A First-Timer’s Guide to Bali

By Michelle Yastremsky

Postcard-worthy beaches, lush monkey forests, “healing” water springs, some of the world’s most breathtaking sunsets.. sounds like you’ve made it to the “Island of the Gods!” Here’s everything you need to know before your first trip to Bali.

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Bali Basics

Visa Information

There are two types of visas U.S citizens are eligible for in Indonesia:

  • Free Visa - max 30 day stay
    United States citizens are eligible for a free 30-day visa upon arrival at the airport. This visa is not extendable.

  • Paid Visa - 30+ days
    For those wishing to stay for more than 30 days, you must pay $35 for a visa on arrival; this visa can be extended for up to 60 days. Two months of beautiful Bali sunsets, what could be better?!

Packing Tips

  • Adapters & Electronics
    You will need an adapter for Bali! The standard outlet in Indonesia is a two-pin plug, similar to the ones used in Europe.

  • Temple-Appropriate Attire
    The temperature in Bali can get hot, but if you are going to be visiting Bali's famous temples, you'll have to abide by the fashion rules. This means covered knees and shoulders for both men and women.

If all else fails, buy a sarong! You can use this to cover up after the beach, wrap yourself in for the temples, and also as a fast-drying towel for the pool or beach. Plus, it makes the perfect souvenir; a win-win.

  • Currency The currency in Bali is Indonesian Rupees (IDR); coins are valued from 100 to 1,000 to rupiah, and paper dollars are from 1,000 to 100,000.

What to See in Bali


  • Tanah Lot
    Perhaps Bali’s most famous temple, the Tanah Lot is the perfect place for a sunrise or sunset trip.

  • Uluwatu Temple
    This cliffside temple is a perched beauty, located near Uluwatu, on Bali’s southeast coast.

  • Goa Gajah
    More commonly known as the “Elephant Cave,” this complex has caves, fountains, and a bathing pool.

  • Tempak Siring Temple
    This temple is home to the sacred springs of Tirta Empul, which are said to offer magical healing properties.

These are just some of the highlights; there are hundreds of other temples to see in Bali!


  • Mt. Batur
    Fancy a sunrise trek? The most popular way to visit this breathtaking volcano is via a guided sunrise tour. You will embark upon this journey at around 2am, hiking to the top until you are finally greeted by the sunrise.

  • Mt. Agung
    While trekking this volcano is now off-limits due to recent volcanic activity, the silhouette of Mt. Agung will await you at every corner as you explore Bali’s north coast.

Beach Areas

  • Seminyak
    For those with a taste for the finer things. Spend the day unwinding at the beach, enjoying some 5-star shopping, then finish off with a bite at one of the many world-class restaurants. Don’t forget to stop by the famous Potato Head Beach Club for a drink. Highlights: luxury, shopping, dining

  • Kuta
    Bali's party central! With bars and shopping at every step, Kuta is one of the most developed beach areas of Bali. Highlights: relaxing, partying, souvenir shopping

  • Canggu
    If relaxing beachside while listening to rock music is your jam, Canggu is your spot. The waves here are moderate, making it a great location for first-time surfers. The "alternative capital" of Bali is also a great spot for skateboarding, seeing live music, and is home to a a handful of world-renowned tattoo shops). The beaches of Canggu are some of the best for chasing that amazing Bali sunset. Highlights: surfing, skateboarding, sunbathing, live music, partying

  • Uluwatu
    For those looking for a more remote experience, head south to Uluwatu. The waves here are more vicious than those at Canggu, providing better surfing for experienced surfers. This region is also home to the beautiful Uluwatu Temple, which sits perched on a cliff overlooking the waters of Bali. Highlights: surfing, remote, cliffside temple

  • Amed
    A sleepy beach town in Bali’s north, Amed is one of the world’s best places to go scuba diving. Here you can see remnants of a Buddhist temple underwater, ruins of a shipwreck, and even mail a letter in an underwater mailbox! Highlights: snorkeling, scuba diving

Monkey Forests

  • Ubud
    Smack in the middle of Ubud city center is the famous monkey forest, full of temples, lush flora, and of course: mischievous monkeys. These monkeys sometimes stray out of the forest onto the city streets, so hold on to your belongings!

  • Sangeh
    If you're looking for a quieter experience, take a taxi (or hop on a motorbike) and take a 20-minute ride to the village of Sangeh, home to more serene monkey forest.

Getting Around

Rent a Motorbike

If you are feeling adventurous (and have your International Driving license), rent a motorbike for a day and hit the road. Motorbikes are the cheaper, faster, preferred way of traveling through the island.


  • Bluebird Taxi Group
    Bluebird is the trusted, metered taxi service on the island. You can call them ahead of time, wave down their blue cars, or download their app and have them meet you at your doorstep.

  • Street Stands
    Alternatively, you will find taxi stands at every corner on the popular areas of the island. Here you can order a regular taxi or motorbike taxi, but be prepared to haggle feverishly for a fair price.

Transport Apps

  • Grab
    Similar to Uber, on Grab you can order regular taxis, motorbike taxis, and even food!

  • GoJek
    Indonesia’s go-to application for all things convenience related. Order taxis, motorbike taxis, get your groceries delivered, or even have massages delivered to your home!

What to Do in Bali: the 5 “S”


Bali is the land of amazing and affordable spa treatments! At around $10 a massage, you can treat yourself to a Balinese massage treatment as frequently as you'd like; but be warned: the Balinese massage is rough, but relaxing. You can also enjoy body scrubs, hair masks and massages, facials, or maybe a simple manicure and pedicure.

Snorkel or Scuba dive

In the mood to spot some of Bali's sea life? Rent a snorkel kit or go for a day of scubadiving and go on a hunt for the colorful fish and coral.


Grab a board and hit the waves at one of Bali's many beaches! Canggu and Kuta are great destinations for beginners, and there are plenty of surf schools offering affordable lessons taught by locals.

Get Spiritual

Ubud is Bali’s spiritual center, and home to many famous shamans and yoga schools - the perfect place to get your zen!

Sipping at Sunset

There are few things in the world as stunning as Bali’s sunsets. Order a coconut, lay out a beach blanket, and watch the skies change into a flurry of colors.

What to Eat & Drink in Bali

Tip: skip the tourist restaurants and eat in locally-owned warungs instead.

Banana Leaf BBQ

Forget bread and pita, wrap your dish in a banana leaf instead! All throughout Bali you'll find meats, rice, veggies, or even fruit offered in a grilled banana leaf. Be bold and give it a try - just don't eat the actual leaf.

Sate Lilit

Forget boring BBQ skewers, this dish swaps skewers for lemongrass sticks, usually topped with some spiced ground meat.

Nasi Goreng

Nasi Goreng is an Indonesian specialty, consisting of fried rice with various vegetables and sometimes meats. You can usually find this dish offered for under $2 a plate, the perfect meal when you want something budget-friendly, yet satisfying.

Fresh Fruit

What better way to spend the day than lounging beachside with a fresh fruit platter or coconut in hand? You won't find your typical apples here though; rather indulge in some fresh dragon fruit, mangosteen, or if you're feeling adventurous - ripe durian.

Babi Guling (suckling pig)

You'll really feel like you are on an island vacation when indulging in Bali's savory suckling pig! The spit-roasted pig is stuffed with herbs such as lemongrass, coriander, and turmeric to take it to the next level.

Kopi Luwak

Don't leave Bali without trying its (in)famous weasel coffee - also known as poop coffee! The weasels of the island go foraging for the bean, then eat and release it. Coffee providers then search for these (un)digested beans, put them through a purification process, and sell a brew that is as bold as it is delicious.

Useful Balinese Phrases

Indonesian is the language spoken in Indonesia, but on the island of Bali, they speak their own language: Balinese.

  • Hello - Swastyastu
  • Good Morning - Selamat Pagi
  • Good Afternoon - Selamat Siang
  • Good Evening - Selamat Sore
  • Thank You - Suksma
  • Toilet - Kamar Kecil

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