“You Don’t Choose Bali, Bali Chooses You.” That’s what people say and with beautiful beaches, stunning sunsets, jungle waterfalls, rice paddies, volcanic mountain backdrops, friendly locals, great weather, and fresh food what’s not to love?!
TripAdvisor voted Bali as the best travel destination on earth in 2017 but with 17,508 islands that make up Indonesia what is it that gives Bali the edge, you might wonder. It’s got to be the vibe – Bali is an island of inspiration that manages to soothe the soul at the same time.
Once a destination purely for hippies and surfers, Bali is now a hotspot for digital nomads. Visitors from Europe and Northern America can enjoy a lifestyle that simply isn’t on offer back at home, certainly not at such a low price. The island is filled with an entrepreneurial vibe as well as a healthy-living atmosphere – Yoga studios are everywhere, it’s a surfers paradise and there’s culture and nature all around, Bali truly is a dream come true for those who seek a better life. The island has fast internet, numerous dedicated co-working spaces that hold lunchtime or evening conferences, a superb expat/nomad community, and cafes that don’t just let you work in them, they expect it and offer up free WiFi with ample power supply and enough tasty food to keep you going all day.
The food scene is buzzing, foodies who like to eat well are in for a treat! Health food is the key trend with numerous high quality raw and vegan restaurants and cafes, avocado toast being on just about every menu but you can also find traditional Indonesian food, Georgian cuisine, Indian cuisine, even Brazilian barbecue along with sushi, burgers, and sizzling steaks – You’ll never go hungry and it’s so cheap that most people eat at least 2 of their daily meals out. The nightlife is equally as good, especially in the South of the island in the areas of Kuta Beach, Seminayak, and Legian. Beach bars and beach clubs are huge in Bali, but the traditional indoor versions also exist to ensure a great night out whether you seek a chic wine bar or an all night rave!
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Where to stay in Bali
Bali offers something for everyone whether you want the hustle-and-bustle of city life on a week-long break or seek a peaceful retreat surrounded by nature where you can base yourself for a month or more.
Many expats and digital nomads base themselves in Ubud or Canggu due to the superb co-working culture, like-minded people, and laid-back lifestyle, not to mention the stunning surroundings – Look up from your laptop and you might be looking across a rice paddy field one day and out to sea the next.
Most people choose to rent a private villa with pool for their duration in Bali, enjoying the life of luxury at a very affordable price, but hotels, guest-houses and private rooms in shared villas are alternative options for accommodation, not forgetting the cool and quirky bamboo houses perched high in the trees, surely you have to spend 1 night in one just for the experience!
When booking short-term accommodation the usual booking sites will have what you need and for longer rentals you can look on Facebook Groups (Canggu has some great villa rental groups) or scour the local ads on community boards in cafes and supermarkets, alternatively you could hire a real estate agent to do the legwork for you, just be sure to only rent a villa long term if you’ve actually been to see it first. It’s also worth noting that generally when renting, you’re expected to pay all of the money upfront whether you’re staying a month, a year, or 3 years. Places that allow you to pay monthly are generally charging a 50% markup on the yearly market rate.
[Top Pick] Ubud – A hotspot for travelers, Ubud is Bali’s cultural and educational hub and is well known for its wellness/spiritual retreats. Digital nomads flock here due to the unique vibe and superb co-working culture. You can explore temples, museums, and art galleries in the narrow streets before getting on your mat at one of the numerous yoga studio’s or taking a walk in nature – the Monkey Forest is situated right in the middle of town! Organic cafes and restaurants are in abundance here, there are enough shops to see you by with whatever you need, and enough accommodation to suit all needs and budgets from 5 star hotels through to guest houses, 1 bed apartments, and house/villa rentals.
[Second Pick] Canguu – This coastal town can seem like paradise on earth to digital nomads thanks to its laid back bohemian vibe with yoga studios, surf, good wholesome food and co-working spaces, not to mention the views over the rice paddies, or out to sea. There are numerous trendy cafes, beach bars and a mix of local and international restaurants to enjoy plus the weekend markets. For accommodation, you can rent a large Balinese style villa with pool for both short term and long term stays, alternative options are to rent a room in a shared villa or stay at a local guesthouse. The downside of Canguu can be getting out of it (once you’re in) – Traffic and poorly maintained roads are a problem and due to the spread of the town your own transport is a must, most people opting for scooters.
Seminyak – An upmarket beach resort, the stylish and trendy Seminyak is a shoppers paradise and has a thriving expat community with a vibrant nightlife scene. Home to international designer boutiques and shops selling upmarket handmade goods there are also multiple fine-dining opportunities to be enjoyed. Accommodation ranges from lavish 5 star hotels and villa resorts to private house and villa rentals.
Sanur – A charming beach town with a relaxed vibe conveniently located 30minutes from the airport. In terms of tourism Sanur caters more to the honeymooners, families, and elderly than the young party-goers but it’s also a popular location for expats to settle and eludes a slight European flair not found elsewhere. You’ll find some great restaurant’s and bars, art galleries and a ton of outdoor activities to keep you busy such as water sports, trekking, and cycling. Talking of cycling, the town is so compact that you can easily cycle from one end to the other.
Uluwatu – Located on the Bukit peninsula, Uluwatu is known for its superb surf and also has cultural delights such as the famous Uluwatu Temple. Uluwatu is a cool place to call home if you’re an adventurer at heart and enjoy rugged landscapes, white sandy beaches, and wild waves. It’s the wedding capital of Bali thanks to the stunning backdrops. Villas both small and large are available to rent long term or short term plus there are hotels dotted around and a variety of quirky beachside bars, cafes, and restaurants to enjoy.
Denpasar – If you want to escape the typical tourist trails and immerse yourself in Balinese town life, centrally located Denpasar is the place for you. This provincial capital offers the most non-touristy experience you’re going to get in Bali, accommodation generally being hotels aimed at business travelers or prestigious old-world hotels with a lot of history. There are numerous local dining options and shops around meaning you’ll be living like a local in no time, just be aware of the lack of paths and the hectic traffic.
Legian – Nestled between the famous resorts of Seminyak and Kuta, Legian is a beach suburb with a maze of backstreets that offers the best of both worlds for visitors wishing to experience moments of peace as well as the party scene. There’s a growing expat community here and the area has an affordable co-working space with an eclectic mix of cafes, bars, and restaurants alongside a mix of touristy shops. Hotel accommodation is located on the beach with private long-term accommodation also available.
Candidasa – A remote quiet coastal retreat on the East coast of Bali that oozes natural beauty and a rich history. Candidasa draws in the scuba divers and those looking to relax in quiet and beautiful surroundings. It has quaint shops selling handmade wares with beachside restaurants, cafes, and bars serving up some local specialties. Luxury hotels and private villas for rent are dotted around the area, having own transport is a must to be able to explore here.
How to Get a Visa for Bali
If you’re planning a trip to Bali then you’ll be pleased to discover that obtaining visa is a fairly straightforward process. The type of visa you need will depend on the nature of your trip so you’ll need to do a little investigative work to decide which visa is right for you.
Let’s take a look at the different types of Bali visas and the application processes associated with them.
Types of Bali Visas
Tourist Visa on Arrival – The Visa on Arrival is available to travellers of 169 nationalities and involves no application process prior to landing in Bali. The only thing that is required by you is a passport which is valid for the next six months.This visa will give you a 30-day stay which will start on the first day of your arrival into Indonesia and you must leave the country on the 30th day. It isn’t possible to extend this visa unless there are exceptional circumstances such as natural disaster, illness or accident so if you’re looking at staying for longer than 30 days then you’ll be required to apply for your visa at your local Indonesian embassy or consulate prior to jetting off from the country you currently reside in.
60-Day Tourist Visa – For stays of more than 30 days which still sit under the tourist umbrella, the 60-Day Tourist Visa may be a suitable option. In contrast to the Visa on Arrival, this visa must be applied for at an Indonesian Embassy or Consulate in your home country. It’s a fairly hassle-free process; all you need is a passport that is valid for the next six months and three blank pages within it.
Business Visa – If you’re visiting Bali for business purposes such as attending a conference and you’re not being employed or paid in any way during your stay then you may wish to apply for a Business Visa. There are two types available; a 60-day Single-Entry Business Visa and a Multiple-Entry Business Visa which is valid for up to one year.
To apply for either of these visas you’ll need to show your local Indonesian consulate a passport with at least six months validity from your proposed date of entry into Indonesia, one coloured passport photograph and a completed application form. You’ll also need to provide evidence that you have enough money to fund your stay such as a bank statement. In terms of business documents, the consulate will want a letter from your company at home and a letter from the sponsor/counterpart in Bali detailing the purpose and duration of your visit.
Business visas usually take five or six working days to process and are valid to use within three months of their issue date.
Employment Visas (Work Permits) – If you’re planning on working in Bali then you need to apply for an Employment Visa. To work whilst travelling on a Tourist Visa or Social/Cultural Visa is illegal and getting caught will mean being deported and having to pay a hefty fine. As with the Tourist visa, the Employment visa must be applied for in your home country at an Indonesian embassy or consulate before you leave. You’ll need as copy of your passport, a curriculum vitae (with references), and passport sized photographs with red backgrounds. There are also several documents that your sponsoring company must provide.
All documents must be sent to Jakarta for approval and the process will take in excess of 30 days. The Employment Visa is also much more expensive than the Tourist Visa so please check with your local embassy consulate for current prices.
Social/Cultural Visa – If you’re conducting socio-cultural activities during your stay such as sports, education or family visits then you may be eligible to apply for the Social-Cultural Visa. This visa will give you 60 days free travel with the option of extending it for another six months on a month-by-month basis.
You’ll need to provide a sponsorship letter, photocopy of your sponsor’s identity card, a copy of your sponsor’s family register, and a copy of your sponsor’s bank statements. Additionally, you’ll be asked to provide a copy of your passport (must be valid for at least six months) and some passport photos. Again, this visa must be used within three months of its issue date.Retirement Visa
If you’re over the age of 55 then you may be eligible to apply for the Retirement Visa. You’ll need to provide evidence of your pension as well as life insurance and health insurance as part of your application. The benefits of the Retirement Visa include being able to open a bank account, getting a driving license, and getting special discounts.
How to Extend Your Visa in Bali
If you are travelling on a visa that allows extension, you’ll need to go to one of the three immigration offices in Bali listed below to complete the process. Always take a black pen, passport, two copies of your passport photo page, two copies of your departure plane ticket from Indonesia, copy of your visa receipt, and the name, address, email and phone number of your accommodation.
Bali Immigration Offices:Nusa Dua (South Bali) – Jl. Taman Jimbaran no.1, Mumbul, Kuta Selatan, District Nusa Dua, Bali.Renon (Denpasar, Southeast Bali) – Jl. D.I. Pandjaitan No.3, Dangin Puri Klod, Denpasar Timur, Bali.Singaraja (North Bali) – Jl. Seririt, Desa Pemaron, Singaraja, Kec. Buleleng, Bali.
Overstaying Your Visa – For overstays of less than 60 days all you’ll receive is a fine. You may also be detained for questioning. Overstays of more then 60 days are a little more serious and may result in detainment, questioning, deportation and blacklisting against re-entry into Indonesia for several years. Although sometimes unavoidable, these types of situations are often preventable by doing a little planning in advance.
NOTE: Remember that immigration rules and regulations change frequently and without notice, so always check in with your consulate or embassy before making any travel plans.
Best time to travel to Bali
Bali enjoys a tropical climate with two main seasons, a hot and humid wet season lasting from November until April which is generally classed as the off-season and a dry season lasting from May until October. If you seek good weather but without the crowds the shoulder seasons of April, May or September are ideal, otherwise visit in the height of the season, July or August, to experience the full-on Bali Summer vibe!
Dry Season: May-October
The dry season is the most popular time to visit Bali due to the sunshine and lower humidity. A pleasant sea breeze makes for a less sticky stay in the coastal resorts but crowds can become a problem, especially in the peak Summer seasons of July and August. Despite it being called the dry season, infrequent showers can still occur, August generally being the driest month of this season and October the hottest with a dry wind blowing in from Australia.
There’s plenty happening during the dry season – The rice harvest comes to an end with local festivals taking place between May 1st and June 30th and between July and October the colorful Negara Bull Races (water buffalo chariot races) take place at locations around the island. The Kite Festival in late June or early July kicks off the windy season and the month long Art Festival can be enjoyed from mid June until mid July. July is also the time when Galungan is celebrated, an important religious festival for Balinese families with dancing at temples and plenty of family gatherings with lots of food. The dry season comes to an end with the Kuta Beach Carnival in October with beach sculptures, surf competitions, kites, and sea turtle releases all taking place.
Wet Season: November-April
Temperatures are higher and there’s more humidity in the wet season with torrential rainfall that can last a couple of hours or a couple of days. The rain brings the mosquitoes which increase the risk of dengue fever and also washes trash (and sometimes sewage) downriver onto the beaches making the coastal resorts less desirable during this season though clean-up operations are becoming more frequent.
The Pager Wesi festival in November is an interesting one for travelers to witness, it’s a celebration of Sing Yang (the universe) and the Balinese make offerings to God to protect their soul and spirit. December and January are the busiest times of the wet season due to visitors from the West escaping the cold to enjoy a warm if wet Christmas and New Year. Visitors who arrive in early December can enjoy the Bali Jazz Festival whilst those who are visiting just for the holidays can experience the huge New Year’s Eve celebrations when the island comes alive with fireworks, music, and dancing, an event enjoyed by the expats and locals. In late March or early April Ubud hosts the popular 5 day Bali Spirit Festival with yoga workshops, healing workshops, musicians and dance events taking place around the city and during April/May the week long Folk Art Festival of Buleleng takes place in Northern Bali showcasing traditional dance and music in a celebration of local culture.
Best Festivals in Bali
When it comes to the question of when to go to Bali, the answer is simple: it’s always a good time to have a good time! But, that being said, you can also take a look at the calendar of Balinese festivals and cultural events and aim to see some of them.
Here is a quick pick of some great events around the island.
Purnama Kedasa (Every Month) – This festival celebrates the appearance of the full moon, which locals believe signals the appearance of God. Locals will usually make offerings in temples or their homes. This festival is a great way to learn about Balinese culture.
Tumpek Kandang (January & August) – Tumpek Kandang is the Animal Worship Festival in Bali. Balinese locals use a variety of domestic animals to help them with daily activities, so this festival is about the Bali people showing their gratitude. This festival repeats every 210 days and will remind you to connect with your natural surroundings.
Chinese New Year (February) – During Chinese New Year in Bali, you will be able to visit lavishly decorated Chinese and Buddhist temples. Stay within the temple courtyards to see aerobic performances, or stay on the streets where lion and dragon dance troops follow the beat of their drums.
Tumpek Wayang (February & September) – This festival of Hindus is celebrated every 6 months. It brings puppeteers together who purify their bodies both mentally and physically. If you are in Bali during this festival, look out for various puppet festivals at many locations.
[Top Pick] Omed-Omedan, Sesetan Village, Denpasar, South Bali (March) – Also known as “The Kissing Ritual,” the name says it all. Water is thrown and splashed around while a sort of tug-o-war goes on, with as many as possible participating. In fact, it’s two groups – boys and girls ‒ carrying their representatives to the centre of the whole thing, where the smooching (kisses and cuddles involved!) finally takes place. The young and unmarried ones get all the fun, while others can watch and splash as much as they please. Watch your camera!
Tumpek Landep (March) – This is a cleansing festival that honors the God of iron, steel and weapons. In present day, the festival celebrates all metal that helps with daily activities. The cleansing is to ensure devotees are pure enough to celebrate. Visit various temples in Bali to take part in the celebration.
[Top Pick] Bali Spirit Yoga Festival, Ubud, Gyanyar Region, Central-South Bali (April) – Namaste. April in Ubud is for yoga, wellness, and natural self-care lovers. For over a decade, like-minded people have been gathering here to practice, learn, meditate, and trade. There is a number of top-level classes and seminars, combined with on-theme concerts, healing sounds, medicine songs, and performances for your soul. Whole families are welcome, and there are activities for children as well.Ubud Food Festival (April) – With the island’s most prominent chefs attending and hosting workshops, this is a great chance to experience Bali’s dynamic cuisine. Live music, yoga, and film screenings also make this festival unmissable.
Tumpek Udah (May) – This festival is celebrated every 210 days to thank God for the gift of food. Visitors who are in Bali during this time are invited to join in the promotion of harmonious living.
Bali Blues Festival (May) – The Bali Blues Festival features local and national jazz bands live on stage every year. Visitors who enjoy this music genre are invited to take part.
Rice Harvest Festival (May‒June) ‒ Wherever people live off of “gifts of the soil,” ending the harvest season is always the start of big celebrations. In Bali, when all rice from the paddies is collected and safely stored, the Hindu rice goddess Dewi Sri is honored in various ways. Having placed her shrines or effigies in the fields, the villagers enjoy life with food, dance, and other favorite activities. All visitors are very welcome to join! Try all the food, admire beautiful decorations, and check out the famous bull races.
Usaba Sambah Festival, Tenganan, East Bali (May or June) ‒ This is a month-long ceremony honoring the Hindu gods and ancestors. Among other activities, it holds PERANG PANDAN – a ritual combat, mandatory for local males (through fight, Tenganan boys enter manhood). This slightly bloody event, different from the flowery Balinese traditions, commemorates the big battle between gods Indra and Maya Denawa. The fighters make their weapons from pandan leaves and wear nothing but sarong and traditional headdress. It sounds harsh, but the ritual isn’t as violent as it seems and, needless to say, it’s accompanied by a big, juicy feast!
[Top Pick] Bali Arts Festival, Denpasar, South Bali (June–July) – It’s glorious, it’s stunning, it’s unforgettable. A month of traditional dances, performances, parades and exhibitions. Along the beautifully decorated streets, you will find stalls with traditional handcrafts and food, as well as puppet plays and music players. The performers come from all around the world to participate in this month-long event. If you can, be there from the start for the big opening parade!
[Top Pick] Bali Kites Festival, various locations in East Bali (July‒October) – What started off as thanksgiving to the heavens for a prosperous harvest has turned into a competition for young people. There are several main events along with smaller ones in between. Hundreds of traditional, handcrafted paper and bamboo dragons, fish, and birds (some 10 meters in size), colourful with long ribbon tails, fly to the sky next to modern ones straight from the shop. There is money to win for the teams, and some great photos to take for visitors. Parades of impressive kites are accompanied by an orchestra, creating a joyous atmosphere for anyone who attends.
Sanur Village Festival (August) – This festival began in 2006 to boost tourism in the area and has grown to be a huge cultural celebration across the island. Visitors should expect fashion shows, local cuisine, competitions, yoga, and environmental conservation programs.
Ubud Village Jazz Festival (August) – This jazz fiesta is designed to introduce visitors to jazz music from the most prominent performers in a relaxed atmosphere. Workshops are also held for those wanting to learn more about jazz.
Jazz Market by the Sea (August) – This 3-day cultural festival attracts over 6,000 visitors every year. This is an annual community-based event that aims to showcase locals who are talented in art, education, and social activities.
Legian Beach Festival (August) – Set across 700 metres, this day-and-night festival is designed to entertain all visitors with competitions and fun activities.
Lovina Festival (September) – Lovina Festival is held on the northern part of the island and attracts thousands of people. The 3-day event is designed to highlight the most traditional cultural practices of the Bali people.
Bali International Film Festival (September) – Bali International Film Festival is the largest annual film event in Indonesia. Attracting many avid film-goers, it boasts an outstanding selection of independent and local films for celebration.
Ultra Beach Bali (September) – Ultra is a world-renowned festival that celebrates the world’s top EDM DJs. Every year it comes to Bali for its famous beach edition.
Bestival Bali (September) – Bestival Bali is a music festival that hosts an incredible line-up of electric music and performers from across the world. Visitors will be able to enjoy a selection of pop, rock, reggae, hip hop, funk, and much more.
Bali Vegan Festival (October) – This is a 3-day event that celebrates animals, the environment, and the Earth. Visitors who are vegan or simply vegan-curious are invited to be educated and enlightened in the vegan way of life.
Nusa Dua Fiesta (October) – Nusa Dua Fiesta is a cultural week that celebrates art. Visitors will marvel at various types of art on display (including a latte art competition) and enjoy local music artists.
[Top Pick] Ubud Writers and Readers Festival, Ubud, Central-South Bali (October) – This festival is South East Asia’s largest literary event. 5 days of intellectual feasting in an exotic setting. Writers, poets, literature lovers, activists, and world-curious souls from many countries come to Ubud to participate in panels, discussions, spectacles, and workshops. The readings happen in spectacular outdoor sceneries, and the atmosphere quite often becomes magical. If you’re tired of tourism and hustle, but crave nature and good conversations, this might be a festival for you.
Kuta Beach Festival (October) – Kuta Beach Festival celebrates the talent of youth. Visitors can expect to see bazaars and live music concerts on the sand.
Nusa Dua Light Festival (December) – If you’re into light shows, fireworks, and lanterns, this is where you want to be for the end of the year. Structures, objects, and light installations take you to a fairy tale. Alongside the intricate lanterns, there will be music performances, market booths, and food stalls.
Nusa Penida Festival, Nusa Dua Peninsula, South Bali (December) – This is an annual four-day event where visitors and locals can attend exhibitions and programs that celebrate Balinese culture. There’ll be cultural shows, live music, and more.
Pemuteran Bay Festival (December) – The Pemuteran Bay Festival began as a way to promote diving and ecotourism in North Bali. It has now expanded into an anticipated yearly event that showcases art and culture through dancing and music. Be sure to have a look at the famous underwater fishing villages.
Tal Gur is a world traveler and personal development enthusiast. An adventurer at heart, after trading his daily grind for a life of his own daring design, Tal spent a decade pursuing 100 major life goals around the globe. His journey continues as a location-independent blogger, lifestyle entrepreneur, and coach. Tal’s published two books: One Year to Freedom, a 1-Year Roadmap to Living Life on Your Own Terms; and, his most recent book and bestseller, The Art of Fully Living – 1 Man, 10 Years, 100 Life Goals Around the World.