Emily is a travel and fitness blogger, currently based in Glasgow. Growing up in the expat world and going on to travel independently around the world, teaching English in Thailand and backpacking Australia. You can keep up with all her travels and fitness posts at www.bordersandburpees.co.uk.
I’d been to Bali as a child but I always wondered whether it was fair to say I’d been, if I couldn’t in fact even remember being there. I’d been told all about my trip there though – I was two, we stayed in a hotel that some years later burnt down and my parents took a hilarious photo of me wearing silly toy glasses whilst I sat on the potty. They thought it was hilarious anyway – for me it’s just a photo that haunted me on my 21st birthday! If your parents can’t share embarrassing photos of you then though, when can they?
So, when I decided to return to Bali years later I was excited to experience this beautiful idyllic place that I had seen so many photos of and heard so many stories about. To me, it’s always been one of those places that seem like the ideal honeymoon destination – up there with the Caribbean, Fiji and Maldives (all on my to-do list!).
Instead of waiting for my phantom honeymoon though (I’m single), I decided to venture there on a girls holiday!
We opted to go to Bali for 10 days – just over a week, and just under two weeks. The perfect amount of time right? Actually, if I could have stayed longer, then I certainly would have! We met people there who had done just that. They were supposed to get on a flight home and they, well, didn’t. One guy we met had stayed on for weeks and had attempted to leave Bali and the beautiful island of Gili Trawangan on multiple occasions. He even got on the boat which would take him back to mainland Bali but just as it was about to set off, he begged the crew to let him off – no word of a lie. With a bit of persistence, they let me him off and he was back to the chilled out ways of island life.
I always thought that was only something that happened in movies but I guess what travelling teaches you is that there are so many different types of people out there – and every single traveller is looking for something different. Doing something as spontaneous as this is something I would always dream of but then some reservations would begin to kick in and I’d start thinking about the consequences, including what my friends and family would think of this rash life decision. Needless to say, I admire people who have the courage to do things like that!
In our 10 short days in Bali, we explored Kuta, Ubud, Padang Bai and Gili Trawangan. It was an amazing holiday and so I thought I would share a few of my experiences with you! If you’re looking to travel to Bali anytime in the future, I hope this information may come in use.
Kuta – Seminyak
We stayed in the quieter area of Seminyak, away from the tourist flooded centre. Our hotel was quaint and beautiful with a slight bit of construction going on but none of which affected us. Our room was spacious and for our first couple of nights in Bali, it eased us into our stay quite perfectly. The reception staff were helpful and they handed us tropical juice on arrival – it’s the small things in life!
We stayed in Taman Ayu Cottage Hotel which I really enjoyed – not just because they did a fantastic breakfast. One negative point I would have to make about this hotel is that it sits on a main road which doesn’t have proper pavements so if you like to explore by foot and worry about the safety of walking on the road then this hotel may not be the place for you.
If you visit Kuta between May and September then I would highly recommend venturing along to Kuta beach where there is the opportunity to release baby sea turtles into the ocean. It was an absolute must in my eyes and a highlight of my holiday. It’s free of charge and there are people of all ages getting involved. The experience is made even more unique by the fact that they hold a ‘baby turtle race’. It really is what it says on the tin!
We stayed at Y Resort Ubud during our stay here. I thought it was absolutely fantastic! They had a private taxi service at the hotel which would drive you to the restaurant-filled main street at a reasonable price. The journey is only a short five minutes away by car but I would say that it would be unsafe to attempt this road by foot. We decided to treat ourselves one evening and get room service – it was my first ever time doing this but somehow, being in Bali and being in a place of peace and serenity, I couldn’t help but indulge in a bit of luxury.
When in the tranquil area of Ubud, I would recommend trying some yoga and if you’re really looking to pamper yourself then there are various spas scattered throughout the town.
This is a small fishing village that is mostly visited by tourists who are headed in the direction of the Gili islands. It appeared a lot quieter in this area and although it may not be a destination that you’d stay in for long, it’s still worth a stop off. There are five major temples to visit and there are some beautiful views offered in certain parts of Padang Bai.
We stayed at Padang Bai Beach Resort – the rooms were spacious and the breakfast was tasty. There was an egg station which meant you were able to get your eggs exactly how you wanted them – an omelette was always a favourite of mine! There was also a pool bar where we spent the evening sipping on cocktails as the sun came down. Bellissima!
If you visit Padang Bai, be sure to wander along to White Sand Beach. You can probably guess from its name that it’s a beautiful white sandy beach. The beach is surrounded by palm trees and hidden away from plain sight. Its secluded location (up a hill about 15 minutes walk) makes it a very beautiful beach to visit. Don’t worry too much about getting yourself fed before going there as there are beach huts which serve very cheap and tasty local food.
This island is a tourist hot spot and is deemed the most popular of the three Gili’s (Gili Trawangan, Gili Meno and Gili Air).
There is an array of beautiful restaurants along the strip of the beach as well as a square filled with street food stalls – ideal if you’re looking for a cheap dinner. There are no cars on the island – everyone walks, cycles or there is the option of travelling by horse and cart (fancy!).
Only one bar can stay open until 4am each night so the parties tend to rotate on a nightly basis. So if you get to the island and think, ‘this is awfully quiet’ – keep exploring because somewhere further up the strip there is guaranteed to be a party happening!
Whilst I was here, I stayed at a place called Bagaz Cottage which was a quaint hotel with only a few rooms and two very small pools but it was ideal for us! It was only about a 10 minute walk from the beach strip but far away enough that we weren’t being kept awake all night by noise. Apart from having an extra unwanted guest in our room one night (possibly the largest gecko I’ve ever seen!) but that’s only natural in a climate like that.
Whilst on Gili Trawangan we also tried our first ever experience of diving. It was something which I never thought I’d be able to do as I had developed a slight fear of the sea but after overcoming this, I couldn’t have enjoyed it more! It’s something I would most definitely recommend doing.
We did our dive with Big Bubble Dive and the instructors were really friendly. I definitely felt comfortable knowing that we were in safe hands. On our dive we went to Bounty Wreck which used to be a pontoon used for building a jetty on Gili Meno but a large hole in the pontoon meant that it sank. It’s now completely overgrown with corals as well as hosts a great variety of fish. Not a bad way to experience your first ever dive!
I hope this glimpse into my trip to Bali has been useful for those looking to visit. If you’re planning on visiting Bali then don’t forget to pack all the essentials and come prepared. Sometimes it’s the most obvious things that we forget. Take for example sun cream – we ran out and finding the right factor we were looking for as well as it not costing an arm and a leg proved slightly more difficult than we had anticipated.
Making sure you arrange insurance as well is certainly a must – I got my health insurance policy online and my travel insurance with ASDA. I found both to be perfectly suitable. Fortunately I didn’t need to claim on either but it’s sod’s law that if I hadn’t arranged insurance, then something may have happened.
Do you drive? It may not be something that crosses your mind before you leave. You might think to yourself ‘I don’t plan to hire a car’ – okay, that’s fine, but it still may be worth getting yourself an International Driving Permit. Take for example renting motorbikes or scooters. If you haven’t got the appropriate licence (even if the place hiring them out doesn’t ask you for evidence of one), you may find yourself stopped by local police and forced to pay a fine.
Nipping into your local post office and asking for an International Driving Permit over the counter should do the trick. All you need to do is fill out a form and supply them with both parts of your licence (photocard and paper counterpart) as well as proof of identity. After this they’ll be able to provide you with the International Driving Permit there and then.
Last but not least, make sure that your passport is in date and that you have Indonesian Rupiah’s at hand because you will need to pay your visa fee on arrival as well as a departure tax when leaving (I almost got caught out with this!).
Are you going to Bali or have you been? What was your experience of it?