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Travelling Tips To Bali For The First Time

Weather

The Volcano, Bali
October to April is the rainy season; May to September the dry season. We travelled late wisata baliJanuary, which is considered off peak and in the wet season. We lucked it with the rain with most of the heavy falls coming at night time or early morning. Kind of cleansing really.
For my October trip, it rained only once in five days – and that was early morning before we’d gotten up.
As for the humidity, if you’re flying in from a Queensland summer – like we did – it’s not such a shock. A little bit more humid than the everyday here but temperatures were near the same as when we had left home. Make sure your accommodation has air-conditioning!

What to pack

Wear light clothes in natural fabrics to keep cool while in Bali
Light clothes in natural, breathable fabrics. I worked on two outfits a day, one throw-over type dress or shorts/light top combination and kaftans for evening if we were heading out to a bar or restaurant. Even in the upmarket restaurants it’s still pretty casual. Mr SY wore dress shorts and a rolled up shirt and Vans if we were getting our fancy on.
At least two swimsuits means you always have a dry one on the go. SPF 30+ or 50+ sunscreen is a must. You are right near the equator Stylers, that sun has bite. Even at 5pm.
Speaking of bites, keep the tropical strength insect repellant handy. Try this natural alternative – it worked for me.
I’m a safety girl and also packed half a pharmacy – travelling with a family of five, I wasn’t taking any chances. We had everything from kids’ Nurofen to antibiotic ointment, ventolin, antihistamines and stuff to help should Bali Belly strike … see below.

Accommodation

Bali Swiss Hotel Villas, Seminyak, Bali
Bali is geared up for tourists in a big way. Accommodation ranges from the very basic thorough to some of the most amazing five-star hotels you’ll find anywhere in the world. The trend over the past five to 10 years is for villa accommodation. This style can offer you the same comforts as a hotel but with more privacy and better options if travelling as a family or group.
For our family trip we stayed at the Bali Swiss Villas, booked through Australian company, Cantik Villas. It was cheaper booking through this site than direct. What I also liked about Cantik was that you could easily search for a villa option based on location, number of guests and your budget. We also availed ourselves of the layby option, paying off our accommodation over three months – pretty handy on the budget when airfares have to be paid for on booking.
We paid about $1700 for the week, which included a three-bedroom villa {two pavilions with king beds; one with two king singles; all with ensuited bathrooms}, airport transfers and breakfast cooked for us each morning – once again, pretty good for a family of five. But. There’s always a but, isn’t there? When I booked I knew that we’d be 10-15 minutes drive {only max $5 each way in a cab} from the action. This is not for you if you like to step outside your accommodation and stroll to a bar or restaurant. It only suited us as we had booked a driver for the week. Otherwise, opt to pay more to stay on the beach side of Sunset Road.
For my October trip, we stayed in the Bali Villa H2O, 11 of us each paying $400 for the five nights.
Also, like real estate images of houses for sale, don’t be surprised if your accommodation doesn’t quite look so shiny and new when you arrive. Our villa was clean but had definitely aged since the website photos were taken. Shower pressure was non-existent – as was hot water in the shower – and the indoor/outdoor nature of the bathroom, meant that sometimes going to the toilet came with a shower from nature on top.
If travelling with small children, the private pool/villa thing may not work for you as pools are not fenced. There is a company that hires out temporary fences though . Also the separate pavilion-style rooms within a villa may not work if your kids are used to being able to get to you in the night. We loved it for the space for teenagers and us!

Where to stay

Nusa Dua, Bali
I know from people who have visited Bali before that they are pretty set on the areas in which they like to stay. What you want from a holiday can be very different from the next person.
For us, we love a good bar, good food and shopping, so Seminyak suited us perfectly. It’s got the Bali vibe but with a more upmarket edge to what you’ll find in Kuta.
When we come back {and we will}, we’d like to start our holiday Seminyak and the move to Uluwatu for more of a retreat. I’ve also now got my heart set on staying at Ayana Resort (home of The Rock Bar).
Others swear by heading to the hills for an escape … it was beautiful but we love the water and have a couple of surfers in the family.
Others again love the exclusive five-star enclave of Nusa Dua. It was certainly beautiful but, for our travel tastes, was lacking a bit of the Bali vibe found elsewhere. Want 5-star plus the vibe location? My money would be on The W Retreat & Spa. And when The Potato Head opens its hotel in 2014, that would be worth a look too.
The W, Seminyak, Bali

Transport

Our driver, Dewa, was such a help for us getting around the island of Bali
Public transport is non existent – you have cabs or drivers as options for getting around. Both are cost effective.
Some accommodation houses come with their own shuttle services. And if you’re booking a tour, that company will come and pick you up from your accommodation.
We found our driver, Dewa {pictured above with Mr 7}, via the paket wisata bali website. You can book him via his Facebook page. Dewa was an absolute champion. He was also available from 9am to 9pm for 400,000Rp a day. Some days we didn’t stray far from Seminyak, others we did. Either way, without his seven-seater van, we would have had to take two cabs each time we wanted to venture out.

Food and drink

Dinner poolside at Potato Head, Seminyak, Bali
Food was cheap. Even at the fancy places, you could eat handsomely for less than equivalent standard in Australia.
Menu items included Indonesian staples plus other Asian, Mexican and Western favourites.
We also picked up drinks {Mr SY loved that Bintang is almost cheaper than water} and snacks at little supermarkets. The deli-style supermarket at Seminyak Square is particularly good.
Favourite places we drank and dined at and would recommend include:

  • Sarong: One for the grown ups and up there with some of THE best dining experiences I’ve ever had. Still dreaming about the soft shell crab salad. We paid about $AU200 for three courses, two cocktails, a bottle of Australian wine ($60) and coffee. More here.
  • Ku De Ta: Beachside bar and restaurant, perfect for sunset drinks. Lobster gyoza a must eat. More here.
  • Potato Head: Beachside pool and bar. Perfect for sunset drinks too. Kids can swim in pool up until 4pm. Minimum spend of 500,000 Rp for poolside position. More here. If you can swing dinner as well, do try the chilli crab at Lillian
  • The W: Stunning location for the whole day. Pay $15 per person {kids half price} to lounge by and use pool. Drinks and food served poolside too. More here.
  • The Deck: Family friendly dining where you can play a game of pool too.
  • Grocer & Grind: Deli items, dine in and takeaway. Was craving a salad and this place gave me that fix.
  • Single Fin, Uluwatu: Cheap eats and drinks with one of the best views high up above this famous surf break.
  • Sunset Bar, Ayana Resort: If you can’t get into The Rock Bar – they don’t take bookings – then this is a great place to watch the sun set. Order a signature watermelon or coconut cocktail.
  • Motel Mexicola, Seminyak: Go for $30 jugs of magaritas and $3 tacos. More here.
Uluwatu, Bali

Bali Belly

We ordered and drank bottled water everywhere: here at Ku De Ta, Seminyak, Bali
We lucked it on the January trip with only one of us succumbing to the dreaded Bali Belly. In October, the 11 of us were affected in some way. Not sure if it helped with my recovery and prevention first time round but we took Blackmores Digestive Bio Balance every day. They’re chewable probiotics and don’t need refrigeration.
Big key? Drink and brush teeth with only bottled water.

Places to see

Waterbom Park, Kuta, Bali

  • Waterbom Park: seriously the cleanest and most efficient water park I’ve ever been to. The fact that I could drink cocktails from our poolside cabana while the kids went crazy? Big, big plus.
  • Ubud Sacred Monkey Forest: The kids loved this. Bigs especially. The monkeys were pretty well behaved the day we went. More here.
  • Mount Batur volcano: Stunning contrast to the beaches in both climate and view. Dine at one of the restaurants that line the ridge with a view to the volcano and surrounding lakes.
  • Lembongan Island cruise: a bit crazy, crowded touristy for my liking but the youngest in the family LOVED this. The boat takes you and 200 others across to a pontoon moored off the island of Lembongan. From the pontoon you can snorkel, ride a banana boat, take a village tour on the island or slide down the waterside 50,000 times like Mr 7 did. Expect to pay about $US275 for a family of four {kids under 12}.
  • Uluwatu: Loved travelling down to this part of the island – stunning views and scenery. More here.
  • Nusa Dua: Not staying at one of the resorts in this enclave? There is a public beach plus beach clubs where you can lounge all day as long as you order drinks. More here.
  • Bodyworks: Not so much to see but to do. Beautiful spa treatments in Balinese style at a fraction of Australian costs.
Nusa Lembongan cruise to snorkel on reef, Bali

Shopping

We did most of our shopping on the streets of Seminyak. It’s boutique-y and not trashy. There are also plenty of surf brands on offer at slightly cheaper prices than in Australia.
Mist boutique, Seminyak, Bali
Fave stores:

  • Mist: I was told to hunt down this label when in Bali and I wasn’t disappointed. Beautiful summer frocks in hand printed fabrics of the softest rayon. That’s why you’ll pay more – $AU80-90 – than similar designs in other stores. And I’m told that’s considerably cheaper – about 40%- than buying in Australia.
  • Drifter Surf: Mr SY loved this indie surf store and cafe. Awesome coffee and wi-fi and a refreshing addition to the big name surf brand stores which dominate the island.
  • Samantha Robinson: my favourite porcelain artist has a recently opened store in Seminyak. Prices same as in Australia but seeing the full range in one place was something else. Samantha has also added her prints to cushion covers and sarongs to the store – these are made in Bali so more affordable.
  • Kody & Ko: Modern art and homewares store – think neon Buddhas and floral skulls.
  • Hobo: loved this homewares store and could have bought so much. They ship to Australia so that just might happen.
  • Sari Dewi Silver: our driver took us here on the way to Ubud. It’s a massive store where the prices are in $US but you’re encouraged to bargain down to less than half the marked price.
  • Biasa: Italian-designed floaty cottons in statement cuts that scream quality.
Samantha Robinson, Seminyak, Bali

Money

We used Visa credit and debit pretty much everywhere and only needed actual cash for paying our driver and a few cab fares. There are money changers everywhere. With 1 million rupiah equalling about $100 it’s very easy to feel like a millionaire. Suggest taking a wallet that can fit a lot of notes!

Internet access

The wi-fi at our villa was extremely dodgy in January, in contrast to just about every cafe and restaurant in Seminyak where free wi-fi was yours for the price of a drink or lunch. Just ask for the password. Because we were only staying for a week, I didn’t bother unlocking my phone from its Australian network and inserting a pre-paid sim card in Bali.
For my October trip, the wi-fi at the villa was excellent but there wasn’t any wi-fi at the new airport this time around. Things were still being finished off – restaurants and shops are yet to open with just pop-up outlets filling the void.

Safety

We felt very safe throughout the trip. There are security checks on cars and often bags, as well before entry to any of the major tourist spots and hotels. As we drove past the site of the Sari Club bombing and memorial to those who lost their lives, it seemed to me that this “new” Bali is here to stay.

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