Bali Travel Guide For First Timer

by - May 21, 2018


Bali is the most popular island destination in Indonesia. It is like a living postcard because of its breathtaking scenery that is why many tourists call this island the "Land of Gods". This island of Gods offers great beaches, wonderful natural sites to visit and explore, and plenty to see and do. It is definitely a great place for couples whose in honeymoon, solo travel, backpackers and people who just want to relax and be out in the buzzing populated city.

And since you are currently reading this, you probably just booked yourself a ticket to Bali anytime soon and you're looking for some tips on what you should know about the island. So allow me to make your life a little easier.


Where to Stay in Bali

First of all, you need to research, see and decide where in Bali you want to stay. To be honest, choosing a place to stay in Bali is actually really depends on the accommodation and what kind of holiday you're looking for.

  • Kuta and Seminyak have the largest choice of hotel as they are both in the city, near the beach area and airport as well. So if you want to stay near the action and mostly on everything, I recommend staying here.
  • Canggu, on the other hand, offers cheaper alternative over the two places mentioned above. And for people who surf, this place is for you as this is the surfer's haven of Bali. 
  • Ubud is famous for its scenic highland and it is the cultural capital of Bali. It is also where Julia Roberts filmed one of the locations in "Eat Pray Love" movie, so if you want that kind of vibe and stay in a cozy villa with overlooking rice fields, then Ubud is for you.
  • Nusa Dua is the home for luxury resorts and 5-stars hotel. So, if you want to spend much on your accommodation, then book yourself in this area.
  • Sanur has the classic in style kind of hotels.
And as for us, I decided to book a hotel in Kuta area as this is near the airport, nightclubs and shopping area. If you want to know where we stayed during our tour, I blogged it here.


Transportation

Bali's transportation system isn't that develop yet, they don't have public trains for easy access or the usual bus transportation we used to know but they do have options on how to get around for travelers. Options include bicycle, scooters, taxi/cab, Uber/Grab and vans, I saw their minibus which they call Kura Kura Bus but I don't really know how that works. Anyway, the best way to get around Bali if you are on tour is by renting a private van with a driver for your main transportation.


And I do recommend Periata Ikadek of @balidriver_drone on Instagram to be your private van rental owner/guide if you haven't found someone yet. He was actually recommended to me by a blogger who I message and ask for some tips before our trip. He is very accommodating, can take really nice pictures of you and can understand a few Filipino words as he always has Pinoy clients. Kadek's package also includes free drone shots so if you want some air shots in Bali even though you don't have one, you might want to hire him for that. 

Well, I do suggest to contact him a few months before your trip as he is surely a busy guide with all those full bookings he had because during our length of stay, we only got to hire him for our Nusa Penida Island tour which is a day only as he was already committed to another group.

And since we only got to hire Kadek in our Nusa Island tour, he was kind enough to send us his friend Iwan to be our driver/guide on the rest of our trip. Though he can't fully communicate well in English, he was still kind enough to try his best to accommodate and answer all our touristy kind of questions. If you want to hire him, you can contact him thru his WhatsApp number (+62 877 62520466).

And worry not, if they're not available at the time of your visit, you can always book a van via Klook. It is a go-to travel site when it comes to transport, tours and even rental of portable WiFi. It is the website that mostly recommended by many bloggers I read online. By the way, if you're going to ride a taxi, only ride the blue one that marked "Bali Taxi" or known as the Blue Bird Taxis. They're the safest and honest taxis in Bali while the others might be a hit or miss.


Money and Currency

Everything in Bali is cheap and it definitely gives your money's worth. The sights you will see, the experiences you'll encounter, the new people you will meet and the memories you will earn is without a doubt a priceless experience that money sure can't buy. This island sure is worthy to be on your bucket list place you shouldn't miss. But of course, you still need some cash to get you around and like what I have said, it's really cheap in Bali and you'll feel like a millionaire with their currency.

Bali's currency is called Indonesian Rupiah (IDR), their bills start from 1,000 IDR up to 100,000 IDR. You'll feel like a millionaire! But don't be fooled by the many zeros of the rupiah as it might look like you can buy a house and car but it is probably just enough for a bottled water. I actually find it confusing to look at all those zeros in their bills, I keep on counting the zeros first before paying in the counter to make sure I hand over the right bill. lol!

Anyway, for our trip, I exchange some my USD to IDR in Bali airport and the rest was in some trusted money changer in the city. I suggest that you should exchange it outside the airport as they give better rates.

Here are some tips for you:

  • Better bring USD over PHP because only a few money changers in Bali accept peso.
  • Money changers in Bali airport don't accept Philippine peso (PHP).
  • Rates outside the airport are better but make sure to go to trusted money changers.
  • They rarely use coins! So don't be surprised if they don't give you an exact change because only convenience stores and other big establishment give coins for some exact change.
  • You can withdraw money from their ATM's. I tried to withdraw using my BDO card and they charged me around a hundred for or a 4k peso withdrawal. 
  • PHP to IDR rate is 240pesos. >>> 15,000 PHP = 3,600,000 IDR
  • USD to IDR rate is 13,300rupiah. >>> 100 USD = 1,330,000 IDR
  • Always count your money before leaving the money changer.
Bali Itinerary and Route

One big mistake we did during our trip is booking two different places to stay in both different areas which are also both far from each other. My friend and I booked ourselves a hotel in Kuta while the other two of our friends stayed in a villa around Ubud which is approximately about almost two hours drive from each other. So if you're going to analyze our situation, we are actually spending much more time traveling to our hotel and villa rather than spending it on our tour location.

Anyway, if you're a kind of traveler who has a limited time to travel around but wants to see as many attractions then don't make the same mistake we did and I suggest to see most of Bali's best spots and witness both urban and rural life in this route order.

Ubud > Seminyak = Kuta > Nusa Island

Since Bali is quite huge and tourist spots are a few hours drive from each other, I suggest that you start off in Ubud because it is the farthest area. It is the destination to see the nature side of Bali. While Seminyak and Kuta which is both in action area, it offers sunset beaches, good places to eat and dine, night-life clubs, shopping area and city kind of vibe. And for Nusa Island, you'll experience the islands paradise. I actually found this very helpful route in Colleen Happy Socks blog post and I totally agree with it since I also experience it first hand.



Food

Just like what I have mentioned, Seminyak and Kuta is the best area to look for a good place to eat and dine. To be honest, we didn't really get to explore much of their food as I am very picky about what I eat. But if you're going to try Indonesian dishes, make sure to try dishes like Mei Goreng, Nasi Goreng, and Sate (I love it but its a bit spicy for me). These are just some of their famous dishes I got to try and you should as well when you're in Bali. 

By the way, the dishes above are called Sop Kaki Kambing and Sate Kambing which we got to try in a random street eatery on our way to our hotel, it was actually Iwan who brought us here so we could try eating in a warung (small cooking shed or karinderya) like a local and pay cheaper as well.

How To Stay Connected?

If you're wondering how I get connected during our trip in Bali, it was just the free wifi in our hotel room. I was supposed to rent a pocket wifi in the airport but my friends told me not to bother anymore since we can all manage to survive without internet. But if you're planning to be connected all thru out your trip you do have options inline.

  • Free WiFi - most hotels, restaurant, and cafes offer free Wifi access.
  • Portable WiFi Device - you can either rent in the Philippines, via online or rent a local device in the airport.
  • Local Sim Card - I suggest getting this outside the airport as it is way cheaper. You can ask your driver/guide where to get it. 
Let's admit, staying connected to the internet especially on social media is a basic need for every traveler nowadays. It can either help you book a cab, look for a place to eat, stay connected with friends and even give you direction on how you get around the place. Having an internet connection makes the life of any traveler so much easier. 


Additional Few Tips Before Your Trip

  • Drink lots of water - only bottled water! because the weather in Bali is hot - all the time!
  • Expect entrance fees in mostly every tourist spots you visit!
  • Although we didn't make it there, a lot of people said that Ubud Market is the best place to buy souvenirs.
  • And if you're planning to buy souvenirs, clothes, and stuff from the local market - don't hesitate to bargain, haggle the price as they might give it to you for half price. 
  • You can dress what you want in Bali but make sure to dress appropriately when entering temples and sacred places. 
  • If you received a good service, a small tip goes a long way. It is much appreciated!
  • Their roads are opposite to ours. Driver seat is on the right side while the passenger is on the left.
  • Despite being a tourist-friendly destination, Bali is still not in your home country, so stay safe and always be careful!
I must say, my four days stay in Bali is surely not enough to explore this beautiful island. I guess I'm gonna be one of those people who will say this line "Once you're in Bali, you definitely want to come back and see more." :p

Are you planning to travel to Bali anytime soon? I hope this blog post helped you plan your trip around the island.

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