Bali, Indonesia: The Island of the Gods
Of all the 17,508 islands in the Indonesian archipelago, Bali is – without a doubt – the most popular. In fact, 80% of all international visitors to Indonesia visit Bali and Bali alone.
It’s no wonder why – the famed Island of the Gods’ beautiful landscape rich with lush rice terraces, volcanic hillsides, and spectacular beaches combined with its friendly, hospitable people and a magnificently visual culture infused with spirituality makes the little island a special kind of paradise on earth.
The best thing about Bali is that it offers something for everyone – from world-class surfing and diving spots for water sport enthusiasts to picturesque beaches where beach bums can spend countless hours lounging on. Culture junkies and health nuts are taken care of as well, with Bali’s numerous cultural, historical and archaeological attractions and wealth of health, wellness and spirituality retreats.
Bali also offers an enormous range of accommodations and dining options with something for everyone from young backpackers to the super-rich. Although heavily traveled, it’s still as easy to find peace and quiet on the beautiful island as it is to mingle in crowded bars and parties.
Bali Information & Fast Facts
Situated just 2 kilometers from the eastern tip of the island of Java, Bali is Indonesia’s most popular destination. This world-famous island is home to around 4 million inhabitants who are overwhelmingly Hindu in a largely Muslim Indonesia.
Every aspect of Balinese life is suffused with religion and you’ll see evidence of this almost as soon as you step off the plane – tiny offerings called canang sari are ubiquitous. These leaf trays hold everything from flowers to cookies to cigarettes and coffee and are set with burning incense sticks and present in homes, restaurants, and even on the streets of Bali. Be careful not to step on one on purpose – the Balinese believe it’ll give you bad luck!
Although pretty much everyone in Bali speaks Indonesia lingua franca, Bahasa Indonesia, the primary language in Bali is Balinese. Balinese is a difficult language, but learn to say a few words and you’ll be warmly received by the locals for your effort. But without Balinese or Bahasa Indonesia skills, foreigners will be able to get around Bali quite easily. English is widely spoken by the hospitality workers and hawkers especially in southern Bali and in other tourist-y areas of the island.
Best Time to Visit Bali
Bali – like all of Indonesia – has just two distinct seasons: the wet season and the rainy season. But in Bali the difference between the two seasons is minimal, with the dry season (April to September) being just a tad hotter and a tad drier than the wet season (October to March).
Monsoon season in Bali starts around October and continues to March but the rains come fast and leave just as quickly so you can expect clear blue skies and plenty of sun during this time. Daytime temperatures are pleasant, varying between 20-33⁰ C (68-93⁰ F) year-round. Keep in mind that Bali can get quite cool during nights, especially at higher elevations, so bring a sweater or jacket for the evenings.
A big consideration when choosing the best time to visit Bali is the tourist season. Bali can get pretty crowded during its peak tourist months of August and September and again at Christmas and New Year. Outside these peak seasons, Bali can be surprisingly quiet and you can find great discounts on accommodations.
How to Get to Bali
Bali is very easy to get to. Simply catch a flight to Bali’s Denpasar International Airport which is Indonesia’s 3rd busiest international airport with frequent flights to and from major Indonesian destinations like Jakarta and Surabaya, as well as international destinations such as Kuala Lumpur, Singapore Hong Kong, Australia and more.
How to Get Around Bali
Bali is a pretty large island with less-than-ideal sidewalks which means you’ll need more than your feet to access much of the island.
The most popular option for travelers in southern Bali are the metered taxis which are very common in southern Bali. The fare starts at 5,000 IDR ($0.50) and goes up 5,000/km after the first two kilometers. Trips to outside of southern Bali will incur an extra change of 30% since the driver often has to make the trip back to south Bali with an empty cab.
If you want to travel outside of southern Bali and don’t want to figure out the public bus schedules, your best option is to rent a motorbike or car. The motorbike should really only be an option if you plan to drive it outside of southern Bali – the traffic in southern Bali combined with the lack of formal traffic rules, there’s an increased risk of accidents here. On the other hand, a motorbike is a wonderful way to see Bali outside of the tourist enclaves of south Bali.
You can rent a motorbike for between 40,000 – 100,000 IDR ($4 – $10 USD) per day.
Another option is to rent a car – either self-drive or with a driver. To rent just the car, you should expect to pay between 90,000 to 250,000 IDR ($9 to $25 USD) per day, depending on the condition and model of the car.
For a car with a driver, expect to pay between 300,000 to 600,000 ($30 – $60 USD) per day (around 10 hours). Whereas this is the priciest option of getting around Bali, it is a great choice, especially for first-time visitors, since the drivers usually speak English and can act as informal tour guides, recommending good destinations and restaurants. Also, it’ll end up costing less than a taxi if you’re planning on getting to the further reaches of the island. When you negotiate prices for a car and driver, make sure the price includes petrol and the driver!
Keep in mind that driving in Bali is on the left-hand side!
Things to See and Do in Bali
There is simply too much to see and do in Bali to do it justice in this tiny section. Check out our Best of Bali guide for the top things to see and do in Bali!
What to Eat in Bali
Expect the same range of dining options as most world-class cities in Bali. The island is brimming with cozy cafes and swanky restaurants offering everything from local delicacies to international flavors from all over the world.
Bali Travel Tips
First and foremost, traveling in Bali is considered safe but it’s always recommended to travel with travel insurance. We highly recommend World Nomads. They cover travelers from over 150 countries around the world, offer great rates, and cover a range of travel-related costs from the more commonplace – lost baggage and cancellation costs – to the more severe – emergency medical and evacuation assistance as well as coverage for a wide range of adventure sports and activities.
Bali’s popularity is not without its flip sides – many places in southern Bali, especially Kuta, can be very congested with party-goers and touts. The street hawkers will usually leave you alone when you ask them to, but some are persistent and can follow and pester you in the hopes of eventually bothering you enough so that you buy something to get them to go away. Do NOT do this – buying something will just encourage other, equally persistent touts to keep pestering you.
The monkey forest at Ubud is worth visiting, but keep in mind that the monkeys there are rather fierce. There will be people selling bananas at the entry and you’re free to buy the bananas, but you may become the target of some aggressive, banana-hungry monkeys as soon as you wander in.
Locally made spirits have caused casualties and even some fatalities in recent years, mostly due to methanol being used by locals as a cheap way of topping up their stock. Be very careful with locally-produced alcohol, especially Arak, and stick to alcohol brands that you know when ordering at bars or purchasing at minimarts or the like. If your drink tastes off, send it back.
Also, drink spiking has been reported several times for both sexes. Never leave your drinks