Bali is more than one of Indonesia many beautiful islands: for many people, it is the ultimate holiday destination. With its great beaches, luxury and boutique resorts, endless expanses of bright green hills, and famously lovely people, Bali is a world unto itself within Indonesia. Indeed, whilst tour packages to Indonesia will almost invariably include some time in Bali, for many it is a destination of its own, and there are definitely enough things to do to fill a holiday.
Whether staying in guesthouses or in one of the island world-famous resorts, Bali is one of Southeast Asia most fascinating destinations, and undeniably one of the most fun. From great shopping to a vibrant nightlife, from peaceful luxury to thrilling culture, finding out what to do in Bali is never difficult.
Ubud is the cultural heart of the island, a gathering of several smaller villages which form what to many tourists appears as one charming, laid-back city. Ubud has with plenty of temples, markets, nature walks, museums, and some of Bali trendiest shops, hotels and restaurants, but it is the strikingly green rice paddy fields that surround it that stay with visitors.
Kuta is the party capital of the island, part of the iconic Southeast Asian backpacking trail where young travelers from all over the world gather during the day to surf and relax and at night to drink and dance until the morning. It is crowded and noisy, but for many an unmissable part of Bali. To Kuta north sits Legian: equally fun and lively, but more subdued and grown-up.
Seminyak is the high-end spa capital of Bali, where the rich and famous go for the ultimate in relaxation and luxury. Expect high-class bars, restaurants, and hotels, as well as quieter beaches, and a generally more upmarket feel than both Kuta and Legian.
1. Overview (At a glance)
Time Zone: GMT (+ 8)
Dialing code: +62
Language: Indonesian and Balinese. Balinese is local to the island, but Indonesian is much more widely spoken. English is widely spoken and understood in tourist areas.
Currency: Indonesian Rupiah (IDR). ATMs are common, and it is easy to exchange money. Do note that several mid-range and top-range hotels, as well as tourist attractions, will list their rates in dollars: this is for the visitor convenience as vendors are no longer allowed to take payments in dollars, however the exchange rates are often to the vendor advantage.
If you are going to be exchanging dollars, make sure they are undamaged and unmarked: many exchange places either do not accept or give lower rates for dollar bills in less than pristine condition.
Plug Sockets: Bali uses plug sockets C and F, which are the standard two-pronged European plugs, so you will need an adapter. The standard voltage is 220V and the frequency is 50 Hz, which is the same as UAE.
Getting Around: Buses are the most popular form of public transport around the island, often used by backpackers and budget travelers. The network is extensive, and can get you anywhere on the island.
In Southern Bali (the main tourist area), taxis are common, most often metered, and reliable. Agree on a fare before setting off in an unmetered taxi, and bear in mind that due to significant traffic jams in the tourist areas of the island some taxis will not want to use their meter - in which case you will also need to negotiate. In the northernmost areas, bemos (minivans or shared taxis) are more common than traditional taxis, and are also cheaper. However, many drivers insist that tourists fill up the bemo in groups, so you may end up paying more if you can't find anyone to travel with.
Most hotels are happy to help you book your transport, and there are also many travel agencies dotted around the island offering similar services.
Walking is fine within the cities, however extremely difficult and potentially dangerous throughout the island due to almost inexistent pavements. Some tourists still opt for this, however it is necessary to be alert at all times if choosing to walk.
2. When to Visit
The best time to visit Bali is July, August and December, when the weather is at its best. Rates are considerably higher and accommodation needs to be reserved far in advance - same for the island best restaurants. Bali is a popular destination for Christmas and New Year, so prices are at an all-time high during this season.
During low season in January - April and October - November, rates across the island are lower and rains more common. The rains are never excessive however, and the weather still warm, so this is a popular time for backpackers and budget travelers.
The food eaten here is often the same as in the rest of Indonesia: don't miss out on national dish Nasi Goreng (fried rice) and Pedang food, common across the country and most known for its rendang sapi (spicy beef and coconut curry).
There is however also a local cuisine. Like many other cuisines in the area, Balinese food has a focus on fresh fish, coconut, and spices, using rice as a base for most meals. Unlike other Indonesian cuisines, Balinese food often features pork, with babi guling (roast sucking pork) being found across the island. Another popular dish is Lawar, fresh salads incorporating vegetables and meats, and sate lilit (minced seafood wrapped around a lemongrass twig and grilled).
4. What to pack
Bali has a pleasant and warm tropical climate year-round. Bring lightweight summer clothing, but also a light raincoat if you are going to be visiting during monsoon season. Monsoon showers do not tend to last long, but are famously heavy, so it also good to have a waterproof day bag.
Also remember that shoulders and legs should be covered when visiting any religious sites, so a versatile item of clothing such as a large thin shawl can come in handy to cover up.
5. Visa Regulations
UAE nationals are exempt from Visa requirements to enter Indonesia for stays of up to 30 days.