Where To Go in Bali
I have lived in Bali for years now and I have seen this Island change a lot over the past few years. I know this island like my own back yard. This is my guide on where to go in Bali to experience all the gems this island has to offer from the very well known tourist attractions to the more secret insider tips no google search or guide book will tell you. I will also tell you what to avoid because some things are just not as good as they are made out to be on Instagram. I have also put together some info on things like food, cost and transportation that I would have found useful myself when I first landed on this Island of the Gods as they call it. If you are only interested in certain areas use the quick links below.
Where To Go in Bali
Bali Travel Itinerary | Kuta | Seminyak | Canggu | Kedungu | Balian | Medewi | Menjangan Island | Munduk & Bedugul | Lovina | Amed | Sidemen | Ubud | Uluwatu & Bukit | Nusa Dua | Sanur | Nusa Lembongan | Nusa Penida | Top Tips | Getting Around | Costs
I’ve spent years living in Bali now, and traveling around it, so no matter what your questions are about “where to go in Bali” I should have you covered.
To say I love Bali is a bit of an understatement. Bali is incredible.
It’s a small island, it would only take about 4 hours to drive the length of it by bike, but it has a huge amount of variety in the things you could do in the different areas. Some areas are more focused towards surfing, some diving, some parties, some digital nomads, some yoga, some nature. But as I say it’s easy to get around and explore so you can see as much or as little as you want.
The food is amazing and incredibly cheap, particularly good if you’re a vegetarian.
Bali is one of my favourite places in the world. It has the type of beauty I’ve only seen matched by places like Sri Lanka and the people are so friendly, you’ll feel like you’ve been welcomed in right from the start.
The time of year you travel will effect where’s best to go for your trip as when it’s rainy season in Bali most of the midsection of the west coast of the island has trash wash up on the beaches and fill the sea. When that happens it’s better to move across to the east coast and the likes of Nusa Dua, where the sea will still be crystal clear, and you’ll still be able to surf.
I’ve plotted out a full Bali itinerary for you below showing the key places you may want to spend time and an overview of what there is to do in each of them so you can pick where to go in Bali based on the types of activites you’re interested in. As I said above, it’s a very varied destination.
Snatch and Grab Bag Theft – There is a lot of snatch and grab bag theft in Bali where people drive by on a scooter, or walk past, and try to grab your bag off your shoulder. This will happen EVEN IF you are wearing your bag across your body. What that means is that if someone tries to then take it you will be going with the bag. If all you have is a cross body bag, wear it on one shoulder and pay attention to your surroundings. There may be more of a chance someone manages to grab your bag like that but it reduces the risk of personal harm to you. And that is much more important.
Or wear a bum bag while traveling. You’ll get to look super cool like me and it’ll help you stay safe in Bali.
Avoiding Being Hassled – If you walk down any street with market shops or sit on the beach, people will try to sell you things. It can get pretty intense at times, Ubud is the worst for this, and so it’s useful to know how to at least reduce the persistence slightly (you’ll never get away scot free if you look foreign). The easiest way to do this is by saying “No thank you” firmly but in a nice polite friendly manner, in Indonesian of course. It doesn’t work as well if you do it in English. The way to say “No thank you” in Indonesian is “Tidak, ma kasih” which is pronounced like “t-dak ma ka-si”. Just keep saying it with a smile and usually you’ll be left alone.
The smile is important though and don’t just ignore people. They do think it’s rude.
Personal Safety at Night – Even if you are driving a scooter you need to be careful of where you go on your own at night in Bali. Bali is realitvely safe. You don’t have to be as conscious of yourself as say in India but you definitely can’t be as relaxed as you’d be able to be in Singapore, for example. If you drive down a quite road at night and have any possession on display people are likely to try to steal them. If you’re female a passing bike rider may try to grope you. There is a problem with this in Canggu in particular at the moment. I’m not saying don’t go out at night or drive around on your own but it is known to be a problem so be selective in wear your drive. I personally always choose to where something to cover up my shoulders and chest when driving at night too.
Getting Into Town from the Airport – Bali airport is nuts. As soon as you walk out, before you even make it all the way round into the public area you will be swarmed with people asking if you want a taxi, the further you walk out the worse it gets. It’s a bit overwhelming the first time you come to Bali.
There are official airport taxis too. They cost a lot more than normal though and even try to rip people off on the listed prices still too. You can probably get a lower price with the taxi touts there but they’re not legit taxis so for personal safety I tend to avoid them. Your cheapest way into town is to connect to the airport wifi and order a Grab. They will then pick you up from upstairs in the departures area (they’re not supposed to be there so they do this as a sneaky work around). The other option is to pre-book a driver to meet you at the airport. Don’t do this through your hotel though as they’ll over charge you by sometimes as much as 4 times the normal price. Just go to Facebook and type in the area you’re going to and “community” and then join one of those groups and ask for a recommendation of a driver there.
SIM Cards – A SIM card is really useful when traveling around, especially if you’re renting a scooter in Bali as then you can make use of Google maps, or use it to book Grab taxis. You can get a SIM card in Bali airport and that will certainly help with getting a Grab from the airport if that’s your planned mode of transport but be warned they are a lot more expensive there than in town.
What to bring – I will not give you a whole tropical vacation packing list here I just want to mention a few things that you might not think to bring unless you have been to Bali before. Firstly, bring a great breathable rain jacket. What you find here tend to be big plastic bags that will make you sweat as much as it’ll protect you from rain. Second thing is a water bottle, you don’t want to be without water in the tropics and you don’t want to have to contribute to the plastic pollution by buying bottled water. Third thing is to bring a good reef safe sunscreen. What you can find here is all imported and way over priced.
Taxis – Always get the taxi driver to agree to use the meter before you get in. Some will fight it, just let them go and wait for the next taxi. The official taxi company in Bali is Blue Bird Taxis. They have an app you can download too to order one to your door. In Bali, Gojek and Grab are also used. GoJek primarily started out as being like Uber but for motorbikes, i.e. you order a scooter to come pick you up, they bring a helmet and you sit on the back, but it now has cars too and a whole range of other options. Including GoFood which is amazing as you can basically get any food delivered to your house for about ¢75. Grab is very similar and bought out Uber in South-East Asia so are now basically Uber.
Unfortunately these apps are banned in some areas such as Canggu and Uluwatu where taxi mafias have taken over and beat up drivers if they come in from the apps. Where that’s the case you’re therefore better off hiring a private driver. Even if you hire a private driver for a whole day it’s not that expensive, about 600,000 to 800,000 IDR which is roughly $50 – $60.
Or just renting your own scooter.
Renting a scooter – a standard scooter rental in Bali will cost you about 60,000 IDR ($5) a day to rent. If you’re staying for longer you can negotiate monthly rates. Remember, if you don’t have a motorbike license back home though your travel insurance will not cover you if you have an accident, and accidents aren’t particularly uncommon.
Busses – there are busses which go between some of the main touristy areas in Bali, the Kura-Kura bus, and if you check out the posts on each of those places at the bottom of this I specify how to move to the next location but they buses not always the most conveniently timed. For example if you go to Ubud by bus from Seminyak there isn’t a bus that you could take back that afternoon or evening if you just want to go for a day trip.
Accommodation – You can get hostels from about $4 a night and your own private room in a lot of homestays for as little as $10 night. If you’re staying for a while in the same place you can very much negotiate the price of hotels and homestays to give you a monthly rate.
Bali has PLENTY of homestays, hotels and hostels you can choose between but there are also a lot of private villas you can rent. If a few of you are traveling together it makes a lot of sense to get a villa instead and will cost you about the same amount, if not less. Obviously you can find villas on Airbnb and it would be in my best interests to suggest you do as, if you book through that link, as well as you getting a discount on your stay I will also get commission too but it is cheaper to find a villa via facebook. If you search for the area you want to stay and “housing” or “accommodation” you’ll get a number of options of groups you can join to look and ask in. Obviously you have less protection that way if the person turns out to be a scammer or the house isn’t as advertised than you would with Airbnb so it just depends on your comfort level as to what you’d prefer to do. Or you can check out Bali deal sites for your trip. There are also plently of good hotels for families in Bali.
Food – Local food will only cost you about $1.50-$3 and it’s really good. My favorite local meal is “Nasi Campur” which literally means rice mix and is where you get a portion of rice and then can select from a range of vegetables, curries and meat etc. to go with it. There are also plenty of foreign cuisine restaurants around in the touristy areas where meals will set you back about $5-$15. The food in Bali is great.
Where To Go in Bali
2-3 week route
I’ve plotted a route for where to go in Bali on the map below based on if you only have time for a two to three week Bali itinerary. This route is good for the typical tourist route and will include what most people come here to experience. It includes visiting Kuta, Seminyak, Canggu, Ubud, Nusa Dua and Uluwatu.
1-2 month route
This route is the extended Bali tour and it includes everything you could possibly want to do while in Bali. Let it be known that if it’s not on here I have deemed it not worthy of your time. We start off the same way the shorter tour does with hitting the west coast beach spots from Kuta to Canggu but we keep going all the way up to Medewi and to Menjangan island just north of Gilimanuk stopping in Kedungu and Balian on the way there. After that we go to Lovina, then detour south a bit to Bedugul and Jatiluwih then back up the northern rout around the island to get to Amed. From Amed we will go south again through Sidemen and then to Ubud. After Ubud we pop down to the southernmost peninsula, the bukit, and visit Uluwatu and Nusa Dua. After this we go to Sanur and from there we leave the main island to Explore Nusa Lembongan, Ceningan and Nusa Penida.
There are plenty of beautiful islands to explore beyond Bali and with boats from Sanur or Padang Bai it’s easy and fast to get from Bali to Nusa Penida, Lombok or the Gilis.
For extended content click on any of the links below for full details of that location, where to stay and how to get to the next destination.
Route Duration: Two to Three Weeks (or just never leave like I did!)
West Coast Bali
It used to be that if you want a hedonistic couple of days getting smashed and partying in bars like you’re 18 (or maybe you are actually 18) then you’d go to Kuta. Now a days since Covid hit Kuta is a ghost town. I decided to keep it in this itinerary because of nostalgia and because Kuta or rather the people living in Kuta can need all the support they can get. Visiting the streets here and buying a nasi jingo or an es kelapa or two on the still very beautiful white sandy beach is a good way to support the people here. ..and who knows, maybe one day Kuta’s former party days will be revived and Kuta shall once again be the hedonistic capital of this island. Read more about what to do in Kuta here.
Seminyak is the posh neighbor of Kuta, sadly even Seminyak took a hard hit when Covid came around and is mostly deserted these days. Some of the better restaurants and shops have survived though. Seminyak still has a lot of cut breakfast spots, good restaurants and slightly less grimy nightlife. Double 6 beach, is great for learning to surf and the perfect spot for sunset. ….especially since the beach is a lot less crowded botyh at sunset and for surf than it used to be in the golden pre covid days. Restaurants are still more expensive around here but if you know where to look you can still find good cheap restaurants about. Read more about what to do in Seminyak here.
Canggu is the most popular tourist spot in Bali nowadays for the digital nomads and holidaymakers alike. It rose to popularity for it’s laid back vibes with cute hipster vegan and vegetarian cafes and restaurants. Whilst it still has these elements, it has become a lot more commercial now and it is now pretty much a Kuta-Seminyak-Canggu hybrid these days. It’s like a new Seminyak with big hotels and shopping complexes popping up as well. It definitely the hub for nightlife now too. Read more about what to do in Canggu here.
Echo Beach/Padang Linjong
Echo Beach is just another part of Canggu while it used to be a lot quieter now it’s not that much of a difference anymore. The surfing in Echo Beach is more advanced, with shallow fast waves, rather than Batu Bolong in Canggu which is fatter and slower (better for learning and long boarding). Read more about what to do in Echo Beach here.
Some say it’s the new Canggu but that doesn’t set the right tone in my opinion. Kedungu is definitely similar to Canggu 10 years ago but few you meet around here doesn’t even remember those Bali days. If you are looking for a more quiet place to stay Kedungu is definitely one of them. Kedungu has a beginner wave similar to Batu Bolong as it’s big fat and rolly. It also has some other more faster and advanced breaks around and should you spend any time in the area you will quickly learn about those breaks. While in Kedungu why not visit the famous Tanah Lot temple, these days it’s a lot less busy but I’d still advice you to avoid visiting on Sundays. And check the tides and make sure you go at low tide so you can walk out to the temple, or as close as they will allow you. Looking for something to eat while you are here, the Little Ripper is the one and only spot to go. Their food is delicious and the owners are super friendly and will tell you all you need to know about Kedungu if you ask. If you want to spend the night in the area check out Coconut Corner and request the treehouse. It’s a magical little gem hidden in the jungle with rice field AND ocean view!!
Further up north from Kedungu, still on the west coast, is Balian. If you’re looking to get away from the main touristy spots and all the development Balian would be the perfect place to visit. It’s a sleepy surfer town. Don’t be going there expecting any parties or lots of variety of places to go, it’s very small but lovely and beautiful. Beware of the sharks if you surf there however. Read more about what to do in Balian here.
Medewi is the next main town further up north from Balian. Like Balian it’s a very realxed surfer area. Although the area of Medewi is larger there are less options of resturants and bars to go to there. It has one of the longest left hand waves in Bali and is perfect for longboarders too. There are a lot surf camps up in Medewi if you fancy a getaway dedicated to getting salty everyday. Read more about what to do in Medewi here.
Menjangan island is part of west Bali national park. It’s a protected area and hence you can’t visit unrestricted. You require a pass to access the island and a tourguide to take you. Around the island on the north side of Bali you find some of the best diving in Bali. There are lot’s of protected reefs here perfect for both scuba diving and snorkeling.
The main reason people go to Lovina is to see the Dolphins. I’ve heard rumors that these aren’t the most ethical of trips with boats chasing after the dolphins to ensure you get the sighting you paid for. Therefore I haven’t personally taken part in it and I would urge you to enquire with the tours how they conduct themselves and check reviews before you choose to go with one. If you’ve rented a scooter in Bali and decide to drive up there from the south the views of the countryside on the way up are incredible and you can stop at Aling-Aling waterfall on the way for a day jumping off and sliding down the waterfalls.
Munduk & Bedugul
Having left Lovina I recommend you to stay a few days in the Munduk area, specifically at Sanak retreats. It’s easy to do day trips from there to visit Ulun Danu, the beautiful temple in the lake in Bedugul, the Jatiluwih rice terraces and really soak in the beautiful mountainous areas around Munduk. If you really crave some cooler temperatures consider staying a night or two in Bedugul. Maybe eat some strawberries too as this is the only area in Bali that manage to grow them. You can also check out the Treetop adventure park while in this area, it’s pretty fun actually. While visiting Jatiluwih rice terraces I recommend that you take an afternoon to visit this little natural lazy river that I discovered not too long ago. The place is called Babahan Crystal water and you rent a tube for 10 000 IDR (less than 1 dollar) and you get to ride it down this natural lazy river of crystal clear water through the rice fields. It’s truly epic and it’s not at all well known so you might find that you get the whole river to yourself.
Amed is where to go in Bali if you want to go scuba diving or take a free diving course. It’s got black sand beaches and on clear days the surrounding area provides good views of the volcano, mount Agung. Amd is a super quiet little fishermen’s village that also has a few dive shops and freediving schools. Beyond that there’s nothing. However while you are here it’s an easy day’s trip to visit Pura Besakih temple at the foot of Mount Agung, or quite a bit up the slope actually but “at the foot of” sounds better. It’s THE mother temple of all temples and the island itself. This place is super magical and I really really recommend a visit. If you visit just one temple in Bali make it this one. Something you do not need to do while you are here is to visit “the gates of heaven”. …gates of hell more like it. It’s just 2+ hours of queing to take one faked picture for the gram. Faked because they all use a mirror to simulate as if there was a lake right in front of the “gate”, it’s just a dude charging you 20 bucks to hold a mirror. Don’t do it.
Sidemen is a more quiet alternative to Ubud. You get similar surroundings here but without the sometimes pretentious yoga hippies that tend to crowd Ubud. Don’t get me wrong, Ubud and it’s people are lovely in many ways but there are about equal amounts of true spirituality there as there is spiritual by-passing and the “by-passers” are the ones you are likely to come across the most due to their attention seeking nature. (Btw, Canggu is an even bigger attention seeking hotspot in case I didn’t mention that before). …ok, rant over, back to Sidemen. Basically Sidemen is a great place for a jungly escape for a few days. Highly recommend. On your way from here to Ubud pass by Gunung Kawi temple. It’s worth a little pit stop at least.
Ubud is the most famous are of Bali thanks to its inclusion in Eat, Pray, Love. Ubud isn’t by the sea so won’t be the spot if you’re looking for a beach area. It’s home to the largest amount of Yoga studios in Bali, although Canggu is trying to catch up. A lot of alternative thearpies are praticed in Ubud and most go there for a spiritual get away. It’s also popular with digital nomads as there are a lot of coworking spaces. The rice paddies in Ubud are spectacular too and it’s a great point from which to then trek Mount Batur. From Ubud I also suggest you visit Tirta Empul for a good water cleansing and traditional Balinese blessing. This is some real cultural stuff here and not a tourist trap. Big recommend. Things to avoid in Ubud is the “sacred” monkey forest. It’s not worth it even if you think monkeys are cute. Read more about what to do in Ubud here.
Uluwatu and the Bukit
The whole of the little bobble bit down the bottom of Bali is the Bukit area although people frequently refer to the whole of the area on the west coast and right at the bottom of Bali as as Uluwatu, including the two beaches I mention below. Uluwatu temple is the most popular tourist attraction in the area, as well as going to Single Fin and watching people surf the massive waves below.
The area of Uluwatu is a lot more relaxed and slow moving that the rest of Bali. There’s quite a lot of space between most of the restaurants and bars so while there’s development in the area it doesn’t feel as condensely touristy and westernised as the rest of Bali. Read more about what to do in Uluwatu here.
Balangan beach is a wonderful area of Bali. The beach is lined with local warungs (restaurants), it has one of the most authentic feeling beaches in Bali. It’s the perfect place for chilling on the beach and has good waves for beginners to advanced. The main peak is advanced and fast but the waves break the whole way along the beach therefore it gives plenty of opportunities for those just learning to try out surfing for the first time.
Also if you stay up on the cliff the view is spectacular looking down. Read more about what to do in Balangan Beach here.
Padang Padang Beach
Padang Padang beach is just a bit further south from Balangan. It’s famous for having a Rip Curl surf competition there every year (before covid) and is also featured in Eat, Pray, Love. The beach itself is tiny and there’s no accommodation down on it but it’s right by the main area of bars and restaurants around here. Read more about what to do in Padang Padang Beach here.
Nusa Dua is where all of the big resorts are in Bali. There’s a long stretch of beach that the resorts sit back from and it’s beautiful to walk along. There’s also a public beach you can sit on and go surfing from with a few surf spots in the area. The water is some of the clearest and most beautiful in Bali. It’s well worth a visit just to chill out for the day. It’s home to one of my favorite tourist attracitons in Bali too, Water Blow. Water Blow is a point where the waves crash in against the large black rocks and fly up in the air in spectacular formations. While down here also check out Tanjung Benoa for some fun water activities. From Nusa Dua you can easily get to Benoa harbour to take part in a variety of water sports like banana boat riding if that floats your boat (sorry, it was too tempting). Read more about what to do in Nusa Dua here.
East Coast of Bali & the Islands
Sanur is just a bit further north of Nusa Dua and one of the most popular areas of Bali for families. It’s generally safer and has a one of the longest beach promenades in Bali. This is also the place to catch the speed boat over to Nusa Lembongan and Nusa Penida. Other than that Sanur is not super duper interesting. It has some good surf breaks suitable for the rainy season though like Hyatt and Baby reef.
Nusa Lembongan and Ceningan
Nusa Lembongan is the most developed of the three little islands of the east coast of Bali. Nusa Lembongan has some great reef surf for quicker and more exciting waves, similar to the bukit area on the main island. Lembongan also has some mangroves you can visit and a great sunset spot called Devil’s Tears. Check it out. If the sunset is sub par then you can always enjoy the ever entertaining selfie-for-the-gram show that starts around the same time.
Nusa Penida is full of adventure. It is very under developed compared even to Lembongan, especially the south end of the island. There are a few touristy spots to checkout while here, Klingking Beach, Crystal Bay, Angel’s Billabong etc. You can definitely do these things but what I really recommend while there is to waljk beyong the well treaded paths and discover the extended beauty of these places. It’s much more exciting than taking selfies with the rest of the people. Also go explore the south of Nusa Penida. I’m sure it has so much more yet to discover.
The gili islands are only a short speed boat ride away from Sanur but be sure to check the reviews of the company you use to go there first as the boats don’t always have the best up-keep and there have been some dangerous incidents in the past. You can also easily take trips from Bali to go to other islands like the Mentawai’s for surfing or Lombok.
If you want more info on where to stay in each of these areas of Bali click here.
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