Routinely offering flights specials and notorious for its low-priced, luxury accomodation, it’s no wonder that Bali remains one of the most popular holiday destinations for Australians. We finally made it to Bali to see what all the fuss is about, and learned just a few tips and tricks along the way that might help you make the most of your Indonesian adventure.
Rent a scooter!
I know a lot of people will say not to rent a scooter anywhere in SE Asia as it’s “too dangerous”, and that’s probably good advice for some people. If I was alone in Indo, I would definitely not have rented one because I have no idea how to operate a scooter and get incredibly nervous and sweaty even on a push bike. However, I think the blanket advice that NO traveller should rent a scooter or motorbike is more than a bit unfair, as it’s probably the best part of travelling in Asia!
If you or your travel companion (Callum) is confident at riding a bike, it will be no issue. It’s best to have your passenger (me) acting as navigator so you can focus wholly on the road. The traffic does not follow normal road rules, so you will need to be super alert to avoid running into someone, but it IS doable! And it’s really the only way to get around. Public transport is unreliable, the island is so small that a scooter can easily get you here to there, and I would NEVER recommend renting a car due to the tight streets and crazy traffic. Plus, it cost us $5AUD a day for our bike, so it’s impossible to beat that with any private driver or tour bus. If you’re super concerned, buy travel insurance and just make sure that it covers scooter/motorbike injury, as most basic policies don’t.
Download offline maps!
Bali is a small island and you can easily zig-zag the whole thing, but don’t expect to have any idea where you are going without a map of some sort– and who can be fucked with an actual paper map… You could buy a sim card and use google maps, but Callum and I previously discovered the great (free!) app navimii when we were in NZ and luckily it also supports Indonesia! It actually has heaps of countries that you can download offline maps for, most are free, and we found it to be very accurate in both countries that we’ve used it in so far! The time estimate is often wrong due to traffic, but it picked up pretty much every road and we didn’t get lost at all so it’s a must have if you want to navigate with your phone on airplane mode!
Book accommodation on Airbnb!
I am a huge fan of Airbnb for pretty much anywhere in the world, and it is definitely a great option for Bali (sign up on Airbnb and get $46AUD off your first stay if you follow this link.) Most of what I saw when I was looking was small guesthouses or private villas renting bedrooms. The villa we stayed in was gorgeous, with an open-air kitchen and pool, shared by two big bedrooms, which were stand-alone and quite self-contained with nice bathrooms. The owners, a young couple, lived in one bedroom and we stayed in the other. It was just like staying in a fancy hotel, but so quiet and personal. We could get great advice from the owners and relax in the pool without hundreds of other travellers splashing about. It seriously felt like having a private pool, but far less than half the price! I think we paid about $30/night for both of us. A great option if you want to have a luxurious holiday on a very tight budget!
Stay in Canguu!
Well, we haven’t stayed anywhere else, but we did visit Kuta and Uluwatu and some of the busier tourist areas, and Canguu is honestly such a better vibe. It isn’t crowded, but it’s still really close to great beaches, it’s super trendy, and there’s amazing food! Canguu is overflowing with gourmet food spots and we absolutely loved it, even though it was pretty western and more expensive (~$8/person for big breakfast or dinner).
For us, this holiday was more about relaxing than getting into the local culture, so being able to get amazing smoothies or gelato for $2-3 and fancy Australian-style breakfast dishes for $6 was totally what we were after. Getting away from the western food was easy, too; just 5 min on the scooter and we could eat at Indonesian warungs for ~$1/person. Even better, there are food vendors with just a tiny BBQ along a lot of main roads and you can get a dozen spicy chicken skewers cooked right in front of you for $2. Swoon. In terms of going out on the town, we had a fabulous night at Pretty Poision, right at the end of the Canguu shortcut road– would recommend!!
Bali isn’t renowned for its beaches, but there are still gorgeous places to lounge about. They won’t be the hugely popular tourist beaches, though! Those are crowded and dirty, not things you want on a relaxing beach holiday. So hop on your scooter and find some beaches of your own!
For great beaches, you could also visit one of the Gili islands nearby. Unfortunately, we did not plan ahead for this, so learn from our mistakes! Either way, though, you’ll love your trip—just make sure you get out of the busy areas and into the real island vibe. Stalk some instas like Bali Bible for great island inspiration.