Bali is an Indonesia Island known primarily for its forested volcanic mountains, vibrant green rice paddies, beautiful beaches, mesmerising temples, such as the cliffside Uluwatu temple, and its yoga and meditation retreats - with Ubud being at its spiritual centre.
But if you look a little closer and go a little deeper, beyond the glittery surface splashed all over Instagram, Bali offers something more. The rich cultural experiences, beautifully kind locals and opportunities to really learn about yourself, are only some of the reasons Bali is true to the meaning of her name; ‘to return’.
This itinerary is perfect for you if you enjoy relaxing beach days coupled with being active and exploring off the beaten path places with local guides, rather than the main tourist attractions. It is also perfect for you if you are really interested in making a positive impact through volunteering activities.
**This itinerary is not suitable for you if you are interested in hard core partying, mainstream tourist attractions, only visiting places that will look good on Instagram or staying in one place and relaxing by a pool for days on end.
Bali only has one international airport and it is located in the south of the island, 13km south of Denpasar. Ngurah Rai International Airport is the second busiest airport in Indonesia. The airport has a few shops and cash machines if you needed to withdraw some money before you start exploring Bali.
Go Travel and Talk Top Tip: Pre-book a taxi through your hotel / hostel or with a private driver - it is very overwhelming when you first step out of the airport with hundreds of touts shouting for your business. Minimise the stress and arrange transport before you arrive. We used an amazing private driver with very reasonable rates, Gede: 0062 813-3715-7459. Or download and use a taxi app - see below. This will be a lot cheaper than hiring a private driver or booking a taxi through your accommodation.
Taxis are everywhere and you can easily flag one down on the street or call a taxi company and they will send a taxi to where you are (although this takes longer). If you are picking up a taxi on the street, make sure the meter is on beforehand or decide on a price before you get in. When you are in the south of Bali, blue taxis marked with 'Bali Taxi' (known as Blue Bird Taxis) are the most honest and super affordable.
You can also use taxi apps such as ‘Grab’, 'UBER' or ‘Go-Jek’. Make sure you download the app before you arrive. You can book a taxi through the app.
Tourist Shuttle Buses:
Bus travel in Bali is not hugely developed or efficient. The relatively new Kura-Kura Bus shuttle runs from the Duty Free DFS terminal at Jalan Bypass Ngurah Rai to Kuta, Seminayak and Ubud. The daily services operates brightly coloured green and yellow buses with WIFI onboard. Perama Shuttle is one of the most established on the island of Bali, with bus and ferry services that reach across Bali from Kuta to Ubud and up to the North and East and beyond. They also take tourists to Nusa Penida and Lombok.
To get around Bali on the cheap, you could try riding one of the minibuses called Bemo. Most minibuses operate a standard route, picking up and dropping people off along the way. Ask your hostel or hotel staff beforehand how much a fare should cost, as foreigners are often overcharged. Don’t expect comfort on these journeys and get ready to get up close and personal with your neighbour as drivers tend to over pack the minibuses.
Renting a scooter is incredibly popular in the small towns and larger cities and it is a great way to get around if you have experience driving a scooter. Roads can be dangerous, so make sure you are confident driving one and rent a scooter from a reputable individual or local business. If you are staying at a hostel or hotel, they can help you with this.
It is possible to hire a driver to look after you for the duration of your stay. When I travelled around Bali I had a driver pick me up and take me to different places on and off throughout my trip. If you are going to Bali, you can contact Gede via Whatsapp here: +62 813 3715 7459. Tell him Cj and Melisa gave you his number :)
Where to stay in Canggu: Koa D'Surfer Hostel.
A super cool hostel but with a boutique hotel feel. Koa D'Surfer Hostel offers super clean and comfortable rooms, a fabulous breakfast and a lovely roof terrace with a swimming pool. The hostel is also within walking distance to everything. If you would like to venture future afield for a day out, you can rent bicycles and scooters through them.
What to See And Do In Canggu:
Hit the Beach:
Check out Echo beach for the day - known for some of the best surfing in Bali and only a short scooter ride from Batu Bolong beach. If surfing is not your thing, just head to Canggu's main beach and set up on one of the many beach beanbags for the day.
Shop until you drop:
Canggu is known for its shopping, so why not spend the afternoon mooching around and checking out the boutique stalls. If you are in Canggu over the weekend, don't miss The Love Anchor Market, which is on Saturday and Sundays. Here you will find everything from clothing to souvenirs and lots of really beautiful hand made jewellery. It has a great vibe with music playing and lots of happy people - no wonder it is known as one of the best things to do in Canggu.
Get A Massage:
Get a massage while you are in Canggu. We asked for a Balinese massage which is a mix between an aromatherapy and Thai / Swedish massage.
Explore The Surrounding Temples:
Escape the city for a day and explore the surrounding areas. The Tanah Lot temple is the most famous tourist attraction which is a 45 minute drive north of Kuta. The best time to visit this beautiful temple is just before sunset (around 5pm), but it is incredibly crowded. If you are looking for an off the beaten path adventure, hire a scooter for the day and explore outside of Canggu. There is plenty to see and many small temples along the way.
What And Where To Eat In Canggu:
- Finns Beach Club for cocktails (during the day or in the evening).
- When Finns closes, head over to Old Mans for a dance.
- Pretty Poison
- Black Cat Mini Mart (super cool speakeasy. The entrance is hidden behind a fridge labelled 'Broken' in the mini mart.)
- Dues Ex Machina
- La Brisa (beach club, great during the day).
- Shady Shack (Super healthy vegan / vegetarian food and a cool space to do some work.)
- Milk & Madu
- The Loft
- Crate Cafe
- GIVE Cafe
Check out the Honeycombers blog for a more extensive list!
Where To Stay In Ubud: The Onion Collective.
The Onion Collective is an awesome community focused hostel with private rooms and dorms. BIG shout out to Gemtrack for recommending this gem. We stayed in the pool shack and loved it. It even came with a semi-outdoor shower. The hostel also has an awesome vibe and offer insane Indonesian with Asian fusion food. The staff are super friendly and helpful as well - thank you to the owner Mark for sorting us out with an unforgettable hike (see below). It is also within walking distance to everything and they often have live music in the evenings and nomad meet up nights.
What To See and Do In Ubud:
Take a day to explore the city, shop at the stalls, eat, soak up the atmosphere and maybe a chill out at the Onion Collective pool for the day. If you fancy a bit more of a lively atmosphere, head across the road to Puri Garden Hostel and Hotel - another hostel/hotel that has a pool and a bar, with a bit more of a party / traveller vibe.
Get up early and start your day with a morning flow session at Yoga Barn. A 90 minute class costs the equivalent of $8 and the standard of teaching is incredibly high. Once you have finished, head out to the Campuhan ridge walk. This walk takes max 2 hours (there and back) and offers beautiful views along a ridge of the rice paddies. The walk ends at a little cafe so grab yourself some brunch or a delicious smoothie and chill out in one of their huts on the lily pad lake at the back. For the afternoon head out to the Pyramids of Chi (walk there via rice paddies using Maps.me) and experience one of their sound healing sessions - again big thanks to Gemtrack for the recommendation!
One your third day, explore the surrounding rice paddies of Ubud. Take a scooter or walk there from town (around 40 minutes). If you did want to see one of the most famous rice terraces, Tegalalang, make sure you get there early so you have the place to yourself (arrive no later than 7am). You can rent a scooter or call Gede to drive you there (his number is above in the Transport section). You could have brunch / lunch before heading off on an Eco Village tour (depending on the day). You can do this with Keep Bali Beautiful, an incredible grassroots Recycle Program that partners with Balinese schools and villages to build a sustainable recycling network. Changing the beliefs and habits that lead to pollution and waste in the first place. Spend the evening at The Onion Collective and enjoy their live music events. Or head to 9 Angels. An incredible cafe where you pay what you think is right and fair. They put on amazing events such as local market days, yoga, meditation, workshops and classes. The vibe is awesome and the people are so welcoming. Please note they are closed on Mondays.
On your fourth day, treat yourself and head out to the Kanyon Jungle resort. It will cost you around 150,000 IDR (€10 / $11) in a taxi to get there but it will be worth it. Entry isn’t exactly budget friendly but depending on the option of ticket you go for, included in the price is food and drink so it doesn’t actually cost that much (shout out to our girl Melisa for the recommendation). We opted for the ‘Silver’ ticket which cost 1 million IRD (€64 / $70) and with that we got two bottles of wine, lunch and deserts. For a taxi, please Whatsapp our local driver, Morvin: 0062 878-6214-0386.
If you fancy something a little different and more budget friendly, get in touch with the guys at Get Plastic and ask them to tell you a little bit more about their initiative to turn plastic into fuel as a way to keep Bali clean. Best way to get in touch with them is to send them a message on Instagram; Alfa manages the account so he will be able to help you: @getplastic_id. Or contact him directly over Whatsapp: 0062 8117-007-989.
Get in touch with our friend Hendryx on Instagram. He and his partner Bayou have just started their own business, taking people out to remote spots around Ubud or further afield for a day, night or even longer!
We did a 1 night, 2 day trek to Mount Abang, instead of joining the hoards of tourists (500 people) up Mt Batur! We caught the sunset and sunrise from our very own private mountain. Hendryx and his partner Bayou set up our tent, cooked us the most delicious dinner, made us coffee and really took care of us. Later in the evening, we had a bonfire before watching shooting stars in the sky. In the morning we watched the sunrise, before heading back down the mountain and onto a hidden waterfall. It is an absolutely must do when in Ubud.
Contact Hendryx on Instagram.
Other options for things to do (including main tourist attractions):
- Indonesian cooking class, Ubud Monkey Forest, Tegenugan Waterfall, Sunrise hike up Mt Batur, Spa day.
What And Where To Eat In Ubud:
- 9 Angels Warung (local food in buffet style where you pay what you think it appropriate).
- Zest (healthy / vegan style - amazing for breakfast)
- Seeds of Life (Incredible raw vegan food in centre of Ubud).
- Bahia-Bahia (local food, always busy. Find on Maps.me, close to Seeds of Life).
- Warungs for local food (dotted all over Ubud).
- The Onion Collective (Asian-Indonesian fusion style food - incredible!)
- Yoga Barn (more expensive than usual prices in Ubud but delicious! Raw, vegan health food and juices).
We asked Gede our driver to take us from Ubud to Padang Bai, where we caught our ferry over to Gili Meno. The taxi cost us 250,000 IDR (€16 / $18) between the two of us for a 1.5/2 hour journey.
Book your ferry tickets online with Blue Water Express, although this option is slightly more expensive than other services - but they are very good and incredibly reliable. For a return ticket, it cost us $70 USD (€63). Just be careful if you are booking online, their website can be a little tempermental - so we actually ended up paying for the tickets twice because it said our transaction didn't go through at first... but it did.
Where to stay: Gili Meno Eco Hostel vs Rabbit Tree for solo travellers.
Gemtrack very kindly recommended Gili Meno Eco Hostel and it was awesome. We stayed in a treehouse style dorm complete with mosquito nets and made entirely from sustainable and local materials. They have composting toilets, outdoor showers, a kitchen, awesome chill out spaces, evening activities and it is right on the beach That being said, we found The Rabbit Tree Hostel great for socialising. It is a little more party so it depends on what you are looking for. Both are great places to stay while you enjoy your time on Gili Meno.
What To See and Do On Gili Meno:
Relax! Spend time chilling on the beach and mooching around. Depending on the day, join Trash Hero’s on their walk around the island to collect rubbish - they only do this on Sundays, from 2pm. If you are staying at Gili Meno Eco Hostel, most of the staff go so you can join them.
In the evening, head to the Rabbit Tree Hosel for drinks and check out the Brotherhood Bar. When I went they had just started doing family style dinners on Sundays, with live music and a whole lotta fun! Ask at the Gili Meno Eco Hostel for the details and where to go - it is not far from The Rabbit Tree Hostel. Or head down to the beach and on to the Irish Bar (follow the signs on the island).
Head to the turtle sanctuary early (latest 9am, find it on Maps.me) where you can donate to release a baby turtle out into the sea (150,000 IDR / €10 / $11). If you are interested in their work, you can ask to join the guys on a night walk, looking for eggs to save and turtles laying.
Grab some lunch at Pacman (best Warung on the island) before hiring some snorkles and taking yourself out to sea to swim with the turtles. Do not hire a guide, you can do it yourself - best spot to see them, is right in front of Gili Meno Eco Hostel. If you fancy good wine and amazing food, head to Karma in the evening - a great spot for couples with candle lit tables on the beach, but I enjoyed it just as much with a friend.
What and Where To Eat on Gili Meno:
- Rabbit Tree Hostel
- Irish Bar
- Karma Reef
*You can find all of the drink and food places on Maps.me
You can grab a boat over to Gili Air from the harbour on Gili Meno. They leave twice a day, one in the morning and one in the evening, it takes 15 minutes.
Where to stay on Gili Air: Captain Coconuts.
For a decent price, you can fall asleep in a swinging bamboo bed suspended from the ceiling in an open air hut at Captain Coconuts. Best nights sleep on the Gili Islands! And amazing atmosphere. You can chill out round the pool or enjoy their delicious meals at their onsite cafe.
What To See And Do On Gili Air:
Gili Air is more built up than Gil Meno and sadly loses that beautiful sense of community you get on the smaller island of Gili Meno. The nightlife is bigger in that there are more bars, but there seems to be less people. I am still unsure of Gili Air’s appeal and whether I am 100% down for it, but it is a great place to relax around the pool (all accommodation options have a pool) or mooch around the many cafes and warungs (local food places).
You can also get involved in a Trash Hero walk on this island.
Other activities for both islands:
- Exploring the underwater statues, fishing, diving, spa day.
What and Where To Eat On Gili Air:
- Don't miss the sunset at Lumbang or any of the bars down that strip (find it on Maps.me).
From Gili Air you can catch a boat from the harbour to Sangan which takes around 2.45 hours with Blue Water Express - and that is the fast boat. Gede our driver was waiting for us when we reached Sangan and he drove us straight to Uluwatu which cost 250,000 IDR (€16 / $18).
Where To Stay in Uluwatu:
We stayed in an Air BnB right by the Uluwatu Temple, called Kubu Nyang Nyang.
We had a little bungalow all to ourselves with a huge bed, TV and a beautiful bathroom with a waterfall shower. There is a communal swimming pool and breakfast is included and delivered to your door at any time you like in the morning. Highly recommend and it only cost us €80 ($90) for two nights, between two people.
What To See And Do in Uluwatu:
You can rent a scooter to get around. We didn't in the end because we ran out of money and actually walking was absolutely fine. You will need to be fairly confident on a scooter because Uluwatu is all hills and sharp bends! Uluwatu is surfing heaven. With its many beaches and great surf, comes an inflx of uber cool surfers. But if you are not into surfing (Im not), fear not, just relax on one of the many beaches.
In the evening, head to Single Fins for a boogie and some cocktails.
Another day spent in paradise, either relaxing by the pool or heading back to the beach. Don't miss Uluwatu Temple - get there early to avoid the crowds.
Finish off your two weeks with an incredible performance of the Kecak Dance at Uluwatu temple. Make sure you buy your tickets a day before in high season as they sell out fast. Show kicks off at 6pm but get there for 5.30pm latest as it fills up very quickly and be warned, you will be crammed in as much as possible around the amphitheatre, but it is 100% worth it. Bring water with you and be aware of the monkeys!!
What And Where To Eat In Uluwatu?
From Uluwatu, we asked Gede to take us to the airport in Denpasar which cost 250,000 IDR (€16 / $18). Journey time is around 1.5 hours with traffic so make sure you leave nice and early to avoid missing your flight!
Bali is a magnetic place and it is no wonder why people return time and time again.
For me the absolute highlight was the hike with Hendryx - he listened to everything we were after and created a tailormade trip for us that exceeded all expectations. It felt authentic and completely unique. We learnt so much and witnessed things we didn't think possible.