What to expect:
Bali is the ultimate “I want to go to Hawaii but don’t wanna pay Hawaii prices so I am willing to fly 21 hours and live the tropical life with more of a third-worldy vibe” vacation. And I mean that in a good way. Bali, Indonesia is considered a third world country and I mean, you can obviously see that as your driver weaves between scooters and people and dogs and you watch through the cracks in your fingers over your face on the way to your resort. It is always weird for me to go and vacation somewhere where I see other people living in such different conditions but I just try to keep a positive perspective and be grateful that I have the opportunity to visit and enjoy their beautiful country. All that being said, just remember to keep your expectations appropriate because while the beaches are beautiful, the delicious food is so cheap, and the Indian Ocean waves are warm, you are still vacationing in a third world country. You are also vacationing in a country that is very very religious so be mindful not to step on the plethora of offerings that are put all over the sidewalks every day (like we did multiple times, oops…they really are evvverywhere!). Bali is seriously a dream and so gorgeous and there is SO much to do there. I have a handful of other helpful hints below so keep reading!
Also, let me make this loud and clear, it is so freaking hot in Bali. So. Hot. You will sweat so much and you will feel like you are stepping into a literal oven when you open your car door. Just be fully prepared to sweat off any makeup, sunscreen, and bug spray within 10 minutes of application (read: do not wear any makeup.)
Getting around Bali:
Scooters: We rode on the backs of scooters one time around town (as you can see in the vlog). We had a driver from the beach take us to the cafe I wanted to go to and it was sooo much quicker than getting in a taxi (but tbh sometime a taxi is worth it just so you can sit in some ac for a bit). Just be extra cautious not to let your leg graze up against a hot tail pipe or you will get a scathing, oozing, blistery second degree burn…like I did.
Taxis: Of course there are taxis around too and they are really cheap but I wouldn’t say that they are everywhere so you might need to search a bit harder to flag one down.
Private driver: This is 100% the way to go if you want to travel around the island. My in-laws were in Bali a week before we got there and had already found a driver they liked and would contact him on WhatsApp if they had somewhere planned they wanted to go. For our entire day trip to, from, and all around Ubud, he charged us $35! Plus they know the area and can make suggestions and you can leave your stuff in the car with them while you explore which is a major bonus. Our driver was so awesome so if you’re planning a trip to Bali, reach out to me and I’ll get you his contact info!
Where we stayed:
So we stayed at Ayana Resort & Spa Bali which was ahhh-mazing. This place has been on our bucket list for awhile and we said that if we ever got the chance to go to Bali, this is where we would stay. It is actually a really huge resort and you can use their sister property, Rimba’s, facilities so altogether it’s like 19 restaurants and 12 pools or something crazy like that. We stayed in a Deluxe Ocean View Room and it was also a newly renovated room (big difference from the old one). Literally the biggest bed I had ever seen…seriously like 9 feet across. We couldn’t even touch each others feet when laying on opposite sides (You can click here to watch my room tour and see)! The staff at the resort was SO nice and every single person stopped to let you pass and said hello and thank you and it was almost exhausting trying to leave a restaurant (just kidding, it was lovely). We were there the end of March and it didn’t feel like the resort was very crowded…I guess it could have been but because it’s so big, everyone was spaced out!
We went to three of their main pools while we were there: The main pool (duh) with an infinity edge and spitting dragon statues, the ocean pool (that required some serious cardio to walk down the 6 flights of rugged stairs to get to ocean level) that is also infinity edge (also the only seating there is cabanas so you have to time it right because there are only 11 of them), and we had the resort tram take us to the Ayana Villas property next door and go in the River pool to take some cool pictures BUT if you are familiar with the property and have seen those cool photos from above like this one, it is a sham because that is private property up there for weddings and you can’t walk up there for the shot. ALSO, at this pool, you can only have your cell phone/ take photos until 9am and after 5pm. Between those hours, there are absolutely no phones, like they come and collect them and lock them up, to create a zen environment. So basically we left there at 9am.
What we did:
Bali Swing: This place is not exactly what I expected but you should definitely make a stop here if you are in Bali. It costs $35 per person to get in which is a cash cow for them because it was packed and that is v expensive compared to everything else in Bali. There are about 5 swings you can go on (they will strap you in to all of them, but the really big one you are in a full harness set-up) and then there are these little environments like life-sized bird nests and heart shaped rocks that you can take pictures on. An instagrammers dream come true tbh. Just be prepared to wait in lines for each one. We went here first thing in the morning and it was already pretty crowded and VERY HOT. Also, be aware that there are now multiple “Bali swings” but this is the legit one.
Monkey Forest: This was our second stop on our Ubud day trip and again, not what I expected. To enter the sacred monkey forest, it costs $5 a person. They had a little cafe there and clean bathrooms and it was a pretty professional set-up. You have to walk a bit into the jungle on their paved paths (read: BUG SPRAY) to enter the forest. I was expecting little monkeys everywhere jumping on you and trying to steal your stuff and get into your backpacks. 1. These monkeys are not little, most of them were big monkeys with fangs and you do not want them near you. 2. There honestly weren’t a ton of them running around. The deeper you go, the more you will see though. There are maps showing you different paths and I don’t remember the exact name but there is a path called “jungle trek” or something like that that takes you on a long loop into what looks like deep jungle and I was skeptical but that is totally the way to go. It was so beautiful and we saw tons of monkeys jumping in the trees. There are also lots of workers all over and the monkeys will listen to them and they won’t let the monkeys hurt you. Basically just don’t try to touch them or grab them or pet them. At one point when I sat down, one jumped up and was cutely trying to pull at my belt loop which quickly turned into him fiercely biting it and when I tried to stand up, he bit my finger. So. Just be careful. There are no cases of rabies ever reported from the monkeys in this jungle and again there are lots of workers around to keep them under control but just, be smart.
Tegalalang Rice Terrace: I seriously can’t believe that these are fully functioning rice fields. 1. because there are hundreds of people every day walking all over them and 2. it was so bloody hot out there I can’t believe this is people’s jobs. We fully intended to go here first thing in the morning because that’s what we had read but we got a slightly later start than expected and our driver suggested going there later. We ended up there around 1pm in the heat of the day so it was pretty brutal. It was also so weird because I had pictured driving into the countryside and it being this really serene scene. Nope, you are in the middle of a bustling town and look to your right and get out and there’s the terraces right next to the road! It was also battle of the drones out there with everyone trying to get the classic rice terrace footage (I’m sure you watched the vlog already and you know what I’m talking about). Also be aware that they ask you to make a small donation before walking down into the terrace.
Kuta Beach: We spent a day up at Kuta Beach, what was supposedly a 15 minute drive from our hotel (another fun Bali tip, whatever the drive time says it’s going to be, double it.) Our taxi got us about a mile from the beach and we were just sitting at a stand still so we decided to get out, face the heat, and walk the rest of the way. The shops leading up to the beach were really fun to walk through (because they had ac) and we were able to barter for some clothes and souvenirs on our way. At the beach, you pay a couple bucks to use the beach chairs and umbrellas (bring your own towels). They have vendors walking around trying to sell you bracelets or sarongs or blow darts (yes really) but they aren’t very pushy and will leave you alone. Kick back, enjoy a $2 Bintang beer, and try to cool off in the bathtub temperature ocean water.
Shopping: Like I said, there are fun shops all around Kuta Beach (near Seminyak) with different knick knacks but we also found this road with some really cute boutique shops. Just tell your driver to take you near the Red Carpet Champagne Bar and there were a bunch of cute boutiques around there on the main road. Most places will barter with you so I suggest at least asking and cutting the price down at least 30-50% at first but expect to pay a bit more than that. A lot of boutiques in that area have fixed prices though and they won’t budge.
Where we ate:
Kynd Community: Ugh, GO HERE. JUST GO. Trust me. First of all it is so stinking cute and photogenic but the food was also SO delicious and different than all the other Indo food we had been eating. You have to get the açaí bowl (you have to ask them if you want “Bali” spelled on it) and avocado toast, and a juice, and a fresh coconut. I don’t even like coconut water and this was the best coconut water I have ever had. Trust me, you will love this place. I even bought one of their cute brass palm tree spoons to remind me of this special little place!
Potato Head Beach Club: Okay this is also a must do. We popped by here because it had been suggested to me and we wanted a drink at sunset. We were totally not prepared for the coolest hidden beach club that was PACKED yet we somehow scored a beach front lounge bed to enjoy some drinks (don’t get the Bali island iced tea. So strong…even for me) and appetizers (the poke cones and chicken sandwich sliders were amazing!!)
Warung Babi Guling Pak Malen: Okay this was 100% for Alec and it is apparently “the dish of Bali” and it is the best place on the island to get it. Babi guling is basically a big plate of suckling pig prepared different ways and it was just a bit too much for me so I let him have this one. It is a little hole in the wall type of place but apparently they prepare their food elsewhere and then bring it in. It was really busy and Alec cleaned his massive plate so if this is your style, hit it up!
Rock Bar: This is the most popular bar in Bali and was conveniently located at our resort! But to be completely honest, I think it was over hyped. I mean don’t get me wrong it was very cool and you take this wild elevator down the side of the cliff to avoid the hellacious stairs mentioned earlier and you are right over the ocean listening to the DJ and the waves but the drinks are very expensive, there wasn’t much food to choose from, it was PACKED, and it’s outside so you are roasting hot. Plus there wasn’t much of a sunset the night we went so that was kind of a buzzkill. If you are in Bali and have the time, I would say that it’s worth coming to but don’t expect the moon and the stars, ya know.
Sami Sami: Okay this is getting extremely long and my brain is getting tired. This is an Italian restaurant at Ayana and it is AMAZING. Their pizzas were delicious and it was a perfect break from all the satay and peanut sauce. But it’s open air so still no break from that dang humidity.
Padi: Also at Ayana, Padi is where we had breakfast every day (because it was included with our room package lol) but this was the most intense breakfast buffet I think I have ever seen. Literally everything. 10 kinds of juice, tons of fruit, charcuterie, dim sum, fresh pastries, bacon and eggs and sausage, smoothies, fresh coconuts, sushi, fried rice, waffles, just everything.
Here are few extra tips I have if you are planning a trip to Bali-
- Our resort, Bali swing, and monkey forest all took credit card but it is good to have cash for shopping, taxis, beach set-ups, etc. They use rupiah and I would suggest exchanging your cash at the airport. Don’t get too much though because there are a lot of ATMs around where you can get more (but they also don’t always work). And carry small amounts in your “shopping pocket” so when you are bartering you can play the “this is all I have” card instead of pulling out a fat stack.
- With that being said, use credit card because if something were to happen, credit cards are way easier to dispute than debit cards. Also make sure to login to your online banking and set a travel alert for where and when you will be traveling so they don’t shut down your card.
- As far as vaccinations go, we were up to date on all our basic vaccinations so we just got the Typhoid and Hep A vaccinations since those are high recommended by the CDC for Southeast Asia as Typhoid and Hep A are transferrable through unclean water (even ice cubes or produce that was rinsed in unclean water). Hep A was covered by our insurance but the typhoid is considered to only be for leisure travel and isn’t usually covered. We did the typhoid pill vaccinations since they will keep you vaccinated for 5 years (as opposed to the shot that lasts for 2 years) and it cost about $80 for that bad boy with a GoodRx Coupon.
- Like I have mentioned a handful of times, it is really really hot and be mindful that even when you put on face sunscreen, it will melt off and if you forget to reapply, you will go to the rice terraces and your forehead will burn and then peel and you will be sad. And if that happens to you like it happened to me, I recommend using the Summer Fridays Jet Lag mask. I used this as my sole moisturizer the entire time I was in Bali because my face got so sunburned and even though my forehead peeled, I think it would’ve been worse had I not used this super intense moisturizer (it is technically a mask but I used a thinner layer and made it a moisturizer 🤷🏼♀️ sue me)
- For bug spray, we used the deep woods deet wipes and found they worked really really well. We only got bit on this trip when we were being lazy and weren’t using them. Put on your sunscreen, wait 15 minutes, then rub on the deet wipes.
- Lastly, just don’t wear makeup. There is literally no point. I wore zero makeup the entire time I was in Bali. If you are used to wearing makeup on a daily basis like me, I HIGHLY recommend getting eyelash extensions. The best investment I made for this trip tbh (and I bought a lot of clothes so….)