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MaLloyd Jan 20th, 2017 09:50 PM

Bali - What to do?

My wife and I are looking to go to Bali in the middle of May. It looks like we'd probably fly into Denpasar. From there - what should we do? We're looking for more of a relaxing beach vacation but we love hiking and seeing the outdoors too. We're just looking to go somewhere different and we've heard great things about Bali. Is it easy to get around or should we just plan on sticking to 1 or 2 places?

Any recommendations would be great. We'll probably have anywhere from 8-10 days there.


LancasterLad Jan 20th, 2017 11:53 PM

Sanur for the beach. Ubud for the culture and a thousand shades of green.

kja Jan 21st, 2017 12:36 AM

You might find some ideas in my trip report. Use the search function (or just scroll through) to find the section on Bali.

And consult a good guidebook or two.


Guenmai Jan 21st, 2017 06:34 AM

I had no problem getting around Bali as there are lots of private drivers and that was back in the late 1990s. I stayed in the heart of Ubud.

Happy Travels!

rhkkmk Jan 21st, 2017 08:13 AM

we always hire a driver/guide named Putu. he takes you all over the island visiting as many significant places as you have time for.

he is based outside Ubud but travels to anywhere where you might be staying. he will design tours for you or you can design them for him.

he is very reasonable, he has a nice SUV and his English is perfect, plus he is fun.

[email protected]

we prefer to base ourselves in ubud, but there is no beach there. Sanur is a decent beach area with lots of hotels, so are the areas on the upper west coast.

our favorite hotel is alam shanti in ubud.

taxis are available in most areas. some hotels have shuttle buses.

rhkkmk Jan 21st, 2017 08:14 AM

you will not wont for things to do. the countryside is beautiful

marmot Jan 21st, 2017 05:24 PM

Mid-May is a great time for Bali. Good weather and well before the tourist crunch.

I would suggest that you split your time between the southern beaches and the Ubud area. Bali is a relatively small island, and it's easy to take day excursions from wherever you are staying. Transportation is readily available.

In South Bali the simplest way to get around is by metered taxi. Some neighborhoods offer community sponsored transport for pick ups. For longer trips you'll want to hire a car and driver which your resort will arrange for you.

In other parts of Bali, including the Ubud area, metered taxis are not available, but local transport, that you can flag down on the road or arrange through your resort, is everywhere. You negotiate a set rate with your driver for your destination.

Drivers, both private cars and taxis, will wait while you have a meal or shop or whatever you want to do when you're not in the car. Just include the wait time in your negotiation.

There are several main beaches in southern Bali and each has its own pluses and minuses. There are a lot of choices in accommodation at all different price ranges. I'd suggest you pick the location first, then choose the resort.

On the east coast are Sanur and Nusa Dua. The east coast ocean is mostly calm water, good for swimming. Sanur is a quiet community with a lot of expat retirees and a fair number of walkable restaurants, spas and shops.

Nusa Dua is a purpose built enclave with many upscale resorts. It's kind of cut off from the rest of Bali but it has a nice swimming beach, though it can be very rocky at low tide.

On the west coast are Jimbaran, Kuta/Legian and Seminyak/Petitenget. This is a big wave surfer ocean. Good for swimming if you like waves.

Jimbaran has a so-so beach in protected cove and some nice resorts. The resorts are built on the cliffside some distance from the beach.

Kuta/Legian/Seminyak/Petitenget is one long beach. Kuta/Legian attract a heavy party crowd. Seminyak/Petitenget is more sophisticated.

My favorite would be Petitenget because of the wide sandy beach, spectacular sunsets and the array of shops, spas, clubs and some of Bali's best restaurants. Most will be within walking distance or a short taxi from where you stay.

In Ubud you can either stay in the town itself or in the countryside outside of town. Both have advantages, though personally I like to be out in the rice paddies and river valleys. Ubud is the center of nature and culture. Depending on your interests you'll find plenty of activities.

I would note that May 12-14 is the Ubud Food Festival. This is a wonderful event that showcases chefs and food experts from Indonesia and all over Asia/Australia. If that sounds interesting, take a look at their website for more information. If it doesn't, it might be better to avoid Ubud on those days.

LancasterLad Jan 22nd, 2017 12:53 AM

Someone recommends a driver to you, and you e-mail or phone him to book him.

If he's already committed on the dates that you want will he tell you that? It's likely he'll sublet your booking to a colleague or friend, but will he inform you of that beforehand or at all? And in any case you've never met him before, so you won't know him from Adam.

My thoughts are, for a first time booking with a driver, is to only book him for one day. If he proves to be a good knowledgeable drive who speaks your language, who follows your requests, who doesn't take you to his brothers so-so expensive restaurant, or an expensive tat souvenir shop, then great, book him again.

mareeS55 Jan 22nd, 2017 04:08 AM

Canggu is really nice, about 45 mins from the airport heading west, 10mins from Seminyak, where all the good restaurants and shopping are located. Good waves there for competent surfers. We usually stay at Hotel Tugu, lovely traditional-style hotel not far from where our son and his wife live.

Sanur is also nice in the other direction from the airport, much more relaxed than Kuta, and Candidasa is low on development a bit further north.

Ubud is yoga and vegetarian central, but really beautiful and more Hindu populated than the south coast. Lovina on the north coast is old Bali, much like Kuta and Legian were until the 1970s.

Lots of Australians love to hate Bali, but the Balinese are lovely people and you can find lots of places outside the main drags that are slices of paradise.

mareeS55 Jan 22nd, 2017 04:15 AM

PS, it's easy to hire drivers, about AU$50 for the better part of a day. IMHO better than hiring a motor scooter, as traffic is fairly chaotic and lots of western visitors get injured. If you come to grief in that way there is a good international hospital at Kuta/Legian funded by Australia after the 2002/2005 bombings. Our son and his wife vouch for it.

MaLloyd Jan 22nd, 2017 10:28 PM

Thanks for the insights everyone! We got our trip booked for May 16-26 and we're definitely excited.

@RHKKMK thanks for the recommendation for a driver. I'll reach out to him and see what it looks like. Do you typically book him for the week and just use him on the days of travel? Also, would you be willing to share roughly what the cost typically is to use a driver like that?

@marmot thanks for the write-up and all of the recommendations! We're definitely thinking 2-3 days in Ubud than going to 1 or 2 other places and just doing short travel from each of those. I'll take a look at all those other places you've recommended and see what looks good.

In general, is it easy to just get there and find a driver, or best to find one early? Also, for anyone else - So 2-3 days in Ubud and then where else should we spend the rest?

Thanks everyone!

marmot Jan 22nd, 2017 11:57 PM

I'd say 3 or 4 days in the Ubud area, 3 or 4 days at one of the the southern beaches and either split the balance between those two or add a third destination. It really depends on how much you like moving around. If you do choose a third place, I'd suggest the area around Amed or the area around Munduk.

There are zillions of drivers in Bali so no need to pre-book; however, if find someone you like, why not make arrangements in advance? It's easier on both you and the driver.

kja Jan 23rd, 2017 12:00 AM

As noted in my trip report, I was happy to spend 8 days in Ubud and 1 day elsewhere on Bali. To each his / her own!

And as noted in that report, I can't praise my driver enough. His name is Amik Bagoes and you can reach him through the Alam Group. He charged me about $50 US per day; less for a part day. (Of course, that could change.) Our arrangements were for specific days, and he recommended an alternative for a day when he had a pre-existing arrangement.
<[email protected]>
If you can't reach him through this address, let me know -- I'll be sure to find a way to put you in touch.

IME, drivers are not fungible and their schedules are not infinitely malleable. If you find a driver who is recommended and who sounds -- from what you can learn -- suitable, I'd say: Book!

kja Jan 23rd, 2017 12:10 AM

[email protected]

MaLloyd Jan 25th, 2017 10:56 PM

Is the 16-21 (Tuesday night to Sunday) too long to stay in Ubud? Is there a lot to do up that way? After that we're going to head down south and trying to figure out the best place for that..

kja Jan 25th, 2017 11:10 PM

To repeat, I spent 8 full days in Ubud. I was on the move each and every from breakfast until dinner and beyond. Whether my interests are anything like yours is another question, but you should be able to get a sense if you look at my trip report, which I linked in upthread.

marmot Jan 25th, 2017 11:47 PM

Ubud refers to both the town of Ubud and the surrounding countryside. The town has many shops and restaurants, a few museums and a few performance venues for Balinese music and dance.

When you get out of town, you'll have: walking, biking, raftng, mountain trekking, golfing, birding; religious ceremonies and processions, temples old and new; village markets; all kinds of arts and crafts workshops: jewelry, bamboo, stone and wood carving, masks, textiles; classes in cooking, Balinese crafts, yoga.

When you go further afield which you can easily do from wherever you stay in the Ubud: snorkeling, mountain sunrise, trice terraces and waterfalls, textile weaving.

rhkkmk Jan 26th, 2017 07:57 AM

btw, marmot lives in bali and offers A-1 advice.

I would not have him every day, maybe 3 or 4 days out of 7. maybe more if you like him, and I am sure you will, just add days when you are there---if his days are open.

cost I don't remember exactly but in the range of $40-50 for a FULL day... no extra costs added on either like some guides do--only admissions if that applies.

ask putu for suggested routes and then read up on them. work with him to alter things to your desires. click on my name and read some of my bali reports.

I could stay my whole time in ubud as it is so central. Fab restaurants in ubud too

you will have a blast..

MaLloyd Jan 27th, 2017 08:35 PM

Thank's everyone.

@kja thanks for the insights. I've started reading through your trip report, it sounds amazing! I imagine I'll have some follow-up questions for you as I get through it all. I'll reach out to the driver you recommended and see it looks like to use him along with @rhkkmk's driver.

@marmot Also, thank you for all of the insights, I am sure I'll have some more questions for you too.

So I think I've decided on the 16 till the 21 or 22 in Ubud than the rest of the week, till the 26th, in Sanur to get more of the beach in. How does that sound for a high-level schedule?

In Ubud we're definitely going to do the Canyoneering, though I think that's a couple hours away, and do a cooking class. It sounds like there are some great shows to see in the area and some great restaurants (love good food!). I am going to be looking through @kja's report and see what else we should be doing.

We want a mix of relaxation and activities/exploring in both areas. My wife isn't a huge fan of museums or shows, but I know there are some we need to go too and see. Are there some specific day trips out of Ubud we must do? Same thing while we're down in Sanur?

When it comes to eating in restaurants or along the beaches - is it safe? Particularly when it comes to the water. Any food recommendations, I am open to anything!

Thanks everyone!

kja Jan 27th, 2017 08:46 PM

I'm glad you are finding some insights in my trip report -- thanks for saying so! :-) And yes, it was an amazing trip. I'll do my best to answer your questions. You can post them on my trip report or here; I'll see them either way.

FWIW, I was stunned by the amount of traffic around Samur -- and the amount of time it took to get through it. If day trips to the north of Samur interest you, then you might want to plan them for days when you are basing in Ubud. I trust that marmot (or others) will weigh in if they think my experience was unusual or this advice misguided.

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