Hi there! Currently, I am writing this post in the boarding area at the Ngurah Rai International Airport in Bali, Indonesia as I return to the states from one of the best weeks of my life. I enjoyed my stay in Bali so much so that I simply could not wait to share the details of my experience for any fellow travelers who are looking to book their getaway and need some insight. I like to think that I am well-traveled, and Bali has taken the cake for my favorite vacation to date. Trust and believe that I will be back to Bali in the future. Below you will find details of my stay that I found to be important and helpful and little nuggets of information that I did not come across in my trip planning research that would have been good to know.
Time of Year: January 17th – 26th, Bali’s rainy season
This was the only time of year that the group I was traveling with were all able to coordinate schedules. We were skeptical about the weather since January is the middle of Bali’s rainy season but let me say this. It rained MAYBE once during the entire stay, and it was overnight so it did not affect any plans. So do not be hesitant about booking during this time of year. I actually preferred it because the weather was beautiful but manageable.
Temperature: 90° day, 78° night average
As stated before, January is during Bali’s rainy season, but if you come from a temperate climate like I do where we experience all four seasons, any kind of tropical climate is scorching to me. The weather was beautiful with hot, sunny days and warm nights. There is definitely some humidity so be prepared for that sticky feel if you are going to be active. Pack plenty of shorts and light clothing. Locals did, however, tell us that it was “unusually hot” for this time of year. Global warming is a thing, y’all.
Stay: Airbnb villa in Kuta, Bali for 8 days/7 nights, $1800 total
When I tell you to book this Airbnb if you are traveling with a group, I am not just recommending it. Do yourself a huge favor. This place was dope! It is actually two villas (one 3 BR and one 2 BR) that come as one booking. You can see the photos for yourself, but it doesn’t speak to the service and convenience. It was centrally placed in Kuta, Bali in walking distance to restaurants, shopping, and nightlife. They cleaned each room every day and left fresh towels which was my first experience at an Airbnb where I got cleaning services throughout my stay. Bottom line, if you aren’t hip to the Airbnb life yet, try it out for your next trip. I promise you it is the way to go.
As for generally where to stay, most people decide between Kuta and Ubud. Simply put, Kuta is the city and will be the hub for restaurants, bars and clubs, and beaches. On the other hand, Ubud is the jungle, offering great views and culture. Note: many of the elephant excursions are in Ubud. Kuta and Ubud are about an hour apart so just plan accordingly depending on what you are most interested in doing and traveling to and from your activities. For example, don’t stay in Ubud if you want to party at the beach clubs in Kuta and end up traveling the hour there multiple times during your stay.
One of the best things that I like about Bali is that there is an abundance of activities and excursions for one to do during a getaway. But if you are someone who likes to just chill and relax, it is a great place to do that as well, as there are a lot of extraordinary views, landscape, and scenery to take in next to the pool or beach with a refreshing drink. During my week in Bali, I managed to squeeze in most of the hotspots that travelers frequent that also provided a good mix of adventure, exercise, photo-ops, and relaxation.
I booked through Airbnb experiences and selected the “ Instagram Tour” option, which included all of the stops that I detail below. Some stops have entry fees, which are not included in the tour so it is necessary to have cash on hand. All of the stops have souvenir shops at them, and you will also need to bring or buy lunch at some point. The driver picked us up at 4:30a, and we returned around 10:00p. It is a LONG day with a lot of traveling in between stops so be prepared to get rest before and/or in the car. Also, I recommend taking changes of clothes to switch up the looks in your photos and a bathing suit for the waterfall.
1st stop: Gates of Heaven
- Lines get long, with many people waiting 2+ hours for their turn, which is called by a number given at entry. Get there early!
- Okay, so this tip is for anyone who, like me, plans their outfits out and envisions the Instagram flick in advance. Everyone MUST wear a sarong, which is a long skirt-like covering at the temple. It is 10k IDR to rent one at the temple and unless you bring your own, is mandatory. Shoulders must also be covered. They will give you a shawl to rent with your sarong if needed. So plan your outfit accordingly!
- A sad reality is that the water reflection is actually not real. Sorry… the temple is gorgeous so it is a great photo-op nonetheless. There are a group of men who use a black glass reflecting mirror (with your camera that you give them) to take the photo with the illusion of the reflection. They snap away, giving each person 20+ shots to choose from with multiple poses. Many people just give them a donation after.
- Summary: No entry fee but 10k IDR for the sarong/shawl rental. Water reflection is not real. Get there early but still long lines so be prepared to get your number in line and wait your turn.
2nd stop: Tirta Gangga Water Palace
- Amazing photos!
- Our tour guide provided us with fish food to attract the fish near for a photo. Also available for sale.
- Summary: 30k IDR entry fee. Great photos.
3rd stop: Tukad Cepung Hidden Waterfall
- It is a hike! There are steep steps with guardrails, and it is tiring to trek up and down the mountain.
- You have to walk and wade through water that has rocks at the bottom so wear comfortable sandals or footwear that you don’t mind getting wet.
- Summary: 10k IDR entry fee. Getting to and from the waterfall is a hike. Wear appropriate footwear and a bathing suit.
4th stop: Coffee Plantation
- Educational experience where they teach you how the Luwak (civet) coffee is made and brewed.
- Summary: No entry fee, complimentary taste-testing but 80k IDR for brewing and testing a cup of the Luwak coffee.
5th stop: Tegallalang Rice Terraces & Jungle Swing
- Amazing views and photos!
- Many jungle swing options (casual, extreme, couples, etc.) with different prices.
- Summary: 15k IDR entry fee + varying swing fee for the option you select.
- Booked through Airbnb experiences.
- The masseuses came to our villa, and each of us got a personal one-hour massage on the beds in our room.
- Summary: Perfect for relaxation and rejuvenation at great value! Do not even have to leave your villa.
Finn’s Beach Club
- Pre-booked online at their website for a better rate.
- How it works is you pay for your cabana, and the price includes entry and a minimum spend. For example, I pre-book a VIP cabana for 3.1 million IDR ($210 USD) that accommodates up to 6 people (does not matter if I have less than 6 people – the cabana is a set price). My group can spend up to 3.1 million IDR in food and drinks, and any additional costs over the 3.1 mil, I pay for before leaving.
- There are multiple pools, restaurants, and beach access. Your cabana includes waiter service.
- Summary: Go to Finn’s! Perfect mix of pool/beach day and day party. Good views, people, and vibes. Amazing experience at great value.
- Booked through Airbnb experiences.
- Hands down one of the best experiences I had in Bali. Takes place in Ubud so you have to find transportation there or book transportation along with the experience on Airbnb for an additional cost (if not staying in Ubud).
- We took the morning class, which starts with a trip to the local market, where you can buy goods, souvenirs, etc.
- The instructor begins the class with a bit of history. Every person contributes to the cooking of the meals, and we end the class with a buffet lunch of all the recipes we cook.
- Summary: Unique experience filled with teamwork, culture, fun, and food. 10/10 recommend!
Ubud Sacred Monkey Forest Sanctuary
- Who doesn’t love monkeys?
- Fun experience with direct interaction with the monkeys. They are friendly for the most part and accustomed to tourists, however, I did witness a few interactions that were slightly aggressive so stay alert but calm. The monkeys may also dig in pockets, take earrings and necklaces, and pull on hair.
- Summary: 80k IDR entry fee. The monkeys may jump, climb, pull on you so be cautious, and follow the rules. I do not recommend for small children or anyone who has a fear of animals.
Nusa Penida Day Trip
- Booked through local company.
- Pickup at 6:30a and drive about an hour to the coast where you catch a speed boat to the island.
- West Island tour includes: Kelingking Beach, Broken Beach, Angel Billabong Beach, and Crystal Bay. There is also an East Island tour. You can do one side, both sides, or overnight tours.
- Summary: ~600k IDR per person but can vary depending on who you book through and what it includes. Great views, pretty beaches. More rural with bumpy roads and not as wifi accessible.
Bali has touristy areas, especially in Kuta, where one can easily find American and fast food restaurants such as sports bars, Dominoes, KFC, Burger King, and McDonalds. At some point, I recommend you try authentic local dishes during your time in Bali. Fried rice and/or noodles is the base of most dishes. It reminds me of a blend of Chinese and Thai food with great taste and flavors. Food is very CHEAP, and take out/food to go is called “take away.”
As a side note, just know certain standards are different. For examples, eggs are not refrigerated in Bali. It made me a little skeptical to eat the eggs, however, after extensive research, I learned that this is a very normal standard in countries that have more free-range production of eggs that do not get sprayed with chemicals. Many of the dishes have egg in them, and I survived with no stomach issues. So when you see the eggs on the shelf or out in the open at the market, no need to worry.
Quick Important Tips:
Download the app, Grab! This app is basically Indonesia’s Uber. You can use it to book a ride, get food delivered, and much more (that I didn’t need to use this time). Use this to get around if you don’t have a vehicle or driver. A 20-30 minute ride for 5 people was the equivalent of $3-5 USD. It was safe and CHEAP. You do not have to connect a debit/credit card and can use cash instead.
Exchange money! While Bali is a tourist hotspot, there are many local places that do not accept debit/credit or USD. Visit a currency exchange (watch the exchange rates – local places are better value than the airport), but just know that they do not accept bills that are older or have any sort of damage such as small tears or rips.
Exchange rate ~ 1 USD = 13,500 IDR (100k IDR = $7 USD)
Bugspray and sunscreen are a must! You will be in the tropics. All skin shades and tones need to be protected from the blazing Bali sun. Don’t play yourself.
Last but most importantly, have a great time! Bali has something for everyone, and it is a great destination to get out and explore, relax, or a little of both. The country is gorgeous, the people are friendly, and the in-country costs are very affordable. See you there!