A beginners guide to Bali

Where to stay

 Even though Bali is a small island the different areas are quite different, so where you spend your time might make or break you stay. To keep this post somewhat short, the focus will be on some of the most popular areas.

The main tourist hubs lay side by side along the same stretch of sand southwest on the island, Kuta furthest south and Seminyak to the north. Seminyak, the more upscale choice of the three, is spilling with high-end boutiques, restaurants, spas and luxury accommodation. Here you’ll have to pay a premium for everything. Kuta on the other hand is mostly chaos. Drunk people, traffic jams and hawkers, not the relaxing beach holiday you probably had in mind. If neither of the two tickle your fancy, Legian might be your best bet. Cheaper than Seminyak, but a little calmer than what Kuta has become. Don’t get stuck here though, Bali has so much more to offer!

On the west coast, a short drive north of Seminyak, you’ll find the laid back beach village of Canggu. Over the last few year it has become a trendy area favored by surfers and expats, where the vibe is young, fun and creative. What makes Canggu different from the southern spots on Bali, is the shimmering black sand. The darker colored sand that make up most of the beaches north of Seminyak, got it’s color from Bali’s volcanos. Canggu is one of the best areas on the island to learn to surf, as there are a lot of surf schools to choose from. Batu Bolong Beach is one of the best spots as the wave is slow and easy to catch.

One hour northeast of Canggu you’ll find Ubud, a town often referred to as the heart of Bali. Not only a paradise for yogis, vegetarians and vegans, Ubud is also the islands cultural and spiritual center. The surrounding area is gorgeously green and rich with cultural heritage. Temples, waterfalls, rice terraces and artists communities is all within easy reach of Ubud. It’s the perfect base from which to explore the «real» Bali.

The southernmost part of the island, the Bukit Peninsula, is where you’ll find the picturesque white sandy beaches. Nusa Dua to the east and an array of surfing villages to the west. Balangan Beach, Bingin Beach, Padang Padang and Uluwatu, should really all be included in your Bali itinerary.  This area is somewhat similar to Canggu in that the vibe is laid back and a beach party or two isn’t uncommon. All these surf spots are within easy reach of each other, so you’ll be able to ride a motorbike back and forth.

 Nusa Dua on the other hand might have the nicest beaches in all of Bali, but the area is much more developed so young travelers will probably find it a bit dull. The beach is lined with large all inclusive resorts, great for honeymooners, older couples or families with small children.

What to do

 There are a lot of different fun things to do in Bali other than just lounging at the beach.

  • If you are to visit one temple it should be Pura Gunug Kawi in Tampaksiring outside of Ubud. The temple complex is made up of stone shrines, carp ponds and traditional temple structures all surrounded by jungle and rice fields. It truly is a magical place.

  • If an active holiday is more your style you should join a trekking tour to Mt. Batur, an active volcano 1717 meters tall. A the top you’ll experience a spectacular sunrise and breathtaking views of the crater lake.

  • To get an understanding of everyday life in Bali and escape the most busy tourist areas, join a cycling tour in Ubud. You’ll have a great time while learning a lot from knowledgable guides.

  • The cliff at Uluwatu is really an attraction in itself, but just down the road you’ll also find Pura Uluwatu better known as the “Monkey Temple”. It’s of the most scenic temples in all of Bali, set on the edge of a steep cliff. During the day you can interact with the monkeys and at sunset experience traditional Kecak (fire) dancing.

  • If you want to venture off to another island, Nusa Lembongan is only a 30 minute speed boat ride away. There you can enjoy snorkeling in crystal clear waters and a slower pace of life.


Where to eat

Bali has over the past years become a well known destination for foodies, you’ll find something for every palate and wallet. But with new restaurants popping up all over the place, it can be hard to keep up and know where to go. Here are a few spots you might want to check out.

In Canggu breakfast at Crate Cafe is a good idea if you want to hang with the cool kids. Old Man’s is great for snacks and afternoon drinks, Betelnut for all day healthy food and Deus ex Machina for lunch, dinner and drinks. Also try Nalu Bowls and Poke Poke for healthy options and Ithaka Warung for some delicious light meals.

Ubud is all about the healthy lifestyle, vegan and vegetarian options are available everywhere. Try out popular spots like Alchemy, Locavore, Clear Cafe, Melting Wok Warung and Seeds of life.

Seminyak, the foodie hub of Bali, offers an array of trendy restaurants and bars. Check out Motel Mexicola for tacos and tequila, The Bistrot for beef and delicious burgers and La Favela for an eclectic experience. Shelter Cafe offers a healthy menu great for lunch and at The Straw Hut you can lounge by the pool while you eat. A bit further south in Legian you should try The Balcony, an old time favorite popular with surfers.

Last but not least are some favorites down south. Check out Buddha Soul in Padang Padang, The Cashew Tree in Bingin and the Bukit Cafe.

 Keep in mind that most of these restaurants are intended for tourists, which means you’ll have to pay up. Try to eat local at least once a day, as you can get a delicious and filling meal for only $1.5. Whatever you do, don’t leave Bali without trying some Mie Goreng, Nasi Campur and Chicken Saté, I live on those three dishes while I’m there.

If it’s one thing I’ve learned from the Balinese people, it’s to do what you can with what you have and then just smile and laugh. So remember to be patient, everything happens on Bali time.

This article was written by Charlotte from SunhineSeeker.com

 Meet Charlotte

 Hi, I’m Charlotte a 20-something traveler from Norway. Ever since I first visited Indonesia back in early 2010, it has held a special place in my heart. Welcoming people, lush green landscape, turquoise ocean and delicious food, it doesn’t get much better than that in my eyes. That’s probably why I can’t keep myself from going back, 7 trips so far and still counting. >> Read more of her stories on her blog.

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