From the thriving cafe scene in Seminyak and Canggu to the laidback tranquility in Ubud and idyllic sights in the Nusa Islands, Bali is the epitome of a tropical paradise. Located a short two-hour flight away in Indonesia, it’s a place many Singaporeans will visit at least once in their lifetime.
If you’re just about to pop your Bali cherry, here’s a bit of help with your pre-trip planning. Check out our 10 tips for those who are visiting Bali for the first time:
One of the best places to catch Bali’s spectacular sunset is by the beach in Seminyak. The warm hues of the sky are reflected perfectly by the clear waters to create a moment that is almost magical (and free).
Alternatively, Tanah Lot also offers a great view. Most people simply crowd around the temple but by doing so, they are actually missing a better photo spot as the best vantage point is up on the cliffs. It’s a relatively easy climb up and you’ll enjoy a more serene scene.
Speaking of sunrises, there’s one activity that should definitely be on your Bali to-do list.
You reap what you sow and after putting in the effort to hike up Mount Batur, the reward is the unforgettable experience of watching the sun rise over Bali. Mount Batur is an active volcano located about one-and-a-half-hours drive away from Ubud and it takes around two hours to reach the summit for those who are physically-fit.
But, don’t underestimate the climb.
For those who, like me, do not exercise regularly and are not accustomed to climbing mountains, it may be a pretty rough journey. Trekking in complete darkness, guided only by torchlights, was still manageable. However, as the upward incline increased, the path became very slippery with loose rocks and gravel – I was skidding down with each step up.
The good news is that you can just sound out to your guide and stop midway, where you’ll still enjoy equally amazing views. For reference, this photo was taken at the mid-point.
This may seem like redundant advice but I just can’t stress enough about how arriving early will make the experience more enjoyable. For instance, popular cafes like Kynd Community will almost definitely be full if you arrive at “normal” timings. We only managed to sit in front of the popular pink wall by arriving at 7.30am.
Arriving early also eliminates the annoying wait in long lines under the blazing sun. For example, we arrived at the Bali Swing about half an hour after it opened and managed to enjoy a few rounds on the swings without having to queue. Afterward, busloads of tourists arrived and the waiting time almost quadrupled.
A tip for those who want a shot swinging against a backdrop of tall palms without the exorbitant price tag: try Tegalalang Rice Terrace’s swings instead. There aren’t as many different swing heights available nor an unlimited playing time, but their swings are priced around IDR50,000 (approx. S$5) while Bali Swing’s entrance fee was US$35 (approx. S$48).
The other islands offer amazing views too! The most popular option is Nusa Penida but Nusa Lembongan and the Gilli Islands are great too.
A factor to consider is that getting to the islands involves a ferry ride where you have to walk into the water to get on board. Perhaps avoid wearing long pants as the water can hit around knee level.
As for transport, scooters are readily available for rent on the island but I would advise non-confident riders to consider opting for a car and hiring a driver instead. Be aware of what you’re getting yourself into though; for Nusa Penida, for example, the roads weren’t well maintained and the ride was extremely bumpy to the point of being motion sickness-inducing.
You’ve basically got three main options of transport in Bali: Scooters, blue taxis and private drivers.
Of the three options, I recommend booking a private driver if it’s your first time in Bali. Scooters are the cheapest option but they’re not the most comfortable given the sweltering heat, nor are they that safe if you’re not experienced.
The rates of private drivers, approximately S$35 for half a day and S$60 for a full day, are pretty worthwhile considering that popular sights are located a distance away from accommodations. Also, some drivers are happy to act as guides and photographers!
While ride-sharing apps like Uber and Grab are accessible, the locals strongly advised us against using them as they’re actually illegal in Bali. Besides, while the prices reflected in the app may appear low and enticing, I’ve read stories about how they were “a horrible mistake” as drivers may ask for a higher fare and refuse to pick up passengers if they don’t concede.
Like any other tropical country, mosquitoes are abundant in Bali and the pesky critters have no mercy. The moment you let your guard down, be prepared to be peppered with angry bites all over. There’s no chance of them going easy on you – I woke up from a short sleep with a lump on my eyelid.
The Balinese are known to be caring and friendly but there are black sheep in every group.
Watch out for the overly-friendly ones who will separate you from your group and sling an arm over your shoulders, talking about taxi services. That’s how a friend of mine had her phone unceremoniously snitched from her back pocket. Another friend had hers snatched from her hand when she was carelessly holding it by her side.
These trending bags of the season can be found everywhere in Bali but are cheapest in Ubud.
While shopping for the bags, do take note as there are two types of bags. Some are made in Bali from woven Ata grass and others are mass-produced in China.
It’s might be hard to spot the difference between the two but a local seller explained that the latter can be identified by a glossier sheen and a lack of the strong woody smell that accompany authentic Ata rattan bags. They’re also slightly cheaper but of inferior quality.
Unleash your bargaining skills when you’re shopping at street stores in Bali!
Storeowners tend to quote you a highly inflated sum when you first enquire about the price and will often accept about 60 to 70 per cent of the originally-quoted sum. Of course, this is not applicable for boutiques where the prices have already been clearly indicated.
While researching for my own trip, I came across articles that claimed that storeowners were using colour-coded bags to indicate whether the customer drove a hard bargain. Supposedly, “red bags are handed to easy targets, black bags handed to bargain hunters”.
Sacrificing my budget, I went easy at some stores and all out at others. The verdict: this is simply a myth. The storeowners just simply handed out whatever bags they kept in their stores.
Has the wanderlust struck you yet? Some of these tips are lessons that I’ve learnt from my recent trip and hopefully it’ll make your trip more enjoyable and stress-free!
Bali is truly a beautiful place with plenty of food options and stunning views, and trust me, one visit won’t be enough.