Bali for the Firstimer
What to see in Bali, what to do, where to sleep, where to eat? Find all our advice, good addresses and ideas for visits to discover authentic Bali, off the beaten track! In the meantime, we want to offer you a short article with our advice, ideas and tips for visiting Bali for the firstimer.
Ah Bali, its rice fields, its surf spots, diving spots and its sunsets…
This destination makes more than one dream! But Bali is much more than that. It is a magical island where the gods reign, where the inhabitants offer you their most beautiful smile, it is an island with relaxing and rejuvenating landscapes… Bali is paradise!
WHY GO TO BALI?
✓ Because the cost of living is low: we eat and stay for next to nothing!
✓ Because the landscapes are breathtaking and diverse: volcanoes, lakes, forests, rice fields, volcanic beaches… You could think that Bali was sculpted or drawn, it is so beautiful!
✓ Because the Balinese are adorable, smiling and of a rare kindness. They are soothing and very calm in nature. They rarely get angry, it’s quite impressive by the way! This is surely due to Hinduism, practiced by more than 80% of the population.
✓ Because the food is just excellent! Mie Goreng, Nasi Goreng, Ayam Satay, Soto Ayam or even Nasi Campur, you will quickly become addicted to Indonesian and Balinese cuisine.
✓ Because Bali is the perfect place to unwind and reconnect with yourself. Meditation, yoga, relaxation, you will come back completely changed from a trip to Bali!
✓ Because Bali has managed to preserve its traditions and its authenticity. You will attend the offering rituals daily, wherever you are. It is not uncommon to find yourself in the middle of a religious ceremony or event.
✓ Because Bali has a very rich culture and ancestral traditions. Crafts, gastronomy, traditional dances, architecture… There is a lot to learn and discover on this island.
✓ In short, because Bali is simply magnificent!
3 THINGS TO DO ABSOLUTELY IN BALI
✓ Negotiate prices, all the time! For the Balinese, negotiating is a pleasure, a game. Whether it’s transportation, accommodation, clothes, handicrafts and even fruits in the market, negotiate all the time without attacking them, keeping calm and with a smile!
✓ Rent a scooter or moped to discover the Balinese countryside, the temples and the magnificent rice fields: you will find scooter rentals everywhere. For IDR 50,000 a day, you are free! Be sure to bring your international license and wear a helmet + make your insurance cover a scooter accident in Bali. For gasoline, you will easily find it everywhere.
✓ Eat local and taste a Nasi Campur in a small warung! The warungs are family restaurants or small groceries where you can enjoy yourself for next to nothing. Balinese cuisine is very diverse, spicy, gourmet and tasty. The ideal way to make our taste buds travel!
Read also: Itinerary in Bali, Lombok and Gilis in 3 Weeks Stay
PLACES TO VISIT IN BALI
✓ Ubud, in the center of the island. The city has a lot of charm and is still very authentic. It is also a good starting point to visit the island because it is central. Read our little practical guide to visit Ubud in 1 week.
✓ Payangan and Tegalalang, the countryside of Ubud and its rice fields as far as the eye can see for a Bali off the beaten track.
✓ Munduk and its waterfalls, passing by the sublime Pura Taman Ayun: not very touristic and still preserved, just like the west of Bali.
✓ Nusa Lembongan, Nusa Ceningan and Nusa Penida islands for their heavenly beaches. Prefer Nusa Penida if you want more calm and authenticity.
✓ Amed in the north: we were not there, but we heard a lot of good things about this place. Ideal for snorkeling, calm and authenticity of the place.
WHERE TO SLEEP IN BALI?
Here is the list of our accommodations, all very nice and very correct in terms of price:
✓ In Ubud and its surroundings
Gangga House, a homestay located less than 10 minutes walk from Ubud Palace.
Address: Jalan Sukma Kesuma No. 70, Peliatan, Ubud.
Bersila, la Maison du Bonheur, a guest house located 700 meters above sea level in an exceptional setting. More details in this article.
✓ In Nusa Lembongan
Sukanusa Luxury Huts: Pretty overwater bungalows located 5 minutes from the beach in Juguntbatu. Read our article about Nusa Lembongan, we talk about it in more detail.
✓ In Canggu
Mojo Resort: Charming hotel located 5 minutes by scooter from the beach, close to warung and supermarkets, with air conditioning, private bathroom and swimming pool! Address: Jl. Pantai Batu Bolong No.10, Canggu.
✓ In Seminyak
Villa Carissa: Located in the heart of Seminyak, offers a private outdoor pool, an enclosed garden for your privacy and a sunny terrace…
RESTAURANTS BEST ADDRESSES IN BALI
List of restaurants, cafes and warung that we discovered in Bali.
✓ In Ubud
Puteri Minang: our favorite in Ubud and our HQ! We enjoyed ourselves for less than 2 euros! Address: Jalan Raya Ubud No.77, Ubud
Cafe Wayan: a zen tea room not to be missed. Sitting on cushions on the floor, treat yourself to a good fresh fruit juice, a pastry or homemade ice cream! Address: Monkey Forest Road, Ubud (at the beginning of Monkey Forest Road when coming from Ubud Palace)
Manah Shanti: a very nice warung where we tasted our very first nasi campur! It is located not far from the Monkey Forest, on the Monkey Forest Road.
✓ In Nusa Lembongan
Bali Eco Deli: to treat yourself to homemade pastries and fresh fruit juices. Take a slice of banana cake, it’s to die for! Address: on Jalan Raya Jungutbatu street
Warung Bambu: a warung where you eat with your feet in the sand on Jungutbatu beach. Address: on Jalan Raya Jungutbatu street to the far north before going to the mangrove
✓ In Canggu
Warung Dandelion: an upscale warung, necessarily more expensive than other warungs, which offers exquisite dishes in a warm atmosphere. Rabbits come to say hello to you at the table! Address: Jalan Pantai Batu Bolong No.8
Warung Bu Mi: a very good address in Canggu. Delicious specialties are offered at low prices! Address: Jl. Pantai Batu Bolong No.52
Warung Jawa Bu Sri: a not too bad little warung where we ate for just over 1 euro per person! Address: Jl. Pantai Batu Bolong No.20
✓ In Seminyak
The Favela, Seminyak
And here is another address of the group which also owns La Brisa, here we have a rather Amazonian atmosphere with many plants and a subdued interior. More than a bar, it’s a nightclub that fills up nicely around midnight! One of the best clubs in the south of the island!
Mexicola: our favorite address The place is colorful, completely quirky, we go there for tacos with a cocktail or dancing in a festive atmosphere.
Local specialties to know
Bali rhymes with Foodie and it is undoubtedly an essential food spot in South Asia! If some addresses, called “warungs” offer local and traditional cuisine, based on Gado Gado, Nasi Goreng, Babi Guling & cie, you will also find the trendy dishes and concepts of the moment in the south of the island, with airs of little Australia on the plate. Include: pancakes, avocado toast, barbecue and healthy bowls. We have already revealed some tips for preparing your trip or discovering Bali once there. Here are now our favorite addresses spotted during our month spent in Bali and some anecdotes about the specialties to test
If a lot of Indonesian specialties are inspired by its neighboring countries, Indonesia is also at the origin of more or less good and quite varied dishes, so you can easily eat local for several weeks without getting too tired! Here is the list of Bali for the firstimer concerning the local specialties:
This is the name given to local restaurants, in general you sit on the floor and you taste a whole bunch of local dishes for less than 1€! Be careful, the warungs close early (8 p.m.) and in general in Indonesia, after 10 p.m., you don’t have too many places to eat.
Want freshness and lightness? Crunchy vegetable salad with peanut sauce. If you’re into into veggie/vegetables, this dish is good for you.
Nasi or Mie Goreng
This great classic of Balinese cuisine almost looks like paella. If it is indeed a rice-based dish (nasi), there is also a version with noodles (mie), both sautéed in a pan with onions, small vegetables and some spices. Accompanied by meat or shrimp, this specialty offers an originality: the fried egg placed on top. The vegetarian version can be offered to you. Everything is served with sambal (small spicy sauce).
Goreng means “fried”, crumb version (rice) or nasi (noodles) usually accompanied by egg or chicken!
Light local beer, love it!
And yes, the famous “sate” or “satay” that we find everywhere in Asia are from Indonesia! Needless to say we love it!
Sate Lilit is a variation of satay in Balinese cuisine. It is made from minced pork, fish, chicken, beef or even turtle meat, which is then mixed with grated coconut, thick coconut milk, lemon juice, shallots and pepper. The spiced minced meat is wrapped around sticks of bamboo, sugar cane or lemongrass, then grilled over charcoal. The term “lilit” means “to wrap”, which corresponds to the method of mounting the skewer where the meat surrounds the rod rather than being pierced as for a classic skewer.
It is a dish, made up of several small portions organized around plain white rice. You will find a variety of foods there: fish, meat, condiments, shrimp crisps (krupuk) and some roasted peanuts to garnish everything. It is sometimes served with a fried or hard-boiled egg. Nasi campur is a simple, complete and effective dish of which there are many variations in Bali, to the delight of gourmets!
Read also: DPS (Bali Airport) Practical Tips to Improve your Experience at Ngurah Rai Airport
Babi guling (roast pork)
Simply great! It is THE traditional Balinese dish par excellence. But beware, it does not run the streets, the Balinese cook it for special occasions, I also tasted it for the first time at a wedding. Babi Gulling is roast pork, sprinkled with local spices and drizzled with coconut juice. Cooking lasts a whole night, so it’s a tender and tasty meat and a crispy skin that you can enjoy on your plate.
Bebek betutu (duck)
Bebek betutu is a very delicate dish. It is sometimes hard to find, and in some areas you even have to order it in advance! An expectation to which is added that of cooking, which is very slow, but rewarded by a very tender and tasty meat. The duck is prepared stuffed, stewed in a banana leaf and then quickly fried to make its skin crispy. A real delight that is usually reserved for offerings, so enjoy!
This typical Balinese recipe will allow you to taste an excellent duck stuffed, spiced and wrapped in banana leaves. It is then roasted very slowly for several hours. As you will have understood, this dish is very tedious to prepare! This is the reason why it is increasingly difficult to find this dish in Balinese restaurants…
Cap Cay (stir fry vegetables)
A dish made with sautéed vegetables influenced by the chinese food (tomatoes, beans, cabbage, carrots…) served in a broth base.
Various vegetables, such as cauliflower, cabbage, carrots, baby corn, black mushrooms, fragrant mushrooms Lentinula edodes, leek, dried lily flowers, tofu skins, spring onions, are thinly sliced and sautéed with minced garlic in a wok with a small amount of oil and water. The condiments are fleur de sel, cane or palm sugar, soy sauce, Chinese cooking wine (ang ciu), salted black soybean paste or fermented tofu and sesame oil. . It can be eaten with rice; or add a little water to the wok to cook soy vermicelli with the dish.
Cap cai can be either a vegetarian stir-fry dish. Either become a broth soup when mixed with meat: beef, pork, lacquered duck or seafood (shrimp, cuttlefish, fish and fish balls (bakso)).
Strong Indonesian alcohol, it’s a kind of brandy made from rice, it looks quite like sake, frankly it’s good! I brought a bottle haha!
So there! In Indo, they drink it with the coffee grounds at the bottom of the cup, they do not filter it and it is not soluble. And to go further in the experience (ahah), in Bali the specialty is coffee with mongoose poo (Kopi Luwak) don’t ask us how they came up with the idea…
You can find them in all the small shops and it’s really cheap (0.20ct) and nutritious: the good plan when you want to eat at a lower cost from time to time!
Gastric problems: because transit is fantastic! In Indonesia, the water is not drinkable: it is not a question of habit or other (like in South Africa or Morocco), nor of comfort (like in Dubai where it is desalinated therefore with a certain taste) but really because the water contains bacteria so even if it is more or less drinkable depending on the corner of the island, it is better to avoid consuming it: even the locals do not drink it. Beyond that, for Bali for the firstimer as we told you above, some of the restaurant seemed clean: you have to be careful with the preservation of the dishes to avoid bacteria!
And the sweet, for the gourmands
Dadar gulung (coconut pancakes)
Don’t be put off by their color! These little thick (almost pancakes) and green pancakes are simply made from rice flour and flavored with pandan, which gives them that special color! Inside, the filling consists of palm sugar and grated and toasted coconut. A real treat!
Want to learn how to prepare them? At Warung Classic restaurant cooking classes (Jl. Kayu Putih, Munduk).
Bubur injin (black rice with coconut milk)
The strange but delicious sticky rice is used to make this dish, often served as a dessert for tourists but which is a breakfast for the Balinese. This black rice is cooked in coconut milk, and served in a bowl with a few slices of fresh fruit, often mango. This tasty delicacy is eaten warm.
An address ? The Kafe Batan Waru (The New Lippo Mall, Jalan Kartika Plaza Kuta, Kuta).
In addition to all these typical dishes, you can always find excellent fruits and fruit juices in Bali to accompany your meals: mangoes, papayas, guavas, bananas, pineapples and coconuts, but also fruits to discover such as mangosteens, the rambutans (kinds of lychees) and the pretty dragon fruit.
So? Tempted by a trip to Bali to test these culinary specialties?
BALI, TOO TOURISTIC?
Yes and no ! Bali is big, so it is possible to avoid the many visitors! Most tourists stay in the south towards Kuta, so like us, avoid this part of the island if you want to discover a more authentic and quiet Bali. Don’t worry, in the south, there are still places a little untouched by the crowds, this is the case around Canggu (not Canggu itself, but a little further). You can a scooter and set off to get lost in the surrounding rice fields. Canggu itself is not interesting unless you want to meet expats, Australian surfers and party!
Read also: Tips for Scooter Travelers in Bali | Safety, Price, Road conditions, Driving license and Insurance
Of course, the most beautiful temples in Bali will always be full of people, regardless of the day and the season. This is the case of the magnificent Tanah Lot and Ulun Danu Bratan temples, very popular with Indonesian tourists. But difficult to escape, they are the postcard of the island of the Gods!
It is therefore up to you to choose the places preserved from tourism when organizing your trip. It all depends on what you are looking for! But be aware that in tourist places, you will never be alone, as in all tourist places on the planet! Logical no?
Read also: Bali Airport DPS | Important and Practical Tips to Improve your Experience at Ngurah Rai Airport and Things To Do When Arriving at Bali Airport (DPS) | Tips for Every Traveler As Soon As We Land
WHEN TO GO TO BALI?
In Bali, it is hot and humid all year round. There are two seasons, the dry season from April to the end of October, and the rainy season from November to the end of March. Avoid July and August, and the Christmas period. Early December and March-April seems like the right time to us!
If you stay there during the rainy season and it is rather quiet in Ubud, which is not the case in high season. The downside of the rainy season is… the rain! And this year especially. Usually, there are a few showers at the end of the afternoon, but there it sometimes started to rain from 2 p.m. without stopping! If it doesn’t bother you that much, go ahead!
You will find a lot of information and other ideas… Take a look here Bali or Lombok | Which island to choose for your trip to Indonesia?
So, would you like Bali? If you’ve been to Bali, please kindly leave a reply / comments… Thanks!
Sources: CleverlySmart, PinterPandai
Photo credit: Stockvault (Creative Commons – CC0)