Bali tips for first time travellers and solo travel in Bali
Although I have traveled almost the entire planet, I found my first trip to Bali quite exciting. No idea why, because you can read everywhere that it’s an easy destination, especially for a first time in Asia. Despite this not being my first time in Asia, it was my first time alone in Asia. Looking back at it, it appears that I should not have worried about traveling on my own in Bali. Not as a woman either. That is why I wrote this post for Bali for beginners, just to put you at ease if you are traveling alone or as a woman. Or as a couple, as these Bali tips are actually useful for everyone who’s a Bali first-timer! Enjoy!
Bali for beginners: arrival at Denpasar Airport
Since taxi services like Über and Grab (more about that later) are not allowed at Denpasar airport and I didn’t feel like bargaining for hours for a transfer on the spot after a long flight, I had arranged a transfer in advance with Ketut whom I got in touch with through a fellow blogger. I sent him a WhatsApp message and we agreed that he would come to pick me up and drive me to Ubud. I also agreed the price with him in advance (300,000 IDR) so that I didn’t have to bargain about it on the spot. Along the way we stopped at a store, an ATM and he explained some things that were good time to know for my first time in Bali. In short: arrange a transfer in advance, which saves you a lot of stress on arrival. Do you want to have Ketut’s number? Send me an email!
Do you have a late arrival and don’t want to have to drive far? Then book a hotel near Denpasar airport and continue your journey the next morning.
Finding yourself a place to stay in Bali
Since I find myself too old to spend the night in hostels in dorm rooms, I usually sleep in midrange or luxury hotels in Bali. Bali is not very expensive and for a for about 20 EUR/22 USD I already had an overnight stay in a great hotel with swimming pool, sometimes even with an infinity pool. What you should pay attention to when booking accommodation in Bali is of course very personal. I myself always find it pleasant if a hotel isn’t very remote in case you need to walk back in the dark from the village to your accommodation in the evening. In addition, I always check whether there is airco in the room and whether breakfast is included. Oh and wifi in the room, because that is not a standard everywhere. I usually make a reservation through Booking.com, they have the best deals and sometimes the option to cancel for free, should there be a last minute change in my plans.
Looking for a good hotel in Ubud? Then check this article with my tips incl. a great and cheap hotel with infinity pool in Ubud!
Owww and do yourself a favor … book an amazing hotel with infinity pool for yourself and enjoy it! I treated myself last year to a stay at The Hamsa near Lovina. The best thing I could have done for myself and it was just some 20 EUR / 22 USD per night!
About money and so
You can find ATM’s everywhere on Bali. You usually receive 100,000 IDR banknotes and sometimes 50,000 IDR. As you have to pay an X amount to your bank every time you grab cash from an ATM, I usually take out the maximum. One time this was 1,500,000 IDR and sometimes it was even 3,000,000 IDR. Small notes are highly looked for (eg those of 10,000 and 20,000) and I always keep them for taxi rides for example, since taxi drivers often pretend that they have no change. Debit card payments in shops and / or hotels are not particularly common, you can often pay with a credit card. However, keep in mind that an additional 3% surcharge applies in most places. In addition, it is often the case that prices on a menu are exclusive of tax and service. This can be as high as 15%. So check the bill before you pay because a tip is no longer necessary (but is appreciated).
Booking tours in Bali
If you do not want to go out with a scooterbike yourself, you can choose to go on a tour and discover the best pieces of Bali. I did this, for example, while cycling on Bali and while climbing Mount Batur. Tours are offered everywhere on the street by small agencies, but the quality of the trips can vary enormously. Check whether there is a minimum number of participants and, if so, whether this has already been reached so that the tour of your choice will happen and not be canceled at the last minute. Sometimes you have to pay for a tour immediately, do not forget to request a voucher and / or proof of payment. Occasionally I only paid when I was picked up at the hotel. In terms of price, never pay the initial price they ask, about half of it or somewhere in between is better. You can also pre-arrange tours via Get Your Guide so you don’t need to spend time on that on the spot!
Bali for beginners: transportation on Bali
The taxi world in Bali is a special one. Services like Uber and Grab are unprecedentedly popular but not permitted in many places. This makes it sometimes difficult to arrange a taxi the cheap way. For longer transfers I usually contacted Ketut who then brought me somewhere for an agreed amount, but I also regularly took a taxi. If it is a taxi without a meter, it is advisable to agree on a price in advance (also: go for half of what they ask for) and with a meter of taxi you have to be careful they won’t use a fake meter. It’s also a possibility that non-metered taxis are more expensive in the evening because it’s busier on the road and more people need a ride. In many places you are offered unsolicited transport, I used this regularly but always on the basis of intuition. If it didn’t feel right, I didn’t.
I also took place on a motorbike a few times but especially around Ubud and the coast the traffic is chaos, so I wouldn’t drive myself there. Renting a car is not an option, renting a motorbike is. Remember that there are no real traffic rules in Bali and that you are not the first tourist to experience a motorbike accident, so be especially careful, especially if you have no experience with riding a motorbike. In addition, it applies to many countries that you must be in the possession of a motorcycle driving license (in the Netherlands, you need to get this next to your regular license) in order to be able to drive in accordance with the conditions of your travel insurance. So always double check check if your motorbike is insured with your travel insurance because in many cases, it may not be.
Also, remember that the distances on Bali may seem small, but that a journey of around 50 kilometers can take hours. And I mean literally hours. Google Maps is your biggest enemy in Bali, because there’s always a traffic jam somewhere, along with a festival or something else that makes traffic super slow. Just something to keep in mind during your trip to Bali!
Food & drinks in Bali for beginners
You don’t have to be hungry in Bali at all, as there are countless restaurants and cafés, especially around Ubud and the coastal regions. What to eat varies from typical Balinese / Indonesian to Western cuisine. If you want traditional food, choose a warung, a local eatery. Western food is generally easy to find, especially in the known places, but is often more expensive. Since after three weeks I was a bit fed up with rice and noodles, I often opted for a restaurant where I could eat a sandwich or salad. Breakfast is normally included in your hotel and can vary from a simple banana pancake to an extensive breakfast buffet. Tap water is not safe to drink, but you can buy bottled water everywhere or have your water bottle filled in many places. The coffee is usually very strong and dark stuff. In many places you get Bali coffee but sometimes they also have Nescafé. Nowadays they also have fancy espresso machines in more and more places, which I really got to enjoy!
Bali for beginners: where to go to?
Where you should to go is entirely up to your own interests. If you want a beach, I advise you to choose Canggu and skip busy tourist spots like Kuta and Seminyak. Canggu is a laid back village with beautiful beaches where surfers brave the waves until late at night. Both times I have been to Bali in Canggu, I can always enjoy the vibe that hangs here.
Are you looking for a nice place to spend the night in Canggu? There are few large hotels and resorts, you will find small homestays and local accommodation in particular. I had a super nice homestay in Canggu right on the rice fields: Pondok Homestay.
Do you want a beautiful white sand beach and bright blue water? You don’t really have this on Bali, but you can find it on the Gili Islands. I stayed on Gili Air and I loved it. Here you can read more about my visit to Gili Air. Ubud is a place not to be missed but not loved by everyone because of the crowds. Yet it is a nice base for various trips to the Batur volcano and the various waterfalls, as well as the beautiful rice fields of Jatiluwih. If you want to see more rice fields, I advise you to go to Sidemen, this is also called the Ubud from 15 years ago. It is super quiet and it is beautifully situated. If you want to party and go to the beach, I’dd skip Sidemen!
Bali as a solo female – my experience
I personally like to go to Bali and I have seldom felt uncomfortable there. That said, I always try to take into account the fact that I don’t walk alone on the street late at night, I keep my valuables in my locker and I carry no more cash in my pocket than necessary. I am also not waving my phone around and I am aware of my surroundings. They are all logical things, but I still wanted to mention them.
Of course you’ll have to deal with men in Bali who call after you and want something from you. However, I found this a lot less intimidating here than in other places in Asia. It is often the case in Bali that once you say “no thank you”, they accept this and do not keep running after you.
In addition, of course you just have to follow the rules on Bali regarding visits to temples, clothing and things like that. Short pants and bare shoulders are not done in many sacred places and, for example, at the hot springs of Banjar (Lovina) that I visited, you are often only allowed in when you wear clothing. If you obey these rules and respect the laws, you will experience Bali at its best.
Earthquakes in Bali: information and where to find out more
I also wanted to mention this it’s not uncommon for earthquakes to happen while in Bali. It actually happened to me both times I was there. The first time during my stay in Sidemen in 2017 and more recently in 2018 when I was in Ubud. Unfortunately, earthquakes are a natural phenomenon that occur regularly. You may assume that if the locals don’t panic, there’s nothing to worry about. For example, during my last trip I was shaking in my bed and I felt a slight panic. As it was at night, everything else remained silent so it probably wasn’t a huge earthquake. In the end it turned out not to be super heavy but it just felt like that. I then found all the information about the quake and its power on Twitter, so that is also your best source of information when you experience a quake (#earthquake brings you to various sites where all quakes are registered).
And finally: do NOT overstay your visa in Bali (visa overstay Bali)
Because … that’s not very clever! Unfortunately, I ended up in this situation in 2017. I’m not going to write here what the exact rules for Bali visa are as they are constantly changing and I do not want to take responsibility for it. However, I can tell you about my experience just to make you more aware. I had a tourist visa for 30 days and my plane ticket turned out to be 33 days. It was possible to extend it on the spot, but then I had to give away my passport for a week and had to go back and forth to Denpasar, which didn’t work as I also wanted to go to Lombok to climb Mount Rinjani. So I took a bet, adviced by of other travelers, to attempt an overstay in Bali, or an illegal stay of 3 days. In the best case you get a fine, in the worst case … well I don’t want to talk about that.
Looking back at it, it was of course super stupid since I had quite a stress about it, both during the trip and after coming home. In general, the sanctions for the Dutch seem to be better than for some other countries, but there are stories of people who have to go to jail because they overstayed their visa in Bali. On departure I received a fine and a warning that I should have had my papers fixed earlier. When I recently arrived in Bali again, I felt really uncomfortable and I was even a bit scared that I would not be admitted because of my overstay in Bali that year before. In short: my three day overstay in Bali caused a lot of stress for something that could easily have been prevented by arranging my visa in advance. Not worth it at all.
Conclusion and disclaimer
These were my tips for your first time in Bali and Bali for beginners, whether on your own and / or as a woman. I hope you found this Bali travel blog useful. If you have any questions, feel free to ask. This article contains affiliate links. If you make a reservation through one of these links, I will receive a small commission for you at no extra cost!