Backpacking in Bali
Bali can be a place full of adventures. Located in Indonesia, it is a small island in the Southeast of Asia, where Indonesia itself is made up of more than 17,000 islands. It is a tropical island, where the weather is humid and warm all year round. There are two seasons, which are the dry season, from May to September, and the rainy season from October to April. For many people, the perfect time to go can be during the dry season, as the weather can be perfect, and there often aren’t too many tourists. But any time to visit can be fun as each season can have its own advantages.
If you decide to explore here, you don’t require a visa if you go no more than 30 days, and this can be the perfect amount of time to get a real flavour of the place. There isn’t any direct flight to Bali, but you can get a flight to Dubai, then to the capital, Jakarta, or some take you to Denpasar Airport, in the south. The flights are long, from around 17 – 19 hours, depending on where you fly from in the UK, but can make for some unforgettable memories. From my research, this would be my itinerary for a 30-day trip full of fun and excitement.
Day 1-4: Uluwatu
Uluwatu is in the south-western tip of the Bukit Peninsula of Bali, Indonesia. The name literally translates to ‘landsend’ from ‘ulu’ and ‘watu’ meaning ‘rock.’ This area is loved for its great beaches for surfing, glorious sunsets, and the white sand with turquoise water. What a dreamy place to begin your Bali experience! It can be a relaxing start to ease into your backpacking adventure, where there are various beaches to explore, beautiful sunsets and rises to follow, and waves to conquer.
Tucked away behind Uluwatu’s most happening strip is Ulu Garden, a place for brunch and tasty eats, where you can grab a cocktail, listen to some live music, and see the sights whilst looking over to the tropical garden. They describe themselves as being an “oasis of togetherness in the heart of Uluwatu.” How lovely! They serve traditional local delicacies, all inspired by clean living and healthy eating. They believe that the freshest and organic ingredients will help your mind become more focused, and they warmly welcome visitors to try new dishes. They embrace others and want to share their culture by offering language classes to connect with the local Balinese culture. Check out their website here to view more of what they have to offer. Other nice places are: Single Fin Bali, for some international bites, Mana Uluwatu Resturant & Bar for a convenient takeaway, and U-Ma-Na at the Banyan Tree Ungasan can offer a more high-end experience. This restaurant is coupled with spectacular views from its 70-metre-high cliff perch overlooking the Indian Ocean. Comprising of a main restaurant and bar, it can be a more indulgent experience, if that is something you are looking for.
When deciding upon accommodation, for easy access to public beaches the best areas would be those near Bingin, Balangan and Padang Padang Beach. For access to beautiful private beaches or beach clubs, my picks would be Ungasan Clifftop Resort and Bulgari Resort Bali. So, research is best to decide what you would like to do the most of whilst your there.
Day 5-8: Canggu
Canggu is a resort village on the south coast of Bali. It is one of the most popular tourist designations, buzzing with liveliness: creative types, surfers, yogis, and some lovely people to meet. A lot of expats live in this area, so it is very safe and a relaxed place to be. People flock here for the endless activities, picturesque views, and good vibes. Despite the town being more developed and popular than it once was, it still retains its great atmosphere and charm. The laid back, relaxed feeling of being here can be a reason for visiting, as many may need an escape from their busy and stressful typical work life.
Surfing is one of the top activities to do here. Whether you’re a seasoned pro, or have never tried it out before, it can be fun place to give it a go. There are local surf schools too which can show you the ropes. Don’t be scared to ask for advice, all the locals are friendly and can show you where to begin.
An Indonesian massage can be an effective way to unwind. They can be from as little as £10 for an hour of relaxation. Canggu have plenty of spas to choose from, so it can be best to have a look in a few to see which one you would prefer. Some are a lot nicer inside than others, and it is best to be comfortable in a place you want to really relax in. They vary in prices, most quite cheap, but if you want to indulge in something a bit more luxurious, the chain Spring Spa could be the one for you. They have a range of treatments to try, and offer an “experience [with] exquisitely designed interiors, smooth island tunes, a fully stocked health bar plus an expansive treatment menu with a wide range of services – from quick beauty touch-ups in total privacy to complete mind and body rejuvenation packages.”
If you are a vegan, this place will be your haven. There are endless choices to accommodate you, I’m sure this will be a change from the usual limited vegan options in the UK. The Give Café has rave reviews, with a TripAdvisor review saying it is one of the best breakfasts. It is very affordable too, with everything on the menu between £2-£6. They serve delicious fresh food and have a mission with heart, as they give 100% of its profit to people and places that need it most. You can read more about their story here.
To be as close to the sea and the views as you can, the DreamSea Surf Camp can be the perfect place to stay. Each room tells a story, right on your doorstep is on the world’s most acclaimed surfing locations, fantastic facilities and amenities are all within the stay. This setting has a lot to offer and has many great reviews to back it up. There are a lot of stairs down to the hotel, but a service can be provided for a cost to help you with your bags.
Day 9-14: Visit the Nusa Islands
After your first week relaxing and surfing, the Nusa Islands can be another destination to explore. This is a great spot, and with only a 30-minute boat trip from Bali’s Sanur, you can be away from the crowds, and immersed with Balinese culture. Many local people say this is what Bali was like 30 years ago, being very authentic and true to itself. There are lots of islands, so it can be best to take a good few days to see them all, rather than rushing on a passing visit.There are three Nusa islands: Ceningan, Lembongan, and Penida. ‘Nusa Lembongan’ is the nearest to Bali and the most famous, the smallest is Ceningan, and afterward the greatest is the Nusa Penida Island, which is arguably the most beautiful and the most remote.
Nusa Lembongan can be the starting point for your Nusa islands trip. You can either get there from Bali or Lombok. There is one fast boat company operating out of Lombok, but there are other options from the Gili Islands, where the prices are more negotiable. If you’re low on time, the fast boat can be the most effective way of maximizing your time on the island.
There are fabulous beaches and more delicious food to try around the islands. Mostly all colourful, healthy, and nutritious. Anywhere on the islands are reachable within an hour drive, but I would recommend renting a scooter for your visit, where you can easily get around on two wheels. Located in a sheltered cove on the west coast of Nusa Penida island, Crystal Bay is aptly named for its translucent blue-green water. It has the bluest water in all of Bali, a magnificent sight, but there are jelly fish, so watch out. Thankfully, they’re not too dangerous, and will only leave a small rash if you do get stung.
There are lots of choice for accommodation here, from beach huts, small resorts, cottages and hotels, there will be something to suit every budget and requirement. The island is not like a lot of places many may have been before. It isn’t a super modern city with perfect roads and facilities, but that adds to the charm and authenticity.
Day 15-20: Ubud
Ubud should not be missed out on your journey. It has some wonderful waterfalls to chase, rice terraces, a relaxed atmosphere to take in, and more memories to make. This destination is known for its dance and traditional crafts. For it being a village, it is often mistaken for a city as it has a population of around 70,000, and it receives over 3million visitors every year! The surrounding Ubud District’s rainforest and terraced rice fields are dotted with Hindu temples and shrines. They are among Bali’s most famous landscapes. The ancient holy sites include the intricately carved Goa Gajah (“Elephant Cave”) and Gunung Kawi, with its rock-cut shrines.
There are a range of budget friendly guesthouses, to the luxurious resorts. All is up to personal preference and what you can afford. Most offer amazing views, so you won’t be missing out on the surroundings. The elegant luxury chalets and resorts have pools, water features, amazing outdoor dining areas, and many include spas which are set against the natural backdrop of green lush forests and river valleys.
It is a very safe place to be, with the locals looking out for tourists, welcoming them to their home and way of life. The Saraswati Temple is a water temple with stunning lotus flowers on either side, guests can follow the flowering pathway to amazing Balinese architecture and brilliant-coloured doors. On top of that, this temple has free entry, which is not often found in Bali.
Day 21-23: Munduk
This area can be noticeably quieter than others you might visit, yet still as beautiful. It’s a charming traditional mountain village in the highlands of Northern Bali. It is a place with the best waterfalls, Leke Leke and Nung Nung.They will be quite the sight! You could either seek out luxury stays or be wild and camp out watching the water falls and sunrises. It can be a 2-hour drive from Ubud, but this can be done on a rented scooter, which can be more fun than sitting in a bus, a more thrilling way to see the surroundings.
I would recommend taking photos at the Handara Gate, but it is best to arrive before 8am to avoid the crowds and make your photos more magical with the morning mist. It is a striking photo spot, modelled after Balinese mythology. It is best to booking ahead to time to secure your slot, and you can cancel 24 hours before your visit if you have a change of plans.
Ulun Danu Bratan a temple built in Tamblingan Lake and arguably the most stunning temple of Bali. The water level around the temple rises and falls due to the region’s rainy climate in the wet season, giving it the temple, its characteristics look. The temple is great for photos, and only costs around £3.50 to enter, which is about 50,000 IDR.
To stay in a dreamy place, on top of a lot of visitors lists is the Munduk Moding Plantation Nature Resort & Spa. This stay provides scenic views of the surrounding coffee trees, rice fields and mountains. The resort also boasts its own spa, restaurant. Buyan Lake and Tamblingan Lake are both a 5-minute drive from the resort. Munduk Waterfall is just a 15-minute trek away too, making it a great location to adventure from.
Day 24-27: Stop off at East Bali
On one of your final stays around Bali, the east is the perfect place to stay at a beautiful bamboo house and relax for a few days. Enjoy the less crowded rice fields and enjoy the best view on the volcano.
Thel Ujung Water Palace is one to visit. It can be incredibly busy, so it may be best to watch out for the best times to go, as these can change, to try and catch a visit before it hits peak time. There are beautifully displayed gardens with vibrant flowers, koi fish to feed and see, and the stunning temple to take in. It can all be quite breath-taking.
There are bamboo houses to stay in, all ranging from basic to the most luxurious of resorts. There is lots of choice and availability for guests, allowing you to choose what will suit you best.
Day 28-30: Seminyak
Spend your last few days in Seminyak, which is close to the Airport of Denpasar. Why not make the most of the food before you head home, trying whatever you can in the time you have left. You can also pick up the last of the souvenirs you want to take back with you from the markets. There are an abundance of clothes and footwear for sale, and other small collectables to treasure.
Kynd Community is a great last place to try healthy and great tasting dishes. They specialise in vegan food, and are famous for their cakes, smoothies, and vegan pizzas. Many of the reviews say it’s great even if you’re not vegan, as most of the food looks great and tastes amazing too; very colourful and fresh! Very instagrammable.
Top Tips & Facts
The flights can be the most expensive part about going to Bali, as once you’re there, the food, accommodation and activities are all quite affordable. But this is of course relative and can change and fluctuate depending on what kind of places you would like to stay, and what aspects of luxury you might crave.
Bali is a travel restricted area, so proof of having your Covid19 vaccinations are essential before departure.
The official currency in Bali is the Indonesian rupiah. The exchange rate today for converting Indonesian Rupiah to Pounds – 1 IDR = 0.005 GBP
Eating at local places can be much cheaper than going to westernised restaurants. It can be fun to try new food and be immersed in a new culture. Food from local places can cost as little as 5$ for two people, compared to 15$ at a western restaurant. But of course, this can vary on restaurant and your location, but most are relatively cheap.
Most Balinese are bilingual if not trilingual (Indonesian, Balinese, English). Although every Balinese speaks the language of their mother island, Indonesian is the most common language – particularly in the tourism sector.
Using your regular phone SIM card whilst over here can be expensive. Most restaurants and shops have fast free Wi-Fi, it might be best to buy a local SIM card whilst you’re there. This will be the cheapest and most convenient way of using your phone. Getting a SIM card in Indonesia can be simple, you can either buy one at the airport, or the local shops will usually sell them too. The shops on the streets can usually be the cheapest option, and they provide SIMs from all major companies. Other travellers have found that ‘Telkomsel’ is the most reliable telephone provider, be it a little more expensive than others, it can be worth the extra expensive to have security and peace of mind that you can make a call if you’re ever in trouble. The initial cost is around 9 $, including the SIM card and 9 gigabytes of data, this can be topped up with additional packages if you require more.
Moving from place to place can be easier when travelling light, so try and be selective about what you bring, only bringing what you’ll definitely use. It can be best to plan outfits so you won’t bring what you won’t wear; packing cubes can be a way of being organised. Some shorts, t-shirts that can be dressed up or down, a few dresses for the ladies or some smarter shirts for the men, and a couple of pairs of shoes, and you should be good to go. You can buy clothes there if you forget anything, so it shouldn’t be a worry.
Bali is a place extremely rich in culture. The people there, the Balinese, are very welcoming to guests and take pride in their traditions and religious beliefs, with many of them being Hindu. They have temples which are like a big community for everyone to be invited into. They often have ceremonies within their temples where they dress beautifully, share out offerings, play music and have parades out on the streets. If you pass any baskets filled with flowers on the sides of the streets, these are Balinese offerings, and so it is best to leave them be and show respect to them, so try not to step on them as you pass. The flowers are symbols for peace and gratefulness, so it can mean a great deal to the local people.
- Do not drink the tap water – this can make you ill, so always stick to buying bottled.
- Avoid entering temples with your shoes on or whilst wearing revealing clothing, this is seen as disrespectful by the local people.
- Don’t use your left hand for accepting or giving things, this is considered ‘unclean’.
- If you travel with your partner, and are married, some places require proof to let you stay in the same room. This can vary, but it can be best to take some form of proof to avoid any complications.
- With all places where tourists go, some petty scams can still be prevalent, so be aware.
Enjoy your adventure and collect moments to be fabulous memories to look back on for years to come.
Written by Holly Richardson