The airport in Bali is Denpasar International Airport (DPS) and this handles domestic flights that arrive and depart for Jakarta and other parts of Indonesia and International flights that arrive and depart to many cities in Australia and Asia. You will clear customs here too. The airport is roughly 13 Kilometres from Bali's biggest city, Denpasar and 2.5 kilometres from Kuta Beach.
You can hire a car or take a taxi to your destination – get a schedule of fares from the Taxi Counter just outside the Arrivals Hall. Most people staying at the bigger hotels will most likely be picked up at the airport, with drivers holding up a card with either the Hotel/Resort name or your name on it.
In the airport, which has been expanded a lot, with a large car park, Duty Free Stores, places to buy souvenirs, buy a phone Sim card, exchange money, eat and drink with the currency in Bali being the Indonesian Rupiah. The Balinese language is Bahasa – as it is across Indonesia, and in the southern Philippines and Malaysia, where there are a few variations to the Bahasa spoken in Indonesia, but you will find many people also speak English and in some of the bigger hotels there will be people who speak other European and Asian languages too.
WHAT TO BRING –
The temperature in Bali is mostly above 28⁰C (82⁰F) or higher with high humidity year round, so it is almost always hot, cooling down a bit at night. Most hotels will have air-conditioning or at least ceiling fans to make it easier to sleep. If you are headed to the mountains it can be cooler at night, and when the rain comes, it can come as massive tropical downpour in the afternoon, but sometimes just rains all day too. Most of the time however, it will be hot, humid and sunny.
For clothing, bring cotton clothing that is light and easy to wear on a hot day and beachwear. There are mosquitos in Bali – so bring some DEET based Insect repellent, and some clothes that also cover your arms and legs – for both going to see Temples and also to keep mosquitos away. Dengue Fever, caused by mosquitos is prevalent in Bali as is malaria. If concerned about health and thinking of getting a vaccination, check with your doctor a few weeks before you head to Bali. In most cases it is a good idea to take out travel insurance too.
Also bring a topical ointment and Charcoal tablets – for Bali Belly (just in case)and suntan lotions, Aloe lotion for sunburn, a sun hat, sunglasses, fold up umbrella or rain poncho and leave enough room in your bags for the souvenirs and sarongs that you most likely will buy. Most things you can buy in Bali, including condoms, toothpaste, mints and such things but sometimes you may want to bring brands that you are familiar with.
You will see a number of foreigners also riding motor bikes, often without helmets. You can get fined for not wearing a helmet. While it is certainly possible to hire a motor bike – if you are an experienced rider, great, but if not, Bali may not be the place to learn. The roads can be massively overrun with motorbikes zooming in and out of the traffic, so even as a pedestrian you need to take care. For locals, motorbikes are the main form of transport.
At one time restaurants in Bali made what were called 'Blue Meanie pancakes' using Magic Mushrooms. These have now been banned from sale and use and are classed as drugs – with long Gaol sentences attached to their use or sale. In recent times a number of foreigners classed as drug dealers have received the death penalty. Beware of anyone trying to sell you drugs and do not use or be conned by someone asking you to carry a package for them. If you have prescription medicines, bring documents to show what they are, so that there is no mis-undertanding.
Remember too, that there HIV Aids is also in Bali, and also if you are a surfer and come off and are cut on a coral reef, treat the wound seriously. A small cut can really become bad fast in the tropics. Wash quickly with fresh water but preferably vinegar, and see a lifeguard, pharmacy or doctor, depending on the level of severity.
WHERE TO STAY –
If you are looking to book a hotel or place to stay – click on the Hotels section of this website and search for places in Bali, or use one of the location names – Kuta, Legian, Seminyak, Ubud, Nusa Dua, Sanur or Ubud. There are lots of choices.
The saying "Life is a beach" could well refer to Bali and its beaches.
As a brief overview – there are five 'beach' locations to choose from – ALL have great accommodation and places to eat, drink and enjoy your time here. Areas 1-4 are all close to the airport, roughly 30 to 45 minutes away.
1. Kuta Beach is the original beach destination and the beach itself stretches from Tuban Beach to the south all the way north to Batu Bolong Beach in the north as one long sandy beach.
To the north of Kuta is Legian, then Seminyak, Kerobokan and Batu Bolong – all of which face the Indian Ocean and have waves for surfing. If you don't like waves, stay in Nusa Dua (see below).
Kuta is the most developed of all the beachside areas, with small streets filled with T-shirt vendors in the day and music, restaurants, clubs and street activities at night. Being the centre of the nightlife in Bali, there is always something happening here in Kuta. Unfortunately, that also means that Kuta also attracts tourists that are here just to get drunk.
Kuta however doesn't have the sex shows that you would see in Patong in Phuket in Thailand, which keeps it on a more sane level. You can definitely have fun in Kuta and meet lots of people, and if your hotel is close by, it is an easy walk home after a night out.
During the day, there are still the bars, tour companies, tourist and surf shops and restaurants, and the beach also has lots of sellers too offering drinks, massages, umbrellas and sun-lounges. There is also a KFC and an A&W fast food outlet as well as Carrefour, Istana and a couple of shopping Malls – the Discovery Mall (see www.discoveryshoppingmall.com and Kuta Square where you will find a McDonalds too.
The Kuta Art Market is in Tuban (south side of Kuta) and the Kuta Night market is here too. Kuta is not big, so it is easy to just wander, watching out for motorbikes and stopping at any or all of the shops that look interesting.
On the 12th October 2002, there was a Terrorist attack using bombs in Paddy's Bar and inside the crowded Sari Night Club on Jalan Legian, resulting in the death of over 200 people, including 88 Australians and the injury of many others. A memorial wall has been set up near the site on Jalan Legian in Kuta to honour those who died in this attack and many people come here to pay their respects.
Another attack happened in 2005 when some suicide bombers blew themselves up here in Kuta. Terrorist attacks have happened since then in many cities and locations around the world including in London and Paris. There is no certainty that there will never be another attack happen here again but all you can do is hope that it never happens again and stay alert.
On the beach during the day if you don't like to be bothered by sellers, then move further along the beach away from the crowds. In Bali, locals often get up very early to avoid the heat of the day, and if you want, it is a good time to experience a quiet time on the beach without the crowds, and just have the beach semi to yourself.
A lot of people will also learn to surf here at Kuta, and of course if you are staying here, you will no doubt spend some time beside your hotel pool, or enjoying a spa or massage. At the end of the day there is also the sunset to look forward to.
Waterparks in or near Kuta – see www.waterbom-bali.com ; www.circuswaterpark.com ; www.splashbali.com
Legian was at one time a separate village to Kuta, but today it is hard to determine where Kuta ends and Legian begins. The beach is the same beach and there are lots of places to stay and also restaurants and bars to sit and have breakfast, a drink during the day and meals. If you have a good place to stay you will also quickly find a bar or place where the people are friendly and you can relax and just enjoy being in Bali.
Seminyak also has many places to stay including many Villas and it is considered more up-market than Kuta, so the prices are more and the crowds of people less rowdy. There are also more boutiques selling more up-market clothing more so than T-shirts. Your enjoyment in Bali will often depend on whether you are staying in a good and convenient location, so picking the right place to stay and easy walking distance to bars and the beach make for a great holiday.
Seminyak is about an hour walk distance from Kuta, but it is easy to catch a Taxi or use the Kura Kura green and yellow buses. See www.kura2bus.com You can buy just a ticket or a 1 day pass, 3 day or longer day pass and use the buses to travel to and from Kuta, Legian, Ubud and Nusa Dua. There are also local 'bemos' (small vans with seats) that locals and tourists use to get around too.
Kerobokan – is to the north of Seminyak and there are also many villas located here too, along with Restaurants and shops and the Batubelig Beach. There are also more beaches to the north, including Berewa, PPrancak, popular Batu Bolong and Echo Beach. You should also recognize the name Kerobokan as being the name of Kerobokan Prison too, which is located here housing many western prisoners but also locals.
OTHER POPULAR BEACHES –
2. Nusa Dua – is where you will find a Club Med and a number of other resort hotels overlooking the beach. Most of these resort hotels have all the facilities in-house – bars, swimming pools, restaurants, fitness programs, spas, night time shows, music, night clubs, boutiques and sports activities too, and a shuttle bus service mainly to take you to and from the airport. It is easy to also take a taxi to some of the boutiques near the resorts too.
You could well spend all of your time in the resort and have a great time just relaxing or just go for a walk along the beach promenade pathway here to see other resorts and find local massages, shops, restaurants and other places to eat. The resorts will also offer day trips out of the resort too and also take you to play golf at a course if this is what you wanted to do.
The waves hitting the beach here in Nusa Dua are mostly very small, so a lot of water sports – wind surfing, kayaking and sailing happen along the coast here organised by the Resort, who may or may not have lifeguards here too. In selecting a hotel resort to stay here, look at what facilities they offer as part of their resort packages. Some also have Kid's Clubs too.
Not far from Nusa Dua there is Tanjung Benoa where you will find a Buddhist Temple, a Mosque and also a Hindu Temple all close to each other. Nusa Dua has lots of hotel resorts and this also means that there are a plentiful supply of boutiques and other shops all around here. Just ask at your hotel reception for directions and recommendations and they are bound to help. Other guests will tell you if the suggested place is a good choice or not.
3. Sanur – equally has numbers of hotels, villas and resort complexes and also has very small waves.
Most people will stay around the hotel pool and then do some water sports or head out to the reef that lies offshore for snorkelling or diving. The beach sand here is mostly blackish, which maybe off-putting to some people. There is also a long beachfront walk here too. The beach and Sanur itself is much quieter than the beaches in and near Kuta, so if quietness is what you want, then Sanur is a good place to stay. Again, where you stay will make a big difference to the holiday you have, so take some time to look at all the different options available.
4. Jimbaran and Bukit Peninsula – The peninsula is just to the south of the Airport and also faces the Indian Ocean.
Here you will find a string of smaller white sandy beaches and coves surrounded by cliff sides and forests. If you prefer a smaller beach, rather than a long stretch of sand like Kuta then head here to the Bukit Pennsula. Sometimes there will be stairs and hills to climb up or down to the beach. There are a number of beaches here Jimaran, Balangan, Dreamland, Bingin, Padang, Pantai Suluban and Ulu Watu.
Bingin, Dreamland and Ulu Watu are where many surfboard riders head to.
Uluwatu Sea Temple is here too on top of a cliff overlooking the Ocean and also the Garuda Wisnu Kencana Cultural Park with the 145 metre high statue of Vishnu and the Garuda Eagle. There are many hotels and other accommodation, beachside bars and restaurants, but this area is certainly not like Kuta.
5. Other Beaches – Bali is an island and there are beaches both developed and not, all around its coastline.
Kuta and the other beaches above are all in the south of the island and close to the Airport, so that means you won't spend lots of time travelling to and from the place you are staying to the airport. If you only have a limited number of days, you want to maximize your time at a resort, beach or destination, more so than spending your time sitting in a bus, van or car.
Having said that however, the further away from Kuta you are, the more you will find smaller hotels and more traditional Bali type accommodation next to beaches. There won't be the lifeguards or night life, but there will be small cheap places to stay, drink, eat and just hang out.
Traffic jams in Bali do happen, so be careful to allow enough time to get to the airport based on there being one or more traffic jams along the way.
If you really want to just find an idyllic small tropical island beach and restful location and are staying longer in Bali, then think about heading to Lombok Island or the Gili Islands.
You could also head to Lovina or Singaraja on the north coast or Amed and Tulamben – both great diving places on the east coast, taking an east or west coast road and just stopping at small villages along to road, or cross over the mountains in the centre of the island.
If you drew a line across the island from Denpasar, the Capital in the south to Singaraja the second biggest city in the north, it is about 80 kilometres. By road however it is around a 2 hour plus journey crossing over the mountains or longer if you took the coast road.
Singaraja has remnant architecture from its Dutch Colonial past and a population of around 100,000 people. There are two universities here too. Lovina is not far from Singaraja and is best known for its relaxed beach areas and dolphin watching off the coast and dive sites. On the far western tip of Bali, closest to Java is Pulau Menjangan – which is said to be one of the best places in Bali to dive.
Amed and Tulamben on the east end of the island are both known for their diving on the reefs offshore. At Tulamben there is also the underwater wreck of the USAT Liberty, torpedoed by a Japanese submarine in World War II is, which makes for an interesting dive. Turtles, fish, manta rays, sharks, corals – Bali is a great place to both scuba dive and just snorkel, with numbers of dive operators to take you to dive sites.
The main transport in Bali is on bikes and as you will see there are millions of them here in Bali, with sometimes a whole family riding the bike too and you will often see a Father, Mother and 2 kids all on a bike. You will also see girlfriends riding side saddle on bikes too, and if you are confident you can also try and 'hitch' a ride and pay the rider something. You need a helmet to ride. There are many places to hire a bike, and you can also hire cars too – but check what and where you can go and conditions on the contract first, before paying.
Bikes do give you the flexibility of stopping where and when you want to and if you want to travel to the north, east or west coast, this is an option to think about, but take care. You could also try to find a bus or bemos heading in the direction you want to go, or take an organised tour.
Denpasar – This is the capital of Bali and the biggest city with a population of around 800,000. This is where business and the government have their offices, and although there some temples and a Museum to see, most people will come here only if they needed to find a big shopping mall, an embassy, hospital or bigger bank. The traffic is somewhat chaotic.
Everywhere in Bali you will come across Hindu Temples (Pura) and see small woven baskets of offerings outside homes and shops. There are at least 10,000 temples in Bali, maybe more, and these offerings and small shrines all show how integral Hinduism is in Balinese life. When you look at a temple what you see is a series of compounds or pavilions (Bale) with walls surrounding each, and intricate open or covered doorways leading between one and the other, maybe with stairs leading to and from the doorway and in the more important Temples you might see a pagoda tower (Meru) or towers. If you can, try to see some of the Temples in Bali and listen to a commentary explaining their design and the features of the Temple. The easiest way to do this is by taking a tour.
You will also see statue carvings, even trees and sometimes people in ceremonies wearing a black and white chequered cloth that becomes squares of black and white. This cloth is called a Saput Poleng – the word 'saput' means cloth and 'poleng' means 'two coloured'. If you look at the cloth closely you will see that there are definite 'black' squares, definite 'white' squares and then a softer shade that is neither black nor white. The 'black' and 'white' symbolize the forces of good and evil, (much like Chinese Ying and Yang) whereas the shaded area is in between, is what you might call a 'grey area' where the spirit forces cross over each other and are neither 'black' nor 'white'.
When you are here in Bali, there may be Balinese festivals, dances or ceremonies, even cremations that you can see and it is worth checking with your hotel service desk or tour organisers to see if there is something special that is happening while you are here.
At many locations and around some the hotels you will see monkeys with their young running across rooftops and climbing in trees. They are incredibly fast and will whip glasses off your head, small bags and cameras, then climb up in the trees. They are mostly OK, though some can get aggressive and definitely you shouldn't never try to feed them. If you leave a window open in your hotel, they also could well climb in too.