A beginner’s guide to Bali
The Indonesian island of Bali is a favourite destination for Australian holiday-makers, and it’s easy to see why.
Here’s a quick guide on how to get the most out of your visit.
When to go
If possible, it’s best to avoid the Australian school holidays as this is generally peak time in Bali. My most recent visit was in early October, and the weather was perfect – warm and humid, the suggestion of a swim in the pool was always welcomed, but it was also cooler at night so sleeping wasn’t a problem and the heat was never too oppressive.
There are direct flights into Bali’s Denpasar international airport from all major cities in Australia and across Asia.
When you emerge into the arrivals hall of the airport, there’s a huge range of taxis and drivers eager to get your attention and secure your business. Your best bet is to organise an airport pick-up through your accommodation. Alternatively, the Bluebird taxi company has a desk in the main arrivals hall, and this is a reliable and inexpensive operator who can get you to where you need to be.
What to do
Once you leave your accommodation, you’ll find that Bali is a busy, bustling place, with everyone riding motorcycles to get where they want to go. Spend some time exploring Seminyak village, or simply head to Potato Head Beach Bar to spend the day drinking cocktails and positioning yourself to watch the spectacular sunset.
If you’re interested in exploring the island a bit further, a day-trip to the Ubud region can be easily arranged. This is the temple and rice-growing district up in the highlands of the island.
Where to eat
You really are spoiled for choice when it comes to food in Bali. There are plenty of local places serving up simple and tasty Indonesian favourites, but there are also some really exciting restaurants elevating the traditional flavours to create delicious contemporary cuisine.
- Bambu - Seminyak: This is a restaurant that’s spectacular in every respect. Entry is across a fish-filled pond, crossing via floating stepping stones. The food was spectacular.
- Warung Eny - Seminyak: Warung Eny is typical of the local street cafe restaurants across Bali - smoke billowing from the outdoor charcoal grill, where they cook chicken over dried coconut husks. Nasi goreng is one of my favourite Indonesian dishes - it always seems to taste better when you’re eating it in an open-air cafe somewhere tropical and warm.
- Grocer & Grind - Seminyak: There are a lot of great breakfast, brunch and coffee places opening up in the Seminyak neighbourhood of Bali, but Grocer & Grind was one of the first and is still one of the best.
- Mama San - Seminyak: Dark and sleek, this is a dining experience designed to evoke colonial-era Shanghai.
- Potato Head Beach Bar - Seminyak: Potato Head Beach Bar is one of the must-do things while you’re visiting Bali. To describe it as a beach bar is definitely selling it short. It’s a spectacular place - not really comparable to anywhere that I’ve been before. As you approach the entrance, the exterior is an imposing coliseum constructed of wooden window shutters. It faces out onto a beach, and there are day-beds surrounding a central pool where you can spend the day drinking cocktails, enjoying the music, and soaking up the atmosphere. Sunset is a magical time here, but you’re going to need to arrive early in order to secure a day-bed as your base.
- La Favela – Seminyak: La Favela is an impressive looking bar in the heart of Seminyak. Unashamedly inspired by Rio, this is a big space with a joyously over-the-top interior.
- Ultimo - Seminyak: Ultimo is a large, modern Italian restaurant. Hugely popular with visitors to Bali who are looking for a change from Indonesian food. You’ll need to book to secure a table.
- Sea Circus - Seminyak: Sea Circus is the perfect laid-back vacation-vibe cafe. In the heart of the bustling Seminyak district of Bali, the cuisine draws its inspiration from Mexico - tacos, tortillas, quesadillas are all on the menu and it’s perfect food for the warm tropical weather of Indonesia’s holiday island.
- Merahputih – Seminyak: An unimposing entrance from the busy street, reveals an enormous cathedral-like interior. Service was friendly and professional, but it was the food that was clearly the star of the show.
Where to stay
There’s a huge range of accommodation options in Bali – from high-end luxury, to simple and basic. The first step is to decide which part of the island that you’re going to base yourself. I’d recommend the Seminyak district - about 45 minutes from the airport. Here, you’ll be within walking distance of the beach, and a lot of the bars and restaurants that you’ll want to experience.
- Spartacvs Hotel - Seminyak: The entrance is discrete, but once inside, the grounds are immediately attractive, the rooms surrounding a central pool. The rooms are spacious - simple and modern without being luxurious. Spartacvs is a men-only kind of place, but there wasn’t anything sleazy or overtly sexual about it.
- Peppers Resort - Seminyak: Peppers is a large resort complex but consisting completely of self-contained villa compounds. Our private compound had five bungalow bedrooms and a large open kitchen and living space surrounding a central pool. This style of accommodation works particularly well when you’re travelling as a large group. We hung-out and relaxed around the pool, making excursions into the neighbourhood and around the island for meals, massages, and exploring.