Australians have been making the obligatory bogan pilgrimage to Bali for years, and why not? It’s a beautiful country with friendly locals, gorgeous beaches and it is fantastic value for money. As a big ol’ bogan myself I’ve been many times, I just can’t seem to stay away from the place. Here’s my guide to things to do and see, the best places to eat and spots to avoid and beware of in Bali.
Note: for internationals among you, a ‘bogan’ is Australian slang for an uncouth or uncultured person. Such a person is usually identified by their choice of ill-fitting clothing, love of utility vehicles, ugg boots and ‘mullet’ hair styles. Celebrity examples may include: Pamela Anderson and the entire cast of Geordie and Jersey Shore.
The airport has come a very long way from its very humble and terrifying beginnings. It received a much needed face lift recently, which has made the experience of arriving in Denpasar far less confronting (and a lot less like being processed through the prison system). Taxi fares from the airport are now capped based on the location of your hotel, this takes the guess work out of it and helps you avoid scams. If you’re on a very tight budget, check with the rest of the cab line behind you as to where they are headed and split a cab (be safe about it though).
Also, you will need US$35 cash on you to purchase a visa on arrival (price is per person) – don’t forget this, it’s very important.
Like a big bogan moth to a flame, it’s inevitable you’ll want to see Kuta. So go and see it, take a walk down Poppies Lane, haggle with shop owners over some poorly made crap, then pack up your polyester Bintang singlets and get the heck out of there. Kuta’s great for a 1 or 2 night experience, but that’s it.
If you must stay in Kuta, make sure you walk down to Kuta Beach and watch the sunset from the comfort of a crumby old plastic chair with an ice-cold beer in hand, surrounded by chatty locals.
Note: plastic frame sunglasses should not cost more than AUD$5 per pair at MOST.
Far less offensive than Kuta, Seminyak is a great in-between location to stay. It’s a bit of a strange mix, you tend to find the beautiful resorts lining the beach looking all pristine and innocent, but go a few streets behind your resort and you’ll find the over-stocked knock-off shops and eager store owners just ready to pounce on you.
The best spot to eat in Seminyak is La Favella. It seems simple enough from the outside, but go inside and you’ll find a New Orleans-esque restaurant which backs into a beautiful garden. What I love about this place is how it’s impossible to tell how big it is, because it’s so overgrown and encompassing. The food is seriously good and I cannot recommend it enough, an absolute ‘must’.
Absolutely boring. I would only recommend going to Nusa Dua if you are not really interested in an authentic Bali experience at all and, instead, would like to secret yourself away in a resort with little to no contact with the outside world. Woah.. I think I fell asleep there for a second…
The only thing I go to Nusa Dua for is to visit my favourite restaurant, Bumbu Bali. This place is definitely in my top 5 favourite restaurants in the world. Based on the great service, relaxed and beautiful restaurant but most importantly, the incredible food – it is just that good. Sometimes I think I go back to Bali just to eat here.
A top spot to stay along a stunning coastline, Uluwatu is a great place to stay. Again, it gets you away from the grime of Kuta and immerses you in a more authentic vibe. You’ll be treated to beautiful views of the coastline from your resort, if you choose right.
Scale the side of the cliff face and have lunch at one of the cafes tucked into the rocks. Follow the surfers down to the water between the large rock formations, at low tide you can safely stand in them for beautiful photos of a less seen spot. You can also perch on top of the cliffs with an icy cold drink and watch the waves roll in.
Without a doubt, the best thing to do is get off the mainland and onto one of the islands. Place like Nusa Lembongan are more reflective of how Bali used to be before it became overrun with tourists and business minded locals.
Nusa Lembongan is simple and beautiful, surrounded by crystal-clear, blue, unpolluted water. You can hire a scooter here and safely navigate the roads, be sure to drive over the yellow bridge for a death-defying experience.
If budget is no option, stay in the Bali Hai Tide Huts. But if you’re looking for simple digs and want to get back to the basics, definitely stay at Secret Garden Bungalows. This easy-going little place is perfect to disconnect from the world and I loved how simple and uncomplicated it was.
Famed for its sunsets and seafood, Jimabaran Bay is a must do for visitors. Choosing a restaurant is the tough bit and everyone in Bali knows someone who runs one of them. Once you’ve chosen a restaurant, you can contact them and arrange for them to pick you up from your hotel, drive you to Jimbaran, then drive you back to your hotel again after dinner. Seriously, it’s ridiculous.
If you like to play things a bit more loose, just jump a cab to Jimbaran Bay, stroll along the beach and watch the sunset then wander up and choose a restaurant that looks good. Whatever you do, make sure your camera battery is fully charged.
Located up in the hills, Ubud provides a more leafy, earthy alternative to the beach scene. The decision to stay in Ubud will come down to what you want out of your holiday. I love the beach and am happiest when I’m near the water, so Ubud didn’t really take my fancy. But if you’re into a more organic experience and want to recreate some of Eat, Pray, Love, Ubud could be for you.
Beware the ravenous monkey temple. The bananas you will inevitably buy will definitely turn any and all monkeys into heat seeking missiles, your bananas will be the target. Be warned.
Things to do
No matter where you decide to stay, provided you are on the mainland, I recommend waking up at an ungodly hour to climb Mt Batur, a volcano, and watch the sunrise. This is a once in a lifetime experience which involves some pretty hard work hiking the side of a very steep volcano in pitch black darkness. Once you reach the top and settle in with a cup of tea, you’ll be glad you did it.
So there you have it, my simple guide to Bali and my top tips for places to eat at, visit and stay. Have you been to Bali? Did you enjoy it? What are your favourite spots or tips on what to avoid? Share in the comments.