Backpackers Guide to Bali
Bali is a weird place. It is firmly on the backpacker trail but is a also a very touristy holiday island (mostly for Aussies!), meaning that places and prices vary greatly, and it is generally one of the more expensive parts of Southeast Asia.
Despite this, Bali is a must visit for backpackers with amazing culture, lovely people, yummy food and a wicked party scene! Plus you can’t get to the amazing Gili Islands without landing in Bali (!!).
Where To Go
Backpackers don’t generally hang around for too long though, usually visiting the main spots including Kuta; which in my opinion is a rather horrid place but a good night out nonetheless, Ubud; to really get into the Balinese culture and perhaps try some Yoga, and Seminyak for some slightly more up-market beach time.
Other good places to visit are Uluwatu (good surf and less chavvy than Kuta), Nusa Dua for some good water sports, Lovina up North to go dolphin watching, Jimbaran (very up-market beach resorts) and Canggu just North of Seminyak for a chilled yet cool surf town!
What To Do
Most beaches in the West cater to surfers. Canggu is the one I’d recommend though; it is chilled, has some awesome restaurants and is a great place to surf at whatever level you are. I would totally recommend Mojo Surf School or Mr. Bones Road Trips which takes you in a VW Campervan up the West coast of Bali to some other awesome surf spots!
With an abundance of amazing restaurants, cheap Warungs (local family-owned casual cafe style shop) and hipster hang-outs, Bali offers a wide variety of places to suit any taste or budget! I ate most meals at one of the many local Warungs, where you basically point to what food you want amongst the many many cheap Indonesian dishes and they pile it all onto a plate, or let you take away for as little as £1-£2 a time. As I was staying mainly in Canngu, Bu Mi was my favourite.
For amazing seafood and a sunset to boot outside of Canggu, make reservations at Bali Bliss at the Ayana Resort in Jimbaran for dinner. Arrive early for a pre-dinner drink at the cliff-faced Rock Bar. There is often live music and DJs that make this place a must-do on your visit!
Bali is known for wild partygoers and often Kuta can be compared to Magaluf (!!), but if you venture outside of Kuta a good night out is also guaranteed minus the chuff!
Sunday’s in Canggu are the big nights out, starting at Old Man’s just on the beach, moving on around 10pm for some live music at Deus, and then onwards after midnight to the Sand Bar right on the beach…just follow the crowds!
Potato Head Beach Club in Seminyak is a must visit if you fancy a splurge day, and often hosts some top DJ’s such as Fat Boy Slim (if you are lucky!) in the evening.
Single Fin in Uluwatu for a Sunday session is a must-do. With live music, a view over the sea at sunset to die for, and some great company, Single Fin after a day on Uluwatu beach shouldn’t be missed!
And despite being a bit skanky, if you just want a full on party amongst most of the other backpackers then Kuta still is a good option. Drink cheap at Alleycats first where you can get a Vodka Redbull for £1, then move on to one of the many many bar/clubs that line the main strip in town. Beware your belongings and don’t walk off with strangers though!!
If I’m being honest, I know Bali is famous for it’s beaches but I’m not entirely sure what all the fuss is about as I’ve seen so much better around Southeast Asia, but they aren’t exactly awful either! Many of the beaches are made of black volcanic sand which leaves you looking quite dirty, but there are definitely white sand beaches to be found further South.
Seminyak beach is a vast beach and famous for being a bit more up-market to it’s neighbour Kuta. This means higher price tags but a more ‘Ibiza’ style vibe.
Nusa Dua is a great shout if you are more active and fancy a beach with various water sport options, and Uluwatu is another cool surf spot with an awesome sunday session at Single Fin Bar as I said above.
Spa Days (my favourite activity!!)
So ok, I don’t surf so instead I spent many a day relaxing at a local spa. Spas in Southeast Asia are soooo cheap! It would be rude not to 😉 My fav massage place was called Your Time in Canggu where I could get a 60 minute massages for £6!! I think I had 3 in one week at during my 2 weeks there! and there is a great nail shop in Seminyak called Think Pink Nails (not the cheapest mind you!)
From Canggu you can take a day trip to Tanah Lot; a local temple built into a rock that juts out to sea.
Ubud, despite being a little OTT when it comes to the Balinese culture due to the popularity is has enjoyed since the Julia Roberts film Eat, Pray, Love, is a pretty cool town nonetheless. Indulge in some Yoga at YogaBarn, a visit to Monkey Forest to experience the most cheeky monkeys you’ll ever encounter, or just wander up an down the quaint lanes for some shopping, stopping at a (probably over-priced) cafe for a quick refreshment in between.
Nusa Dua in South Bali is famous for its water sports and is a great alternative to Seminyak or Kuta. I would also thoroughly recommend visiting the water park (Waterbom) in Kuta which although pricey (£15 per adult) is amazing fun!! There is a smaller and cheaper version in Canggu but I think the Kuta one is better bang for your buck.
Where To Sleep
There are only a few places I’d recommend around Bali as I haven’t stayed in all of them to give you a full view! M Boutique hotel in Seminyak is a winner, Frii Echo Beach Hotel or Echo Beach Hotel in Canggu (bit more up-market!) and In Da Lodge Hostel in Ubud.
How Much Does it Cost
Hmmm, this is a ‘how long is a piece of string’ question as it totally depends on where you stay and what you do BUT as a guide I was spending a similar amount to what I spent in Malaysia – circa £35 per day – but I didn’t surf or have loads of nights out or visit expensive beach clubs, so you could end up spending £40+ a day depending on how much you want to live it up in Bali.
I hope that covers most things you might want to know when visiting Bali, all thats left to say is…Have fun!
Am I missing anything that you feel deserves a recommendation? Feel free to add to this guide in the comments below