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The Ultimate Bali Travel Guide

Despite the obscenely obvious fact that being an influencer in Bali has become one of the biggest cliche’s our social media generation has known, I’ve never actually written down a full blog post on my experiences and my recommendations of where to go. Not even a highlight on my Instagram page! And the trip I took there in December marked my fourth time to the Indonesian island (and quite embarrassingly, my third trip there in 2019) – so I guess it’s about time to get it rectified. I’ve now visited Bali enough times to actually compile a legitimate guide on the do’s and don’ts, where to go, and what to do there that will actually be helpful to you guys, rather than just a pretty basic “hey go for cocktails here” kinda thing (although, there will be plenty of cocktail recommendations here too…)

It’s a pretty lengthy post, and I’ll be updating it as I travel back there (although I have banned myself going back this year!) I’ve experienced Bali in different ways – I’ve done a girls party holiday with cocktails and dancing every single night and some of the worst hangovers I’ve ever had. I’ve done the romantic trip with a new loverboy there. I’ve done actual cultural things (despite the aggression I got on Instagram from a few followers for “racking up your air miles just to go and eat avocado on toast on the other side of the world” – spoiler alert: the avocado on toast over here is actually really shitty sooooo…. yeah) The only thing I’ll admit is I have never done it on a backpackers budget – and whilst there are great hostels here, I’ve never stayed in one. But I’ll go into the details on accommodation later.

My favourite place has to be Uluwatu. It used to be Canggu – and I still do really love that place, but I get into more detail in the post on why my feelings for these areas have changed recently.

Anyway, dive in, enjoy, and remember these are my personal views on the places that I have been to. I’ve not explored the whole island, but I hope this helps in some way.

Bali – General Stuff You Need To Know

Flying from the UK and Passport Dramas

So, let me start with flights. I get asked a lot about flight prices from the UK and to be honest, the lowest I’ve ever paid is £380 return with Garuda Indonesia and I booked around 6 weeks in advance. I mean, that’s cheaper than it is to fly to Greece in the Summer! The most I’ve paid is £800 for a return, and that’s when I booked last minute, four days before my flight date. Live your best life etc etc. From the majority of my travel to South East Asia and Australia, I’ve found return flights are usually around the £500 mark.

Some of you may remember the passport drama I had when I went last February. To fill in those who missed my IG stories, I wasn’t allowed to check in for my Qatar air flight to Bali via Doha because of the “bad condition” of my passport. Apparently Denpasar airport in Bali is very strict on immigration and the standard of the passport, and had recently been sending people back and fining airlines for customers who had passports in battered conditions. My passport was 9 years old, and I’ve been lucky enough to travel a fair bit – so my passport showed it. They wouldn’t allow me on the flight in case I got sent back and they received a fine, so I was told I would have to be put on the flight the following day, and would have to go get myself a new document from the passport office first thing in the morning. What was actually up with my passport? They claimed the photo page looked like it had water damage. An elderly man wasn’t allowed to board either because his brand new passport apparently had a minor tear on the photo page. Pls note – it’s not to do with the gold foiling on the front cover of the passport. It’s to do with the inside of the passport. If the front looks a bit weathered and the gold has worn off, you will most likely be fine, but please don’t send me dm’s with photos of your passports or asking me if you’ll be allowed (especially if just the gold has worn off)! I’m not passport control or an airline staff so I just cannot say what I think would be safe, but I’ve received dozens of emails about this and people asking me and it’s like, I’m sorry guys I don’t make these dumb rules! I honestly didn’t think mine looked that bad for something I’d travelled with for 9 whole years. But like I said, it wasn’t the outside of the passport, it was the inside of mine that had the problem.

PPS, I wouldn’t recommend flying with Qatar if I’m honest. It’s meant to be one of the more premium airlines, but quite frankly the customer service I received from the staff at Heathrow was appalling, flight attendants were pretty rude, anddddd to top it off, the toilet I was sat by by the whole flight stunk of piss so damn bad I couldn’t even get to sleep sooooo… IDK. I’ve done lots of long-haul travel and this was by far my worst experience!

SIM CARDS AND CONNECTIVITY

In terms of getting connected with your phone, you can get an Indonesian sim card at the airport with 10gb of data for around £8 – but it’s not always that reliable. My boyfriend bought one and had less signal than I did using my 3 sim card. In the UK, 3 have a “go roam” function where you can get 12gb of data to use in selected countries for £20 on a pay as you go sim card. I always use this for travelling and it worked really well in most places in Bali.

Important APPS YOU NEED

You absolutely need to get the Gojek or Grab app. They’re a bit like Uber but have everything on it within one app. You can order a taxi, a motorbike taxi, get food delivered and get groceries delivered all so cheaply. A lot of areas do not allow gojek and grab taxi and motorbike services as they’re so much cheaper than the local taxis, and are putting the local taxis out of business – but honestly, the local taxi drivers will rip you off so so much, it’s no surprise people have gone elsewhere.

Getting around Bali

The best way to get around Bali is by renting a scooter. 100%. I’ve done Bali four times now and the first two I used only taxis and they are expensive AND take a long time to get around as the traffic is terrible. With a scooter you can zip in and out of traffic and go a lot quicker. You can rent a scooter or get a Gojek where you pay a driver per journey to take you places – although I always found it hard to get a driver in areas like Canggu or Uluwatu. It was always far easier in busy Seminyak. Most scooter rental is around 70k per day – you can get it cheaper if you book it out for multiple days, and there are plenty of places renting them along the streets and a lot of hotels/ air bnb’s will have them available too.

Google maps is great for getting around if you have someone on the back directing you but be careful and safe with your phone as there have been a lot of thefts this way!

Accommodation

Every time I’ve been to Bali, we’ve booked accommodation for the first few nights and then just booked the rest as we’ve gone along. There’s usually plenty of places available and you can get some really good last minute discounts! It also allows you to be more flexible with your plans which can be ideal as things tend to change a little bit! That said, if you plan to go around Christmas and New Year, you HAVE to get your hotels booked up ASAP as prices are expensive, and also, there will be nowhere left in the popular places if you leave it to the last minute. We landed in Bali on the 29th December for new years and planned to spend it in Canggu but couldn’t find anywhere that wasn’t a hostel (with a seriously inflated price) or somewhere that was absolutely insane luxury but listed at £1K for a couple of nights. Dumb choice from us!

You can stay in hostels and homestays very cheaply and there are some really good ones. We chose to stay mostly at villas on air b n b or booking.com, or boutique resorts. There are a lot of resorts with villa complexes where you have your own private villa and pool alongside others, and other things where you have your own villa or bungalow with a shared pool. It all depends what you want from a trip. If you’re looking to do it cheap and make friends, hit up a hostel. Or go for a private room in a hostel if you don’t want to share a room with strangers!

If you’re going as a couple or want a more luxury experience and want privacy, go for resorts or villas. If there’s a decent group of you then definitely check out villas on air bnb. We found the cost was basically the same for a one bed resort villa, a one bed private villa on air b n b and 3 bed private villas. So a lot of the time we rented much bigger places than we needed just because they were the same cost as smaller places.

Visiting Tourist attractions

Research research research. Before going to any tourist attraction, google it and check reviews and forums like trip advisor. A lot of the time there can be unofficial ticket touts outside the venues who will hustle and hassle you so hard into buying a ticket through them at often a hugely inflated price to what you could have bought elsewhere or often closer inside the venue. Sometimes you don’t even need a ticket to go visit these attractions but touts will tell your that you do as you’re a foreigner and only locals get in for free. And when there are so many people hustling you, it’s hard not to believe them. So do your research, screenshot it, and be willing to get that out to prove it

Boats to the islands – Gili Trawangan, Gili Air, Gili Meno, Nusa Penida, Nusa Lembongan, Lombok

Getting a boat to the islands can be an insanely stressful situation. I’ve been to Gili Trawangan three times, and Nusa Penida once. There are two harbours in Bali, but I’ve always travelled from Padang Bai- each time travelling with a different fast boat company.

Honestly, the boats are a hassle. The first time we got there, bought a ticket, and waited with everyone else, some men kindly (so we thought) helped us with our cases to the boat. When they started to push in front of the queue of waiting people to take us and our luggage right to the front, it started to seem dodgy. Then when they tried to demand loads of money from us for their “service”, it made a whole lot of sense: they’re just hustlers. We didn’t cough up and after some yelling in Bahasa vs English they eventually left us alone. Can I just say as well, the harbour is packed. There’s people coming off the boat and people trying to get on to the boat. It’s hot and sweaty. It’s confusing. There’s people trying to sell you food and bracelets and putting them on you saying it’s a gift and made by their ill daughters at home, then demanding you pay money as a donation. And it’s hot. And there’s loads of people. Did I mention that? Then, when we were in Gili, we went to book ourselves into a boat back and was told it was the fast boat but actually, it ended up being a boat that took four hours. Oh, and it broke down as well in the middle of the ocean.

The second time I went, we bought our boat tickets and the guy tried to hustle us hard for a return but as we didn’t know our plans we didn’t want one. He then made us sit by his ticket stand, away from the rest of the passengers and the whole thing was so confusing so I said to my friend Monica let’s go over to the other passengers. He protested but we went anyway, then were denied boarding our boat for not having a boarding card. The man who sold us our ticket refused to give one to us saying there was no space on the boat (after we paid 1m rupiah ) and then after practically begging to be let on board, he said there was just enough space on another boat for us. Our luggage went on, and we went off on this shitty little boat to the island (see below my @reallifesophie photo when I pretended I was at Fyre Festival but really, it was just Gili T). I’d heard far better things about a boat service called Eka Jaya, so we booked our return journey with them instead and oh my god. It was so much better. Huge boat, air conditioned, and the company was straight up with us.

The third time I went to Gili T, we just booked return tickets with Eka Jaya and had no problems. You wait at their ticket office and they give you your boarding cards and walk you round the the boat. Easy. Apart from it still being stressful, sweaty, and being hustled… but it happened a lot less

Expect to pay around 900k-1.5m IDR (which is around £50-£80) for tickets depending on if you get a return, which company you go with, and where you go.

Where to stay and what to do!

Seminyak

If you come here, you come here to party. You come here to drink, dance, and eat good food. The beach is lovely, but the streets… well, you could be forgiven for mistaking that you’re in Magaluf. I kind of like it though. It’s not trying to be something pretentious. There’s lots of shops, and the restaurants are incredible. But the roads are busy. The traffic is TERRIBLE. Do not even bother getting a taxi there – rent a scooter, or get a Gojek scooter everywhere you can, as they are so readily available.

Anyway, I’ve done Seminyak four times now. I hadn’t planned to on my latest trip, but it was closer to the airport. As I said, definitely more of a party vibe but the beach is nice and chilled by day time. It’s well located to do day trips to Ubud and other places like that.

La Favela

My favourite spot has to be La Favela. Imagine a big jungle treehouse – or the big house from Jumanji or something – add plenty of alcohol and a few dance floors, and an outdoor rooftop terrace and a Christ the Redeemer statue, and well, yeah. You’ve got it. I wish I had a photo but I’ve always been far too drunk in there to try and capture the moment. It’s such a fun place to go and let your hair down but it gets extremely busy. It’s worth checking out a couple of times because there are so many floors and different places to explore within it. The only complaint I have, and this is because I’m a bonafide loser, that like basically everywhere in Bali, you can smoke inside. So if you hate smoking, you may find this annoying af. You will leave absolutely stinking because well, the cigarettes are cheap as out there and the world seems full of social smokers.

Bikini Restaurant

I LOVE this restaurant. The food at Bikini Restaurant is incredible and if you ate somewhere like this in London it would cost you a lot of money. When I posted an IG story from their very instagrammable toilet, a follower replied saying “ugh this was the worst and most overpriced restaurant during my time in Bali” – I wholeheartedly disagree. I’ve been there twice and the food and cocktails were delicious. It’s very upmarket and glamorous, so it’s great for a date night or something like that.

Motel Mexicola

Just around the corner from Bikini Restaurant is Motel Mexicola. This place gets pretty hectic – the vodka lime & sodas are lethal. Ask for like, 7 slices of lime – you’ll need it. It’s an incredible gorgeous building – the decor is so vibrant. They serve food – it’s not the best Mexican I’ve had in Bali, but it’s worth heading there for a night out. They encourage you to dance on the tables, and that kind of venue is right up my street to be honest. Also have no photos here because well, I was too drunk once more…

Laca Laca Mexican

Speaking of Mexican! The best Mexican I had in Seminyak was from Laca Laca. And I love Mexican food – it’s my favourite. They also do espresso martinis by the jug. Yes. ESPRESSO MARTINI’S BY THE JUG!

Kynd Cafe

Probably the most instagrammed spot in Seminyak, Kynd Cafe had to expand the other year because their tiny venue wasn’t big enough to host the serious amount of posers that came through to take *the iconic* kynd shot. I’m not hating – I’ve done it twice. It’s a good shot – I can’t argue with it. But the first time we went, some other influencer and her photographer were taking up four seats over two tables, so we asked to sit on the table next to them and she was like “oh i’ll just be one minute!” and no word of a lie, 15 minutes later, she was still posing and giggling with her smoothie bowl, practically dribbling it all down her for the gram. I know we all want to get the shot, but seriously, just let me sit and order my food first.

Try not to let that put you off. It’s still worth a visit. The smoothie bowls are beautiful. It’s an all-vegan menu though, so worth hitting up for good vegan eats!

Coffee Cartel

Ooooh yes the coffee here is good. It felt a little more out of the way. Worth going to for a decent soy latte and a cute shot outside.

Doppio Cafe

I’m pretty sure this is a new joint, but it was of the best iced soy lattes I’d had. The dairy alternative milk is imported – it’s milk lab. If you’re an Oatly princess like me AND a coffee addict, you’ll struggle a little bit with finding the best milk alternative over in Bali. Almond just aint it. Neither is coconut. Not for me, anyway. But Bonsoy is super creamy, and so is milk lab’s soy. This is a cute, super girly little joint, and the food looked worth checking out too.

La Plancha

Owned by the same people as La Favela (and boy, can you tell with the decor!) this is a big open wooden beach house overlooking the ocean painted in more colours than you can think of. Before sunset, beanbags are laid down all to the oceanfront, and it’s the best places to watch the sky fade orange, to pink, to star-sprinkled black. It has a great vibe by day, and I’ve been here multiple times on every trip to Seminyak.

Shelter Cafe

This place has got POPULAR. I rate their lunches more than I rate their breakfast – get a Weffy’s salad. Honestly, never has a salad been so delicious and filling. I had a hard time convincing Jimmy to share a salad with me because he just thinks salads are the saddest thing on the planet. But I’m telling you, even he found this salad sexy.

Potatohead

Seminyak’s best known beach club! Definitely worth the hype. This is somewhere you have to spend a day at. Get there early to get a daybed, soak up the sun and the music and drink cocktails all day. Definitely gets vibey by the evening and in fairness yes, it has that kind of Marbella beach club vibe but it’s definitely a very fun time. The view over the beach at sunset is beautiful from the infinity pool.

Chill Reflexology

There are hundreds of places to get massages done in Seminyak, but after a little bit of a disappointing experience in one venue, Jimmy and I decided to go a bit more upmarket at this little joint called Chill. None of those dingy-lit, dirty-looking joints with sarong-draped beds with god knows what fluids saturated into it. It was a relatively swanky and modern reflexology place. You get massaged in the same room as other people, and I kept my skirt and tank top on through the whole thing. I’m usually a naked or nothing kind of massage person but seriously, even with my clothes on, this was insane. It was deep and yes it hurt a bit at times, but I walked out of there like a new woman. We had the 90 minute holistic massage – it ended up costing quite a bit, however, as we didn’t realise they added service charge on additionally. Around £35pp for 90 minutes, which by UK standards is good but Bali standards is pricey!

The Cottage beauty house

This cute little joint up at the top end of Seminyak did Russian lash infills for me. They were pretty long and dramatic, but it meant I didn’t have to worry about any makeup for the rest of the trip.

Where to stay in Seminyak

Seminyak Suite Private Villas by Astadala – gorgeous fancy resort, good location, pretty affordable when split between a group – we stayed 4 in a 2 bed.

Asksari villas – lovely private villa complex, but a little bit far out for our liking.

Ballisimo suites – nice and super modern villa complex and pretty cheap! Shared pool with other guests. However, I got bitten here more than anywhere else and had mosquitos buzzing around my head at night waking me up, I had to sleep under the sheets.

Dash hotel – super modern and a bit quirky. Feels more like an amsterdam hotel. Super clean though – I don’t rate the pool though as it’s red and seems a bit weird? It’s a good location though!

villa bamboo 7 – private 2 bed villa which was pretty nice. The ratings weren’t all that amazing but we really enjoyed our stay. It was a stones throw from La Favela which made it perfect for crawling back to after a night out.

Canggu

Ah, Canggu (pronounced chang-u, btw). My first trip here was in February 2019 and I fell in LOVE. I stayed at the Regali Villas and decided if I was ever to move to Bali, Canggu would be where I would base myself. I still like Canggu a lot, but my opinions of it have certainly changed over the year. I know holiday destinations have peaks and low seasons, but the population of visitors here from February to when I visited in May around tripled. Then when I came back for Christmas, it was probably double that of May. The roads were clogged. And it began to feel more and more like Seminyak. It’s worth saying as well, that if you decide not to rent a scooter, it is a lot harder to get Gojek rides over in this area. So it may be something to consider as without renting your own scooter, you will probably struggle to get around.

The surf is pretty good in Canggu, but the beaches aren’t that nice. It’s black sand, so it’s just not particularly picturesque.

But please don’t let these things put you off visiting: Canggu is an incredible place to stay! It’s got chilled coffee shops, party vibes, and a fitness scene. And despite the changes I’ve seen there, I still love the place and would head back in a heartbeat.

Also, I have to admit to you: I am not really a dog person. I don’t hate dogs, I just had bad experiences with them growing up so I’m naturally a little bit scared. We stayed at an incredible villa the second time I was in Canggu, but it was down the end of an “unnamed road” which was where locals and their 10 rabid dogs lived. When Gemma and I walked up the road to go get some supplies from the mini mart around the corner, the dogs all came at us snapping and barking and growling and it was honestly so traumatising for both of us, we didn’t walk down that road again. We had to wait ages for Gojek drivers to arrive and beg them to take two of us (which they’re not allowed to do – three adults on a scooter is not safe!) just so we could get by the dogs. When Jimmy arrived with his scooter, it made it a lot easier for us as like I said, getting Gojeks was long and tricky. So yeah, you’ll find there are a lot of dogs in Bali, but I don’t know… the ones in Canggu tend to be nasty, scary, and territorial af.

Finns Beach Club

I’d heard a lot about Finns beach club. Rumoured to be better than Potatohead,

I was expecting great things. I was left pretty disappointed the first time I went, but when back there this Christmas, Jimmy and I decided what better way to spend our day than Finns! Traditional, right? It was honestly so much fun. Such a vibe. It’s definitely the kind of place where if you go, you should probably go quite hard and live your best life, just saying.

Hungry Bird Coffee

A super popular coffee joint – it’s a proper roastery so coffee lovers will be pretty enamoured. However…

Vida Cafe

… these guys did the best iced soy latte I’ve had on the island. Definitely check it out!

Koloni Tattoo

If you’ve been considering a tattoo or want to commemorate your Bali memories with something, well, permanent, Koloni is the place to go. They do walk-ins for small things, but if you want a bigger design it’s best to head in and book a couple of days in advance. We went in one day and got an appointment for the next day – it was super easy.

Pretty Poison

This is s a really cool skate park bar that has nights on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. It’s not everyones cup of tea (Gemma hated it – she was like “this just isn’t my vibe I’m gonna head back” and that’s cool!) but still worth checking out as everyone else I’ve been there with really liked it. Next to PP is a secret speakeasy kind of bar. Head to the mini mart with a panther outside of it and go through the fridge at the back of the store and you’ll find yourself in a secret little bar.

Lola’s Mexican Cantina

Before or after partying at pretty poison, get yourself a Mexican fix from Lolas just a few metres down the road. They do late night tacos until 2am so I’d recommend it as the perfect drunk meal to soak up the cocktails and Bintangs.

The Common

This was probably my favourite place to get brunch – the corn fritters and chilli scramble were too good.

Crate Cafe

I honestly think this place may be a little overrated for the queues that flock there – you’ll find yourself scrambling to find a seat most mornings. The menu is pretty extensive though so there’s lots to choose from – maybe I just made poor decisions? I wouldn’t rule it out again. The smoothies are INSANE though. So worth heading there in the afternoon for a smoothie break. They’ve also opened up a place for dinner in the evenings now too. If you go there and spot the photo of me and Jimmy in between the tables then definitely take a photo and send it to us!

Shady Shack

Vegans and vegetarians and meat-eaters who aren’t narrow minded! You guys will love this place. It’s got a gorgeous vibe about it – perfect to hang in the afternoon or nip out for a coffee, and pretty chill for dinner too (although not so much of a fun vibe for dinner. It’s almost TOO chill)

Cafe Organic

Good – but not amazing. Service is a bit slow and they only take cash!

The Loft

These guys do pretty killer brunch and lunch. Their Bacon Lettuce Avocado Tomato sandwich was beyond unreal, but a messy eat. Still, would highly recommend! They have another branch in Uluwatu, and for some reason, everything we drank and ate there was better than the Canggu one…

Body Factory Bali

If you’re into working out, the best place to train is Body Factory – but it is expensive. I’m talking, your kind of UK day pass prices of £12. But if you are hard into your fitness then you will get a lot out of it. It’s air conditioned, has plenty of brand new equipment, and has an outdoor boxing and functional training area.

La Brisa

This is another one of my favourite places to go to in Canggu – probably in the whole of Bali. It’s one of the most beautiful places I’ve been to on any holiday – and brought to you by the same people as La Plancha and La Favela in Seminyak. It has more of a sophisticated vibe, and is worth going down to in the afternoon to spend longer there, watch the sunset, and have some cocktails.

The Lawn

Another beach club but with a far more relaxed vibe than somewhere like Finns. The food is good, but if you’re looking at having a daybed, there is a minimum spend of around 1.5 million IDR which is around £££ – not a huge amount if there is a group of you but if there is just two of you it can take a while to get through that amount. Check out what events they have on – there’s some great acoustic performers that play at sunset.

Honey

We checked out this place when staying just on the outskirts of Canggu. It’s a lot quieter up there but this spot did a pretty decent breakfast and good coffee

Shopping

Canggu has some amazing shops. There are a couple of Wanderlust swim boutiques which do incredible quality swimwear. If you’re looking to check out more traditional Balinese things then head to the Love Anchor market.

Where To Stay In Canggu

Regali Villas – and I LOVED it here.

Double View Mansions – this is just a bit outside of Canggu, really, and as much as I moan about the hustle and bustle of Canggu being too much these days, this place felt a little isolated!

This AirBnB – beautiful, but seriously, the horrible dogs would put me off ever staying there again. I feel so validated by the fact so many other people mentioned the dogs in the reviews.

And this AirBnB – which was incredible. It was just really well hosted and the team were super accommodating there.

Uluwatu

Uluwatu became the unexpected hero of my last two trips to Bali. I always just thought “oh it’s that place at the bottom of the island that looks pretty nice but seems a bit of an effort to get to from up around Canggu/ Seminyak, right?” – wrong. Wrong. Wrong. We stayed there for just one night back in May, and were like, WOW. This is like Canggu before it got crazy busy. So we knew we had to come back on our next visit, and it didn’t disappoint. It’s a lot quieter but still has so much going on. It feels that there is more of a community vibe than other places I’ve been to, which I loved. And if we ever relocate to Bali to set up a life and business, Uluwatu is definitely where we think we’d go.

Learn to Surf with Koby Abberton

I will struggle to put into words how great this experience was and how much it meant for me, but honestly, if you do ONE thing in Uluwatu, make it this. I look god awful in this photo but my smile says it all really.

Let me give you a bit of background here – I grew up in the midlands in the UK where the nearest beach was 4-5 hour drive – minimum. In fairness, apart from Newquay and other Cornish spots, surfing isn’t really much of a thing in the UK. So it’s understandable that I was like “sorry, who?” when my boyfriend starting freaking out that ex-professional surfer Koby Abberton was sitting a few tables down from us in The Loft. “I think it’s KOBY ABBERTON! Pro-surfer! Member of the Bra Boys gang? Have you heard of them? Have you seen the documentary?!” – I hadn’t heard of them. Nor had I seen the documentary. My boyfriend Jimmy is from New Zealand, lives in Australia, so surfing culture has been way more a part of the norm, so his excitement made sense when he filled me in on who this guy is and I was like yeah, fair play!

Jimmy slid into Koby’s DM’s about recommendations of who can teach us how to surf (me, a complete beginner, and him, having surfed a handful of times) and Koby replied saying he’d be more than happy to teach both of us for 1.5m IDR – so like, £80? Which included board hire, and surfing for as long as we need.

Now I was shit scared. I’ve always wanted to learn to surf, but I am in no way a sporty person. I’m uncoordinated. And I don’t really like sea water that much anymore. And I’m terrified of doing things that I know I’ll be bad at because it makes me feel like a failure. And this is way out of my comfort zone. But oh my god, I absolutely loved surfing. Koby (naturally) is an incredible instructor. He took me out on the waves first, and helped me get up on the board first time to get a feel for it. Then, second time, I had to get up all by myself. And I did. I managed about 3 seconds of air time before I fell off. Which in my eyes is pretty fucking fantastic.

So if Koby can not only teach me how to surf, but to love it so much I desperately can’t wait to do it again, that says a lot. He’s such an incredibly kind and warm person too – a total hype man. He made me feel like I was the worlds best surfer (lol, really) and really got you to enjoy the experience.

If you want to learn or just perfect your skills, please hit Koby up on IG because he is a serious serious legend.

Pork Bae

You can’t go to Bali without trying some of the local food – and oh wow. These pork skewers are incredible and only cost 20k IDR (around £1) for 7 skewers and a portion of rice. It was actually Koby who took us to this guy – he is based in the car park by Padang Padang beach and usually only serves dozens and dozens of locals daily, so if you want something a bit more authentic, this guy is it. We call him Pork Bae.

Single Fin

Everywhere has a sunset spot, but in Uluwatu, on Sundays and Wednesday, Single Fin is the place to be. It’s pretty pricey, so I’d recommend going for a little bit, but also check out the bars hanging off the cliff a little bit further down.

The Loft

Same as Canggu, but, better somehow? Get the pink dragon or the protein smoothie. They are INCRED.

Mango Tree Mexican

Because I have to have Mexican everywhere I go, here’s your fix for Uluwatu. Mango Tree is the bomb. Their Enchiladas hit the spot and hard. Definitely hit up the tacos too! It’s also a gorgeous little spot – part outdoors – and they do live music some nights so it’s a lovely place to go for date night.

Sundays beach club

The sophisticated beach club! You get a lot more for your money here – it’s 400k per person for entry for the day (around £20) but entry includes towels and sun loungers/ bean bags, paddle boards/ snorkelling/ kayak equipment, 200k to spend on food and drink. It’s also more of a sophisticated beach club compared to the likes of places like Finns and Potatohead – and very family friendly. It’s tucked away off a cliffside you have to get a lift down to, but it means the beach really is pretty spectacular. Definitely go spend a day here.

Uluwatu Beaches

The beaches in Uluwatu are undeniably a bit more about the surf than anything else. Plus, you have to walk down lots of steps to get there which seems hella exhausting on the way back – and not super accessible for those who need walking aids. Padang Padang beach feels a little more chilled than Bingin beach, with a few sun loungers available. There are monkeys on the way down so watch out for them! And you do have to pay to get down there too. Bingin (the beach pictured) is a surfers paradise, and there are so many adorable beach bars and cafes tucked away on the cliff side.

Lucky Fish Beach BBQ

For the best beach bbq, head down to Lucky Fish on Bingin beach. It’s super rustic – but something I love about Bali. Pick your fish, and eat your food on plastic garden tables down on the sand in front of the ocean. Perfect.

Where to stay in Uluwatu

Le Cliff – the view from these rooms are super beautiful, and you get access to the beach at the bottom which is ideal.

Villa Plumeria – dear god, Bali and your prices! This was an example of a three bedroom villa being the same price as one bedroom ones. No, we didn’t need all of the space, but having one room as a dressing room definitely has its perks. It was such a stunning villa and the pool was amazing. The water did break on us, making us unable to use the toilet for a few hours, but it was fixed super quickly and the host kindly gave us a partial refund. I would 100% go back to this gorgeous villa.

Green Escape Eco Resort – anything with the name Eco Resort makes me freak out there will be no air con and that it will be so eco-friendly I wont be able to use my hair curler. Deffo not the case. We stayed in one of the bungalows here and it was lovely – the main takeaway from this place was how accommodating the staff were. They were SO kind. I’ve stayed many places but never had hospitality like this.

Gili Trawangan

If you skipped the bit about getting the boats to the islands, scroll back up and read that first!

Like Canggu, I’ve been to Gili T on 3 out of my 4 times to Bali. But I don’t think I’ll be heading back there any time soon – I’ve just done it too many times to justify heading back there on the boats! They call it the party island, but really? The party vibes have nothing on places like Seminyak. There were a few bars but it really wasn’t my scene. The hostel bars definitely seemed like the best place to go, so if you’re hitting up the hostels you’re likely to have a lot of fun. In fact, I found it super chilled out and a great place for couples! There’s tonnes of romantic beach bars to head to for sunset.

And Gili T does have it’s charms. There are no cars and you have to cycle around the island on bikes. Horse and cart is how most other things are transported. You can do the whole island in a couple of hours easily and it’s worth spending a morning or late afternoon doing on bike!

Kayu Cafe

Kayu cafe was a nice little brunch joint. They have a pretty large menu and their bagels are killer. I’d also recommend their chocolate peanut butter smoothie bowl. It’s insane.

The Night Market

For dinner one night, I’d recommend trying the night market – or what it is now. It used to be in a square by the waterfront of Gili T, near where the boats come in, but after the earthquake in neighbouring Lombok in 2018, quite a bit of the island got destroyed, and both times in February and May when I was in Gili T, the space where the bustling market once was was now a pile of rubble, with street vendors and food stalls popping up in a smaller row next to it. The vibe was very different, which was a shame, bit still worth checking out to eat some delicious local food and fresh seafood caught that day. Plus, it’s super cheap!

Casa Vintage

Another favourite spot for it’s general aesthetic (hellooooo Instagram shot – these guys knew what they were doing when they made this place), the food, AND the hospitality is Casa Vintage. I would 100% recommend the Jamaican yellow fish stew and the trench town chicken – I know, perhaps not what you want to eat on a hot day but my god, it was mind-blowingly delicious. Head here for sunset – it has a beautiful view of the beach and they light a bonfire every night.

A sidenote on drugs and stuff…

There’s a lot of reggae bars between where Casa Vintage is and the main hub of the island that sell mushroom shakes. If that’s your vibe, just make sure you get it from a legit place. But I’d probably try swerve it as you just don’t know exactly what you’re getting yourself in for… Whilst drugs are so insanely illegal in Bali (bringing drugs in can get you the death penalty) and it should be something you never ever endeavour to do, magic mushrooms seem to be available in abundance over here (I’m not sure if they have different laws over here, or they’re just more chilled, or if mushrooms don’t count) but yeah, like I said, it’s risky business and I would definitely try swerve that.

Activities

There’s lots of activities to do over in Gili T. Things like snorkelling, surfing, or learning to dive. I can’t say I’ve done any of them. But we did get a boat over to Gili Air. Gili Meno is also meant to be great – especially to see the underwater statues.

Where to stay in Gili T

Villa Nero – I stayed here on my first visit. It was quite a nice little spot and pretty affordable. A little bit out of the way but in a good way! Just a few minutes cycle to the main area.

Majo Villas – this was one of my favourite places I’ve ever stayed in Gili. It was so beautiful, the private pool was gorgeous. The decor was modern but still had elements of Balinese style so I felt it really captured the best of both worlds! It is further out, but that’s always the case with the resorty/villa complexes.

Pearl of Trawangan – sitting right on the seafront, this place is in a really perfect location. We stayed in a teak cottage and were pretty disappointed. It was super tiny and cramped. There are a whole variety of other kinds of accommodation within this resort, from double rooms, villas with private pools, etc – so I would definitely stay there again but try a different kind of room out.

Nusa Penida

It’s really hard to give a fully detailed review on this place as we only stayed there for a day and a half, but it’s somewhere I would love to go back and explore again. You definitely need a scooter for getting around here.

Amok bar

This is the best place to catch the sunset. Sadly, we showed up 5 minutes after the sun had set. Typical. It’s a hell of a bumpy ride as well up there, but so worth it (providing you make it in time!)

Kelingking beach.

Go to this spot super early and get yourself down to the beach. But WEAR TRAINERS!! This is more like a hike then a walk. It’s steep, and you don’t want to be struggling up or down there when it’s getting really busy. You’ll be scaling rocks on the way up and down. The reviews say it’s easier going up then it is down – a total fucking lie. It is absolutely not. Going up is way more exhausting. Anyway, it’s the most beautiful beach I’ve seen in Bali, but it gets very busy at the top with visitors who come to snap the view. Granted, only a fraction of these visitors head down to the beach itself, but it’s still worth going early doors to get a more private experience.

PS pack some snacks! The warungs (local restaurants) around the area are pretty bad.

Ubud

The spiritual centre of Bali! So, this is in the more jungle area and full of rice paddies and gorgeous scenery. There is no beach, and the vibe is much different. I stayed here for two nights on one visit, but most recently we got up early and day-tripped there on THE WORLD’S MOST UNCOMFORTABLE MOTORBIKE. Aka, a fuckboy bike. Don’t do it to yourselves. If you bike up there, make it a Scoopy or Vario scooter – much bigger seats. Anyway, you can book a tour or a driver to take you to the best tourist spots, but I’d suggest planning ahead and doing it on a scooter instead. The drivers tend to take you to the busiest most touristy spots – for example, we were taken to a Bali swing spot (you know those swings over the rice paddies? more on that later…) and a rice paddy field which were just teeming with tourists. I left disappointed by both, but then on my next trip to Ubud realised there are loads of different entrances to rice paddies and different swing locations.

So, anyway, this leads me to

The Bali Swing(s)

Those iconic swinging over the rice paddy shots for Instagram have become BIG business in Ubud. And I mean big business. You go to a place, pay to get in (swear the place we went cost £17?) and they also have professional photographers there (aka, people with no photography skills that just point and shoot a DSLR) to help you get the shot and rip you off for the rights to the image. There are plenty of these spots, but theres something so fake about it all. So constructed. And that’s me… an influencer… saying it feels constructed and fake. It’s just a bit on the cringe side. And the swing isn’t even that fun. Despite our smiling faces!

Anyway, we went to the Aloha swings, but realistically, if you stop off at any entrance to the Tegalalang rice terraces, you’ll find plenty of different swing spots if you really want to experience it (aka, get the pic for the gram)

Tegalalang Rice Paddies

Tegalalang rice terraces are the most well known in the area, but most tours seem to take you to one main entry point. It gets pretty busy and it ruins the real beauty of what is actually there. Jimmy and I drove our bike way further down the road, stopping in a big carpark down a slope on the right hand side of the road, and entered the paddies that way. We took a walk way down into it and onto the other side and it was practically empty, bar a couple of random chickens and some locals who lived there. I’d definitely recommend doing it this way because you get to explore the rice terraces and see more of their beauty this way!

Ubud market

I’ve heard getting to Ubud market before 9am is the goer for a more authentic Indonesian experience. But it’s still worth checking out in the afternoon if you’re after a few holiday souvenirs. Get ready to haggle though. The selection of woven bags here are better than any other spot I have seen on the island.

Dance performance at Ubud Palace

You can head to Ubud Palace to soak up a traditional Balinese dance. There are no words, but you can get a leaflet explaining what each dance is about. Definitely a way to soak up some culture – but a warning, it does go on for around 2 hours. So eat before! I got hungry during. That’s no fun.

Sacred Monkey Forest

Like I’ll say with any tourist attraction – get here for when it opens if you want to get any good shots and explore when it’s more serene. Well, as serene as home to hundreds of screaming monkeys gets… This place is so so beautiful – before we even get onto the monkeys! Theres vines and trees all entwined around old bridges and it’s like something from a movie – apart from theres thousands of tourists there. The monkeys are great and yes, they can get a bit scary but there’s plenty of guards who are trained with how to deal with them. Keep your loose valuables close as these little devils will get into your bags and steal your things if the opportunity arises. The second photo really isn’t as scary as it might look – this little bugger just tried to charm Jimmy into thinking it wanted cuddles before trying to get his hand in and bite his way into the bag. He then jumped on my head – the little shit.

Folk Pool and Gardens

If you miss the beach club vibes of Seminyak and Canggu, Folk has its own spin on it with a gorgeous pool, daybeds, and a swim-up bar. It’s way more relaxed and family-friendly than the likes of Potatohead or Finns though.

Buddha Bar

We struggled to find anywhere that seemed vibey whilst in Ubud but I guess that’s because it’s more of a Namaste kind of place. Buddha bar did get a bit lively though and kept our group going until closing (which to be honest, was only like, 12:30am?)

To Be Continued!

Thanks so much for reading my actual dissertation-length blog post about Bali. I hope it’s been useful for you! Like I said, it’s something I’ll be updating as I travel back and adding new spots. Please make sure you follow me on Instagram at @sophiemilner_fs.

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5 Comments

  1. This is bloody amazing! And likely to have saved me from making so many blunders on my trip. I’m almost certain you have made our trip so much better. Going mid Feb, will update you when I get back! Thanks again Lottie x

  2. Hi Shopie!

    Instafollower from Spain here! 🙋🏻‍♀️ I want to go to Bali this summer so your guide (I have been waiting for it! Oh and I “lived” your passport drama, I was shocked 😢) really helps! So useful! Thanks a lottttt! I loved that it was dissertation-length. Oh and your pictures (always) look so dreamy. I really wish that we are able to save a bit more before summer comes and finally go 🙂 Will deffo follow your tips!

    Thank you very much again! Xxx 😘

  3. What a great guide !!! I didn’t know about the passport problems. I’m now freaking out !!! I leave for Bali in 4 weeks and flying with Qatar and the gold on my passport had completely rubbed off but the inside is completely fine. Do you think I shouldn’t risk it and get a new passport ASAP ?

    1. hey babe, like i said in that section it’s not to do with the gold on the outside! it’s to do with the inside. and also, like i said, i can’t give my opinion on whether yours will be ok bc i am not passport control/ airline staff. good luck x