It seems like a distant dream now, since we came back from our trip to Asia. Every time I hear someone says ‘Bali,’ it makes me feel nostalgic, and plenty of memories flash in front of my eyes as bright and big as a cinema screen. But I was there. First time in Bali. I wondered around the rice terraces, swam with wild dolphins, got woken up by geckos, enjoyed fresh fruit juice for breakfast almost every morning, rafted and also climbed towering Mt Batur for the most gorgeous sunrise.
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Some people love Bali, and some people hate it. In my honest opinion, it all depends on where you go. We got to travel across most of the island and its surrounding islands and slept in 8 different hotels, villas and homestays within 16 days! Crazy? Maybe, but totally worth it.
First time in Bali and where should you stay?
- Puri Kobot Villa – Ubud
- Artotel – Sanur
- Krisna Home Stay – Nusa Lembongan
- Youpy Restaurant and Bungalows – Gili Air
- De Adema Guest House – Amed
- Pondok Manis Homestay – Singaraja
- Cara Cara Inn – North Kuta
- Mendel Villas – Nusa Dua
Book your perfect stay now:
I am sure you heard all about Ubud by now, about the rice terraces with at least 4 drones in the air, plenty of monkeys and yoga places at each corner.
We didn’t see any monkeys, we didn’t visit the famous Monkey Forest, only because in our opinion it is a scam and you have to be extremely careful of the monkeys biting and stealing your things. We didn’t enjoy Ubud much, we preferred its surroundings, the waterfalls, and some less known rice terraces.
We stayed in Sanur for one night only, but I loved it. It has vibes, tropical restaurants, and plenty of quirky bars to choose from, all of which offer a mix happy hour specials. It is like a typical English seaside town – but posher and definitely much hotter.
3. Nusa Lembongan, Nusa Cenigan and Nusa Penida
We stayed on the island called Lembognan and saw Nusa Penida only from the boat. So many snorkelling and diving opportunities around. Gorgeous sunsets, a few bars on the beach with bean bag chairs, and lots of dogs (who will pee on your bean bag if you don’t feed them).
We drove around Nusa Lembongan, crossed the yellow bridge, and drove around Nusa Cenigan. Worth it. There are tourists, but I can image that Nusa Penida is overfed with tourists at this rate and I don’t regret that we didn’t visit it. There is so much to do everywhere, it just depends on what you what to do.
4. Gili Air
An island with only one dog there called Blacky, which we met thanks to a German couple who owns a fantastic Asian themed bar and villa complex on the island, and had the pleasure to drink with them at their bar!
There is no public transport, only horses carriages, which I disliked and made Carl roll our suitcases, which was okay on the lovely road until it ended halfway to the villa which meant he had to drag it through the sand for 20-minutes to get to our accommodation.
To go around the island, it takes you about an hour, or half n hour on a bike, which you can rent from pretty much anywhere.
Gili Air is peaceful, full of stars and snorkelling spots – a perfect stop if this is your first time in Bali. Breath-taking sunrises and sunsets set the sky in yellow, orange and purple tones every day and there is nothing better to do – than just sit on the beach and enjoy the view nature serves you on a golden plate listening to the ballads from the oceans. Cheers to that!
My number one location in Bali. Not only for its black volcano beaches, but also for the volcano views and golden sunsets. People here are extremely friendly and relaxed. There is no rush, stress, or busy streets. Amed is less touristy than other parts of the island, and if I ever come back, Amed will be first on the list. Make sure you will add Amed to your list if you are planning your first time in Bali.
Did you know Singaraja is the second biggest city in Bali? Right after Denpasar. We only drove through the city.
We stayed near GitGit Waterfall in a small village, which I don’t think even has even a name! This was our best stay and experience in Bali! We sat with the owners of our accommodation, drank a little too much Bintang, and swapped our travel and life stories, had an outside cold shower in the morning and were surrounded by pitch-black nights as soon the lights went off. You couldn’t hear cars, there weren’t many tourists around (maybe four including us in one restaurant), all the locals wanted to drink and eat with us, and we made life-lasting relationships with some of them! Hand of heart, this was our cheapest accommodation with the most memories and loving people.
7. North Kuta
North Kuta is a different story. As soon as we approached Denpasar and Kuta, it was a completely different world. Cars, scooters, tourists, famous fast-food chains from McDonald’s to Dunkin Donuts, Steak bars, bowling places – this place has it all. I called North Kuta Balinese Las Vegas. It lived all day and all night long. I spent in North Kuta most of the time on my own because Carl was taken down by Bali Belly and spent his last four days in the bed.
I took myself for lunch, for sunset views, to a 3D Art Museum, wandered around the beach and felt utterly safe. Which I think is the most essential part for a solo female traveller.
8. Nusa Dua
The most expensive place in Bali. All famous hotel chains come here to extend their emporium and where all luxury Instagram Travel Influencers come.
Nusa Dua will cost you pretty much all your leftover pennies. Bintang is double – if not even triple its price and seafood will cost you more than a UK mid-range restaurant.
For example, I ended up with a medium glass of white wine from New Zealand for 90K rupiah, but because I was a tourist, they added a tax, a tourist tax, and some other stupid tax, so I ended up paying 150k rupiah for a glass of wine. That is about £9. If luxury is what you are looking for in Bali, then make Nusa Dua is on your list.
The only few things I enjoyed in Nusa Dua was our fantastic villa, which was upgraded for free, the room service which had food delivered from the restaurant directly to our villa, the locals who wanted to party with me and the beach when I went for a wander. Again – I spent time in Nusa Dua on my own, absolutely safe and fine.
First time in Bali – Is Bali for me?
Bali is for everyone. From the hustle and bustle of the city life, breath-taking waterfalls hidden deep within thick forests and clear dark nights dotted with millions of stars to golden sand beneath your feet. You can find it all.
Planning your first time in Bali – Where to go?
I loved how busy North Kuta was and the choices of food I had, but we also loved the fact we were completely cut off from the world when we stayed in Babakan, drank with the locals and walked for so many miles because we didn’t have anywhere to rent a scooter or bicycle.
Carl scuba dived with mantas and turtles, I was lucky, and when I was snorkelling at Manta Point, wild dolphins appeared from the middle of nowhere and swam around me! This is a memory which will last forever. Same as our stupid idea to go snorkel when the tides were out – ended up swayed and with cuts and tears. (But you know – alcohol numbs the pain.)
I also got stung by a bee, drank plenty of ocean water, had a cold and sore throat from all the AC Units and the temperature differences between indoors and out.
We conquered the world by getting up at 1am for a sunrise trek, approached the top of the Mt Batur at 6am covered head to toe in dust and mud, but feeling like winners, on top of the world. The most breath-taking and picturesque scenery stretched in front of us when the sun opened its arms, and the landscape of the entire island flared up.
Bali, I will be back!
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