Bali holidays

Experience Bali

Best Places to Visit

Bali is a tropical paradise with the most stunning beaches in the region as well as a rich province full of verdant hills and rice terraces. Its natural attractions are set amid a colourful and distinct Hindu-Malay culture which is found only in this part of the world, and is famed the world over for its creativity, and in particular the many handmade trinkets and artefacts exported globally for the gift market.

The first stop for any visitor to Bali is Kuta. This once backpacker paradise has grown into a veritable tourist destination with lots of hotels and restaurants as well as a lively night scene. The beach is a magnet for surfers from far and wide, which offers just one way to enjoy Bali's welcoming coastal waters.

Heading north from Kuta is the quieter area of Legian. Here, visitors can still get a taste of what Bali is known for, including beautiful beaches, great surf, hotels and restaurants, but without having to brave the crowds of Kuta.

Still further north is the area of Seminyak. This once backwater village has experienced development like no other village in Bali. Dominating the scenery here now are upmarket hotels, luxury boutiques and high-end spas - a sign of the times in a region whose fortunes are continually being transformed by tourism.

Visitors who want to get a glimpse of Balinese art and culture may head inland to the foothill town of Ubud. This is the cultural centre of the island, as evidenced in the intricate design of the houses, sculptures, temples and art found here. Cultural performances, most notably of Bali's traditional dances, are best seen here.

Another town worth exploring inland is Bedugul. This beautiful highland village attracts visitors with its crater lakes Buyan, Bratan and Tamblingan, as well as its rice paddies and waterfalls. One of the most visited temples in Bali, Ulun Danu Temple, is also located here.

Bali is also known for its volcanic landscapes, which are dominated by Mount Agung. At almost 10,000 feet, it is Bali's highest mountain. It is of great spiritual significance to the Balinese as located on the volcano's southern slopes is Bali's most sacred temple, Besakih, the Mother Temple.

People flock to Bali every year for its rich culture, and this is apparent wherever you visit - from the traditional villages to the larger, more developed tourist resorts.

Top Landmarks

Bali has long been a bastion of a rich and distinct Hindu tradition that is deeply intertwined with art and ritual. It is not surprising then that the most visited landmarks in Bali are its Hindu temples.

Located not far from the tourist area of Kuta, Tanah Lot is an important temple in Bali and perhaps the most photographed of all with its dramatic setting on top of a rock set amid a rugged coastline. In Bedugul town in Bali's inland foothills, visitors will find Ulun Danu temple, which is also known for its dramatic location on the shores of one of Bali's inland lakes, Lake Bratan.

The Island’s lakes form part of Bali's most iconic sights. The crater lakes of Tamblingan, Bratan and Buyan are the most visited. Visitors can trek around the lakes, do some bird watching and engage in water activities like boating and water sports. One of the most sacred sites on the island is Tirta Empul, a temple built around hot springs where locals bathe and perform purification rituals.

The cultural heart of Bali, Ubud, features some of the best landmarks which are identified with the island. Carved at the bottom of a valley, Gunung Kawi (Poet Mountain) is a temple complex dating back to the 11th century. It is said to be the residence and burial site of ancient Balinese royalty. Goa Gajah (Elephant Cave) is another religious site in Ubud, dating to the 9th century.

Entertainment

Being a major stop on the tourist trail of Southeast Asia, Bali has an exciting and lively nightlife. This is especially true in the tourist areas of southern Bali. Kuta, the most developed town for tourism in the island, is the first place to check out the night scene in Bali. Bars and clubs here are frequented by all kinds of travellers taking advantage of the cheap and overflowing beers and cocktails served here.

The centre of nightlife in Kuta is Jalan Legian, a street lined with bars, dance clubs and live music venues. The party venues here usually open at 22:00 and don't close until the early hours of the next day. Some of the more popular bars are 61 Legian, The Bounty and Apache Reggae Bar.

For a more upmarket night scene, visitors can head to the upscale tourist area of Seminyak. The restaurants, bars and clubs here are stylish, hip and ritzy. The more popular bars are Hu'u, with its swimming pool, garden and relaxed drinking and dining areas, and Ku De Ta, with its beachside lounge and indoor restaurant that regularly fill up with visitors, especially at weekends.

Those looking for night-time entertainment with local flare can head to the island's large restaurants and hotels as these establishments often hold cultural presentations for tourists. These presentations feature well-known traditional musical performances and dances. The most famous of these traditional dances is kecak, an elaborate dance performed by a large number of men.

Dining Out

The restaurant scene in Bali caters mainly to tourists. Thus, it is easy to find all types of food, be it local, Asian or western, served at street-side stalls, fast-food chains, mid-range eateries and fine dining establishments.

Although the Balinese are Hindu by faith, they are not bound by the dietary restrictions usually adhered to in other Hindu countries, such as India and Nepal. In general, Balinese cuisine uses all types of meat and vegetables. Pork is a favourite of the Balinese, in contrast to the rest of Indonesia's predominantly Muslim population which does not eat pork.

The most popular pork dish on the island is babi guling. This slow-roasted suckling pig started out as a ceremonial dish but has since become popular at local eateries, restaurants and night market food stalls. Ibu Oka restaurant in Ubud is especially popular with locals and visitors alike for this particular dish.

Another local dish to try is sate lilit, the Balinese take on the Indonesian favourite, satay (meat grilled and served on a skewer). Unlike the usual satay, the Balinese version is made of minced seafood mashed up on one end of a lemon grass stalk before being grilled to perfection.

Beach

Bali is known precisely for its beaches so visitors might find themselves spending most of their holiday time sunbathing and swimming on any one of the island's beautiful stretches of sand. Kuta is the island's biggest beach resort and the first stop for the surfer crowd. Legian and Seminyak, both found north of Kuta, have less crowded beaches and serve the mid-range to high-end markets. With its five-star establishments, Jimbaran Bay, located south of Kuta, is known for its luxury beach villas and spas.

Romance

The more upmarket beach resorts of Seminyak and Jimbaran are perfect settings for romantic holiday getaways. Couples are encouraged to treat themselves to high-end luxury accommodation as well as various spa treatments. Heading inland to Ubud, visiting couples will discover the 'love' in Elizabeth Gilbert's widely popular memoir, Eat Pray Love, when they book themselves a private villa overlooking the lush paddy fields, tropical jungle and the Ayung River.

Family

Most of the hotels and resorts in Bali, especially those in the southern tourist areas, cater to families. The beach will be the children's playground as parents lounge on beach chairs nearby. A beach destination particularly popular with families is Sanur, located on Bali's east coast. For fun daytrips, families can head to Bali's Elephant Safari Park or the Ubud Monkey Forest.

Adventure

For an adventure filled holiday, Bali's beaches offer the best in water sports. Visitors can learn how to surf in Kuta, Legian, the Bukit Peninsula and Canggu. As for diving, the wreck at Tulamben and the coral reefs of Menjangan Island are good dive sites. In Bedugul, visitors can parasail, jet-ski or take a spin on a speedboat on Lake Bratan. Trekking is a popular activity in Bali's jungles as well.

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Need to know

Language

Bali is an island province in Indonesia, so the official language here is Bahasa Indonesia, a Malay language which is spoken in Southeast Asia. Bali also has a local language, Balinese, which is used by native Balinese to communicate with each other. As Bali is a popular tourist destination, English is widely spoken especially in the tourist areas, but less so in the villages. Stay close to base to avoid any language barrier, and direct any enquiries at those working in the hospitality trade. For excursions further afield, consider an English-speaking guide or interpreter, especially if you want to be able to talk to local residents to find out more about their lives.

Currency

The official currency in Indonesia, including in Bali, is the Indonesian rupiah (Rp). ATMs are widely available. However, tourists with foreign bank cards are advised to check with their bank before withdrawing cash as fees often apply. Money exchange can be done in banks, hotel cashiers and official exchange bureaux in all tourist areas. Travellers' cheques are not recommended as they may be difficult to exchange. Major credit cards are accepted in hotels, department stores, large restaurants and other establishments catering to tourists.

Visas

Most nationals, including those from the UK, don't need a visa for stays of up to 30 days. A passport valid for six months from the date of entry is required along with a return or onward ticket. Extensions of 30 days are possible with a visit to the local immigration office, at a cost of around £30.

Climate

Bali lies within the tropics so average temperatures remain in the high 20s (°C) year round. October to April brings rains and thunderstorms. Despite this, the Christmas season, around December to January, is a peak travel time. However, the dry season, from May to September, is the best time to visit Bali to see it at its best in the sparkling sunshine, and especially for a beach holiday.

Main Airports

Located in the southern part of the island, the main gateway to Bali is Ngurah Rai International Airport, which services the provincial capital of Denpasar. It is one of the busiest airports in all of Indonesia and is connected to major flight hubs in Australia as well as Southeast Asia. UK visitors need to connect through one of the region's main air hubs, such as Singapore, Bangkok or Kuala Lumpur.

Flight Options

Direct flights to Bali from the UK are unavailable. Most flights originating in the UK transit in a Southeast Asia hub such as Kuala Lumpur, Bangkok, Singapore or Hong Kong. Typical flight time from London to Bali, including one stopover, is around 18 hours.

Travel Advice

There are a number of low-cost carriers servicing the region, which may be a good option for those on a budget. Visitors departing Ngurah Rai International Airport are required to pay an airport departure tax of Rp150,000 for international flights and Rp30,000 for domestic flights.

Other Transport Options

Those already in Java, located immediately west of Bali, can get to Bali via bus and ferry. Java is where many of Indonesia's major cities are located, including the capital, Jakarta. Ferries leave from Ketapang in Java to Gilimanuk in Bali, with the crossing usually taking 30 minutes.

Getting Around

Bali only has one airport so there are no internal flights. It is not directly serviced by Indonesia's train system, nor does it have its own railway line. However, Bali Island is small enough to explore on land and local transport options are aplenty. Intercity buses and city buses are a reliable and cheap way to get around.

Bus

Most of the major cities on the island are serviced by buses. Although they don't stop in small villages, buses are still the cheapest and most reliable mode of transport to get from one city or town to another. Perama is the main bus line that operates on the island. The government-run Trans Sarbagita service operates city buses. The brown and blue bemo (minivans) unique to Bali have intercity routes, but service is not reliable. Bemos are best used to get around towns.

Car

Car hire is widely available, and major car hire companies, as well as a number of local companies, are present. However, tourists are advised to take care when behind the wheel as local drivers commonly speed and ignore traffic regulations. Foreign drivers need to hold an International Driving Permit.

MAP

FACTS

  1. Bali is famous for its carved wooden ornaments, bowls and boxes, but many people don't know that each village traditionally focuses on one specific type of object.
  2. Indonesia has 17,000 islands, of which Bali is just one. Tourism accounts for 80% of Bali's economy with nearly three million visitors each year.
  3. Bali is dominated by volcanoes. Many of these are dormant, but some are active too. Their summits naturally offer some of the best views across Bali's countryside from anywhere in the region.

FACTS

  1. Bali is famous for its carved wooden ornaments, bowls and boxes, but many people don't know that each village traditionally focuses on one specific type of object.
  2. Indonesia has 17,000 islands, of which Bali is just one. Tourism accounts for 80% of Bali's economy with nearly three million visitors each year.
  3. Bali is dominated by volcanoes. Many of these are dormant, but some are active too. Their summits naturally offer some of the best views across Bali's countryside from anywhere in the region.

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