Bali: Kuta, Ubud & Seminyak - a short guide for the SA explorer :)
Bali! There is just so much to say about this beautiful destination but I would like to, for the purpose of not having a lengthy post with too many details to remember, stick to the important stuff. I am by far not a travel expert but I believe that sharing experiences helps others who are also keen travellers to navigate their destinations and avoid similar mistakes we make when we first arrive. I do hope my few tit-bits can help you if you are deciding to travel to Bali - travel is a wonderful experience especially if you are well prepared.
Just some Context: We were looking for an inexpensive girls trip just to get away from the hustle and bustle of life in Joburg and a change of scenery in general and asked My Trip PA (who is owned by my brother) to assist with investigating some options - the choice was really between Thailand & Bali, a decent hotel (we asked for a 3* but our Trip PA found us a 4* within budget J), a place where we can get some sun, see some sights and maybe party some.
Finally we decided on Bali - 6 nights in Kuta (flights, accommodation and shuttles = R10 800), and we added 2 day tours including a Bali Hai Cruise to the Lembongan island & a "Northern Charm tour" - a day visit to see Lake Bratan, Twin Lakes, Handara Gate & the Twin lake Swing.
Pros of visiting Bali as a South African
- You do not need a Visa
- It is a typical 'touristy' place so people speak English generally
- The currency is not too bad - R1 - 1000 IDR (you are a millionaire with R1000 basically)
- The food & shopping are relatively affordable
- Depending on where you stay you can very easily get around, taxi's & Gojek are easy to manoeuvre, you can also hire a scooter which is convenient and everyone uses them
- The weather is fantastic
We arrived on a Friday with our Taxi shuttle who was also conveniently a tour guide (later we learnt this was a norm in Bali) and straight after checking in at the Mecure hotel in Legian Kuta, and a much needed shower we headed to investigate our surroundings - there are plenty of Western food places (especially Italian for some reason) including the traditional fast food outlets like Burger Kings, McD’s and KFC. The city is vibrant and busy, massage parlours are easy to find and people are friendly, it is not unlike any other eastern destinations with extreme traffic, buzzing scooters and street vendors.
Kuta is the west & central region of Bali and known for its beaches, surfing and night life - it's basically the city with a beach.
After 6 days of trying to squeeze in as much as possible these are a few pieces of advice I can safely pass on...
- Most of the places you visit (Temples, Terraces, Beaches) the vendors only take cash, so I suggest you try and carry it as often as you can. The ATM's are relatively safe and easy to find.
- As with most tourist destinations there is Wi-Fi in most restaurants, hotels and public areas, but if you need constant connectivity I would get a SIM card
- As a tourist people will try and push their luck - after 4 days we realised that we were being overcharged for taxi's by almost 3 times what it should have costed (I know but we were on holiday so didn't dwell). On day 4 we learnt about Gojek from an American tourist we met, which is such more affordable and works just like Uber - you pay cash for your driver after every trip.
- Most places are an hr - 4hr drive depending on what you want to see - mostly because of the traffic though in the city/ tourist areas - traffic can be quite hectic. Seminyak has awesome bars on the beach - really worth the visit. We visited the Potato head beach club twice and loved it!
- Try to book to have a day or 2 out to the islands - we visited Lambogan island which included a 30-40min boat trip and options to include scuba diving & Aquanauts sea walking (basically a large astronaut looking contraption on your head so you can breathe under water and walk on the ocean floor) - it's completely worth the experience and about R2000 depending on where you go.
- if you drink alcohol and like to party there are plenty of bars and clubs, alcohol is quite expensive though - a glass of wine can cost about 90 000 IRD, we enjoyed the Bantang local cider which was about 45 000 IRD and quite yummy. Sky Garden in Kuta is a must visit with multiple dance floors including a roof top bar - the place stays open until about 5AM and plenty of tourists are there. Entry is about 300 000 IRD but it includes a Buffet that's open all night (quite convenient).
- Tirta Empal: the Temple is a spiritual place and much like most spiritual temples, churches, etc you need to cover up your legs and be appropriately dressed, they have scarves you can tie around your legs if you have shorts on but if you don't like wearing other people's worn items then I suggest you carry you own.
- Ubud market: you need to negotiate like a pro - typical of the Eastern tourist destinations the markets are full of vendors who start with extremely high prices but usually can be bargained down. The art of the bargain is a true skill and you can hone down on it when you are there. Watch your bags - there is some crime unfortunately that you can't get away from in most places in the world.
- The Rice Terraces: the terraces are a bit of a maze so be careful not to get lost (We did Lol), take cash with you - the locals do sell refreshments on the trails but it is all cash. There is a swing up there as well for some picturesque snaps (this is also cash only).
- The Twin lakes and Waterfall are beautiful and a must see, take walking shoes as the walk down to the waterfall is quite far (about 3km) and a costume - it's much cooler than at the beach and the water is cold but you can swim so take a bather in case.
- Bali is known for its affordable massages - luxury spas can get quite pricey but the little local parlours are quite affordable: Full body massages at 150 000 IDR or 60 000 IDR for a foot or head massage are normally the going rate.
- You can visit the beaches and simply enjoy all your days sun bathing and walking along the beach, Kuta beach has surfing lessons which I thought was quite cute, and the sunsets are epic. If you can spend every day watching the sun go down - do it - it's magical!
- if you are going to walk anywhere at night and don't have connectivity (a native sim / roaming)- know where you are going! it's easy to get lost in the streets of Kuta & there are no real Wi-Fi zones except in some restaurants or pubs, crime is present everywhere in the world and Bali has cases of muggings and pick pocketing in public areas so just take precautions and be safe.
I loved my first visit to Bali but wished we had more time to explore, Kuta is more affordable then some of the other areas, if you want a more luxury type beach holiday I would visit Nusa / the more North & Western parts of Bali, Gili islands is also a part of Bali I definitely want to explore.
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