Last on our round the world trip, the final chill before we head home, is Bali. A place which is becoming evermore popular as time goes on, it really is a hub for travellers from all over the world. In fact, in some places we joked there are as many white people as locals flying around. We chose to spend three weeks exploring Bali, and so here’s some advice prior to anyone thinking of heading this way.
THE BEST BITS
On arriving in Bali, you will feel like a millionaire. Especially for us, having just come from Australia where we could barely afford food from the supermarkets! Their currency is Indonesian Rupiah, and the best way to work it out is 100.000 rupiah = about £5. Meals out generally won’t cost more than 80.000, and if you eat local food (Nasi Goreng) you’re looking at about 35.000 (£2) per dish!
If you like massages as much as we do, you can afford them every day! 100.000 for an hour full body Balinese massage.
Hostels generally cost between 100.000-150.000, and you can even find amazing homestay’s or Airbnb’s for next to nothing.
The locals are the most lovely people ever. They will make you feel so welcome into their beautiful country.
THE NOT SO GOOD BITS
Although parts of Bali are absolute paradise, the growing tourism industry does have a real negative effect with regards to the excess of garbage pollution in landfills, the streets and beaches. You have to watch your step walking down the busy streets for sudden holes in the road filled with muddy water and rubbish.
DO NOT drink the tap water. This sort of goes without saying, but seriously, don’t be tempted. Bali belly is not something to be messing about with.
Even without drinking the water, travellers to Bali can often be affected by what is called ’Bali belly’, basically a bad upset stomach. I got sick for a couple of days whilst on the island, and the best thing to do is get yourself to a pharmacy and buy ‘charcoal tablets.’ You have to take 7 at a time, but trust me, you’ll instantly feel better.
The stray dogs... they are everywhere! Be careful when walking home from those boozy Canggu nights out, sometimes they really go for you! As long as you steer clear and don’t try to touch them you’ll be alright.
TRAFFIC! The traffic is HECTIC 24/7. Cabs that say on Google Maps they take 30 mins will take 1hr30, so bear this in mind if you need to be somewhere important on time. This also means be SUPER wary when renting scooters, the roads are mad and if you aren’t careful it can be extremely dangerous.
Taxi’s are extremely cheap, providing you get the right ones. Make sure to jump in ‘Blue Bird’ cabs only, and always ask them to use the meter. You can download the ‘My BlueBird’ app if you need to order one to a specific location.
For getting around Ubud and Canggu, we rented scooters, which is how the majority of travellers and locals get around. Generally this costs 60.000 (£3) per day! If you don’t feel safe or are not a confident enough driver (the roads can be pretty crazy), there’s an app called Go-Jek which is essentially Indonesian Uber for scooters and you can just jump on the back of a local drivers bike.
For clothes shopping, hit up the main street in Seminyak. There are so many boutique’s and swimwear shops and everything is still 1/2 the price it would be at home.
Canggu has beautiful boutique’s too, if you’re willing to spend a bit more the main street has some awesome shops.
The markets in Ubud was where we did all our shopping, and it’s where you’ll find all the local handmade clothes and souvenirs. MAKE SURE to barter! As harsh as it may seem, always offer 1/3 the price of what they originally ask for.
Also be sure to look out for fortnightly markets in Canggu, there’s always posters and signs up around the times they are running.
Despite the huge influx of European and Australian tourists in Bali, the local culture remains extremely strong throughout. ‘Canang Sari’ is one of the daily offerings made by Balinese Hindus as a symbol of thankfulness to the Hindu Gods. You will see small palm leaf baskets all over the streets filled with bright flowers, incense, and an ‘offering’ placed on top for example a biscuit, sweet, or even (much to our amusement) a cigarette! If you see these in the street, be sure not to step on it because it is considered as not respecting the culture and the religion… especially the ones with incense still burning.
Bali’s kite tradition - During our time in Bali we couldn’t help but notice the sky is always filled with kites flying around. Day or night you can always see at least 10-20 kites in the distance. When we looked into this, we found out they have agricultural significance, and the Balinese fly the kites to let the gods know that the people wish for an abundant harvest. They also hold religious significance, it’s clear religion is still a key part of Balinese society. July to September tends to be the kite season, but if you’re lucky enough to catch the annually held Kite Festival, you can apparently witness hundreds if not thousands of traditional giant kites that are made and flown competitively by teams from the villages of Denpasar.
Even though some may see the Balinese as deprived, the local people are some of the happiest people we’ve met in my travels, which is truly amazing. They do not appear to be resentful of the millions of Australian’s and Brits flocking to their island every year, in fact quite the opposite. They accept and thrive upon the tourism industry, because of the amount of jobs it has created for them. I genuinely don’t think I’ve ever felt so welcomed into a place by a culture so different to my own.
GENERAL INFORMATION ABOUT EACH PLACE
For our 3 weeks in Bali, we started off with 2 nights in Seminyak before heading to the Gili Islands for 5 nights. We then went to Uluwatu for 2 nights, followed by Ubud for 3 nights before ending in Canggu for the rest of the trip.
KUTA - this is where you fly into, but we would say get out as soon as possible. It’s sort of like the ‘Magaluf’ of Bali and has been totally ruined by drunken Australian tourists.
SEMINYAK - Nice enough, but also a place where a lot of travellers get stuck. It’s cool to stay for a few nights but definitely recommend getting out and exploring some more of the island, as Seminyak is such a small part.
GILI ISLANDS - Paradise. Gili Trawangan is the party island where we spent 5 nights, but also be sure to visit Gili Air/Gili Meno.
ULUWATU - beach bum’s paradise, beautiful white beaches and big surf waves.
UBUD - has an indescribable charm, super friendly locals, yoga hippie vibes, super cheap hostels, more culture heavy as you can visit rice fields, waterfalls etc by scooter.
CANGGU - Definitely our favourite place in Bali. Laid back, trendy surf vibe - we’re talking beach clubs, boutique shops, and an amazing, high-quality restaurant scene for every taste and budget.
NUSA LEMBONGAN/NUSA PENIDA - We didn’t get time to visit these islands, but heard incredible things from other travellers. If you’re looking for chill, quiet beaches away from the business of the mainland, these islands sound worth a visit.