Guide to your first 2 weeks in Bali, on a (reasonable) budget
As anyone who knows me will tell you, Bali is my favourite place in the world (after my home town of Farnham). Before making the move in January this year I visited 3 times, for a total of 11 weeks. I regularly get a lot of questions and requests for advice on where to go, where to stay, what to eat, what to do, so I’ve consolidated it into a 2 week ‘Bali on a budget’ list. When I say budget, I mean somewhere in between a backpacker and a holiday maker – a 20 something on a 2 week trip away. This list is for a first time visit, if you have been to Bali before, it is likely you will have done the below, but this ticks off everything you will have heard of/want to do in 2 weeks.
2 week plan (this is a sample structure to get you started):
- 1 night Kuta – the party part of Bali but worth seeing just so you can say you’ve seen it and complain about it and tell everyone how it’s an Australians version of Malia. It’s also the nearest spot to the airport. You can definitely skip this night...
- 4 nights Ubud – if you want to start with partying and beaches, I’d switch Ubud and Seminyak round. Ubud is for resting, for healthy food, for spiritual walks, cycling and yoga (think Eat, Pray, Love)
- 2 nights Seminyak – the most well known touristy part of Bali, filled with beaches, restaurants, bars and shops. The well known Bar, Restaurant ‘Potato Head’ is here and some of the largest, fanciest restaurants in Bali. It isn’t my personal favourite as it’s a bit too busy and full of Brits/Aussies but it’s many people’s chosen destination
- 3 nights Gili T – technically not Bali, but if you’re in Bali you may as well go. Gili T is the largest of the 3 Gili Islands and the one most well known for partying. 3 nights is definitely enough in my opinion (2 would do it).
- 4 nights Canggu – my favourite place in the world and where I now live. Canggu has become one of the most popular parts of Bali. Home to surfers and hundreds of Digital Nomads, it's the perfect mix of Ubud and Seminyak creating a calm, beautiful place still with a great night life.
If you have more than two weeks/a bit more cash there are a few other places I’d recommend visiting:
- Uluwatu – The big surfer area of Bali, rammed full of pro and ex pro surfers. I’ve been there for the sunday night at Single Fin (a well known night) but have heard there isn’t huge amounts to do if you aren’t a big surfer. We got a cab to and from Single Fin from Seminyak which was fine
- Gili Air and Gili Meno – the other Gili Islands, smaller and less busy than Gili T, somewhere to go if you like beaches and an ‘island’ experience without the partying (this is on Gili T)
- Jimbaran – If you’ve got a lot of cash to splash and you’re into Golf the Le Meridian in Jimbaran is for you. This is where I stayed for a week on my first trip to Bali, I was with Mum and Dad (hence the hotel)
- Lovina – if your trip has any extra days or you don’t fancy going to Gili T I recommend a trip to Lovina in the north of Bali. The drive from Seminyak takes about 4 hours. I’d say of all of the places I’ve mentioned, Lovina is the least well known, probably because it’s the furthest away. It’s well worth a visit if you have time as the morning boat trip to see the dolphins is something you’ll remember for ever. There is also a variety of trips you can do to see waterfalls and other travel like things, i’d recommend doing one of these. Lovina is also well known for it’s fresh fish, so if you eat fish, go here.
- Nusa Lembongan – A small island, about an hour from Bali on boat (which can be super rocky), it’s how you imagine Bali to have been about 30 years ago, really inhabited. A couple of nights here for a recharge is worth it, there isn’t huge amounts to do, rent a moped and do a big tour of the island, stopping off at small restaurants and bars you find along the way
- Sanur – Sanur is a seaside town in the southeast of the island of Bali. It has lovely long of beaches with shallow waters. Colorful fishing boats rest on the sand, backed by a paved cycling path, there is also an annual Kite festival here if this is your bag. The boat to Gili T goes from Sanur and Padang Bai, if you have time, stop off at Nusa Lembongan
- Tanah Lot – The Tanah Lot temple is very well known and regularly seen in photos of Bali, I haven’t actually been yet, but it’s on my list for next year
Ok, so let’s break down each place. Mum’s and Dad’s reading this, some of the places I recommend staying are hostels so may not take your fancy (although you are totally welcome).
The home of relaxation, yoga, monkey’s, healthy food and plenty of vegans. There is so much to do in Ubud yet you’re in a state of tranquility from treatments and the calm atmosphere that makes you want to nap, meaning you need more time here to fit it all in. I could easily spend a month in Ubud, have probably spent a total of 3 weeks there across my 2 trips (18 months apart). For restaurants I recommend reading by ‘Eating Guide to Ubud’ blog as the food is one of the main drawers of visiting. A trip to the Yoga Barn is a must, even if you aren’t a yogi, go and see it and do a mediation class, or have an ayurvedic massage (or colonic irrigation if you’re feeling daring.)
For longer trips I recommend doing the juice cleanse, it’s not easy but I promise you you’ll never feel better in your life. Additional activities include a Mount Batur Trek to watch the sunrise, renting bikes to cycle through rice paddies, a cooking course and a visit to the monkey sanctuary. You can’t not love Ubud unless you’re a total party animal who is incapable of switching off and embracing the place they’re in. If you’re with a person like this, ditch them and go to Ubud.
Eat: Have a look at my blog: Eating Guide to Ubud
Stay: The hotel we stayed in on my most recent trip was gorgeous and really reasonable, it wa called Kunang Kunang which is roughly 600k (£12) per night and has nice spacious rooms which can fit up to 3 and a really stunning small pool with sun loungers around it. Previously I stayed in Dana Sari, very similar rooms but no pool so slightly cheaper. If you can afford it, I recommend getting a pool in Ubud as it is inland so there isn’t the sea to cool off in when you need to. If you’re splashing out there are some stunning hotels (Alaya) and Villas (Atman Villas)
As mentioned, Seminyak is the most well known, nice city full of restaurants, bars, shops, a beach and lots of travellers and holiday makers. If you’re there you must make a visit to Potato Head (because everyone will ask you if you went and you’ll just feel dumb otherwise) and visit Kudeta Beach Bar.
If you want to buy Bintang vests and holiday shorts, Seminyak is your place and you can do it on your way to the beach where you’ll be served coconuts and booze by locals. There are a lot of fancy hotels and restaurants in Seminyak, if you’re going to have a more dressed up night, where you wear wedges not flip flips, it’s going to be in Seminyak.
Do: Potato Head Beach Club, Beach, Beach Bars, Shopping
Stay: I’ve stayed in the same hostel for both trips to Seminyak, I’d recommend it for it’s good location, clean rooms and nice staff – M Hostel
Gili T, the party Gili Island, crmamed full of restaurants, most serving barbecues, hotels and hostels. I honestly think more than 3 nights here and you might go insane as there isn’t a huge amount to do. There are 3 main things anyone will tell you to do in Gili T, eat at Scally Wags, swim with Turtles, and rent bikes and go down to the sunset bar for, you guessed it, sunset.
Sunbathing and massages can keep you busy in between these activities but I think 2-3 nights is plenty here. Make sure you buy a return boat ticket and some cash for the boat as you’ll need a bintang to get through it.
Do: Turtle snorkelling, cycle to Sunset point
Stay: Skallywags for a hotel experience, My Mate’s Place for a hostel
The greatest part of Bali. Canggu is very much up and coming and is developing more and more by the day. The change 18 months after my first visit was huge so get there asap while it still has it’s fairly untouched charm. Canggu is known for it’s surfing, it’s bar called Old Man’s and more recently ‘Finns Beach Club’ which sits in between Seminyak and Canggu. All brilliant and all worth a visit.
I recommend renting a moped for your days in Canggu as it makes exploring much easier and walking will waste your precious time. There are plenty of brilliant restaurants in Canggu also so make sure you make time to find and eat in all of them (yes, all). For those spending a longer time in Canggu, check out Dojo, a new co-working space near Echo Beach – really cool and full of digital nomads on their MacBooks making you want to quit your job. Make sure you go for a night out at Old Mans (although the traditional wednesday is too busy now) and Deus and have brunch at Crate and lunch and Betelnut.
Eat: Crate, Betelnut, Organic Cafe
As mentioned above, not the nicest part of Bali and can definitely be avoided. If you do go, there is a long ‘strip’ called ‘Jalan Legian’ (Jalan is Indonesian for road) with a variety of restaurants, massage parlours, bars and hostels. I recommend staying somewhere around this strip for your one night, just to get the full Kuta experience.
Have a massage, some nice dinner at one of the restaurants and then get nicely tipsy on cocktails (loaded with sugar but Kuta loves a bogof). For clubbing there is a huge club called Sky Bar and a smaller, much funner club called E*. Kuta beach is fairly well known with a variety of beach bars, I’ve heard good things about x and x although I haven’t visited either because Kuta isn’t really my bag.
Eat: The only restaurant which stands out was the Falafel House near to Kayun Hostel.
Stay: Kayun Hostel Downtown is a nice hostel in a great location for a one nighter.
I really hope this post has been of help to you when planning your trip, if you’d like to ask any questions or anything above doesn’t make sense please get in touch.