This post is long overdue. There is a lot of information on internet about Bali for tourists, and I was not sure if someone will need this one more blog of mine 🙂 But I realized I have some information that I could not find online before we went to Bali; and this may help someone plan their holiday better..so here I go!
We went to Bali in the second week of May 2016. Bali is an all-year destination, and though May is supposedly their low season; we still found it crowded. February to April is rainy season so many activities like paragliding, SCUBA, watersports etc are closed at that time. We could not see any beautiful sunset even in mid-May because of the clouds most of the evening. I must say that Bali is a vast island and one week is very less to explore the place. It caters very well to Australian tourists who visit Bali for month long holidays.
Our itinerary was something like this:
Day 1: Arrive in Bali and spend our day around Kuta.
Day 2: Go to temples in the North.
Day 3: Go to Bali Marine and Safari Park.
Day 4: Transfer to a resort in Nusa Dua; go to Devdan show in the evening.
Day 5: Relax at the resort.
Day 6: Visit attractions in Nusa Dua and end the day with sunset at Uluwatu temple.
Since we were travelling with our 5 yr old kid, we did not want a very hectic itinerary. And us being beach lovers, wanted to spend some quality time on the beaches.
We booked the hotels 2 months in advance. Bookings were made based on 2 criteria: kid-friendly, close to beach, availability of breakfast and close to Indian restaurants. Since my husband is vegetarian and were not sure how easy it will be to find Balinese veg food; we wanted to be close to Indian restaurants.
Day 1 to 3: Booked at Adhi Jaya Hotel, Kuta. Read my review of Adhi Jaya Hotel, Kuta.
Day 4 to 6: Booked at Hotel Grand Mirage, Tanjung Benoa, Nusa Dua. Read my review of Grand Mirage Resort, Tanjung Benoa, Bali.
Travel to Bali:
We booked Air Asia from Hyderabad to Kuala Lumpur and then onwards to Bali. Air Asia does not have fly-though to Denpasar, Bali (as on May 2016); which means you will have 2 PNRs for the 2 legs – HYD-KUL and KUL-DPS. This also means you need a transit visa for KUL; which costs approx Rs.3000 per person. We called Air Asia before booking but the lady was confident it would be one ticket (one PNR) even if we booked through some online travel agent website. This was wrong however. We booked through skypicker.com and had to spend Rs.10K on the visa too!! We would have rather booked with a full fare Malaysian airline and avoided the hassle of getting KUL Visa. Indians get a Visa on Arrival (VOA) at Denpasar, Bali.
We had a late night flight to KUL and Air Asia was comfortable for a 4 hr flight. If your flight timings are such that you need to have meal onboard, make sure you book it in advance. They do not carry all items on board. We could not get any veg meal on KUL-DPS leg and had to make-do with veg cup noodles. On our way back from DPS-KUL, we did not find anything suitable for kiddo online so we thought we will get him cup noodles. However, they did not have veg cup noodles. He had to make do with non-veg biryani; which was little spicy for him.
KUL airport has choices for veg meal as well; so we tucked in breakfast there before boarding the DPS flight. Immigration was fast and though we had 3 hrs in between flights; we had no rush. Denpasar airport on the other hand; does not have much choices for food. Its better to get something packed from outside or order on-board.
Travel inside Bali:
Attractions in Bali are scattered and you need to travel quite a lot. Though public transport is available and inexpensive; its better to hire a cab. Its not very expensive and a full day trip on a small car would cost you ~Rs.2500 (500000 IDR) per day. This includes car hire, insurance, driver, car parking, and petrol. Some drivers also double up as tourist guides; wherein they get free pass to tourist attractions (like zoo, safari park etc); so you can find that out before hiring a driver. We did some research on tripadvisor forums and wrote to few drivers. We finally settled on Wayan Merta. He was quick and to the point in responding, offered good rates, did not smoke and was recommended by many travellers. His contact details:
Phone No: +6208123609749.
He proved to be very resourceful, fun and knowledgable. He was always on-time and though we did not take any SIM card, we never had any problems locating him at any attraction. I will highly recommend him.
For the local travel when we didn’t use Merta’s services, we booked Uber; like travel to restaurants, transfer within hotels and to Devdan show. Uber is very convenient; since it directly charges from your credit card. Make sure you install and register on it before you leave your country, because it will require a phone number to register. We managed a week in Bali without taking any local SIM, thanks to free wifi in the hotels, Wayan’s responsiveness and Uber 🙂 Some Uber drivers may cancel the ride if they try calling you and they can’t reach; but if you are booking from a hotel; they will usually locate you. There are other radio taxis like Bluebird; but they need local phone number.
If you are in Bali for the first time, take Airport taxi from the airport to your hotel. Its costlier than Uber, but cheaper than calling a cab to pick you up. We paid ~Rs.350 (70000 IDR) for the airport taxi from airport to Adhi Jaya. Make sure you give the address correctly and refer the chart outside to avoid any cheating.
Car and bike rentals are also very popular in Bali, but their roads to get congested with traffic. Driving in Bali is very similar to driving in India, in the sense people do not have much regard for rules all the time.
Connectivity in Bali:
Most of the hotels in Bali have free wifi. We downloaded Bali’s offline Google map for the times when we didn’t have connectivity. Since we had already hired cab in advance and Merta was accessible on Whatsapp, not being connected was not much of an issue. We did try getting a SIM card on the first day in Kuta. However, we were asked to pay atrociously high; and we skipped it. We had done our research on Bali and had decided on getting Telkomsel prepaid SIM card, but didn’t feel the need finally. One of the blogs on prepaid cards in Bali is can be found at this link. Bali is very much like India in terms of bargaining. You have to bargain for anything and everything.
Shopping in Bali:
We found it extremely surprising that there is no concept of MRP in Bali. Nothing in Bali comes with a price written by the manufacturer; not even water!! Shops put their own random pricing. Next to Adhi Jaya, we bought 2 lt water of the same brand for 10000 IDR, 60000 IDR and even 50000 IDR from different shops. We then stuck to Mini Marts/ Q Marts/ Circle K (similar to 7 elevens, open 24/7). They had standard pricing throughout Bali.
Bali is a very popular shopping destination, with many international brands present there. However, one needs to be an expert bargainer to get a good deal. Given my husband and I cannot bargain at all, and we are not much into shopping; we were not interested in buying clothes. Merta mentioned that sometimes one can bargain at 40% of the price. We did want to buy some souvenirs though. Thats where Merta’s resourcefulness came into picture. He took us to a shop where we got souvenirs at a reasonable price without bargaining!!
If you cannot view the picture, their address is:
Cening Bagus, JI Raya Batubulan 100X, Batubulan – Gianyar – Bali. Phone No: (0361) 292308.
The clothes section here will not attract you if you are looking for designer wears, but if you are looking for casual t-shirts, dresses that you can wear at home/ on holiday; you can check them out. Priced reasonably from Rs.200 (40000 IDR); you can find something for everyone. We were more interested in souvenirs though. Got some masks (30000 IDR), toys, fridge magnets (set of 5 at 8000 IDR) etc. The collection was huge and someone like me who hates shopping was also tempted to buy 🙂 So if you want to shop in Bali and you cannot bargain, head to this place 😀
Things to do in Bali:
Bali has many attractions and depending on the kind of holiday you prefer, decide your itinerary. This post on tripadvisor lists different areas in Bali:
Since ours was a short trip and we did not want to make it very hectic, we decided to be on the south and west side. We had heard about temple architecture in Bali and wanted to explore some of their beautiful temples. Also, given its a beach destination; we wanted to spend some time in Nusa Dua which has best beaches.
Temples in Bali
Temples in Bali are beautiful. Their unique architecture can be seen everywhere. Most of the people in Bali have a temple inside their house premises to pray their ancestor. Visiting temples is such an essential part of any Bali itinerary that it needed a separate post of its own. Read my post to know the ticket prices, time required to visit the must visit temples in Bali.
Beaches in Bali
With our experience, I would say beaches in Bali are overrated, atleast the ones on west and south. They have good waves and are excellent for surfing; but there are much better beaches in places like Thailand, Mauritius, Maldives and even India. Beaches that we visited:
Kuta Beach: As mentioned earlier, one of the not-so-clean beach on the west. It is better for surfing than swimming because of the high and rough waves.
Nusa Dua Beach at The Bay, Bali: This is a much cleaner beach at The Bay, Bali. We went before Devdan Show so could not get into the water.But the beach is clean and well maintained. The waves were not rough.
Pandawa Beach: This beach in south Bali has white sand, is well maintained but is extremely crowded. Its is called so because it is believed “Pandavs” once roamed to this beach. Just before the beach entrance, there are statues of 5 pandawas and their mother Kunti devi too. The entrance view is magestic. Some water sports was happening when we went there.
Suluban beach: This beach is close to Uluwatu temple. It is not very easy to reach and requires climbing down steep ~160 steps. But the view is nice and its good for photography. The waves are rough and the beach is rocky. Its a lovely beach for surfing though. Saw many surfers in the evening we went there. There are some shops half way through the steps which sell local artefacts and clothes etc. There is another set of steps leading to a cafe which would have a beautiful sunset view.
There is a parking fee of 5000 IDR for cars.
There are other beaches in west and south Bali like Julia Roberts Beach (Padang Padang beach in the south which became famous because the movie Eat Pray Love starring Julia Roberts was shot here) and Jimbaran Beach (famous for its seafood); but we did not have time to cover all of them.
Attractions in Bali other than beaches and temples: There are many attractions in Bali other than the beautiful beaches and temples. While we could not cover all of them during our short stay, we did some of the best ones. You can read my review of the attractions in Bali other than beaches and temples.
Restaurants in Bali:
We researched more about Indian restaurants in Bali because even though we have been able to find local veg food in various countries; they tend to smell non-vegetarian many times (especially in Thailand, Hong Kong, Malaysia). Reason could be because they use the same utensils or because the oil they use is same. However, to our pleasant surprise this was not the case in Bali and we did try their local vegetarian food on many occasions and liked it.
Bali restaurants are also listed on Zomato and many of them have menu too. So its a good idea to check it out if you are specific about cuisine/ prices.
Here is a review of restaurants we tried:
Beras Merah Waroeng and Bar: This was the in-house restaurant at Adhi Jaya Hotel, Kuta serving mostly local Balinese food. The restaurant overlooks Discovery Mall and we could hear the live band performing at the mall on Sunday. There was not much vegetarian on the menu, but they made fried rice/ fried noodles vegetarian. Non veg was good, and so was kid’s meal. The portions of kid’s meal and adult meal were not very different (though the price was thrice or more for some dishes) so 2nd time onwards we ordered kid’s meal for all of us. Their veg spring roll and banana split (pisang goreng) were especially good. Service was slow though. They had live music on one of the nights we dined.
The menu is available on zomato.com at this link: https://www.zomato.com/bali/beras-merah-waroeng-bar-tuban/menu
Taman Sari, Rumah Makan, Bedugul: We dined at this restaurant after visiting Pura Ulun Danu. Its around 10mins drive from Pura Ulun Danu and our driver Merta took us here. It was a small place but the food was very good and amazingly reasonable too. the siting area one level below the ground overlooked some fields and had a nice feel to it.
Menu is also available on zomato at https://www.zomato.com/bali/taman-sari-bedugul/menu
Queens of India, Kuta: This was a few mins walk from Adhi Jaya and inside the Bali Dynasty Resort. It was always crowded and we got take-away twice during our stay. Food was good, though expensive. The take-away service was fast. They have delivery service too. Their details are available on the website http://bali.queenstandoor.com/
Their menu is available on zomato at https://www.zomato.com/bali/queens-of-india-bali-dynasty-resort-tuban/menu
The Pirates Bay, Bali: This is a pirate theme based restaurant at “The Bay”, Bali. We went there before Devdan show. Its hardly 5min walk from Devdan show. There is cover charge of 50000 IDR per person if you do not want to eat anything. If you want to be served inside their pirate ship, minimum order is 150000 IDR per person. However, you can climb up the ship or tree house to click pictures and have food in one of their normal seating. We ordered one pasta, 1 sandwich and one Bali coffee and the bill was 139,000 IDR. The food was quite good.
The place looked a little run down and not well maintained. Half the activities were non-functional. One tree house, one boat, zip line were not functional. Swings etc looked run down.
Its a good place to go if you have kids. Its just across a nice beach, so the 2 activities can be combined. Don’t forget mosquitoes repellents though.
Menu is available on zomato at https://www.zomato.com/bali/the-pirates-bay-nusa-dua/menu
Indian Dhaba, Nusa Dua: We had lunch at Indian Dhaba one of the days and the food was good. Its less expensive compared to Queens of India, and is a much more humble place. They also have a pickup service in Nusa Dua/ Tanjung Benoa and you can reach them on 0361 9109000.
Menu is available on zomato at https://www.zomato.com/bali/indian-dhaba-nusa-dua/menu. This is however an outdated menu and prices were slightly higher.
Queens of India, Nusa Dua: This branch is around 1.5kms from Grand Mirage Resort and offers free pickup drop facility in the area. We could never reach them on their number though. Their number is (62-361) 771 244. Food is slightly expensive than their Kuta branch. Food is good here too. When we visited, there was a big corporate group from India and we decided for a take-away again. They did drop us back to Grand Mirage.
Menu is available on zomato at https://www.zomato.com/bali/queens-of-india-tanjung-benoa/menu and details available on their website http://bali.queenstandoor.com/location/nusa-dua too.
Summing it up, Bali is a nice place to visit; but requires time to be explored. Do you research and decide on the activities you would want to do in your limited time there.