10 THINGS TO DO IN BALI: FOR FIRST TIMERS

Location: Bali, Indonesia

Ahhh, Bali. How do I even begin? I’ve been to Bali twice but it always seems like my time in the island is never enough. From its cliffy coastlines, numerous waterfalls, lush jungles, outstretched rice terraces, majestic temples, delicious local cuisine, quirky street markets, laidback atmosphere, artsy cafés, luxurious villas and resorts—Bali caters to any kind of traveller out there.

To be frank, Bali has never been on my travel bucket list—and I think a lot of Filipino travellers can agree with me on this. We have this misconception of Bali not having much to offer except for its beautiful beaches. I mean, why would we book a flight to Bali when we have El Nido and Coron in The Philippines, right? Also, the obvious choice for us Filipino travellers would be a destination that doesn’t have the same

tropical climate like what we have—so we usually go for Hong Kong, Japan, Korea or go on a Eurotrip. Anyway, it turns out, I was wrong about Bali. After spending 7 full days in the island, trust me, I didn’t want to leave. This is probably why a lot of foreigners fall in love with Bali and live there for good. For such a small island, Bali has so much to offer.

With that, I gathered 10 things to do in Bali for first timers! In this post, you will see almost all the famous tourist spots that you need to see and experience in Bali. I will come up with a separate blog post about the cafes and restaurants you should try and also the resorts/villas you need to stay in. Brace yourselves because this is going to be a lengthy post!

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Putting this on the number 1 spot because I feel like this is the perfect way to kickoff your Bali trip. When I think of Bali, I have this mental vision of their beautiful private villas—you can enjoy your own private swimming pool, outdoor showers/bathtub and a tropical garden that you don’t have to share with strangers. My friends and I would always throw “pool parties” in our private villa, jump into the pool anytime we want and eat mi goreng anywhere (lol). Basically, you are free to come and go as you please without the hassle of worrying if you are disturbing others. Don’t be intimidate though, a villa accommodation is generally a more affordable option in comparison to staying in a hotel room of the same caliber. You can book a private villa as cheap as Php3,000 (60 USD)!

However, this still depends on how you choose to spend your time in Bali. If you have a more relaxed itinerary, then I would highly recommend booking a private villa. If you feel like you won’t get to maximize the amenities of the villa since you’ll most likely be out and about, then booking a hotel room is fine as well (they have a lot of beautiful and cheap ones in Bali too).

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Where to Stay: Royal Samaja Villas, SooBali Villas, Bali Sunset Villa, Tijili Seminyak Hotel, Suarti Boutique Village Ubud
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In another life, I want to live in Bali and spend my mornings in different cafés every single day. One simply cannot run out of restaurants, cafés, shops and bars to try in Bali—but Seminyak has got to be my favorite. Seminyak is surrounded by some pretty delicious dishes which can be found in the town’s trendy cafés. Spend a day or two walking around the area of Seminyak Square, shop for local goods, pick a café you like and unwind. Come nighttime, head on over to La Favela for a night of dancing. Even though it is overrated and popular among tourists, we always end up having a memorable night there.

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Where to go: Nalu Bowls, Cafe Organic, Motel Mexicola, Potato Head Beach Club, The Bistrot, Sea Circus, Ling Ling’s, Sushimi, La Favela
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Bali has a lot of sea temples but what makes Uluwatu stand out is its cliff-top setting at the edge of a plateau 250 feet above the Indian Ocean. Since this is a temple, you need to wear a sarong to enter (don’t worry as they provide free sarongs for the tourists to use). Make sure you explore both sides of the temple so you can get different perspectives of the cliff. Just be careful as there are a lot of monkeys at the temple—and they can get pretty wild. I witnessed so many tourists getting harassed by monkeys. One got her sunglasses stolen, while the other monkey got her phone and took it to the forest! I have this theory that the monkeys are trained to do this and their “monkey master” gets all the items stolen by these monkeys—or maybe that’s just me and my crazy imagination. Haha! I encourage you to book a private driver when you choose to go here!

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I take pride in the majestic Banaue Rice Terraces of Ifugao, and because of this I wasn’t 100% excited to visit the Tegalalang Rice Terraces in Ubud. But when you’re in Bali, it’s a must that you visit this as it is one of the iconic landmarks of Bali. If you’ve seen “Eat. Pray. Love.”—you probably have the scene where Julia Roberts was cycling through the rice fields of Ubud playing in your head.

When in Tegalalang, I recommend that you spend some time here to unwind. You may opt to eat at one of the many restaurants in the area (all of them offers a majestic view of the rice terraces). While waiting for your food, go walk through Tegalalang’s giant paddy fields. If you make your way up to the top, you’ll get a magnificent view of the rice terraces sloping across the valley. I heard it looks even more amazing during sunrise!

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One of the highlights of my Bali trip was getting attacked by monkeys—and I say that in non-sarcastic way.  See the photo below? Well, after this shot was taken, a huge monkey (about 4x the size of the monkey on my back) jumped on Vina without her knowing. Haha! A true testament that any tourist is sure to have a different kind of experience when he/she visits the Ubud Monkey Forest!

The Ubud Monkey Forest is without a doubt one of the most famous attractions in Bali. There are over 600 of them and you will see them swarming outside the entrance, on top of stores, column posts, walls, they’re everywhere! Yes, they can get pretty aggressive so make sure you don’t wear sunglasses, don’t have anything in your pockets (especially food). If you want these monkeys to jump on you and snatch bananas out of your hand, you can buy a cluster of ‘em from a local vendor. If you’re not afraid of monkeys, then you wouldn’t have any problem here—but if you’re traveling with a group, I’m sure one or two of your friends are terrified. You can get a good laugh watching your friends scream their hearts out as monkeys try to attack them. If everyone in your group loves monkeys, just watch the other tourists suffer. Haha!

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I wouldn’t say that Goa Gajah (commonly known as the Elephant Cave) is worth a visit but it’s one of those temples you need to check off your list to say that you’ve been to Bali. When I checked my Sygic Travel App (what I usually use when I travel), the Elephant Cave came in at no. 6 place to visit in Bali (out of 200 plus results) so we decided to check it out. Before you get to the ticketing office, there will be a bunch of vendors trying to sell you sarongs that you apparently need to enter the temple. Don’t fall for it as they give these out for free for the tourists to wear (which you need to return after).

The Elepant Cave is pretty impressive because of its façade—it looks nothing like an elephant but one theory is that the primary figure was once thought to be an elephant, which they got the name Elephant cave. Across the cave is an extensive bathing pool featuring five statues depicting Hindu angels holding vases. There are tour guides scattered around the temple who might come up to you and tell you the history of the Goa Gajah. There was an old local who came up to us and started telling us all these interesting stories about how the Elephant Cave came to be.

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Pura Taman Ayun which means “Garden Temple in the Water” is one of the six regarded as one of the most beautiful temples in Bali. This temple is situated in a compound filled with trees and ponds—and it is actually a UNESCO World Heritage Site! The compound is huge so if you have a tight itinerary, make your way to the most holy courtyard in the temple (see photo below) and see the towering pagodas. They’re not as big as you think!

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Ulun Danu Bratan is hands down one of the most beautiful temples in Bali and arguably the most photographed site on the island. The floating temple is just off the shore in Lake Bratan, which is in the center of Bali, 3600 feet above sea level. Two multiple-roofed pagodas sit at the edge of the lake to honor the lake goddess. Now these pagodas are not completely floating on their own as they are connected to the shore by narrow bridges. You can spend about an hour here exploring the temple complex.

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Tanah Lot may just be the most touristy place in Bali. Sure, it’s jam-packed with tourists, but we can’t deny the fact that it is also magical. The temple at Tanah Lot is set on a beautiful rock that has been shaped over time by the tide. We went to Tanah Lot during sunset—and also 500 other tourists. I guess every single tourist had this mindset. Either way, my friends and I were too trigger-happy which made us running from our van to the temple to catch a glimpse of the famous sunset. Sadly, we missed it—but we manage to get some pretty sick shots. If you’re visiting Tanah Lot, try to go earlier (before sunset) to avoid the other tourists! There are also a lot of souvenir shops and outlet stores inside the compound so make sure you take advantage of that!

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I was trying to decide which one was more worthy of being included in my top 10 list—La Plancha or La Favela? They’re both incredibly fun but so different from each other. However, the array of beautifully rowed umbrellas and beanbags have become such an icon in Bali—so it was only fitting that they get the 10th spot, right? La Plancha is one of the most well-visited tourist spots in Bali. It is located right on the beach in Seminyak—the strip itself is long so you can go for a walk along the whole stretch. I recommend that you go around before sundown because they only start rolling out the bean bags and setting up the umbrellas at around 3-4pm. The first time we were in La Plancha there was no minimum order required—but on our second trip back to Bali (one year later) they require each person to order at least 1 drink and 1 dish or 2 drinks. The cocktails are still generally cheap but compared to the other restaurants and bars in Bali, it can get a little more pricey. Catch the sunset here, unwind, have a beer and go for a swim at the beach!

 

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♦ Beware of “Money Changer Magicians.” When having your money exchanged to Indonesian Rupiah, some money changer attendants will steal several currency notes while counting the money in front of you. One of my friends was tricked into this and we only got to realize it after leaving the money changer. We went back inside to confront the “magician” and he returned the money.  So make sure you count the money carefully and do not go to any random Currency Exchange office—especially the ones in back alleys or the ones that says “no commission”—because there usually is. If you can, get your money changed at the airport or inside a convenience store.

♦ You will feel like a millionaire when you’re in Bali. 10,000 pesos is equivalent to more than 2 million Indonesian Rupiah. So do not get confused when you get a bill at a restaurant or see a piece of clothing you like that costs 50,000—because that’s like 180 pesos only. Haha!

♦ It is very convenient to go around Bali via a scooter or motorcycle. Most foreigners do it, but since we are a big group, we either book an Uber/Grab Car or hire a private driver. Don’t worry, getting an Uber is so cheap in Bali! Anything more than (21,000 IDR) 80 pesos is expensive already! If you’re staying in Seminyak or Ubud, check your hotel/resort if they have bicycles free for the guests to use. The villa we stayed in Seminyak and Sanur offered this and we had a blast exploring Bali via a bike!

♦ Some areas in Bali prohibit Uber or Grab drivers to pick up passengers in those particular areas (especially Canggu) so you have to be sneaky and get in the car quick. Some drivers will tell you to meet you somewhere and act like you did not book an Uber/Grab. It’s funny but that’s how it works there! However, I heard from one of the Uber drivers we booked that starting this month, it will be legal to book an  Uber/Grab almost anywhere. 

♦ Taxis are abundant in Bali. If you prefer getting a regular cab, make sure they are metered. If they are not metered, the driver can easily tell you any prices so expect to be ripped off.

♦ Although there is practically wifi connection in every cafe/restaurant in Bali, I still recommend that you either get a local sim card (you can get this at the airport or at any convenience store) but I personally prefer renting a pocket wifi—especially if you’re travelling with a big group. We rented two (2) units from Flytpack (we’re a group of 10) and we had zero problems with it. Flytpack is based in Manila so you can rent it before flying to Bali—so that’s one agenda off your list already!

♦ Just like in The Philippines, The Balinese love to bargain. When you’re buying clothes, local goods or souvenirs from local vendors, haggle the price—you can get the item/s for half the price!

♦ Since it’s very laid back in Bali, it’s easy to wear a tank top and flip flops anywhere. If you’re going to La Favela or any bar, wear a shirt and sneakers/sandals as security can be really strict.

♦ You do not have to tip in Bali but it is polite if you feel the service was good.

♦ If you are planning to visit a temple in Bali make sure you wear appropriate clothing. You can either wear those light fabric pants or bring a sarong with you. If not, most temples offer sarongs to tourists for free.

♦ No, you do not need a visa to enter Indonesia.

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