Bali is a bucket list destination for a number of people. Safe to say, ever since I read Eat Pray Love by Elizabeth Gilbert it was swiftly placed on my own bucket list. Bali remains one of the most popular destinations in Indonesia and there is a good reason why – it has something for everyone, and is super affordable.
Best time to visit
We visited Bali in July/August this year and spent 4 weeks there (meant to be 3 but that is a story for another day). The best time to visit Bali is usually during the dry season which runs from May to October. The daily temperature would have reached 25-35 degrees Celsius each day with milder evenings. Keep in mind though the Gili Islands tend to be much hotter than mainland Bali.
What to expect
Currency: the currency in Bali is the Indonesian Rupiah. 1 euro for us was equivalent to roughly 15,500 IDR and 100,000 IDR was equal to just under €7.
Using your card abroad & ATMs: I decided to opt for Revolut to make travelling in Bali much easier. There were two of us travelling together so it meant we could easily split bills and manage money between us via the Revolut app. With Revolut you are also not subject to commission and currency exchange charges. I opted for the free version which suited me fine, however, do note that free ATM transactions are limited. With regards ATMs, there are plenty of ATM’s in the main cities such as Ubud, Seminyak, Canggu etc, however, this becomes lesser when you travel to the Gilis. When it comes to paying with a card, it is limited in a lot of restaurants so it is always good to have cash on you (something I failed to do a lot). If you can pay by card a number of places will generally charge between 3-10% charge on top of the cost.
Language: the main languages are Indonesian, Balinese and English. Generally, someone, wherever we went spoke some English.
Plugs: Main plugs are European which are type C and F so make sure you plan ahead and pack adapters if you need to.
Safety: It has to be said that Bali felt like one of the safest destinations I have ever traveled to. Just be careful when you are crossing roads etc. as there are a number of people on bikes and motorbikes.
- Don’t leave booking all of your accommodation until you land in Bali – We found that it was really nice to have our first two places booked for when we arrived in Bali and as soon as we had a feel for the island and spoke to some locals we were then better able to plan the rest of our trip.
- GET TRAVEL INSURANCE: I cannot recommend this enough. Speaking from the perspective of having to actually use our travel insurance when we were in Bali for medical expenses and to re-book our flights, the €35 we paid each for travel insurance saved us roughly €2000 per person!
- Bring Mosquito Spray – This is something I failed to do as I generally never get bitten (or so I thought) but when we stayed in more hut-like accommodation I got a number of bites!…
- Buy some tiger balm: When you arrive, pick up some white tiger balm, this was a lifesaver for taking the itch our of bites
- Budget somewhat: You can travel Bali on both a shoestring budget or blow all your savings in one. I would have an estimation of how much money you are willing to spend and try to stick to it as much as possible. Eating and exploring Bali is incredibly cheap but don’t let it fool you and allow you to lose the run of yourself. It all adds up in the end!
- Make sure you unlock your phone before you travel and buy a Balinese sim card to use when you’re there so you have access to data and won’t risk paying extortionate roaming charges.
- Use a travel backpack rather than a case
- Eat at local restaurants as its the best place to get authentic Balinese food
- Budget for a spa day – while in Bali, I treated myself to three massages and reflexology. With such low prices, it’s easy to budget for one every single day but that might be a tad excessive. Make sure you take advantage though as each massage came in between €5 – €15 each for a one hour massage.
- Hire a driver instead of booking a tour – In order to explore Ubud, we booked a driver for the day. Sounds excessive right? You can usually hire a driver for 300,000 IDR per person or less. We rented a driver for a day in Ubud and we got to go at our own pace and dictate the itinerary for the day.
How to there & how to get around
For us, flying from Ireland, it cost us each just over €1200 for return flights. It took 17 hours of flying. On the way there our route was Dublin – Frankfurt – Singapore – Bali. I could not recommend flying with Singapore airlines enough. We flew economy and the whole experience and level of customer service was exceptional. To get home, our route was Bali – Dubai – Dublin with Emirates.
With regard to getting around Bali, I would not go for local taxis. They can generally end up charging you more than other companies and not the initially agreed price.
Bluebird, GoJek, Grab and Uber were our go-to to get around Bali when we were there. However, just note that these are not welcome as they take away business from local ‘taxi mafias’. Friends of ours who were travelling at the same time as us witnessed first hand the horror show of using local taxis! They were quite literally threatened by their driver that they would be dropped on the side of the road in the middle of nowhere, if they did not agree to pay a higher price than was initially agreed. The driver went as far to stop the cab, pull over and then proceed to take their bags out of the boot. Moral of the story here is that if you are stuck and have to use a local taxi, ensure that you only use a cab with a meter.
We started off in Seminyak for our first two days and two nights. When we arrived at the airport we got a Grab to the hotel. We stayed at the Harris Hotel. The hotel was so reasonably priced (the cost included breakfast) and such a nice hotel. From the minute we arrived, they were so welcoming! We also opted for a Balinese massage at the spa of the hotel – it worked out at roughly €9 for an hour-long massage. The hotel had the best of both worlds in that it was a short stroll from the main street where all the restaurants, bars, shops and supermarkets were located but had the benefit of being in a quieter part of the town so you weren’t kept awake until the early hours by the nightlife.
Unfortunately, we were exhausted from travelling so had a pretty chill couple of days in Seminyak. In terms of nightlife, Seminyak pretty much has it all – quieter bars, karaoke bars, bars with live music and nightclubs. In terms of food, we stayed pretty close to home and didn’t head too far. For dessert though, one place I would definitely recommend checking out is Yoghurt Republic. It is a self serve frozen yoghurt bar and its just HEAVEN!
Potato Beach Club
Imagine poolside cabanas, a beachside infinity pool overlooking the Indian Ocean, 4 bars, a jacuzzi and a place that is home to one of the best sunsets in views in Bali. This place really exists and it is Potato Head.
If you are looking for a day full of chill and relaxation, followed by one of the most incredible sunset views I suggest heading here. I would advise arriving at opening time (10am) as the cabanas, which you can hire, go quickly and a waitlist quickly forms. You need to pay to rent a bed/cabana, however, it is totally worth it if you plan on spending the day there as all the cost is fully redeemable against any drinks or food that you purchase.
Ubud is a 1-hour drive from Denpasar airport. Roads are busy so it usually takes a little longer. It took us about 90 minutes to get from Seminyak to Ubud and it cost about €7 per person – we used a Bluebird taxi to get there. To get around Bali, the majority of people rent motorbikes, I personally was not brave enough. The roads are extremely busy in Ubud so a motorbike, in my opinion, would only be advised for experienced drivers. Ubud centre has become so busy that a large portion of the roads have become one way. In terms of exploring Ubud town itself, you can get to a number of places easily on foot!
Whilst in Ubud we stayed at Biukukung Suite and Spa in one of their bamboo huts.
It was incredible, so idyllic. It is located in the southern part of Ubud and is a mix of swimming pools, relaxation and breathtaking views of rice field scenery but a walk away from Ubud centre. Our package had breakfast included. Some of the activities we got up to in Ubud was:
The Bali Swing – it cost 300,000 IDR per person. Pricey enough but it does give you entry to all of the swings. Ensure that you go to the correct Bali swing though as our driver advised us that there are a lot set up around Bali and a lot don’t have insurance…
Tegenungan Waterfall – 20,000 IDR
Satria Coffee Plantation – one of the homes of Luwak coffee in Bali – entry is free but they will catch you with the gift shop in the end!
Holy spring water of Pura Tirta Empul – GO HERE, one of the best experiences ever!
Monkey Forest in Ubud – sitting within the centre of Ubud town is a protected open forest with hundreds of long tailed gray monkeys. When I say hundreds, I legit mean hundreds and they are everywhere. Pro tip – make sure not to wear sunglasses or a hat whilst strolling around the forest and don’t look the monkey’s in the eye or startle them. It comes in at 80,000 IDR per person.
- Take a day to just stroll around Ubud and soak in the crazy business that is the town streets and try a bite to eat at a local warung or a to die for brunch place. Ubud is full of both!
- Ubud Markets
Best places for brunch Brunch
Best place to grab a matcha latte/light snack and watch the world go by
- Anuman Coffee – very easy to just walk by as its not on street level
Best place for Dinner
Warung Pondok Madu – Don’t let the queue outside put you off coming to this place. Excellent atmosphere and their pork ribs and oreo cheesecake are to die for. They also do really good cocktails. The menu is quite cheap too.
Best place to chill
Titi Batu Ubud – this place is a similar vibe to potato head in that you can rent a cabana for the day, however its a much more chill vibe, with a swimming pool, spa fitness centre, basketball court and much more activities. We paid 250,000 IDR each for a gym and general entry pass. This was fully redeemable against food and drinks. We also got a complimentary 75,000 IDR voucher for food and beverages each.
Unfortunately, we didn’t get to do much exploring in Uluwatu. It was the last stop before we made our way home so we decided to splash out on accommodation and booked ourselves into a one bedroom suite in Le Grande, Bali. On the website the rooms alone looked incredible but we really realised we were definitely staying in high end Bali when our Bluebird driver was very amused at the thoughts of dropping someone off at the Le Grande Bali. It’s one of Bali’s leading golf resorts. They have endless things to do in the hotel between the pools, golf, tennis courts, spa, as well as free shuttles to the main shopping area and to dreamland beach throughout the day. Thankfully they also have a medical centre on site! Whilst there, I treated myself to two massages – one deep tissue and one Swedish massage. I also treated myself to a reflexology session! I would 100% staying here, maybe as an end of travelling treat to really let yourself unwind before heading back to reality. The cost per night came in at around 1.3 million IDR per night between the two of us and this included a full buffet breakfast.
This beach was 2 minutes drive away from our hotel and is located on the Bukit peninsula. It is surrounded by a couple of cafes, bars and local gift shops. Do remember to bring some cash with you on the day as no where along the beach accepts card payment!! We learned this the very hard way and had to complete a round trip. The beach itself is quite secluded with white sands and surrounded by limestone cliffs on either side. Dreamland is well known to surfers due to its high intensity waves, so its not really a ‘go for a relaxing swim’ kind of ocean vibe but the sea is stunningly clear and provides for a nice backdrop while you chill on the beach. It isn’t too terrifying to enter into if you don’t mind being possibly bowled over by waves. Its a surfer/body boarders dream though!