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About Indonesia and Bali
Indonesia, the world’s fourth biggest country in terms of population, is in Southeast Asia. It is known for from a global perspective and exports.
Indonesia is the largest country in Southeast Asia and is made up of over 17,000 islands. Within this immense country lies the island of Bali. In Bali, the primary religion is Hinduism, which is unique considering that the rest of Indonesia practices Islam. Because of this, Bali is also known as ‘The Island of Gods’ as Hinduism worships many gods. The Balinese culture is one of the things that make the island Indonesia’s top tourist destination and one of the top tourist destinations in the world. There are Hindu temples all over the island and outside almost every home, shop, or restaurant you will see small offering box, called ‘ceper’. Bali also offers world-renowned surfing across many of its beaches that can be located all around the island and picturesque rice-fields you couldn’t believe existed. For those seeking to grab a few drinks while on vacation, Bali is home to many world-famous beach clubs and bars.
There are a few different ways of acquiring a visa to Bali and for some, a visa is not even required. If you are from one of the nine ASEAN countries, then a visa is not needed if the visit is for tourism purposes only and does not extend a maximum of 30 days. After these 30 days, one has to leave the country, and extending is not a possibility.
If you are not a citizen of an ASEAN country, then the Visa on Arrival (VoA) is most likely the way to go. As of today, more than 80+ nationalities can use the Visa on Arrival to visit Bali as a tourist. The VoA costs 500,000 IDR (roughly USD 34) and can be purchased either online or at Bali’s international airport. Do note that there are fake websites offering the e-VoA, only buy from the official governmental website (https://molina.imigrasi.go.id/). Furthermore, it is important for travellers to have a valid passport, those applying for a VoA need to have a passport valid at least 6 months from the day of arrival. The VoA grants the visitor 30 days to stay in Bali/Indonesia. Those who receive a VoA do have the possibility of extending their visa for another 30 days, making the total amount of days a maximum of 60. Before the end of day 60, one must leave the country as a VoA can only be extended once. There are now three ways of going at it to extend your visa. The first is to do it yourself, where you will personally oversee arranging all the correct papers needed and visiting the immigration office three times. The second option, and the most popular among tourists, is to pay a visa agent to do much of the work for you. That way, you will only have to visit the immigration office once. It will cost you 800.000 IDR, compared to 500.000 if you choose to do it on your own. The third option is to extend your VoA online through the immigration website. This is a new option as of 2023 and at the time of writing this not much information is available. Do make sure that if this option is chosen, double-check that you are using the correct website (https://molina.imigrasi.go.id/).
Taxi: Getting around in Bali is not only easy, but also cheap. There are plenty of transportation options available for tourists to choose from. The most common is taxis, an industry that has changed a lot in Bali during recent years. The two companies Grab and Gojek with their Superapps have risen to the top of transportation in Bali during the past years. One simply chooses a pick-up location and destination in the app and then chooses whether to travel by car or scooter. A car is more expensive compared to a scooter, but it preferred when travelling long distances, have luggage or if the weather is bad. With a scooter, you are given a helmet and sit on the back of the scooter. I personally preferred to travel by scooter for several reasons. Firstly, it is more affordable if you are travelling by yourself. Secondly, scooters can more easily navigate through the traffic, and you will reach your destination faster. Thirdly, when travelling by scooter you get to see the landscape and the beauty of the island more compared to being inside of a car. It is worth noting that during peak hours, prices in the apps rise a little bit but are still affordable.
Scooter: Another common way of getting around Bali is to rent your own scooter. I believe this is by far the best way of transportation when you are going out exploring the island as you have more freedom. You decide where to go, where to stop for food/gas and can take all the time you need. However, just as in your home country, you still need a driver’s license to legally drive a scooter on the roads of Bali. In Bali, you need to have an international driver’s license for motorbikes. This is your own responsibility; most scooter rental places do not care about this but if you are stopped by the police, you can expect some hefty fines. Furthermore, be aware that the roads of Bali get very busy at times and that the road quality is not that of many western countries. Make sure to wear a helmet, drive carefully and look out for holes /dirt on the roads.
Electric Railway: Bali is currently developing an electric train system that in the future will connect the major cities of Bali to each other. The road infrastructure of Bali’s urban areas cannot be developed further, officials state. Therefore, the need for other transportation options such as the electric railway is needed.
Boat: Boats also play a big role in transportation in Bali. Southeast of Bali, there are the popular islands of Nusa Penida and Nusa Lembongan, known for its picturesque beaches. To travel here, one needs to go by boat. There are a range of different companies offering trips here, my suggestion is to ask your hotel/hostel or one of the many shops offering activities and tours for a ticket there. They offer a package of pick-up at your hotel and transportation to the port + the boat to and back from the Nusa islands. It is also worth looking into taking a boat to the popular Gili islands outside of Bali’s neighboring island, Lombok. These islands are known for its beaches, snorkeling/diving and its overall island vibe that many tourists want to experience.
Where to stay and what to do
Bali attracts travelers from all over the world, all with different budgets and ideas as to what they wish to experience. As such, the island offers accommodation in all price ranges. For those on a budget, I would advise them to stay at a hostel or guesthouse as these are the cheapest options. In Ubud, Bali, I stayed at a private room in a guesthouse for $3 a night, including breakfast. For those not one a budget, such as families or couples with a higher budget, there are plenty of hotels in all price ranges to choose from. However, it is still worth looking into guesthouses as well as not all of them cater to budget travelers. To get a good overview of the accommodation offerings in Bali, I would advise travelers to use online accommodation comparison websites such as Agoda, Booking.com and Hotels.com. There you can filter your accommodation based on your own preferences.
Bali is by no means a small island. There are plenty of things to do here and even if you stayed here for a year, you would have a hard time experiencing it all. With that said, one can still experience quite a lot during 2-4 weeks on the island. I will go deeper into a potential itinerary further below, but first here are the different top tourist destinations in Bali.
Kuta: Located in Southern Bali, Kuta is a well-known tourist area and has been so for decades. It is mostly known for its nightlife scene and its beach, Kuta Beach. Kuta is possibly as touristic as it can get in Bali, with restaurants, shops and massage parlors everywhere. Kuta has over the years offered some of the best nightlife in the world, attracting world famous DJs. In recent years however, Bali’s main nightlife scene has slowly moved away from Kuta. Kuta Beach is a 2.5 km long stretch of sand that attracts all kinds of tourists. Here, tourists can sunbathe, enjoy massages on the beach and swim in selected parts of the ocean. Large parts of the ocean are dedicated to surfers and offers a great place for beginners learning to surf as there are less coral here compared to many other beaches.
Canggu: Located West of Kuta, Canggu is a part of Bali that has experienced a lot of development in recent years. According to many, Canggu is now the ‘new’ Kuta. Originally known for its pristine surfing, Canggu has developed into a form of tourist mecca in Bali, especially for younger travellers. While surfing is still a large part of the Canggu lifestyle, it is also here that the former nightlife scene of Kuta has moved, with many renowned nightclubs and beach clubs. A few minutes away from the beaches of Canggu, one can ride through some of the many beautiful rice fields that Bali has.
Seminyak: Saminyak is located between Kuta and Canggu and just like its neighboring beach areas, it also offers a party scene and surfing. However, this goes for all coastal villages in Bali, there is much more than just surfing and partying to experience. Both Kuta and Seminyak offers several large shopping malls where you can spend hours on end shopping and eating at well-known stores and restaurants from all over the world. If you want to live like a true local, then waking up early and going to one of the local markets is a must do. Here, you can buy fresh meat, fruits and vegetables at low prices. I would especially recommend these markets for their fruit selections. There are all kinds of fruits here, many of whom you have probably never seen or even heard of before. The best thing about them is that they taste amazing, way better than buying fruit at a supermarket back in your home country I would say. The vendors are extremely nice, they let you taste before you buy so that you know what you like and not. You can haggle the prices as well but remember that wages in Indonesia are very low compared to Western countries and that the prices you pay here are way lower than what you would pay at a breakfast restaurant near your hotel.
Uluwatu: Located at the very south of Bali and is known for its many beaches. It also has a temple that offers stunning views over the ocean. Depending on where one stays, Uluwatu is also close the Ngurah Rai International Airport and as such is a great place to end your Bali trip.
Ubud: Unlike the previous destinations presented, Ubud does not lay by the ocean. It is located further to the middle of the island and can be considered the cultural capital of Bali. There are plenty of Hinduism temples here and every evening, there are traditional dance performances. Ubud is by far my favorite place in all of Bali. Despite not being near a beach, the town and its surroundings has so much more to offer. Every morning, there is a local farmers market in central Ubud where farmers sell fruits and other locally formed foods from the back of their trucks, something that I highly recommend everyone to do. Make sure to be there early, they open 4am and close around 8am or when they have sold all they have.
Ubud offers several Monkey sanctuaries, the most famous being Monkey Forrest. Here you will experience monkeys in a way you have never done before. The monkeys are mostly nice, but make sure not to have any loose items on you and close your purse/backpack as they happily steal your personal items and food if left unattended. Make sure to also visit the Tegallalang Rice Terraces, one of Bali’s most visited destinations. Here, you will experience a beautiful series of rice terraces in the traditional irrigation system called ‘subak’. The rice terraces is located a short ride north of Ubud. While you are at it, make sure to visit some waterfalls at the same time. There are plenty to choose from and most offer a great opportunity for a nice and refreshing bath.
Nusa Penida and Nusa Lembongan: These two islands are located off Bali’s Southwestern coast and are mostly known for their picturesque beaches and beautiful landscapes. The best way to explore and experience these islands is by scooter according to me. The roads are narrow and in bad shape at many parts so make sure to be careful. There are plenty of things to do on both islands, from snorkelling and diving to hiking down cliff sides to beaches. There is an abundance of beaches at both islands. The best however, for me, is Kelingking Beach on Nusa Penida. It might very well be the most Instagrammed beach in history, and for good reason. The beach is beautiful when viewed from the overlooking parts at the top of the cliffs. The best part about it however is the actual beach, which is by far the hardest beach to reach out of all the beaches I have visited. To reach the bottom, one has to climb and hike down some really sketchy ‘steps’ carved into the cliff. There is a wooden fence all the way down however be careful as to not put all your weight on it as you never know how much it holds. At times, the steps are extremely steep, it feels like you are walking down a 90-degree angle at some points. So do this at your own risk but know that once you complete the hike all the way down you are met with perhaps the most beautiful beach you will ever encounter.
Mount Agung: A sucker for hiking? Then Mount Agung is just the right adventure for you. Located in Eastern Bali, Mount Agung is an active volcano that is also the highest point in Bali, with the top located 3031m above sea level. It takes around 4-7 hours to hike depending on where you depart and is classified as a hard hike, recommended only for being who are physically fit and well prepared.
Northern and Western Bali: So far, I have mostly talked about the Southern parts of Bali. That is because most of the tourism of Bali is around these areas. This is something that the Balinese government wishes to change. To develop Bali’s tourism further, one of the things the Balinese government is looking at is how to further develop Northern and Western Bali into tourist destinations. I personally never visited these place as I simply did not spend enough time in Bali to truly experience these places. They are on my bucket list of things to do for my next visit to the island of course.
Where to eat
Just like most other world-famous tourist destinations, Bali has their fair share of Western restaurant chains if you would by any chance miss the westernized food. Personally, I do not see any reason to go there whatsoever. Bali and Indonesia have an amazing food culture so you might as well try as much local food as possible.
Warung: This can be done either at your regular restaurant or, and my favorite, at a warung. A warung is simply a small, family-owned restaurant. This is where you will find the best prices and get to try all kinds of Indonesian food. At some warungs, you get to choose what meal you want from a menu whereas on others there are a large set of plates, similar to a buffet, where you simply point to what different kind of foods you want. A must have experience in my opinion.
Food markets: Another thing that you must do while in Bali is to go to one of the local markets mentioned previously. While they do offer several kinds of meat here, chances are you live at a hotel and do not have access to a full kitchen. What you should buy however is all the different kinds of fruit native to Southeast Asia. I would advise you to look for one shop that have several kinds of fruits and buy it all from there. That way, you can haggle the price down as you buy large amount.
Most markets also have stands with traditional desserts as well as people barbecuing satay. Make sure to try them both.
Nasi/Mie goreng: Perhaps the most common Indonesian food found at most restaurants are Nasi Goreng or Mie Goreng. Nasi simply means rice in Indonesian and Mie means noodles. Both dishes are similar to stir fired rice and stir-fried noodles, with vegetables and eggs. You can often choose to have either chicken or seafood or a combination of both in as well.
Babi Guling: The signature dish of Bali, Babi Guling, is a must try for all who visits Bali and eats pork. As the rest of Indonesia is Muslim, this dish is mostly only found in Bali. It is a suckling pig that is stuffed with herbs and spices and spit-roasted over an open fire. You often get to choose what parts of the pig you want on your plate, and my advice would be to go for a mixed plate where you get to try the different parts. The best part, for me and all the locals I talked to about this, is without a doubt the skin so be sure to try that.
Kopi Luwak: Bali is not only famous for its food culture, but also for its coffee. Here, you can find plenty of farms producing the most expensive coffee in the world, Kopi Luwak. Kopi Luwak is coffee that is produced from digested coffee cherries that is eaten and defecated (yes, that means what you think) by the Asian palm civet, known as luwak. Personally, I was not the best coffee I have ever tasted but it was an experience I do not regret. If you choose to indulge in this exclusive drink, then go to one of the farms where it is produced. That way you can see the whole process of how it is made, and the coffee will often be cheaper compared to at cafés.
Itinerary and Budget
The itinerary and budget will of course vary vastly depending on how one chooses to live and experience Bali. Below, I will try my best to present a two-week itinerary of what to do and what to experience. For longer trips, I would advise adding in Northern Bali as well as the Gili Islands outside of Lombok to the itinerary. The budget will be estimated and will be an average of what it would cost to be here for those two weeks. The budget does not include flight costs to and from Bali as well as any visa costs. Do keep in mind that when choosing cheaper accommodation and cuisine, the below budget will be significantly lower.
Budget for 14 days: USD80/day per person
|1||Arrival||Start off in Canggu.|
|2||Canggu||Rent a scooter for the day and drive around Canggu and its outskirts, try to ‘get off the beaten path’.|
|3||Canggu||Take a surf lesson in the morning at Batu Bolong Beach, then visit one of the many Beach Clubs for some food and drinks.|
|4||Canggu||Beach day. Relax by a sunbed, read a book, surf or visit a Beach Club yet again. Up to you.|
|5||Ubud||Travel to Ubud. Check in at accommodation and go to Monkey Forest.|
|6||Ubud||Explore Ubud, visit the local farmers market in the morning, then go around central Ubud, visiting the art market and end the day with a watching a traditional Balinese dance.|
|7||Ubud||Rent a scooter for the day. Visit Tegallalang Rice Terraces and some waterfalls. I would recommend Suwat Waterfall.|
|8||Nusa Penida||Travel to Nusa Penida. Rent scooters or a driver for tomorrow.|
|9||Nusa Penida||Early in the morning, set out to explore Kelingking Beach, Diamond Beach and Broken Beach. If you want to relax and enjoy the beaches more, Broken Beach could be skipped.|
|10||Nusa Lembongan||Take the boat to Nusa Lembongan, visit the Blue Lagoon.|
|11||Nusa Lembongan||If you have an PADI Open Water certification, then this is a great place to go for a dive. Don’t worry however, if you don’t then Nusa Lembongan also offers some world class snorkeling.|
|12||Uluwatu||Travel to Uluwatu in the South of Bali in the morning. Visit Uluwatu Temple and watch the sunset.|
|13||Uluwatu||Last day. Visit one of Uluwatu’s many beaches and have a chill day. Drink a cold coconut and be thankful for the trip that you have done.|
About the Author
- Marcus Nilsson is a student, a world traveler, and a former assistant restaurant manager. In June 2023, he finished his degree in Bachelor of Science with specialization in tourism. In his early 20s, Marcus started travelling the world by himself and that is when he found his interest in the field of tourism. When COVID-19 came, it put a stop to his travels. Instead, he started studying tourism management at Linnaeus University to get a better understanding of the field which he loved. He had the honor of writing his bachelor’s thesis on the island of Bali, Indonesia and later the joy of conducting an internship in Manila, Philippines before graduating.