Bali is an Indonesian archipelago island with all kinds of natural beauty in addition to its magical temples and beautiful beaches. The island is famous but not a country; Bali is part of Indonesia!
Most visitors to Indonesia only linger on Bali, so there is sometimes confusion about the island’s status.
Bali: the must-sees
Ubud and its surroundings
Ubud is located in the heart of Bali and will serve as a base to visit the surrounding area.
Lempuyang Temple is best known for its “Gates of Heaven” which are perfectly aligned with the Agung volcano in the background. The light of the rising sun on this temple makes particularly beautiful pictures; reason why I suggest you to go there very early.
However, there is no mass of water in front of the doors of the temple for reflection as we can sometimes see on social networks; the image is created with a mirror!
Then, Taman Tirta Gangga is a former royal palace with beautiful water fields where you can see giant water lilies and huge goldfish. A little further on, there is the Pura Tita Empul which is a water temple where you can observe the locals during their purification rituals.
If you feel like visiting another impressive temple in Bali, I would add Pura Ulun Danu Bratan which is north of Ubud. That one is very picturesque and is located on a lake.
On your second day in Ubud, a short hike up Mount Batur is a must for sunrise. The views on the top of this volcano are majestic when the first rays pierce the sky while we take our lunch.
The climb takes about 2 hours depending on your physical fittness and is done in the dark of course; you should expect to leave Ubud around 2:30 am.
In the afternoon, after a massage or after a nap to recover from that early wake up call to climb Mount Batur, you should not miss the rice terraces in Tegallalang in the east or Jatiluwih in the northwest. You can walk around and when you gaze upon them, you’ll think “this is Bali“.
Finally, in Ubud itself, you will not miss the opportunity to see monkeys everywhere. In fact, there is a sacred monkey sanctuary that is worth a visit, but the monkeys wander around town as well. The sanctuary is more than a tourist attraction, it is also a place of research and conservation of wildlife.
For a local market experience in Bali, take a trip to the Ubud Traditional Art Market and its many small alleys; you will find more authentic items than in Kuta.
Before leaving Ubud, take time to enjoy a traditional Balinese dance performance or a flower bath at a spa.
Uluwatu and Jimbaran
The Uluwatu region is located on the Bukit Badung peninsula in the south of Bali; you can find splendid cliffs overlooking the Indian Ocean as well as beautiful beaches.
At the western end of the peninsula lies the Pura Luhur Ulwatu temple which is a great place to watch the sunset and the waves hitting the walls; the building is not as impressive as its counterparts in Bali, but its location is top notch.
Every evening, the traditional Balinese dance show takes place at the Uluwatu temple.
To relax, take a trip to Jimbaran Bay or Padang Padang beach which became very famous after the success of the movie Eat, Pray, Love.
The seafood restaurants in Jimbaran are also very tasty and I enjoyed walking along the waterfront at the end of the day.
The Gili Islands
The atmosphere in Bali is more “chaotic” since it is very touristy; a little trip to the Gili Islands can be perfect for a change of scenery.
These islands are known for their white sandy beaches and are accessible by speedboat which will take around 2 hours from Bali at a cost of $20 to $30 per person. Public ferries are much less expensive, but you will waste a lot of time.
There are three islands that offer different atmospheres in Gili:
- Gili Air
- Gili Trawanga
- Gili Meno
When we want to enjoy the beach or yoga, we will better served with Gili Air. It is a place that offers a little bit of everything.
Gili Trawanga or simply “Gili T” is the one that is most alive for nightlife. Also, Gili T is the place of choice to see giant sea turtles while snorkeling or on the beach.
Finally, Gili Meno is the island for couples who prefer to relax in a beautiful setting and have a romantic getaway, away from the party people. For a romantic getaway or for a wedding around Bali, my preference is Gili Meno.
What to do specifically in Gili? Spend time in the water! The underwater life is very colorful! Near Gili Meno, there is an area with several underwater statues and lots of fish at Turtle Point.
The Nusa Islands
The Nusa Islands near Bali are a good alternative to disconnect when you lack time to go to the Gili Islands. Indeed, a (very long) day trip can be done independently or on an organized tour.
The natural landscapes of Nusa are breathtaking; these small islands off Bali are simply beautiful with their greenery and turquoise sea. Underwater, the coral reefs are thriving with life as well; if you are lucky, you may even swim with manta rays and sea turtles. However, the currents can be strong in this area.
There is a lot of hiking up and down in Nusa, but your efforts will be rewarded with great views or crystal clear beaches.
The most popular points of interest are:
- Angel’s Billabong
- Atuh Beach
- Broken Beach
- Crystal Bay
- Kelingking Beach
- Sampalan Beach
My favorite viewpoint is the Thousand Islands Viewpoint and its T-Rex.
Seminyak, Legian and Kuta
To end your Bali holiday, spend a day or two in Seminyak, Legian or Kuta; these places are very touristy, but they are well located for a return home. Indeed, the traffic in Bali can be quite heavy so it is better not to have to be on the run from Nusa or Gili!
In this area, there are a lot of restaurants and the atmosphere is very Westernized; we only stayed for a day/evening before our outbound flight and we spent most of our time at the spa getting pampered and massaged!
Organize your trip to Bali
When is the best time to visit Bali?
The best time to discover the beautiful island of Bali is during the months of May, June and September; a period that shoulders the high season of July and August.
The temperature will be ideal to explore the island while avoiding the crowds especially in Kuta, Sanur and Seminyak; it is the dry season. This destination is very popular with travelers from Australia; Bali is their favorite exotic place to escape the winter weather of July and August.
The rainy season is from November to March.
Do I need a visa to visit Bali?
Canadians require a visa to enter Indonesia and Bali, but this can also be obtained upon arrival at certain ports of entry such as Bali Ngurah Rai International Airport (DPS).
How long does it take to visit Bali?
You can visit the main points of interest on Bali with only one week since the island is not very big.
However, I suggest at least 10 days (and even 2 weeks) to have time to enjoy the paradisiacal beaches, to immerse yourself in the Balinese culture, to contemplate the temples at sunset, to relax or to have plenty of cheap massages and to visit the neighboring islands of Gili and Nusa.
Here is an example of an itinerary to travel around Bali with a good combination of culture, temples, beaches, greenery and beautiful landscapes:
- Ubud : 3 nights
- Jimbaran and Uluwatu : 2 nights
- Gili Islands : 3 nights
- Nusa : 2 nights
- Seminyak : 1 night
The order indicated is important in terms of travel logistics. Indeed, upon arriving at the airport, we start by basing ourselves in the center of Bali in Ubud before exploring Jimbaran in the south of the island. Then, from there, you can take a boat to reach the Gili Islands to the east and return through Nusa to finish the trip in Seminyak which is not too far from the airport.
My personal favorites spots are Ubud and Nusa.
Are credit cards accepted in Bali?
Many restaurants and some businesses accept credit cards, but there is sometimes a 2-3% fee for its use. Indeed, Bali is still a place where cash is king. So, I suggest you always keep some cash with you in case you want a spontaneous $8 massage or drink a $1 coconut while walking on the beach!
To get the best exchange rate in Bali, it is recommended to make withdrawals at an ATM.
I had several bad experiences with local currency exchange offices that tried to rip me off; the clerk would count the money in front of me, but when I took them in my hands, he would quickly (and very subtly) remove some bills.
I recounted in front of him without understanding why there was missing bills until I realized what he was doing and confronted him. Always recount the money you are given in front of the clerk!
Unfortunately, this happened several times in Bali, but I was well aware of the modus operandi. However, this kind of scam is not unique to Bali and can happen anywhere.
How to get to Bali without breaking the bank ?
Although Bali is a budget travel destination, this is not necessarily the case for airfare.
In my experience, Bali is a place where it is important to understand the rules in order to get there cheap; Bali ‘s airport is relatively close to all the hubs in Asia, including Hong Kong, Taipei, Kuala Lumpur, Singapore and Bangkok.
Economy-class flights are relatively easy to find on Aeroplan, but business-class availability is rarer on partner airlines from Dubai.
So if your goal is to go to Bali in business class, you’ll need to get a head start and play with tools like ExpertFlyer to find seats on the flights you want.
Aeroplan members can also combine flights with Air Canada and emirates to reach their destination. They can earn Aeroplan points by flying with Emirates and redeem them for an award flight.
There are two ways to approach this route with Aeroplan points.
- Going directly to Bali
- Go to a hub
For a beginner, collecting around 100,000 Aeroplan points can be done easily with just one card! For example, the American Express® Aeroplan®* Reserve Card or the TD® Aeroplan® Visa Infinite Privilege* Credit Card allow it; even though these cards have a high annual fee, think of it more as the price you pay for earning those points… thus the cost of your flight! 599$ to travel to Asia and Bali is not expensive!
Plus, you’ll get many benefits with these premium credit cards!
A flight to Bali
In fact, the best Aeroplan price for flying to Bali is 60,000 points for a one-way ticket or 120,000 points for a round trip in economy class.
When we do the YUL-EWR/JFK-SIN-DPS route, we get to 10,925 miles traveled so just under the 11,000 mile mark.
However, we have one more layover as well as the inconvenience of having to change airports between EWR and JFK. This can also be an opportunity to take a little side trip to New York for a few hours!
Since you will have expenses to change airports in New York, it may be better to pay a little more in points to get to Bali more comfortably. It’s up to you to decide what’s best for your situation.
A flight to a hub
Another way to use Aeroplan points to get to Bali is to look for availability to a hub like Singapore. Then, you can take a low-cost airline for the last segment to Bali. Mathematically and logistically, this is the better strategy in my opinion.
In the previous section, we established that a round trip flight (economy class) to Bali is between 120,000 and 150,000 points per person depending on the itinerary chosen.
However, you can reach Singapore for less than 100,000 Aeroplan points without much hassle.
Then, round-trip lowcost flights between Singapore and Bali vary around $200.
So by going to a hub and forking out $200 for a low-cost, you can easily save 30,000 to 50,000 Aeroplan points. Depending on our valuation, these points represent $600 to $1,000.
Finally, another advantage of doing this is that you can make an Aeroplan stopover between Montreal and your hub. Then, spend as many days as you want in the latter before reaching Bali. In a way, you will have two stopovers!
With Avios miles
Since OneWorld is very dominant in Asia, using Avios miles may be more affordable especially if you want to fly in business class at a fixed cost, to try out several airlines or to make several stops.
Indeed, OneWorld’s multi-partner fixed pricing is particularly interesting in this situation.
A search on Flight Connections will quickly show you the routes available to Bali with OneWorld.
For example, the following itinerary would be subject to a fixed cost of 120,000 Avios miles in economy class or 240,000 miles in business class.
Compared to Aeroplan, we needed at least 120,000 Aeroplan points to reach Bali. In contrast, the Aeroplan business class partner fare costs 230,000 points. So we are in the same price range for these award tickets.
In Canada, Avios miles are easily obtained with cards at RBC, HSBC and American Express. The RBC British Airways Visa Infinite card earns Avios miles while other cards gives you points that can be transferred. Check out the best credit card offers for Avios.
With Asia Miles
Another program to consider for travel to Bali is Cathay Pacific Asia Miles. With the latter, you can reach Bali in Qsuite with only one stopover from Montreal on Qatar Airways! In business class, the fare will be 180,000 Asia Miles for roundtrip travel.
Just like with Avios, it is possible to use Asia Miles to build a multi-partner OneWorld itinerary. It is therefore especially interesting when you want to make a more complex trip with stops here and there.
I’m very familiar with planning trips to Asia; from what I’ve seen, prices have really gone up since the pandemic and Revenge Travel. Of course, there are still bargains here and there that pop up, but they are very rare or involve a lot of unwanted stops.
So, to go to Bali, I now advise against the cash back and travel points strategy, but rather with Avios miles or Aeroplan points.
Obviously, always do your research with Google Flights and valuation calculations before making a decision; flexible currencies such as membership rewards points are to be favored since they allow you to pay in cash and get reimbursed as well as transfer them and pay in airline points.
How to get around in Bali?
Rent a motorcycle
This alternative may seem very adventurous, but the best way to get around Bali is to do as the locals do… by motorcycle! Obviously, this is not an option with young children, but for a couple’s trip or with friends, it’s freedom at a low price!
You can even make the reservation online on this site (affiliated link with Klook?) and pay with your credit card without any foreign exchange fees. I recommend this site for its reliability, good reviews and good rates.
Indeed, you can rent a motorcycle in Bali for IDR 50,000 to IDR 80,000 per day, that is $4 and $7! For a long-term rental, you can also negotiate a lower price. Then you have to add to that price the cost of gasoline, which is a hefty $2 a day.
Transport mobile apps
With Grab, you can even get the services of a driver for a few hours and visit the entire island of Bali!
Both are similar, but some will prefer the interface of one more than the other. So I suggest you download both applications and try them out. Then, if you can’t find a car on one of them, look for on the other!
Hire a driver or a cab
Personally, I never looked into car rental in Bali, because motorcycles are so cheap as well as renting a car with driver for the day. It is very practical for families as you can go at your children’s pace while being guided by a local.
You will have to negotiate, but it is common to hire a driver to visit Bali at a cost of $20 – $40 for a period of 8 to 10 hours. However, most of the payment will be taken in cash.
Street cabs are also an option, but be prepared to haggle; even if you are not talented in this aspect, it is not very expensive in general.
Where to stay in Bali?
For people looking for luxury at low prices (or free with Rewards Points), Bali is the destination of choice, as it is a budget travel destination. Indeed, there is something for everyone’s wallet, but staying in a 5-star hotel for the same price as a regular establishment in New York is largely possible.
Marriott Bonvoy Hotels
Bali is a sweetspot with Marriott Bonvoy, and their properties are in prime locations in Kuta and Ubud; there are plenty of low-cost hotels in the chain.
Depending on current promotions, you can easily earn enough Marriott Bonvoy points to stay up to 18 free nights in Bali with the Marriott Bonvoy® American Express®* Card and the Marriott Bonvoy® Business American Express®* Card.
With two people, we can consider staying more than a month in this paradise for a total of $540 in contributions thanks to the generous welcome bonuses (2 cards with fees of $120 each and 2 cards of $150)!
36 nights for $540 in credit card fees = $15 per night
In Bali, lodging is not expensive, but stays in independent hotels or AirBnb by Marriott’s standards for less than $20 per night are rare. In addition, members with status can enjoy many benefits such as free (mega) lunches to save even more and upgrades for added comfort.
Here are our reports from Marriott Bonvoy hotels in Bali:
What activities to book in Bali?
In Bali, specifically in Kuta, you will be bombarded with vendors who will want to offer you organized tours. Although they will be less expensive than what you can find on a website like Viator, it is better to book online since the quality standard will be up to the norm.
When choosing an operator in the streets of Bali, you can come out on top with a good deal or with a bitter taste and regret not having paid a little more for better quality.
Although most of the points of interest can be visited very well independently, it can be good to book organized tours in Bali; the logistics of transportation is not always ideal! Plus, when you’re tight on time, these tours are the best way to make the most of it.
Here are some examples of tours you can book on Viator:
Undeniably, the region of Bali is the most developed for tourism, but if you can spare the time, the rest of Indonesia is also worth a visit.
Bali has retained its cultural charm despite the hordes of visitors and I loved it. However, I also enjoyed the island of Java for a trip off the beaten track in Indonesia.
Follow my adventures on my Instagram account @wanderingaline!