First-Timer’s Guide To Bali

First-Timer’s Guide To Bali

From where to go and what to do, to the best time to visit and Balinese cuisine, here’s our guide to help you on your first trip to Bali, plus a few top tips from the Jayride.com team, too.

Where is Bali?

Bali is an island in Indonesia, and is located in the Java Sea between the islands of Lombok and Java. Despite the fact that there are more than 17,000 islands in Indonesia, Bali is by far the most popular with tourists, in part thanks to its incredible and varying scenery, rich culture and friendly people. It is located in the Coral Triangle, an area with astounding marine biodiversity, most notably around 600 different species of reef-building coral. Bali’s capital and largest city is Denpasar, and the island’s airport Denpasar International Airport (officially Ngurah Rai International Airport) is Indonesia’s second-busiest airport; we work with many airport transfer companies servicing the airport, so search and compare on Jayride.com and book your airport transport before you fly.

Currency in Bali

The currency used in Bali is the Indonesian rupiah (IDR), and denominations of banknotes come in Rp 2,000, 5,000, 10,000, 20,000, 50,000, and 100,000. Pronounced ‘rue-pee-ah’, the rainbow colours of the Indonesian rupiah banknotes are not only interesting to look at, but help to identify the denominations. Try to keep small denominations with you while you’re travelling, as the 100,000 notes can be difficult to break.

When’s the best time to visit Bali?

There’s no bad time to visit Bali! The island attracts visitors for all sorts of reasons – yoga and meditation retreats, surf expeditions, relaxing beach holidays to name just a few – and so maintains a steady stream of tourists all year round. Being located just 8 degrees from the equator, the weather is generally tropical and warm throughout the year, but there are two seasons – dry season and rainy season – that you may like to take into consideration when planning your trip. Wet season is between October and April – with the heaviest rain generally between December and March – when it is also very humid, while dry season is between May and September.

A lady practising yoga in Ubud, Indonesia. Photo by Jared Rice on Unsplash
Bali is a mecca for yogis, and meditation and wellness retreats are aplenty, especially in Ubud in central Bali. Photo by Jared Rice on Unsplash

The most popular times to visit are June, July and August when the island’s weather is usually its driest, but high prices and crowds of course come with the good weather. Easter and Christmas holidays are also popular times to visit, despite being in wet season. Visiting in the shoulder seasons such as April, May and September is a great time to visit as prices drop, crowds dissipate, and it’s a fantastic time for water sports such as diving and surfing. It’s worth being aware though that the weather can be considerably cooler in Bali’s mountainous and volcanic regions.

Why is Bali so popular?

Bali is seen by many as a paradise on earth, with its extremely fertile lands creating dramatic backdrops, its crystal-clear waters and consistent barrels drawing surfers from across the globe, the plethora of activities on offer to please any holidaymaker, its tropical weather and idyllic shores, as well as its interesting towns and cities and a wealth of culture and heritage to explore – all on one fairly small island. But for so many travellers, it is the essence of Bali, and the Balinese people and culture, that draws them back year after year. The Balinese people are well-known for being warm, friendly and welcoming, and the island itself has an energy and healthy outlook that attracts people from all over the world, whether for a holiday or to stay; the island is a mecca for creatives, from artist and writers, to artisanal jewellery makers, clothes and bag designers, and even creative start-up companies are basing themselves in this paradise.

Balinese cuisine

Herbs and spices play a prominent role in Balinese cuisine, and the food on the island is of course heavily influenced by Indonesian staples such as Mie Goreng (friend noodles) and Nasi Goreng (fried rice). But with so many islands and so many different cultures in Indonesia, the specialities and local delicacies are diverse, and discovering them is part of the pleasure of travelling in this part of the world. While in Bali you must try babi guling (suckling pig); it’s the island’s most renowned dish. Heavily spiced with tumeric, coriander (cilantro), lemongrass, chilli, among others, and then spit roasted over coconut husks, this is a dish you’ll remember for a lifetime. Also try lawar (vegetables, coconut and minced meat mixed with rich herbs and spices) and sate lembat, the Balinese take on satay.

Jewellery hanging at a market stall in Bali. Photo by Artem Bali on Unsplash
Bali draws creative thinkers and doers from all over the world, from artists and writers, to artisanal jewellery makers, clothes and bag designers. Photo by Artem Bali on Unsplash

What to do in Bali

Bali ticks so many boxes in terms of what’s on offer, it’s easy to see why visitors flock there in their millions every year. Part of the joy of visiting Bali is discovering the island and its beauty, so to get you started here’s a few must-dos:

    • Surf: Whether you’re a seasoned pro or a complete novice, Bali is the place to try surfing. Kuta Beach is one of the most popular areas for beginners and has an abundance of surf schools, while experienced surfers tend to head to the southern coast around the Bukit peninsula.
    • Go snorkelling or diving: Being located in the Coral Triangle, taking to the waters is an absolute must here. The marine life is so diverse, you might not want to come up again!
    • Practise some inner wellness: Bali is a haven for yogis, and meditation and wellness retreats are aplenty, especially in Ubud in central Bali. Spiritual tourism is a big deal here, and many travellers will speak of the healing energy bestowed on them in Bali.
    • Soak up the sun on the beaches: Bali is famous for its pristine shorelines and gorgeous beaches, so pick up a book, a beach towel and head for the sands.
    • Visit Ubud: Even if you’re not one for yoga and meditation, Ubud is still one of the top places to visit in Bali. The town is the creative heart of the island, and is full of healthy and trendy cafés serving delicious organic foods, and boutique shops and spas.
    • Take a day trip to Bali’s interior: Forested volcanic mountains, impressive lakes, rainforest, fragrant flowers, wildlife, beautiful temples and verdant rice terraces makeup the interior of the island, and it’s definitely worth a visit for a change of scenery to the beaches.
Man surfing. Photo by Nicole Honeywill on Unsplash
Whether you’re a seasoned pro or a complete novice, Bali is the place to try surfing. Photo by Nicole Honeywill on Unsplash

Tips from the Jayride.com team

Lucky for us, a few of our Jayride.com team have spent time in Bali; here are their top tips on where to go and what to do on a trip to this beautiful Indonesian island:

Aron Lewin, Head of Customer Service for Jayride:

‘I’ve been to Bali a few times and absolutely love it. There are loads of great food places on the island, so it’s hard to know where to start! If you’re in Ubud, Warung Biah Biah is a great traditional and local Balinese restaurant; a lot of the dishes are served in banana leaves, and it has a really great atmosphere. If you want a treat while you’re there, bridges is great for a fancy lunch or dinner, and you have to try the Rijsttafel (meaning ‘rice table’, Rijsttafel is a type of meal where lots of dishes are served, and is a great opportunity to try many classic Indonesian dishes).

‘When in Canggu, go to Luigi’s. I know it seems strange to recommend Italian on a trip to Bali, but it’s honestly great pizza. The Slow Hotel is a top choice for a treat, and if you want a healthy dose of fruit and veg, head to Organic Cafe.

‘In Seminyak, I love to go to Motel Mexicola; if you want a fun night out (dancing on tables is optional but popular!), this is the place to go. Revellers from around the island also flock to Sundays Beach Club on the Bukit Peninsula on a – you guessed it – Sunday.

‘When I go to Bali, I also love to take some time out and practise yoga to feel centred and relaxed. Ubud is a mecca for yogis, and Yoga Barn is the place to be as it’s great for all levels. For something a bit different, try the dance class; it sells out a couple of hours before so you’ll need to go in and book a ticket in advance. The Practice in Canggu is also one of my favourite places for yoga on the island.

‘It’s worth bearing in mind that although Bali is generally a safe place, and the locals are very friendly, like whenever you’re travelling it’s always important to make sure you keep your personal belongings on you – so it goes without saying that you shouldn’t just leave your bag hanging around on the beach for hours on end while you swim in the beautiful waters!’

Pura Ulun Danu Bratan temple, Bali. Photo by Aron Visuals on Unsplash
Taking a day trip to Bali’s interior is a must, especially to see such beautiful temples as Pura Ulun Danu Bratan temple. Photo by Aron Visuals on Unsplash

Michelle Harfield, Partner Account Manager for Jayride:

‘I echo Aron’s list completely! Ubud is somewhere everyone has to visit. Chill out among the jungles and rice paddies, and definitely visit Tegalalang Rice Terraces; these are a popular sight and even have a stop for tour buses to pull over.

‘If you’re feeling active, do a (downhill) cycle tour from Mount Batur to Ubud; you’ll pass by lush green rice paddies and through small villages, and get a glimpse at how the locals live.

‘As Aron says, Yoga Barn is the place to visit for yoga while in Ubud, and you really can’t miss it!

‘When it comes to food, The Samaya in Ubud has an amazing menu, with romantic scenery overlooking rainforest and a river, with options to dine on a separate deck for the full romantic experience. It’s one of my favourites.

‘Seminyak has some really great restaurants too, including Merah Putih, which combines traditional Indonesian with modern dishes, and Teatro Gastroteque – this is a top choice for a treat as it has a degustation menu and the food is amazing.

‘My words of advice are regarding transport; it’s really worth pre-booking your transport from the airport. It can be overwhelming when you first arrive as there are lots of drivers waiting around outside the exit of the airport, offering to take you to your hotel. But unless you really haggle with them to give you the standard rates, you run the risk of being seriously overcharged.

‘Jayride now works with local transport companies in Bali, which means you can pre-book and prepay your transport at a sensible rate, so you don’t have to worry about haggling and spending over-the-odds money when you first arrive. It’s a win-win!’

Search, compare and book your Bali airport transfer today on Jayride.com.

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Bali is a haven for yogis, and meditation and wellness retreats are aplenty, especially in Ubud in central Bali. Spiritual tourism is a big deal here, and many travellers will speak of the healing energy bestowed on them in Bali.

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