Travel to Bali: The ultimate guide

Samuel Clennett

Chances are, if you’ve ever dreamed of holidaying in a beautiful tropical paradise, you’ve considered visiting the Indonesian island of Bali. Its legendary scenery and welcoming atmosphere for tourists makes it a deservedly popular holiday destination. Being as popular as it is, though, it’s worth making a plan before you go, so you can explore a little further than the standard tourist trails.

This article is a great place to start: it’ll give you some initial advice on how to plan your trip. Particularly, it’ll help you find the best way to pay your way when you’re there – always a tricky issue for tourists.

Do your research

First off, it’s worth making one thing clear: the more you put into a trip, the more you’ll get out of it. That’s why it’s worth investing a little bit of time in reading up on Bali, so you can plan a trip that lets you take in as much as possible of this wonderful island.

This article will help you get started – it’ll help you to:

  • Get the most from your money.
  • Find the right accommodation.
  • Know how to travel around.
  • Plan what you want to see.
  • Understand the local culture.

How to get the most for your money

The currency in Indonesia is the rupiah, and at the time of writing there are 9,293 of them per Australian dollar¹. That means that, relatively speaking, things can often seem like pretty great value when you’re there.

There are some caveats, though. Firstly, because tourism is such big business, it is perfectly possible to end up spending heavily. If you head straight for the luxury spa, clearly geared towards the high-end tourist market, it won’t be a cheap holiday after all.

Secondly, it’s always well worth checking what exchange rate you’re getting – and what your bank will charge you if you use an ATM there. There may be all manner of extra fees, and if the exchange rate is much different from the mid-market rate then you’ll be missing out every single time your money gets exchanged. To cut back on that sort of cost, it could be worth considering a specialist travel money card, which sometimes (not always!) works out as better value than your standard debit card.

Get a specialist account for your travels

Manage your money as you travel cheaply and easily with a Wise borderless account.

Open your account online before you leave, and hold, send and receive dozens of different currencies. You can manage your balances using the Wise app, and spend easily using the Wise borderless Mastercard.

Just top up from your home bank account, and convert to the currency you need to avoid foreign transaction fees. All currency conversion is done using the mid-market exchange rate with no markup, which can mean it’s far cheaper than relying on your regular bank.

Get to know the visa situation

If you’re an Australian citizen, you don’t need a visa to visit Indonesia – so long as you’ll be staying less than 30 days.

If you’re hoping to stay longer than that, consider getting a Visa on Arrival. You can get this at the airport once you land, and it’ll cost you AUD 50. It’s also only valid for 30 days – but you can get an extension of another 30 days. There are other options to consider for longer trips, but for most tourists, either no visa or a Visa on Arrival should suffice².

Do make sure your passport has at least 6 months on it – otherwise you might not be allowed in³.

Accommodation in Bali

The classic place to stay in Bali is a hostel that’ll welcome backpackers as they make their way around the island – and there are certainly plenty of hostel options. You can also find some great places on Airbnb, and there are hotels too should you want one.

Where to stay in Bali

The biggest question about accommodation, though, is where to stay. The different parts of the island have very different feels to them. Here are some of your options:

  • Ubud. For stunning natural beauty near the famous rice fields and monkey forest, Ubud is the place to go. On the other hand, it’s several hours from the beaches. Plus, if you’re a party animal, it might not be the right spot as the evenings tend to be quiet.
  • Seminyak. Right on the beach, Seminyak is an upmarket area with more of a high-end feel to it, well suited to a getaway filled with creature comforts.
  • Kuta. This is where you’ll find the very busiest beaches, the most raucous crowds, and quite possibly the cheapest places to stay. If you’re coming to Bali for intense, gap-year-style nightlife, this is where to go. If you’re not, it isn’t.

That’s not it – not by a long shot. Also check out Canggu, Jimbaran, Sanur, Uluwatu, Nusa Dua, and many other fantastic areas. Almost Landing Bali has guides to most of them.

Getting around in Bali

Here are some tips for how to travel around Bali – which can, of course, get pretty crowded during tourist seasons.

  • Rent a scooter. This is very common there, and inexpensive too. It could even save you some time, cutting through traffic. Don’t feel confident riding a scooter? Then don’t.
  • Get a ride on a motorcycle. You don’t have to get your own scooter. Go-Jek and Grab are two apps you can use to find drivers near you that can whisk you across town.
  • Get a taxi. Slightly more expensive, but if you prefer the security those extra two wheels provide, there are plenty of options. Local taxi drivers might try and overcharge you, but if you get a metered taxi – look out for blue cabs called Bluebird – then you should end up paying a reasonable fare.

Sights to see

As already mentioned, Bali’s widely differing areas offer contrasting experiences for tourists. If there’s one common thread running through the whole place, though, it’s that it’s absolutely beautiful. Don’t forget to take enough time simply to enjoy the breathtaking scenery.

That said, here are some more specific tips on what to do.

  • Go full Eat Pray Love. There’s a non-zero chance that you want to go to Bali because of Julia Roberts. If that’s the case, you should know that the area she explores in Eat Pray Love is the stunning Ubud, home to the rice paddies, temples, and market. You can even get specially designed Eat Pray Love tours.
  • Explore the scenery. You may prefer not to embrace your inner Julia Roberts, while still wanting to explore the ancient and scenic side of Bali. Which is fair enough. Even if you don’t do a guided tour, Ubud remains a stunning place to visit. There are also amazing temples to visit elsewhere, including the Uluwutu clifftop temple, the Mother Temple on Mount Agung (a sacred volcano), and Tanah Lot temple with its amazing views.
  • Go to the beach. There are so many options here it can be hard to know where to begin: the famous Kuta Beach – with its notorious nightlife – is only the start of it. For a somewhat quieter part of Kuta, try Balangan Beach, or head over to Blue Point Beach near Uluwatu, Geger Beach in Nusa Dua, or Seminyak Beach – a good one for surfers.
  • Go shopping. There are some great places to go shopping in the Kuta area, and we’re not talking about the beach with its fake designer goods. Kuta boasts a mixture of tiny local shops and some more boutique ones as well. Ubud is worth a look for shops as well, particularly if you’re into art and antiques. Check out Garlic Lane in Legian as well, which isn’t nearly as smelly as it sounds.

There’s plenty more, of course. Check out Lonely Planet, The Asia Collective, Bali Guide, The Blonde Abroad, and many other helpful guides.

Tips for a great trip

Here are a few extra pointers to ensure your trip’s a success.

  • Have cash. You can pay with card in some places but not all, so it’s always worth being prepared.
  • Choose the time of year carefully. Aim for the dry season, which is approximately May to October. Outside the July-August window should be a little quieter. Other times of year are possible too, though there might be a lot of rain. January and February tend to be the wettest time of all.
  • It’s polite to tip. Bali isn’t like the US, where tips are pretty much mandatory, but it’s still much appreciated if you do tip. Given that prices are generally so low, there’s little reason not to.

Things to be aware of

And here are a few extra points to bear in mind.

  • It’s a religious island. Bali is Indonesia’s only island with a Hindu majority, but that religion is pretty prominent. That means you should act with respect, especially when visiting temples, where you should cover your shoulders and knees.
  • Littering is a problem. All the tourism in Bali has led to a huge waste problem. They estimate that 3 million plastic bottles are thrown away each month there. Don’t contribute to this – carry a flask.
  • No, you really can’t do drugs. This is well known, but important to reiterate. The law is very harsh when it comes to drugs, so just don’t do it.

Don’t forget to plan ahead and consider getting a Wise Mastercard Debit Card to help you get the most for your money and forget about the worries of exchanging money.

We hope you have a truly stunning time in Bali, whether you’re raving it up in Kuta or meditating in Ubud.


  1. Wise Currency Converter
  2. Smartraveller
  3. Travelling to Bali - Indonesian Embassy

All sources accurate as of 24 Jan 2020

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