Most of the our team has been to Bali (even multiple times). It is definitely a very laid back destination but if you are in search of a beachy vacation, we would recommend you go elsewhere in Southeast Asia. While there are some nice beaches, it definitely isn’t the main draw nor should it be. Kiran of Wanderlust Crave who recently wrote about a layover in Tokyo is back with her practical tips to Bali.
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My father always taught me that many of my limitations were self perceived, and thus, quite conquerable. If you’re like me, you’ve always imagined Bali to be some far off exotic destination not within your reach of time or funds.
I learned that’s just not true.
Prepping and Tickets — 3-6 months in advance
I found a roundtrip ticket from Washington DC to Bali for $828. The best part of it was that we could manipulate the timings to get an 18-hour layover in Tokyo. That afforded us the ability to see another city at no additional cost.
Use Google Flights to search out your ideal dates, be flexible and consider going from a Wednesday to a Wednesday (as I did). Take the dates you find on Google Flights, and plug them into an online travel agency aggregator like Momondo. This usually yields the best price/date combinations. [Editor’s Note: Google Flights is very fast, but do understand that its 30 calendar view is not as good as ITA’s 30 day calendar view. As for Momondo, the challenge is that while prices can be cheaper, do understand that the sites with the cheap prices are usually poorly reviewed]
Once you have your ideal flights booked, next comes the fun part – booking your stay!
Booking your stay
First you have to decide where you want to stay, as each location in Bali is accessible only from small narrow roads. Those in search of modern tourist amenities and large hotels, with the beach at their fingertips should aim for Kuta, Nusa Dua or Seminyak. Those desiring a central jumping point to most tourist locales should aim for Ubud (plus side, it’s the cultural hot spot for Bali)
Then you have to decide what type of accommodation you want. There are two schools of thought on this, those who would like to stay in an “authentic” Balinese type villa or those that prefer using points and staying at a hotel. I felt the luxury and amazing opportunity present in a traditional Balinese villa couldn’t be beat. Balinese villas are also a fraction of the cost of a traditional hotel room, and usually come with a private plunge pool. The downside to these fantastic deals is that they usually have a handful of rooms each, which book quickly.
I used TripAdvisor and Lonely Planet to figure out I wanted to stay at the Ladera Villas Ubud. My time would be limited in Bali considering all the flight time. With just 5 solid days in Bali, I decided being in the heart of the action worked best for me. Having access to a private plunge pool in my villa at Ladera Villas meant that despite being amid the hustle bustle of central Ubud, I had an oasis of serenity after a long day of tourism.
How to balance tourism and relaxation
Before you visit, about a month out I would say, try to book all your spa treatments. The reason being, the best spas seem to never have last minute availability. Personally, I love Bali Botanica. Not only can you easily book online, but they will pick you up and drop you off to your hotel. The environment and treatment was luxurious, with a bargain basement price. They also accept all major credit cards.
In order to see the best temples, you should book a private driver instead of a tour. You can even have the driver pick you up at the airport if you like. If you wanted to book a tour, it would end up costing nearly triple the cost of a driver (average daily driver rate runs about $38/ 8 hour day, all costs included) And you can pay for temples in cash. The benefit of a private driver is also in seeing a glimpse of the real Bali. On winding roads you can stop and take pictures wherever you would like! We used Dewa Gede and he spoke excellent English, he is responsive to email [email protected] (+62 852 38493089).
You should divide your tourism into “sectors”. North, South, and East of Ubud. Ubud is central, and so it’s a great starting point for any number of destinations. You can group several southern temples into one day (including lunch at the rice terraces) and you can also plan your day around catching a spectacular Balinese sunset.
The Food and Shopping
Try to avoid nice air conditioned stores. The real action happens in the open air markets, of which there are plenty. There is a beautiful art market in the grounds of the Tanah Lot temple. There is also a daily market in Ubud central where you should be prepared with cash in hand, and bargaining skills! Overall, Bali is an art lover’s paradise. And if you pack lightly, you can take a lot of amazing new trinkets back home.
The food is amazing in Bali, it is fresh, and it is inexpensive. One of my favorites is Café Des Artistes where a high quality rib-eye steak cooked to a perfect medium will set you back about $13 USD.
For those wishing for something fancier, Locavore serves a divine tasting menu for ~ $42/pp USD. Its Michelin quality, and Locavore consistently lands of the World’s Best dining lists. Reservations are easy to make, but should be made in advance.
If I haven’t convince you enough, you should check out the brief video Huqa Films made evoking Bali’s splendor.
About the Author:
Kiran Iqbal is an avid traveler whose mission it is to visit at least 8 new countries a year. She’s been to over 60 and takes great pride of passion in her photography and food tasting skills. Follow her on Instagram @WanderlustCrave or Twitter at @WandrlustCrave and read her blog at Wanderlust Crave.
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