Far away from the bustling streets of Kuta and sunburned, sand-covered tourists, Ubud awaits. A peaceful, jungle escape, where the pace feels slower and everything is a little more relaxed. Local artists display their paintings, jewellery, carvings and handicrafts, cafes and restaurants boast organic, vegan fare and dense green rice patties and patches of jungle spring up out of nowhere. Ubud is spiritual, welcoming and peaceful, and for anyone looking to see another side of Bali and unwind among nature, it’s the perfect destination.
Must-know tips for visiting Bali
If this is your first time visiting Bali, there are a couple of things you need to know before you set off:
- We visited Bali in March 2017 and, at the time of our visit as Australians, were not required to purchase a Visa
- To make life easier, try booking a hotel with an airport shuttle
- Things are never perfect in Bali, so set your expectations appropriately, relax and go with the flow
- Prepare to experience amazing Balinese hospitality, warm welcomes and plenty of happy smiles
- Learning a few key words in Bahasa goes a long way! Tidak (no), Terima Kasih (thank you) and Sama Sama (you’re welcome)
- You’re going to need to haggle when shopping at local stores, learn how to haggle like a professional here
- The roads are perfectly organised chaos, don’t panic, your driver always knows what they’re doing!
- You can’t drink the tap water, so stock up on big bottles from local stores
- Read all of my 23 things to know before you visit Bali
How to get to Ubud
Depending on the time of day, it should take around 1 1/2 – 2 hours to get to Ubud. If you have a choice, I’d recommend making the drive outside of peak traffic times as it makes the journey slower. If your Ubud accommodation has a transfer service and you’re happy with the rate, it’s honestly just much easier to book them and have them do it for you. It takes the stress out of everything and makes life easier.
If you have to find your own way to Ubud, my second suggestion would be to arrange transport (not a taxi, but a private van). It should cost you around 300,000 IDR to get from the airport to Ubud. If you’re on the ground in Bali, it’s easy to arrange transport. You can either ask the hotel you’re staying at or walk out on the street, where you’ll no doubt have someone yell out to you, “Transport! Transport!” You’ll probably need to haggle with them.If you’re not on the ground in Bali, you might want to try pre-booking the transfer yourself – again, it’ll make life MUCH easier.
The third and final option would be to catch a taxi, but for me, this would be a last resort and I would only catch a taxi if I were going directly from the airport, not transferring from Kuta to Ubud, for example. If you do choose this option, you’ll need to find the taxi desk: Just after you go through the bag screening at customs, but before you go through the very last duty-free shop, you’ll see a small desk to your right. The taxi fares here are set-price and you pay them before you get in the cab, so you know you won’t get ripped off. Just make sure you have the address of the hotel and a screenshot of a map to help the driver find it. A taxi direct from the airport may cost more than the prices listed above.
Pro tip: Matt and I arrived into Bali at around 1-am exhausted after catching two flights and a long layover. Rather than tire ourselves out further we spent a few hours sleeping at a lovely, affordable hotel near Ngurah Rai International Airport (Hotel H Sovereign – $30-$40AU per night incl. breakfast + free airport shuttle) before checking out and hoping into a Bluebird Taxi out to Nusa Dua the next day.
Best time to visit
I’ve visited Bali at different times throughout the year and found the weather to be good all year round. Of course, there are times when it’s hotter and rainier, but typically speaking, it’s hard to go wrong – it’s a good destination all year. That said, the peak season happens in the summer months, from April through to October. You’ll find it a tad more rainy October through March but don’t let that deter you, those tropical afternoon storms are gorgeous.
Where to stay in Ubud
When it comes to choosing where to stay, you really have two location options. You either want to be right in the heart of Ubud or outside the main streets, staying somewhere in the jungle/along the river. Here are my tips for the best of each:
In the heart of Ubud: Plataran Ubud
Hotel locations in Ubud don’t get any better than the fantastic Plataran Ubud. You’ll find it right along one of Ubud’s main streets, making it perfect for anyone looking to get around easily and on-foot. Of course, you can organise transport or a scooter to get around town and see things outside of the main area too. Surprisingly, even though it’s located right in the heart of Ubud, the hotel is on a nice big property that stretches way back off the streets, making it feel like you’re a world away from the hustle and bustle outside. The pool is perfect for lounging, surrounding by jungle and rice patties, palm trees towering overhead. The on-site restaurant serves absolutely delicious food, including a range of local favourites, perfect for anyone looking to sample local flavours. Read my full review of Plataran Ubud here.
Along the river: Kupu Kupu Barong
If you’re looking to escape the world and get lost in the jungle, Kupu Kupu Barong offers a fantastic hideaway 5 minutes drive outside of Ubud’s main streets. Getting around is quick and easy, either by using the hotel’s transport, catching local transport on the street or hiring your own scooter (this is what we did). Stay in the hotel-style Jungle Retreat or shack up in your own Kupu Kupu Barong villa, complete with plunge-pool and river views. Either way, you’ll feel like the King of the jungle. You’ll find plenty of great restaurants, cafes and bars nearby, and the on-site Mango Tree Spa is absolutely fantastic, offering dreamy massages in treehouse-style bungalows. Read my full review of Kupu Kupu Barong here.
Best things to see and do in Ubud
Need some inspiration on what to see and do in Ubud? Here are a few tips…
- Explore rice terraces and an 11th century temple, Gunung Kawi at Tampaksiring
- Visit the stunning Tegenungan Waterfall, but don’t get in for a swim as the water isn’t ‘clean’
- Have an early morning spiritual experience under the soothing waters at Istana Tampaksiring
- Do the amazing Campuhan Ridge Walk at sunset
- Wake up early and explore the buzzing Ubud morning market (prepare for a few funky smells)
- Take a tour of the absolutely incredible Green Village and grab delicious local food for lunch too
- Explore the spiritual, peaceful space of the 9th century Elephant Cave
- Wander the lush, green Tegalalang Rice Terraces
- Read all my tips on 22 Awesome things you absolutely must do in Ubud
Where to eat and must-try food
I love food. Like, really really love food! Based on that information, here are my picks on where to get some great grub in Ubud:
- Have an unforgettable dining experience, sampling an amazing Indonesian degustation at Blanco par Mandif
- Enjoy at least one lunch under the canopy of Cafe Pomegranate, hidden along a tiny path, nestled among rice fields with mountain views
- Get your hands on some of the best coffee in town (made without fancy espresso machines) at Made in Bali
- Head to The Sayan House just before sunset for amazing views, great cocktails and really delicious food
- Grab a quick and easy bite at Kafe and watch the world go by
- Sample really, really good gelato at local favourite, Gaya Gelato
- Have a relaxing lunch or dinner at riverside, vegan restaurant Sakti Dining Room
- Fill up on the very best Italian food in town at Uma Cucina
- Stop in for a nourishing, delicious bite at Bali Buda
- Read more in my guide to 5 of the best places to eat in Ubud
What to pack
Packing can be tough and Bali is no exception, here are my tips on a few things you definitely need to pack:
- Ubud is the super laid back, hippy, anything goes part of Bali, so wear whatever the heck you want! There are a few nice restaurants to visit, so you may want to pack one or two slightly fancier outfits for those places, if you plan to visit them. No high-heels or jackets necessary.
- Be sure to pack your swimmers, kaftans, sarongs, hats and all your other essential pool attire
- Keep your packing light, saving room for all the goodies you’ll scoop up while you’re there!
- Pack light, breathable clothing like shorts, skirts, dresses and t-shirts in nice breezy fabrics
- Be sure to include essential medicines as well as Imodium or gasto-strop, any prescriptions meds, sunscreen and a high-strength bug spray as well as a hat and sunglasses
- Read my full ‘what to pack for a trip to Indonesia‘ trip here
Watch our Bali for first timers video guide
Phoebe Lee is a travel writer and award-winning blogger with a love for storytelling. Phoebe creates practical, fun and engaging written content designed to inspire and energise travel-lovers and dreamers. Follow her and Matt’s adventures at home and around the world, right here on Little Grey Box and through Instagram, Facebook, and YouTube.