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December 5, 2019
I’m finally sharing my Bali Travel Guide! Bali was definitely one of my favorite places I’ve ever been. The beauty of the island and the kindness of the people is unmatched. To me, it felt like the perfect blend of Hawaii and Thailand. I felt safe, everything was affordable, and I got to experience a culture so unlike my own. This is why I love traveling and why I loved Bali so much! I do think it has been a little tarnished by the Instagram craze, but Bali is still Bali and that’s what matters! Now onto the good stuff: here’s my Bali Travel Guide!
What to Know
We flew into DPS (Denpasar is the big city in Bali) from Manila. There are many routes to get there – most will have a layover somewhere in Asia (we had one in Seoul) and all will be super long. Our total travel time was over 24 hours just to get to Manila. We took a pit stop and spent the night in Manila, which I would definitely recommend!
If you’re staying in the cultural center of Bali, Ubud, then you’ll be about an hour away from the airport. We arranged transport with our hotel and a driver picked us up. The ride is long and bumpy, so be prepared!
Communicating and Spending
Pretty much everyone speaks English in Bali in the main tourist areas including hotels, restaurants, temples, etc. The only people we really came across that didn’t speak English were field workers and locals in remote areas. Everyone there is super nice and always happy to help in any way they can. I will say though, there are a lot of beggars and people trying to sell you stuff. They even send their kids out to sell stuff on the streets.
Speaking of, there’s a ton of stuff to buy and everything is super cheap. I didn’t spend much time in the market areas so I didn’t try to haggle on prices for things, but I know they definitely start high. A lot of the stuff is really pretty though and I do like to contribute to the local economy when I can, so I don’t mind giving a little extra!
The currency in Bali is the Indonesian rupiah (IDR). A rough conversion: 15,000IDR is about $1USD. The average price for a driver for the day is 350,000-500,000IDR, so $25-$35. Super affordable and so worth it. Even a $10 tip is so appreciated, we felt like we completely changed their lives with just that small amount!
There’s an app in Asia called Grab – it’s basically their version of Uber. That is definitely an option, especially for short trips, but I 100% recommend getting a driver for the duration of your stay. They’re like a tour guide and driver in one and will happily make suggestions for stops based on your preferences. We had two drivers during our stay, but our favorite was Tapa. He is the sweetest and coolest guy and I absolutely recommend him! You can reach him on WhatsApp at +62 813-3878-1913. Don’t be sketched out – this is how things work in Bali. We even WhatsApp’ed with our hotel!
Bali is very safe. I never worried about a thing. I would use basic safety precautions like locking car doors and keeping an eye on your bag, but we didn’t have any problems at all. In fact, when we were at Kanto Lampo Waterfall, we set our stuff down, including a camera bag with thousands of dollars worth of equipment, while we got in the water and explored and it was totally safe the whole time.
What to Pack
There’s so much to do in Bali, you should definitely be prepared with breezy, flowy dresses (it is HOT!), plenty of bathing suits, and some athletic wear/hiking clothes. A lot of the sites take a little hike to get to, but there’s also an active volcano that is really popular to hike. The thing to do is go at like 3am so you get to the top at sunrise. We would have loved to do that, but the volcano actually erupted while we were there, so it was closed to visitors!
Where to Stay
Ahh, the hotels. Bali has some of the most gorgeous and luxurious properties I have ever seen in my life. And for such affordable prices! Bali is a very popular honeymoon destination, so most of the hotels really go above and beyond. We stayed at two different hotels when we were there: Dedary Kriyamaha and Sankara Suites. They’re actually sister properties, which was cool.
The first place, Dedary, was amazing. We had our own private two-story villa with a private pool and a huge, gorgeous bathroom. The property itself felt very intimate. It wasn’t super small, but every room was extremely private. It was much more of a boutique experience compared to Sankara. There’s a restaurant and bar and basically everything you could need on-site, and if not, they’ll happily go get it for you. My favorite thing, which I never even got the chance to try, was that they offer their own tours. There’s a secret hidden waterfall not too far away that they discovered. It’s not on any map or anything like that, so the only way to go is through the hotel. Our days were already jam-packed, so we didn’t get to go, but they told us that since we were staying at a sister property next, we could come back if we wanted! I thought that was really cool of them. And even better, as we were leaving, they gave me a bundle of wildflowers. It was the kindest gesture and one I’ll remember forever!
The next place we stayed at was Sankara Suites. This property is brand new and absolutely breathtakingly beautiful. At this hotel, we had a pool suite, so it was a regular room, but it had its own private pool that actually overlooked the main pool. The room felt very luxurious and the grounds were just as beautiful as the room. The service was great, but since it was a larger property than Dedary, it didn’t feel quite as personal and intimate. It’s a trade-off though, because since they are bigger, there are more things they can offer, like a free shuttle to Ubud city center and incredible spa treatments. Sankara hooked us up with a flower bath one morning before we started a day full of exploring. It was really pretty and smelled soooo good! If I could go back, I would set aside one full day to just chill. We went nonstop the whole time and I feel like we didn’t get to fully experience everything the hotels had to offer. I would have loved to have a slow day to get some spa treatments, hang at the pool with some beers, and enjoy some room service. Next time!
Another thing we got to do at Sankara was have a candlelight dinner. The setup was absolutely stunning and it was cool to have our own special area to dine. I will say though, they wouldn’t let us get appetizers and we could only choose one thing to eat. No drinks were included and no dessert. You’d think for something in a honeymoon package you’d get a full meal, but nope! Oh well! Check out the video Ryan and I made highlighting their honeymoon package!
*I was hosted at both hotels free of charge in exchange for organic coverage on my blog and social channels
Where to Eat & Drink
To tell you the truth, food was really the last thing on our minds during this trip. We were focused on seeing as much as possible, which didn’t leave much time to eat. We did do plenty of drinking though! The beer there is called Bintang, which means star in Balinese. You can find it anywhere, and it is super cheap. Around $1 or so. As for the food, we at mostly at our hotels after our long, exhausting days. Those meals were not cheap and honestly nothing special taste-wise, but you can’t beat the convenience! We tried to venture off into Ubud one night, and I basically fell asleep at the table. We definitely packed too much into our trip, but there’s just so much to see there!
What to Do
Oh man, where to start?! There are so many beautiful and wonderfully special experiences to have in Bali. We could have stayed for weeks and still not done it all, but here’s what we did during our short visit:
Kanto Lampo Waterfall
We knew we wanted to see a waterfall when we were in Bali, so we did some research and picked the closest one. Kanto Lampo was really cool, but absolutely overrun with tourists. It’s a nice and easy stop from Ubud so it’s worth it if you love waterfalls like me!
Read my post about Kanto Lampo Waterfall here.
Goa Gajah Elephant Cave
At first glance, I was not super impressed with this place, but the further through the grounds you go, the prettier it gets. It’s very zen and peaceful. Towards the end, it feels like an enchanted, magical forest. It’s right in Ubud too, so definitely worth a stop!
Read my post about Goa Gajah Elephant Cave here.
Tirta Gangga is a place you’ve probably seen on Instagram. It’s where there are those stone steps in a little pond where you can feed the huge koi fish. It’s so pretty, but this place also had lots of tourists; the thing is though, they’re all around that one area getting the perfect insta shot, so the other parts of the grounds are nice and empty to casually stroll around.
Read my post about Tirta Gangga here.
Taman Ujung Water Palace
Taman Ujung was definitely my favorite place we visited! It was gorgeous, enormous, and so incredibly peaceful. There were other people there, but it’s so big that we felt like we had the place to ourselves. It’s about 2 hours from Ubud, but so worth the drive. If we didn’t have such a packed schedule, I could have spent hours here. We did spend over an hour here, whereas we were in and out of the other places in about 30 minutes. Ah, I will dream of this place until I go back!
Read my post about Taman Ujung Water Palace here.
Ubud Monkey Forest
I wasn’t sure if I wanted to go here, but it was so cool and I’m so glad we went! There are tons of monkeys everywhere and you have the opportunity to be so super close to them – you can even feed them! You can’t make eye contact with them though as they take that as a sign that you’re threatening or challenging them, so I was super scared I was going to accidentally start a fight, but I was totally fine. The monkeys were very cute and friendly, and I felt safe the whole time. Since this Monkey Forest is run by the government, the monkeys are well fed and taken care of, meaning they’re not aggressive with tourists. Sometimes when you see monkeys elsewhere, they steal your food, or even your bag/camera/whatever you’re holding. Not here. Definitely an awesome stop in Ubud!
Tegalalang Rice Terraces
And of course, you can’t go to Bali without checking out the Tegalalang Rice Terraces! This was on the top of my list when I was planning this trip. I mean what is more quintessential Bali than the rice terraces?! We got there right around sunset, so it was very pretty to see and explore. Not all the grass was green though. I think they had just picked all the rice recently and were starting to prep the land for new seeds. I was pretty surprised about how commercialized the area was. The entire street leading up to the terraces was filled with vendors. There were also restaurants and more shops surrounding the entrance area. Worst of all was all the swings. I’ve come to really dislike what I once thought was a beautiful experience. Swinging above the rice terraces is not a genuine experience – it’s a paid-for service that’s strictly for the ‘gram. Not my style!
Read my post about the Tegalalang Rice Terraces here!
This was by far the worst decision we made in Bali. We could tell before we even got out of the car that we shouldn’t waste our time, but Ryan was set on seeing this place and since we had already driven there, we were like why not. The cool thing about this place is that it has these little water fountain things that you put your head under to be blessed. Being blessed in Bali?! Umm, yes please! Well apparently, everyone else had the same idea because this place was PACKED. I’ve never seen anything like it. And on top of that, it was more commercialized than anywhere else we went. There were people trying to sell us stuff left and right and don’t even get me started on the endless maze of an “exit”. I had a panic attack trying to get out of the trap. There were people yelling in my face to buy their trinkets. It took about 10 minutes of walking through hell to get out of there. I would avoid Tirta Empul and all costs. No post on Tirta Empul!
Going through all these experiences again makes me miss Bali even more. I haven’t been home long, but Bali is definitely a place I’d totally visit again, which says a lot coming from me – I typically always just want to go somewhere new! But there’s just so much to see that I have to go back!
Have you ever been to Bali? Would you add anything to this Bali Travel Guide?
Photos by Ryan Carpenter.