Mini Travel Guide: Bali

Looking for a travel guide to Bali? Click through for Bali travel tips from a local - what to do, where to go, and how to do it all cheaply, safely, and respectfully!
Looking for a travel guide to Bali – land of amazing food and fantastic beaches? I brought in a local to share her best Bali travel tips – where to go, what to do, and how to do it all cheaply, safely, and respectfully!

I’m Sarah, a 24-year-old photographer living in the jungle in Bali, Indonesia. Last winter I was home in America, between jobs, and the travel bug was biting me hard.

So when an opportunity to teach English and art to Balinese kids materialized, I jumped on the next flight out. Volunteering segued into an amazing job, and now I’ve been in Bali for the better part of a year! It’s amazing where life’s little twists and turns will take you.

must do while in Bali

Must go in Bali

The Bali beaches!

Kuta, Legian, Seminyak, and Nusa Dua are the most popular, great for surfing and partying. Sanur is quieter and has beautiful views of the neighboring islands. Padangbai, Candidasa, and Amed to the east are chilled out spots great for diving and snorkeling.
All the expats seem to have their favorite secret beaches so ask around if you want to find a hidden gem. I love the fishing beaches of Klungkung, the sand there is glittery black thanks to eruptions from the volcano Gunung Agung nearby.


If you stick only to the southern beach towns like many visitors do, you’ll miss out on what makes Bali special, which is the local culture.
Head up to Ubud, where Balinese arts and culture readily co-mingles with tourism. When you’re in town be sure to see a dance performance, the Kecak dance is my favorite.
Spend a couple days exploring Ubud on foot, there’s something interesting to be found on every side street and if you wander far enough you’ll always be rewarded with stunning rice paddy views.

Balinese Temples

Visit some of Bali’s incredible temples. There is a Bat Cave Temple, which is exactly what it sounds like, and an Elephant Cave Temple, which is even cooler than what it sounds like.
The most underrated temple I’ve visited was Pura Pasar Agung, which is high on the slopes of Gunung Agung, where the views of the island at sunrise are spectacular. By the way, if you’re interested in praying at a temple, go ahead and try it, it’s a very powerful experience. Go with a Balinese friend and have them show you how it’s done.
must see while in bali

Must do in Bali

Catch a ceremony procession in the street

In Bali big events like weddings, cremations, and some holy days call for a procession through the town. They are happening all the time so it’s really down to luck if you catch one.

I pass them about once a week when I’m driving home from work but the experience never fails to have a deep impact on me. The haunting sounds of the gamelan orchestra and the women in their brightly colored kebayas is the stuff that great travel memories are made of.

Looking for a travel guide to Bali? Click through for Bali travel tips from a local - what to do, where to go, and how to do it all cheaply, safely, and respectfully!

Must eat in Bali

Anything in a Padang

Visit a Padang for a delicious and cheap (under $2) meal with the locals. They are easy to spot because all the dishes are staggered in rows in the window, checkerboard style.
Point at three dishes you like the look of and you’ll get them served up with rice and stewed greens.

Babi Guling

Meat eaters have got to try Babi Guling, Balinese suckling pig. The pig is spit roasted for hours and basted in coconut oil and just about every local spice. Mouth-watering!

cultural tips for traveling in Bali

Cultural tips for Traveling in Bali

Talk to the Balinese locals. This might sound obvious, but talk to people! The Balinese are some of the most hospitable people on earth. A stranger greeting you on the street probably isn’t trying to scam you, so go ahead and have a friendly chat.

Even if you’re being sold a service you don’t want (massage, taxi, handicrafts, etc) a polite “no, thank you” or “terimakasih” is always appropriate.

Cheap travel in Bali

Cheap travel tips for Bali

Despite the abundance of luxury resorts, Bali is best discovered on the cheap, and you can stay here quite comfortably for under $30 a day. Lodge in a homestay with a local family. Eat at Padangs and markets, many of which run late at night.

If you want something cheaper than a hotel, but more posh than a hostel, Airbnb’s a good bet. Here’s a beautiful, one-bedroom villa for $67 a night and here’s a three-bedroom three house for $97 a night. If you’ve never used Airbnb before, here’s a $40 credit towards your first booking!

Alcohol is expensive except for arak, a rice wine moonshine. Its production is illegal and unregulated, so drink it at your own peril.

Travel by Bemo, the brightly colored buses that run along fixed routes between towns.Take it easy, travel slow, explore off the beaten path, keep an open mind, go with the flow, and you’re sure to have the trip of a lifetime.

Have any of you been to Bali?  Any tips to share?

P.S. 7 travel tools I won’t shut up about

photos by sarah // not without my passport // David Stanley

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  1. Kayley Jayne

    This post has come at the perfect time. I'm off to S E asia for 9 weeks on Wednesday and was considering getting a cheap Air Asia flight to Bali for a week. It seems so chilled and colourful.. I'm sold 🙂
    Is it easy to navigate around and jump in taxis to find somewhere cheap to stay on a whim?

  2. yasmin

    Being Indonesian myself, Bali has a special place in my heart. I remember my childhood holidays, visiting Ubud and Seminyak and Kuta with my family. It's so cultural and different, I love it there! I moved to England when I was five and I've visited since then but I've found that Bali has become more of a tourist attraction.
    My favourite place to go in Indonesia now is Lombok and the Gilli islands. The three Gilli islands are just off Lombok and are still developing. I visited Gilli Trawangan a couple of years ago and I can still picture it vividly. The island was so small that you could cycle around the area in half an hour! It's so calm and relaxed; I fell madly in love with it at first sight! The beaches are clean and the sea is a bright beautiful turquoise filled with colourful fish. I also visited the other Gilli islands which were even more peaceful because they weren't that developed yet. My family and I visited these two islands when we went snorkeling on a boat trip. We even saw turtles!
    I'm not that keen on Jakarta because it's so hectic and polluted but Indonesia is filled with hidden gems!


  3. sheena

    The elephant cave temple is hugely underwhelming. Google images it and don't bother going – there isn't anything else interesting enough to it. And avoid Kuta in the peak season, it's horrid.

    Canggu is lovely, and Echo Beach is too.

    The view at Uluwatu temple is really surreal. And you can go there for a sunset performance.

    Jimbaran Bay is a great place to relax and the seafood on the beach is some of the best I've ever eaten.

    Ubud is a great recommendation, and the lovely paddy fields that surround it are perfect for exploration.

    Padang Bai and the Gili islands that Yasmin mentioned were also really wonderful – great snorkelling.

    Homestays are amazing. <3

  4. Antonia Lo Giudice

    Isn't it just amazing the life experiences you gain from traveling, especially when you actually live in a foreign country for an extended amount of time!!!

    I relate to your experience, Sarah!! When you step away from the touristic things to do and meet the people, get into their culture….WOW!!!!

    I have learned so much from this while going around Europe and South America…After reading your story, Bali is my list:)

  5. seminyak villas

    How I wish my job could also bring me to other countries. I do hope that someday there's an opportunity for me to travel around the world. And if this happened, I'll never hesitate to visit “Bali, Indonesia”. I'd like to see the beauty of this place. By the way, Thanks for sharing!

  6. Villas of Sanur

    Hey ! Thank you for sharing your experience! It was a mind blowing post!! Pictures are so beautiful!


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