Last October, we visited Bali for the very first time. We had a wonderful time and we plan to go again. We did find out some things before that first visit. Now that we intend to go again, I have found out more about Bali, and would like to share in this article – Bali – The Ultimate Guide.
In this ultimate guide to Bali, I will do my best to cover as much about this beautiful island as I can. There was so much to see, so and eat in Bali. For our first adventure, we decided to focus on the coastal areas. Our next time there, we will explore Ubud.
Bali is known as the Island of the Gods. When we were there, we could understand why.
The beaches were truly beautiful. The holy temples were enchanting. The hills and mountains were magnificent. The rice terraces were lush. The food was delicious. And everywhere we went, the people were warm and friendly.
We stayed at a villa, and it was heavenly. Having an entire place to ourselves surely gave us the feeling that we were specially pampered guests.
Continue reading as I share all the above including fun activities and shopping, of course, in this article.
Where is Bali, Indonesia?
There are more than 17,000 islands in Indonesia. And Bali is one of them.
It is about 2 kilometers (that is almost 1.5 miles) east from Java.
I live in Singapore, and that makes Bali south east of Singapore. We flew across the Java Sea to reach Bali.
What are the Regions and Cities of Bali, Indonesia?
When we were in Bali, we engaged a private driver and tour guide. During one of the days there, I was curious and asked the tour guide about the different areas in Bali. He was very knowledgeable, and gave me a rundown of the regions as well as the foreigners living in some of them.
I found out from him that there are six regions in Bali. There are North Bali, East Bali, South Bali, and West Bali plus Central Bali and Southeastern Islands
South Bali consists of Kuta, Bukit Peninsula, Canggu, Denpasar, Jimbaran, Legian, Nusa Dua, Sanur, Seminyak, and Tanah Lot. According to our private tour guide, the foreigners at Kuta and Legian are mostly Australians. Guests from China love to stay at Nusa Dua. Brazilians prefer to stay at the Canggu area. At chic Seminyak, the foreign visitors are mixed from different countries. The locals live mostly in Denpasar.
Ubud, Bedugul and Tabanan are in Central Bali, which is considered as the cultural hub. There are plenty of terraced rice fields in the mountains here. According to our private tour guide, most Europeans visit, and some even settled, here.
In North Bali, popular for their black sand beaches, there are Lovina, Munduk, and Singaraja. East Bali includes Amed, Besakih, Candidasa, Kintamani, Klungkung, Mount Agung, Padang Bai, Tirta Gangga. West Bali has Negara, Gilimanuk, Medewi Beach, Pemuteran, and West Bali National Park.
Added to the above, Bali also has the southeastern islands that are Nusa Lembongan, Nusa Penida, Nusa Ceningan. These gorgeous paradises are popular for scuba diving.
Who are the People in Bali, Indonesia?
Before we visited Bali, I read up about this place. And I was intrigued by the fact that the Balinese people are an Austronesian ethnic group.
Don’t be mistaken by that term. The slightly over 4 million people are still native to Bali, Indonesia. Apparently, a long time ago, their ancestors migrated by sea from Taiwan. This was known as the Austronesian expansion.
I know. Mind blowing right?
What is the Culture in Bali, Indonesia?
When I was in Bali, I was fascinated with their culture. Immediately, I could see how rich a culture they have. This could be due to an exotic mix of Balinese Hindu-Buddhist religion and Balinese customs.
The Balinese dance is popular, and you can watch it at many venues. They have the Barong or lion dance, Calonarang, Kecak, and Legong Keraton. We watched the Uluwatu Kecak Dance, and noticed that it was Indian influenced.
Another cultural delight is the wayang kulit also known as shadow play theatre. In the music and drama arena, they have skilllful gamelan players and talented actors.
One thing we noticed is that the lifestyle in Bali is slow paced. The people are warm, friendly, very tolerant, and welcoming to visitors. They are also modest and polite, which is evident in the way they dress and behave.
Kindly note that I mentioned about modesty. One of the things they do frown upon is any public display of affection. So please be mindful and respect their culture.
As such, partners kissing is actually not acceptable. And please do not display any nudity, even on the beaches. They do not like that.
Travel Tip: Please respect their culture.
What are the Religions in Bali, Indonesia?
If you have been to Indonesia, you would know that most of the population are Muslims. But not Bali. Everywhere we went in Bali, we could see the influence of the Indian culture, and the Hindu religion.
A quick history lesson on Google helped me learn that around 100 BC, the first Hindus arrived in Bali. This is why most of the Balinese are Hindus. And almost every aspect of Balinese life is suffused with this religion. For example, when we were in Bali, almost everywhere we would see canang sari.
Canang sari are tiny leaf tray offerings that contain flowers, glutinous rice, cookies, salt and incense. These are placed at every aspect of the Balinese lives; for example at the house, work, restaurant, shops, etc
Balinese believe it is bad luck to step on a canang sari. So, please be careful!
Travel Tip: Do Not Step on a Canang Sari!
When we were in Bali, we were fortunate to visit a few beautiful temples such as Tanah Lot and Uluwatu Temple. These temples, and many more in Bali, have rich cultural and historical values.
What is the Common Language Spoken in Bali, Indonesia?
It was easy to communicate with our private driver and tour guide as well as the locals. Every Balinese speak Indonesian, Balinese and English. This makes it easy for tourists, like you and me, to get around, order food, shop, etc.
What are the Festivals and Public Holidays in Bali, Indonesia?
Most of the public holidays and festivals held in Bali are the same as the rest of Indonesia. But there are some that are unique to this Island of the Gods.
Note: For rest of public holidays such as New Year’s Day, Good Friday, Chinese New Year, Hari Raya Puasa, kindly refer to the information at Indonesia – Ultimate Guide.
Nyepi – Saka New Year
This is Bali’s lunar new year. It is based on their Saka calendar. Held in the month of March, there are Melasti processions three days before Nyepi.
It would be interesting to watch the pilgrims walk from the temples to the coastline for purification rituals, join in the fun at the ogoh-ogoh parade, and be awed by the thousands of monster-like statues. But after that, on the actual day of Nyepi, the entire island goes silent. It is part of their holy practice to observe absolute non activity. So, I think I will skip this.
To learn more about Nyepi, see how the lovely purification rituals, the colorful costumes, what the ogoh-ogoh parade looks like, and the monster statues, Watch the Video below.
Galungan and Kuningan
This is one of the most celebrated holidays in Bali. It is held twice a year. Families get together to commemorate the victory of Dharma over Adharma, which is good over evil.
At the entrance of every home and along the streets, you will see the tall and well adorned penjor poles. These are beautiful and long poles decorated with young coconut leaves, fruits and flowers. It is curved and at the end hangs something that looks like a tassle.
Hmmm. This looks so enchanting. I hope to see this one day.
To learn more about Galungan and Kuningan, see how the penjor is made, what it looks like, and its symbolism, Watch the Video below.
Bali Arts Festival
This event happens some time between mid June to mid July. It showcases artists’ works on platforms such as exhibitions and performances.
Venues such as Niti Mandala Renon Square and Denpasar Arts Centre are hosts to these shows. There is also the lavish opening of the event that are the street parades.
See what the Bali Arts Festival looks like, Watch the Video below.
Bali Kite Festival
When I was a young boy, I loved playing with kites. Of course, the ones I played with were small little ones that flew really high and then disappeared into the skies forever.
In Bali, I am excited to find out that there is an annual celebration of kite flying. People send huge kites in all shapes while an orchestra plays traditional music. So charming.
Be enthralled by large and beautiful kites flown by teams at the Bali Kite Festival, Watch the Video below.
Makepung Buffalo Races
Strong bulls with men on carts race to the finishing line. The beauty and the drama is enough to entice me to see this at least once. What about you?
Words are not enough to describe this exciting race. Better you Watch the Video below.
Sanur Village Festival
When we visited Sanur Beach, it was very quiet. Almost like a peaceful fishing village if you ignore the tall hotels and bars by the seaside.
It is nice to know that there is this annual Sanur Village Festival that brings life to this lovely place. The festival features food, beverage, health and wellness, sports and environmental-awareness events.
Take a look at the parade at this festival. Watch the Video below.
Around September or October, the village of Kalibukbuk Beach hosts the Lovina Festival. The event opens with a parade with a Balinese marching band called balengajur. And the exhibitions and night markets showcases handicrafts and delicious local food.
Check out this festival, Watch the Video below.
Nusa Dua Fiesta
If you are looking for more arts, culture, sports, music and exhibitions, head on to the Nusa Dua Fiesta. It is held in October at, where else, Nusa Dua peninsula. Don’t miss the culinary side events such as the cooking and mixology competitions. I know I won’t.
How happening is this festival? To find out, Watch the Video below.
What is the Dress Code in Bali, Indonesia?
When we were in Bali, we could literally feel how relaxed the atmosphere was. For clothing, you can wear shorts or bermudas with t shirt. Just be mindful and not wear clothing that is not too sexy.
When you visit temples and religious sites, take note of the strict dress codes. For example, most of these holy sites would advise wearing a shirt that covers your arms and shoulders. And you would be required to wear a kain or sarong. This is a cloth that is wrapped around your waist.
What is the National Dress in Bali, Indonesia?
This is the same as the national costume of Indonesia. Kindly refer to my article – Indonesia – The Ultimate Guide.
What is the Popular Sport in Bali, Indonesia?
There are many who may argue, but to me, I find the most popular sport in Bali is Kite Flying. Of course, there are many other sports that Balinese enjoy. These are described in my Indonesia – The Ultimate Guide post.
What Currency Can I Use in Bali, Indonesia?
This would be the Indonesian rupiah (Rp or IDR). You can find out more in my article – Indonesia – The Ultimate Guide.
Tip: When changing money in Bali, find the legitimate money changers to avoid being cheated.
How is the Weather in Bali, Indonesia?
Again, the weather is the same as in Indonesia. Sorry to do this, but I really do not wish to repeat the info that you can find at my Indonesia – The Ultimate Guide post.
How is the Haze Situation in Bali, Indonesia?
I asked our private driver and tour guide about this. And it was amazing to find out that there is little or no haze situation in Bali, Indonesia.
Are There Any Earthquakes in Bali, Indonesia?
Before we traveled to Bali in October 2019, there were reports of earthquakes and volcano eruptions. This was because Indonesia is prone to earthquakes. Bali is no exception. Around that time, Lombok saw many volcano eruptions and earthquakes.
We were wondering if we should postpone our vacation. After a short discussion, we believed all would be all right. And we were glad we visited this beautiful island.
Which are the Hotels to Stay in Bali, Indonesia?
When it was time to choose a hotel to stay in Bali, it was quite a monumental task. There were so many great hotels, resorts and villas to choose from. After much thought, we decided to stay in a villa.
It was a heavenly experience. An entire villa to ourselves. Click on the button above to read more about our stay. Includes a video of the villa, huge bedroom and bathroom plus private pool with kitchen and living room.
You too can have many choices. You can stay at a hotel or a resort with plenty of facilities. Or you can stay at a private villa just like us. Book your choice below and get the best rates.
Book Your Hotel Room, Resort or Villa with Our Best Partner and Get The Best Rates
What are the Things to Do in Bali, Indonesia?
Oh, there is so much to see and do in Bali! So many Best Places To Visit in Bali! Where to begin?
There are beaches, lots of lovely beaches. We visited quite a few during our vacation. And while every beach had the same things – sand, sea, and sun – each felt different. There was something unique about each of the beaches; Petitenget, Echo, Jimbaran Bay, Sanur, Padang Padang, and many more.
One of the favorite activities we saw at the beaches was surfing. It was fun watching the people riding the waves. But I don’t think we are that adventurous. So, we stuck to walking by the beach, and watching people sail and surf.
Temples are plenty in Bali. So many that it would be quite impossible to see them all. So, we picked a few awesome ones such as Tanah Lot and Uluwatu Temple.
We gave Ubud a miss this time round. Only because we only had a few days, and we did not like to rush around. So, we chose coastal activities for this vacation.
On our next visit to Bali, we intend to focus on Ubud. We have found out that in this area there are more beautiful temples, and beaches. In addition, there is a lot of nature to appreciate; such as terraced rice fields, rainforests, and waterfalls.
In Ubud, there are also fun activities such as playing at the water parks, and outdoor adventures. Definitely something for every one in the family.
What Food to Eat in Bali, Indonesia?
I enjoy eating good food. My friends enjoy eating good food, too. So, when we are on a vacation, eating good food is a must. What about you?
Thankfully, Bali has a really wide variety of food. They are offered in a huge range of cafes and restaurants. The local restaurants called warungs serve both local Indonesian and international food. Sometimes, there can be dishes that are mixed. There are also international brands of cafes and restaurants serving their usual fare.
We tried a few of these local warungs. And the food was really yummy. Here is one where you can dine by paddy fields. Very charming.
Here is a warung that serves the best pork ribs in Bali. And I really have not enjoyed such soft and succulent pork ribs for a while. They were really awesome!
We also sampled food at smaller local restaurants that not many tourists know of. All thanks to our private tour guide who showed us this awesome eating places. They serve really yummy local nasi campur; rice with local dishes. They were also much cheaper than the food served at the warungs. One of them was even frequented by the president of Indonesia!
Where To Go Shopping in Bali, Indonesia?
There are lots of shopping malls, shops and markets in Bali. We passed by markets and shops on the way to seeing the sights. The only time we stopped to buy anything was to get hats to shade our heads because it was so hot and sunny.
Every zone or region in Bali has a big shopping mall. We did not visit them. The only time we stopped to shop was at this mall called Krisna. It was near the airport, and we dropped by just before we flew back to Singapore.
Krisna was amazing! Many floors with so many stuff at really good prices. We realized we did not need to shop at any time during our vacation. We could have stopped by Krisna when we first arrived, bought all we need – t shirts, juices, hats, etc, and then continued for our vacation.
Now that we know, we will do that the next time we visit Bali. I will be sharing more about this awesome shopping place. So do join my I Love Travel community to get updates when I publish this article.
In the meantime, here is a video about the malls in Bali.
How To Get To Bali, Indonesia?
Once we decided to have our vacation in Bali, the next thing we needed to know was How to Get to Bali? And here is what we found out.
To our delight, Bali has an international airport called Ngurah Rai International Airport. This meant there would be flights from Singapore to Bali.
We checked online, and there were many airlines that flew from our small island to the Island of the Gods.
Indonesia has a national carrier that is Garuda Indonesia. Here is a video about this airline.
There are many other airlines to choose from. For example Air Asia, Cathay Pacific, Emirates, Jetstar, KLM, Malaysia Airlines, Scoot, and many more.
We chose Jetstar because we found out it was the safest budget airlines. According to airlineratings .com, Jetstar has a safety rating of 7/7. But its product rating is 3/5.
To us, that is ok. After all, it is a budget airline. We do not expect too much from the product. Safety at highest score is more important.
There are no trains to Bali.
There are no direct buses to Bali.
Bali is an island. So, no roads to drive to Bali.
By Boat / Ferry
There are boats and ferries to Bali. But it would take a long time to travel this way. Do not do this unless you have a lot of time on your hands.
To find out which ferry or boat to take from your location, it would be best to Google and search for these services. I would rather not mention all of them here.
One reason is because there are too many to mention. Another reason is the systems keep changing. What I write today may be outdated later.
Caution – This is not a safe choice. Many operators do not maintain their vessels. As such, it is dangerous. And there have been accidents and deaths.
There is Visa On Arrival where nationals of certain countries can get a visa upon arrival. Some countries cannot. Please check with the Bali Immigration website for details
Many visitors from many countries can visit Bali visa free. They can visit Indonesia without a visa, and for a period up to 30 days. Again, please check the immigration website to find out if your country has that privilege.
How To Get Around Bali, Indonesia?
My friends and I have discovered Bali to be a large island. And it is not easy to navigate and get around on our own. Especially if we are new to the place.
Traffic in Bali can get chaotic. More so at major tourist areas. There are daily jams. The best is to get a private driver and tour guide who knows when, where and how to get around Bali.
There are no trains in Bali.
By MRT (Mass Rapid Transit)
This is no MRT in Bali.
There are buses in Bali. If you are on a budget, this is a good choice. Check out the local advertisements for a bus company. Do book one day in advance.
Before getting into a cab, please negotiate for the price. Better still, convince your driver to go by meter. Even then, it is quite risky to travel by taxi as some can be unscrupulous. So, please be careful.
Private Hire Vehicles like Grab and Uber are available in Bali. And you will be surprised to know that even after the price is confirmed on your app, the driver will still haggle and get you to pay more.
I usually recommend using Grab in other countries. For Bali, I don’t recommend this choice.
By Bemo (Minivans)
This may look like a good option. A whole van for your whole family or a group of friends. Be careful. Find out the price before you agree to engage this service. Sometimes, the cost of these minivans may be even more than a taxi.
By Self-Drive Car or Motorbike
It looks tempting. And you may feel you get the freedom to go where you would like to go without the hassle of being tied to a driver.
But from what I learned, there have been many accidents with both locals and foreigners. So please be careful if you decide to take this method of getting around Bali.
Wear a helmet. Actually, this is compulsory by law. And often, police in Bali catches people who break this law. The fine and inconvenience is not fun at all.
Also, you will need to have an International Driving Permit (IDP).
Private Driver and Tour Guide
To me and my friends, this was the best choice.
When we were on a holiday, we really liked to relax. Preferably, we would like to not worry or think about where to go, how to go there, what to eat, etc.
We loved that with our private driver, we were driven everywhere, and anywhere we requested. The driver was also our tour guide. So, he planned our itinerary. We approved. And he handled the rest.
We highly recommend this choice for getting around Bali.
Going to Bali? Book Your Hotel Room, Resort or Villa with Our Best Partner and Get The Best Rates
If you have ANY questions about Bali – The Ultimate Guide, ANY at all, please submit your questions as comments below. I will be happy to help you out.
Thank you for reading this.
Wishing you and your loved ones safe and happy travels,
Hey everyone, I am Timotheus. When I am not giving lectures, I love traveling and visiting cities and towns all over Asia. It is a thrill for me to find and share awesome places to see, great tasting food to eat, and restful rooms to get a good night’s sleep.