10 things I wish I knew before visiting Bali

Bali was an impromptu solo trip plan and it is very uncharacteristic of me to make plans last minute and that too, all by myself. I had an opportunity and I took it, booked myself a flight, did some quick research before visiting Bali on things to do and I was off! Although I usually advocate spending time on planning and reading up about a place before visiting it, there is a certain charm about landing up there and learning your own lessons.

One thing that I haven't done enough of in my past travels and have newly learned how amazing it is to do, is to speak to the locals. Get over your apprehensions, put on a smile and get talking to the local people because there's a wealth of knowledge that you can get from there, which you won't find online. Having said that, there are always things you wish you knew before travelling to a place so that you could manage your time better and not miss out on some very cool experiences. This post is about 10 things I wish I knew before visiting Bali.


#1 Rent a scooter

It is definitely better to rent a scooter rather than a car. The roads in Bali are so narrow, you’re like to be stuck in traffic jams if you’re in a car, allowing you to cover lesser ground than you would on a scooter. If you’re not a confident scooter rider, you can rent a scooter taxi for the full day (10-hours) for a customized tour of the island, for as less as USD 15.

You might come across a lot of posts advising you against it but I didn't see anything that worried me. Yes, there are a lot of scooters on the road but as long as you're a safe driver (make sure you're wearing helmets) and do not try to show off your skills, you are good to go! I had arranged to rent a car for a day before visiting Bali but once I was there, I immediately switched to a scooter.

Pandawa Beach
Pandawa Beach


#2 Spend a night in Ubud

While Ubud can be covered as a day-trip from Kuta or Seminyak, do consider spending 1-2 nights here. There are beautiful temples, parks, rice fields and other sites to be explored from here and the lush green town is a stunning and serene contrast to the mainland. It is the spiritual heart and soul of Bali.

Pura Gunung Kawi Sebatu Ubud


#3 Download the app Go-JEK

Go-JEK is the Uber of Bali. Be it calling a car or a scooter taxi, Go-JEK is the best application. It is cheap, easy to use, responsive, trackable and is sure to provide you much better prices than the public taxi. I literally paid $1 for a taxi from my hotel in Kuta to the airport. The drivers are polite, follow instructions and are absolutely safe (scooter drivers also bring along helmets for the passengers and ensure you wear them before they start). I downloaded this app before visiting Bali and realised how useful it was once I was there.

Tanah Lot Temple
Tanah Lot Temple


#4 Distances are longer than they seem

Although the island is fairly small and the distances seem quite less, it takes a lot of time to go from one place to another. This is because of the terrain, the narrow roads, and the traffic. Keep buffer while making plans for the day. Traffic jams are not uncommon.

Looking for a place to stay? Click here to read Where to stay in Bali.


#5 Shell out a few extra bucks for 'Luxury'

Consider shelling out a few extra bucks for some very luxurious hotels and resorts or even villas with private pools, Jacuzzi and massage rooms. If you’re a group of people, renting a villa with its own private pool is a much better (and a reasonably priced) option than staying at a hotel and will not burn your pockets. You can get villas on Booking.com or Airbnb for as less as $150 per night, for a 3-bedroom private home offering pool, daily cleaning services, and all facilities you require. My favourite area for some of the most well-located luxurious villas is Seminyak. I stayed at a decent hotel because I was a solo traveller but if I had known how cheap some of these villas are, before visiting Bali, I might have treated myself to a luxurious stay!


#6 The touristy beach clubs are expensive!

Bali is fairly cheap overall but if you’re planning to go partying or drinking at one of the popular bars and beach clubs which are very touristy (such as Rock Bar, Potato Head Beach Club, Ku De Ta), be prepared to spend $30+ just for a drink and snack!

Potato Head Beach Club
Potato Head Beach Club


#7 Visiting the gorgeous Gili Islands can be painful

Although I definitely recommend a trip to one of the Gili Islands (click here to see how to choose your Gili Island), be prepared to face a lot of delays and chaos at the ferry boarding. There are several companies offering fast boats but most of them are subject to unprecedented delays in departures, long wait times and lack of communication from the staff. It might take you a whole day for the journey, so keep a buffer in your plans with that expectation. I did read up on the various companies that offer this service, before visiting Bali, however, the company I used was extremely horrible in its services so please avoid using Semaya One fast boat at all costs!

Gili Trawangan
Gili Trawangan


#8 Do not forget to haggle while shopping

I absolutely loved the colourful clothes, accessories, and souvenirs on the streets in Seminyak, Kuta and Ubud Art Market. From fragrant soaps, essential and massage oils, to beachwear clothing and embellishments, you will find an inexpensive and beautiful collection. However, remember to always haggle. You’ll be surprised to see them agree to 70% lesser price than they initially quoted!

Sanur Beach Street Market


#9 Beach clubs are nice but the street nightlife is even better!

Although many of the beach clubs and bars are amazing, do not forget to try those in Kuta or Seminyak Square. Many of them have live music, happy hours until late night and a very lively ambiance. I fell in love with La Favella located on Seminyak Square because of its romantic vintage interiors decorated with antiques and art pieces, with a very Rio vibe. Once you're inside the restaurant, you will feel like you're in a garden with artificial waterfalls, ponds, and trees. A beautiful setting! Many such amazing bars and restaurants can be found on the Seminyak Square.


#10 Visit the remote & underrated beaches

One of the most underrated beaches in Bali is Karma Beach. It is in the South-most part of the island and is absolutely stunning! One of the best ways to enjoy the views is to take a full-day access to Karma Kandara Hotel’s facilities (for USD 50, it is a cover charge) which will allow you to enjoy dining at their restaurant with amazing views from the cliff’s edge, an infinity pool, a lift to go down to the beach (else you will have to take more than 100 steps to get there) and lovely sea-facing spa treatment rooms. The beach is one of the most remote ones and hence, not as crowded as Kuta, Seminyak, Sanur or Nusa Dua.

Karma Beach Bali
Karma Beach Bali

 

61 thoughts on “10 things I wish I knew before visiting Bali”

  1. I’ve been two times now to Bali, and it’s always good to read others experiences. It’s good that they now have their own uber, that’s good to know! Karma Beach sounds wonderful, and less touristy too.

  2. Very useful post as I’m planning to visit Bali with my boyfriend! I don’t know about renting a scooter though as I’ve never tried going on one before. We are used to renting a car every time we travel somewhere, and have done it last time we went to Malaysia. But great point!

    1. If you’re not confident riding a scooter then it’s probably not a great idea. But renting a car inside the city can be painful because of the narrow roads and traffic jams.

  3. I liked your ‘visit’ very much Medha. Loads of helpful information and enticing photos of many places to see. I’m also impressed by the presentation of your blog. It makes me feel, I’ve still got a lot of work to do.

  4. I agreed with every point on here, having lived and worked in Bali for 9 months for the first time I didn’t have to be a ‘budget traveler’ I got to experience the luxury side of traveling and you’re right places like Potato head and Ku De Ta can rack up. I once spent 4 million Rupiah in the Champagne lounge on shots called Ice Ice baby (there was 5 of us not just me) And Also totally agree on how painful getting out to the Gillis can be – We did that boat trip a lot but personally I preferred going to Gilli Air than Gilli T 😀

  5. I love posts like these, because there are always things that I wish I knew before I headed out. For instance, I just left the Netherlands, and there were a few things I wish I hadn’t wasted my time on. So, these tips a perfect for anyone visiting Bali.

  6. Thanks for your tips. I’m looking forward to visit Bali next year, your guide is much helpful to me.
    I’m eyeing to spend a week at Ubud.

  7. Beautiful write up. I am commenting as of today October 5, 2017. Mt. Agung in Bali has been really active lately and there is a possibility that it’s gonna erupt anytime or maybe in awhile. Who knows? Please beware of the current condition if you’re planning to visit Bali in the near future.

  8. I loved this post! It’s nice to know that a solo trip to Bali is something that is really manageable. Great tip on the Uber like app for Bali and also about renting a scooter. It’s also really nice to know about the lesser traveled beaches. I prefer not to be in the crowds to enjoy the landscape more.

  9. Crikey things have definitely changed. The first time I went to Bali, $30 would have paid for drinks and dinner for two in a fabulous restaurant, and I mean all day drinks. Things were a little less commercialised then but you have some great tips here

    1. Yes the touristy bars and lounges have become really expensive, although the rest of Bali is still quite cheap, relatively.

  10. These are also the exact things I wish I knew before I visited Bali last year! We skipped renting a scooter coz we’ve read some horror stories about foreigners being caught just so police could get a few bucks. We opted to rent a private car with driver and it’s actually nice and quite affordable too! Great post! <3

  11. I love the idea of renting a scooter but having never ridden one, I’m nervous at how difficult it would be. Would you think it’s easy to pick up? I just read a post about the beautiful rice terraces of Ubud and would love to spend a night here exploring the temples, market and town. And given that the luxury hotels seem to be pretty good value compared to some destinations, I’d take your suggestion to do that in Bali for sure. As for haggling, I’m apparently a natural, so that sounds like great fun!

    1. I don’t know how to ride a scooter either and that is why I found a company that rented me a scooter with a driver/ tour guide for the day! It was the best idea 🙂 Their app, Go-JEK is also pretty cool, you can call for a car or even scooter taxi, just like with Uber.

  12. I’ve never visited Bali, but thank goodness I have now read this, as I can avoid some of the things you mentioned, and do more of the good stuff you recommended. Especially Ubud, it looks beautiful, and a different vibe from the beaches. I’m a fan of the more secluded beaches, and the luxury villas sound like a great idea. Thanks for putting together such a great list!

  13. these are some great tips! I visited about a year ago but did not know about the Go-JEK app – that would have been really helpful! I cannot agree more about how horrific the trip to the Gilis can be… this is the one time I thought I would die on a boat ride!

    1. GO-JEK was super helpful and the charges were cheaper than the public taxis. I literally paid $1 for a trip from Kuta to the airport!

  14. The main problems I’ve heard about scooters involve thieves ripping your backpack off your back as they pass in the opposite direction. But as long as you don’t take one or keep it on the front I can’t see a problem with it. We got to spend a day in Bali a year ago and Ubud was my favourite place. It was so exotic and lush that the colours hardly seemed real.

    1. Oh I didn’t hear of thieves pulling backpacks off but yea, I guess that’s manageable if you keep it in the front instead of hanging it at the back. Ubud sure is lush and exotic 🙂

  15. That go-JEK app sounds incredibly helpful. I think when I was in Bali I mostly walked when I was in towns, or took tourist mini buses between towns. They weren’t too expensive, but I can only imagine that prices have been rising since 2013! I’ve also heard nightmare stories about transport to the Gili Islands. I hope that your trip wasn’t too dangerous, because I know that the captains of the fast boats can be extremely reckless. If you ever go back to Bali, I really recommend breaking away from the South and visiting the centre of the island around Munduk, and up to the northern coast at Pemuteran for incredible snorkelling/scuba diving.

  16. I personally did not like Bali but I agree with you on all your tips, especially #2! Ubud is not only about sightseeing, it is a cool place to hang around for a while. A pity that I did not visit any Gili Island (I went to Nusa Lembongan). I need to read your tips for my next visit in the area. Nice post and pictures!

  17. Totally Agree that there’s a certain sense of adventure and charm in a spontaneous trip where you learn your lessons along the way. More of a journey than when everything is planned, that’s for sure! Thanks for the tip to rent a scooter instead of a car – we’re big car rental people, but if it’s safer and easier to road trip around on a scooter, we’ll do that.

    Glad you got out to some of the more remote & underrated beaches – I enjoy exploring off the beaten path to escape the crowds, and you usually find some of the best hidden gems this way!

    Overall sounds like a pretty good trip to Bali!

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