I received a lot of request for a Bali guide, so here it is. If you’ve been there and would like to add a few things or two, just drop me an email at email@example.com
HOW TO GET THERE AND BACK
Several airlines fly to Bali Ngurah Rai airport daily. Look for DENPASAR (DPS), that’s the airport code. On a good day, you can get a return ticket for RM400++ on a low-cost airline like AirAsia. If you can get that deal, take it. It is rare for the price to go any lower than that except during the twice-yearly sale period, and even then you may not get the travel dates that you want. That said, before making your airline ticket purchase, just check out legacy airlines like Malaysia Airlines, Singapore Airlines, Emirates, KLM and Etihad for comparison. They are known to give special promotions for ASEAN destinations. I’ve had friends who flew to Bali on Malaysia Airlines for RM400nett return. That is an awesome deal. It doesn’t hurt to do some research and compare prices.
If you fly out of Singapore, you a have a few more choices but that means you have to get your ass to Singapore first.
If you are from any of these countries, you don’t need a visa:
- Brunei Darussalam
- Hong Kong SAR
- Macau SAR
[Others will require Visa-On-Arrival, but I don’t cover that topic in here.]
Once you reach the airport, before you get immigration clearance, you will have to fill up an Arrival/Departure card (see pic above). This is usually given to you in the plane, if you fell asleep while this is done, you can just get one at the airport. Fill it up, and after the immigration officer takes the Arrival portion and stamps your passport, he will leave the Departure portion inside your passport. Make sure you keep it safely. DO NOT LOSE THIS!! I lost mine once and got into a lot of trouble at the airport when I tried to depart. No need to get into the details, just don’t lose it. If you did, go see the service counter at the airport and inquire what to do before you check in. It will save you from a very unnecessary shouting match.
When you are leaving Bali, please remember to keep IDR150,000 (approx. RM53) per person in Indonesia currency in your pocket for airport tax. Just a little jetsetting lesson, airport taxes are normally included in your airfare. But, this is not true for all airports. Most airports in Indonesia (and other airports in other parts of the world) collect this cash at the airport itself. So make sure you don’t spend every single cent you have and keep some in your pocket for this purpose. Airport tax is collected after you check in, but before you cross the immigration checkpoint. And, just check your passport again to make sure you didn’t lose your Departure slip.
Side note: yes free wifi is available in certain parts of Bali, mostly in the Kuta/Legian areas as these are the party spots. Hotels don’t usually offer free wifi in every room, but commonly would have it in its public areas like the lounge or cafe. A cheap way to keep connected in Bali is to buy a disposable pre-paid phone card – I usually pick up a Telkomsel pack at the airport or ask my driver to get me one, ask for a “Kartu Perdana” pack. I am a bit clumsy with following directions so usually I just give them my phone and ask them to help to activate the card; then redirect all calls from my MY number to this one. Topping-up is easy because it is sold at almost every shops on every corner. Of course you can elect to use your local mobile service and pay roaming and international data charges. It’s very much up to you.
Taxis are easy and aplenty in Bali. You can either get one at the airport, by queuing at the taxi ticket counter; or you can pre-book one together with your hotel. A mid-range hotel usually provide free airport transfer and shuttle service to major tourist points like Kuta Beach at specific pick-up/drop- off times; private villas will provide full-time chauffeur.
You can also charter a private taxi for your entire trip, I usually take this option because it means I have a chauffeur who waits on me hand and foot while I do whatever that I need to do in Bali. Beats having to flag down a taxi every time. I have never tried to self-drive in Bali. A private charter, depending of type of vehicle and how long you want to charter the taxi for, will costs you between IDR350,000-600,000 (RM120 – RM320) for a 10-hour block; every extra hour thereafter will be charged between IDR50,000-165,000 (RM14 – RM70) per hour. You have to charter a taxi for a minimum of 6 hours. I usually take the Toyota Avanza (called “Toyota Kijang” there) that can seat 5 comfortably for 8 hours, then I extend the charter per hour according to my daily plans.
You usually tip your charter taxi driver at the end of the day when he drops you off at your hotel, IDR20,000 is good (about RM7), more than that you are generous. Same tipping standard is observed elsewhere, like if you want to tip your masseuse. Tipping is not necessary nor required, it really is up to you if you want or don’t want to do so.
When taking casual taxis i.e. those that you flag down on the road, you usually round up the fare to the nearest IDR1,000 (RM0.35). The taxi driver will usually do the same too, so don’t freak out and yell at him when he doesn’t give you the exact change. He is not shortchanging you, it is just the norm.
Of course you can insist on the EXACT fare if you want to, no rule says you can’t. Taxi fare starts at IDR5,000 (RM1.75) and increases IDR4500 (RM1.60) every km. Most trips will cost you between IDR20,000-90,000 (RM7-32). I usually take Bluebird taxis because these taxis are relatively new, reliable and fully air-conditioned.
Go to Bali Airport Service website to make your booking. They have all sorts of ground transportation service available.
There are 3 things to consider when you want to choose your accommodation in Bali:
- What you want to do (shop? party? relax? artsy fartsy?) – this will determine the area you will stay. For example, if you mostly want to shop and party, you should stay in Kuta; if you prefer to rest and relax Nusa Dua area would be better for you. Honeymooners will probably want to stay in Seminyak, while the artsy type should head to Ubud. For those who are into beach sports or go diving or swimming with dolphins, go further up north of the island for hotels around the Lovina beach or Tulamben area. So, decide first what you want to do, then choose the area where your hotel will be located accordingly.
- What kind of accommodation you prefer (boutique hotel? modern hotel? private villa? homestay? budget hotel? posh hotel?)
- How much you want to spend on hotels? Hotels can go from as cheap as RM80 per night to hundreds of thousands for private, super-posh villas.
I usually choose a hotel in the Kuta/Legian area which is where the shopping and the partying happens, even better if I can get a hotel right on the Kuta/Legian beaches itself. If you can, try to stay in a balinese style or boutique hotels rather than the modern types. They are charming and unique and they are part of the Bali experience, Imho. But really, whatever that rocks your boat.
I do my hotel booking using Booking.com. Basically, I enter the dates I am going, choose my price range and choose by hotel theme. I like using Booking.com because I don’t have to put up a pre-booking deposit and cancellation can be done without any penalty as long as it’s done 24hrs before ETA. Of course there are other websites that you can use, and if you want to be patriotic and stay in a Malaysian-made budget hotel there’s always Tune Hotel for you to consider.
I have stayed in:
- Maharta Bali Hotel – love it! Very quirky, great location, it’s a place that I will definitely visit again.
- Harris Hotel & Residences Riverview Bali – a bit off city-centre, but modern and eclectic and very friendly service
- Tune Hotel Double Six Legian – budget hotel, cheap, comfortable and adequate but I won’t stay here if I am on a holiday of my own coz I like being in a place that’s the centre of attention. This hotel feels too sterile for me.
- Hard Rock Bali – it’s right where the action is baby. If you can afford this, go for it!
You will notice that all the hotels I’ve stayed in are in the Kuta/Legian area. I will say this though: hotels in Bali are fantastic and they are cheap. Browse Booking.com as much as you’d like to see the many choices then pick one that suits your need.
WHAT TO DO
There are many things to do in Bali and many guides that cover these in detail, so I am listing down the things that I like to do. Sports freaks, this is NOT the guide for you.
Anyway, a few housekeeping reminders first:
1. The official religion in Bali is Hindu.
So, be sure to check if the F&B place you go to is Halal or ask your guide to recommend one. I had a very nice driver once who insisted to make us Bebek Betutu (a duck dish), but he was Hindu so I wasn’t sure if the food was prepared according to Halal requirements. We didn’t want to offend him since he went through all the trouble to do so, so we took the dish and then passed it to our non-Muslim colleagues when we got to the airport.
2. Ritual offerings
You will see this offering everywhere in shops in Bali, even in Starbucks. Sometimes it is placed near the cashier counter, most of the time it is on the pavement right outside the entrance of the shop. Please be careful not to step or walk all over them, or touch and nudge them off the counter (by mistake or intentionally!).
The many unseen inhabitants of Bali – gods, ancestors and demons – are treated by the Balinese as honored guests through the daily presentation of offerings (banten) of every imaginable shape, color and substance. These are first and foremost gifts – expressing gratitude to benevolent spirits, and placating mischievous demons to prevent them from disturbing the harmony of life. Simple offerings are presented daily as a matter of course, while more elaborate ones are specially produced for specific rituals. After the daily food is prepared, for example, tiny packets are presented to the resident gods of the household before the family eats. Every day, too, the spirits are presented with tiny canang – palm leaf trays containing flowers and betel as a token of hospitality.
Source: I Love-Bali
3. Shrines are built almost everywhere you go.
Bali really is a mysterious, mystical island. These statues, some wearing sarongs like this one, and shrines are a part of the way of life in Bali. Please don’t defile or say nasty things about them. What that means is be respectful towards the local’s custom and religion, even those that seem strange and uncomfortable for you. You can take pictures, but I think touching is discouraged. Photo (c) o-culturesandtales
WHAT YOU SHOULD HAVE IN YOUR BAG
- Bottled water
- Sunscreen, water spray (for the face) and hand fan
- A large hat, Bali sun is hot and cruel; and a large pair of sunglasses that will cover 3/4 of your face
- Wet wipe and hand sanitizer (muy importante)
- Mints, the ones with spearmints are even better. It helps to quench the thirst and gives you a little pick-me-up while shopping under the hot sun.
- Camera with fresh batteries – there are lots to see and to take pictures of in Bali
Of course I will start with food. Bali has some very unique dishes like Babi Guling (roast whole pig, and being a Muslim of course this is a no no for me) and Bebek Betutu (spicy duck). As a general rule, cost for food (for 2 pax, excluding drinks) can be grouped as follows:
- Very Cheap – under IDR 100,000 (RM35)
- Cheap – IDR 100,000-200,000 (RM35-70)
- Moderate – IDR. 200,000-500,000 (RM70- 175)
- Expensive – IDR 500,000-900,000 (RM175- 315)
- Very Expensive – More than IDR 900,000 (> RM315)
Basically the food prices are not much different than Malaysia. I usually eat at stalls or cafes recommended by my taxi driver. Some Halal places that you can try are as follows, if you click the link you will get the address and contact no. Your taxi driver should be able to get you there without much fuss:
- Virgin Duck – This is a rustic place that serves all things duck.
- Note: I was informed that this restaurant is no longer halal and serves pork in its menu, so please disregard this recommendation.
Bebek Bengil – another restaurant that specializes in duck. This is part of a well-known restaurant chain. The name means Dirty Duck Diner but there’s nothing dirty about the place :-) It serves very nice Balinese and fusion cuisine but located all the way in Ubud so it’ll take quite a drive.
- Bumbu Desa – This is one of my favourites. They serve Sundanese food and they have rows and rows of these magnificent spread – I go crazy just trying to decide what to put on my plate. You may have seen the franchise in KL, I saw one in Empire Gallery recently.
- Madania Restaurant – another fusion restaurant, if you are craving for gourmet coffee and can’t find Starbucks (there’s one right beside HRC Hotel, btw), this is a Halal restaurant that would hit the spot.
- Natrabu Bali – nasi padang! Need I say more. Please remember to try the Ayam Pop and Jus Apokat.
- Rosso Vivo Dine and Lounge – an Italiant restaurant for excellent cakes and coffee and chilling out by the sea. I go to this place every time I am in Bali.
I also went to this Ayam Penyet place but I don’t remember the name so can’t recommend it to you, sorry :-(
SIGHTSEEING & SHOPPING
- Waterbom Bali: If you are bringing kids with you, this is a must. Located in Tuban, this is a water park with lots of water rides; you can easily spend half a day here without noticing it. Admission is a bit steep at USD26 (RM78) for adults and USD16 (RM48) for kids below 12. But if you think about it, it’s the same price as Sunway Lagoon Theme Park so I shouldn’t say that it is steep.
- Bali Safari and Marine Park– Combining Balinese cultural ambience with African Savannah, Bali Safari and Marine Park features wildlife such as Sumatrapan elephant, Sumatran tiger, white tiger, leopard, komodo dragon and cheetahs. They have several adventures for you to choose from and prices will vary accordingly. Prices per adult starts at IDR135,000 (RM47) for general admission (which is a great choice so take this if you only intend to stay there for a few hours) to specialized adventures like the Jungle Hopper at USD35 (RM104) and Elephant Back Safari at USD135 (RM402).
- Bali Dolphin Tour – I personally find this irresistible and it’s something that I’d recommend you do at least once in your life. The Dolphin Lodge is located on a floating sea pen in the ocean, and for USD69 (RM206) you get to spend 40 minutes in the specially designed dolphin enclosure for a close-contact session. Yes that means you get to pet, hug, kiss and play with a dolphin. If you just want to watch and not go into the water, the fee is about half of that. Please note that the fee includes return transfer to your hotel so you can be anywhere in Bali and they will pick you up and send you back. I’d like to add that this is completely different from the (much cheaper) wild dolphin sighting at-sea tours that takeplace at Lovina Beach, about 3 hours from Kuta. This kind of tours costs about IDR500K (RM147) per pax for a min of 2 persons.
- Batur Volcano and Kehen Temple – I am not much of a sightseeing person but I think if you go to Bali, you may want to give the island a onceover. This tour takes a full day and you will be taken to several places like the Tegallalang village, Batubulan village (where you get to see and experience the Barong dance), Gunung Kawi temple, the Batur Volcano and Kehen Temple. Some of these places charge entrance fees, in total it will cost you about IDR120,000 (RM42). I don’t think this is suitable for children though as they will get bored easily. There are so many sightseeing and sports/adventure tours that you can do in Bali. I suggest you checkout AllbaliTours to get started on planning your itinerary. Kecak Sunset, Ubud tours and whitewater rafting are among the more popular ones and many of my friends have been on these. I’ll say it again, I am not much of a sightseeing person so I can only recommend to you the tour that I have taken (the only one, actually hahah). Feel free to explore and let me know what you think about other tours by emailing me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Sukawati Market – this is a major traditional arts market, be prepared to do serious damage to your wallet when you visit this place. Paintings go from as low as RM80 per canvas to thousands of dollars, and there are kitschy knick-knacks aplenty throughout the market. I bought my souvenirs, t-shirts, tote bags, spa products, beach stuff and paintings from Sukawati and had to buy additional travel bags to stuff them in. Seriously I can stay here for days and still find things to buy. You do need to be careful about the quality though, some stuff are cheaply made and break easily. Also, try to get there around 10am or so, Balinese believe if you are the first customer at the shop you bring good luck, so they will give you really good prices. This is where you can flex your bargaining muscle. The general rule is to offer 1/3 of the asking price, then raise it in small increments til you and the shop owner reach an agreement. Just be careful not to cross the line to the point of being rude and obnoxious. I know some people who are so engrossed in bargaining that they become outright pompous and arrogant. I’m just saying.
- DFS Galleria. This is the mall to go for a spot of duty free shopping. You must have your passport ready. It’s the same as shopping at the duty free stores at the airport, just that this mall is much larger. It works the same way too – you make your purchases and they give you a receipt, you pick the goods up when you are at the airport – you can’t take them out of the mall. I think this only applies for high-end store brand goods like perfume, make-up, jewelry, handbags etc. If you buy souvenirs and food items, you are allowed to bring them out of the store, no problem. There is also a a hypermarket and mid-range department store for fashion and accessories next door. If you are the shopping mall kind of person, you can also check out the Kartika Discovery Mall (they have Boots chemist, yay!), Bali Collection Nusa Dua, or just make your way around Kuta Square or Kuta Arts Matket for small shops and quirky boutiques.
Aaaah…massages. So many places to try, so little time. Massage places are all over the place, just pick what you fancy. Sometimes when I get tired, I just look around for one of those small massage places that are tucked in-between shops and get a quick foot rub or a manicure. There are also roving masseuse at the beaches, so basically you can get your tan on and get a rub-down at the same time. Just wave them over and they’d be happy to oblige.
If you want a proper spa experience, there are 2 places that I’d recommend.
The first one is the Shangrila Spa on Lotus Lane. It is located in Ubud, so yes it is a bit out there as it is around 90 mins away from Kuta. Worth a visit if you are already going up to Ubud to check out the arts scene/market or if you want to eat at the Bebek Bengil restaurant. Is it worth it? Yes. A 4 1/2 massage session costs IDR430K (RM150 only!). Ala carte treatment starts from IDR60K (RM21).
Right there on Kuta Beach itself is the Febri’s Spa. It is located in Febris Hotel on South Kuta Beach (formerly known as Tuban Beach). Febri’s Spa is pricier than Shangrila but the location can’t be beat. Ala carte treatment starts at USD20 (RM60) while 4-hour spa packages can go up to USD60 (RM180). That said, these prices are still way cheaper than similar treatments in KL. Go on, splurge. You’re worth it :-)
HOW MUCH WILL THE TRIP COST
It depends on what you want to do, your airfare and accommodation cost. But a decent 4D3N shopping, sightseeing and chillaxing (I hate this word, btw) holiday in a 3* hotel in Kuta will cost you about RM2,500 per person (food and ground transfers inclusive). Of course if you eat cheaply, split the cost of hotel and private taxi charter with 2 more friends then you can do Bali with RM1,500. You just need to time your holiday so that you can take advantage of cheap airfare, the rest can be adjusted according to your wallet’s health.
(Tune in next time for my Super Easy Guide to Singapore, Bangkok, Jakarta, London and yes, Kuala Lumpur in the homeland)
- The Best of Bali According to Lonely Planet (baliblog.com)
- When life gives you lemons, go to Bali… – Kuta, Indonesia (travelpod.com)
- Light Up the World in Kuta (mantanatletbasket.wordpress.com)