Bali is a small island of 5,632 km², 3,2km east of Java. The country has 33 provinces and a population of approximately 3.9million people. Over 90% of Bali’s population adheres to Balinese Hinduism, while most of the remainder follow Islam. Please remember to wear appropriate clothing, as well as a sarong and a sash when visiting shrines or temples. The capital city is Denpasar, located towards the south of the island. The main tourist locations include the town of Kuta, Legian, Seminyak, Ubud and Nusa Dua.
Currency: Indonesian Rupiah / IDR
£10 = 190,000 – 210,000 IDR
€10 = 140,000 – 150,000 IDR
US$10 = 125,000 – 130,000 IDR
What you will notice in Bali
- The quiet compounds of galvanised iron housing and narrow alleys.
- Whole Balinese families riding on a scooter, beside an overcrowded bus, beside an overflowing pick-up truck, beside a tourist van on a two lane highway.
- Devotional offerings that are placed in front of houses and businesses on footpaths and purpose built shrines.
- Stray dogs, they are everywhere, but not dangerous.
- Shops and hawkers offering everything from the latest Guess handbag to pirated copies of new cinema releases.
- The smell – it takes a few days to get used to it.
What to see and do in Bali
- Learn to surf on some of the world’s best waves at Kuta Beach.
- Eat fresh seafood on the beach in Jimbaran (south of Kuta).
- White water rafting down the rapids of Ayung River.
- Visit the temples and walk through the Sacred Monkey Forest in Ubud (you can feed the monkey’s but keep your valuables close and do not provoke them).
- Let your hair down at one of the many night clubs and bars on Legian Street (Jalan Legian) in Kuta.
- Haggle and bargain when shopping – there are hardly ever fixed prices whether you are purchasing gold or silver, arts and crafts, cheap surf-ware, bags, sunglasses or paintings.
Regions to explore in Bali
Denpasar is the largest city and capital of Bali, but not a destination that is frequently visited by tourists. It is a large and busy city, bustling with many friendly locals, temples, palaces and museums. You can pick up a free map at the Tourist Information Office at Jalan Surapati 6 (between 8am and 4pm) and walk to most of the destinations can be reached easily by walking. Denpasar is also the place to find fantastic shopping in the many shopping malls and many fine silk, gold and silver wholesalers.
Kuta & Legian
This area is known for long sandy beach (popular for surfers), a variety of accommodation and many restaurants and bars. This is also where you will find the first Bali Bombing (2002) memorial, on the site of the destroyed Paddy’s Pub on Legian Street (Jalan Legian).
Legian Street is also the place you want to go for pumping bars and clubs that sell cheap cocktails in fishbowls and jam jars. The Bounty Ship, Sky Garden and M-Bar-Go are the places to go for cheap drinks and a packed dance floor, while Alleycats (pre-drinks), Expresso (live cover bands) and Nero Bali (jazz bar) have a little more of a relaxed vibe.
Now considered a suburb of Kuta, Seminyak has a more expensive accommodation, plenty of luxury spas, high-end shopping and fine dining. Check out sunset bar/restaurant Ku Dé Ta, which is considered one of the number one party spots attracting celebrities from around the world and famous DJs. Seminyak’s beach is not the best, but it does offer some of the best luxury hotels, boutique clothing stores and jewellery shops. Streets near Oberoi are lined with many restaurants serving every kind of international food, including Greek, Japanese, Italian, American Diner and Moroccan.
Nusa Dua is a man-made complex that was built on the south-east of the island with five star luxury hotels, a golf course, conference centers and perfectly manicured gardens. It is seen to be much more artificial and sterile than any other part of Bali. The complex is manned by security guards that check your car/taxi for bombs and it is completely void of all Balinese culture and tradition. However, the beautiful white sandy beaches are perfect for swimming (no waves) and young families to enjoy.
Ubud is the place to start if you really want to explore the Balinese culture. It is a small town in Bali’s centre, surrounded by terraced rice fields, arts and crafts, scenic villages, rivers and ancient temples.
The Ubud Monkey Forest is a sacred nature reserve located near the southern end of Jalan Monkey Forest. There are boutique style hotels located in the cooler temperatures and beautiful forests in and around Ubud, however it is less than 2 hours drive north from Denpasar and can make for a wonderful day trip.
How to get to Bali
Airlines will fly into either Denpasar International Airport or Ngurah Rai Airport, which is just south of Kuta. Allow for some time to go through immigration and bag checks in customs as security has been increased and drug checks are regular. Most people will require a “Visa on Arrival” which will cost USD$25 when your passport is stamped on arrival. The “Visa on Arrival” is valid for 30 days and no application is required before you arrive. If you are staying for more than 30 days you will be required to apply for a 60 day visa or tourist visa at the Indonesian embassy in your home country before you travel.
How to get around Bali
The traffic and congestion in Bali is pretty terrible since there is no proper public transport system. Your main options are renting a car, bike or scooter or getting in a taxi.
If you choose to hire a scooter or motorbike, please check with your travel insurance company to ensure you are covered and it is recommended that you also carry an International Driving Permit (though hardly anyone checks). There are very few traffic lights and road signals and the traffic is chaotic. Beeping your horn is not rude, but a way to indicate to others that you are there. A scooter will cost you approximately 500,000 Rupiah ($50 USD) for a month.
It is extremely easy to hail a taxi in Denpasar, Kuta and Seminyak and it usually starts at 5,000 Rupiah, with an additional 4,000 Rupiah per kilometer. Always check to see if the meter is running, or have a general idea of how much the ride should cost so that you can negotiate a fare before you start your trip.
Tourist shuttle buses will take you to all of the major sights and are a convenient and safe way to travel. But they will not take you off the beaten track.
Alternatively, some hotels will offer to arrange a van for you and your guests. If you are travelling in a group or family this is the best way to see the island. You can negotiate a daily rate with your driver and they can take you almost anywhere on the island. Usually you will not pay more than 700,000 Rupiah ($70 USD) and some drivers will speak enough English to give you some local information about each destination, or recommend a destination that you might want to see. Be aware that they might take you to a shop or restaurant that will charge you a higher price for being a tourist.
Weather in Bali
Bali is located just below the equator and enjoys a tropical (warm and sunny) climate all year round. The ‘rainy season’ runs between October and March, which means that it is very hot and humid with a few bursts of heavy rain in the evenings. However, Bali does not have drizzly days of constant rain, and there are sometimes long periods of sunshine during these months.
What to pack for Bali
Pack your summer gear – shorts, summer dresses, thongs (or flip-flops), your swimming bathers and sunglasses. If you plan on visiting any temples, also pack a sarong that covers you from your waist to your ankles, weather you are male or female. However, you can also purchase most of this stuff on arrival for a very decent price. You will probably come home with at least one Bintang T-Shirt.
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