Bali: All you need to know for your first trip
Bali was always on our travel Bucket list. Is it on yours too? After our first trip to Bali we did not only become obsessed with this island, it was also there and then that the idea of Ikiko was conceived. We were always passionate and had strong desire to bring back stories, inspirations and experiences from all the amazing places around the Asia we are visiting. At first, we were buying mesmerizing arts and crafts for ourselves to remind us of dreamy days we have lived in Bali and other unique locations we visited in South East Asia. Now, we bring back more to share with others so you can enjoy them too.
To be honest, the perception we had about Bali was similar to that of Thailand or other tropical islands for that matter - meaning lush landscape of rainforests, beautiful sand beaches with turquoise waters and stunning ocean views. Well, we were never more wrong! Bali is much more than that. It is about natural beauty, ancient temples, breathtaking soaring cliff views and rice paddies of magnificent distances. Bali is also about rich craft culture, karma, yoga, amazing coffee shops, style and local boutiques. In simple words, Bali is to be enjoyed by every type of traveler, be it a foodie, surfer, adventurer, spa lover or shopper.
There is so much to explore in Bali and its surroundings that one trip may not be enough to discover all its gems or visit all of its hidden temples. This being said, our Field trip notes are all about what you need to know for your first trip and accordingly plan where to stay or what to visit.
So, first things first, when traveling to Bali start by deciding upon your preferences or holiday expectations. If you are searching to relax by the seaside and soak up the sun with the gorgeous sceneries of the perfectly turquoise ocean, then you need to save few days of the trip for the near-by islands, or choose another location like Thailand or Philippines! Of course, I will get into more details later, but we have been in one of the most often featured hotels in Jimbaran (and also visited some other beaches across the island) and, in terms of powdery sand beaches or turquoise ocean, it simply is not what you get in other tropical islands in South East Asia.
In case you don't want to spend few days on nearby islands, there is plenty to do and see in Bali itself. It's all about what type of traveler you are and what type of holiday you desire to have. Read our tips and enjoy your trip!
- When to visit Bali? Note: Please skip this section if you have read our other Field Notes from Bali. As weather across the island is the same, my tips will not differ regardless of the area. So, in order to make up your mind you may consider weather/season or cost parameters. We visit Bali any time of the year, mainly due to the reason we do not mind tropical showers. What we do like about the rainy season (October to March) is cheaper accommodation across the island and far less people. Plus you may get lucky with weather and have less rainy days or more sunshine overall. During the dry season (April to October) we try to avoid July and August as they are peak season. Our latest trip was in June and it was quite acceptable. Note that many Bali fashion stores were running discounts and restaurants were not as packed as in very peak months.
- How long to stay in Bali may be a tricky question. Here an answer may depend on how many places in Bali you plan to visit. For the first time Bali visitors I would suggest visiting three (or at least two) regions. To be more specific: spend few days (three to four) in the central region Ubud, then, spend few nights in Canggu (three to four), and save additional three to four days for beach escapes in nearby islands such as Nusa Penida or Gili Islands*. For non-adventurous types instead of island hoping, staying in one of the magnificent Jimbaran resorts may be a less tiring solution.
- Crazy traffic across the island. If traveling by car/taxi we could only avoid traffic in the early mornings or very late evenings (and even this will depend on the region where you are or where you are heading). In certain cases it is inevitable to use a car, like going from/to airport or traveling longer distances. In all other cases we either walked (while wandering streets of Ubud/Seminyak) or simply did as locals do - hopped on a scooter.
- Buying a local sim card may come in handy. Inexpensive and quite good internet connection.
- Changing money is easy and available pretty much everywhere. Nonetheless, in Seminyak, more than once we had unfortunate experiences where exchange office employees tried to cheat. Be sure to count money after they give it into your hands despite the fact they already counted it multiple times in front of you.
TO DO & SEE:
Ubud! Cultural capital of Bali and our family’s favorite place. So many things to do or see here that it feels like we never spend enough days in Ubud. To be honest we love simply wandering the streets, popping into art galleries and workshops, exploring Ubud's rich craft culture or indulging in it's spiritual vibe. We always stay in Ubud in the beginning of our trip, then, we would usually move to Canggu. When we set off to change the location, we use it as an opportunity to visit some of the gorgeous temples along the way.
Note: Read our Ubud tips here:
Canggu vs Seminyak! If you want to be close to an urban place as Seminyak is, yet prefer not to be hassled with crowd, go ahead and stay in Canggu. Canggu offers ultimate experience of dining, partying, surfing, chilling out. What makes it really unique is the vibe you will feel here. We, as a family, are not much of a crowd lovers so our preference is always to stay in Canggu, rent a bike and occasionally visit Seminyak and its surroundings.
Note: Read our Canggu/Seminyak tips here:
Jimbaran! This region is packed with resorts and high-end hotels and villas. Jimbaran is the place where you can enjoy resort life, spend time on the beach, lay by the pool, relax in many facilities available at resorts/villas, or enjoy dining (especially the seafood). Yet, as mentioned in the very beginning, beach-wise it is not the experience you would have in Thailand or other tropical islands for that matter. If your desire is beautiful sand beaches with turquoise waters, you will need to hop to an island near Bali such as Gillis or Nusa Penida. Nonetheless, great advantage of Jimbaran is its proximity to airport. We stayed in Jimbaran at the end of our trip and it was never more convenient to reach airport on the way back home.
Note: Read our Jimbaran tips here:
Gili Islands*! Certainly these islands deserve a separate blog as they are a true vision of paradise. And, I surely will wrap up my Gili post before the amazing time we had there completely fades out from my memory! We have stayed at Gili Trawagan and made a one-day boat trip to Gili Air. Gilis are truly unique spots with special vibe and postcard sceneries. These islands are a: No cars, No motorbikes, No worries! Definitely hotspot for tourists from all around the world, and it amazed us how many different languages we could here while wandering Gili Trawagan main road! If this summary attracted you, stay tuned for a more detailed Blog to come.
TO EAT and TO STAY:
Nasi Goreng is our favorite meal out of all Indonesian cuisine. While we may not enjoy so much the other Indonesian specialties as much as we enjoy Vietnamese or Thai, food across Bali is pretty good with many healthy/vegan options.
For more details on Canggu and Seminyak, Ubud or Jimbaran food/stay tips please refer to:
HOW TO REACH:
If flying from EU (Turkey) making connecting flight through Singapore is very convenient. Two main reasons, Singapore has the best airport in the World in the terms of comfort and efficiency, and second high chances to find cheap flights from Singapore to Bali (check AirAsia or Scoot).
Latest information we heard, mid of next year (2019) there is going to be a direct regular flight from Istanbul to Bali, yay!
Once you are in Bali, next step actually depends on whether or not you have prearranged your transfer with hotel you stay in. In case you haven't, it's quite easy to get a ride on your own. Many locals are readily waiting both inside and outside the airport (regular taxis are also available). If you choose to ride one of the locals' vans, you may have a better deal as they are eager to bargain. Note - cheapest option is Grab taxi app but they may not be willing to come all the way to the Airport building so you may need to walk out a bit.
In general, it is quite easy to organize transport across the island as locals offer their services almost everywhere and anywhere.
MORE TO DISCOVER:
If you have traveled to Bali and would like to share your experience, please feel free to leave your tips/suggestions in the comment section below.
Overall, we look forward to coming back to Bali soon, and this is our new "must visit" list for the next trip:
Hideout Bali Bamboo House or Camaya Bali Bamboo House. These two unique places can be arranged through Airbnb and are the ultimate spots for romantic, peaceful and quiet getaways while in Bali.
Nusa Penida or Nusa Lombongan. These two islands are reachable from Sanur by speedboat, the trip takes approximately 45min and thus can be both location for a daily trip or 2-3 days stay. Looking forward to exploring Broken Beach, dinosaur shaped Kelingking Beach (Secret Point Beach) and Atuh Beach before mass tourism takes them over!
Sidemen Village, locals claim this place will pamper your body and soul with lasting impressions and breathtaking sceneries of lush paddy fields. So we are very much looking forward to experience it!
*These Field Notes were written before Lombok earthquake that has damaged Gili Islands too. Therefore make sure you check if islands are opened and are safe for tourists.