The island of temples: Bali

Bali, the island of temples is synonymous with the word paradise. The island is well known for its beautiful beaches, a stunning nature and a unique culture that can only be found there.
In the beginning of 2017, we spent a total of 5 weeks on this island and had the chance to get to know the island in detail.
To put all the information into one post, would either fill a whole book or simply be too short to include all the info we have to offer, we therefore decided to split our articles up. In this post, we want to give you a general overview over the island, while other posts will focus on certain aspects of a stay such as the beaches, the temples or on how to get around with a scooter.

How do I get to Bali?

Most guests reach Bali via plane, the Ngurah Rai International Airport can be found in the south of Denpasar, the capital of Bali. Despite the fact, that there are many airports that offer flights to Denpasar, most guests will probably have a layover in Singapore, maybe Jakarta or like us in Kuala Lumpur.

To get away from the airport, most people recommend to have transportation arranged by the hotel. Alternatively, you can also call a cab right in front of the airport.

In case you are currently traveling around Indonesia, you can also reach the island by ferry from Ketapang on Java, Lembar on Lombok or from the Gili Islands.

Visa Requirements

Most people can enter Indonesia for a duration of 30 days (including both arrival and departure date), you just have to bring the reservation of an outgoing flight within 30 days. This Visa can not be extended, if you want to stay longer, you will have to get a different visa. We followed the advice from this website for staying up to 60 days in Indonesia, we can confirm that the procedure was still the same in February 2017.

How do I get around?

Except for 3 taxi rides we exclusively used a scooter to get around Bali during our stay. Since the renting of a car with driver is quite expensive and we didn’t want to be limited to public transportation, we think it was a good option for us and can recommend others to do the same. It has to be said though, that the traffic in Bali is definitely not a walk in the park. For this reason, we collected some information to give you a better idea about what you might have to expect: Link will follow.

If using a scooter is not an option for you, there are several alternatives:

  1. In many areas around Bali you can find the local “Bemos”: small buses that follow preset lines.
  2. As mentioned above, you can also rent a car with a driver to bring you from A to B. This will not be possible below €40 though and is therefore more of an option for families and small groups.
  3. We found the official taxis rather expensive. The starting fee is 7.000 Rupias (~50 Cent) and each kilometer costs another 7.000. Compared to Germany this is cheap of course, but it can’t compete with a rented scooter if you are driving around a lot. You have to point out though, that taxi drivers in Bali are driving quite carefully. Especially the taxis of the company bluebird are recommended by many locals and foreigner alike.
  4. Many guests and Balinese avoid the previously mentioned modes of transport though. Taxi Apps like Uber or their Indonesian competitors Grab and GoJek are simply a lot cheaper. Especially GoJek is to be pointed out, because you are not renting a normal car here, but a scooter. Definitely an interesting experience, but more suitable for guests who are traveling on their own.

You have to be a bit careful with these applications though. In many places around Bali there are signs “forbidding” the use of these applications and asking guests to use local means of transportation.
Whether these bans are legit or not is hard to answer, especially because we were even told by locals to ignore them. After all, it does not really make sense to forbid Indonesian applications, it’s not like the drivers from Grab and GoJek came from somewhere else.
Either way, it’s probably best to avoid the conflict and not to call an Cab while you’re standing right in front of these signs.

Where to stay?

The choice for the best hotel obviously depends on what you actually want to do during your stay in Bali.
There are incredibly many things to do and while some places are easy to be reached, some require a long drive.
All in all, you can separate the island into 3 parts: The southern part around Denpasar, the middle around Ubud and the north coast.

Denpasar

Around Denpasar you can find most of the famous beaches, many resorts and the nightlife of Bali. But even here, you have to differentiate again, since most areas cater for different needs.
In the West of Denpasar, you can find the surfer beaches, together with the party areas from Kuta to Canggu.
South of Denpasar, on the peninsular around Jimbaran, you can find the exclusive holiday resorts. Again, resorts in the West, such as Dreamland, combine the luxury of a resort with the surfer beach right in front of the door, while more to the East, you can find Nusa Dua, a quiet town, also with beautiful resorts but more for a relaxing holiday.

A great choice for Surfers, that want to avoid the crowds in Kuta: Dreamland beach

If you are more out for the “budget alternative”, we would suggest Sanur: The small town was once the touristic center of the island but became more quiet over the years. Today, you can find many hotels, small, nice restaurants, art and the sea with different destinations for divers.

Ubud

Ubud on the other hand is located in the center of the island. You can find the famous rice terraces, interesting temples and a lot of traditional art here.
I would recommend to stay here if you want to be able to travel around the island a lot or if you’re interested in Yoga, the nature around you or traditional Balinese art. The biggest drawback for Ubud and the reason why we did not stay there is, that it is not located at the sea and that it is more and more overrun by fellow tourists. There are however still some lesser known hotels at the outskirts of the city, you just have to search a bit more.

Easy to be reached from Ubud and a nice destination for a hike: The rice teracces

The North Coast

If you want to go diving and snorkeling, we recommend to find an accommodation at the north coast of Bali. The cheapest and most quiet option would be Amed, which has a coral reef right in front of the doorstep. A little further to the west, you can find Tulamben, famous for the Shipwreck of the USS Liberty. Another alternative would be Lovina, famous for the dolphins that come here every morning.

Not located at the north coast but also worth taking a look at is Padangbai, with the famous blue lagoon.
If you are a native English speaker, all of these destinations will be a good option – you can find instructors with English skills almost everywhere so there’s no reason to worry.
If you are a native German though, we recommend to go to Padangbai while for native French speakers we recommend to go to Amed. There are many diving schools in your native language in these towns.

What does the weather look like?

Well … the weather was not always … favorable …

As mentioned in our introduction, we visited Bali in January and February. You probably already heard from other websites, that this is the rainy season in Bali. To directly get to the point: It was raining. Every single day.

We have to point out though, that not every day was bad: Especially during the first weeks and towards the end of our stay we had a maximum of 3 hours of rain per day – other than that, wonderful weather with loads of opportunities to explore.
But as you can imagine, we also had bad luck in the middle of our stay where it was basically raining 24 hours per day and we hardly got the chance to leave our hotel room.

We would therefore not recommend to come to Bali if you are working full time and want to have 2 weeks of laying on the beach. The weather is just too bad at this time.

If you are students like us however, maybe a digital nomad or traveling around the world, searching for a cheap place where you can also get some work done, then Bali is perfect at this time. The weather is still very warm and if you adjust your plans to the rain showers, you can enjoy a nice but cheap stay here.

Nevertheless, you should bring sunscreen! On cloudy days, sunscreen with SPF 25 was sufficient for us, but you should have something stronger with you in case the sun comes out.

What can we eat?

The food was actually one of the main reasons why I wanted to come to Bali and I was not disappointed! You can get good and cheap Indonesian food in so called Warungs, small, local restaurants that offer Indonesian dishes for a cheap price.

As a word of warning though: Many areas of Bali are very international, so international in fact, that it gets hard to find a real, local Indonesian restaurant. We suggest to get out into the country side, our favorite restaurant for example was in the middle of some rice fields.

Our personal favorites were Mie Goreng, Nasi Goreng, Ayam Lalapan and Babi Rendang. Try them out!

Typical food in Bali: Mie Goreng (fried noodles)

My new favorite Indonesian dish: Babi Rendang.

Conclusion

Despite of the bad weather, we enjoyed our 5 weeks on Bali very much. There is something to do for everyone, especially if you’re into water sports and surfing in particular, but also the culture is a very unique thing about Bali. I never saw Hinduist temples before and most of them, located in a beautiful, natural environment, were simply amazing.
I can recommend a stay in Bali to everybody, even for people who are new to traveling in Asia it is a nice option: Bali is clearly Asian but at the same time as international as other big metropolises.
If you would like to visit Indonesia, I can encourage you to visit Bali, only pay attention to the weather 😉

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