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Bali travel guide
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Welcome to Bali, Indonesia

Introduction

Bali is one of over 13,000 islands in the Indonesian archipelago and is located just over 2 kilometers from the eastern tip of the island of Java, the most highly populated and influential of all the islands, and west of the island of Lombok. Bali is a small island, just 140 Km by 80 Km, and captures what is special about Indonesia yet has a uniqueness of its own.

The Island is best known for its sandy beaches and world-class surf breaks. With the warm waters of the Indian Ocean and sheltered coves, Bali is perfect for surfing, swimming and snorkeling.

Bali's interior has lush, green forests, hills and towering mountains with picture-perfect panaromas. Bali's central mountain chain includes several peaks over 2000m and many active volcanoes, including the highest peak 'Gunung Agung' at 3142m. The high mountains provide dependable rainfall that irrigates the island's complex and beautiful rice terraces.

The Balinese are a pocket of Hindu religion and culture in largely Muslim Indonesia. In fact, Bali is the only Hindu society in South-East Asia and religion is everywhere in Bali with temples in every village, shrines in every field and offerings made at every corner.

Traditional dance, music and a bustling arts and crafts industry have established the island as a cultural centre and resort towns like Kuta and Nusa Dua ensure a vibrant nightlife with a fabulous selection of bars, restaurants and nightclubs.

Bali, with its coastline of pristine beaches, coral reefs and stunning cliff top vistas has established itself as Indonesia's most popular holiday destination combining traditional civilization with modern luxury to create its own unique Balinese paradise.


Bali Encounter

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per person US$
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All Seasons Resort Legian Bali

95195bali villa

Mercure Kuta Hotel Bali

130260Mercure Kuta Hotel Bali

Nikko Bali Resort & Spa

280510bali beach resort


Travel to Bali

Denpasar is the largest city, the administrative center and transport hub of the island but is not a major tourist destination. Bali's tourist areas are in south Bali on the Bukit peninsular. Bali is a fly in and fly out destination for most visitors who stay in southern Bali and don't leave the island.

Denpasar's Ngurah Rai International Airport (DPS) is located between Kuta and Jimbaran Bay, about 30 mins south from Denpasar. Visitors can fly to Bali from major cities in Asia, Australia and Indonesia.

Free transfers from the airport to your hotel are provided by some hotels.

Taxis are inexpensive in Bali and counters are located in the arrival hall where visitors can purchase fixed fare taxi coupons to hotels or other destinations. Simply give the coupon to the taxi driver. [Approximate fare from Airport to Legian is IDR40,000]

Bus & Ferry services are available from all major cities on Java as well as Lombok. These services are very inexpensive and easy to use but slow. Ferries cross from Ketapang on the island of Java to Gilimanuk in western Bali every 15 minutes, 24 hours a day, taking 30 minutes for the crossing. There are ferries from Padangbai (Bali) to Lembar (Lombok) every few hours, with the trip taking around 3.5 hours. High speed catamarans operate from Benoa Harbor (South Bali) and Padangbai to the Gili Islands of Lombok, taking 1.5 to 2 hours.

Bali Transport

Walking is the easiest way to explore the beach areas and major tourist areas of Bali. Sanur has a wide beachfront pathway with many cafes and bars, however, many of the island's streets are not pedestrian-friendly with no footpath or a narrow, poorly maintained footpath.

Taxis are very common in southern Bali up to Denpasar but not usually available elsewhere. The fares are relatively inexpensive but trips outside southern Bali will incur an extra charge of 30%, as the driver has to go back empty. Taxis must use the meter so ensure the driver has turned it on before you move off or you will pay more.

Bemos or minivans are Bali's traditional form of transportation although taxis dominate the market in the southern Bali tourist areas. Normally, fares on shared bemos are very cheap, but drivers may charge foreign tourists the fare for the whole vehicle which will be similar to the price of a taxi so negotiate the fare before you get in.

Rent a car with a driver for half a day or the whole day to travel around the island. Tell the driver where you want to go, what you want to see and negotiate a fixed price. Do not pay until the end of the day. [Should be US$30 for the whole day]

Car and motorbike rental is inexpensive in Bali however in the tourist enclaves of south Bali there is a lot of traffic. Apart from the south, a car or motorbike is a wonderful way to see the island, but in south Bali, with its crush of traffic, the chances of an accident are greatly increased. In fact, each year there are many accidents involving tourists. It is compulsory to wear a motorbike helmet in Bali.

Bali Weather

Bali is located only 8 degrees south of the equator and has a warm and humid tropical climate remaining around 30C to 33C all year round. The wet season is December to March with a higher chance of thunderstorms although there is plenty of rainfall throughout the year.

Language

English is spoken by people in the tourism business. Many staff at hotels, shops, restaurants and museums will speak basic English.

History

The first Hindus are believed to have arrived on Bali as early as 200 BC. The ruling Rajas had the occasional battle with invaders from Java to the west and made forays to conquer Lombok to the east.

Northern Bali was finally captured by the Dutch in a series of brutal wars from 1846 to 1849. Southern Bali was not conquered until 1906 and eastern Bali did not surrender until 1908. In both campaigns many Balinese chose to fight to the death over disgrace, sometimes walking straight into Dutch cannon and gunfire. Victory was bittersweet as the images of the 'puputan' (fight to the death) gave the Dutch a very bad reputation in the international community.

Bali joined the new republic of Indonesia in 1948. In 1965, after the failed coup d'etat, allegedly backed by the Communist Party, state-instigated, anti-communist violence spread across Indonesia. In Bali it is estimated that 80,000 people, or 5-8% of the population were murdered with the reprisal killings of suspected Communists.

Bali's tourism began in the 1970s when intrepid hippies and surfers discovered Bali's beaches and waves, and tourism has become the Island's biggest income earner.

Bali Attractions

Uluwatu Temple, perched on the cliff at the southern tip of Bali, is the most popular of the many Hindu temples scattered around the Island. Naturally being a temple, there is a strict dress code although sarongs and clothes can be rented at the entrance. Inside be watchful of the cunning monkeys that love snatching bags and cameras from visitors.

Tanah Lot is the second most popular of the many Hindu temples scattered around the Island. The Hindu sea temple is perched on a rock formation surrounded by crashing waves that can be reached at low tide. The temple provides a perfect foreground to a stunning sunset April to November.

Sacred Monkey Forest Sanctuary is located in Ubud 20kms north of Denpassar. Explore the three holy temples set in a dense jungle and populated by long-tailed macaques (monkeys). They look cute but don't feed them as they are wild animals with no table manners. Keep hold of your possessions as they are known to bag snatch!

Beaches - Some of the best surfing beaches in the world can be found on the western side of the island. The eastern side is a wonderful haven for families, with beautiful white sand beaches and gentle seas. Do not swim at a beach if a red flag is planted in the sand.

Surfing is taught by several surf schools teaching beginners and intermediates along the popular stretch of sand and gentle waves between Kuta and Legian beaches, while Seminyak offers intermediates a little more challenge with less crowds.

Waterbom Park is a water park (water slides, pools, tropical garden) a short walk from Kuta Beach, Kuta Square and opposite the Discovery Shopping Mall.

Bali Safari and Marine Park takes visitors through Indian, Indonesian and African wildlife eco-systems. Enjoy the water park, theme park rides, elephant rides, baby animal petting, animal & elephant shows.

Kintamani Volcano Tour is one of the most popular and spectacular sightseeing tours in Bali. Visit the cooler mountainous region of Bali where horticulture in the main activity. The main attraction for visitors is around Lake Batur and the spectacular view of the crater lake set in a vast volcano caldera. A climb to the summit of Mount Batur, still an active volcano, to watch the sunrise is an unforgettable experience for more energetic travellers.

Elephant Safari Park is a wonderful elephant sanctuary where visitors can learn about elephants and go elephant treking around the park.

White water rafting on the Ayung river is a fun and exhilarating experience while passing through rainforest, rapids and cascading waterfalls.

Lembongan Island Reef Cruise offers visitors a full day of water activities in Lembongan Bay. The boat ties up at a large floating pontoon where visitors can experience underwater marine viewing, a water slide, snorkelling, scuba diving, village excursions and a buffet lunch.

Watch the Sunset which is best viewed from the beach. Kuta's sunset is impressive during December's solstice when the sun is at its lowest, casting atmospheric shadows and a warm orange glow.

Spa Treatment is a great way to treat yourself and is available at many hotels.

Hot springs are found in several locations around the Island. Air Panjar, a hot springs set among a lush garden, is along the northern coast of the island, near Lovina.

Balinese Cooking Class is a great way to experience Balinese life and culture through learning about its food and cooking style. Learn about the exotic herbs and spices used in ceremonial and everyday Balinese dishes. Available from a number of cooking class operators.

Lovina, located on Bali's north coast, has beautiful black volcanic sand beaches and coral reefs making it an ideal location for snorkeling and diving. Another major tourist attraction on the north coast is dolphin watching. Lovina is a much quieter area and a great escape from the hustle and bustle of south Bali with one main street parallel to the ocean where visitors can enjoy good restaurants, bars and live music.

Bali Bomb Monument at Legian commemorates the 202 victims of the first Bali Bomb attack in October 2002 at the site of the former Sari Club that was destroyed in the blast. The site has not been redeveloped.

Golf is popular at several international standard golf courses featuring scenic views of Bali's mountains and coastline.

Scuba Diving and snorkeling are provided by various dive shop operators in Bali running day trips to many interesting scuba diving sites around Bali including Pulau Menjangan which is very popular.

Bali Hotels

The tourist high season is July to September and the Christmas / New Year period. Outside these periods, Bali can be quiet and good discounts on accommodation are often available. Accommodation ranges from backpacker to private villas with servants. Backpacker accommodation is centered around Kuta which has the most facilities for tourists.

Kuta Beach is world famous and is Bali's largest and busiest tourist beach resort town providing accommodation of all styles, western food, great shopping, surf, sunsets and nightlife.

South Kuta (or Tuban Beach) is located just south of Kuta and north of the Airport. It was developed after central Kuta and provides a variety of accommodation including large resort-style beach front hotels.

Legian Beach stretches north from Kuta Beach. Although not as congested as Kuta, Legian is a hive of activity with busy restaurants, markets, bars, food stalls and endless shops.

Seminyak is a beach that continues north from Legian Beach. The Seminyak area is less densely populated than Kuta and provides a sense of tranquility with its vast expanse of sand and open rice paddies. This area has 2 star hotels to luxury 5 star villas.

Sanur is located on the opposite side of the peninsular from Kuta and has a relaxed cosmopolitan atmosphere that offers inexpensive restaurants, a broad selection of shops that include arts and crafts, home wares and clothing, and a large variety of tourist services. The area has active nightlife but is a lot quieter than Kuta. The beach has a narrow stretch of white sand and is a calm lagoon protected from the surf by a stunning coral reef. Sanur has plenty of choice in all standards of accommodation.

Nusa Dua is located 10 km southeast of the Airport and is an enclave of large, luxurious beachfront resorts.

Tanjung Benoa is the beach north of Nusa Dua with several high standard international resorts.

Jimbaran Bay is located south of Kuta and the Airport. The bay is a beautiful crescent of white sand with a great selection of seafood restaurants scattered along the beachfront.

Ubud is situated in the hills 20 kms to the north of Denpassar. Ubud's hotels and resorts cater to those who prefer spas and cultural pursuits over surfing and nightlife.

Bali Nightlife and Entertainment

Kuta is the most heavily developed area and the center of party culture on Bali.

Seminyak has more upscale beachside resorts and villas just to the north of Kuta, with some fashionable restaurants and trendy bars. Much nightlife has moved into this area, especially around Jalan Dhyana Pura.

Alcohol is widely available in Bali as the Balinese are not Muslim. Indonesia's most popular beer is Bintang, an Asian light beer. Beer is relatively expensive compared to other food and beverages, although inexpensive by European standards. Imported wines are available in Bali but are expensive so visitors are recommended to purchase a bottle or two from an airport duty free shop.

Bali Dining

Bali has a huge variety of cafes and restaurants, serving both Balinese and International food. Balinese food is not popular in other parts of Indonesia because pork is used in many Balinese dishes and is not eaten by the largely Muslim population in the rest of the country.

Local restaurants offer great food and an inexpensive dining experience compared to the West. A tourist-oriented restaurant will be around IDR20-40k per person. At a local restaurant a similar meal would be IDR15-20k. Street vendors sell simple meals from IDR4-10k. Indonesian dishes such as nasi goreng (fried rice) and mie goreng (fried noodles) are available everywhere. However, the food can be very hot due to the chillies and spices.

In the southern tourist areas there are American fast food outlets such as McDonald's, Pizza Hut, KFC and Starbuck's Coffee.

Bali Shopping

Bali is not a major shopping destination. Kuta Square Shopping Mall and Discovery Shopping Mall in South Kuta are the two major shopping complexes catering for tourists in Bali. Stone and woodcarvings, traditional and modern paintings, cotton clothing and intricately designed jewelry in gold and silver are readily available in shops and galleries throughout the island.

Beyond Bali

Lombok Island, only a short flight to the east of Bali, is becoming a popular tourist destination with resorts located on the western and southern coasts. Lombok is rich in culture and offers handicraft shopping, relaxation and beautiful beaches. High speed catamarans operate from Benoa Harbor (South Bali) and Padangbai to the Gili Islands of Lombok, taking 1.5 to 2 hours.