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A short beginners guide to Bali, written to friends

Bali •

As more and more of my friends kept choosing to travel to Bali, Indonesia, I carried on to receive the same repetitive questions about my consecutive travels to the island. This is an answer to all of them once and for all.

Where to stay and how long?

The best option for a nice holiday is around 17 days. That should give you enough time to visit most of the astonishing and ‘must-see’ places in Bali. Obviously, if you can, choose to stay longer. 

I used Booking.com to book all of my accommodations but I would only make reservations for my first few stays in advance and then book the rest as I go (no, last minute bookings are not more expensive and you will always find a place, don’t worry about that). I only reserve my full stay if I know the exact travel plans or if I’m traveling with a group. If you are a solo traveler, I would recommend leaving space for adventure! 

Where to go and how to plan my trip?

My best advice is to start off in Canggu! Canggu is an astonishing surf area hence being a perfect spot to start your trip. It’s filled with beautiful cafes and restaurants and plenty of opportunities to surf or just chill at the beach. I would also recommend ending your trip here as well.

The best place for beginner surfing is Batu Bolong beach. It’s deep enough not to worry about any reef injuries and the waves are quite pleasant as long as you stick to the inside waves. I highly advise taking an instructor the first few times you try surfing. The instructors cost fairly cheap (350 000 rp for 2 hours) and you’ll be able to stand on the waves in no time + it feels much safer! But watch out for other beginner surfers and try not to get hit by their boards, though a good instructor should sort you out and prevent from that happening. Contact details of my favourite local surf spot and a few contacts to get in touch if you want to ride the waves will be down bellow. 

achos, Bali, Christmas. 2018

Once you are surfed out and rested, you might want to head to Uluwatu. It’s another great surf spot (but for more advanced surfers) and the views there are miraculous! The easiest way to get there if you don’t have a bike is by go-jek. I will cover this app later on this post. Uluwatu is a bit less busy but has absolutely astonishing clif views. You can find many resorts and restaurants. My favourite party and food spot was Single Fin. Whilst you are in Uluwatu I recommend visiting the Uluwatu Temple, the best time to enter is around 15:00, you can then walk around the temple, take some amazing pictures of the view and watch the traditional ceremony at 17:00. There will be tons of monkeys, so make sure to keep your belongings close, as they do like snatching them. The ticket to the temple and the ceremony are separate so make sure to buy both of them and find a nice sunset seat early before the ceremony begins. The whole performance is a bit touristy but it’s still really fun to see and get equated with the Hindu traditions and tales.

If you’d like some quiet time away from the noise, I recommend heading out to the Green Bowl Beach or Padawa Beach for a day. The climb down to the Green Bowl beach is steep but definitely worth the hassle and the Padawa beach is very nice to chill and have a local meal. I stayed at the Green Bowl Beach Bungalows for few days and really enjoyed some alone-time. 

Another great calm and a bit secretive paradise beach in the Uluwatu area is the Thomas Beach. It’s a steep climb but worth every step. My friend and I visited this beach for a day and had a miraculous time there. Sunshine, books and coconuts. Remember to bring some cash though, they don’t take card payments there.

“If you’re one of the yoga and meditation freaks you mustn’t miss Ubud.”

If you’re one of the yoga and meditation freaks you mustn’t miss Ubud. Here you will see most of the rice paddy fields, jungles and waterfalls (this is the spot where most Instagram pictures are made). Sadly, I have no personal recommendations I could refer you to, as I’m still to visit this place but from what I’ve gathered it’s perfect for those who like spirituality, ecstatic dancing, yoga retreats, meditation and craft. So if you’re looking for your ‘eat, pray, love’ experience – this is the right kind of destination for you. 

The closest island to Bali is Nusa Penida & Nusa Ceningan. If you want a taste of small-island living, beautiful tropical views and beaches – take the first boat there. I will put a link of whom to contact to get a pick up and a boat ticket – my local friend Gusti is the man for those sort of things. I advise to look at the weather beforehand as the boat ride can get really bumpy, or if you’re like me, take a sea-sickness pill. If you go to any of these islands, be aware that the rented scooters are not in great condition, make sure to check your headlights and breaks. The island has some steep roads and you definitely don’t want dodgy breaks. We stayed in Dafish Bungalows (I know, sounds funny) in Nusa Ceningan and were pretty happy with the service and the views. Secret Beach is a short walking distance away, so I would highly recommend taking a dip in the ocean each day. We also visited Dream Beach Cliff and spent a relaxing day there. You can rent beach beds and the food at the restaurant there was really nice (veggie options as well!). 

Another great island that I visited is Gili Air. It’s a small island that belongs to the Gili islands that are made up out of three tiny islands. When I came to Gili Air it was only 4 weeks after the earthquakes and the island was mostly empty. Even though the possibility of being stranded on a flat island if an earthquake hits is a bit daunting, but, I ended up having the best time there. It truly looks like a paradise island. Clean white sandy beaches, blue water and tiny quiet village life. The locals are super friendly and if you’re lucky enough you might even get invited to drink some of their local wine (caution: it’s very strong). The boat ride is around two hours. P.S. You might see some signs welcoming you to have a mushroom-shake. Yes. It’s real. 

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Commonly asked questions?

How much money should I take? Bali is known for being cheap. Some of your nicest meals won’t cost you more than 5-10 eur. and local food is even cheaper (2-4 eur.). Most activities don’t cost much either. And you definitely don’t have to worry about paying much for transportation. I would say to be secure take from 1400-2000 eur. with you, this way you can travel without much dependency on your spending needs. The most expensive thing is going to be partying and drinking, if you are into that, then it will surely eat up your cash fast. 

Should I exchange cash when traveling to Bali? There are a lot of atm’s in Bali so I wouldn’t worry about that too much. Just take some cash for the start and the rest you can withdraw out there. Even better if you have a revolut card, that can save you from some charges + they offer the best exchange rate! Perfect for traveling. 

Do I need vaccines? Not really. Do the basic travel vaccines if you like but there are no required ones in Bali. 

Is the travel visa hard to get? No. It’s easy and you can get it in the airport once you land.

Do I need to buy a local sim card? Yes. Get one in the airport, it will save you the hassle later and you will always have internet. Unless you want an internet-free holiday. 

How do I get a ride from the airport? You call my friend Gusti and arrange a pick up a week in advance through whatsaap. I will add his contact at the bottom. It will save you all the hassle and don’t need to worry about getting into any dodgy car. Obviously, you can choose your own options. 

Water and food poisoning? You shouldn’t worry too much about that. Don’t drink tap water and you should be fine. The ice cubes in all places are bought in packs so you can enjoy your cocktail fresh and cold. Bali belly does happen once in a while, especially if you eat local food, I advise to get Smecta or other medicine for those painful evenings on the toilet. 

Tanning and mosquitoes? Use sunscreen and especially when you bike or surf. Mosquitoes will eat you alive, so do buy mosquito-repellent and carry it everywhere, especially in the evening. Another good tip: don’t leave your windows open with the light on, it will be a nightmare sleeping. 

What is go-jek? Go-Jek is a local app. Mostly it’s used for transportation but you can also order food, massages, groceries and even deliver packages. It’s really a life saver. Keep in mind that go-jek sometimes can take you to a place but can’t pick you up. You will then need to get a local taxi and they will be more expensive. 

Should I get a scooter? If you want a full Bali experience – yes. Then again, if you are not very skilled in driving – don’t risk it. There are many accidents on the road and you do need to get equated with the local driving rules. 

Do the locals speak english? Yes, but obviously not well. Yet it is enough to communicate. The locals are super friendly and helpful and will always help you out if you are in trouble. 

Should I be worried about my possessions being stolen? Like any touristy are, Bali attracts thieves. I personally only once had my purse stolen in a club. I recommend keeping your possessions close to you in a fanny pack. Avoid using your phone on the bike as it’s easy to steal. And never wear your bag over your shoulder whilist driving, put it up front or in the trunk. To be honest, I never felt unsafe in Bali but I’ve heard some stories. So yes, be cautious, lock your rooms and keep your stuff close to you, seems like common sense. 

Can you recommend a surf instructor?  Yes, of course. Sadi is my man for that. I will add his contact details at the bottom + few others. Few of my friends also went to Kima Surf and were really happy staying there and surfing, so maybe that’s an option for you if you are traveling alone and wanna meet some people. 

Bali’s blessing and resource curse has become tourism. Yet, it’s an incredible place to explore, learn to surf and fall in love.

My personal favourite places:

Copenhagen – great breakfast and coffee, family friendly

Crate Cafe – great breakfast place but very busy

Cassava  – breakfast lovers, chilled environment

Kafe Kayuapi Bakery – it was my local but the french man knows how to bake bread

Bumbak Coffee – nice for working and breakfast

Warung Bu Mi – local food, good price

Warung Alamak – a guy from Singapore runs this place, chilli as fuck but great food

Classic Beach Bar – sunset + meal

La Laguna – gipsy themed environment, loads of events and delicious food

Nook – my all time favourite dinner place

Pescado Bali – really good Spanish place, great to go with friends 

La Brisa a perfect spot for sunset, get busy tho, astonishing environment

Pretty Poison – it’s a bar and a skate ramp 

Old Mans – literally everyone goes here for party and bears

Potato Head Beach Club Bali – if you want a fancy cocktail

La Favella – impressive entrance, good music, good party

Red Ruby – when the evening ends and if you’re an electronic music fan

Jungle – a club with a pool, not too shabby

Samadi Bali – ecstatic dance in Canggu 

Useful links and private trustworthy contacts:

Book a surf class – Sadi, Surf Instructor

+62 813-6945-3512 (whatsaap) – Matt, Surf instructor 

+62 813-3729-9917 (whatsaap) – Gusti, pick up from airport and other travel arrangements

Ocean Mimic – beach clean ups, if you wanna join and help out

Earthquake app – nice to have one

Go-Jek – the Bali app for everything

Dojo Bali – coworking space, great community

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