Ten tips to a great Bali holiday

Rice fields at Wapa di Ume in Ubud

So you’ve booked your trip to Bali – and seriously, why wouldn’t you? It really is the Island of the Gods. To help you get the most and the best out of your trip, I’ve put together a tip or ten…


Yeah, don’t worry about it – it will slide right off your face the minute you step off the tarmac.

I remember one trip we watched a (obviously) newly wed couple at breakfast at the Padma in Legian. She’d obviously bought a “resort wear wardrobe” to wear on her honeymoon and was immaculately decked out each morning – from her freshly straightened hair to her fully made-up face. I reckon it lasted 3 days.

2. Hair

Speaking of which, bring your straightening iron if you wish, but with that level of humidity your chances of keeping your hair straight are as good as those of me ever running again. Actually, they’re probably a bit better than that.

Besides, do you want to be the one sitting beside the pool/beach because you don’t want to get your hair wet?

3. Pack a sarong

You’ll need it for temples. Don’t worry too much if you do forget – you can hire them from most temples.

While I’m at it, pack lightly – and preferably no man-made fibres.

4. Helmets and motorbikes

Ever heard Redgum’s ‘I’ve Been To Bali Too?’ Remember that line ‘as a motorcycle hero I guess I’m a failure?’ No? I wrote a whole post on motorbikes in Bali a few years ago. The link is here.

Anyways, my message is, just because you can doesn’t mean that you should. If you don’t ride a bike at home, it’s probably not super smart to learn in Bali. And if you do, don’t do it bare-headed in shorts and thongs.

While there’s no flash public transport, the Bluebird taxis are cheap, plentiful and, more importantly, metred.

If you’re getting out and about for the day – and you absolutely should – consider hiring a driver and an air-conditioned car. It will set you back about $80, but it’s safe, comfortable, and convenient.

5. Water

Don’t drink it. I even clean my teeth in bottled water. Just saying.

6. Bali Belly

Touch wood, I’ve never had it – and I eat local. I do follow some simple rules – such as looking for places with good turnover – and tend to avoid Western food. Why? Because the way we store and handle food is different.

Oh, and I carry a hand sanitiser, don’t eat pre-peeled fruit, and drink only from bottles that have been sealed. The usual stuff, really.

7. Beaches

As famous as they are, unless you’re looking for the elusive perfect break, the beaches mightn’t be as good as you have at home. Especially if you’re from the Sunshine Coast…just saying…but  don’t listen to me, I’m biased.

8. Haggling

Expect to haggle – especially in Kuta, Legian and in the ‘art’ markets or the stalls that are the Balinese equivalent to gift shops outside most major temples and other attractions.

If you want your shopping without a side serve of bartering, head to the boutiques in Canggu, Ubud, Seminyak and even parts of Legian. It’s in these places that you’ll find your designers, homewares, silver jewellery etc. Just don’t expect a bargain.

9. The name thing

Ok, this one can take a bit of getting your head around, but all Balinese share the same four names. Depending on their birth order, they’ll be either Wayan, Made, Nyoman or Ketut. And if there are more than four children? The cycle is repeated. It’s why most Balinese have a nickname.

10. Choosing your place

I have a belief that there’s a Bali for everyone:

  • If you have fond memories of schoolies, by all means hang out in Kuta. Actually, there’s now a great shopping mall on the beach down there that’s absolutely worth visiting – both for the High St brands and the food options.
  • If you’re more into beach clubs and boutiques, Seminyak might be for you. The restaurant scene up there is great too. Villas are very popular accommodation options in Seminyak.
  • Sanur is where many expats settle and has a much quieter pace. The beach is protected by reefs, so it’s preferred by many families with younger and older members.
  • Nusa Dua is known for its fabulous resorts and is also great for families. There are fewer touts too.
  • Ubud is in the mountains, has seriously good restaurants, great (but not cheap) shopping, and a laid back arts, yoga and new-age scene. Coffee is good and there are plenty of vegan and organic options.
  • Ulu Watu has two types of visitors – those who come for the surf breaks, and those who want to stay at the fantabulously sleek and stylish cliff top resorts.
  • Canggu is getting a following these days too – both for villas and laid back surfer accommodation.
  • As for Legian? There’s an adage that the people who went to Kuta when they were younger go to Legian when their families and their waists start to grow. I’m not so sure about that, but if you find the right place to stay here it’s a happy mix a little of the chaos of Kuta, and a little less of the polish of Seminyak.

Of course, these aren’t the only regions. Don’t overlook the East Coast, or the area west near Tanah Lot and Echo Beach. Then you need to choose between hotel, resort, guest house, or villa. Decisions.

Where do we stay?

We usually spend a week up in Ubud to unwind, and then come down to Legian – although find ourselves in a taxi most nights to Seminyak for dinner.

Sometimes we leave the resort and feel as though we’re running the gauntlet of touts, but at other times, it can be fun to banter with them. It’s a balancing act.

My husband’s worst nightmare would be a secluded romantic getaway, a gated resort, or even a villa. He likes the people watching aspect of a resort, and for me, when it comes to pools, size really does matter – as does a swim up bar.

Because we always eat outside the hotel, we need to be able to get out and about easily, so tend to avoid resorts in the middle of nowhere without a regular shuttle service.

But that’s us. Where should you stay in Bali? When deciding where best would suit you, don’t just ask your friends – everyone will have an opinion. Instead ask those who are into the same type of holiday as you – and at a similar price point.

If you’ve holidayed in Bali before, where do you stay – and why?

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15 Replies to “Ten tips to a great Bali holiday”

  1. We stayed in Jimbaran (because we couldn’t afford Ulu Watu) and it was like a sleepy little town – I loved it. Having always stayed in Seminyak, I think I’m moving….

    1. I keep meaning to do the fish markets at daybreak at Jimbaran. But that’s exactly what I mean – there’s a place that suits everyone.

    1. Thanks. We’ve had so many people tell us about the fabulously secluded & luxurious retreat that we “must” go to. I nod politely cos I know that as glorious as it is, it’s not who we are.

  2. I’ve been to Bali twice, staying at Seminyak the first time with my daughter where we enjoyed lots of shopping, eating and day spas. Last year my husband and I stayed at Tanah Lot at a swanky resort and really enjoyed being out of the busyness of Kuta and Legian. It’s a personal choice really. I would love to stay in Ubud and do an yoga retreat with my daughter, maybe next year. #TeamLovinLife

  3. This is a fabulous guide Jo, thank you! I have never been to Bali. I have friends and relatives who love it and go often and I have others who have been and would never go back. I’m not sure whether I’d like it or not. There are aspects I think I would enjoy and there are aspects I think I wouldn’t like. One day I might have to test it out and see! #TeamLovinLife

    1. That is absolutely true – of anywhere. A bit of research helps you make the most of the positives & skim over the annoyances.

  4. I’ve not been to Bali but like that you point out the place has something for everyone. It’d be easy to typecast the place and its visitors but I know seasoned travellers such as you like different things about the island and it offers different options!

    1. I just think we all want different things from a holiday & very rarely does one size fit all. I do know some people who seem to go on holiday just to complain, but life’s too short for that. A little research does the trick every time.

  5. I like your breakdown of the various areas of Bali and what they have to offer. We went to Bali as newly weds and stayed in Legian and did all the bartering etc – and you’re right, the beaches were nothing compared to the white sands of Albany (where we lived at the time). A few years ago we did a villa in Ulawatu when our daughter got married at a beautiful chapel on the cliff and that was quite a contrast between eating local and being in a glass chapel overlooking the sea on the next day!

  6. LOL re hair and makeup. Anything from Sydney upwards and I’m a frizzy shiny faced mess. When I was in Singapore last year I just went with the bowling ball look (severely pulled back hair and shiny face). #teamlovinlife

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