Friday, November 20, 2015

Bali Travel Tips from People Who Lived There

I've visited Bali several times throughout my life (I'm Indonesian), and Priscilla and I spent a year living in Bali and exploring every section of the island. We love sharing our experiences with our friends and so I've posted our quick tips and recommendations here for easier access.

Be warned: Bali is not paradise in the typical postcard sense and it's not what you see on Instagram. It's a messy congested over-touristed island. That being said it's my favorite spot in the world. The real beauty is when you get away from all the hectic densely packed areas and slow down.

"Selamat Jalan!"

Begin my notes

Gotta work:

If you need to get work done check out this list of cafes with decent wifi:

Cost of living with price guide written by a friend:

Get yourself a driver to scout the major areas and get your bearings: 

Made Pong Suardana. He doesn’t check his email, so it is best to get in touch with him via WhatsApp or Facebook Messenger. The last time I booked him it was 80,000 IDR, about $8 a day for 8 hours of his driving time. This was many years ago so market rates have updated, which is good and fair!

It’s not customary for drivers to eat lunch with you but I always had him join me for meals and we became friends that way. He taught me a lot about local life there and how things work. He also helped me find my long term rental room. It’s not necessary but I also tipped him enough for a nice local lunch at the end of the day.

I think renting a car (Toyota Avanza or Toyota Kijang) with a driver and fuel was about 400K IDR or $40 per day -again, market rates will have been updated.  Some drivers like Made will stay overnight with you if you choose to spend the night somewhere with your rental car.

He doesn’t check his email so I recommend texting/WhatsApp'ing him.

His phone number or WhatsApp: +6281338670832
His email:

Respect him and treat him well.

Getting around and taxis:

Stick to Air Asia and Garuda Indonesia (pricier). Everyone else crashes often and banned to fly in other countries.

Whatever you do, do not land at an airport at night in Indonesia. Pick a morning or afternoon arrival. There are few taxi options at night and they will all scam you.

Stick to Blue Bird group taxis, and make sure they stick to the meter.  They are the most reliable in Jakarta (I spent my childhood there), but they tend to try to scam in Bali.

If you want to drive your own scooter Made will help you get one. Be sure to get your International Drivers Permit ($15CAD) before you leave. The cops will shake you down at every chance they get! If you’re thinking of riding without a helmet -don’t!

Scooter is definitely the best way to get around.

Notable place to stay:

You can stay anywhere that suits your fancy and budget. There are so many ultra-high-end resorts to check out just for fun too. There is one place that I’ve never stayed at but looks so unique and I’m so drawn to, called Bambu Indah in Ubud. The whole place is made of bamboo.


Our favourite thing to do was to get out of the major tourist areas and ride to the smaller towns on our scooter. Try to find the eastern coastal road. It’s really small and undeveloped, it’ll feel like travelling back in time. Head towards a small fishing town called Amed, where you can spend the night after the long ride or try diving the nearby area. I think the ride was about 3.5 hours if I recall correctly.

On the way there you should take a break at Kebun Impian restaurant. The eastern coastal road you want to get to is displayed on their map image here.

Diving in Tulamben in the east is nice, close to Amed. Diving in the northwest in Menjangan is quite nice as well.

You can only see so many Hindu temples, after a few they will all look the same. That being said our absolute favourite is Gunung Kawi Tampak Siring, very Indiana Jones, in a rice valley and carved into the walls. The kecak dance in Uluwatu temple at dusk is an experience. The rest of the temples are up to you.

Food and drinks:

Local food:

Our favorite “warung” or local style restaurant is called Warung Kolega, on Jalan (street) Petitenget. They serve Javanese food, the best time to come is 10:30am-12pm when the food is still piping hot and selection is plenty.

The Balinese are experts at whole suckling roast pig, Babi Guling. Ibu Oka’s in Ubud is among the best and easiest to access. Made will know how to take you there.

Naughty Nuri’s ribs in Ubud or Batu Belig (near Seminyak), my favourite ribs in the world!

Also, try Ayam Kalassan, fried chicken with unique batter, also order the fried tofu, eaten with rice and raw cucumbers. Ask Made to take you.

Western food:

The finer dining experiences are in Seminyak. Our favourite was Ultimo an Italian joint. The best seats are at the wrap-around bar in the front of the restaurant where you can people watch and chat with the staff. I loved the chicken and mushroom ravioli, best-priced daiquiris on the island, and Ultimo pizza.

Petitenget is also a nice area to explore cafes, restaurants, and hotels. Check out Potato Head beach club for drinks and poolside lounging, and the W hotel for the same.

In between Seminyak and Petitenget is a lounge/car called Hu’u Bar, Priscilla’s favourite bar in the world, and Ku De Ta which is an international hotspot. Ku De Ta is gorgeous and you’ll meet some interesting people there along with pretentious dbags :)

All these bars I mentioned are very chill, not backpacker joints, unless there is a special event going on.

Wanna get crazy??

Go down Legian street at night, on what I dubbed club row. You don’t have to go in but you should drive or walk through it to experience.

When we wanted to go out all night my favorite route is to start at the gay clubs on Jalan Dyana Pura (super fun), then hit some sort of bar on Legian (when Black Dog was still open) on the way to club row, hit 4 bars along club row, then on the way home pass by one of bars on Jalan Laksamana or Hu'u Bar. This is a serious itinerary.

Don't ask for drugs or weed or even talk about it. You'll land in jail.

Priscilla’s blog entries of her time in Bali:

Begin Priscilla's notes


I recommend staying in Kuta. There are definitely $10/night places but they are pretty dirty. They also most likely don't have A/C (so important!) or hot water. I would recommend staying in a $30-$40/night place - it will be cleaner, a little safer and have A/C.
If you want to be pretty central (easy to get to walking wise to the beach, shops, restaurants, clubs) I'd stay somewhere on Legian or Paddys. Lots of backpacker hotels there but be warned, it is tourist central and full of obnoxious Aussies (really similar to living in the frat village). If you want to go a little more high end, consider staying in Seminyak - lots of mid to high range hotels there, more stylish. If you don't mind staying a little further away from the crazy mess of Kuta, there's a really nice hotel called Batu Belig on Jl. Batu Belig. I just had friends stay there and it was clean, had AC/hot water and a nice pool. It's only about a 5 min cab ride from everything (beach/clubs/restaurants on Legian) and cab rides are dirt cheap. It's also near a bunch of rice paddys so it's pretty picturesque! They paid $40/night. Don't forget, always inspect the room first and negotiate the price. Let me know if you need more hotel/specific recommendations.


The best beaches are further south in the Bukit Peninsula. I would say the nicest beach, hands down, is Geger Beach. It's about 30mins south from Kuta. You'll need to hire a taxi driver to get there. Super quiet, white sand, sparkling blue water - it's beautiful!! *I had heard from my friends there that Geger has gone downhill in quality since I've last been there so it most likely isn't as nice anymore. Padang Padang/Uluwatu beaches are really good for surfing. In fact, pretty much the only thing you can do at Uluwatu beach is surf! I'm not sure what your surfing ability is but I mostly stayed at Kuta Beach because I'm a beginner - Uluwatu is for professionals since they usually get monster waves! The beaches in Kuta and Seminyak (Double 6, Kuta, Echo) are kinda dirty (garbage on the sand, gross looking water) so I tend to stay away from swimming there.


Ubud is a lot of fun but be warned, most of the town is a tourist trap. That being said, you have** to eat at Ibu Oka (open only during the day) and order their babi guling special (roasted suckling pig - sounds gross but it is delicious and cheap!). Also, visit Monkey Forest - a forest literally full of friendly little monkeys. Just don't have anything in your pockets because they'll try and steal it! There's also a palace across from Ibu Oka that's nice to visit and a little market a little ways away that you can bargain for souvenirs etc. Ubud is about 1 hour away from Kuta. Hire a driver because taxis will rip you off.


I actually got my Padi diving certificate while I was here - super cheap, only $200 compared to $600+ in Vancouver! One of the best diving spots in all of Bali is in a town called Tulamben (about 2.5 hours away from Kuta, on the eastern side of the island). A US cargo ship sank there in 1934 (?) and has attracted all kinds of amazing wildlife! It's about $30/dive and they set you up with full gear. I'd recommend booking your dive through Wreck Diver's Resort. If you can manage, try and stay there for a night as well! Really nice rooms for about $40/night. If you do stay there, everyday around 4pm, the surrounding villages get together for a pretty intense game of volleyball - really entertaining to watch. Also, the drive up to Tulamben is BEAUTIFUL! You take the eastern coastal road and it goes through some of the most beautiful scenery I've had the privilege of seeing! Luscious green rice paddies, temples (visit the Bat Cave Temple!), little villages, volcanoes. It was on this drive that I fell in love with Bali! Other good dive spots are Menjangan Island (northeastern coast) and Nusa Lembongan

Temples/tourist attractions:

Must visit:
- Gunungkawi - This is my favorite! Super cool, looks like it would belong in an Indiana Jones/Tomb Raider movie
- Bedugul (in the north) and their floating temple
- Tegallalang rice paddies
- Tanah Lot - pretty popular tourist destination. Try and get there for sunset!
- Uluwatu Temple - watch the Kecak Fire Dance in their outdoor theatre!
- Goa Gajah Temple - very picturesque, a huge fallen statue of an elephant
- Bat Cave Temple
Other than that, once you've seen one temple, you've seen most temples! Don't bother going to a museum, it's not worth it.


I'm not sure how much clubbing you'll do but definitely hit up club row (on Legian St.). You can club hop through most of the clubs for free - just be sure to bring your driver's license to show that you're a tourist because it's free for tourists (locals have to pay). I suggest starting at one end and making your way to the other. Start at MBargo, then make your way to Vi Ai Pi, SkyGarden, Apache, Engine Room, Bounty and Paddy's. I love SkyGarden (6 floors, all different sounds) so I usually just head there. There's a bar district in Seminyak/Oberoi area on Jl. Laksmana. A few good bars there are Divine Wonderland and Word of Mouth. Every week, there are also huge parties at a few high-end restaurants (mostly house DJs, check for listings while you're there). The parties usually happen at Huu Bar (SO BEAUTIFUL), Living Room, Potatohead (GORGEOUS), and Ku De Ta. If you're feeling really adventurous, visit the gay bars on Jl. Dyana Pura. There's about 5 in a row.. Facebar, Bali Joe and I can't remember the rest of them. SUPER fun. Lots of drag queen shows, fantastic music! Bali Joe is the best one. The club at W Hotel is really fun too - I can't remember the name but Danny Fry is the resident DJ and one of our friends.
Beer (Bintang) is anywhere from $2.5 (25,000rp) to $4 (40,000). High balls are usually $6 and up. Hard liquor is really expensive (Vancouver prices) because they tax it 300% coming into the country.


I'm going to give you a list of high end to local places, not sure how adventurous you are with food
- Ku De Ta - prices are similar to Vancouver restaurants (around $50/person for food/drinks) but this place is incredible!
- Potatohead (or pothead as lots of ppl call it) - this is a must-visit. Great location, great architecture, great drinks. Price-wise similar to Ku De Ta. Also has a pool which you can use for free if you buy a drink or food.
- Huu Bar - my personal favorite. Intimate, beautiful, has a pool, prices similar to the ones above
- Cafe Menega in Jimbaran. Fresh seafood bbq'd over banana leaves and you eat right on the beach
- Ibu Oka in Ubud (see above)
- Rumors or Ultimo - Rumors is the closest to Cactus Club you're going to find in Bali. Both have yummy food/drinks (Ultimo is Italian) and much cheaper than home. About $3-12/entrée. Rumors has strawberry daiquiris for $3 that are delicious
- Warung Nikmat - this is right in Kuta, just off Jl. Bakung Sari. Really popular local restaurant and super cheap - a full plate is about $0.70. The whole restaurant is nasi campur which basically means you pick what dishes you want out of everything that is displayed (kinda like a buffet).
- Warung Kolega - another delicious, nasi campur place. Redic cheap. I usually ate lunch here about 4-5 x a week. SO GOOD and cheap!
- Warung Enak - another good, cheap nasi campur place. Owned by a German guy, his Balienese wife and adorable son named Mario. Indoors, really clean compared to other nasi campur places. Not a lot of selection but food is tasty. Slightly more expensive than other nasi campur places. On Jl. Kerobakan
Ayam Kalasan across from Istana Galleria - flaky, deep fried chicken. Delicious!!!! Get their deep-fried tofu too with kecap mani sambal (spicy sweet soy sauce). Cheap - 2 to eat with drinks is about $7-$8
- Sobat on Batu Belig: good steak for $4
- Sate Penyut - I don't know the street but it's near Istana Galleria in a parking lot. Most taxis will know where this is, there is only 1 in Kuta. Super local but delicious. They say its turtle sate but really its pork. About $1-2 for12 sticks and rice
If you get an opportunity, go to the Rock Bar @ Ayana Resort/ swim at the pool @ W hotel. Both are amazing properties!

Food to try/terminology (pronounced like it sounds, the tones are similar to Japanese):

- nasi campur: buffet
- babi guling: roasted suckling pig
- soto babat: kinda like pho but no noodles, comes with a bowl of rice
- soto ayam: Balinese chicken soup. has an egg, glass noodles, chicken and veggies. really delicious. you can ask for a bowl of rice or eat it as is
- nasi goreng: fried rice
- mie goreng: fried noodles
- ayam: chicken
- sapi: beef
- babi: pork
- ikan: fish
- sayuran: veggies
- terima kasih: thank you (also can shorten it to say ma kasih)
I'd try and avoid some of the major/hotel restaurants - the food isn't very good. Also, the McDonalds sucks. BUT they deliver so if you're craving it at 3am... Just call them and press 1 when you hear the greeting (which is in Indonesian). 1 is for the English speaking patrons.
Something to consider is hiring a driver when you want to do the touristy stuff. I did that with this guy who was incredible. Genuinely nice, very informative and trustworthy (important!). He can bring you to all the places I mentioned and more. He's affordable as well. The equivalent of $8 for hiring him for 8 hours. I usually buy him lunch and tip him which brings it to about $11 for the whole day. You're going to have to rent a car as well which he can do for you. It's $18/day for the car plus gas which is usually about $5 for a fill-up. His name is Made and I cannot more highly recommend him.
Made's email is
I suggest reaching out to him earlier than later. He usually gets completely booked up. Just tell him that I recommended him to you. He can also get you set up with safe motorbikes if you want to rent while you're there.

2018 - embedded Google Map