Bali Travel Guide
If you’ve been dreaming of traveling to Bali but don’t know where to start, I got you! No need to stress about how to get there, where to stay or any of that cause this guide is going to cover all that and more. My Bali trip finally made it out the group chat and off the bucket list so I’m grateful to share my experience with you. It’s my mission to make my corner of the internet a place for light and beauty which is exactly how I’d describe Bali! From the views, the culture and the people it was so hard to condense it down whle still being able to truly immerse you in the vibes! With this Bali travel guide including my 6 day itinerary you’ll feel confident not only in booking that trip but even going solo if you can’t get a crew together. So come get a taste of Bali, immerse yourself in its essence and feel the light.
Important Things to Know Before You Go to Bali
Getting to Bali from the US: coming from the Midwest, What up doe from the D in case you didn’t know, I booked two different flights: one round trip from Detroit (DTW) to Fort Lauderdale (FLL) then from Miami (MIA) to Denpasar (DSP) with a layover in Istanbul (IST). Now your girl is a Chase Sapphire Reserved card holder which came in CLUTCH for this trip. I booked through the Rewards portal and because all my “over priced lattes” are triple points I was able to cover my round trip Delta tickets from DTW to FLL using my points. Also for our Turkish Airlines flight I was able to check two bags for free! Plus the Priority Pass membership allowed me and my friend to take advantage of the lounges in Istanbul and Denpasar so we didn’t have to pay for any food at the international airports.
Visa/Entry Requirements: getting into Bali as a US citizen you will need your passport and a B213 visa which allows you to visit the country for 30 days. You can easily apply online here 14 days before your trip to avoid waiting in line at the airport. You can also fill out your Bali customs declaration online here, I recommend doing this during your layover!
Language: while the official language is Balinese you’ll find that everywhere listed on my intineary the locals speak English so you don’t have to worry about any language barriers. One sneaky trick I swear by is to have the Google Translate app downloaded so that way I’m never caught in a situation where I can’t communicate on some level in the local language.
Currency: Bali uses the IDR which means the USD goes a long way with $1 being about 15K IDR. Unlike other countries I’ve been to, I definitely needed cash on hand while in Bali even for the excursions. A lot of places only accept cash or cards from local banks. You can exchange money at your bank or the airport. Also in major cities like Ubud you can easily run to an ATM to get cash on the go.
Best time to visit: to avoid the rain April-September is the prime time to visit Bali. Keep in mind it is an island and there is a volcano so even during the dry season plan for unexpected rain showers. As for the temperatures it is HOT in Bali getting up 80-100 degrees F. And that Bali sun definitely hits HARD so plan accordingly.
How to Get Around Costa Rica: getting around Bali is actually easy and affordable thanks to the following apps: GoJek or Grab. Be sure to download these apps BEFORE you go as they need to send SMS text messages to confirm your account. We used Grab to hitch most of our rides. We were even able to get a ride from Ubud to Seminyak and back at midnight! If you’re more adventurous you can also rent your own scooter. This isn’t for the faint of heart though because they drive on the opposite side of the road and they don’t have many road signs so the main roads get crowded and chaotic.
Where to Stay in Ubud
Let’s be honest, the real question you’re asking is: should I use Air BnB or book a hotel? Air BnBs can be a budget friendly option for a place to stay in Bali. I’ve slowly been shifting back to hotels because I miss the amenities that come with staying at hotels vs. Air BnBs. Also after leaving all my favorite jewelry at the Azul Beach Resort in Jamaica and the staff diligently working with me to get it ALL shipped back, I’m now firmly team hotels when I travel internationally.
We stayed at the Horison Ume Suites and Villas. One because of the room and pool view! Also it includes a breakfast buffet, morning yoga, afternoon tea and lattes along with a shuttle into downtown. They had an on-site spa, a gym and room service as well! It was everything. I will note this hotel does not offer a floating breakfast. They do offer flower baths in their spa. If you feel like you HAVE to have those experiences/take those pics you will want to go with another option.
IF you’re set on doing an Air BnB I rounded up a wish list of places I would have booked for my stay here.
Things to Do in Bali-Ubud
There is a reason everyone mentions Ubud on their itinerary because truly it is that perfect mix of historical beauty meets modern day luxuries. The smell of floral incense fills your senses as you walk on the side of the cobble streets to keep from getting run over by the mopeds trying to get around traffic. Shop keepers sweep their store fronts as ladies in traditional clothing carry trays overflowing with ceremonial offerings, handing them to the owners so they can say their prayers. Traditional homes with their thatch roofs, stone statues, leaf gold doorways and temples are open as spas, shops and even Air BnB so you can peer inside to see how the locals live. Grab drivers stop to converse with their friends as they wait for the wave of tourists to pour in with the afternoon rush. Honestly even one full day of exploring and you wouldn’t scratch the surface of Ubud’s beauty. With such limited time here are the highlights of things to see in and near Ubud during your trip:
- Visit the Ubud Market. This is something I would normally skip as a seasoned traveler because a lot of the markets feel the same. Each booth will have the exact same “crafted in this country” clothes, jewelry and trinkets as the one right next to it. Truthfully that was the case for part of the market however there were also a lot more hidden original stores within the side streets of the market that you wouldn’t find otherwise. I also love that with money from the first purchase of the day shop keepers touched the rest of their items with it to bring continued luck and fortune.
- Saraswati Temple aka the Water Palace. As more tourists have come to Bali this experience has changed. There is now a small fee and visitors are only able to enjoy the outside of the temple. As a lover of Bali’s architectural features I thought this was worth enjoying. You can also grab a coffee at the Lotus Cafe to enjoy the temple as well.
- Rice Terraces. One thing about Bali there’s no shortage of rice terraces, for now. Tegallalang rice terrace is the most popular but there are literally so many that you can visit or even book a hotel at. **A note, in the rice fields it is muddy, slippery and the rice is sharp enough to snag on clothes and scratch the skin. Please keep this in mind as you choose among the many rice terraces to visit.
- Visit the Bali Zoo. A zoo may not be your first thought but the Bali Zoo has a few different experiences like breakfast with orangutans and mud baths with elephants that you might not be able to do at your local zoo. They also have fun walk through areas where you can get up close to the animals as well including wallabys, mouse deer, lemurs and more.
- Ubud Monkey Forest. My friend and I chose the skip this because we didn’t feel like having to play fistie cuffs because when I say these monkeys will literally steal right out of your hand or off your head and ears! A lot of people find the experience entertaining especially to be that close. If you follow my itinerary you can skip this as the Uluwatu temple also has monkeys roaming around.
Day Trips toTake from Ubud
Besides it’s beauty the other reason we chose to stay in Ubud for the entire trip was because it’s easy to book a lot of different excursions with pickups from the area. Here are some of the easy day trips you can enjoy from Ubud:
- Tirta Gangga & Lampuyang Temple- both of these major tourist attractions are right next to each other so doing them in the same day is your best plan. With the Gates of Heaven growing in popularity for the iconic reflection photo the wait can take over 3 hours even if you go first thing in the morning. While I don’t think the photo is necessary it definitely should be on your itinerary for the breathtaking view. Here’s the excursion we booked.
- Seminyak/Uluwatu- the Semiyak area has a lot to offer and is a 2 hour drive from Ubud. In hindsight we would have spent the last night or two in this area just to cut down on travel back to Ubud but with Grab it was easy to get to and explore for the day before returning to our hotel! Keep scrolling for my Seminyak recs!
- Angsri- there are tons of beautiful waterfalls in this area. The drive is also around 2 hours because you are going up into the mountains however if you’re a water lover this excursion was worth spending the day outside of Ubud taking in the natural beauty of the country.
Where to Eat in Ubud
There is SO much good food in Bali! With it being a hub for travelers from Australia, India and Japan it’s got a lot of variety. Even if you’re a picky eater the great thing is that there is a lot to choose from just at a much better price than back in the US! Since we did a lot of excursions that came with meals and the hotel including breakfast we didn’t get to try as many places as I was hoping. Here are some of the places I ate at during our time in Ubud that I couldn’t recommend enough:
Coffee/Lattes & Snacks:
- Kopi Tetangga Baik: one thing about me I will be finding crafted lattes even abroad! I stumbled on this place by accident and fell in love. They make all their syrups from scratch and roast their own beans from local farmers! If coffee isn’t your thing they also have tea and lemonades as well.
- Gelato Secrets: did you go to Bali if you didn’t enjoy Gelato? What I enjoyed about this spot is that it also made entirely from local suppliers and the range of flavors even included local’s favorite fruit durian!
- Room4Dessert: I’ve always wanted to do a preset menu with a cocktail pairing and when I saw this place on Netflix’s Chef’s Table I HAD to do it! I truly loved the experience. If you’re a picky eater I wouldn’t recommend this but for those who want something unique, fun and luxurious this was a highlight for me. Check out my Bali Vlog to see the tasting menu.
- Soku: For a budget friendly upscale experience this should be on your list! I got a pot of tea, chicken, shrimp with pasta and cake for under $20!
Things to Do in Bali-Seminyak
This area has very much been on the rise over the past years. With it being right by the beach it felt like it was being built into more of a party area so keep that in mind as your deciding where to stay and things to do. The other thing about Seminyak is because of the rise it tourism a lot of the historical and natural beauty in this area is being replaced by modernized, can be read as gentrified, buildings. The difference from Ubud was very startling. However there is a lot to do in Seminyak which is why I made sure to include it in the itinerary. Here’s what to do in Seminyak:
- Hit the beach &/or a beach club. As a beach lover I cannot go to a desitination that has several and not spend at least part of the day lounging next to the waves. There are tons of options to choose from in terms of beach clubs. We went to Finns Beach Club based on a friend’s recommendation. I really enjoyed the location, food, drinks, service and the crowd. Our only beef, which I run into a lot when abroad, is the music. It feels so hard to find places that like to play afro-beats, top 40 all day long, a lot of international places tend to lean heavy into house music. So if you’re looking for specific music do a check on the DJs that will be spinning, no different than you would back home, because that will let you know if it’ll be your vibe or not.
- Visit Uluwatu Temple for the Kecak Dance. I love to immerse myself not just in the scenic places but also the culture itself when I travel. I love to learn about the religion, the everyday people, the history I never got taught. That’s what made this experience so unique and fun. While I didn’t understand a word of the songs, seeing the dance between the Hindu gods play out over ancient Balinese hymns truly was enchanting.
- Grab dinner at Jimbaran Beach. A popular destination and for good reason because even though restaurants stretch across this pristine beachfront for you can take in the sounds of the waves while enjoying your favorite meal it’s still a quiet area. It’s the perfect way to end a day of exploring or start off the day before enjoy the rest of the Seminyak area.
What to Pack for Bali
I have a whole video on how to pack for Bali sharing my tips on how I plan my fits and keep from overpacking so give that a watch. Here’s a condensed list of my travel essentials that I never go abroad without that you’ll definitely want to make sure you bring to Bali:
- Bug Spray and Sunscreen- thank me later for reminding you!
- Swim suits– at the bare minimum bring at least 2, one that you can wear for any water activities and another with the tan lines you want but honestly I packed one for every day.
- Water shoes– again thank me later moment, for the waterfalls and the cleansing ritual there will be rocks so pack a pair of water shoes to save your feet.
- Cover ups– honestly a kaftan or top + sarong should be your go-to for Bali since a lot of temples require your shoulders, back and legs to be fully covered. This way you’ll don’t have to worry about getting into certain places.
- Hats- like I mentioned that sun just hits different so don’t rely on just your sunscreen, pack a wide brim hat or bucket hat to protect yourself also!
- Hiking shoes/sandals- for the adventurer plan to be on your feet a lot so bring comfortable shoes or sandals that you can walk around in all day.
- Rain Coat/Poncho– even in the dry season pack a rain coat to protect you while checking out the sites if it rains randomly, which it will.
If you want some outfit ideas to inspire your packing list for Bali, then keep your eye out for my post on everything I wore in Bali coming Thursday!
Shop My Packing List
I know it can feel overwhelming and scary as a woman, especially of color, to travel to certain destinations because you don’t know how you’ll be treated. I felt not only safe but welcomed in all the spaces my bestie and I visited while in Bali. In fact I spoke about how other women of color I met who were traveling solo felt so comfortable in my Bali Travel Vlog. Be sure to give that a watch for a more intimate look at the places I shared plus what I’m like to travel with! See the other destinations I’ve visited and loved s a woman of color in my other travel blog posts. Share this detailed Bali travel guide with a friend who would find it helpful!
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