Bali: Useful info, accomodation and transport.
Here we share with you our tips and choices. They worked for us and we hope they’ll help you too!
Our expectations were high, but we were also affraid of being disappointed, mostly because we’d been warned about the huge crowds that flood Bali at any time of the year. A population of nearly 4 millions, together with the 10+ million tourist a year that visit this volcanic paradise can sound like too much for a 5700km2 island. The dry season (March to October, approx.) welcomes most of these visitors for obvious reasons.
But before we jump to any conclusions, some general brushstrokes:
Where to stay and for how long?
Bali, unlike most of Indonesia, has a Hindu majority, with an 83.5% of its population adhered to Balinese hinduism. This imprints the island with a totally different character than the rest of the country, and is probably the main reason it’s so fascinating. Wether the kindness and permanent smile of its people, the omnipresent ceremonies and offerings (of which they make you a part of without hesitation), the style and materiality of the buildings and temples that makes the most of the volcanic stone that shapes the island, unparalleled vegetation, beautiful beaches and perfect waves… there is no other place like Bali in the world (and if there is, we’ll do our best to find it!)
As travellers, each and every one of these reasons by itself would be enough to get our juices flowing, and having all of it in the same place is something we couldn’t miss! That’s why Bali deserved a longer stay than the rest of the islands we visited in Indonesia.
«…the kindness of its people, the omnipresent ceremonies and offerings, the temples, unparalleled vegetation, beautiful beaches and perfect waves… there is no other place like Bali»
After some careful studying and blog-reading, and choosing what we wanted to visit, the distances and how to get to each one of these places, we decided to split our stay in Bali like this: 5 nights in Ubud to explore the central area of the island, and 2 nights in Uluwatu, to enjoy the surfing vibe and meet its world class waves and beaches.
But enought of that, let’s dive into the useful stuff! We tend to use Booking.com to book most of our accomodation, and Bali was no exception. Although this time we booked everything just a couple days in advance, since we changed our Sulawesi plans on the go (read more about why here!), we still managed to find some great options!
– Ubud. Pumpkin Village Resort. We’ll start by stating that the price we paid for this one was significantly higher than the average of our trip, although nothing crazy and totally worth it!. At 47€ per night, and after 4 hectic days in Sulawesi, including 9 hour bus rides and pretty intense experiences, we felt like we deserved to spoil ourselves a little bit.
And we found exactly that! The place is great, with just 4 bungalows outside Ubud in a very quiet area, but always with a driver available to take you to town and pick you up whenever you need to (before 10pm), and at no extra cost. The super friendly staff will do all they can to make your stay perfect, wether its organizing tours, serving you lunch by the pool, or taking care of your dirty laundry (or first priority after hot days in Java and blood/smoke filled funerals in Sulawesi).
– Uluwatu. The Bingin Green View. At 35€ per night, and though not at the same level as our Ubud stay, this wasn’t bad at all, given that the prices in the Uluwatu area are significantly higher. There was some hesitation when booking it, but we didn’t have many options as we did it only 2 days in advance, and apart from a couple minor things, we didn’t regret it at all!
It’s run by a Balinese family, with the permanent kindness that comes with it; and if grandma needs to fix you a quick breakfast at 6am because you have to run to the airport, or clock in some sunrise surfing time, she will offer to do it with a smile! It’s also a pretty quiet place, and access wasn’t too easy: google maps will tell you to go through the huge tourist resort complex in front of Dreamleand beach area, but they won’t allow you to, and you’ll end up going back and taking some back roads to reach the place. A scooter makes things a lot simpler! (although the quality of the one they gave us was far from good!)
If you’ve reached this point, you may have realised by now that we decided to move around on a scooter, both in Ubud and Uluwatu (we also did in Sulawesi, with funny results!).
Our conclusion is that it’s the most efficient way to move around, although only if you are familiar with riding motorbikes, since it can get tricky and even dangerous at times. The traffic is hectic, the main roads are always jammed with cars, scooters and old trucks…and above all, the unexpected can always happen, from stray dogs and monkeys crossing the street at the worst time, to hinduist ceremonies blocking the streets for hours.
It’s all part of Bali’s character, and we all contribute to it by visiting this beautiful place, so just take it easy, be extra cautious and get a good travel insurance! (We used to travel without one, but if you check our nightmare honeymoon post, you’ll see why we think now that it is a must! Lesson learned the hard way!).
We rented both scooters from our hosts, and the results were quite different. The first one, from Pumpkin Village, looked almost new and well taken care of. We also had a wide range of helmets to choose from, although not as new as the bike. However, the second one from The Green View seemed to have been taken on countless surf checks to remote beaches with difficult access (which was probably true), and we didnt get a helmet with it until we asked for them. It did perform well in the end, and we were pretty happy about it, so we still recommend renting it from them since we saw they had more scooters in better shape. We were probably the last to check-in on the day, so we got the one no one wanted!.
NOTE: If you end up following our advice, you’ll realize that pollution is a big factor when riding a scooter in Bali: you’ll quickly understand why everyone’s wearing a mask after half an hour stucked in a traffic jam in Ubud behind countless old diesel trucks. Your clothes will even change colour!
This is in fact one of those things we feared most about Bali, and it turns out to be an undeniable truth. The island is overpopulated, and the air quality in the urban areas gets heavily affected.
For the longer rides to and from the airport, and to Uluwatu from Ubud, we either took a taxi or a driver (we tried to use Grab, the indonesian Uber, a couple times, but they would always reject us, as these long rides can last a couple hours and apparently they make a lot more money by doing only short trips).
A taxi ride from Denpasar airport to Ubud was 350.000 IDR (around 20€). That is the flat rate for official taxis. There are cheaper options of course, but they wont drop you off at your hotel, and also we were quite tired after a 7 hour night bus from Rantepao to Makassar, a few hours lying on an airport floor and a flight to Denpasar first thing in the morning.
From Ubud to Uluwatu, we got a driver for the same price, 350k. There are plenty of these drivers around Bali, and they also double as guides and tour organizers. Some of them are quite good and experienced, but we found it more interesting to go on our own.
And from Uluwatu to the airport, our hosts offered us a ride for 250k.
To and from Ubud, we made the most of the free driver that The Pumpkin Village offers to the guests. This was especially useful at night, to go have dinner in the center of Ubud and avoid riding the scooter at night.
We hope this helps you in planning your trip and understanding why we did it like this! We think it worked out quite well, and hopefully you enjoy it too! If you want a day-by-day breakdown of our time in Bali, head to our next post!