Thinking about visiting Bali?! We just returned and want to share a few things we learned to make your visit to Bali the best ever!
We flew from Seattle to Seoul to Denpasar Bali. Total travel time there was 21 hours. We stayed 4 days in Ubud, then 3 days on Nusa Penida, a small island off the southeast coast of Bali. We ferried back to Bali and hired a car to take us north to Amed, a quiet fishing/scuba town. We spent a week in Amed before making our way back to the airport. Our route back took us to Sydney then Los Angeles, then Seattle. It took 1 day 9 hours. The longest flight was 13 hours from Sydney to LA, we were grateful that we booked the seats with extra room to recline and relax.
The electrical outlets in Bali are different than the US, so you need an adapter. We borrowed one from our AirBnB until we bought one at the local M-mart (basically a 7-11) for 30,000 IDR ($2 USD). You can purchase one before you go to Bali, but they’re cheaper to buy there. Everything is less expensive in Bali. Meals are only $4- $5, delicious coffee is $1- $2. We rented 2 scooters for 2 days and it was $35 total. Our first AirBnB was $125 per night, and it had a private pool, outdoor eating and cooking area, mini fridge, full bath with shower and soaking tub, closet with safe. Our AirBnB on Nusa Penida was $32 per night, and our AirBnB in Amed was $35 per night! Any AirBnB you find in Bali will be wonderful, granted you do a little research to make sure it’s in the area you want and offers the amenities you prefer.
Download the app Grab, it’s Uber in Bali. And if you’re out and about and need wifi your cell carrier should offer a 24- hour travel pass. We have Verizon and it was $10 for the 24-hour period. We needed it to use Google maps when we were on scooters and for Whats App to communicate with local drivers, tour guides, etc.
Highlights from our trip
Tegallalang Rice Terrace, Ubud, Bali
Crystal Bay, Nusa Penida
Mupu Beach, Nusa Penida
Villa Olala Penida, Nusa Penida
Nasi Goreng at restaurant Akusara, Ubud, Bali
Puri Saren Palace (Ubud Palace) and Klungkung, Nusa Penida
Tirta Gangga, Karangasem, Bali
Sunset in Amed, Bali
Airport in Denpasar, Bali
We landed around midnight, and had to purchase our visas. If you buy your visa when you land, look for the airport official at the giant square desk selling visas. You can also buy your visa online before your trip, which no one told us. So, there you go! Tip #1: Buy your visa before your trip. It costs the same. After the visa line, we proceeded through the passport line. Then we had to go through customs. We had nothing to declare, so it was simple to fill out the info at the kiosk. Be sure to take a photo of the QR code on the screen at the kiosk when you’re done filling it out. It says you can print it, but we never got a print out. You have to show that QR code to customs and that is your last step to getting through the arrivals.
Packing and things to know before you go
The above photo is how I packed. Originally I ordered a backpack that wasn’t going to arrive in time, so at the last minute I found this on Amazon. It worked out better because this one was expandable, and the other one wasn’t. Backpack on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B0C5D8RL1D?psc=1&ref=ppx_yo2ov_dt_b_product_details
We read up on any health notices for Indonesia and decided to get the hepatitis A and typhoid vaccines. No sense contracting something and having it ruin your trip! There’s also a warning about the Bali street dogs having rabies… I reasoned that I’d just stay away from rabid dogs and skip the rabies shot. Other warnings about Bali include: only drink bottled water, exchange your currency at a reputable site and if you’re on your period you can’t enter a temple. (Menstruating is considered “unclean” and they prefer you don’t visit the temples.) Just a few things I learned. Oh, and marijuana may be legal where you live but it’s strictly prohibited in Bali. Even the tiniest amount can get you 5-7 years in jail. This is the country of a thousand temples, the people are deeply religious.
When exchanging currency you may be required to show your passport or government issued ID. You can do a Google search for more info on exchanging currency. Or check out this article: https://www.smoney.com.au/blog/currency-in-bali-indonesia/
Our first AirBnB was in Ubud. Link is: https://www.airbnb.com/rooms/49263253?source_impression_id=p3_1691727791_RPQ7HCBE5K0N5Uex
This AirBnB said that once you check in, you can’t request a refund or cancel just because of a few frogs, spiders, lizards and other local inhabitants. These little guys are part of Bali, and if you don’t like it, don’t book this spot. We bought mosquito repellent at the airport and received a few bites in Bali, but no more than a typical Northwest camping trip.
The pathway to our villa at Reswaha.
We drank a few seltzers and re-hydrated with Hydro Coco. Yummy coconut water!
Typical breakfast was nasi goreng or mie goreng. This morning we had a special dessert, a traditional Balinese sweet- Dadar Gulung. It’s a pancake with shaved coconut inside. The green color threw me off. It tastes better than it looks.
When we didn’t have breakfast at our AirBnB, we walked across the street and ate at Akusara. Wonderful coffee (DON’T put your spoon on the button of the cup to stir! There are always coffee grounds on the bottom.)
Artsy entryways around Ubud.
All the homes and shops make great use of natural resources. This cafe had sliding wooden doors that opened onto the sidewalk patio. Everything is open air!
Relaxing poolside reading books we bought at the local bookstore.
We booked a 90 minute couples message on the first full day we were in Ubud. The massage therapists came to our AirBnB and the total was about $16 per person.
The next day we took a tour called the Best of Ubud. The link is: https://www.viator.com/tours/Ubud/Private-Sightseeing-Tour-Ubud-and-Waterfall/d5467-86621P5?m=28353&supag=68732029897&supca=1939178107&supsc=aud-435409373039:dsa-650389793948&supai=660585468216&supdv=c&supnt=g&suplp=9033417&supli=&supti=aud-435409373039:dsa-650389793948&tsem=true&supci=aud-435409373039:dsa-650389793948&supap1=&supap2=&gclid=Cj0KCQjwldKmBhCCARIsAP-0rfxUNlQtaPOqFPnwoPRNBUklIkNga6zJHQgr1Kd3z9_vngXCQe66BKYaAvI2EALw_wcB
The Best of Ubud tour is highly recommended! Rio, our tour guide was the BEST! He was our personal driver and tour guide all day. He asked us what we were interested in, and adjusted course to suits our interest!
Puri Saren Palace (Ubud Palace)
Next stop on the Best of Ubud tour was a traditional Balinese wood carving shop.
Like I mentioned earlier, if you let your tour guide know a bit about yourself, he may make recommendations about things to do that are not on the tour. We got on the subject of coffee because we live near Seattle, the home of world famous Starbucks. Rio, our guide asked us if we wanted to try luwak coffee. The description reads: “Catpoochino coffee, the most exotic, rich, smooth and excellent coffee from Bali.” Luwak is a little animal, kind of like a cat, that eats the red coffee cherry and as the coffee cherry bean is in the animal’s stomach it undergoes fermentation. Then, you guessed it, the coffee bean exits the animal and people come along and collect it! Who ever had the idea to do this is nuts to me! But they peel it down to just the inside of the coffee bean, which is totally sanitary, it’s cleaned, dried, roasted and ground using the Balinese traditional process.
Next stop was the beautiful Tegallalang Rice Terrace
Zip line and swings (you can rent the red fabric to make your swing photo POP) Rio, our tour guide! After the rice terrace, Rio dropped us off for lunch at Teba Sari. The building was made of bamboo and it was amazing! The live band was a nice touch.Double staircase… made of bamboo.
Upstairs, more bamboo.
Monkey Forest, Ubud. Part of our tour! We went everywhere!
The “selfie monkey”.
Next up, Tegenungan Waterfall! And check out Omma, the pool with a view!
This was our AirBnB, Reswaha. The woman in red on the roof is doing the daily blessing. Balinese bless their homes, cars, and other important things. They give offerings of food, money and flowers. And they burn incense, the whole country smells like incense.
Poolside photo sess.
Around Ubud. On our way to Warung Babi Guling…
..This is the traditional suckling pig that Anthony Bourdain raved about on his show, No Reservations. We ate at the very same restaurant!
Some of our favorite things- Cleo was the giant bottle of water we affectionately referred to as Miss Cleo! Arak is the local Balinese rice vodka, which we mixed with either orange water or sparkling soda. Eventually we discovered arak madu and LOVED it! Arak madu is: Arak, water, lime juice and honey. In this photo is a box of luwak coffee (cat poo coffee!) It is some of the best coffee we’ve ever had.
At the ferry terminal on our way to Nusa Penida! Pro tip: We booked a day trip to explore Nusa Penida which included the ferry ride. We told them that we wanted the ferry ride and guided tour and after that, instead of going back to the ferry, we wanted a ride to our AirBnB on Nusa Penida. The tour company picked us up at Reswaha (our Ubud AirBnB), drove us to the ferry terminal and a different guide picked us up at the Nusa Penida ferry terminal, drove us to our AirBnB so we could drop off our bags and change, then gave us a private tour of Nusa Penida. All that was included for $90 USD per person. The ferry ticket was included and all parking and entry fees to the tourist sights. Link: https://www.viator.com/tours/Kuta/Bali-East-Nusa-Penida-Tour-All-Inclusive/d22290-100838P7
Klungkung, Nusa Penida.
Behind the scenes with the rest of the tourists!
Onto the next ocean cliffs, Broken Beach and Angel’s Billabong.
Our AirBnB on Nusa Penida. Link: https://www.airbnb.com/rooms/53315130?adults=2&category_tag=Tag%3A8678&enable_m3_private_room=true&check_in=2023-09-06&check_out=2023-09-09&source_impression_id=p3_1691989443_HWpD22quaI2lGyzJ&previous_page_section_name=1000&federated_search_id=6853a39f-d8ee-4ff4-a2a9-695ec3cabbf1
We had a shared pool, but it was just before the busy season (August) so no one was ever in the pool. This place is HEAVEN! The gardens and grounds are gorgeous, there’s a view of the mountains. It’s peaceful. There were puppies roaming the grounds. The people who operate it are the nicest people we’ve ever met! They hooked us up with scooters for 2 days. It may have been our favorite spot!
Our second day on Penida we rode scooters to Mupu Beach.
Back at the AirBnB.
The third day we were on Penida we rode scooters to Crystal Beach.
Typical shack selling food and drinks. Cooking it up right there on the beach. You could rent an umbrella, chair and towel for a few bucks. This local’s t-shirt was turning heads.
This is Tara rooftop resto & bar. This is the reason why I wanted to visit Nusa Penida! It looked so dreamy on Google. We had lunch here, and while the food was just OK, the view was really stunning. I am thankful to this restaurant because it’s the reason we went to Nusa Penida, and we ended up LOVING our time there!
Our scooters!! Now Nick wants to buy one, or two.
We were there as the country was getting ready to celebrate Galungan. Which is a Balinese holiday that celebrates the victory of dharma over adharma (the triumph of good over evil). It marks the time when ancestral spirits of deceased relatives visit the Earth. Sort of like Halloween and the Day of the Dead! It’s 10 days long in Bali. Heads up because some shops and services close. I tried to exchange some currency on our last day and many local places were closed.
A different ferry terminal than we came in at. On our way back to Bali to head north to Amed!
Rice terraces on our drive to Amed.
Our AirBnB in Amed! $22 USD/night. This place included EVERYTHING! We had A/C, bottled water service, wifi, mini fridge, hot water, rooftop lounge area, front porch, and breakfast was included! Are you kidding me?! Now I see why people live here for months at a time! There was no pool, but we were across the street from the beach! And the people who run Rumah Diyah run Bali Dive Cove, a scuba shop. Amed is scuba and snorkel central! It has a young person vibe. Link to our AirBnB: https://www.airbnb.com/rooms/603749957906311969?adults=2&check_in=2023-09-06&check_out=2023-09-09&source_impression_id=p3_1691990614_V0fztGTQR7RS34Hw&previous_page_section_name=1000&federated_search_id=031c7c64-6ee7-4369-a908-d5cbff26bf95
He’s so excited that there’s a water cooler!
Mount Agung, our favorite landmark in Bali! We got to see this volcano in daylight, sunset and sunrise. Truly Blessed.
Sunrise on our fishing trip in Amed.
With our guide. He caught 3 fish.
Nick is so excited.
All the jukung boats, small wooden Indonesian outrigger canoes.
The view from our AirBnB rooftop patio.
The evening of our fishing trip, we met up with our guide’s family and a family from France who had chartered a trip that morning.
Our guide and his family prepared the fish we had caught in a traditional Balinese beach bbq. The tuna satay was the best thing I ate on the trip! The fish was fresh, and the spices our guide’s mom used in the batter (rub?) was so fricking good! It was cooked perfectly, I wish I could get tuna satay like that back home!
Simple snack of toast, jam and iced coffee.
Our trip to Tirta Gangga.
These guys scare away the evil spirits.
Back in Amed at Mejor Beach Hotel. We watched the sunset here 3 or 4 nights. (While enjoying an arak madu.)
Local wine. It was very good.
Wine and chocolate cookies, of course! Tim Tams are Australian, but there are a lot of Aussies who vacation in Bali.
Rode scooters to Japanese Shipwreck and snorkeled there.
Riding around Amed.
I loved shopping in this local store. If I could fit it all in my backpack I would have brought it ALL home!
Nick with Ketut one of the staff members at Rumah Diyah. She’s dressed up for Galungan. Another staff member at Bali Dive Cove dressed for the celebration.
Wayan performing the day’s offering and prayers.
It was typical to see a family of 4 (sometimes 5!) on a scooter.
Back at the airport after 2 magical weeks in Bali.
Wolfgang Puck’s restaurant in the Bali airport.
Out-takes from our cat poo coffee tasting. Honestly, it’s really good coffee!