off the coast of Nusa Lemongan, explore a shipwreck off Tulamben, and admire coral reef all along the coastline. Best of all? The water temperature is usually around 27°C all year long.

Go surfing: Beginners can catch their first wave at Seminyak, Leigan, or Kuta while experienced surfers can explore the famous reef breaks of Uluwatu’s, Padang Padang, Shipwrecks, and more. Check out our complete surf guide to Bali’s best surf breaks.

Enjoy the beach: Bali is known for its beaches — and it’s not hard to understand why. Grab sun cream, a hat, and a book and enjoy unwinding on the sand of one of Bali’s best beaches.

Yoga on SUP

Take a cooking class: Balinese cuisine is both easy to make and delicious to eat. Why not take some of your holiday home with you by learning how to make these meals yourself? Popular tourist towns like Kuta, Ubud, and Canggu offer a variety of cooking classes targeted for travellers keen to add a bit of spice to their life.

Visit cultural sites: With so many temples, museums, beaches, rice terraces, and shops to explore, you could easily spend a few days doing nothing but sightseeing. If you have only a few days in Bali, it might be worth spending one of those on a sightseeing tour, where you can find your favourite spots to double back to.

There are also plenty of free things to do in Bali for those who want to stretch their budget as far as possible.

Swing

Foods to try in Bali

Mie goreng: No matter where you go in Bali, you’ll always be able to order mie goreng. To make mie goreng, the chef first fries noodles in a sweet soy sauce and adds meat, fried egg, shallots, onions, and a variety of vegetables to complete the dish. It’s typically served with a side of prawn crackers.

Satay: Simple yet satisfying, this dish of marinated and grilled meat can be found everywhere in Bali. The meat is typically marinated in a mix of coconut milk, chili peppers, and other spices. Then, it is skewered, cooked, and eaten as a quick snack.

Nasi campur: Nasi campur is a dish that’s offered at every warung, but varies widely from place to place. It’s a plate of rice served with a variety of meats and vegetables – but can also be catered to vegetarians. No serving of nasi campur is complete without a side of sambal, Bali’s popular signature spicy condiment.

Read: The Best Restaurants in Bali

Safety tips and scams to look out for in Bali

Overall, Bali is a safe and welcoming place for tourists — despite its tragic history of the Bali bombings of the early 2000s. Security is strict, especially in high-tourist areas, and the Balinese government has taken aggressive action against terrorism.

Like anywhere, stay alert and attentive as you travel. Here are a few scams and concerns to look out for while in Bali.

Unwanted guides: One of the most frustrating scams in Bali are the people insistent on being your guide as you walk through a major tourist attraction. Some might tell you that you’re not allowed to walk through a site without a guide. Check in advance if this is the case, and avoid paying more than 50,000 IDR if hassled.

Changing money: If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Money changers often have a quick hand that can fool even the most skilled Las Vegas magicians. Change money only at a trusted location – or better yet, pull money out of an ATM.

Motorbike bribes: If you are driving a motorbike without a license or helmet, you might get stopped for a bribe from a Balinese police officer. Whether you want to go the full legal route or keep 100,000 IDR on hand to offer as a bribe is a personal decision.

Motorbike safety: While a “Balinese kiss” sounds romantic, it’s actually a nickname for a common burn mark that tourists get from leaning against hot exhaust pipes. In crowded car parks, make sure to walk around the motorbikes rather than between them – or else you risk brushing against one that’s piping hot.

Always wear a helmet if you drive a motorbike and follow the flow of traffic. Motorbike crashes are one of the biggest safety risks for tourists in Bali.

Motorbiking in Bali

Drinking and illicit substances: Drugs are illegal in Indonesia and the penalties for taking or getting caught with drugs include capital punishment. There are some cases of tourists, especially in the Kuta region, who have suffered methanol poisoning from homemade alcohol. Cases of methanol poisoning are extremely rare outside of the Kuta region. If in doubt, order a beer or beverage that is served in an unopened bottle.

Ready to see Bali for yourself? Skyscanner Australia can help you find the cheapest flights, car hire options, and hotels during your stay.

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