16 Bali Must-Knows: Read This Before You Visit
Are you looking for a holiday in paradise? I lived in Bali for almost three months and it was more than enough to fall in love with its varied landscape of hills and mountains, rugged coastlines and sandy beaches, lush rice terraces and beautiful culture. Besides, I had so many unforgettable experiences, and I learned so much about this island and its population that I can write a book about it. Till then, I prepared a list of 16 things that you may find useful before you plan your holiday in Bali.
1. NYEPI DAY OR BALI’S DAY OF SILENCE
What dress should I wear tonight? Does the clutch match the shoes? How is my hair looking? These are only a few questions western girls ask themselves right before an unforgettable New Year’s Eve. In Bali, the inhabitants welcome the New Year in a completely different manner – with a day of silence.
Bali celebrates Nyepi by completely shutting down for 24h. This unique celebration follows on from Bhuta Yajna Ritual & Ogoh Ogoh Parade, which is held to chase away dangerous and evil forces in order to maintain a balance between God, Mankind and Nature. There is a sense of wonder and enthusiasm throughout the island; people are crafting their own grotesque statues, the atmosphere is hectic and all the shops close early. Everyone is getting ready for an evening full of traditions, which is similar to a carnival, but more intense considering the purpose of the event. I attended the parade in Denpasar, the area where I lived for three months, and I was simply amazed by the beauty of this ritual. I was surrounded by locals who were singing and dancing, while carrying monstrous and interesting creations with bulging eyes, fangs and more than two legs, to drive away the evil spirits.
After the parade, the island remained in complete silence and darkness. The only source of light came from the moon and the stars, which created an ambience worthy of a fairy tale. What impressed me the most? The unbelievable starry sky. I stayed for a few minutes on the balcony looking up captivated without being able to say a word. I couldn’t capture the scenery, but it was well embedded in my mind. If I close my eyes, I can still see the sky full of stars. I spent the 24h inside the hotel meditating, reading, swimming and sleeping. Yes! An important rule for both locals and tourists is to stay inside with the lights off. Those who obey the rule will get a fine!
Many tourists prefer to leave the island during these 24h, but they have no idea what they’re missing. Thus, my advice to you is to stay in Bali and enjoy to the fullest this unique experience. It’s only one day a year where you can do absolutely nothing without feeling guilty! Learn more about the Balinese culture and reconnect with your inner self during this silent day of meditation.
TIP: You should make sure that you have enough food for 24h! Most hotels provide special packages for Nyepi, but in case you have other preferences, you should go to the supermarket before everything is closed.
2. ASTONISHING SUNSETS IN ULUWATU
You don’t have to miss the spectacular Uluwatu Temple, which is situated approx. 70 meters above the waves of the Indian Ocean. Beside breathtaking views and astonishing sunsets, Uluwatu offers cultural experience thorough the kecak dance, which is a traditional Balinese ritual. More than 20 men almost manage to hypnotize you trough a rhythmic chant that goes on and on, while two young princesses, a demon king, a damsel in distress and a mischievous monkey introduce you the story. My advice is to arrive early so you can enjoy everything the temple has to offer.
3. EAT FANCY – CAFÉ BALI SEMINYAK
After a while of eating only Nasi Goreng, Ayam Goreng and Satay Ayam (too much rice), you start to miss the food from home. Therefore, I had a rule. Once a week, I was allowed to spoil myself with food closer to the European style. Café Bali was one of the restaurants where I preferred to go due to its delicious food and its bohemian air.
4. WHEN DRINKING ALCOHOL, MAKE SURE YOU DRINK ONLY BEER
After 2 months and a half of living in Bali, I came to the conclusion that the cheapest and safest alcoholic drink is the local beer Bintang. Why do I say so? Most bars in this area offer free cocktails or tempting deals during the so-called happy hour in order to attract a high number of tourists. No one is wondering how bars can afford such luxury taking into consideration that imported alcohol is extremely expensive due to the high excise and import tax.
In reality, these free cocktails are made with arak – the traditional Balinese liquor mostly made from coconut palm flower or rice. At first glance, it looks safe, but it may contain traces of methanol, which is really toxic. Only one cocktail can cause you severe abdominal pain and nausea, and ruin your entire holiday.
5. SKY GARDEN BAR IN KUTA. THE PERFECT PLACE TO EAT, MAKE FRIENDS AND HAVE FUN!
One of my favorite locations in Kuta, where I used to spoil myself over the weekends with food more similar to home, is Sky Garden Bar. After a great value deal of all-you-can-eat buffet and drinks on the rooftop, the place turns into a memorable party, which lasts till the sunrise. Besides, Sky Garden Bar is ranked 88th among the top 100 clubs, according to DJ MAG. You should give it a try!
6. PARTY IN STYLE – LA FAVELA SEMINYAK
Seminyak is widely known for its fancy locations.
La Favela is one of the best places where you can party in a more elegant atmosphere.
7. LA PLANCHA SEMINYAK
La Plancha, which is situated exactly on the beach, is my favorite spot in Seminyak. Why? This place turns into an oasis of calm and relaxation after 6 o’clock, exactly when the sun goes down. The colorful beanbag chairs and umbrellas in combination with the shades of the sky during sunset make this place magical. You’ll notice an abundance of positive vibes only by admiring the sunset and hearing the sound of the ocean.
8. GO RAFTING. IT’S A LOT OF FUN!
Are you looking for an adventure? Rafting is the ideal activity that can get your adrenaline flowing. I know that many of you are wondering, which company offers the best deals and therefore, I recommend you Bali Sobek. Their service was absolutely beyond reproach. From the instructor with black humor, the towel and hot shower to the absolutely delicious Balinese lunch, which also included water, dessert and tea/coffee, everything was more than perfect.
9. RENT A SCOOTER
The cheapest and easiest way to travel around Bali is by scooter. It gives you the freedom to get from one place to another in a relatively short time, and it allows you to see the island at your own pace and to experience it without spending money on organized tours.
If you’re just getting started on two wheels or you’re afraid of riding a scooter, I advise you to choose another means of transportation for your own safety. To be honest, I didn’t rent a scooter exactly for this reason. Safety comes first, but if you can handle a scooter just go for it.
10. NEGOTIATE THE TAXI PRICE
Taxis can also be a convenient option to travel around the island. Even though it’s considered to be expensive for the locals’ income, it’s relatively cheap for foreigners. Imagine that a 10 km trip from Denpasar to Seminyak costs roughly 60, 000 IDR, which is less than 4 EUR.
Blue Bird Group has the most trustworthy taxi drivers. However, you still need to make sure that the driver turns on the taximeter and he understands the right address. How do you recognize a BlueBird Taxi? It’s simple. You need to look after one of the following signs.
11. VISIT A MONKEY FOREST. IT’S INCREDIBLY FUN!
Either you go to Sangeh Monkey Forest in Badung, or you visit Ubud Monkey Forest. 100% entertainment guaranteed!
12. FOR THE PLEASURE OF THE TASTE BUDS
Sweet treats are undoubtedly a delight for the taste buds. That’s why you need to make sure that you add The Harvest Patissier & Chocolatier on your bucket list. This place is special due to its variety of sweets that literally melt in your mouth and its remarkable design. I assure you that you’ll have the most delicious experience!
13. BUY A SIM CARD
It’s true that WI-FI is widely available in Bali, but the connection is sometimes very poor. In case you are a media addict and you can’t stay away from Social Media at least for a day, I recommend you to buy an Indonesian SIM card. You have plenty of Internet anytime and anywhere with approx. 100,000 IDR, which is less than 7 EUR.
14. BEAUTY SALON
I usually don’t like to take hasty decisions, but the inevitable happened. My eyebrows weren’t in their best shape and I decided to pluck them, while my brother was relaxing at a Balinese massage. Believe me, it was one of the worst ideas I’ve ever had.
I specifically told the beautician that I want my eyebrows to have a natural shape and it seemed like we talk the same language, but I froze instantly when I looked in the mirror. Do you know those fail pictures with thin eyebrows? Yes. That was me. Hilarious, but I’ve learned my lesson.
Think Pink Nails Denspar is the only beauty salon that lived up to my expectations. I came here through recommendations and thus, I can recommend it to you as well. It’s slightly more expensive than elsewhere, but it’s worth the money.
15. DIVE WITH AQUAMARINE
Since I started to enjoy life from the perspective of an adventurer, one of my greatest dreams was to get my PADI Open Water certification. AquaMarine Diving in Kuta made my dream come true.
After studying for a few days, taking my written exam and practicing the safety instructions, the real fun was about to begin; 2 days, 4 dives, 4 amazing people and an abundance of interesting marine life that hasn’t been equaled so far.
What did I see? The wreck of an US Army cargo ship (125m) from the II World War and thousands of fish, which most of them were friends of Nemo and Dory. I dived in Tulamben and Padang Bai.
I was very impressed by the excellent services AquaMarine offers. They took care of literally everything. They also work with professional and patient instructors, who make sure that you understand all the details and you are safe. By the way, the course cost me approx. 300 EUR.
TIP: You need to get at least 8h of sleep and you shouldn’t drink alcohol with a night before. Otherwise, enjoy this unique experience!
16. MAKE LOCAL FRIENDS
You should make local friends to enhance your Balinese experience! As I said in my previous blog post, the inhabitants of this beautiful island are special and I think it’s worthwhile to get to know them better. They can definitely take you to places unknown to tourists.
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