Bali is a place people picture when they hear the word “paradise.” You know, white-sand beaches lined with coconut palms and crystalline waters. You might be surprised arriving in Bali how unlike this the tourist areas are, but all the more reason to get out of the madness of Kuta, Seminyak, and Nusa Dua. The highlands, west Bali, and the east coast have so much natural beauty and culture to offer. And the people of Bali are some of the most fcommunity-minded folks you’ll ever meet.

Jatiluwih Rice Field

Photo By Tukang Photo Stock/Shutterstock


When’s the best time to go to Bali?

Bali has only two seasons, wet and dry. From September to April it rains—not monsoonlike as in India, but rainstorms are common most afternoons. May through August is drier and sometimes called “kite season” because of the cool breezes. Mid-December to mid-January and June to September are popular with tourists, which means higher prices and sometimes heavy traffic.

How to get around Bali

Ngurah Rai International Airport is the only airport in Bali. It’s located in Tuban, next to the tourist hub of Kuta, and about 15 to 20 minutes from the resorts of Nusa Dua and Jimbaran. The town of Ubud is about an hour away depending on traffic and time of day, but a new toll road opened in 2013, and it shaves off about 20 minutes, if your driver uses it.

Bali has become an island packed full of motorbikes and cars. Only recently has the government introduced public buses, but the system isn’t of much use to tourists, as the buses only go up and down the main bypass. The best ways to get around are to rent a motorbike or hire a driver with a car. A motorbike should cost no more than $4 a day, and a car with driver will cost about $45 for a whole day. If you do choose to ride a motorbike, wear a helmet and be aware that many of Bali’s drivers don’t take road laws all that seriously.

Can’t miss things to do in Bali

The rice terraces of Jatihluwih are often missed by tourists but offer one of the most breathtaking sights in Bali. Take a walk along the paths and stop at one of the tiny warungs selling drinks. Breathe in the wonderful, cool, fresh air. This is Bali at its most natural.

Food and drink to try in Bali

With a primarily Hindu population, Bali’s food centers around pork. Ceremonial dishes like lawar (a spicy chopped pork, vegetable, and coconut mixture) and babi guling (spit-roasted suckling pig) are the most traditional of Bali’s dishes, but many elements of Indonesian cuisine are also used. Food cooked in Balinese homes can be oily and spicy, but restaurants and hotels often serve more westernized versions that are easier on the belly. For vegetarians, delicious tofu, tempeh, and vegetable dishes are available everywhere. Street food like satay, martabak (an omelette with vegetables or meat inside), and boiled or grilled corn are cheap and sold everywhere. Arak and tuak are the local tipples, made by tapping palm trees, but quality and taste vary greatly.

Culture in Bali

Offerings are laid daily in the morning and evening to appease the gods and spirits that the Balinese believe exist in every part of nature. In addition to the numerous village temples, each house has its own temple. Dance, music, painting, and carving are important arts, practiced the same way they have been for centuries. Some say the island’s culture is being watered down by tourism, but in every part of Balinese life, community—meaning temples and ceremonial duties—continue to come first before all else.

Bali is an island constantly buzzing with ceremonies and festivals. Not a day goes by when you don’t see people in their temple clothes carrying offerings somewhere. The most important festival is Galungan, held every 210 days. On this day the gods descend to check that everyone is behaving and then ascend 10 days later on Kuningan. Temples are adorned and piled high with offerings, and the streets are lined with penjor (tall bamboo poles decorated outside each house). Balinese New Year, or Nyepi, which usually falls in March, is also a very important day.

Practical Information

- Visa requirements vary depending on your citizenship but Americans traveling to Bali just need a passport--unless they’re staying longer than 30 days.
- The Balinese people usually speak both Balinese and Indonesian.
- The currency is the Indonesian Rupiah.
- As for plugging in your hair dryer or chargers, the voltage is 230V which works on appliances that range from 220V to 240V, but you’ll need a two-pin plug adapter.

Local travel tips for Bali

Bargaining is expected when you shop in Bali, but sometimes visitors think this means getting the price down as low as you possibly can. Yes, sellers see a foreign face and start ridiculously high, but do agree to a price that is mutually beneficial. Mentally set the price you wouldn’t mind paying, then walk away if you don’t get that price.

Guide Editor

Read Before You Go
These top-level properties are the places to stay.
Resources to help plan your trip
A trip to Bali should never cause stress so, don’t think of it as just having three days there, think of it as a chance to have a perfect weekend. Want to just dive right into the fun? Follow this itinerary for surf school, stunning black sand beaches and poolside cocktails, Friday nights celebrating new friends or old, and lazy strolls through the boutiques of Seminya. Of course, there’s also plenty of Indonesian culture to take in and iconic rice paddies that will make your camera sing. (Save anything you don’t get to for your next trip back. See? No reason to stress.)
There are two distinct drinking scenes in Bali. Kuta is the hedonistic party town that goes all night every night, and just next door is the more refined and fashionable Seminyak. Whether you’re looking for a cold beer paired with a sunset view or a happy hour deal at a perfect dive bar, Bali has you covered. From high-end cocktails (and a stellar view) at the Rock Bar to the signature cocktail featuring exotic fruit (and, yes, another stellar view) at the Potato Head Bar to wham-bam-get-on-the-dance-floor-again-man shots (no view but loads of international DJs) at Eikon and beyond, there are so many new-to-you places to enjoy.
Whether you’ve got a new home ready to fill with everything from dishes to textiles or you just want some surf wear for an upcoming lesson or, perhaps, a wooden carving to bring home to your aunt, there’s a shopping experience to match your need in Bali’s shops and towns. Fans of haggling will find worthy opponents at markets including the Sukawati Art Market. For high quality clothing and souvenirs, head straight to the boutique-heavy town of Seminyak.
From the soft white sands of the south to the glistening black of East Bali, there are way more options than the tourist packed beaches of Kuta and Seminyak. The resort area of Nusa Dua is where many tourists in Bali end up, but work a little harder to get to further away beaches and you’ll be rewarded for your efforts with the quiet time you’ll get to sink your toes into the warm sand, lay back and soak up the rays in peace.
There’s no one perfect way to take a trip to Bali. On one visit you might decide to spend more time exploring ways to explore your inner self through yoga or taking a ritual bath at Tirta Empul and while exploring the sacred spaces at Pura Besakih. On another? You might be all about going big mountain biking and photographing the rice paddies and terraces. Or, perhaps, all of the above on every trip? From the beaches of South Bali to the cool hills of Baturiti and the cultural hotspot of Ubud, options abound.
The hotels of Bali complement the island’s beauty, from boutiques nestled in verdant rice terraces to sprawling beach resorts. They also bring out its unique culture with a host of immersive experiences that highlight the traditional Balinese way of life.
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An earthquake registering 6.9 on the Richter scale hit the popular Indonesian vacation islands of Lombok and Bali on August 5. Here’s what travelers need to know about the current situation.
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