Where To Go in Bali
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.
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.
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
I’ve plotted a route for where to go in Bali on the map below based on if you have time for a two to three week Bali itinerary. It includes visiting Kuta, Seminyak, Canggu, Ubud, Nusa Dua and Uluwatu. There are plently of other beautiful places to see in Bali too therefore I’ve included additional information on these as well below in case you have more time to explore.
There are plenty of beautiful islands to explore as well with boats from Benoa Harbour making it easy and fast to get from Bali to Nusa Penida, Lembongan or the Gilis.
Click on any of the links 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
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 Kuta should definitely be your first stop in Bali. It gets a bad rep becuase of all the bars and parties and there are a lot of drunk Australians there behaving badly. But there’s also stil a nice beach, good beginner surf and if you stay back from the main road (Jalan Legian) you’ll still be able to get a good balance of relaxing time and parties. Read more about what to do in Kuta here.
Seminyak is the posh neighbour of Kuta. It’s very similar in terms of the rows of shops selling local goods but it also has a lot of cuter breakfast spots, good restaurants and slightly less grimy nightlife. Double 6 beach, is in my opinion, even better for learning to surf than Kuta and the perfect spot for sunset. It is more expensive than Kuta around there 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 backpackers 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. It’s like a baby Seminyak with big hotels and shopping complexes popping up. It’s also started to take the crown from Kuta for nightlife now too. If you drive just a little outside of Canggu you’ll find plently of rice fields and it’s well located to do a day trip to Tanah Lot Temple. Read more about what to do in Canggu here.
Some would argue that Echo Beach is the same as Canggu but while just next to the main area of Canggu it’s a lot quiter. You could easily say on the main beach road of Canggu and be able to walk to the resturants and bars around easily as well as pop down for the surf. 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 waht to do in Echo Beach here.
Further up north from Canggu and Echo Beach, 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.
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. Read more about what to do in Ubud here.
Balangan beach is a wonderful area of Bali. The beach is lined with local warungs (restaurants), it has one 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 spetacular 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 and is also featured in Eat, Pray, Love. The beach itself is tiny and there’s no accomodation down on it but it’s right by the main area of bars and reestaurants around Bali. Read more about what to do in Padang Padang Beach 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 mentioned above. Uluwatu temple is the most popular tourist attraction in the area, as well as going to Single Fin and waching 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.
East Coast of Bali
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. 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.
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.
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.
The main reas people go to Lovina is to see the Dolphins. I’ve heard rumours these aren’t the most ethical of trips however with boats chasing after the dolphins to ensure you get the sighting you paid for therefore I haven’t pesonally taken part in it. 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.
It is possible to find quieter places to stay in Bali and if that’s what you want just make sure you don’t go to Kuta, Seminyak, Canggu, Ubud or Nusa Dua. They’re the main tourist traps.
I haven’t made it to Nusa Penida or Nusa Lembongan myself yet but they’re supposed to be amazing. The gili islands are also only a short speed boat ride away too but be sure to check the reviews of the company yo use to go there first as the boats don’t always have the best up-keep and there have been some dangerous incdents in the past. You can also easily take trips from Bali to go to other islands like the Mentawai’s for surfing or Lombok.
Find Your Perfect Bali Location
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