Outdoor,photography,coffee, nature, food and culture lover; seeker of life's simple pleasures.
Published September 4th 2016
Although Bali is only a small island it offers a huge range of activities and touristic attractions. When visiting Bali for the first time you may be overwhelmed with the number of hotels, cottages and homestays available, let alone the number of tourist friendly areas, so which is the best area to call home during a short 1 or 2 week break?
Kuta and Legian: only a short 20 minute ride from the airport Kuta and Legian are full of life. Restaurants and bars line the streets, stalls selling a number of crafts and corny souvenirs have invaded the landscape and if you enjoy clubbing or sports bars you are in for a treat.
The positive: everything is within walking distance, from mini marts to surf shops, boutiques to cheap markets, fancy restaurants in big air-conditioned shopping centres to small warungs (eateries) for a quick cheap bite. You will find plenty of accommodation for all sorts of budgets, from as little as $9 AUD per night to five star all inclusive resorts, popular beach to catch some waves and enjoy the surf.
The negative: you may not experience the real Balinese culture but only see snapshots of it. The heavy influx of tourists can make it a dirty place and locals can be slightly pushy when trying to sell goods or services. Make this your spot if you enjoy loud, busy streets but steer clear of it if you want to immerse yourself in culture and peace.
Seminyak: only a short walk from Legian beach you will find the trendy upmarket Seminyak area. Although it is heavily touristy there is a notable difference in the type of accommodation, shop prices and eateries. It is slightly less busy than its loud neighbours and predominantly caters to honeymooners, families and retirees, in general people who want a quieter spot but still enjoy the close location to Kuta area.
The positive: you will find plenty of boutique shops with unique wares and clothing, the streets are less busy so it's more peaceful to walk around and you will be spoilt for choice if you want to go to a trendy beach club or have a memorable dinner.
The negative: prices are slightly higher than Kuta, the area is still under development so there is a lot of construction of new hotels. If noise bothers you make sure the hotel you are staying at doesn't have a construction site too close to it.
Canggu:a short ride north from Seminyak lies Canggu, well known to tourists and locals as a hipster paradise. The area is a lot less developed so you can really immerse yourself in the scenery of rice paddies and everyday life. Canggu offers a great selection of healthy eateries, trendy barber shops, beach clubs and boutique coffee. Most of the accommodation here is private villas.
The positive: still close to all amenities and a short drive from the airport, the streets are peaceful and full of greenery. It seems like the perfect spot for a calm yoga retreat or a lazy holiday. Prices are very reasonable for food and accommodation.
The negative: if you are staying in a villa you may have to cater for yourself so there's a bit more research to do of the local area. Everything is quite spread apart so you can be walking longer distances to get somewhere so you will be a bit more limited for choice. Stay in Canggu if you enjoy the simpler things in life, steer clear if you enjoy busy louder places.
Nusa Dua: pristine beaches and high end resorts await only a quick drive south of the airport. This segregated resort area has been built and maintained by Bali's Tourism Commission and it is like stepping into a parallel universe to anywhere else in the island. Everything is clean, the streets and hotel entrances are all lined with perfectly trimmed plants and flowers. Ambulant vendors and souvenir stalls are almost none existent, but there is a shopping centre in the middle of this community. Nusa Dua seems like a popular spot for families with small children, retirees and honeymooners. There is plenty of watersports and cleaner beaches.
The positive: it seems a lot safer and peaceful to walk around. You won't be harassed by numerous vendors and it may be a better choice if you are travelling with little ones as it is a lot less busy than Kuta. It is still a short distance to busier spots if you feel the need to visit other areas.
The negative: you will have every comfort by staying in any of the resorts here so unless you make a day trip to other villages you may not experience Balinese culture and local food.
Ubud: located in the heart of the rainforest, approximately 1.5 hours drive north from the airport, this is a popular spot for those who enjoy Balinese culture, Yoga retreats, scenic rides, art museums and local food. You will be absolutely spoilt for choice when it comes to accommodation: from cheap hostels to boutique hotels, home stays and serviced cottages, Ubud will give you a true taste of Bali, its people and their traditions, their religious practices and the rhythms of everyday life. The town is very tourist friendly so you will not miss any creature comforts however, many locals call Ubud their home so there is an interesting mix of tourist amenities and traditional Balinese homes (compounds).
The positive: you can get lost in the streets here and immerse yourself in Balinese culture, there is a huge number of places offering bike riding through rice paddies, white water rafting, craft workshops, cooking classes, yoga and even Bahasa language courses. There is a great mix of cheap markets, high end boutiques and many natural product stores.
The negative: there is no beach here so choose accommodation with a pool as it can get very humid and hot. The centre of the town is just as busy as Kuta area so be patient with all the locals trying to sell you things or transportation. If you want to visit other areas in Bali you may need to pay for daily transport or hire a scooter as Ubud is not walking distances to other tourist areas or beaches.
So that's a quick snapshot of Bali's main tourist spots, the good and the bad. Remember this island has a lot to offer and locals are generally nice and honest. Most of them will treat you how you treat them, so be respectful of their traditions and enjoy a holiday without being disruptive to their culture.