Introduction 

Bali is hands down my favourite place I have ever visited. It’s not often when you build somewhere up in your mind that it lives up to your expectations but Bali was everything I expected it to be and more. I love the nature, the culture, the people and the way of life. I love how Seminyak is like a busy mini city and Ubud in contrast is a zen getaway. I spent six weeks there in early 2019 and there was still more I just didn’t have the time to experience.

Bali is a big island, and there is so much to cover when sharing my experience staying there so I have split out my guide into two separate parts. The first will cover each area, giving ideas of where to stay, eat, party and visit while in each. The second will offer my top tips on where and how to shop, the best ways to travel around this beautiful island, the top cultural sight seeing spots and all the info you’ll need on visa’s and extensions.

As one of my most requested travel posts ever I hope to include everything you’ll need for easy future reference while you’re there, and a second post with handy information to digest before you go.

Scroll below for the low-down on the top spots of Bali, and once you’re done click over to Part Two of my Bali guide for information on visa’s, taxi’s, how to haggle and more.

Don't forget, if you book any of the hostels and hotels mentioned below, you can get £15 back if you do so via this link to Booking.com! *denotes excluded accommodation. 




Pictured: Food at Give Cafe, Cocktails at La Brisa Beach Club

Canggu

A great mixture of the hustle of Seminyak and more natural surroundings of Ubud, Canggu is a backpackers heaven with everything you could ask for within a 5 minute drive. Spread out between three main roads that run parallel most stay on the main road which has The Farm hostel and Crate Cafe at one end, and Old Man’s and the beach at the other end.

The main activities in Canggu are surfing, shopping, eating and going out, a routine it can be very easy to fall into and one I loved. Like most beaches in Bali, the beach in Canggu is not the Instagram worthy heaven you might imagine and as such a lot of the hostels have amazing pools. I stayed at The Farm hostel for my first visit to Canggu for six nights and absolutely loved the hostel and how friendly everyone who stayed here was. The second time I stayed at Kosone which is also host to The Alternative Beach and has both a water slide and the comfiest water floats in all of Bali.

Of an evening each of the bars take it in turns to be the main bar for a different evening of the week to keep the crowds in one place and give each a turn. This I have listed out below, keep in mind each bar will still only be open until around midnight, and then at the weekend Old Man’s is open until 1am, and neighbour venue Sand Bar is open until 3-4am every evening. I would also highly recommend a day out at Finn’s Beach Club if you’re in a group of six or less. We spent an entire day here and went for the sunbed option, while this comes with a minimum spend of 2M Rupiah, over the course of an afternoon of food and drinks this is easily reachable between size people, and the view of the sunset was something else.

In terms of cultural things to do Canggu doesn’t have much to offer, however there is Tanah Lot Temple a 30 min drive away which is meant to be beautiful to visit just before sunset. As it is located on a tiny island in the sea, it can only be accessed during low tide and appears almost as if it is floating, magical!

Where I stayed: The Farm*, Kosone
Other Accommodation: Gypsy Moon

Food: Luigi’s Hot Pizza (also a bar), CrateCafe OrganicNalu BowlsMad Pops, The Shady Shack, Give Cafe, We Are Gypsy, The Slow, Copenhagen 
Bars: Old Man’s, Pretty Poison, The Loft

Beach Clubs: Finn’s Beach Club, La Brisa
Sunset Spots: The LawnFinn’s Beach Club

Monday: Luigi’s Hot Pizza (free pizza)

Tuesday: Pretty Poison (open mic), Deus Ex Machina
Wednesday: Old Man’s (beer pong competition)
Thursday: Pretty Poison (hip hop)
Friday: The Lawn (half price pizza, beer and cocktails), Old Man’s
Saturday: Pretty Poison, Vault

Sunday: Deus Ex Machina

To Do: Surfing, Shopping, Eating Out, Chilling, Partying, Tanah Lot Temple



Pictured: Swings at Tegalalang Rice Fields, Flower Bath at Plataran Spa

Ubud

Often known as the zen heaven of Bali and famed for it’s yoga and mindfulness, Ubud is certainly a lot more low key than other areas of the island.

While in Ubud I didn’t really go out to party, mostly because I was interested in other things but also because I didn’t spot many places where you could, correct me if I missed something here though! Ubud is a great place to unwind, and to shop! Home to the amazing Ubud Art Market, I would save your shopping money until you hit Ubud to get the ultimate bargains and a wide range of goodies.

One thing to note in Ubud is the weather, like clockwork is seemed to rain and storm around 3pm each day, sometimes letting up of an evening and sometimes not. This is due to it being in the middle of the rainforest, which also makes it a bit more humid and sticky than the rest of Bali.

In terms of things to do other than booze-cruising Ubud has a lot to offer. From cooking classes, to the Instagram famous rice fields and swings, there are also mountains to climb and flower bath spa’s to visit! There is also the Monkey Forest which I didn’t visit, mostly because I was afraid of monkeys and the issue of rabies despite having had my jab (it gives you more time to seek treatment and is not a preventative measure).

Where I Stayed: Puri Puri Garden, Gypsy Lust, Plataran Hotel & Spa

Other Accommodation: Pillow Inn

Food: Watercress, Clear Cafe, Lazy CatsHippie Fish
Bars: Folk Pool and Gardens

To Do: Monkey Forest, Cooking Class, Saraswati Temple, Tirta Empul Water Temple, Pura Gunung Lebah Temple, Ubud Palace, Goa Gajah (Elephant Cave), Batu Karu Mountain Trek, Tegenungan Waterfall, Tegalalang Rice Fields and Swings, Yoga, Spa’s, Shopping






Pictured: La Plancha Beach Club, Food at Kind Community

Seminyak

My first stop in Bali was Seminyak, a mini city condensed together with a whole host of market shops and incredible food places to eat at. It is also beach lined and like Canggu is a great place to watch the sunset, especially from one of the many beach front bars. These bars can be found at Double 6 beach, simply enter from either end and walk along until you find one you like, or head to my favourite La Plancha for an extra colourful view!

Much like Canggu, Seminyak doesn’t have so much to do from a cultural point of view outside of chilling out, shopping and partying, and lacks the more natural surroundings that Canggu also offers. I would definitely recommend Seminyak for a couple days of your visit, however it can quickly become quite overwhelming and stifling.

Where I Stayed: Kosta Hostel, Grand Mas Hotel

Other Accommodation: M Boutique Hostel

Food: Kynd Community, Coffee Cartel, Cafe Organic, Nalu Bowls, Sea Circus, Neon Palms, Bow and Bun
Bars: Motel Mexicola, La Favela, La Laguna
Beach Clubs: Potato Head, Mrs Sippy
Sunset Spots: La Planca

To Do: Chilling Out, Shopping, Partying

Kuta & Uluwatu

I’ve included both Kuta and Uluwatu on this list as I met plenty of people who did visit and passed on their advice, however didn’t go to either myself despite researching before my visit.

Let’s begin with Kuta, the worst description I read of it was like Magaluf for Australians, filled with drunk tourists and over priced shops. I had also been told it was worse than Seminyak for being overcrowded and horribly busy, which having visited Seminyak and found too much after a couple of days, I decided to give Kuta a miss.

Uluwatu is a surfers heaven, something that I learnt I am awful at after a bad fall off a surf board in Australia a couple of months before my visit. It is also meant to be beautiful and a gorgeous sunset spot, however apart from Wednesday and Sunday nights the nightlife is nonexistent due to the surf culture of Uluwatu (getting up very early in the morning), which can make it difficult for backpackers. With that in mind Uluwatu is also home to Single Finn’s, one of the more famous beach clubs in Bali. If you’re really desperate to go, Capsule Hostel do bus trips there from Seminyak but don’t advertise it very well.




Pictured: Le Pirate Hotel on Gili T, Underwater Statue at Bask Gili Meno, Pink Coco on Gili Air

Gili Islands

One of the most famous spots when people think of Bali, they are actually part of Lombok. While most travellers visit just Gili T, we visited Gili Meno and Gili Air over the course of nine days, staying on Gili T for 3 nights, and Gili Meno and Gili Air for 2 nights each.

Accessible from most coastal parts of the East Coast of Bali, we got the fast boat with Crown Fast Cruises in Amed which cost us £27 one way to Gili T for two people and took around an hour. The Gili islands are also accessible via Sanur however this boat ride is much longer in comparison to Amed, which is further to get to via land but the boat is much faster. Which route you choose really just depends on what you think is best for you.

Gili T is known as the party island and has several infamous party hostels, however we stayed on the ‘Sunset Side’ instead at Le Pirate which we absolutely loved for obvious reasons (pictured above). We wanted to relax more than anything else while visiting the Gili islands so cannot really comment on the night life here as we only went out one night, however the reviews of most other travellers went a little something like “Gili T nearly ended me, I think slept for two days straight when I got back to Bali” etc.

Moving onto Gili Meno, or the honeymoon island, it has a reputation for being very subdued especially in comparison to Gili T, having visited I can now see why. The least developed of the three Gili islands by quite a long way I would probably suggest only one evening here as a traveller, and staying somewhere that you can get all three of your daily meals at as there really isn’t very much in the way of restaurants or bars. There is however the underwater statues by Jason DeCaires Taylor pictured above. Created to help encourage the growth of the currently dieing coral reef around Indonesia, it is a 10 minute swim off the islands coast opposite the ‘Bask’ sign (search on google maps, it is a yet to be completed hotel complex). This is best done in the morning as the currents here can be quite strong of an afternoon.

Finally you come to Gili Air, which to me is the perfect mix of the party vibe of Gili T and the chilled out Gili Meno. Easy enough to walk or cycle around, it is also a great spot for snorkelling and turtle spotting. There is one beach bar here called Pink Coco, which also has a hotel and would recommend for an afternoon of lunching, sunbathing, swimming and sunset watching. Gili Air also has a strip of shops, bars and snorkel spots on the opposite of the island and most of the activity of the island is based around here.

If you don’t have the time to go to all three islands, or simply don’t want the hassle of island hoping, the best option would be to stay on Gili T and do one of the snorkelling tours around Gili Meno and Gili Air. I’m unsure of cost of these however you’d be able to find them easily along the port you come in from. If you do want to go to each island you can either get a public boat for around 60K per person however keep in mind they seem to go only a few times a day, or a private boat which cost 350K to hire for the two of us.

Another thing to keep in mind with all three Gili islands is that there is no motorised transport of any sort. That means you'll either be cycling or walking everywhere. There is horse drawn carts available, however as expected upon arrival the horses were very thin, looked overworked and hot and we avoided them.

Where I Stayed: Le Pirate (Gili T), Les Villas Ottalia (Gili Meno), Mola Mola (Gili Air)

Other Accommodation: Havana Hideaway, M Box, (Gili T), Pink Coco* (Gili Air)

To Do: Turtle Spotting, Underwater statues (Gili Meno), Snorkelling, Shopping, Partying





Pictured: Kelingking Beach, Angels Billabong, Cocktails at The Sand Nusa Ceningan

Nusa Islands

The Nusa Islands have undergone a surge of development over the past few years which has made them increasingly popular with adventurous travellers. Unlike the Gili Islands they are seen as a little more off the beaten path. However that said we still made friends with plenty of other travellers while there and had a wonderful time exploring all the natural sights the islands have to offer, and in my opinion in more abundance than the Gili Islands.

Nusa Penida is the largest of the three islands however is actually the least developed, it is here you will find sights such as Diamond Beach, Angels Billabong, Broken Beach and Kelingking Beach (the dinosaur head) which you may have seen on the Instagram pages of travel bloggers over the last few years. We stayed at Nuansa Penida Hostel, a cute bungalow style hostel on the island with the most wonderful staff of my whole visit. They couldn’t do enough for us, and took us out in a car for 600K for the whole day to all the sites listed above.

Easy to access from Bali, Nusa Penida is a 40 minute boat ride from Sanur, with Nusa Lembongan a short 15 minute boat ride from there. We didn’t explore much of Nusa Lembongan and head straight over the big yellow bridge to Nusa Ceningan for the day to hang out at The Sand (pictured above) to enjoy cocktails in the sun.

Where I Stayed: Nuansa Penida Hostel

Food & Bars: The Sand, Le Pirate, Sea Breeze (Nusa Ceningan), Maruti Beach Club (Nusa Penida)

To Do: Natural Sight Seeing, Relaxing, Beach, Beach Clubs



Pictured: Git-Git Waterfall, Banjar Buddhist Temple

Lovina

While I was in Bali it was really important to me to see some of the natural and cultural sites the island has to offer. The way I did it was to travel to Lovina to the North West of Bali and spend three nights there, going out each day on a tour organised by my hostel to the sights I really wanted to see. I stayed at Lovina Loca for two nights which was very cheap and very colourful, here I met some lovely people and went to Aling-Aling Waterfall, Git-Git Waterfall, Ulun Danu Water Temple, Banjar Buddhist Temple and the Hot Water Springs across two days. The third night I stayed at Dream Hill which was probable the most unique place I stayed my entire time in Bali. A brightly painted tree house just outside of Lovina, I enjoyed an evening here of Balinese food tasting, yoga and learning traditional Balinese dance, perfect!

Where I Stayed: Lovina Loca, Dream Hill
Other Accommodation: Funky Place

To Do: Aling-Aling Waterfall, Git-Git Waterfall, Ulun Danu Water Temple, Banjar Buddhist Temple and the Hot Water Springs, Yoga, Balinese Dance, Local Food Tasting


For tips on how to best travel around Bali, the best order to visit each area in, how to haggle while shopping, taxi and visa tips plus more, head over to my Ultimate Guide to Bali - Part Two!