I’m traveling to Bali in January with my family and staying for 10 days. I want to make the most out of those 10 days so decided to do my own research and also share all of my best findings with everyone.
Is Bali a safe travel destination
When to travel to Bali – weather
Where to stay on Bali
In order to make the most out of the 10 days we have on Bali, I think the best approach is to book accommodation in around 3 locations. You get to experience different areas and when doing day trips you will not need to travel that far. Staying each night in a different location can be stressful since you need to pack and checkout so with 3 nights per location you get a nice balance.
When selecting the locations where to stay you first need to know what you want to do.
Sanur is Bali’s oldest upscale resort area and is a mature beach-side town. Despite the abundance of restaurants and accommodation, it has a quiet and relaxed feel to it. In general terms, it is more expensive than Kuta but cheaper than Seminyak.
I’m including Kuta on the list even though it’s not really a place I would recommend for families.
Kuta is the best-known tourist area on Bali and offers a decent surfing beach, despite being chronically overdeveloped. Visitors who feel overwhelmed by aggressive hawkers, American fast food and traffic jams should base themselves further along the coast towards nearby Seminyak. Kuta is still a fun destination for a big night of bar and club-hopping.
The next town north of Legian, Seminyak is more upmarket. The atmosphere is much more laid-back than Kuta, and the beach, in particular, is quieter during the day. Seminyak is also the spa and boutique shopping capital of Bali.
Nusa Dua is a peninsula in South Bali, well known as an enclave of high-end hotels.
Ubud is the center of art and dance in the foothills, with an interesting small palace, monkey forest, and lots of arts and crafts shops.
It’s about a 50 minutes drive from the airport.
Amed is an area of peaceful, traditional fishing villages featuring black sand beaches, coral reefs, and excellent freediving/diving.
Amed refers to a long stretch of coast running from the village of Culik about 14 km eastwards incorporating the seven villages of Amed, Jemeluk, Bunutan, Lipah, Selang, Banyuning and Aas. The pace of life here is slow and the coastal scenery quite stunning making Amed the perfect place for a relaxed holiday in Bali.
Amed is about a 2 hour 15 minutes drive from the airport.
Several companies offer a fast boat service to the Gili Islands: Pacha Express, Kuda Hitam, Free Bird, and Amed Sea Express.
Weather-wise north Bali is drier than the south. Days of sunshine are the norm year-round. The only real variation is when you venture back into the hills; mornings can be cool.
Lovina has quiet coastal villages with black sand beaches and coral reefs.
Diving, snorkeling fishing dolphin watching, diving on coral reefs are the main activities, but perhaps above all else, this is an area in which to relax and take in a very slow, traditional pace of life. Lovina is ideal for family groups with young children or older adventurers who want to kick back and quickly become part of the community. It can get a little crowded in July and August, but outside that peak season, this is a quiet part of the island.
What to do in Bali
Based on my initial research I formulated a list of some things we want to experience in Bali:
- Waterfalls and lush tropical rainforest
- Rice terraces
- Monkey forest
- Beach and swimming
- Local food
Bali has a huge amount of waterfalls. Some are very small but there are also larger ones. If you are staying in the Ubud region there are many waterfalls close by.
Based on my research one of the more interesting waterfalls is the Sekumpull Waterfall in the north. It has been called the most beautiful waterfall in Bali. The twin falls have a height of 80 meters and are best viewed from a distance.
It’s quite far from Ubud since it’s almost a 2-hour drive. If you are staying in Lovina it’s only a 1-hour drive. Once you get close you still need some effort to hike to the falls.
A good guide to the Sekumpull Waterfall can be found at thecommonwanderer.com.
Based on my reading Bali beaches in the south are good for surfers and sun-seekers. The most popular tourist areas like Kuta, Jimbaran, Seminyak, Sanur, and Nusa Dua have nice and wide sand beaches.
Beaches in the Southwest of Bali like Padang Padang, Dreamland and Uluwatu are favored by surfers since they have big waves but often also strong current.
You can use the AirBnB experiences to book day trips.
For snorkeling, the best beaches on Bali are on the East, Northeast and West side of the island.
If you want to see Manta Ray’s then the Nusa Penida Manta snorkeling trip is a good choice.
Amed – Northwest Bali
In Amed, a good place to spot sea turtles is the Kembali Beach Bungalows Reef. The sea should be calm and free of currents so it’s a good spot for snorkeling with kids as well.
Amed is definitely the best region for snorkeling in Bali. You find here healthy reefs, shipwrecks and rich sea life including rays as well as turtles. Uniquely, the black sandy bottom gives a magical tone to the corals making colors more sharp and vibrant.snorkelaroundtheworld.com
Jemeluk Bay is recommended for snorkelers due to its calm sea thanks to the bay’s half-moon shape. The bay has a rich marine life and an interesting underwater temple.
Tulamben – Northwest Bali
Wreck of the USAT Liberty and The Coral Garden in Tulamben is probably the most famous destination among divers in Bali. The USAT Liberty was torpedoed during WWII and sits now close to the shore.
Nusa Islands – Southeast Bali
The Nusa Islands consist of three islands: Nusa Lembongan, Nusa Ceningan and Nusa Penida which are around 20 km off the southeast coast of Bali. The islands feature gorgeous views and great beaches as well as some of the best snorkeling of Bali. The most visited of the islands is Nusa Lembongan. Many still recommend staying rather on Nusa Penida since you have easier access to the manta ray snorkeling trips and there are vibrant coral reefs around the island.
Manta Point is the only place in Bali where huge reef manta rays are sighted on a regular basis.
The Best snorkeling places around Nusa Penida
- Crystal Bay
- Gamat Bay
- The Wall Point
- Buddha Temple
- Manta Bay
Gili Islands – Northwest from Bali near Lombok
The Gili Islands consist of three islands: Gili Trawangan, Gili Meno, and Gili Air. On the Gilis you can relax on sandy beaches, swim with turtles and snorkel with fish in the crystal clear waters.
Menjangan – Northeast from Bali
Menjangan is an island and a great dive destination however it’s quite far from the southern part of Bali. It’s a 3h+ drive from Denpasar airport to get to Pemuteran. From Pemuteran you can take a dive or snorkel tour to Menjangan.
Considered the most pristine dive destination in Bali, Menjangan is located off the coast of the beautiful Bali Barat National Park. Only visited by a fraction of Bali’s tourists, it boasts a superb variety of uncrowded reefs. The most spectacular of which is Pos Dua, famous for having incredible visibility of 40m or more at times.tripcanvas.co
How to get around in Bali
Getting around the island
Many recommend you to hire a scooter costing 4-5$ per day. Surely that would work if you are traveling alone or with a friend. Since we are traveling as a family of three using a scooter isn’t really a good option. I wouldn’t either feel safe riding a scooter with my 8-year-old daughter.
Taxi and Taxi apps
Using a taxi is certainly an option. I see many recommending the BlueBird taxis with the meter. However, you need to make sure they put the meter on.
Uber isn’t available on Bali but you can get a very similar service with Gojek and Grab taxi. The good part of these services is that you have all the tracking systems so you see where your taxi is while you are waiting for it.
The taxi app options are:
- Blue Bird
Please note that in some parts of Bali, Go-Jek and Grab drivers are banned. The drivers can drop off guests but are not allowed to pick up new passengers.
Shared carrier vans with around max 15 people are a cheap option to travel longer distances.
Tour buses do also exist but you are grouped in a bigger group and the busses have a harder time maneuvering the roads with a lot of traffic.
Getting a private car with a driver/tour guide is one of the best options if you want to get some guidance during your trip.
The cost of hiring a car with a driver for 10 hours is 540.000 IDR at balihiredriver.com. The car is for max 7 people but recommended for 4. They also have larger cars if you are a bigger group. Balicab.com has cars with drivers for 10 hours for 550.000 IDR.
It seems that many of the companies are located in the south so if you want a driver further away like in Amed then you need to pay an extra 20 USD for the driver to stay the night in your area (anyhow that’s what it says on baliislandcarrental.com).
Getting from the airport to your hotel
The airport taxis are rather expensive for longer routes. According to topbali.com a taxi to Amed is 700.000 IDR and to Ubud 300.000 IDR. Shorter distances can be only 70.000 IDR to Kuta or 150.000 IDR to Sanur.
Baliholidaysecrets.com doesn’t recommend using Grab or other apps to get a ride from the airport due to the drivers not being allowed to enter the airport area. I have seen some saying you can walk out of the airport to an area where you can use Go-Jek or Grab.
Instead of the ride apps, you can get a private transfer arranged for example via your accommodation or via a booking service.
Getting internet on your smartphone
There are two main companies XL & TELKOMSEL which are recommended. You can get for 8$ around 12GB of internet data. This doesn’t include calling and texting. It’s important to get a pre-registered SIM card since if it’s not pre-registered you will need to go somewhere to get it registered.
Baliholidaysecrets.com recommends getting a Telkomsel SIM at the airport. On your way out past the row of taxi drivers there are a couple of telco kiosks selling local SIM cards. Expect to pay around 120.000 IDR for a 20 Gigabyte data package