From the sea that sparkled like gemstones to the illuminating green trees, Bali in pictures looks like a dream. Still, in true Aaliyah fashion, I was sceptical. Having visited, I can now assert that Bali is undoubtedly the best and most beautiful place I have ever visited. I would go as far as to say that I can find no reason as to why you shouldn’t visit. From the people to the food, it was captivating and humbling. You can literally be in a car thumping around in the back seat as if you were sat on a clumsy Camel, travelling along poorly kept roads, and you can still be charmed by the views.
The Basics:In terms of the holiday itself, I did very little research which is out of the ordinary for me. I simply got caught up in work-life, and before I knew it, my holiday was two weeks away. To anyone considering going, do your research! Have an idea of where you’d like to visit, check the distance of each between one another, and your accommodation. It seems obvious, but Bali is a lot bigger than you think. Not to mention their traffic is insane, so an itinerary is necessary. In regards to money, you are better changing your local currency once you’ve reached Bali. Most companies in the UK will require you to order your money online and will charge for delivery. To avoid the hassle, I would recommend changing only £40 at the airport and the rest in Bali itself as the exchange rate is a lot better, particularly in Seminyak. In regards to money, Indonesian Rupiah looks like Monopoly money, so don't be surprised if you get confused. I made a point of triple checking the money I accepted as 50,000.00 IDR is roughly £3, therefore you will end up with millions. Count, count, count! Secondly, I highly recommend travelling with a Monzo card when you'd prefer to keep some cash spare. Monzo card's app will immediately notify you how much you’ve spent in your local currency, which I think is really useful. One of the problems we faced, like most is it can be hard trying to determine how much you change you need to collect after tax has been added to your bill (this is between 12%-16% dependant on where you go). As most restaurants in Bali don’t give out small change, I felt sometimes I would have been better off paying by card to avoid further confusion. Lastly, I think it's good to download at money exchange app for you to refer to as this will help you regulate how much money you are spending, and if you are happy with the price.
Flights:I paid £412 for a return flight in the last week of February for a week's trip in the third week of May. Although this isn’t bad, I did see good return flights for as cheap as £326 at the beginning of February and a little under £400 later in March.I can only recommend keeping a note and buy a ticket as soon as you're happy. Our flights consisted of a 16-hour journey from London to Bali via China with an 8-hour layover and a 17.5-hour journey back via China and Sanya with a 19-hour layover. This was hell. Admittedly, travelling there was fine due to our excitement. Whereas our inbound flight felt exhausting. We travelled with China Southern Airlines, and although they did offer a free hotel and transfer for extended-layovers, the process is long. You have to get your passport approved at the airport upon arrival, and the processing time is unpredictable. You can, however, pre-book a hotel in advance up to 24 hours before your outbound flight or book it upon arrival in China. We found this information late, so were forced to do it at the airport. However, I think it’s worth doing it beforehand to avoid unavailability. The food on board was so-so. Some meals were edible, others not so much. If you can eat before or bring food, I’d suggest doing so.
Accommodation:When deciding where you’d like to stay in Bali, it’s worth considering two things. Firstly, are you someone who prefers to be in short distance of the central location in which you are staying or are you happy to be some distance away in a more rural setting. Secondly, do prefer to be left to your own devices by staying in a Villa or would you prefer more the traditional service provided by hotels such as having meals prepared, waiters and on-site entertainment. The two websites below give a further breakdown of the pros and cons of each. I will point out that before you do decide, Bali doesn’t have public transport the way we do in Europe so you will need to hire a driver or scooter irrespective of where you stay:
I stayed in a villa called Gusde Tranquil with an on-site restaurant, and the service was unmatched. I often find with small businesses that the employees are much more personable, and this remained true. The staff were very sweet and informative. I enjoyed seeing a few people around the Villas as I really felt it helped heighten my sense of being in the middle of a jungle. For the most part, I really liked my Villa. It had a cute balcony with views of paddy fields, and the roof itself didn’t allow for any large insects or geckos to get through. There was a lovely shared pool nearby which I rarely saw people at so, for the most part, it did feel as if we had it to ourselves. However, in my honest opinion, I didn’t feel the Villa was the cleanest. I feel I am a fair traveller, as I do accept a five-star accommodation in England will not match those overseas. Nevertheless, I did feel the cleaning staff could have kept more on top of the communal areas and towel service. Furthermore, the Wifi got progressively worse and we had a power cut twice. To conclude, not the worst, simply not the best.
Transport: It is best to set money aside for transport as you will need it. For an indication, please see below:
There was a free shuttle service to Ubud, although the times available weren’t convenient.
80,000.00 IDR for a single journey in
160,000,00 IDR for someone to drive us to a single destination and wait.
200,000.00 per person for a driver for the day
400,000.00 for a driver to take us to Seminyak.
Food: The food we ate was really good. For the most part, we did eat in proper restaurants and cafes. Expect a lot of traditional meals to consist of rice or noodles. We opted not to eat street food as we were advised against it by our driver due to hygiene and the use of MSG (Monosodium glutamate). I didn't suffer once with so-called Bali Belly either which may have been why.
What I did:Aloha Ubud Swing, 7/10 Entry only 300,000.00 IDR = £18 It was every millennial child’s dream: a park set across palm trees and rice paddies for the perfect Instagram moment. There were a few options available with entry, including a member of staff taking pictures for you on their professional camera and hiring a dress. We felt both were unnecessary, so we opted for entry only. There were various sized nests and swings for you to get in/on throughout. The staff at Alhoa Ubud Swing were extremely friendly too and made a warm atmosphere for everyone.
Elephant Safari Park, 5/10 Entry only 300,000.00 IDR = £18 To be completely honest, I don’t think this is a necessary visit. I loved feeding the elephants, but, I didn’t feel extremely comfortable seeing people ride them. As a whole, I don’t think the elephants were poorly kept. Although, I was saddened to see some of them chained. Naturally, you want to see animals as a means of possibly contributing to their upkeep and having a nice day out, but, I can understand why people feel these organisations are problematic. Additional fees included a jumbo wash with the elephants and riding the elephants.
Goa Gajah Temple, 7/10
Entry 100,000.00 IDR
This a beautiful temple. The temple itself covered quite a large amount of area and you can clearly see there is a lot of pride in the Balinese history and culture. The temples were immediately such a peaceful and humbling place to visit. I recommend going to appreciate the beauty. Upon entering you are expected to cover the majority of your legs. If you have any bottoms you can wear do bring them along, alternatively, they will lend you a sarong free of charge.
Luwak Coffee Plantation, 5/10 *something similar is hyperlinked as I can't find the name of the one we visited* This was a visit suggested by our driver. We had our own tour guide who informed of us of the Luwak Coffee bean extracted from the Civet cat's poop. Although it was interesting to learn at the time, I have since heard contradictory stories regarding the cat's care. We didn't pay the additional fee to try this coffee, but, we did try the free samples including an Avacado coffee, Vanilla coffee and Mangosteen tea. They were delicious, and we did go onto buying some coffees and teas from the gift shop. Now we later found some of these teas and coffees at the Ubud market, which I'm sure were cheaper. Another reason to hold out on making purchases.
Jimbaran Bay, 6/10 This was probably my most disappointing experience. We went midday, and it was derelict. I didn't feel comfortable eating at any of the restaurants I saw, and to be completely honest, most barely seemed open. I read great reviews about people watching the sunset at Jimbaran Bay and eating lovely seafood, so you can imagine how gutted I was. I do feel we simply went at the wrong time or possibly the wrong place?
Nusa Pendia, Kelingking Beach and Crystal Bay, 9/10400,000.00 IDR for a fast return boat from Sanur and 200,000.00 IDR for a driver in Nusa Penida The best day by far! I really really wish we had the chance to stay longer. The roads were terrible on route to Kelinking beach and Crystal Bay, but it was completely worth it. Kelinking beach was stunning. The views were genuinely breathtaking. I really wish we had more time to walk down to the beach as the sand literally looked golden. Crystal Bay was lovely. There were lots of rocks and palm trees, and plenty of food stalls for you to buy food and drinks. On the beach, we drank fresh coconut water and ate grilled fish, which was stunning. It had a really calm vibe, and I literally didn't want to leave. I saw a few people snorkelling in the sea too, so I'm assuming it was good if you're into that. I can’t wait to return and spend longer on the island to explore and visit Angel's Billabong and Broken Beach.
Potato Head Beach Club, 8/10 It has a really cool vibe, and I imagine it'd look great in the day too. Really good cocktails and decent priced tables/seating areas available if you were in a larger group.
Seminyak Square, 6/10 It was okay. We were recommended to go here by our villa's staff on a day we fancied chilling on the beach, which was definitely the wrong thing to do. I didn't feel any of the shops were necessarily worth visiting. I believe it's a lot more commercialised than Ubud as there were more restaurants accommodated to Western foods, and we were harassed walking down the road by taxis asking if we needed a lift or were Australian? I did see a few cool Vegan restaurants as we drove by, I'm gutted I didn't get a chance to try any.
Tegenunagan Waterfall, 8/10 Entry 15,000.00 IDR I enjoyed visiting the waterfall far more than I anticipated. As beautiful as pictures look, please do not underestimate the power of the water. There are ropes in place to prevent you from getting too due to the power of the tide. Consequently taking pictures is hard as you struggle to gain balance and become soaked by the mist. Nevertheless worth a visit and there is a cool club above I think would be worth visiting called Dtukad River Club (Blahbatuh).
Titti Batu, 8/10 Entry to the club and pool 150,000.00 IDR This was a really cool beach club a small walk from our Villa. We didn't actually get the chance to enter the main clubhouse as we visited late, and decided to go to Komune resort for the day instead. Nonetheless, the food and drinks were really good, and unlike our Villa, their Wifi was quick.
Komune Resort & Beach Club, 8/10This was a really nice resort and beach club we spent an afternoon at on a chill day. Admission was free. There was a large bar, pool and music playing by the sun loungers. Considering a hotel didn't appeal to me in Bali, I do see the benefit of staying somewhere like this if you want the "all-in" package.
Highlights of my trip: Our visit to Nusa Penida was by far my favourite day. I cannot wait to visit again. I also loved the Balinese people as a whole. There wasn't a single incident whereby I felt I was being stared at or treated differently during my visit. In the instances, my friends and I felt this way it was always by someone of another nationality. It's ironic because never in my life do I recall seeing a person of a different race for the first time and staring to the point that they would feel uncomfortable, so it baffles me that anyone would feel obliged to do that to myself or anyone of another race. By all means by inquisitive and willing to learn, but please, don't be ignorant. We had a lovely dinner at a restaurant in Seminyak called Nook on our final night. This was one of two meals throughout the week that I felt resembled a normal portion of food. Tukies Coconut Cafe - The best ice-cream I have eaten in my life! So sweet and the dried coconut onto made a great addition. The Balinese pancakes were really good too! Last, but not least, mangosteen. I discovered this fruit at breakfast one morning, and I was hooked. The texture resembles lychee, but slightly firmer. If you like sweet fruits, then this will quickly become your favourite too. The mangosteen tea I tried and bought is equally delicious. Worth a try if you like sweet fruit teas.
What I wouldn’t do again: I wouldn't opt for a connecting flight again, all-in-all it was very long and I would have sooner travelled directly. Furthermore, whilst travelling via China to and from Bali, we experienced a large proportion of people stare, blatantly record us our via their mobiles, we were pushed and shoved. Sadly, this did leave us feeling very uncomfortable and tainted our time spent in China. I would strongly recommend you not to be impulsive when out shopping. If you decide to visit the Ubud Market, I would recommend you visit as soon as possible to avoid making unnecessary purchases. You can barter here ruthlessly, particularly in the mornings. Also, the more you buy from one person, the more compromising they'll be. Don't be afraid to be cheeky, trust me! Don't settle at the first stall either, shop around for prices. BRING AN UNTOLD AMOUNT OF MOSQUITO REPELLENT AND BITE CREAM! Those b-stards ate me alive despite using repellant spray. They left TWENTY bites on my right butt cheek, six on my leg, five on my torso and four on my arms. I completely underestimated them. Finally, as lovely as your accommodation or driver may be, I wouldn't take their advice for the Bible. I learnt that a lot of drivers work on a commission basis with local attractions and shops. For example, I asked to be taken to a jewellery store, and I was taken to three. One of which had questionable reviews regarding said commision. These jewellery stores worked like the markets, and I was able to barter. In hindsight, I wish I took my time in deciding as I feel I could have bartered more. We live, and we learn. Still, do research before you visit somewhere like jewellers and don't feel pressured to decide anything on the day in fear you may not visit again.
I know it's a long read, but, if you stuck with me, I appreciate you a lot! Muchas Gracias xxxx