First-Timer’s Guide to Bali (Indonesia)
Bali is the most popular destination in Indonesia, for good reason. It’s hard not to fall in love with this island, which is filled with culture & art, amazing sights, good food, and humble & welcoming locals.
Aside from this, Bali is a great place for first-time tourists exploring Southeast Asia. A lot of areas are “touristy”, but they are also convenient and accessible which means you get the cultural experiences without being difficult.
Here’s your essential travel guide to Bali, Indonesia. You can also read about our 6 Days Itinerary in Bali, including personal tips and more.
How to get here
Currently, Bali only has one international airport: Ngurah Rai International Airport, which is located in Denpasar.
- Most tourists don’t need a visa when traveling to Bali if the stay is 30 days or less. This is also true for Philippine passport holders.
- If you’re staying longer than 30 days, you can pay for an extendable visa on arrival ($35) or get a 60-day visa.
- Buy a local sim card to avoid roaming charges. Telkomsel is a good brand with reliable signal throughout the island.
- From the airport, it’s easy to get to your destination in Bali. If you have arranged accommodation or guide, you can ask them for pickup. The cheapest pickup service that I found is via Klook.
Bali uses indonesian rupiah (IDR).
People often joke about how you will feel like a millionaire in Bali, and it’s because there’s a lot of zeroes in their currency. Here are the rough estimates:
- P1 = 270 IDR
- USD $1 = 13,000 IDR
You can exchange money in the airport and registered money changers in towns. Be careful when exchanging money because money changer scam is common. Read more on our Useful Tips When Traveling to Bali.
Locals speak English so communication won’t be a problem. Still, you might want to learn a few local phrases — this will put you into good grace and locals will appreciate that you’ve done your bit of research.
Here are some useful phrases to note:
- “Terima kasih” or “Makasi” – Thanks
- “Apa kabar?” – How are you?
- “Selamat pagi” – Good morning
- “Selamat siang” – Good afternoon
- “Selamat sore” – Good evening
- “Selamat malam” – Good night
- “Permisi” – Excuse me
Weather and Best Time to Visit
Bali has a steady weather all year round, at an average temperature of 26-27 C. It has 2 seasons: dry season and rainy season. April to September is the dry season, and October to March is the rainy season. Even in rainy season, the weather is tolerable as rains only last up to a few hours before the sky clears up again.
The best months to go in Bali is March to May, September and October. These months experience fine weather but aren’t into the peak season yet, so you can still enjoy the trip with less crowds and low rates.
We visited in May and experienced cloudy skies, but otherwise the weather was fine.
Main regions to explore
The main regions of Bali are Ubud, Kuta, Seminyak, Legian, Nusa Dua and Sanur.
- Ubud is located close to the center of the isalnd and is considered the arts & cultural hub of Bali. This is a must-visit when you’re in Bali, especially for the first time. Here you can visit temples, explore rice paddies and waterfalls, visit the local art market, and more.
- Kuta is a popular coastal town, similar to Sanur and Nusa Dua. It’s the island’s party destination and it’s one of the best surfing spots in Indonesia.
- Seminyak is the “chic” counterpart of Ubud. Here you can find boutique stores and restaurants, including smoothie bowl shacks. It also features beachside resorts where you can relax and drink with other people.
- Legian is another coastal town. Nusa Dua is located in the southeast coast and Sanur is just outside Denpasar — both are known for their high-end atmosphere.
I recommend staying at Ubud, as it’s a wonderful starting point in your journey to Bali.
Aside from these, there are other islands you can visit outside Bali, such as Nusa Penida.
How to get around
Public transport is limited in Bali. Here’s how you can get around the island:
- The most common mode of transport are taxis.
- You can also book via booking apps Grab and Go-Jek. In our experience, these offer cheaper rates compared to taxis. Bluebird is also an alternative if you want secured metered taxis, but we find it more difficult to use as there are lesser drivers around.
- Renting a scooter is the cheapest way to explore Bali (80,000 IDR / P300 / $10 for rental and gas).
Bali is a foodie’s dream! It’s not possible to list every good restaurant because chances are you’re discover one on each place you visit.
- If you’re on a budget or you want to taste what the locals eat, you can easily find warungs (local eateries) offering Indonesian dishes.
- Aside from local restaurants, there are restaurants offering different cuisines from all over the world. For instance, you can find pizzerias in Seminyak that are said to rival those in Naples.
- Bali is also a haven for vegetarians and vegans. Even at local eateries, cooks will be happy to whip you something meat free. One of our favorite restaurants in Ubud called Bali Buda has an extensive vegetarian menu.
Here’s Our Food Tripping Experience in Bali.
To make it easier for you, we compiled this Guide on the Best Restaurants in Bali, as suggested by bloggers who’d been here as well.
There are tons of accommodations in Bali, for all budgets.
- There are cheap homestays starting at 160,000 IDR (P600 / $10) or luxury villas starting at 800,000 IDR (P3000 / $50-60). You can get a room in the middle of rice paddies, jungle or beachside (if you’re anywhere in Seminyak or Kuta).
- You can find private villas with pool for as low as $150 per night. This is a great option for couples or groups who want to enjoy relaxing indoors.
You can stay anywhere in Bali even if you’re exploring various locations such as Lempuyang. As for us, we opted to stay in Ubud for 3-4 nights before we spent the rest of our trip in Nusa Penida.
Things to Do
There are tons of activities in Bali, so even if you stay here for a month you definitely won’t get bored.
Book a day trip
If you’re here for only a few days, I suggest going on day trips. Allot a day each to explore Ubud, Lempuyang, Bedugul, and Uluwatu.
Take note of the places you wish to see and then rent a scooter to go around. Alternatively, you can also just book a private car to tour you. This costs about $40-50 per day, good up to 4 people. Booking a tour is an easy way to explore Bali, especially if you want to see iconic spots including Tegallalang Rice Terraces, Lempuyang Temple, Ulun Danu Temple, and more.
My boyfriend Hali and I were in Bali for 6 days and we booked a reliable tour guide/driver to take us around Bali.
If you like arts and culture, visit the Bali Culture Center in Ubud. Visit temples such as Tanah Lot Temple (for sunset watching), Bedugul, and Garuda Wisnu Kencana Cultural Park. There are also water castles in Bali, including Tirta Gingga, Taman Ujuang, and Istana Tampak Siring. The Batubulan Village is a must-see spot for its traditional batik and hand weaving, which Bali is known for.
If you like scenery, visit Ubud, Bedugul, and Lempuyang. Some of the popular Instagram spots in Bali can be found here.
If you like adventure, try snorkeling and scuba diving in Menjangan, Amed, Tumbalen or Nusa Penida; surfing in Kuta, rafting in Ayung River; or hiking.
For beaches, some of the best ones include Dreamland, Padang Padang Beach (also known as Taplau), Double Six Beach in Seminyak, and Blue Point. If you’re into canoeing, go to Sanur. There are also beautiful beaches exclusive so resorts and hotels, such as Jambana Ayana.
If you’re craving for a personal retreat, the best place to be is Ubud. There you can find yoga & meditation classes, regular spa and spa with energy healing, cooking classes and more.
This is a general overview of the best activities in Bali. If you stay here for weeks, you might discover more local spots and activities.
And that concludes our essential travel guide to Bali, Indonesia! Do you have anything else to add? Let us know in the comment section below.
What to read next:
Going to Bali soon? Here are other articles you might be interested in!
- Travel Guide to Bali: What You Need to Know
- 6 Days Itinerary in Bali
- Useful Travel Tips to Bali
- Bali Food Guide: Best Restaurants in Bali
Other destinations near Bali:
Katherine Cortes is a 30-something freelance writer/editor. She likes beaches, snorkeling trips, and relaxing staycations (preferably with bath tubs!).