Oh, Bali, you are so beautiful! I spent a wonderful three weeks here. While I can’t give you an expert, local guide to Bali, I can give you a little, first-timer’s one just like I would a friend!
There will be places I miss since I’m only sharing about places I actually went to or stayed at. But before I went to Bali, I did SO much research online and had these places all listed out to try, so I’m just saving you a little research.
This will be a long post because I’m actually only writing ONE blog post about Bali. Normally, I write SO many like where to shop, what to eat, how to dress, adventures to try – but I’ll be honest, my fingers hurt, and I have too many trips planned to do it all. Plus there are a million blog articles like this already since so many bloggers live here!
Instead, I’m going to put all the information I know into this ONE post for you. I hope this little Bali travel guide helps you plan for your trip.
My Little Guide to Bali
Where to Go in Bali
Rapture Surf Camp
This has to be the first thing I mention because it’s the most memorable thing I did and the only reason I would really go back to Bali, to be honest.
I loved Bali but feel like three weeks there was enough, and there are more places to see in the world before I would go back… unless it was to go back to the surf camp.
I just LOVED learning how to surf. I had surfed before in Hawaii, India, and Sri Lanka but never improved. This 10-day camp was just amazing and I wrote an entire article about the camp & surf spots we hit up, linked below.
- If you decide to surf alone as a beginner and not join a camp, definitely at least take lessons because 1. you won’t know where to go that is safe and 2. it’s really crowded and you could get hurt being in someone’s way. I liked Geger and Balagan the best, but wouldn’t go to either alone.
What Bikini to Wear Surfing
I wore L*Space, and it’s one of my favorite bikini brands because the bottoms stay on! You can get them pretty much anywhere: Amazon, Everything but Water, Shopbop, Zappos, Nordstrom, Backcountry, Revolve, Bloomingdales, Free People, Saks Fifth, and more.
I only went to Uluwatu Beach a couple times while staying down in Bali Cliff. It’s more advanced waves here so I never came to surf, but I did come for lunch. You have to access through a cliff opening so no casual swimming here.
Padang Padang Beach is around here which is really nice. You can also go to Dreamland Beach (New Kuta) which was okay, but the surf here was tiny and when the tide comes in it’s a dangerous shore break hard to swim in. You’ll also find Bingin Beach around here.
I like that you have to pay a little money to access some beaches so that they can pay people to keep them clean and have lifeguards available.
Where to Eat in Uluwatu
Uluwatu Beach might not be good for swimming but the bars there are good for watching surfers and having a bite to eat.
- Single Fin is really popular for both lunch and watching surfers as well as a party place at night.
- Edge Bar had a good view, but it looked pretty meh so didn’t order food there.
- You can also check out Finns Beach Club at the bottom of Samara Resort.
Sightseeing in Uluwatu
Uluwatu Temple was a bit of a letdown. It’s cheap enough at just 30k per adult and 20k per child, but even if it were free, I still wished we’d skipped it. It is listed as a top attraction in Uluwatu and even in all of Bali but I didn’t realize you couldn’t go inside the temple.
It’s a Hindu temple and in India, you can go inside them, but not here. So, it was kind of odd because it was very crowded and a long walk to get to then you can’t see anything. You can go for a hike around the edge since this temple is on a cliff and offers good views. We met a sweet dog here, which was the highlight of our afternoon ha!
Canggu is above Seminyak and after Ben left, my friend, Tia, came to meet me here. Canggu was described to me as a place where rich people pretend to be barefoot hippies.
I did find it to be a little true with a lot of hipsters and travel bloggers and Instagrammers (not unlike myself to be fair! hehe), but it’s definitely one of these “digital nomad hubs” with fancy expensive stores mixed with a hippy vibe.
Yoga and surfing are the things to do here. Many of the cafes are breakfast and brunch only and smoothie bowls are literally everywhere. The yoga class I did at Desa Seni was THE BEST, and I don’t even usually like yoga. There are loads of famous yoga places here though, like the Practice.
Where to Eat in Canggu
- Sprout – the BEST food I had here, and the best smoothie bowl
- Old Man’s – party place, beach shack food
- Localita – Mexican, sister restaurant of Lacalaca, so so tasty
- Milk & Madu – healthy brunch food but some other good stuff like the chicken sandwich below
- Deus Ex Machina – burgers
Shopping in Canggu
The shopping here is really nice and quite similar to Seminyak, although smaller. There are really two main streets that you’ll want to shop on and once you’ve done those streets you’ve pretty much covered it all.
Where to Stay in Canggu: I stayed at Desa Seni, which is an eco-friendly luxury village… sounds fun right? It’s cool, here’s a review.
Seminyak has a bad reputation because the beach isn’t that clean, but in terms of shopping and eating, you don’t want to skip it!
It was so much that you should at least come for the day to shop and eat, although I would suggest staying about 3-4 days if you have enough time.
Where to Eat in Seminyak: Food That is Super Effing Good!
- Lacalaca – BEST Mexican, kind of Tex-Mex just PLEASE have a jalapeno margarita here. You will not regret it.
- Boss Man Burger – really tasty, such good little jalapeno poppers too
- Brazilian Aussie BBQ – one of those pay to eat as much meat as you want places
- Barbacoa – chicken tacos, jalapeno croquet, ham and cheese, BBQ ribs, Toblerone ice cream (made at the table from scratch with dry ice)… DAMN good but so expensive
- Smokehouse BBQ – small portions but good ribs and pulled pork, mac n cheese, root beer floats, milkshakes, etc – really is Texas style and totally worth going.
- Macheese Cafe – blow your mind good, it’s all these types of mac n cheese. I got nachos mac n cheese!
- Motel Mexicola – traditional Mexican, really tasty, huge place, good for drinking and turns into a party.
- Sea Circus – really nice food but the tacos were why I went. They have Mister Zimi clothing inside this restaurant as well and a cute shop next door. It’s just near the Alila Hotel where I stayed.
Shopping in Seminyak
There is a lot of shopping here. I liked From for jewelry & basics. I got a really nice cotton dress here.
Wanderlust has nice shoes and bikinis. I love Faithfull the Brand. Somewhere has really cheap clothes, but they are cute. I got a little romper and a tee shirt. You can also find Auguste the Label which has really cute floral dresses.
On the other side of town, there are the roads that have local kind of cheaper stuff like batik sarongs, tourist things, little tassel keychains, jewelry, and dreamcatchers. Here you can negotiate. It’s not a big town so you’ll find all this stuff just walking around.
Original Surf Outlet (OSO) and BSO next door are outlet stores that have all the big surf brands. It was NOT cheaper at the outlets and I don’t recommend going! You will find so many cute stores here that are “Instagram famous” but you might be surprised that the quality isn’t what you thought.
Where to stay in Seminyak: I stayed at the Alila Seminyak. I love Alila properties and have stayed at the one in Goa three times. This was just as good, here’s my review.
Ubud was… okay. I have to say, I didn’t get the draw. It is very healthy, mostly health/vegan shops, very yoga oriented. This is cool, but are people really this healthy? If so, I missed the memo! For me, it was too hippie… yes, too hippie! I also have seen rice terraces before, so maybe that was part of why I thought it was just okay.
Shopping in Ubud
I was not that impressed with the shopping, either. I found that the famous Ubud market was a lot of knick-knacks that I felt were just junk. I know people love this market, but I didn’t find any treasures.
The shops were okay in Ubud, but it was my least favorite place to shop in Bali. Having said that, Etnika is here. Etnika is a brand that I have a leather bag of (the black one with all the fringe) and I love this bag. I ended up buying a larger tan tote. Obsessed!
Where to Eat in Ubud
- Alchemy – Vegan (Tia is veggie, so we ate some healthy stuff for her benefit)
- Sayuri – Vegan
- Casa Taco – SO EFFING good for Tex-Mex lol, had it twice!
Cantika was the most amazing massage – wow, seriously so so good and very cheap. Bali Reflexology was terrific and the best reflexology I’ve ever had.
Sightseeing in Ubud
The best thing about Ubud was joining up with Duara Journeys to go to Sebatu and see how the locals are living. Duara is a company that lets you have local experiences. They have a minimum two-night stay so that you can really get in-depth into local life.
You can choose to do whatever you fancy while you stay there like seeing how local handicrafts are made, having breakfast with a local family, or just go to the temple with a local family. It was really nice and I enjoyed the scenery and temple I saw as well.
*While driving up to Sebatu we passed a lot of local handicraft shops so this would be a good place to look for homewares and ship some things back home.
Where to stay in Ubud: I stayed at Sandat Glamping. It’s ultra luxe and a little pricey. Here’s my review.
So, this is my guide to Bali: here’s what else you need to know.
As you can see, I didn’t party here but there are a lot of cool places to party. Some popular places are beach clubs like Potato Head and KuDeTa. For nightlife, you can look at blogs like welikebali and balibible for more tips!
FYI: drugs are HIGHLY illegal here and they do have the death penalty.
Bali’s Pool Villas
I took the time to go inland a little bit from Seminyak and stay at a private “pool villa” that Bali is famous for. If you have a large group this is ideal because you can split it so that it’s not more than a hotel but is a really unique experience. I stayed at Villa Sungai; you can see my review here.
Adventure in Bali
Overall, I really liked Bali, but it was the surf that made me enjoy it the most. You can do adventures like white water rafting, diving out by the other islands, 4wd, and such but I didn’t not as it was rainy season and there was a mudslide before I went. I heard rumors that the rafting and 4wd weren’t safe.
Budget in Bali
I really enjoyed eating SO much healthy food but be warned that it is not as cheap as you might be picturing Bali as unlike you eat local style food.
International food can be really pricey. Yoga here is also expensive at about 10-15 per class for the very good classes. You should see if your hotel offers free yoga as another alternative. Hotels and even hostels are a little bit expensive here especially compared to India and more than SE Asia.
Although, of course, everything is still much cheaper than the USA and UK.
Getting Around Bali
There is Uber here but you cannot use it everywhere as there is a little issue with local drivers fighting with Uber drivers. Uber is “banned” in Canggu and Ubud. You can use it in Seminyak to get to Canggu and Ubud, though.
You can request Uber pickups to places who allow it, and go to places that don’t have Uber – you just can’t request Uber to pick you up in a place that doesn’t allow Uber. You’ll see “Uber drop off only” signs.
You can take the Bali cabs and they will use the meter. This is easy and not much more than Uber.
Hotel taxis are WAY WAY more expensive so avoid this.
Getting around Ubud was a hassle. If you can ride a scooter, this is your best bet not just to save money but get somewhere fast. In Ubud places are so close that cabs will refuse to drive you, leaving you to walk really far.
What to Wear in Bali
I mostly wore my friend’s brand, also named TIA. You may recognize her name as I wore a lot of her clothes while I was in Morocco (you can see my whole packing post on Morocco here). She has an awesome shop on Etsy if you want to see her whole collection.
I really love her brand and not just because she’s my friend! Everything is made from natural silk and cotton, so it’s perfect for hotter weather.
Check it out here or you can shop some of the pieces below:
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