Travelling BALIOur Top Tips
BALI HAS IT ALL FROM TEMPLES, TO MONKEY FORESTS, SECRET BEACHES TO CO-WORK SPACES!
EXPLORING BALI WAS JUST ONE ADVENTURE AFTER ANOTHER. WE WERE IN AWE AT THE CULTURE, ARCHITECTURE, FOOD, PEOPLE AND WAY OF LIFE.
Have you ever dreamed of ticking Bali off your bucket list? Well we did, and this trip was a dream a dream come true. Bali is a real shock to the senses in the most amazing ways, we hope this blog will help inspire your next adventure with some top tips and tricks for travelling to this tropical wonderland!
VISAS & ARRIVAL
Skip this bit if you know about Bali visas already, or don’t if you want to have a bit of a laugh at my story… I am going to launch into this blog with some housekeeping, as it is the little things that can really trip you up when you arrive if you don’t know where to go or what to do. As a professional and seasoned traveller, naturally I forgot entirely about arranging any kind of visa (a-duh), so here is a reminder so that you don’t have the faff I had to deal with. I mean it wasn’t that bad in the end but still I could have made life a little easier for myself if I had thought things through.
Arriving into Bali, you are granted a visa on arrival. This is free if you intend to stay 30 days or less. You just head straight to immigration with your passport and in you go, unless of course you are a criminal then unfortunately it’s not so easy I’m afraid, but assuming you are all legitimate non-convicted travellers, then this is your best and easiest way to enter and enjoy Bali. If you have bigger plans for your trip and want to stay longer (like I did), then you will need to get an extendable visa. Ideally if you apply for the visa before you leave your home country you can have the 60-day visa before you arrive and sail through (60 days is the maximum Indonesia allows). However, if like me you forget, you can get a paid 30-day visa on arrival which they then allows you to extend once you are in. If you know you will want more than 30 days, or think you might want to extend your trip, you should get a paid visa on arrival. It costs $35. You then have to go through the process of extending your visa, which is the faffy part. It is easier to find a trustworthy travel agent to help you, so you don’t have to make too many trips to the immigration agency, however there is of course always an additional charge. Your extended visa will cost another $35 plus the agent fees. You will have to go to the embassy at least once to have your photo taken and for a short interview, and you will have to give away your passport to the visa agents. I was definitely a little apprehensive about this part as I literally handed my passport to someone on a moped that I had been introduced to on WhatsApp. Generally speaking, it is safe, but try to find a reputable and recommended agent to help you as your passport is an important thing. If you don’t want to use an agent you can do it all yourself but you have to make 3 separate trips to the immigration agency over the period of about a week, so you have to ensure you have the time and means to do this. It can be difficult depending on where you intend to stay.
One other important point to consider is your onward travel from Indonesia. If you’re anything like me and you don’t know what you’re doing from one minute to the next then you may not yet have decided on your onward travel plans, unfortunately I arrived to check in to my flight from the UK without a pre-approved visa and no onward travel out of Indonesia booked. I had to buy a flight at the bag drop desk before they would let me check into my flight to Bali. Naturally I had no clue what my actual plans were, so I ended up wasting £30 on a one-way ticket from Jakarta to Singapore. Your onward travel can be from anywhere in Indonesia, but you have to have it, or they won’t let you board your flight.
Okay, so house-keeping over, now you know how long you can go for, let’s explore all the amazing things there are to see and do in Bali baby!
So, as I was saying we arrived into Bali late at night and were hit by the muggy tropical heat, our taxi driver (and soon to be good friend, Hi Derek!) was waiting with a smiley face and a sign with our names on. After a short drive into the centre of the Island we arrived in Ubud. A magical jungle paradise with a vibey coffee shop, remote-work and yoga scene. Ubud was the first shock to the system, seeing how much it has changed over the years… from what used to be a very hippy, sleepy village with a single pot-hole filled road through the middle, to the now bustling hip and happening tourist trap. I had a real love hate relationship with Ubud. Cool brunch spots, epic yoga studios and co-work spaces that dreams are made of, meant that Ubud ticked a lot of my “yes please” boxes. However, for the same reasons I also found it hard, knowing that the cause of the tourist boom was all of the things that I loved too, and also feeling a little sad about the sleepy vibe that had been lost from all those years ago. Still, our time in Ubud was amazing and we really made the most of what there was to see.
Now I can’t recommend that you hire a scooter, because it is 10000% not a very safe place to drive, but realistically, everyone does it (sorry mom), if you do then please wear a helmet (responsible adulting, tick). Otherwise you can get around by taxi very cheaply or book a driver to take you on a tour. All of the good to see spots in the area are within a 40 mins drive of central Ubud, just try to avoid being on the roads at rush hour times (8-9am and 5-6pm) as traffic can be terrible.
I was lucky enough to have spent a week doing a yoga cleanse at the Yoga Barn, green juice, auyrvedic massage and daily yoga classes, while I was waiting for Toni to finish up work in Japan. Definitely recommend a visit if you’re into the yoga scene, however there is a slight air of ‘yoga snobyness’ as you often find at most ‘cool’ studios. If you can look past this and find some teachers that you like, it really is an incredibly beautiful place, set down into the Bali forest with a stunning wooden shala, spa, café and juice bar. I stayed at the onsite accommodation too which was really nicely decorated and had a little pool. A pool is a must in Ubud, being able to take a dip after a day in the sticky heat is much needed.
Toni arrived a week later and we had 2 days to see all that UBud had to offer… I would recommend taking more time if you can as it would have been nice to have some more chill out time, I think we were a bit ‘templed out’ by the end of it. Here is a list of some of our favourite things to see and do…
1. Ulundesa Coffee House
There are loads of coffee house and plantations in Ubud. If you have never seen how coffee is made before this is a cool (and free) activity. They take you to the shop at the end of your visit and you can buy some coffee if you want too, but there is no pressure. You get to see the coffee making process and to taste the different types too… including one made from the POOP of a Balinese Luwak (mmm yum). We loved the coconut coffee!
2. Pura Tirta Empul – Water Temple
Take your bikini and a sarong for this one. You can get in the water for a blessing at the temple and on a hot day, having a dip is just dreamy. It does get very busy so go early for a more peaceful experience.
3. Take a stroll along the Campuhan Ridge Walk
Funny story, we actually ran along this as we thought the thing to see was at the end of it and it was starting to get towards sunset. Turns out the thing to see is the whole of it, so needless to say we took a slow walk back along the 2km track and enjoyed the views. Leave time so you can walk the walk slowly and take in the Balinese scenery along the way.
4. Water Palace, Ubud Market and Ubud Palace
In the centre of town, you will find these three attractions within a few minutes of each other. All are nice to see, again go early as there are so many crowds, erugh. Being central it gets very busy and is quite touristy in this area. When you find the Starbucks, don’t worry you’re not lost, the water palace is behind it. At the market, they like to give you a ‘morning price’ during their quiet times, so if you do have some shopping to do, we recommend heading down then.
5. Goa Gaja
One of the more architecturally interesting temples to go and see with lovely gardens to wander around. There is a lot of walking and steps involved so be ready for a hike.
6. The Monkey Forest
By far the most iconic Ubud destination. It has been redeveloped from its original state to accommodate the tourism, but you can still see the traditional temple, and there really are monkeys everywhere. They do try to steal your stuff, and they will jump on you if you let them. There are guards trying to keep the human, monkey peace so try your best to just go and observe rather than aiming for the monkey Instagram selfie, it is frowned upon.
After all of this exploring you will no doubt need some food! Our favourite spot for brunch in Ubud had to be Habitat, opposite monkey forest. Actually, Habitat was good any time of the day, they do a cracking breakfast menu but also some solid lunch and dinner options too, with vegan and veggie choices if that tickles your fancy.
For accommodation recommendations it really depends on budget. We stayed at Sarin Suites (mid-range), which is super central, and the staff were just dreamy. We chose Sarin because it was linked with the Hubud Co-Work space, one of the best offices I have ever worked in! If you are looking to travel and work then you can’t go wrong with Hubud as your base, super-fast internet, rice-paddy views, skype rooms, printing, coffee, tea and water on tap and an outdoor café with beanbag work area. Dreams do come true.
If you want any more info on Ubud places to stay then drop us an email… firstname.lastname@example.org and we would be happy to help!
Next it was onto our retreat destination Canggu for some beach side chilling. We were very keen to get into the sea after our long old winter in the JAPOWDER. Canggu was bigger than I expected, again I guess due to rapid expansion from increasing levels of tourism. That said, it is still pretty quiet compared to neighbouring Seminyak and Kuta, the more traditional Bali holiday spots. Canggu is a little futher up the coast and still has a boho up and coming feel to it. There are one or two big hotels, but you still have some street markets and you can find cheap local food easily too at the Warungs. Next door Seminyak is littered with 5-star hotel reorts and fine dining, so your desination of choice probably depends on budget and what kind of hoiday vibe you are after. Honeymooners tend to lean towards the Seminyak resorts whereas surfers and the backpacker types are more often found in Canggu and other nearby quieter spots.
We treated ourselves to a few private pool villas while we were here, another perk of Canggu is that you can get European 5-star luxury at about a quarter of the price! But there are so many accommodation options ranging from £5-8 per night for a comfortable room + pool, all the way up to £300 per night for your own villa apartment with butler and private sea view. I know it is cliché to say, but just read the reviews, some places have great pics but are not what they seem when you arrive. Remember this is Bali, not Europe and things can be a little rough around the edges. The odd cockroach makes the whole thing more authentic anyway.
As we were settling in here for a while the first job was to sign up to Dojo Co-work space, the partner space of Hubud in Ubud. This place made Hubud look like a regular run of the mill office, 2 floors of beautiful work space, topped off with its own pool for when the stress just got too much to handle.
We ran around like crazy for few days settling in, getting our wheels, finding our favourite food spots (Moana, I spent all of my money in you), and getting the all-important surf equipment set up. Then we just kind of settled into everyday life, and it was amazing. We had friends in the area from our season in Japan and through planning the retreat we met some awesome locals (Hi Damon, Hi Louie). Waking up early for a surf or yoga session, a lazy breakfast and a few hours of work, then some time on the beach to relax and enjoy. As far as lifestyles go, this was up there (I had some really real, oh yeahh this is actually my life, moments.)
Canggu was a mecca for the yummiest of yummy food. Some of my favourite eating spots included; brunch house Crate, an awesome self-service brunch concept with huge plates and low prices. Definitely the most instagrammed breakfast in the area. Always 1000000% busy. Rise & Shine, a more understated brunch affair but cracking portion sizes and excellent service. Our regular spot for breakfast was Canteen, good old-fashioned breakfast food, good coffee and always had space to sit and enjoy. Finally, you can’t miss a trip to Shady Shack, another Instagram hot spot but well deserved as the food was truly incredible. For lunch we loved to visit the local Warung’s, my personal favourite was Teh Manis, a small buffet style restaurant that offered yummy Indonesian food at super cheap prices, another close to the beach spot was Ithaka, best Nasi Goerang in town. Our favourite dinner restaurants were Moana, serving mainly fresh fish dishes, Billy Ho, an Asian fusion style eatery and Pizza Fabrica, serving, well, pizza.
Aside from eating… we took a few local trips to check out some of the nearby sights and explore the beaches in the area too. Our first trip was to Tannah Lot temple, just 20 mins drive from Canggu. It was very busy, and you had to give donations to access a lot of the ‘view points’ but all in all it was a beautiful spot. We recommend going in from the north entrance and walking though as it is quieter, and you get to see more of the temple area where less people walk too.
A few days later we drove down to explore Jimbran, Bingin and Uluwatu. Two very famous surf spots. Needless to say, they were as beautiful as we imagined, especially Bingin. The walk down to the beach through the houses built into the cliffs was just amazing. Walking down the stairs and seeing the crystal blue waters appear through the tree branches, with monkeys running up and down around us was a moment we will never forget.
The retreat came and went in the BLINK of an eye, family friends and new retreaters joined us for a week of fun in the sun. During the week we visited the amazing Ulun Danu Betran Temple on the North East of the Island. It was a 1.5 hour drive but worth it to see the views of the temple on the lake and paddle around in our little paddle boat.
There is so much to see on the East side of Bali that we didn’t have time to make it too. The top of the list for our next trip in 2020 is to do the volcano hike and to visit the island of Nusa Lembongan.
4 weeks in Canggu flew by, as the old saying goes, time flies when you’re having fun. We truly loved this place and feel that we found a real home from home.
If you want to find out more about any of the places we visited or stayed then drop us an email, email@example.com, we would be happy to help you plan your next adventure!
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