Essential Bali Travel Tips: The Island’s Inside Scoop
If you’re traveling Southeast Asia, Bali simply can’t be missed. I’ve previously shared my Bali travel guide for first-time visitors as well as several hotel reviews, but, given the island’s incredible popularity, I figured it was time to dive a little deeper and reach out to someone who knows the island much better than I do. Patrick of German Backpacker is a travel blogger who loves to explore every corner of the world with his backpack. He recently lived and worked in Canggu, Bali for three months, and today he shares his Bali travel tips.
Welcome, Patrick! What do you love about Bali? What makes it special to you?
For decades, Bali has been highly popular among tourists from all over the world. Therefore, you shouldn’t expect a true “off-the-path” experience when backpacking Bali. Although you can certainly say that Bali has issues with overtourism, the island is still a magical place attracting millions of people. It’s a bit difficult to figure out the exact reason why the island has such a charm, but for me, Bali is freedom. You can explore the island for hours on your scooter, driving through small local villages and rice paddies. You can visit cliffs, beaches, temples and waterfalls. But you can also have a good coffee or smoothie in a hip café, get some online work done, unwind from traveling or dance the night away on the beach. Bali has something for everyone!
You paint a lovely picture of it! What’s your all-time favorite sight, attraction, or spot on the island?
That’s a tough question and I recommend you bring enough time with you in order to explore the island properly. If you’re looking for fun nightlife and beach clubs, stay in Kuta and Seminyak. If you want to visit some cool cliffs and surfer beaches, head to Uluwatu in the south. Do you want to make Eat, Pray, Love a reality? Then head to Ubud and explore the surroundings. Drive to the north of the island to chase some waterfalls and go diving on the eastern coast. You certainly won’t get bored in Bali!
So much to do! If a traveler only had 24 hours in Bali, though, what are some places you’d tell them they absolutely can’t miss?
I’d say head to Ubud and surroundings. Although this city is pretty touristic, you can find some of the nicest spots of the island in this area. Visit the famous rice terraces just outside of Ubud, head to the Elephant Cave temple or the unique water temple of Pura Tirta Empul. The best way to explore is to drive through the beautiful landscape on your rented scooter and just to enjoy the freedom.
What should travelers know about the local culture or people of Bali?
Contrary to other parts of Indonesia, the main religion of Bali is Hinduism, and you can find beautiful temples everywhere across the island. The Balinese are known to be very welcoming and open and will be happy to share their culture with you!
What’s your favorite off-the-beaten-path thing to do that wouldn’t be found in a typical guidebook?
I wouldn’t really call it “off-beaten” anymore, but if you want to escape the island for a day or two and if you’re looking for some breath-taking nature, take a quick boat ride to the Nusa Islands just off the coast. Especially Nusa Penida offers stunning cliffs and an untouched landscape which you wouldn’t really find in Bali anymore.
Sounds stunning! What’s a cool neighborhood you’d recommend to visitors looking for something a little different?
I love the beach community of Canggu, a bit further up the coast from Seminyak. This is also where I lived for 3 months. Since there are no famous sights or temples around Canggu, most tourists skip it and therefore, you don’t need to deal with the mass tourism issues as in places such as Ubud. Canggu is the perfect place to enjoy amazing food in the hip cafés and restaurants, relax at the beach and watch the beautiful sunset!
What’s the food like in Bali?
If there’s one thing Bali is famous for, it’s the great cafés and restaurants. While you can get cheap and delicious local Indonesian food at every corner, Bali is also known for very healthy restaurants with smoothie bowls, fresh salads and other dishes. Ubud and Canggu are especially full of great places to eat.
What are the most photo-worthy or Instagrammable spots? Any fantastic lookouts or otherwise photogenic spots?
Bali is a photographer’s dream! There are so many places which are worth visiting. I believe that especially the sunsets as well as the rice terraces are perfect for a photoshoot.
What tips do you have for travelers looking to avoid the crowds?
That’s easy: skip the famous places such as Kuta, Seminyak and Ubud and head off the path. While most tourists stay in the southern part of the island, I can encourage you to go north or east. Here you’ll find unspoiled places where you can experience the “real” culture of Bali.
If you’re on a longer Indonesia backpacking trip, keep in mind that you can easily reach the neighboring islands of Java and Lombok or the stunning Komodo national park from Bali, if you’re looking for less developed places.
Finally, what should visitors know about transportation around the island?
Public transport doesn’t exist unfortunately and the best way to get around the island is on scooter. Mind the traffic though! If you don’t feel comfortable, there are always enough taxis which you can order online via the app Grab.