When to go?
Bali has two seasons: rain season and dry season. Usually the rain season starts around November and lasts somewhere around March. Naturally best time to go would be outside the rainy season, but if you don’t like sharing the beach with hundreds of other tourists I would also suggest to also to avoid peak tourist season which is from June to August.
How to move around?
There are basically three options in transport: taxis, personal drivers and scooters. Traffic jams in busier areas can be really bad so the fastest way to move around is with scooter. There are scooter rentals everywhere around tourist areas so just ask around and test drive few different options before you decide. Longer term rentals are usually cheaper. The traffic may look very chaotic but it actually isn’t that bad as it seems, just follow the locals and always wear a helmet!
Taxis are also really cheap option for transportation. The only problem with the taxies is that the traffic which may be really bad sometimes so it can take a long time to travel even the shortest distance. The most reliable taxi company is Blue Bird Taxis which are light blue in color. Always tell the driver to put the meter on to get correct price.
For longer trips around the island one quite convenient option is to hire a private driver. They usually come with air conditioned 7-seater cars so with bigger groups it’s not even very expensive. Sometimes they might also have really good travel tips and take you to some cool places you didn’t even know about.
Where to go?
Bukit Peninsula (Southern part of the island)
This is the area where the most beautiful beaches of Bali are located. Reef in the bottom makes the waves break clean which makes Bukit really popular place to surf. It is also home of two most famous surf breaks in Bali – Uluwatu and Padang Padang. My personal favorite is Padang Padang beach which is really beautiful but on the downside it is also quite touristic.
For sightseeing there is the famous Uluwatu Temple located in top of the cliff in Uluwatu. Watch out for the monkeys they can be really sneaky thieves. If you are looking for accommodation from this area there are a lot of home stays on the road that goes from Padang Padang to Uluwatu. In Bali in general the best way to get budget accommodation is just ask around because a lot (probably the most) of the home stays are not online and even if they are you probably get cheaper price on the spot. If you are a friend of seafood a sunset dinner on the beach of Jimbaran is a must! There is a lot of seafood restaurants by the beach where you can choose your fish from the desk and they cook it for you as you prefer. It is not the cheapest option but totally worth it!
This is the main tourist area of the island. This is the place to go if you want to book (cheap) tours or if you want to buy something like clothes, sarong, surfboard, souvenirs etc., or if you are looking for a party. Otherwise I recommend not to stay here. Even though it is a tourist area there is still some decent food to be found especially in small alleyways between Poppies I, II and Jalan Benesari. If you have been a long time away from home and especially if you are Scandinavian, Alleycats serves some pretty good köttbullars (meatballs) in Poppies II. It is also a popular place for pre-drinks so it is usually pretty packed on Friday and Saturday evenings.
- Mount Batur & Lake Batur – an active volcano and a crater lake. Awesome views from the lookout and you can also do a sunrise trekking on top of the the mountain.
- Rice Terraces – Tegalalang being the most famous one but there are many others around.
- Waterfalls – There is a lot of waterfalls in Bali, I have visited Tegenungan and Munduk waterfalls which are quite touristic but still very beautiful.
- Temples – There is a lot of temples especially around Ubud, in some temples you can go inside and in some there is no access for tourists inside the temple. Most of the temples have small entrance fee that includes borrowing a sarong if you wear shorts, as knees must be covered when entering the temple area.
- Buyan Lake & Tamlingan Lake – These are actually located in the north part of the island but the scenery around this area is pretty amazing so it’s worth a drive.
What to do?
There is some nice reef around Amed / Tulamben on East coast and also in Menjangan Island in the North-West corner of the island, although it is a bit more difficult access. If you are into snorkeling I would strongly suggest to visit Gili Islands since I think the best snorkeling around Bali is in there. You can access to Gilies with either a speed boat or with a ferry through Lombok. If you are not planning to visit Lombok then the speed boat option is faster and much less hassle. You can buy the speed boat trip from various ”travel agencies” in Kuta or other tourist areas. Before buying it is good idea to visit few places and compare the prices since they can vary a lot.
White water rafting is super fun! Especially if it has been raining and there is a lot of water in the river. There are many companies that organize rafting trips and you can buy these from the travel agencies around tourist areas. Wear your swimsuit or board shorts as you will get wet! They have waterproof bags for cameras and phones etc. so you don’t have to worry about them.
Bali is propably one of the most popular and easiest place to start surfing as there are good waves around the island and a lot of safe beach breaks for the beginners. You can rent boards from all the beaches there is some waves and there are also several surf schools operating around the island. The best breaks for beginners are Batu Bolong in Canggu, Beach breaks around Kuta/Seminyak, Medewi and Baby Padang in Pagang Padang. Remember to also learn the surfing etiquette.
Even though it is a relatively small island there is still a lot to see and do in Bali and although tourism is constantly developing, there is still a lot of areas in the island that remain relatively unspoilt by tourism. Most important tip from a professor in local University when I studied here was to always smile – and that’s what Balinese people do, they smile a lot and that is also my last tip for you – just keep on smiling and exploring!