Bali is a traveller’s paradise. It’s small enough that you can easily visit a few spots on the island during a short trip but big enough to allow you to escape the tourist hoardes. Keen on the outdoors? You can climb active volcanoes. Just want to relax and bask in the sun? There are PLENTY of gorgeous beaches to explore or failing that, your villa’s pool ain’t too shabby right? Love to eat? The local food is phenomenal and if you want to glam it up, there are a number of modern, delicious eateries to tick off.
Whether you’re here for a relaxing break, for a bit of an adventure, or to soak up Balinese culture, here are our Top Travel Tips for Seminyak, Ubud and the Bukit Peninsula: Must Eat, Must Stay, Must Do…
Chasing a Plate’s Price Guide
$ cheap as chips under $10AUD per person
$$ won’t break the bank $20-$40AUD per person
$$$ flop out the gold card $50-$100AUD per person
You will kick yourself if you leave Bali without sampling the food from local eateries, or warungs as they’re known in Indonesia. Some of the best food we’ve ever eaten on our travels has come from these simple kitchens. From nasi campur to mie goreng, bakso to es teler, the options are endless. It’s the best couple of bucks you’ll spend in Bali. Wash it down with an ice cold Bintang and you’ve eaten like a king. Check out our Must Eat guides to Seminyak, Ubud and Jimbaran Bay for some ideas on where to eat…
Jl. Kayu Aya/Gang 51, Oberoi, Seminyak
Open 7 days, 8:00am to 5:00pm
Had enough nasi campur to last you a lifetime? Then get to Revolver to get your fix of espresso and poached eggs. Revolver does the best coffee in Seminyak, hands down. This cafe is where those in the know come to break their fast. These guys roast and blend their coffee in Bali and use organic produce where possible. The staff are friendly, the place is always packed and the food is tasty.
Pak Malen $
Jl. Sunset Road No.5, Seminyak
Telephone: 0361 745 2968
Open 10:00am to 3:00pm (but get there early as they sell out quickly).
Pak Malen is a small local joint where people jostle for seats and the line for takeaway snakes out the door. They specialise in babi guling (suckling pig) and the babi guling spesial is the thing to order here. Soup, rice, sambal, salad and a plate filled with all things pig- slices of meat, crackling, a tendon puff, pork sate and crunchy gorengan (pork tossed in flour and then deep-fried). Delicious.
Jl. Petitenget No.14, Seminyak
Reservations can be made online at http://barbacoabali.com
Open 7 days, 12:00pm to midnight
Barbacoa worships meat and has the asado pits to prove it. This Argentinian restaurant excels in providing diners with a great atmosphere, delicious food (the ribs and the garden salad are ver good) and friendly service. The cocktails are kick ass too.
Jl. Raya Kerobokan, Seminyak
Reservations can be made online at http://mamasanbali.com
Open 7 days, 11:00 to 2:00pm and 6:00pm to 11:00pm
If you’re keen to put on your glad rags, do so for Mamasan. The perfect way to enjoy this institution in our opinion is to whip upstairs to the bar, settle down to work your way through their cocktail list and order some small bites from the menu if you get peckish. Seriously, they do the best cocktails in Seminyak. If you’d rather stay for dinner then make sure you book a table downstairs and get stuck into their extensive menu where you’ll find dishes like crispy confit pork hock and steamed snapper dumplings.
Menega Café $$
Jl. Four Seasons Resort, Muaya Beach, Jimbaran Bay
Telephone: 0361 705888
You can’t visit Jimbaran Bay without partaking in a seafood feast on the beach. Menega Café is always packed. Fresh lobster, crabs, prawns, fish- you name it, they’ll grill it. Beer, seafood and feet in the sand. Bliss. Arrive before sunset to nab a table or call and book ahead.
Naughty Nuris $$
Jl. Raya Sanggingan, Ubud
Open 7 days, 11:00am to 11:00pm
This joint has been drawing in the crowds with its smoky, tender ribs and zingy martinis since 1995. A small grill out the front of the warung does the work, letting off flumes of flavoured smoke into the air as ribs, chicken, steak and sausages sizzle. There’s a Naughty Nuris in Kerobokan too, but we think the original is still the best.
Jl. Dewi Sita, Ubud
Telephone: +62 (0) 361 977733
If you’re looking to escape the heat you could do a whole lot worse than a degustation in the sleek dining room that is Locavore. Using local and where possible, organic produce, this restaurant’s tasting menus will wow you. Inventive, delicious food, attentive service and blow your mind cocktails. This is one eating experience you shouldn’t miss.
There’s accommodation to suit all budgets in Bali. We like to mix it up a bit by staying in hotels, guest houses and using Airbnb. Here are a few of our favourites:
The L Hotel $$$
This modern, small boutique hotel has its eyes on the details. Khiels bath products, friendly staff who can’t do enough to ensure your stay is perfect and delicious breakfasts. It may be set away from the centre of Seminyak (about a 20 minute walk to the hub) but it’s worth it when you feel so at home. Read more about our stay here…
Airbnb bungalow $$
This bungalow is a great base for exploring Uluwatu and the surrounding area. There’s a gorgeous pool which is shared by two bungalows, it’s private and the staff are helpful and friendly. Note there’s no television, nor air conditioning (there’s a fan) and you’ll probably need a scooter to get out and about.
Mawa House $$
Mawa House is for you, if you’re not looking to spend a fortune but still want a bit of comfort. Set at the back of a family compound you can expect lazy breakfasts on the terrace outside your room, refreshing afternoon dips in the pool and clean, generously sized rooms.
Centrally located, the Alaya is an oasis in which to escape the busy heat of Ubud. Utilising natural materials in its design, it’s traditional but has all the modern amenities you might desire. The pool is wonderful, the staff are helpful and the breakfast is top notch. Read more about our stay here…
There’s nothing more relaxing after a long day of exploring than walking into a spa to spend a couple of hours getting pampered. There’s a spa to suit all price points from the $6, hour long foot massage to the $50 back massage. What you can be certain of is that no matter what you opt for, it’ll almost certainly be cheaper than the same treatment back home. Here are our favourite spots:
The Roots $
Jl Sunset Road No 27X, Seminyak
Telephone: +62 361 8625756
This is one for the fellas who are looking to dapper themselves up. The Roots is an old school barber shop that rocks wet shaves and haircuts. The guys are meticulous so put aside an hour or so. We recommend booking otherwise you’ll find yourself in a queue that’s eight men deep.
Jalan Kayu Jati No 2, Petitenget, Seminyak
Telephone: +62 (0)361 733317, 735058
Open 7 days from 9:00am to 10:00pm
Bodyworks is a bit of an institution. Tiled concrete floors, lazy fans suspended from a Balinese style thatched roof and aqua blue and terracotta décor relaxes you as soon as you step through the door. There’s a plethora of treatments available from facials to pedicures. The cream bath is a real treat- a hair wash, head, shoulder and neck massage and then a steamer to infuse a conditioning cream into your hair. Heaven! P.S Make sure you book ahead as they can get super busy.
Cheap spots along Jalan Oberoi, Seminyak $
There are a number of basic spas along ‘eat street’ (you’ll spot through the windows people sitting in massive armchairs getting their feet massaged) and these are great if you want a ‘cheap and cheerful’ type of spa treatment. For us it’s usually a foot massage after a long day of walking. You’ll spend under a tenner and feel as good as new!
A bit of culture…
Kecak & fire dance at Uluwatu Temple $
If you plan on seeing a kecak performance, the one at Uluwatu Temple is spectacular. The kecak artists are mesmerising and the backdrop of the setting sun against the sea is unforgettable. The performance starts at 6:00pm and goes for about an hour. We suggest arriving at around 4:30pm to give yourself enough time to wander the grounds, peer over the cliffs to watch the surf and to nab a good seat. Whatever you do, hold tight to your belongings as the monkeys can get a bit aggressive around these parts!
Practise your haggling at the local market
If you want a bit of insight into how the locals live then head to a market. The Ubud market is perhaps the most well known and here you’ll find fresh meat, fruit and vegetables, household items and street food. Plus, if you’re needing a souvenir or two, then you’re bound to find something here. It smells pretty pungent and it can be quite cramped, but it’s invigorating. If you’re in Denpasar, Pasar Badung, the central market is worth a look in. There are lots of street food vendors outside the market so it’s a good spot for a snack or lunch (be sure to haggle if you think something sounds oddly expensive, you’re probably being ripped off!)
Get out and about…
There are a number of beaches to explore along the Bukit Peninsula- many aren’t suitable for swimming but often you’ll find a warung or cafe where you can grab a drink and watch the surfers tackle the giant waves. If you are looking to sunbathe and swim then you might want to join the hoards who congregate at Padang Padang. However, if you prefer to have a few metres between you and the next sunbather then head to Bingin beach. When the tide is out there’s a slippery rock shelf to navigate before you can swim but once you’re out there it’s beautiful. If you find yourself suffering from the heat then head to one of the cafes or bars that line the cliff and watch the world go by for a while.
Mount Batur Sunrise Trek $$$
Bali Sunrise and Trekking Tours
It’s a magical feeling being above the clouds watching the sun rise after you’ve spent two hours trekking up an active volcano. Mount Batur sees a lot of groups make the hike up its scoria strewn sides to the top where troops of monkeys jostle for attention and you eat boiled eggs cooked in the volcano’s steam. Most tour companies will pick you up from any main centre in Bali to begin your trek but there’s less travelling time if you tack this tour on to a stay in Ubud. Hiking shoes or good walking shoes are a must and a good level of fitness is helpful!
Bali Cycling Tour $$
Sure, you have to suffer the obligatory stops at the Luwak coffee plantation and the fruit plantation but once they’re done with, you can hop on a bike for a couple of hours and cruise past rice paddies and small villages to get a better insight into Bali and the lives of its people (most of it is downhill). If you choose Bali Eco-Cycling as your guides the day ends with a Balinese meal which as far as buffet lunches go is great. Again, if you want to cut down on travelling time, do the cycling tour whilst you’re staying in Ubud, but you can get picked up from most of the main centres in Bali. P.S If you’re lucky, the guides will stop and show you some pretty amazing creepy crawlies.
Tegalalang Rice Terrace $
Tegalalang are the closest rice terraces to Ubud and it’s worth the trip out there. You can wander through them at your leisure and then stop for a breather at one of the many cafes that perch on the side of the hill to take it all in. Pretty impressive.
From the Airport: if you’re looking to catch a taxi, as you exit the arrivals gate at the airport, veer to the left and you will see a stand where you pay the attendant the set fare dependent on your location. Give the receipt to the taxi driver who will be hovering around and they’ll whisk you away to your destination. Fares are approximately $7AUD to Seminyak/$20AUD to Ubud.
Taxis: drivers of the Bluebird Taxi Company will always flick on the meter when you get in. Because of their good reputation a number of smaller companies have copied the bluebird logo onto their cars even they though aren’t affiliated with the original company. If you get a fake Bluebird you might find yourself haggling over the fare after you get in. To distinguish the real from the fakes looks for light blue taxis with the bluebird logo on the side of the cars. They also have ‘Bluebird Taxi’ written in white lettering across the top of their windscreens.
Private drivers: Ubud in particular doesn’t have taxis, rather there are private drivers with whom you barter a price for your destination. Each time we’ve visited Ubud we use a bloke called Putu Sariana who has driven us around town as well as on longer journeys around the island. He’s reliable, friendly and a safe driver! His number is 081338696344.
Hiring a scooter: it’s cheap to hire a scooter in Bali, expect to pay around $6 per day. We grabbed one to drive up and down the Bukit Peninsula to get from beach to beach. The police are notorious for stopping tourists for no reason and if you don’t have the right licence then expect to pay a bribe. Make sure you’re wearing a helmet and have an international motorcycle licence to cover yourself.
Cash is king at most of the local eateries, shops and when paying for local tours like the ones talked about above. ATMs are aplenty and usually dispense a maximum of around $250AUD in one withdrawal. Credit cards are accepted at the more upmarket restaurants, spas and shops.
Tipping etiquette can be tricky to tackle as a traveller. It’s not expected in Bali but certainly appreciated. We usually tip when frequenting small spas or salons, if we have a private driver or a tour guide. At most upmarket eateries and spas a service charge will be added to your bill so there’s no need to tip extra in these circumstances.
We hope this post has been helpful. If you have any questions or you’ve got some tips for us, we’d love to hear them, just comment below. Thanks for reading and happy travels!
Images: Thomas Southam
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