A complete guide to the weather in Bali

Located just 890km south of the equator, Bali’s tropical climate and moderate weather conditions make for a killer holiday at any time of the year. With two distinct tropical seasons, the wet season and a much cooler dry season, the best time for you to travel to Bali will ultimately come down to what you want out of your holiday and the kind of activities you have on the agenda.

Whether you fancy a dreamy sojourn filled with soothing massages and spa treatments in the mountains of Bedugul, or a tick-off-your-bucket-list style getaway complete with volcano trekking and scuba diving, our month by month guide to Bali’s weather has, quite literally, got you covered.

Wet season

The wet season lasts from end of December/ beginning of January until April and, apart from December and January which are vibrant months for Bali’s calendar, buzzing to the brink with holiday-makers, it is a more subdued time for the island. The atmosphere is relaxed and lazy, the humidity is at its highest point and there are fluctuations between moody rainstorms that soak the island to warm steamy days with cloudless skies.

Dry season

Bali’s dry season occurs between the months of May and September and is the busiest time of year for tourism on the island. July, August and September are particularly busy months as the humidity is low and the rainfall minimal, making for a comfortable albeit more expensive time to holiday in Bali.

Despite each season having its own set of characteristics, the temperature is a moderately stable 27ºC to 30ºC throughout the year.

Bali weather
Photo Credit

Bali’s wet season- October to April

Bali’s wet season begins at the end of October and lasts until the following April. It’s a humid, sticky, shirt-stuck-to-your-chest time of year, and for this reason many people avoid visiting during this time. But there are many overlooked advantages that the tropical rain brings with it including world-class swells and a quieter, more tranquil Bali.wet_season_bali

Weather in Bali in October

Bali’s temperature throughout the month of October usually sits somewhere between 25ºC and 33ºC . The dry hot winds that blow in from Australia make October one of the hottest months of Bali’s year. Rain is minimal but humidity levels do rise as the month progresses. October’s hot days and generally blue skies make it an ideal time to explore the island.

Weather in Bali in November

November is normally characterised by on and off rain. That being said, there have been some years when Bali hasn’t seen its first real rain storm until early January. It’s best to pack wet weather gear and keep an umbrella handy. If you’re booked to visit Bali in November, do not fret. The rain is not constant and, unless you plan on carrying out activities that require very clear visual conditions, things continue as normal.

Humidity levels reach about 80% throughout November so get ready for the heat and be sure to pile on that sunscreen lotion. Most good hotels have air conditioners. If you’re staying in basic accommodation then you will be extra appreciative when the rain stops and is replaced with a refreshingly cool breeze.

weather in Bali
via ubud

Weather in Bali in December

If the November prior didn’t experience much rainfall then December’s weather in Bali will really take things up a notch as the monsoon season sets in. The rain is frequent and comes in short, heavy, often excessive bursts that can last anywhere between a few minutes to a few days. Due to a general lack of drainage in Bali, minor flooding can sometimes occur in the streets. The days will be mostly wet and the sky cloudy and yet Bali will remain extremely hot with humidity levels hitting as high as 85%.

Bali’s beaches, especially in the south, tend to get a little polluted during this time of year as strong currents wash trash onto the shore. Not that Bali’s tribe of avid surfers is fazed. Instead, their attention is on the ripper offshore breaks that form in the west as the monsoon winds get stronger. An added benefit for surfers during the wet season is the warm water. Wetsuits are certainly not needed. Most surfers can get away with not wearing wetsuits for most of the year but water temperatures do tend to dip slightly during the dry season, especially from July through till August, so you might want to pack one then.

Despite the rain, December and January are two of the busiest months of the year for Bali’s tourism with thousands of people flocking to the island to celebrate Christmas and the New Year. There are loud and colourful celebrations in the streets and the island buzzes with energy and excitement, a stark contrast to the much quieter first half of the season. As a result, hotel prices tend to skyrocket so be sure to book accommodation in advance.

On Christmas Day, many restaurants offer scrumptious buffet lunches of roasts and other Western comforts that will make many feel right at home. New Year’s Eve sees many holiday-makers head to the famous Kuta Beach to watch the fireworks and celebrate together. If it rains, which it quite often does, revellers retreat to Beach Walk Mall where they have convenient views of the beachfront action.

Weather in Bali in January

With an average rainfall of 300 millilitres, January is Bali’s wettest month. It’s also an incredibly hot month so the rain is not such a bad thing. In fact, the heavy rain often comes as welcomed relief after a day of Bali’s scorching heat and humidity.

The rain tends to be much heavier in the mountain and highland regions compared to the eastern and southern coastal areas, so keep this in mind when booking accommodation and planning your holiday. It’s also important to note that the weather in January is quite regional. Denpasar’s weather report of sunshine and bright skies doesn’t mean that Bedugul in the north will be experiencing the same conditions, so be sure to do your research.

Weather in Bali in January
Photo credit Indo surferlife

Weather in Bali in February

February in Bali is usually a little drier than January but you should still be prepared for frequent rain. With a monthly average rainfall of 280 millilitres, it is still very much the wet season.

The temperature in February does not stretch too far from Bali’s average levels. With highs of around 32ºC, it is both hot and humid. Be sure to always keep a bottle of water on you and remember that sunscreen can be nearly double the price if you purchase it in Bali, so we advise stocking up before you leave.

Indonesian locals who understand Bali’s seasons well tend to visit the beaches and do most of their running around in the late afternoon when the intense heat and humidity has settled. Sunset happens just after 6pm, and it is a lovely time to relax or go for a walk.

Hot Tips

  • If you plan on undertaking outdoor activities try to schedule them for later in the day when the sun is not at its hottest. Remember that humidity levels will be sitting around the 75% level so you may feel quite sticky and uncomfortable moving around outside.
  • February is considered the ‘off peak’ season so flights and hotels can often be booked at a cheaper rate.

Weather in Bali in March

Rain becomes less frequent throughout March and April as the wet season transitions into Bali’s much-awaited dry season. Despite the changing seasons, the weather in March in Bali remains cloudy, often with overcast skies and showers. There are days when it all dries up and the clouds are replaced by bright sunshine.

Sitting around 27ºC with an average minimum of 23ºC, March’s average temperatures are only slightly lower than the previous months. At night the temperature drops to about 25ºC but if you are staying in the mountains it can drop to as low as 15ºC.

March hosts one of the biggest festivals of Bali’s year, Nyepi. Meaning ‘silent’ in Bahasa Indonesian, Nyepi is the religious Hindu day of celebration for the Balinese New Year. Locals turn off electricity, refrain from all forms of entertainment and stay indoors for 24 hours to allow themselves the opportunity to self-reflect, and tourists are expected to follow suit. Local security guards called pecaleng patrol and watch the streets to make sure no one goes outside their homes or breaks the rules. This tradition is undertaken because the Balinese people believe that if the island is silent and everyone is indoors, evil spirits will mistakenly think the island is empty and move on.

Nyepi celebrations on the beach

The following day is marked by a ‘mass kissing festival’,Ngembak Gen. Known to the locals as “Omed-omedan”, it is a unique Balinese tradition held amongst the youth which honours the healing power of a kiss.


Hot tip: All shops and restaurants are closed on Nyepi so be prepared by pre-purchasing food and essentials. Head to Bintang supermarket in Seminyak to get all your fruits, beverages and international groceries.

Weather in Bali in April

With greatly reduced humidity levels (around 65%), April heralds the end of Bali’s wet season. Monthly rainfall is reduced to 70 millilitres on average, the days are clearer and that classic Bali heat is on the rise with some days reaching 33ºC. Surprisingly, it’s not a very busy time for tourism making it all the better for those who do visit in April. There are fewer crowds, less noise and more bargains to be had on accommodation.

Wet season Tips: what to be aware of?

  • Dengue Fever: This mosquito-borne viral infection should be avoided at all costs. Some people take tablets or get immunised against the disease prior to their trip, while others just use insect repellents. We recommend purchasing a local mosquito repellents as it is believed that insects have become resistant to the Western versions. Repellents can be easily found in most mini marts and supermarkets.
  • Slippery roads: With the wet season comes slippery roads and trekking conditions, obscured views and poor visibility on the streets. It is advisable to practice extra caution when driving (especially on a scooter) and while doing recreational activities.
  • Safety Pack: Pack some pharmaceutical safety essentials like probiotics and tablets for diarrhea so that you’re prepared in case you get the notorious ‘Bali Belly’.

Save Money

As the wet season is also Bali’s low season for tourism, hotel prices, tours and airfares will be super cheap and you can get some great discounts if you plan ahead. If you don’t mind a bit of rain and like the idea of a less crowded, more tranquil Bali, then the wet season in Bali is perfect for you!

Weather in Bali year round
Photo credit

What to wear during the wet season?

You should expect the unexpected during Bali’s wet season. Even though the weather report might forecast clear skies and sunshine, the conditions can change quickly and often, heavy rain appears from nowhere. Therefore we suggest not wearing your best attire out and about but rather investing in some rain-friendly threads.

Disposable rain jackets and umbrellas can be purchased very cheaply in Bali so save the space in your suitcase and just head to the local market when you arrive to stock up. If you happen to be sitting down in a restaurant or at a warung in the street when the rain starts, you will notice that opportunistic locals selling umbrellas and rain jackets will arrive just in the nick of time. These will be a little pricier than those sold at the markets but when you need an umbrella, you need an umbrella, and this service will seem like a gift from the rain gods themselves.

Pack light clothes in breathable fabrics. We suggest bringing clothes made out of cotton, silk or linen as they are cool and suitable for Bali’s humid conditions. On top of this, they also dry quickly which is always helpful during the wet season. Avoid wearing tight clothing that will make you chafe and sweat and always carry a hat and sunscreen with you to protect you from the merciless sun.

T-shirts and flip flops (”thongs” for Australians) are fine to wear on the streets and around most tourist areas but if you intend on visiting a sacred temple, attending a local religious ceremony or visiting a Balinese family, it is important you dress modestly and follow local customs. If you’re taking a day trip to a temple, sarongs and scarfs can usually be purchased or rented for a small charge but you should find out beforehand as every temple is different. It is important to cover up your body particularly your shoulders and chest area, and you will always be required to remove your shoes.

If a woman is pregnant or has given birth in the six weeks prior, she should not enter the temple as it is considered impure. This a regulation held throughout Indonesia and is not unique to Balinese temples alone but to all Islamic mosques; an important note to remember should you be heading to Lombok or any other Indonesian island that does not practice Hinduism as the main religion.

Dry season- May to September

The dry season, Bali’s version of summer, occurs between the months of May and September. It is the favoured half of the year for both locals and tourists alike boasting bright sunny days, lower humidity levels compared to the wet season and, of course, very little rain.

The dry season is an extremely popular time for people to explore Bali, particularly throughout July and August as this time coincides with the Australian winter and the school holiday season.

It’s the perfect time to explore the island by day and enjoy candlelight dinners on the beach by night.

Weather in Bali
Photo credit Mambore treats.

Weather in Bali in May

May tends to be one of Bali’s cooler months, but for those that are visiting from anywhere that experiences a real winter, it will seem comfortably warm. The average temperature is 28ºC and while this may not seem drastically different from the rest of the year, you will find that locals and long-term expats talk of turning down the AC at night and having to put jackets on. Cut them some slack though, compared to the high humidity and intense heat of the wet season, May feels like a winter wonderland.

Weather in Bali in June

Humidity levels are at their lowest from June until October and so Bali experiences some of its lowest temperatures.

The month of June is host to the famous Bali Arts Festival. The month long celebration of Indonesian culture includes performances held at the Bali Art Centre in Denpasar as well as the Bali Kite festival and sees many people head to the island to experience its unique culture and festivities.

Things pick up in June as thousands of tourists scurry to the island for the start of the busiest holiday season of the year, the July-August period.

Weather in Bali in July

The weather in July in Bali continues to be relatively cool and comfortable, making it a very desirable time to jump on a plane and explore the island.

Skies are almost always blue and it is the perfect time to try your hand at water sports or to have an outdoor dinner by the beach.

Bali weather in July
Photo credit

Weather in Bali in August

August is Bali’s driest month and so rain is not something you will have to worry about. With a monthly average rainfall of 40 millilitres that occurs over roughly three days, August is the perfect month to maximise your outdoor time in Bali.

It will be hot during the day so don’t forget to lather on the sunscreen. Evenings in August and all throughout the dry season enjoy beautiful breezes, making it a lovely time to sit outside and enjoy a meal.

Weather in Bali in August
Photo credit top indonesia holidays

Weather in Bali in September

The weather in September in Bali is characterised by sunny picturesque days, great for sunbathing or doing a spot of holiday shopping and on average, sees highs of between 30ºC to 32ºC. With nine hours of sunshine per day, it is many people’s preferred time to visit Bali. If it does rain, it is usually very little (about 90 millilitres on average for the entire month) and occurs in the late afternoon or evening.


As September follows the peak July-August period, prices are generally reduced.

Dry Season: what to wear

General Clothing

The dry season can get quite chilly during the evenings so it is important to pack at least one jacket and a good pair of socks. You won’t regret it, especially if you’re staying on higher ground or in the central mountain areas of Bali.

Even though humidity levels are lower during Bali’s dry season, the days are long and the sunrays are strong and unforgiving, making it is very easy to get burnt. If you’re spending lots of time outdoors, be sure to bring a hat and apply generous amounts of sunscreen.

Supplies for Surfing

The minimal rain and low humidity of the dry season make it a very popular time for outdoor activities. Many tourists try parasailing, scuba diving or jet skiing, but the most popular activity of all is surfing. It is smart to pack a wetsuit, especially if you intend to surf between the months of June and October when the water temperature is at its coolest. Coral reef booties are also essential as many of Bali’s beaches break on sharp live coral reefs that can cut your bare feet.


As a tourist it is important to dress as respectively as possible throughout the year, no matter what season you’re visiting in. Despite the island and its people feeling very familiar and westernised, Balinese people maintain a very honourable grip on their culture and are often far more conservative than the party atmosphere of Kuta might lead you to believe. Public displays of affection are usually frowned upon and while it might be ok on the streets of Legian, wearing a bikini to the mall is not appreciated by the locals.

As a general rule of thumb, the more well groomed you are the better you will be treated by the Balinese people. The island’s culture has largely been shaped by the Hindu religion. To act in a way that is insensitive to these beliefs is shameful and reflects badly upon tourists as a whole. So remember to always be mindful of how you are presenting yourself and how you might be seen from the eyes of a local.

Surfing in Bali by season

Internationally acclaimed for its ferocious waves and stunning landscape, Bali is a surfer’s paradise. Its beautiful southern coastline captures enormous ocean swells brought in from the Antarctic that generate spectacular waves and swell all year round. While there is always good surf to be had, Bali’s two seasons determine where these waves are found. The general rule is that the east coast is the best place to surf during the wet season and the west coast of Bali is where it’s at during the dry.

Not surprisingly, the most popular time to surf in Bali is throughout the dry season, particularly from June through till September. As this coincides with the peak tourist season, beaches can become very crowded. To avoid crowds, seek out quieter beaches off the beaten track. Of course, these will be harder to get to but the reward will be worth it.

While the energetic atmosphere of the dry season can help build momentum and excitement out in the surf, those looking for something a little more chilled but still adventurous should surf Bali during the wet season.

Surfing Bali in the Dry Season

During Bali’s dry season the best waves can be found on the island’s west coast. From Kuta all the way to Uluwatu, the western coastline provides the biggest and best swells thanks to the south-east trade winds that blow in during this time of year.

The best surf beaches on the west coast include:

  • Bingin: Bingin beach is an exposed reef break which means there are no rocks. It has massive left-hander swells that tend to be quite short and so are best negotiated by advanced surfers. While Bingin is a very beautiful beach it does get rather crowded, made even worse by the fact there is only one area to take off.
  • Padang Padang: The waves here are most suited to advanced surfers due to their super fast nature and left-hander swells that will challenge even the best. The fact that the waves break over a sharp coral reef only adds to the difficulty 0f this wave.
  • Tukad Balian: This is a beautiful beach break with surf that’s suited to intermediate level surfing. Balian is not a crowded beach,the waves are consistent left-handers and the swell is long and fat. Because of its location at the mouth of the Balian river, the waves tend to get broken up as they rush in which creates a strong rip. Some surfers like to get in behind the waves at this point, but be sure exercise caution as the rip is very strong and has the potential to pull surfers long distances. Compared to many of the other beaches on Bali’s west coast, Balian has some of the biggest waves with the added bonus of stunning panoramic views. On top of this, the water is usually warm, clean and the sand is black. Tukad Balian is located in the Tabanan Regency in the village of Lalang Linggah, about an hour and a half drive from Kuta.
  • Impossible: This beach is an extremely popular surfing spot with gorgeous 180º views of the Indian Ocean and solid barrel waves best suited to experienced surfers. Located in the beach resort of Pecatu, it will take about 30 minutes to get here from Legian and is situated in close proximity to many tourist attractions including Uluwatu temple.
  • Uluwatu: The huge number of surfers that are at Uluwatu at any given time speaks volumes about the quality of the waves here. The swells are fast and powerful and the currents are strong so be sure to exercise caution, especially when entering and exiting the Uluwatu cave that leads to the main breaks. Because of its challenging nature, Uluwatu’s waves are best suited to advanced surfers. When you’ve finished your surf, head on down to Single Fin restaurant and bar propped up on the cliff and overlooking the stunning coastline.
  • Kuta beach and Seminyak: The smaller, mellower beach breaks of Kuta and Seminyak are suited to all levels of surfers.
Weather in Bali year round
The stunning Bukit Peninsula. Photo credit eoasia.files.wordpress

Surfing Bali in the Wet season

If you’re keen to avoid crowds out in the surf and enjoy a generally more relaxed vibe, head to Bali during its wet season.

The wind changes that occur during this time of year result in west coast left-hander swells that are far mellower and smaller than those from the dry season. Instead, the best waves can be found on Bali’s east coast where, thanks to the strong monsoon weather conditions, the winds are wild and the right-hander waves are near perfect.

The best surf beaches on Bali’s east coast include:

  • Nusa Dua:This famous stretch of beach offers long, heavy right-hander waves that can get up to 10 feet high. If such heights are intimidating, head further down the coast for some smaller waves.
  • Keramas: Located to the east of Denpasar city in Sanur, the waves at Keramas beach have a lot of power and are suited to high performance surfers. Be sure to watch out for the sharp coral reefs and sea urchins.

Here are some less familiar beach breaks on Bali’s east coast that are especially great to surf during the wet season:

  • Mushroom Rock
  • Sir Lanka
  • Turtle Island
  • Tanjung Sari
  • Hyatt Reef
  • Sanur Reef
  • Ketewel


Bali’s beaches are best surfed early in the morning to avoid onshore winds. This goes for both the wet and dry seasons.

Weather in Bali

Festivals in Bali by season

From local religious ceremonies to international festivals that draw huge crowds, Bali’s streets are always buzzing with some kind of celebration.

The dates of local Hindu ceremonies are based on three different calendars (Western, Saka and Wuku) and so it is sometimes hard to know exactly what date holidays will occur. To help you out, we’ve compiled a month-by-month guide to Bali’s major events and festivals during both the wet and dry seasons.


March to April:

  • The Melasti Ritual is the first of a series of rituals performed before the Balinese day of silence (Nyepi). Known locally as OghoOgho, the Hindu purification ceremony involves cleaning and purifying temples before the following day’s proceedings.
  • Hari Nyepi translates to “the silence day” in Bahasa Indonesian and marks the beginning of the Balinese New Year. The annual ritual is dedicated to self-reflection and involves locals and foreigners practicing silence for 24 hours. During this time, nobody is allowed to leave their house or use technology and all shops are closed. New Year celebrations begin in the streets the following day including the famous kissing festival, ‘Omed Omedan’.
  • Kartini day is a time for local Indonesian women to pay respect and homage to Kartini, the Balinese woman who was the driving force behind the Indonesian women’s rights movement.
  • Bali Spirit Festival is a celebration of yoga, dance and music. Held over five days in the mountains of Ubud, the festival attracts large international and local audiences.

June  to July:

  • Bali Arts Festival is the largest cultural event to take place on the island. Known to locals as ‘Pesta Kesenian Bali’, the annual festival takes place in Denpasar and is a celebration of Indonesian culture and the arts.
  • Bali’s Kite Festivalis a beautiful Hindu event that honours the highly revered craft of kite making and flying. Held annually in July at Padang Galak, Sanur Beach, this international festival is a spectacular sight and not to be missed if you’re visiting Bali at this time.                                                                                                                                                                          

August to September:

  • Indonesia’s Independence Day happens every year on the 17th of August and marks the day that Indonesia officially gained independence from the Dutch in 1949.  The day is celebrated with pride throughout the nation but especially on the streets of Bali.
  • Nusa Dua Festival is a week long tourism event held at the Nusa Dua Resort and showcasing the best of Indonesian culture.
Weather in Bali
Photo credit


October to November

  • Ubud Writers & Readers Festival is Bali’s annual literary festival celebrating global issues, big ideas and extraordinary stories. The event attracts talented established and emerging voices from all over the world and is a must-see.
  • Bali Film Festival is a week long event held annually in October and showcasing a fantastic range of international independent films. If you’re on the island at this time of year, we highly recommend checking the Bali Film festival


  • Hari Raya Galungan (17th) Galungan is the first event of a very significant holiday period for the Balinese calendar. In the Hindu religion Galungan is believed to be the time when the spirits of deceased ancestors come back to earth and in return the Balinese say prayers and provide offerings and hospitality. You will notice bamboo poles in the streets suspending offerings that are made for the visitors.
  • Hari Raya Kuningan takes place exactly ten days following the Galungan celebration and is believed to be the time when the spirits finally leave earth.

Weather in Bali in Overview

Whatever the season, Bali always provides an enchanting holiday. The sun is mostly always out and the locals are almost always smiling, and despite what the weather might have up its sleeve, there is always a way to enjoy Bali.

Take the time to plan what you want out of your holiday, evaluate the pros and cons of each season and make Bali’s weather work for you.

Weather in Bali
Photo credit island travel biz

Already been to Gili? Journey to Komodo, the land before time

Once you’ve arrived in Bali, completely relaxed, and broken away from the stress of the world, you might start hankering for a spot of adventure. After all, you’re in the most beautiful archipelago in the region. There’ so much more to see and experience beyond Bali and it’s only a stone’s throw away.

The most common trail for a weekend break from Bali is Lombok and Gili. But assuming you’ve already been and want to witness something truly special, then you must visit Labuhan Bajo, a picturesque fishing village and gateway to the Flores archipelago and untouched islands of Komodo National Park.

The Flores archipelago is viewed by many as the most scenic cluster of uninhabited islands.

With its pristine headlands and untouched coral reefs, it’s as mesmerizing under water as it is on land.

Dutch sailors stumbled upon the Komodo islands in 1910, and since then, the endangered creatures have been extensively studied and protected in their native habitat. You’ve probably already seen them on nature programs, but seeing this giant lizard in real life is an incredible experience for both young and old.

The best time to visit Komodo National Park is during the dry season from April to December. However spotting the Komodo dragon during their mating and nesting seasons (July to August, and September to November) is not as easy, so timing your visit is a wise thing to do.

Journey to Komodo: Getting there

Labuhan Bajo harbour

Three flights on Merpati Airlines, Wings and Lion Air depart daily from Bali to Labuhan Bajo. Book these through a travel agent or at Denpasar airport and you should get a better rate than booking online. A return flight shouldn’t cost more than USD$300 during high season, and around USD$200 – 250 when it’s less busy.

The short one and a half hour flight passes over clusters of tiny islands, mountains and headlands, but don’t expect to get a good picture from the dusty window of the old planes. When you arrive at Labuhan Bajo airport you get the sense you’re now in “real Indonesia” as you walk onto the tarmac.

Taxis from the airport to your hotel are small minivans that carry up to six people. The driver will usually fill the taxi with other passengers before taking off and the journey costs about US$7 per person to get to the south of the town, 10 minutes away from the main hub.

Even though plenty of tourists pass through this charming fishing town and there’s evidence of halted construction and jerky development, the town remains relatively untouched. The tourist shops and hotels don’t encroach on the town, instead they’re set back from the daily life of the town and its people. Nothing here is over developed or overly packaged to cater for tourists. Not even the shabby restaurant shacks that squat on the side of the hill overlooking the harbour.

Journey to Komodo: Where to stay

Accommodation in Labuhan Bajo is a no frills affair. Many of the inns and hotels look rather run down, so look for something rustic with charm or a new-ish resort. It doesn’t cost much more than staying in a hostel or a homestay and besides, you need a comfortable room to get a good rest after spending your days on the sea.

The Waecicu Eden Beach Hotel, located 15 minutes from the harbour in a gorgeous bay, is a great option. You’ll have brilliant views of the setting sun and be close to trekking trails in the surrounding hills. The wooden thatched roof bungalows perched on the hill above the beach stay cool in the day and let in the gentle song of ocean at night.

If you prefer beach hotels, then Puri Sari Beach Hotel is a great option that offers great rates (USD$70 during low season and USD$80 at high season). The rooms are spacious, with modern bathrooms and reliable water heaters.

Seven Seas liveaboard cruise diving boat Labuhan Bajo

The reefs around Komodo National Park are outstanding dive spots for sharks, massive rays, giant squid, tiny pygmy seahorse and occassionaly, the Blue Whale.

Liveaboard expedition boats dot the Labuhan Bajo harbour, however trips are scheduled in advance to fill the cabins, so if you’re an avid diver, this is definitely worth looking into.

The Seven Seas sails regularly around Komodo and to the East of Flores and Raja Ampat.

Rates are fixed at US$450 per person per night or US$900 per cabin per night until 2015. There are eight staterooms onboard which can be booked individually, or as a group with a good discount. Visit The Seven Seas website for more information or email

Journey to Komodo: What to do

Komodo dragon Indonesia

Being the sort of tourist town that it is, the taxi driver from the airport might have already presented you with a range of activity options and prices. But it’s often worth waiting to organise a day trip directly with a local tour operator. You can either share a small boat with other groups of tourists or rent one to yourself at USD$80 for the day. This doesn’t include the island fees of about IDR25,000 per person for admission and a guide.

Komodo Island is a UNESCO World Heritage site and was recently named one of the New Seven Wonders of Nature. The Pink Sand beach on the island is also only one of seven found in the world, made of white and red sand and the Foraminifera amoeba. The giant lizards are usually quite easy to spot, however there’s also more of them on Rinca Island along a shorter and less challenging trail.

You get to learn a lot about the Komodo dragons and the history of the islands from the guides.

The giant beasts are scattered throughout the trail and it’s unnerving walking past them when they flick their bright blue tongues in the air, but the guides assure they are well fed and pose no threat.

Snorkeling in one of the dynamic reefs teaming with ocean life after trekking on foot is a welcome treat in the afternoon. The array of colours and species in the shallow waters is amongst the most vibrant snorkeling in the world.

In the late afternoon, the sun burns low in the sky toward Seraya Island, where traditional fishermen trapped their prey in bamboo structures as the tide washed out. The perfect site for sailing home.

If you’ve still got some steam left in you in the evening, get a boat out to Kalong Island at dusk when screeching swarms of giant flying fox bats rush from the mangrove island in search of food.

Journey to Komodo: Where to take a great photo

Labuhan Bajo town

In the evenings, the main road in Labuhan Bajo comes alive with local hawkers and evening moped traffic. Set above the harbour, you can capture the view of the main cove and collection of shops, houses, hotels and restaurants that line the steep hill.

You’ll need to find an unobstructed view to capture a good panoramic photo away from tangled power lines and solitary poles that pierce the horizon.

Finally, don’t forget to snap a picture of the town as your boat moors into the harbour after a day at sea. The multi coloured shacks and houses stacked on top of each other make for a great travel shot for the photo album.

A guide to people’s names in Bali

You may come to Bali for the beaches, nightclubs, resorts and spas. You might be here to surf, or to practice yoga, or just to sip on a long cold drink as you take in a view of the rice fields. Whatever your reason for visiting the Island of the Gods, one of its biggest delights is the local people.

Apart from the act of buying (or refusing to buy) something, many visitors never seem to start a conversation with the locals – which is a pity as Bali must have the world’s friendliest people.

But where can you start?

How can you get to know a stranger in Indonesia if you have nothing in common apart from buying and selling? Well, you can actually learn quite a bit just by knowing their name.

Name badges, shop signs, business cards  and other media that bear a personal name can also tell you a lot. If you read on, you may like to come on a journey that brings these seemingly dull objects to life. This is a guide to people’s names in Bali.

The most common Balinese names

Imagine you get back to your hotel after a day out, and are told someone called “Ni Wayan” had called, asking for you. The name alone tells you she was the oldest child in her family, female, and Balinese. How do you know this? Read on…

When they introduce themselves, the name most Balinese people will give you is not a personal name at all. In this ancient culture, the most commonly used names simply indicate the person’s position in the family as first, second, third or fourth born child.

We are about to show you four pictures. Each contains the name of someone who is first, second, third or fourth born. When you have finished reading this article you  will be able to decipher them.

A guide to people's names in Bali.
Snippets from an advertising catalogue. Photo via Niluh Djelantik
A guide to people's names in Bali.
Ngurah Rai airport. Via Bali Airport Guide.
A guide to people's names in Bali.
A business card from a public notary.
A guide to people's names in Bali.
A sign for an artist’s studio.

So – each of these pictures contains the name of someone who is the first-, second-, third- or fourth-born child in their family.

This next part is really important:

You have, perhaps, met one or two “experts” in a warung or bar who tell you there are only four Balinese names: Wayan, Made, Nyoman and Ketut, meaning first-, second-, third- and fourth-born. Things are not quite that neat and tidy!

While Wayan is the most common name for first born children, they may have the alternative names Putu, Gede or (for girls only) Ni Luh. Any of these indicate that he or she is the first born child.

The second child in the family is usually called Made, which means “middle”,  but is just as likely to be called Nengah, Ngurah or Kadek.

The third born child is called Nyoman or Komang.

There is only one ‘fourth born‘ name: Ketut. In previous centuries Balinese families were not encouraged to have more than three kids, and may have practised some form of traditional birth control. Nowadays there are plenty of fourth born kids, so a name was needed. Ketut means “little banana” – the smallest banana at the end of a bunch. Some of Bali’s more remote districts have been slow to adopt this name.

What about fifth born child? Or a sixth?

A family with a fifth born child might call him “little Wayan”, the sixth “little Made” – and so on.

As most of these names are also the same for boys and girls, they might add the prefix “I” (pronounced “ee”) for boys and “Ni” (nee) for girls. They are similar in meaning to “Mister” and “Ms”.

Last names

Most Balinese people also have a last name, but don’t fall into the trap of thinking this is a family name or surname – it probably isn’t. While some modern-thinking families have adopted a surname, most Balinese last names are personal names. For example, the well-known Ubud artist I Wayan Karja’s name means “first born son whose name is Karja”. In a workplace or at a meeting where there are several Wayans, he might be referred to simply as “Karja” or, because he is also a teacher, his students might call him “Pak” Karja (more about this a little later). His younger brother’s name is I Made Jodog – and as you can see, their names are no indication that they are related.

The Hindu caste system

This system of names is part of Bali’s indigenous culture, and probably followed by all Balinese until the Majapahits invaded from Java in the Fourteenth Century. Up until then the Balinese, although Hindu, had no caste system. A very few “Bali Aga” villages such as Tenganan and Trunyan, which never submitted to the Majapahits, still have no caste system.

A guide to people's names in Bali.
Rice growers are traditionally of the Sudra caste. Photo via W0jtas

However the invaders brought the Hindu caste system with them, so the ordinary Balinese people got slotted in as, you guessed it, the lowst Hindu caste. They are now regarded as the “Sudra” caste – the caste of rice growers and artisans. The invading Majapahits became the “higher” Hindu castes: the Wesia, Ksatria and Brahmana.

You can often tell if someone is a member of one of these castes by their name.

Wesia names

The Wesia caste (Vaisya in Sanskrit) is a caste of merchants, soldiers and landowners, a bit like the old English Yeomanry.

Wesia people will often introduce themselves, and be called, by the name “Gusti” which means “leader”.

A Wesia man tends to be called Gusti Bagus (followed by a personal name) and a Wesia woman Gusti Ayu (followed by a personal name).

However it is a mistake to think everyone with the title Gusti is a Wesia, as some families in past centuries were somehow promoted to the next caste, the Ksatria. More on this in a moment.

Ksatria names

Ksatria are the aristocracy. All of Bali’s kings are Ksatria. Ksatria people often use the name “Agung” – for example, the well-known businessman and museum founder Anak Agung Gede Rai.

“Agung” means “great”, and Agung names take these forms: Anak Agung (male), Anak Agung Ayu or Anak Agung Istri (female).

However don’t fall into the trap of thinking someone is not a Ksatria because they don’t use the name Agung. Ubud’s most famous artist, I Gusti Nyoman Lempad, was a Ksatria, and as you can see he retained the title “Gusti”, the birth order name “Nyoman” as well as as the personal name “Lempad”.

A guide to people's names in Bali.
From a security guard’s name tag. Photo via Cikaso Lima Dua.

A Ksatria man’s name will often begin with I Gusti Ngurah (followed by other names) and a Ksatria woman Ni Gusti Ayu (followed by other names).

Tjokorda, meaning “foot of the gods”, is a less common Ksatria name reserved for a higher sub-caste within the Ksatria. It is often abbreviated Tjok (for a man) and extended to Tjokorda Istri (for a woman).

Another less common Ksatria name is Dewa. This may take the forms Ida I Dewa, Dewa Agung or I Dewa (for a man), or for a woman Ni Dewa Ayu or Ni Dewa Desak.

A guide to people's names in Bali.
A Balinese king, 1597.

Brahmana names

A guide to people's names in Bali.
Name tags for a medical specialist. Photo via Miftah Advertising.

The Brahmana (Brahmin) are the Hindu priestly caste. This is a bit confusing, as Bali already had native Hindu priests before the Majapahits invaded. These native priests still look after the temples, bless Gamelan players before concerts, make and provide holy water etc but they are regarded as Sudras!

A guide to people's names in Bali.
Dayu Rama, aka Ida Ayu Ramayanti. Photo via Dayu Rama

Brahmana are traditionally teachers, scholars, judges and priests. They officiate at larger ceremonies and festivals.

Brahmin tend to have the titles Ida Bagus (for a man) and Ida Ayu (for a woman), and a personal name. Brahmin people often shorten these names, for example the businesswoman Ida Ayu Ramayanti is usually known as “Dayu Rama”.

Western names

A guide to people's names in Bali.
Graphic for a hair and beauty salon. Image via Ida Ayu Ramayanti.

As you may have noticed, some Balinese use “Western names”, although they are rarely given at birth. Dayu Rama took the extra name “Daniell” when she opened a beauty salon. On her first promotional flyers she was “Dayurama Daniell”, and she now has “Daniell Salon & Bridal” shops in Denpasar and Sanur.

However you can’t assume someone with a Western name is Balinese. In Bali you will meet Indonesians from other islands, some with Western names. If the name sounds somewhat Dutch or Portuguese, for example, you may find yourself asking “is this person Balinese?”.

Is this person Balinese?

We thought you would never ask! Bali has plenty of resident Indonesians from other islands, attracted by business and job opportunities or sometimes just the more relaxed lifestyle. Whether you pick it up from a name tag on a uniform or are straight-out introduced, the first thing you can usually tell by someone’s name is whether or not they are Balinese. Their names will often give you a clue as to where they are from and even their religion.

Dutch and Portuguese names

A guide to people's names in Bali.
Photo via Miftah Advertising.

Many Indonesians come from former Portuguese colonies such as Flores. An Indonesian with a name like Rodrigues or Goncalves is therefore probably a Roman Catholic.

A guide to people's names in Bali.
Arie Soelaijman. Photo via Arie Soelaijman.

You may also meet an Indonesian citizen with a Dutch name who tells you they are “Dutch”. This generally means they had one or more Dutch ancestors. Denpasar businesswoman Arie Soelaijman is a good example. She has a Dutch great-grandfather in her lineage, as well as Javanese and Sundanese ancestors.

“My mother was a Roman Catholic who convert to Islam just like grandma, and I am a Protestant,” she says.

“Dutch” Indonesians tend to be Christians.

Javanese names

A guide to people's names in Bali.
A typical Javanese name. Photo via Miftah Advertising.

Many police and other government officials you meet in Bali will be Javanese, as well as shopkeepers in southern coastal towns. Typical Javanese names end in an “a” or “o” and often begin with the syllable “Su” which means “best”. Indonesia’s first President Sukarno is a good example.

While Javanese people traditionally only have one name, modern-thinking people sometimes adopt a surname which is usually the name of a prominent male family member. My old Bahasa Indonesia teacher, Pak Purwanto, insisted he had only one name. However when it came to publishing his textbooks, his publisher insisted on a surname so he used the name of his father, Danesegondo.

People with Javanese names usually identify as Muslims, but retain a lot of Hindu customs such as the Wayang Kulit shadow puppets which have a long tradition in Jogjakarta and Solo. They may also retain some more animistic beliefs and practises, like consulting a dukan (Javanese shaman) for advice about important decisions. These “syncretic” Javanese are known as “Abangan”.

A guide to people's names in Bali.
Many police officers in Bali are Javanese. Photo via Donum Theo.

 Arabic names

A guide to people's names in Bali.
Name tag with an Arabic name. Photo via Miftah Advertising.

Indonesians with Arab names tend to be from more strictly Muslim provinces like Aceh in Sumatra. Javanese with a more strictly Muslim orientation, known as “Santri” Javanese, may also have an Arab name.

Arab names are also the norm for Malays in Singapore, Malaysia and the Muslim parts of the southern Phillipines. If you have just sat down next to Abdul or Fatima on a plane, you can’t assume they are Indonesian.


The Batak people are another important migrant group. While Batak names are too complicated to explain in this article, it is worth knowing a little about the people.

They are known for leaving their own tribal lands, around Lake Toba in inland north Sumatra, to seek out opportunities. They are typically very entrepreneurial and plain speaking.

Christian missionaries converted most Bataks to their faith in the 19th Century, and also taught them Western music. According to an old saying: “one Batak will play the guitar, two Bataks will play chess, three Bataks will form a choir and sing in harmony”.


A guide to people's names in Bali.
A girls school in 1941. Students address their male teachers as ‘Pak’.

We promised to talk about honourifics or polite and respectful modes of address.

Pak (short for “Bapak”, father) and Ibu (“mother”, often shortened to “Bu”) are honorifics you might like to use with people older than you, or to whom you wish to pay particular respect, such as your teacher. If you wish to tone this down slightly – perhaps for someone of a similar age to yourself – you might like to use the honourific “Kakak” which means older brother or sister. A waiter or waitress in a restaurant might call you “Kakak”, even if you appear to be about the same age. (And yes, if you are curious, a younger sibling is called “Adik”. There is no word for brother or for sister in Indonesian.)

Unless you expect to meet the President, the only other honourific you are likely to need is “Dokter” – used for both medical and academic doctors.

People who change their caste

It is not unusual for someone in Bali to “change” caste, usually by marrying someone of a higher caste. A name often used by Sudra women who marry Wesia men is “Ibu Jero”. If a lady introduces herself as Ibu Jero she has literally changed her name to indicate she has been “admitted” (jero) to another caste.

The Pande – people outside the caste system.

A guide to people's names in Bali.
Photo via Michael Woon.

A Balinese clan that has populated the island while staying outside the caste system is the Pande. Although they now follow many different occupations, Pande are traditionally blacksmiths. They claim descent from a single famous armourer that came to Bali with the Majapahit invaders. Perhaps the demand for their trade gave them certain privileges, such as a temple at the Besakih Mother Temple complex that they regard as equal in status to the Brahman temple.

Some Pande still use names that identify them as members of this group. As one member explained: “if a male Balinese has Pande in front of his birth order name or before his real name, he is from the Pande clan.”

She gave two names as examples: Pande Made Mahardika and I Pande Putu Raka.

“In my family we use family name “Pendit” that came from Pande,” she continued, using her name as an example: “Putu Ayu Nova Andina Pendit”.

Ina Pendit, as she prefers to be known, says it is unusual for Balinese to have family names.

“My great grandpa, like 100 years ago, he started to put his own name Pendit to his children. But only the straight blood can have this name. I got this name from my Dad. My Mom was not given this name. And my Dad got this name from my Grandma as the head of the family, while my Grandpa that married in to the Pendit family was not given this name. And since 50 years ago some other families also started putting their name to their children. Now in my home town (Tabanan) there’s some family names that are famous. ‘Dusak’, ‘Sapanca’ and mine ‘Pendit’.”

A guide to people's names in Bali.
Ina Pendit. Photo via Ina Pendit.

A word of warning

As you can see, for every rule there are several exceptions. You might like to use this article as a starting point as you explore the fascinating world of Bali and its people, but please don’t take it as a template to fit all occasions. For every rule you will find plenty of exceptions, often by making a mistake. People in Bali are generally forgiving of polite “wisita” who don’t always get it right, particularly if you make an effort to speak a little Bahasa Indonesia.

If you are friendly and respectful you will find the local people to be very giving and a lot of fun.

So, what’s in a name? Plenty!


That’s handy – How to avoid the awkward “Happy Ending” conversation

Here at InBali, we love to tell you about some of the amazing, high-end spas and retreats that cater to all of your wellbeing needs. Check out some of these great spots if you love a good pamper, damn the cost. This article, however, is aimed at a very different kind of person; the kind that likes their pampering cheap and grotty.

The cheap and cheerful massage isn’t anything new. Visit almost any part of Thailand and Cambodia and you will find cheap massage parlours offering a quick foot rub right there on the roadside. I love being able to sip a beer and watch the world go by while someone tends to my tendons for next to nothing, and seemingly so does everyone else if the sheer number of these establishments is anything to go by.

Bali’s appeal in this market falls to the very cheap massages that are available up and down the busy streets of the big towns like Kuta. The difference here is that there are none of those outdoor seats that guarantee there won’t be any ‘funny business’, and most of the parlour windows are even tinted. With a bit of haggling, the prices for a Balinese massage in these joints can drop as low as 30,000 IDR (around $2.60) for a sixty minute session. I have had some very professional massages for this price, though I have had a couple of terrible experiences to boot.

I recently wrote an article about an Ayurvedic massage that went awry in India. Part of the surprise was the ease in which a good massage can quickly turn into an awful, awkward experience due to one major factor: the proposed happy ending.

For me, once the happy ending has been brought up, there can only be one of two possible outcomes; you take the happy ending or you refuse it, and cringe through the next several awkward minutes while you dress and pretend nothing out of the ordinary has happened. I’ll always take the latter, but I would prefer neither.

I don’t have anything against prostitution per se. If policed well, and both parties are equally up for it, then it seems a win-win situation. The old saying that prostitution is the longest standing profession exists for good reason. The problem arises when the sex trade is forced underground and it becomes an open, black market. That is when choice gets taken away and the system becomes a platform for opportunists to exploit the weak.

Prostitution becomes trafficking, with many women forced into the trade and others seeing it as one of the only viable options in countries, like Indonesia, where there is a poor employment rate. Of course, it’s easy for me to wax indignant and I am aware I won’t be personally solving such a longstanding problem by doing so, but I do believe that the scale of the sex trade in Southeast Asia has diluted its status as taboo. Too many people now see it as the norm.

The main culprit in perpetuating this trend is the Southeast Asia sexpat, or sex tourist for those that are on a flying visit. If you have any experience in this part of the world, you probably know the type. A lot of them fit a stereotype: wiry white hair, if any; and leathery skin, creased at the corners but stretched tight over a gut that seems fit to burst, spewing beer and rot everywhere.

They flock to the same seedy haunts night after night, silently hating each other for reminding themselves of themselves. The most heinous may strike up a friendship based on comparing notes and prices, whilst throwing in the odd slur or crass joke. Some discuss whether two twenty year olds or one fifteen year old is better value for money and treat the value of a human on par with the value of a consumable.

They come from all over the world but each remains ignorant of the country they are in and staunchly proud of the country they are from, despite the fact that said country wouldn’t accept their behaviour and is certainly not proud of them. They run their greasy fingers down the young spines of those that have been purchased for an evening’s entertainment.

Which brings me around to Bali, or more specifically for this article: Kuta. When considering the whole of this beautiful island, only in Kuta can I be casually stopped with a hand on my chest at 8.30am and asked: “Cocaine?”. To which I politely reply “Nur fank you” through a mouthful of coffee soaked pastry crumbs that I am busy devouring. Why do I always thank people like this?

Only in Kuta can the salacious sexpat be celebrated so openly; plied to with open calls of ‘special’ massages and cheap girls. There’s a notable difference between the kind of offers I receive while walking down Poppies Lane with my lady and the kind I receive when I walk on my own.

The sex trade is so commonplace in the shady lanes of Kuta that people barely bat an eyelid when perverts walk hand in hand with young girls, and open discussion of pricing aren’t even frowned upon. That ‘the awkward conversation’ is even a consideration makes me a little bit sad.

Then there are the clubs where girls parade onstage and the late evening punters arrogantly wave their money in the air. At the end of the night each girl accompanies her highest bidder, leaving with them as they smirk and leer and show off their trophies.

This is not a side of Bali worth celebrating.

One massage parlour I visited seemed completely legitimate until, toward the end of the hour, I heard an older fellow a few tables down soliciting a “happier massage” for the weekend. The girls giggled agreement and offered him a choice, to which he replied:

“Her. What’s her name?”

“Her?” His masseuse obviously pointed at one of the girls.

“No no, not her. That one. The young one… What’s the young one called? I like her.”

I left, disgusted, and slipped my sandals on to walk past several burly blokes who seemed to be running the establishment.

“How was that mate? Good girls, yeah?”

“Mmhmm” I said, tight-lipped.

“Hahaha, you’re a good man!”

“And you’re a dickhead” I said menacingly, smashing my warm Bintang over the head of the closest bloke to me and brandishing the broken bottleneck as a shank. Thus started my one man crusade against the Indonesian sex trade.

Not really. I laughed along, thanked them politely and scuttled off to my room to write a ranting article.

It isn’t all that bad…

Although you may not believe it at this point, the aim of this article isn’t all doom and gloom. As much as I am imploring you to avoid this lifestyle, I genuinely believe that the dodgy establishments are still the minority. Plenty of the budget massage parlours are just that, and do not double up as makeshift brothels.

Likewise, the majority of night clubs are there for good clean fun. The tricky part is finding out which ones are legitimate without learning the hard way.

At prices like this, the only real gamble is with your time and dignity, and if you are holidaying in this part of Kuta you have probably already accepted that you have plenty of one and not much to lose of the other. Cheap options come with the risk of ambiguity and if, like me, you have no desire to fall into the awkward conversation then you really need to weigh up the risk versus the amount of money you can save. Oh, and please don’t think that these services cater solely to men. I’ve heard some very interesting accounts from the ladies too.

The problem comes with the fact that many of the legitimate parlours know their audience in Kuta, and will often tend toward ambiguity for the sake of a sale. This means flirting and faux fawning are all part of the pitch, even if the parlour is above board.

In my experience, the gamble has paid off more often than not, but some of the of the bad experiences have been interesting. One parlour replaced soothing music with a screaming toddler that kept at it for around forty minutes. Another seemingly legitimate parlour tried to scam me at every turn, by adding extras to the bill without permission.

Lighting a scented candle and trying to force a pedicure on me was apparently enough to double my bill.

Another masseuse did grab for the goodies at one point, forcing me for the first time into the awkward conversation. In that moment, I probably would have paid premium rates to get myself out of the room thirty seconds quicker. Since then I have always followed the guide below to avoid the same thing happening again.

The Guide

If none of the above has managed to put you off, then here is my guide to finding a cheap, legitimate massage in Kuta:

  • You walk the busy high streets casually pretending you aren’t looking for a massage, avoiding the hassle, while subtly checking the price boards and the cleanliness of the establishment out of the corner of your eye.
  • Every single parlour you pass will have several girls sitting outside. Beware of these sirens, they will try anything to hook you.
  • Avoid eye-contact. If you don’t, you are entering into an unspoken contract that allows the girls to jump in front of you, grab at you and screech sweet nothings in your face. Any dawdling in the general area will almost always be met by a high-pitched chorus of “Massage?” and a leaflet thrust into your hands with the list of prices.
  • Have your story ready; this is the moment on which everything hinges. Halve the price they quote and tell them that you were offered said price further down the lane so you are going to take your business there.
  • Revel in your own glory as the highball price initially quoted suddenly shrinks.
  • If they have won you over, and the parlour looks open enough and brightly lit, tell them exactly what you want. Specify your back and shoulders or your feet rather than a full body and you will be much less likely to suffer ‘the awkward conversation’ down the line.
  • Good-luck resisting their charming compliments as several of the girls gather around you, barrelling you into the room and starting the hustle.
  • “Hey big boy, wow you are handsome boy, most handsome all day,” they will say as you begin to realise that instead of one masseuse, you suddenly have three.
  • Thanks”, you’ll think, “I am a big handsome boy”.
  • Put that thought aside! You need to tell them exactly what you want again: “Just one masseuse, no extras, just a back massage.”
  • Everyone gets the same treatment, I learnt this the hard way. You really have to be firm about what you want and repeat it several times.
  • Relax, enjoy the massage and periodically refuse the extra costs that the masseuse will try to pile on.
  • Voice any preferences early, such as how much pressure you prefer or if you need them to avoid that painful scooter burn (aka: a “Bali tattoo“) you may have picked up.
  • Each of the endless lines of massage parlours in Kuta will ply you with the same schtick, with varying prices and levels of aggression. Avoid the ones that are way too pushy as they are desperate for a reason. The higher quality parlours will probably have a steady trickle of returning clients, so they won’t feel the need to sweep the streets for customers quite as much.
  • Rely on your instincts and you may be rewarded, but do expect a little trial and error.
  • Tip well if the masseuse deserves it, then keep coming back. Remember to tell everyone where they can reap the rewards of your findings, that’s what the comments box at the bottom of this page is for.

That was easy…

Well, not so fast. Even with this handy guide, you may find yourself on the wrong side of a slippery hand. When it comes to the moment of truth, where the massage could quickly take a sinister turn, I find the best way to combat it is to muster your best foreigner voice and firmly state ’No, not today thankyou’, then don’t make eye contact for the entire few minutes it takes you to put your clothes back on, pick up your warm beer and pay your $2.50 without tip.

Boy, does it get more awkward when you have to pay with a big note and tease your change out of the hands of what you now know is an angry, rejected prostitute.

Wait a minute… I think the moral of the story here might be that it isn’t worth the hassle and you do get what you pay for, after all. Go for a proper spa, guys.

And if you happen to be the type who is reading this and thinking “Yeah, but I DO want the ending to be as happy as possible”… well, read the first few paragraphs again.

Still hankering for a spankering? I have hidden a little secret password in this article that is guaranteed to get you what you want if you whisper it in the ear of the masseause, whichever establishment you choose. Just read the first letter of each of the bullet points.

Shhh… don’t tell anyone.

The newbies guide to surfing in Bali

Blessed with 365 days of swell, damn good weather and pristine warm water temps, the island of the Gods is a fave surf destination for travellers.

With 60 plus surf spots scattered across the island, surfers and holidaymakers are spoilt for choice. But before you throw on some board shorts and hit Kuta’s gnarly waves with a longboard in tow, check out our newbies guide to surfing in Bali. It will see you “shredding” beyond the shoreline in no time…

Surfs Up! Unleash your inner surf goddess.

Bali surf seasons

Peak Season

The peak surf season for Bali is from April to October where solid swells hit the reefs around Uluwatu, Nusa Dua and Kuta.

Wet Season

The wet season is from November until March, a time when the surf isn’t quite as large and intimidating, but it’s consistent. Waves are roughly 3 – 5 feet in height, day after day.

Opposing winds offer good conditions, particularly in the clear waters and snoozy spots of Nusa Dua and Sanur – just some of the prized surf locations during the wet season.

Riding the ultimate wave in Bali.

A short history of Bali’s golden years of surf…

Way back in 1936, Californian surfer Bob Koke moved from the shores of Hawaii and set up home in Bali, opening the Bali Hotel on Kuta Beach with his wife Louise.

Kuta was an empty coast back then, but with Bob’s arrival it became the island’s first ‘surfer’s beach’.

Surfing didn’t immediately catch on with the locals and tourist folk alike, so fortunately for Bob he had the entire Bukit all to himself.

By the 1960s and 70s, intrepid surfers like Kim Bradley, Jerry Lopez (aka Mr. Pipeline) and Rory Russell came across the Bukit Peninsula, and started trickling into the island for a taste of this surfing sanctuary.

Lopez and Russell were credited for exposing and validating Indonesia and prime spots like Bali as a comprehensive surf destination with immense potential.

Gerry Lopez. Photo by: ©Don King

Gerry Lopez “Mr Pipeline” in action

Surf, sun, sea, serenity: the ultimate mecca for surfers

Bali has been the ultimate mecca for surfers since the 60s and 70s, from Uluwatu to Bukit and Old Man’s Canguu, the combination of surf, sun, sea and serenity attracts hordes of surfers from learners to professionals and is part of the top ten reasons of Bali’s attraction and mystique.

Bali’s tourism industry owes a lot to the sport, after all it was the surf at Kuta Beach that first attracted the Aussies and Kiwi’s back in the golden years.

Bali Surf Map “The Bukit” (Uluwatu to Balangan) by Guy Hastings

Classic surf movies shot in Bali

Classic surf movies. 'Morning of the Earth', 'The Endless Summer', 'NIAS Point of Change'.

Cult surf movies followed spreading the gospel of surf in faraway lands, as surf culture went on the move to find the best waves, leaving viewers with a sense of awe and an itch for discovery…

Spreading the gospel of surf in faraway lands, as surf culture went on the move to find the best waves.

Classic gems such as  Morning of the Earth features Steve Cooney and Rusty Miller riding perfect peaks in Bali as well as Australia’s north-east coast and Hawaii, ultimately portraying surfers living in spiritual harmony with nature and in search for the perfect wave.

Shot featured in surf film 'Morning of the Earth'.

The crown jewel of surf movies, Bruce Brown’s The Endless Summer, adored by critics and surfers alike, shows two West Coast surfers travelling the world in search of amazing waves.

Brown’s film masterfully captures surfing as a fun-loving, sociable, sunny sport, and the production value is like a well-made home video. The Endless Summer II highlights the popularity of the iconic past-time and how far the love of the sport has spread with footage of surf sessions from Java and Bali to South Africa, Costa Rica, France, and even as far as Alaska.

Indonesia’s female surfer Yasnyiar “Bonne” Gea stars in NIAS Point of Change, a recently released doco that focuses on the phenomenal Indo surfer.

Bonne Gea was the first female surfer in Nīas and pursued her passion of surfing. Despite all the odds, she went on to become five times Indonesia’s Women’s Surfing Champion. A true inspiration and local hero!

Yasnyiar “Bonne” Gea, surf chanpion of Indonesia.

Best Bali surf spots for newbies…

There are many famed surf spots around the island, however some are often dominated by territorial pros, riding and fighting for the best waves.

The following beaches are in arms reach of major surf schools and sit conveniently within the main tourist hubs.

Surf school at Kuta Beach

Kuta Beach

This sandy beach stretch has fun and easy waves for the virgin surfer and novice to intermediate rider, with small swells and a variety of surf schools lining the beach. The waves are consistent, measuring at an average of one to three feet. However, the currents are sure to increase in the late afternoon.

Legian Beach

Known as the sister resort to Kuta Beach. The waves come in a steady variety (similar to Kuta) with a sandy break averaging one to three feet waves, with swells increasing in the late afternoon.

There are also notable surf schools found in Legian, such as the Rip Curl School of Surf and the Surf Academy at the Legian Beach Hotel, accredited by the Australian Academy of Surfing Instructors. The academy also offers fantastic wave-riding courses in the front of its garden pool.

Seminyak Beach

Just north of Legian Beach, Seminyak offers a great deal of swell often double the size of Kuta Beach. The ideal rideable waves offer plenty of lefts and rights as well as short lengths, great for surf virgins and kiddie riders.

Right on the borders of Legian, Dhyana Pura has some decent waves level to Kuta, and is way less crowded with an array of surf schools and camps running across the coast.

Batu Bolong Beach (Echo Beach) and Canguu

Pantai Batu Bolong, as named by the locals, is a beautiful sandy beach stretch from Seminyak boasting amazing views of the Indian Ocean.

The panoramic view of the sunset is simply breathtaking and a fave site for sunset surfs.

Nicknamed ‘Echo Beach‘ by the expat surfers, the waves cater to all types, from learners to the pros. There’s a consistent break and flat rock bed with waves under six feet, but learners should take caution when heading out as there are no lifeguards patrolling the coast.

Even if you’re still learning the art of surfing…take it up notch. Go ahead and impress your surf instructor for the next surf sesh and get your extra dose of the chillest BIGGER wave spots in Bali, but remember to always stay safe and know your limits!

Back to Surf School, with the basics…

Beginners and kid surfer. Canggu Surf School (Echo Beach)

Surf schools are a great way to learn how to surf in a short period of time while learning the techniques from scratch, picking up important tips, getting to know surf etiquette and gaining knowledge of the sport. Lessons are taught by fully trained and certified surf teachers in controlled, safe ocean environments. They will guide you through the waves and teach you the best ways to stand up on a surfboard.

A great surf school in Bali can teach you to take off on the first wave, usually in eight one-hour surf lessons. But it takes perseverance, practise and strength from you to make it happen!

In reality, learning how to surf is possible in say one or two months. Before you commence a class it’s important to note the coach to student ratio.

Each class with one surf instructor shouldn’t have more than eight surfers. Surf schools that do not respect the 1/8 ratio rule are violating the official security procedures.

Throughout the course, beginners will learn the primary skills of surfing such as:

  1. Paddling through the break and onto waves
  2. Taking off on a wave
  3. Trimming across the face of a wave
  4. Turning and cutting back forehand and backhand.

Surf teachers should be able to get a novice surfer to a surfing level in which the have the ability to do carving turns and cope with re-entries.

Great Bali Surf Schools

Canggu Surf School (Echo Beach)

Situated in the North of Kuta and Seminyak, the village of Canguu is a uniquely blended paradise positioned between a beautiful temple and a sprawling metropolis. Alongside an array of high-end shops, cafe culture, day spas and dreamy surf breaks you will find Canguu Surf School. The school is fantastic for beginners and teaches you step by step from the base. The beaches in the area are also suitable conditions for novices. The ISA certified surf instructors teach you the right technique from day one, whilst correcting you when necessary. Canguu also guarantees one professional coach for every two participants, so you’re sure to be catching your first real wave in no time!

Location: Jalan Pantai Sentosa, Echo Beach, Canggu
Tel: +62 (0)361 800 428 4
For more info hit up:

Balangan Wave Surf School and Rip Curl School of Surf

With calmer, crystal blue waters, Jimbaran Bay is one of Bali’s best and safest beaches with spectacular sunset spots to boot.

Jimbaran’s waves are great for the newbie surfers, too, and is fast becoming a must-see part of the island to explore. 

The crystal blue waters beckon virgin surfers, with an array of surf schools on offer such as the Rip Curl School of Surf and Balangan Wave Surf School, to assist in conquering that first mighty wave.

Rip Curl School of Surf offers surf schools in Legian, Sanur, Kuta and Jimbaran. They cater for kiddies, absolute beginners, as well as the advanced rider.

For more info on their classes and packages hit up:

Balangan Wave Surf School

For more info on their classes and offers hit up:

To view one of the best surf spots in action check out our crew hanging out in Balangan paradise.

Surf school requirements as instructed by ISA

The International Surfing Association (ISA) is the world governing body for surfing. The official ISA certified surf schools must renew their registrations every year. Read the full list of Obligations for a Registered Surf School.

It’s important to review the core guidelines of what surf schools must provide at their facilities:

  1. Soft-cored surfboards for beginners
  2. Wetsuits
  3. Safety helmets (on request)
  4. Water resistant sunscreen
  5. Comprehensive first aid kit
  6. Uniformly coloured rash vests for participants
  7. Area flags or markers (unless prohibited by local authorities)
  8. Whistle
  9. Rescue board
  10. Mobile phone

Surfboard hire and price guide in local currency (IDR)

Surfboards for hire on Bali’s beaches.

For all your surf renting needs, there’s a large selection of surf rental shops in Bali, particularly in the Kuta beach area.

The chart below is a general guide on the price for specific board rentals and an estimation of costs for the duration of hire. Most surf shops offer shortboards, longboards and mini-mals to hire, as well as wetsuits, a range of surf gear and UV protection surf shirts.

Board Rentals (price estimates from board rentals in the Bali area in IDR – Indonesian Rupiah)

                                                  1 hour  (hire)          1 day                      1 week                   2 weeks
Softboards (learners)          50, 000 IDR           100,000 IDR      600,000 IDR     1,000,000 IDR
Mini Malibu                          50, 000 IDR           100,000 IDR      600,000 IDR     1,000,000 IDR
Malibu’s                                 50, 000 IDR           100,000 IDR      600,000 IDR     1,000,000 IDR
Hard Boards                         50, 000 IDR           100,000 IDR      600,000 IDR     1,000,000 IDR

Check a currency converter to see what that means in your local coin.

Buying your first surfboard in the foam category

André graffiti artist hand painted Quicksilver board

A beginner’s surfboard is quite affordable and can be purchased for roughly $250 AUD. The soft / foam surfboard models are longer, wider and heavier, so beginners can easily take off on their initial waves. Beginner boards are made out of expanded polystyrene (EPS) foam which adds durability. This allows for higher buoyancy levels in order for beginners to easily stand-up while training. Yee-ha!

Weight and height – important surfboard variables…

Soft top surfboards via Surf Science

Weight and height are the initial variables to have in mind when purchasing your first board. Floatation demands volume and a good learner surfboard has high buoyancy.

Surf novices should buy soft top surfboards that will help them catch as many waves as possible in the early white water days. You will paddle much faster and will rapidly pop up on a stable board, despite it being bigger and heavier than your traditional shortboard.

Quality foam surfboards can last a long time. In size, they range from 6′ to 8′ feet. An average adult should be able to get started on an 8′ foot, while a child can learn with a 6′ foot.

Remember: the bigger the board, the faster you’ll be riding the waves!

Surfboard categories (primary styles to rent or buy)

What size? What shape? What style? A shortboard, a funboard or a longboard? Agh!

Most importantly, you have to choose a board that suits your weight and level of experience.

To select a board to rent or even buy whilst in Bali, we’ve provided a simple guide below indicating four surf board categories and their main features. Each has its own benefits for different styles of surfing and experience levels. There’s also a surfboard size to weight chart for beginners on a shortboard, malibu / funboard and longboard.

You will notice that the surfboard market has many names for specific types of boards such as shortboards, fishes, funboards, mini-mal, hybrids, long, mal, guns and paddleboards. In an attempt to strip it down to the surfboard basics, we’ve divided them into 4 categories, listing their characteristics and specific features:


Shortboards are made for the pretty good to expert surfer and are the most common style for the professionals.

Designed to maximise speed and manoeuvrability.

Size: 5’5” to 6’4” long | 16” to 19 wide


Shortboard – Size chart for beginners

Your weight

45 – 63 kg

63 – 72 kg

72 – 81 kg

81 – 90 kg

+ 90 kg

Your board

6′ 2″ – 6′ 4″

6′ 4″ – 6′ 8″

6′ 6″ – 6′ 10″

6′ 10″ – 7′ 4″

+ 7′ 4″

Malibu / Funboard

Mostly designed for the less-experienced surfer to have the turning ability of a shortboard and the paddling ease of a longboard.

Size: 6’6 to 8′ long | 20′ to 22′ wide


Malibu / Funboard – Size chart for beginners

Your weight

45 – 63 kg

63 – 72 kg

72 – 81 kg

81 – 90 kg

+ 90 kg

Your board

7′ 2″ – 7′ 4″

7′ 4″ – 7′ 6″

7′ 6″ – 7′ 8″

7′ 8″

+ 7′ 8″


Longboards float better than a shortboard.

They feature greater strength and a rounder nose, making it hard to manoeuvre but easy to paddle with and catch waves. Perfect for the beginner!

Size: 8′ to 10′ feet long.

Beginners should use a 9′ or 10′ foot board in foam. Once you master the art of surfing you can sell it and get a fibre glass version.


Longboard – Size chart for beginners

Your Weight

45 – 63 kg

63 – 72 kg

72 – 81 kg

81 – 90 kg

+ 90 kg

Your Board

9′ 2” – 9′ 4”

9′ 4” – 9′ 6”

9′ 6” – 9′ 8”

9′ 8” – 10′

+ 10’0


Hybrids can fit most kind of waves or surfers, combining elements from other styles.

Particularly targeted at experienced surfers who want a performance board which is heavier or a wider build, or even beginners who want a comfortable surfboard to paddle out on.

Size: 6′ feet long or even longer.


In short…

Shortboards are – fast, short and easy to turn but require a level of expertise to ride on. They are way more difficult to catch a wave with and require a lot of balance from the rider.

Malibu’s / funboards are a cross between a longboard and shortboard. They are a lot easier to turn than a longboard and much more buoyant, making it easier to catch a wave.

Longboards range from +8 feet long and will float pretty much anyone. They are slow and not the easiest to manoeuvre, but will ensure better paddling and improve your chances of catching a wave!

Those damn dings…and how to avoid them on a Bali surf vacay

Surfing with a ding in your board can shorten its lifespan remarkably. Unfortunately, if you don’t dry it out completely once the foam meets water, the board will start to de-laminate.

If you don’t want a damn ding ruining all the fun on your Bali surfing vaycay, invest in a mini ding repair kit before you venture across to Bali or purchase a kit in one of the surf stores on the island.

Ding Repair Kits

Play Ding Doctor!

There are several surfboard repair kits available on the market. So if you want to play Ding Doctor, reputable brands such as Solarez Pro Travel Kit, Dura Rez, by Phix Doctor and The Ding All Standard Repair Kit will do the trick.

Repair kits such as Solarez won’t discolour your board and best of all can be completed in 10 minutes.

To get the repair started, sand the damaged area thoroughly so that the solution can form a strong bond to your board. It’s advised that you apply it in the shade. Then place the board out in the sun for 5 minutes or so. This product will start to cure in less than a minute.

It’s strongly advised to let the foam dry out before you go ahead and make a permanent repair to your surfboard.

But BAD dings should be left to a professional

Let’s say your board gets knocked around on the plane before you even hit the water or you crack it during an epic wipeout, the best think to do is always have a surfboard repair kit handy or leave it to the professionals. We suggest you hit up Bali’s best ding repair doctors – the knowledgeable craftsmen at Naruki Surf Shop in Kuta.

They are known as the ding repair specialists and come highly recommended to mend all your board injuries. The local crew are masters in fixing surfboard damages and have become an institution with surfers on the island.

They also offer an impressive selection of second hand boards as well as expert advice, so rest assured you’ll be in good hands with these guys and your surfboard will thank you for it.

Location: Naruki Surf Shop – Jl. Benesari (off Poppies 2) Kuta

Naruki Surf Shop

Check in for up-to-date surf reports, swell forecasts and tide charts in Bali…

Swell forecasts assist in getting the best out of your surfing adventures.

Before hitting the waves, check the latest Swell Forecasts and get the most up-to-date weather and wave forecasts for Bali and Indonesia.

And be sure to check in with Tide Charts and the Daily Surf Report at sites like Indo Surf Life, which will assist with planning your surf sessions according to the surf conditions. Tide charts are also freely available in many surf shops in and around Bali each day.

If you’re still in doubt, go with the pros…

Still a little nervous? Make life simpler and go with the pros. There’s a plethora of Bali surf tours on offer, however choosing the best option is always a challenge. The crew at Bali Surfing Tours have been living and surfing in Bali for over 10 years, so they know exactly where to catch the ultimate wave whilst cruising the shores – and they’re happy to accommodate the full spectrum of surfers, from the total beginner to the very advanced.

Their tours range from the Bali Sunrise Tour, Speed Boat and Beginner Tour. With a wealth of knowledge under their belt, the crew will happily show you the great breaks and also paddle out with you to each surf break, whilst explaining tide changes and supreme take off spots.

For a first class adventure away from the crowds, the renowned  Shaka Yacht Tour boasts an epic surf trip aboard their 27 meter yacht. You’ll journey to some ideal remote islands such as Nusa Lembongan, Sumbawa, Lombok and many more depending on the tour – you choose the duration on Shaka’s deluxe floating getaway.

Please note: the Shaka Yacht Tour is for intermediate and advanced surfers only.

Shaka - I Yacht Surf Tour

Bali Surfing Tours provide:

– SHAKA1″ 80 ft yacht for the best surfing cruise experience
– Experienced surfing guides
– Exclusive surfing speedboat tours
– Surf lessons
– Surf photography
– Private surf instruction
– As well as guest accommodation

For more info on surf package deals hit up:
For outer surf tours contact:

Spoil yourself! Bali retreats for surf goddesses

Surf Goddess Retreats Bali is a luxury surf, yoga and Balinese spa boutique retreat for women. This is NO “my-body-is-my-temple” type set-up where dread-locked hippies hang, but a sanctuary for women who seek zen and want to learn how to surf and get pampered in-between.

For more info on slipping into goddess life check out:

Surf Goddess participant at Surf Goddess Retreats

Renting a phenomenal surf villa in a surfer’s paradise

Villa Impossible - Bali surf villa

Bali has some of the most exquisite surf villas and hideaways on offer.

We’ve combed through AirBnB and selected six phenomenal surf villas spread across tropical surrounds ranging from stylish Javanese décor, to awesome pop-art and contemporary style villas, all within a stones throw from good surf. Check it out and nab yourself a sweet place to rest your salty bones.

Up for a surf challenge?

The Indonesian Surfing Championships are an organised series of surfing competitions in Bali and across other parts of Indonesia, open to local and foreign surfers. It’s an awesome opportunity to take a gander at some of the best surfing in Indonesia!

Indonesia Surf Championships.

Bali is the ideal place for surf newbies…

Bali is the ideal place to learn how to surf and conquer the sport regardless of your skill level.

If you stick to the beginners beaches, Kuta in particular, you’ll be able to embrace the waves and adrenaline rush whilst learning how to ride in no time. All this teamed with the ultimate holiday or a new life chasing an endless summer!

Surf, sun, sea, serenity, surf...and chase the endless summer!

For more inspiration and local opinion, check out the series “Best Surf Breaks in Bali Indonesia’…

…and the GoPro Masters surfing story in Indonesia

Header image via Rip Curl Surf School

Top reasons to move to Bali: everything you need to know to live in Paradise

As well as being a cultural, spiritual and culinary hub to over 3.2 million tourists each year, Bali has a certain ‘permanent residency appeal’ to it. While many find the step from occasional traveller to full-time paradise resident a big one, we’re here to tell you it’s time to take the next step and say ‘yes’ to Bali. So book that one-way flight and get to your new island home.

Top reasons to move to Bali: the food

Bali’s humid climate and volcanic soil are the perfect conditions for growing and unearthing tropical fruit. You will never be too far from the sweet taste of a fresh coconut which will make Bali’s intense heat completely tolerable.

Mothers and grandmothers, the world’s favourite cooks, are scattered around the island as food vendors. Using recipes that have either been newly crafted or handed-down from past generations, they create comfort food that warms the stomach and can soothe even the most homesick soul.

Top reasons to move to Bali: the food

For green thumbs and those who love creating meals with ingredients sourced directly from growers, Bali will delight. The island’s pasars (local markets in Bali) allow you to handpick ingredients and chat to growers about their produce. This recent transition from supermarket shelves to produce market stalls allows for an interactive culinary experience.

Make the most of Bali’s natural supermarket and visit Ubud’s Organic Market. Here you will find a range of fresh produce as well as medicines, ointments, nuts, wheat-grass, tea, coffee, seeds, raw chocolate, soy milk, cakes and warm bread straight from the oven. There’s even incense, mosquito repellents and cleaning and skincare products on offer.

Top reasons to move to Bali: the food

One of the best things about this organic food movement is that the products are sourced from local independent growers and businesses, and made either chemical-free or with as few chemicals as possible. Not only is it great for you, but you will be saving money as produce from supermarkets is more expensive. Think of the Balinese pasar as your one-stop shop that sells everything you’ve ever wanted from a health conscious store without the pretentious pricing and intimidating shopkeepers.

Top reasons to move to Bali: the people

Having been born in Australia and raised in a proud Filipino family, I have never been deprived of culture and warm hospitality. I feel the same way in Bali. Whether it’s your first or 100th visit, everything is familiar. It’s one of the many reasons why people fall so hard for the island and its people.

It hardly comes as a surprise that a recent study by global market research group Ipsos revealed that, out of the 23 countries surveyed, Indonesia was the happiest.

Top reasons to move to Bali: the people

Around 55% of the people surveyed said they were “very happy” compared to 41% in India who ranked just below. As well as being happy, Indonesians are some of the most welcoming and friendly people you will come across.

With over 20,000 temples in Bali  (that’s at least three in each village), it’s comforting to know that Bali embraces spirituality. The island is made up of a mix of Hindu and Animism followers, despite the majority of Indonesia practicing Islam.

Galungan, a 10-day feast honouring ancestors’ spirits and the creator of the universe, Ida Sang Hyang Widi, is a major event in the 210 day Balinese Pawukon Calendar. During this time, Balinese Hindus celebrate Dharma’s (‘good’) victory over Adharma (‘evil’). Long bamboo poles are placed at the front right side of every home and decorated with colourful fruits, rice, coconut leaves and flowers. Similarly, temples are filled with food and flower offerings from families as a way to show gratitude and pray for protection. Many locals use the day before religious events to prepare, so keep in mind some businesses may be closed on this day too. On the final day (‘Kuningan’), the festive fever rises and streets are coloured with special performances, sacred rituals and pilgrims hailing from all over the island.

Tip: Sakenan Temple on Serangan Island Denpasar’s south is definitely the place to be during this time.

Top reasons to move to Bali: lifestyle and staff

So, how exactly do you turn a chance meeting with Bali into a long-term commitment? A move anywhere, laid-back Bali included, can attract a rather large upfront price tag. But trust us, once you’re settled in to island life, there will be so many perks and cost-savings that you will find it hard to leave.

Top reasons to move to Bali: lifestyle and staff

Domestic staff

Personal chefs, on-call chauffeurs and secluded luxury villas are not just for the rich and famous. Having a domestic staff is actually quite common in Indonesia but be sure to do your research. A good rule to follow is to be clear, respectful and always have a getaway plan. Be straightforward when you outline the salary, expectations and period of time you need the person to work. Check every reference and get a backup contact (in addition to the agency) who will be able to contact the person should you not be able to. Be clear on what you need and when you need it, but also respect their requests to have holiday leave. Catching the flu or needing a day off is part of being human so create hypothetical situations and prepare realistic solutions. Is there a day-care centre or school offering a drop-in program nearby? Can you have groceries delivered to your home? Is there a friend or colleague who can help with carpooling?

Staff usually either stay in your house with you (live-in) or work as if it was like any other job where they arrive at a certain hour and leave at the end of the day (live-out).

Drivers (sopir or supir) are incredibly useful when it comes to navigating the island and minimising stress. Many companies often provide expat workers with their own driver, but there are also agencies available to give you a helping hand.

Aside from driving, a sopir will be responsible for performing routine checks and maintenance on your vehicle, and anything else you both agree on. Be sure to do your research to determine if they are a safe driver. Ask where they travel on a regular basis and what kind of vehicle they usually drive. If their car tail is broken and their front door has fallen off, it’s usually a good indication that safe driving isn’t their strong point.

If you don’t want a driver, be sure to get an international driver’s license to avoid fines. While the cost to use public transport is cheap, journeys can be quite lengthy and uncomfortable.

security guard (satpam) may also be a comforting option for anyone living in Bali alone or for those who would like to feel more secure. Similarly, a jaga is available to screen and deal with unwanted guests and any visitors. Remember, you can be as strict as you like when creating and marking your checklist. You are hiring workers who will be responsible for your safety, health, family and belongings. Like with many services in Bali, English-speaking workers will tend to cost more.

Top reasons to move to Bali: lifestyle and staff


The price tag for most houses, serviced apartments and villas in Bali is,  on average, IDR23,000,000 per year. There’s also the option of finding a room in a luxury villa and prices for this normally range from IDR5,000,000 to IDR6,000,000 per month. Otherwise, you can choose to stay in a terima kos which is essentially just an empty room. Price range from IDR1,000,000 to IDR4,000,000 per month. While a private bathroom will be included in every kos, a kitchen isn’t a given and will slightly bump up the price.

For great living options, Ray White Paradise Property Group has everything you can expect from a popular and familiar real estate name. Their website is easy to navigate and includes detailed information with quality images. Some of the properties are also priced in USD to help compare costs.

Bali Reality is another great real estate company made up of both Western and Indonesian real estate experts with a love and focus for Bali living. The company provides other services such as investment sales and project marketing and development. If you’re dreaming of a fresh start and looking to build your company or home from the ground up, it might be useful to spend time searching for land to make your long-term plan more worthwhile.

Here are some hints on finding the best accommodation to suit you:

  1. Narrow the area to somewhere you have experienced a connection with and have stayed at for a decent amount of time. When you return home ask yourself, “was it just a really great holiday or the final piece of motivation I needed to start the next chapter of my life?”
  2. Read every single review and dig deeper into the negative and positive aspects of each comment.
  3. Find photos that show every angle of the property to ensure you get the most realistic, not just pretty, overview of the place. This will help to show exactly what’s included and how well it has been maintained.
  4. Use the little yellow man in Google Maps to get a street view. Make sure you’re comfortable with the location and how far you have to travel to get to other places as well as what’s available in the area.
  5. Research the source and ask questions. How reliable is the company you’re using to search for a home? What checks and procedures are done to make sure the place meets certain standards? How accountable and easily contactable are the hosts?

If you’re just wanting to dip your toes into Balinese living before committing to anything serious, try renting a self-contained villa offering similar features to what you want in your own home on your next holiday. Consider things such as what kind of access you need to the villa, how many and what kind of staff you’re looking for and what sort of extras you’re wanting.

Top reasons to move to Bali: employment

When it comes to employment Bali is a great place for creatives, self-starters and anyone looking to head in a new direction. Just look at Ben and Blair who took a serendipitous flight to Bali and ended up staying to create Big Tree Farms (aka the largest organic farm on the island). Or there’s our own Britain-to-Bali expert and success story, Liam.

Before arriving in Bali, confirm you have everything you need with the local embassy. Ensure you have a work permit rather than a business visa. A business visa will only allow you to remain in Bali for 60 days and is given strictly to those who can show a letter from their employer stating that the employee will be doing business in Indonesia, as well as a written guarantee to prove costs will be covered.

If you don’t qualify for either of these visas you will need to apply for a tourist visa, which will limit your stay to a maximum of 30 days. But who wants to sort documents when you can dig your feet deep into the sand, rest back on a mushy beach towel and sip margaritas? Not me.

Top reasons to move to Bali: employment

Similar to anywhere else in the world, job hunting in Bali can be tough.  Some Indonesian companies may prefer to employ local workers. There might be other challenges such as applying for a visa and making sure that you and the company have a work permit. So secure a job in Bali or hire an immigration agent before heading on the plane to complete the final stages of your life-changing transition.

If you’ve already arrived in Bali and are looking for work, the most effective way to secure a job is to network. Building relationships and rapport through a more relaxed setting, such as a work lunch, will allow you to get a better insight and to see where you stand. Make yourself known and keep a few resumes on you at all times. Who knows, you might just bump into someone who could become a mentor, employer or client. Joining social groups and becoming involved with charities and organisations are also great ways to meet like-minded people who might lead you to fantastic opportunities.

For up-to-date job listings, check out Bali Times and Indeed.

Fortunately, recent changes to health insurance means that things just got a whole lot more secure for those living in Bali. From January 2014, Indonesia’s own citizens as well as foreigners living in the country, are covered under the Indonesian National Social Health Insurance (JKN) led by Indonesia’s Social Security Organising Body (BPJS). Anyone working as an employer, independent entrepreneur (someone hired to work but is not an employee or agent for that person) and informal workers (those who work without an official contract arrangement) must apply as an individual and pay premiums directly to the BPJS. No more than five members of a foreign employee’s family can be covered under the healthcare program, and employers are responsible for paying employees’ premiums.

Top reasons to move to Bali: retirement

For silver foxes looking to relax, what could be better than a glass of red wine at sunset on Lovina Beach? I may be a few decades away from retirement, but there are still a couple of tips hidden under the wings of this spring chicken.

Retirement visas are available to anyone 55 and over. The visa allows you to get a driving license and buy a vehicle under your own name, open a bank account and essentially have more freedom with fewer legal risks. It’s a good idea to seek advice from an agency such as Visa Bali before applying.

Travel registration is an important thing to check off your list before leaving for overseas. Register your name through the government website to receive important notifications and become easily contactable and identifiable in an emergency.


United States

United Kingdom

Sentosa Residence Umalas, a new affordable and secure 6.5-hectare residential space housing 113 homes, is Bali retirement at its best. The exclusive resort has a range of features that will make any family member envious, including several international restaurants, a clubhouse, an outdoor cinema and specialised spas offering a range of treatments from massages to anti-ageing procedures.

Keen golfers will enjoy teeing off at the Greg Norman designed Nirwana Bali Golf Club where many professionals go to play. If golfing is your thing then be sure to enjoy an afternoon game at the New Kuta Golf on the edge of Nusa Dua Island. With awe-inspiring views, it’s the perfect place to improve your handicap.

Top reasons to move to Bali: family values

Family life in Bali is everything you’d expect from a Hallmark card. Family values are a huge part of Balinese life and this makes it a great place to raise children.

There are plenty of opportunities for children to take part in the same clubs and groups as they would in other places around the world, as well as to engage in Balinese traditions and culture.

There are many international schools in Bali. Since most of the students that attend these schools are not Indonesian, teachers strive to help students transition into Balinese life and also foster multiculturalism through interaction. Of course, thanks to Bali’s rich culture and heritage, learning continues outside of classroom

Top reasons to move to Bali: family values

International Schools in Bali:

Australian International School 

Bali International School 

Canggu Community School

Sanur Independent School

Asian International School (Bali)

Pelangi Community School 

Around 15 minutes from Seminyak is the Canggu Club, a family-oriented club where expat families can meet like-minded people. A day pass costs approximately IDR 240,000 for adults and IDR 120,000 for children, while membership costs vary depending on the length of subscription. Family packages are also available. The club has a range of facilities including Cubby House Kids Club which caters to children aged 2 to 12 years. Children will be entertained for hours, learning different skills such as reading. The club also provides healthy meals for the children. Meanwhile, parents can enjoy spa treatments and personal training sessions, or simply hang out with other members at the club’s restaurant and bar.

Jalan Canggu Club

JL Pantai Berawa, Banjar Tegal Gundul


Bali 80361, Indonesia 

On the weekends, families may enjoy learning about Balinese history and culture by visiting a local village. It’s a great way for children to be exposed to a mix of traditions and beliefs and also to see a different part of the island.

Watching television and reading a menu in a restaurant can be an easy way to learn and practice the local language, Bahasa Indonesia.

Finding a family doctor and dentist is an important part of getting settled in a new place. Try to avoid clinics where prices are ‘too good to be true’. Normally they are. Be clear on what type of procedure you need and how you want it done.

The BIMC Hospital Dental Centre in Nusa Dua and Kuta has a good reputation and upfront pricing.

BIMC Hospital (Kuta)

Jalan Bypass Ngurah Rai

100 X Kuta 80361, Bali

(+62 361) 761263 

BIMC Hospital (Nusa Dua)

Kawasan BTDC Blok D

Nusa Dua 80363, Bali

(+62 631) 3000 911

For more tips on making the most of your new island home, check out the article ‘moving to Bali‘.

Keepin’ it real with the Balinese

So, are you ready to live in Bali? Here are four  reality-checks to keep in mind:

  1. Remember, heading overseas isn’t like moving to another state. You’re also transitioning into a different culture and set of norms, a new language, an unfamiliar road system and a situation where visiting family and friends back home takes a few hours by plane.
  2. Consider the possible changes to your current budget. How much are you prepared to invest and what are some management strategies if something unexpected were to happen?
  3. Compare the lifestyle you want to the lifestyle you have now. Are you ready for long-term change? Does Bali help you fulfil your goals in a way you need it to (e.g. If you’re a regular traveller, does the move make it more convenient to see more places? Are the type of opportunities you want easily available?)
  4. A big move involves investing a lot of time, money, and mental and emotional energy. It’s a full-time commitment.

Bali has a reputation for its abundance of fumbling backpackers in Bintang singlets, stunning beaches, cheap beer and ability to sweep travellers away from all that is boring and predictable. In fact, some get so swept away that it becomes one endless, life-changing vacation.

Top tips for Bali first timers

Anyone can tell you the best place to score a Bintang singlet or the latest reflective lens Ray Bans. And you can’t go too wrong bargaining for a massage or hair braids when we’re talking about a few measly dollars. But herein lies the real top tips for Bali. A guide comprising of everything I wish I knew when I first stepped onto the island I now call home, all those years ago.

So strap your bum bag across your chest, slip into your reggae-striped sandals, print out your top tips for Bali and get ready to take on the Island of the Gods like a seasoned local.

Top Tip for Bali #1: Arriving, staying, departing

A 30 day Visa on Arrival is available for many international travellers to Bali and will set you back $35 US dollars. Be sure to have your US Dollars ready (or your local equivalent) in cash. If you have forgotten this, do not panic – simply ask an usher to direct you to the counter offering credit card payment. [See Indonesian Immigration Website for all things official. They don’t take Visa misuse lightly, so neither should you].

On the other side of the airport immigration counter, you will find your luggage spilling out onto the carousels. You may be pleasantly surprised to find friendly porters who will grab you a trolley, carry your bags and help you with the heavy lifting as you head through customs. Even if you didn’t ask for this service, remuneration will be expected. If you don’t want to pay, you need to refuse their help.

Accommodation options are varied, and the spectrum ranges from budget surf stays to exorbitant beachfront resorts. Guest houses and losmans are probably the most cost effective option for stays of 30 days or more, but you can also nab yourself a relatively cheap mid-term villa. The quality of your accommodation will reflect what you are prepared to pay.

If you plan to stay a further 30 days, it is best to use an agent to process your extension. An extension will require a passport photo with a red backing (quite possibly the only red tape you may come across during your time here), and should set you back around 800,000 IDR (roughly $80 AUD/USD). For convenience sake, I use Channel One, located at the end of Sunset Road, Seminyak. Eko takes care of all the logistics for you and is available via Facebook messenger for advice. Because let’s face it, you will be far too busy living the dream.

Do not forget to set aside your 200,000 IDR departure tax, for when your time in paradise comes to a devastating end. I usually keep mine tucked into my passport when I first arrive so there is one less thing on my mental “to-do” list.

Always try to play it safe when it comes to departure timing. Allow at least 2 hours from your accommodation in South of Bali to the airport, and an hour extra if you are coming from Ubud. Bali traffic can be unpredictable, at times nightmarishly clogged, and it’s better to be safe than sorry. If you arrive early, there are airport lounges you can pay to access for a feed and a comfy chair to await your flight. Crisis averted.

Choosing where to stay in Bali…

Do your research. The area you choose will decide the type of experience you will enjoy. My basic rule of thumb? The further out from the tourist hub of Kuta you stay, the more peaceful and quiet your trip will be.

Areas like Kuta are great for family holidays with the kids, with direct access to tourist attractions, themed hotels, and central shopping districts. Spread out to Legian and Seminyak for a slightly quieter stay and access to private villas.

Move beyond these spots to Canggu or Uluwatu for rice paddies, losmans and surf breaks; Nusa Dua for water sports and all-inclusive resorts; or right out to Ubud for culture, yoga and peaceful serenity.

Water Sports action at Benoa Tirta Harum, Nusa Dua
Water Sports action at Benoa Tirta Harum, Nusa Dua

Top Tip for Bali #2: “All about the Benjamins baby”

The first matter of business you are likely to want to sort out is getting your money exchanged, or getting to an ATM for access to some Indonesian Rupiahs (IDR). Currency exchange can be found at every turn. I tend to look for one offering a decent rate with no commissions.

The most common denomination is the blue 50,000rp note (roughly $5 AUD/USD) or the red 100,000rp notes (roughly $10 AUD/USD). Try to get some smaller notes too. If store vendors do not have the correct change, your Rupiah may be subsidized by wrapped candies. Now this is an exchange my sweet tooth doesn’t quite mind!

Make sure you do not leave the ATM without your card. Many foreign visitors report leaving the ATM before their card is returned, as the sequence is different to what they are familiar with at home.

In Bali, you receive your money first, your receipt second, and are then prompted to either end your transaction or proceed with a further withdrawal. Unless you proactively end your transaction, the card is not returned. Using an ATM is an old habit for most, so always double check that you leave with your card. It doesn’t hurt to stash away a traveller’s cheque in case you find yourself stuck.

Top Tip for Bali #3: Staying in touch

The great news is that Denpasar airport offers complimentary WIFI. The lines through customs during high season and peak arrival times can be painful, so be sure to log-in to their free network and use your time in line wisely. You should have a good hour or so to spend on Facebook, reminding your friends back home that you’ve arrived in paradise, and they haven’t.

This WIFI access can be a great way to make contact with your driver, if you have connected before via email or Facebook, to give them an idea how long you anticipate you will be, and give them tips on what you are wearing. Bursting out from immigration to be greeted by a crowd of drivers waving pieces of paper can be enough to drive anyone to a Bintang.

Bintang. Bali's remedy for unexpected airport lines, nightmarish traffic, and 30+ degree days.. or just because really.
Bintang. Bali’s remedy for unexpected airport lines, nightmarish traffic, and 30+ degree days..                                     ..or just because really.

It’s not a bad idea to grab yourself a Bali SIM card for your stay. They are cheap as chips and can be a godsend when it comes to connecting with drivers, tour organisers and friends and family back home. Have your driver take you to a local cell store and grab yourself a sim with about 100,000rp (roughly $10AUD) of “Pulsa” (credit).

Side note: If you plan to use your mobile for data (Facebook and the like), you should purchase a data “packet” separately. Again, around 100,000rp for a month of browsing should suffice. Most cafes, restaurants & bars offer high speed Wifi, so you shouldn’t need to access your own too often, it’s just handy for when you are on the move.

Now, you may notice that your phone from home is locked to your network provider. If this is the case, you can either buy yourself a super cheap, basic little Samsung phone, or take your smartphone to the RIMO centre in Denpasar, where jail breaking should cost you no more than around 500,000rp; a worthwhile investment if you plan to be here a month or longer.

XL and Telkomsel are the biggest and best mobile providers in Bali, but you may notice in some areas the coverage isn’t great. Ask the cell shop what the best provider is for coverage in the specific area you will be staying, and connect your mobile to that.

If you use a tablet, select a different network for that Sim card, and you are almost guaranteed to be connected at all times.

Top Tip for Bali #4: Getting Around

Between the airport and your accommodation, pre-arranging a driver it is by far the most convenient, comfortable and cost effective way to travel. Taxis are available, but be warned: they have paid a premium rental for the airport contract, so it is in their interest to try and recoup a premium fee from exhausted, can’t-be-bothered-haggling travellers. A driver can be arranged from back home, through email or Facebook, and will be awaiting your arrival with a cool bottle of water, a friendly face, and a fixed fee.

During your stay, the reputable Bluebird taxis are the best option for short distance trips, for example Kuta to Seminyak.  Always ask for meters to be turned on to avoid unnecessary negotiations at the end of the journey. During peak times or late evenings, some drivers will try to refuse metered trips. In this instance, either barter a fair deal (bare in mind we are looking at a few dollars here and there for the convenience of a timely trip home), or consider scooter hire.

Now if you chose to use a scooter during your stay (generally not recommended unless you ride licensed back home, and generally not covered by insurance unless you are internationally licensed), always ensure you get a helmet with your rental – and wear it. The roads here are congested and the road rules are very loose. Scooters can be hired for around 50,000rp per day (roughly $5 AUD) or around 500,000rp per month (roughly $50 AUD). They can offer a speedy way of getting around, just be sure to drive cautiously, watching for others scooting up and down footpaths to avoid heavy traffic.

I took myself off to a huge grass oval for rounds and rounds of practice before hitting the road. Not a bad idea for first timers.

I can highly recommend central-Legian based operators Intan Car Rental. Headed by a young, tech savvy entrepreneur, Intan will arrange your airport pick-up, communicate with you seamlessly through her Facebook page and can even deliver a hire car or scooter to wherever you are staying. If you are around Legian, pop in to visit “Mama & Papa Bali” (husband & wife team, Wayan & Wayan); Intan’s mother Wayan will make you Bali’s best cup of Kopi (coffee) and her father Wayan will make you laugh. In true Bali fashion, it’s a one stop shop: water, mobile pulsa, some days even petrol or Kites. Head down Gang 3 Brothers No 5, which runs off Jl. Legian.

You can thank me later.

Bali Driver - Intan Hinata
Bali Driver – Intan Hinata

Top Tip for Bali #5: Smart Supplies

Whether you are staying in the cushy comfort of the W hotel, lapping up some villa opulence, settling in for a budget homestay or claiming a top bunk in a surf camp – there are some situations we all need to come prepared for.

To play it safe, stick to bottled water throughout your stay. It is cheap, readily available and the number one way to avoid any nasty bugs. Eco-warriors will be pleased to learn that re-usable stainless steel flasks are now available for purchase throughout Bali. See Bottles For Earth for stockists, and a range of fun designs (a Bintang bottle anyone?).

Bottles For Earth
Bottles For Earth

Refill at your hotel, most restaurants, or purchase a large bottle from a mini-mart & return the plastic container. They make for great souvenir – afterall there is only so many sarongs one can make use of.

Power adaptors make for an easy trip. Try to get one at the airport, with a built-in USB port, so that you can charge your mobile & laptop at once. If you forgot to pack one, most Mini Marts or “Circle K” stores will stock them, or ask your accommodation manager.

Mosquito repellent is your best friend in Bali. I prefer to steer clear of the super toxic, store-bought bug sprays like “Deet”, favouring natural concoctions like the “Begone Bug” by Utama Spice found at eco suppliers such as Bali Buda or Earth Café in Seminyak.

No matter how you chose to lay your head at night, you are bound to come across a public “squat” toilet during your travels. This can be a shock to the system at the best of times. Carry a small antibacterial hand lotion (such as Dettol) and a packet of baby wipes with you and you will feel back to normal in no time.

.. & Top Tip for Bali #6: A bonus “heads up” from a lover of everything Bali

Your trip to Bali will be whatever you chose to make of it.

By all means, recreate your own version of “What really happens in Bali” and get messy, let your hair down, and go home with a “Bali Tattoo” (the dreaded motorbike burn). My first few trips to Bali were probably quite the same (see The 5 Plagues of Bali.. a fun piece all about “those” types).

It wasn’t until I started to delve into the culture and form friendships with the local people that the beauty of Bali really started to unfold for me. If you get an opportunity to attend a ceremony – Grab a Kebaya and go! If you receive an invite to visit a traditional home – thankfully accept and bring a small gift.

Step off the beaten track. Boldly go where no “Bule” (westerner) has gone before. It is here that you will reveal the true beauty of this mystical place, beyond its superficial guise of Bintangs and beanbags.

Who knows? You may very well unravel a little truth of your own, reflected in what you see.

The true beauty of life in Bali
The true beauty of life in Bali

** Now you know the HOW.. if you are still struggling with the WHY, see the Top 10 Reasons to travel to Bali.

Bali vs Phuket: Asia’s yin & yang of beach getaways

Like many travellers hungry for a cheap beach break, you might be tossing up between a trip to Bali and a trip to Phuket. Flights cost more or less the same from Australia and many cities across Southeast Asia.

Both have beautiful beaches and sunshine. Both offer a plethora of things to do and places to stay for every budget. Street food is same-same-but-different: cheap with varying levels of intensity and generous helpings of fluffy white rice. So what sets these two places apart?

There are endless debates over the pros and cons of Bali and Phuket. Which place is cleaner? Which place provides better value for money? The battle is relentless.

We’re here to lay the cards on the table and see who comes out on top. All you need to do is a pick an airline and nab yourself a place to stay.


Thailand’s monsoon storms last for days, and at times, weeks. The heavy tropical showers are unforgiving and last all day and all night. Gloomy, rainy days are also common on the fringes of high season, so planning a week of guaranteed sunshine in Phuket off-season, is always risky.

Bali, in comparison, has a rainy season between November and April, but there are surprisingly more days of sunshine than rain.

Both wet seasons are officially at their peak in December, but we’ve seen more gloriously sunny days in Bali than Phuket over the holidays in recent years.


Sidekick islands: Phi Phi vs Gili

With their similar climate but completely different geography, the Gili Islands and Phi Phi are hard to compare. There’s a lot more ferrying and boating around in Phi Phi, so it’s not ideal for a weekend getaway. If you land in Lombok’s new international airport, you can be in Bangsal within an hour or so and on the shores of the Gili islands 25 minutes later. The Phi Phi islands are, unfortunately, seasoned tourist traps with razor sharp teeth and they make the island hustlers in the Gili Islands seem like amateurs.

Even as far off as the smaller islands in Phi Phi, an incessant procession of touts trawl the beach, trying to sell you everything under the (hot Thai) sun. Including a freshwater shower.


Gili Islands Bali
The Gili islands are only and hour and half away from Bali on the fast boat from Padang Bai.

Best beaches

We hate to say it, but the hard truth of the matter is that Bali’s beaches suffer from rife plastic pollution. When it comes to who has the best beaches, provided you’re not a surfer, Phuket wins every time. Lapped by the calm waters of the Andaman Sea, Phuket is fringed by bigger and brighter beaches than Bali.

We can’t officially include the untouched beaches of the Gili islands, especially the fine white sand beaches and sparkling shallow reefs of Gili Meno. So while Phuket officially wins the best beaches category compared to Bali, there’s something much more special about the deserted island paradise that you’ll find in the Gilis. Did we mention we love Bali?

WINNER: Phuket.

Kata beach, Phuket. (Photo by Jeff Gunn, Flickr)

Crave-worthy cuisine: Som Tam vs Soto Ayam

Thai cuisine is an international export. But Thai food in Thailand is on another planet of amazing. Whole trips could be dedicated to exploring the flavours of varying regions throughout Thailand, comparing coconut curries and pondering your preference of panangs.

In Bali, beyond the fantastic babi guling (slowly roasted piglet, cooked for hours over charcoal and glazed with sugar water. The crackling is out of this world), local dishes are often fresh and pack a punch of the flavour front, bursting with ginger, turmeric, lemongrass and lime. That’s if you can resist a heaped serve of authentic Indonesian cuisine favourites like nasi goreng (fried rice) or mee goreng (fried noodles).

WINNER: It’s a draw.

Traditional Balinese meat dish
Indonesian cuisine combines traditional Javanese and Sasak recipes. While dishes like Ayam Bakar are not exported overseas, the earthy flavours of this vibrant cuisine shouldn’t be overlooked.

Upmarket dining digs

When it comes to the dining scene, you’re deliciously spoilt for choice in Bali across a range of cuisines and budgets. In Bali, you’ll find a huge selection of international cafes, affordable fine dining restaurants and organic juice and salad bars. Phuket’s dining scene pales in comparison. The choice, variety and freshness of Phuket’s dining scene has struggled to move beyond club sandwiches and Pad Thai. We can only speculate that the younger and more entrepreneurial wave of Bali expats, compared to Phuket retirees, is the reason for better eating. Thumbs up, Bali.


Kuta vs Patpong

Patong wins the sleaze-bag award hands down. Kuta may have its collection of out-dated bars guarded by nighttime hustlers, but there’s also new, upmarket digs where you can jive without fear of the usual street corner harassment.

In Patpong, however, there is no such silver lining. Without going into the nitty gritty, think pingpongs and small birds at all hours of the day. Smutty activities tend to attract a larger deck of sleazy characters, where as Kuta still has a comparative level of innocence.



If Bali’s nightlife scene were akin to Jazz, Phuket is Rock ‘n’ Roll. You’d probably pick Phuket over Bali if you were planning a stag do. On the other hand, if you’re into international DJs, super chilled beach bars and you don’t want to get your designer sandals dirty, then Bali is the way to go. At the same time, debauchery is never far away from Bali. It’s just a fast boat ride to Gili Trawangan…

WINNER: It totally depends on what you’re into..

Culture and spirituality

The essence of every Asian culture lies in the subtle allure of its spirituality. Phuket’s been a tourist haunt for much longer than Bali. At every turn, it’s evident that its cultural heritage has been repackaged for the benefit of the deep pocketed tourist. The Balinese, on the other hand, are much more cautious about conserving the purity of the culture and customs that make them unique.


An inquisitive little girl looks back at me during prayers at Besakih Temple. (Photo by Mikaku, Flickr)
An inquisitive little girl looks back during prayers at Besakih Temple. (Photo by Mikaku, Flickr)

Surf haven

Bali is on the international surf radar and has a constant swell throughout the year. There’s a little bit of surf in Phuket, but we hear it’s nothing to write home about.

From the intimidatingly huge swells in Uluwatu (professionals only), to the intermediate surf break in Balian and the cruisy surfing beaches in Canggu and Berawa that are great for beginners, Bali offers every level of surfer an opportunity to catch a wave or ten.


Balangan surf break, Bali.
Balangan surf break, Bali.

Yoga Hub

Bali’s yoga scene is life changing.

Ubud is at the heart of everything yoga in Bali, and is fast becoming one of the biggest yoga communities in the world. Closer to central Bali, you have the Desa Seni yoga studio and retreat set in Canggu’s rice paddies. A yoga class at any of the top yoga studios in Bali should be on any visitors’ itinerary.

Thailand has a spattering of Yoga hang outs, but if you’re after a deep dose of Iyengar, some heavy hatha, a chakra healing, an Ayurvedic massage – the Yogic kit and caboodle, then Bali is where it’s at.

WINNER: Bali. Hands down.

Outside a Yoga Ashram in Ubud, Bali
Take a walk around the rice paddies in Ubud. You’ll stumble upon small yoga ashrams aplenty.

Fashion & Shopping

When it comes to shopping in Phuket, it’s really good for two things: fake designer bags and men’s tailoring. They do a great job of copying designer suits and they have a great range of fabrics to choose from. Turn around times are quick – you only need to allow a few days to get a suit and a stack of shirts made.

What’s on offer in the fashion department in Bali, is world class couture. Designers like Lily Jean and Magali Pascal have completely changed the game. You’ll find exquisite dresses and fresh off the runway looks from Paris and New York, crafted in top quality fabrics and created to style the international jet setting crowd. All for less than the cost of a premium label dress at Zara.


An elegant style update at Magali Pascal in Bali is not to be missed. (Photo by Magali Pascal).

Okay. Clearly we’re biased. But there’s a reason we’ve decided to call Bali home. And it’s everything in this article plus so much more.

We’ve done the Phuket thing, and we think you should check it out too. But chances are you’ll keep coming back to the island of the Gods. There’s a deeper sense of spirituality in Bali. This is undeniable. Balinese culture, in its subtle gestures and daily rituals of the people, is endearing and intoxicatingly sincere.

There’s nothing same same but different about Bali. From dolphin watching in Lovina, to the charming and unspoilt beauty of Amed, sunrise treks in Mount Agung and so much more, you practically get a dozen holidays in one destination when you visit Bali. Bali is just more bagus…Sorry Phuket, but you’ve been outdone!

The top five things to do in Nusa Dua

Nusa Dua might seem a bit boring at first sight: picture-perfect resorts, spotless emerald lawns; even the ocean behaves here – and not a hint of controversial Indonesian reality in sight.  Some may say it’s best left for the elderly crowd. Or golfers. Or billionaires. But we say differently. Here are five activities that prove Nusa Dua can be super fun and won’t blow the bank account.

1. Sunday Brunch at Soleil

Soleil Brunch via TripAdvisor
Soleil Brunch via TripAdvisor

The Mulia Hotel is being coined ‘the best new hotel in the world’. Having not been to every new hotel in the world, we can’t say how true that is. But there are two things we can be sure of: a) it’s the biggest property in Bali and b) their Sunday brunch is to die for.

The expats of the island have already made this eating experience a destination – a mighty reason to drive all the way from Seminyak or Canggu to the very South. So join the hype. Skip breakfast, come early, and book in advance as this event is extremely popular amongst big families. Then sit back, accept the first glass of icy bubbles, and let the feast begin.

Oysters, sashimi, tartar, salads, meat and fish grill – you name it, they have it. Don’t stuff yourself too quickly as the chef will be sending various hot dishes to your table throughout the course of your meal. Make sure you try fois gras “creme caramel” and have a dip in the hotel’s giant pool after lunch. If you dare to flash the few new kilos you found over brunch. **Brunch menu starts from Rp.409 000

2. Life aquatic

life aquatic in bali

Tanjung Benoa is a 5-kilometer strip of perfect golden sand and beach fun. Waterskis, water jets, banana rides, wakeboards – no one seems to be napping with a book at this hangout. Local guides can take you to swim with sea turtles or teach you how to dive. If the underwater kingdom is not your bunch of coconuts, take a picturesque and never-ending beachside stroll to the furthest corner of Nusa Dua, where Mulia Hotel sits.

Just make sure it’s morning, late afternoon or a grey and gloomy day to save your precious pasty skin from the scorching Indo sun. Another bright side of staying in Nusa Dua – it’s proximity to the beaches of Bukit, the best beaches the island has to offer. Just a 20-30 min taxi or scooter ride will take you to Pandawa, Balangan, Padang-Padang or Uluwatu. And that’s where the breathtaking beauty is.

3. High tea at St.Regis


One of the first luxury hotels in Nusa Dua, St.Regis is absolute eye-candy. Everything here is uber-classy, even the afternoon tea; in fact, it’s one of the main attractions of the resort. With a tea break like this, you won’t need lunch or dinner. It’s an ultimate meal, with finger sandwiches, freshly baked scones, puffs stuffed with patè, macaroons, cheese platters, Valrhona chocolate fondants, and naturally, a great selection of teas. Everything is served by waiters wearing gloves so white and crisp you’ll be too shy to blink, so mind your manners and wear something nicer than your board shorts (even your best ones). **Rp.350.000 net/person, Rp.100.000 for kids

4. Pool bar at Sakala

The Pool bar at Sakala

At Sakala, ordering a Ferrero Roche or Cinnamon Waffle won’t get you a dessert. It will get you a cocktail, served at the pool or in the pool – as you wish. The bar & lounge at the 30-meter long pool of Sakala beach club is pure indulgence. Nobody will look at you twice if you float with a glass of champagne. Come in the afternoon and stay until sunset, then have dinner at the restaurant where chef Frederic Boulay  experiments with local products to create something…well, a little bit French. And then head back to the pool for another Ferrero Roche, because every dinner needs a dessert, right?

5. Massage class at Jari Menari


Jari Menari, aka “Dancing fingers”, is the best Balinese massage in Bali. Funnily enough, it was not established by locals, but rather by a Californian who added her knowledge to the skill of village masseurs and created something twice as magnificent. Since the second studio has opened in Nusa Dua, there is no need to fight the traffic on the way to Seminyak. Of course, it’s not your $5-treatment at the beach – get prepared to pay about $40, but it’s worth every penny. For those who are a little on the shy side, be warned that Jari Menari only has male therapists. Though you needn’t worry too much as even your starfish pose will be modestly draped with a sarong.

The icing on the cake? The team at Jari Menari are willing to pass their skills along. Join the one-day class ($170) that includes the basics of their massage techniques, a practise session, a 190 minute massage, a yoga class and a healthy lunch. And if you feel like you’re on to a new career path, come back for a 12-day sequence training and become a real pro! Something to be proud of when your tan has long gone and you’re back home dreaming of Bali.


On the cheap:  A backpacker’s guide to absolute budget eating, living and traveling in Bali.

No one understands the phrase “Sticking to a Budget” quite like a seasoned backpacker. And if you’re next destination is Bali, this phrase should be no exception.

Regardless of whether this is your first trip to Bali or your twentieth, as a traveler you will know that there is always something more to see or do. The real secret to getting by cheaply as a backpacker, and making the most of your time, is following what the local Indonesian’s do when travelling and backpacking. You’ll discover that exploring the island as the locals do has a beautiful way of revealing Bali in its most pure and authentic form; a side of the island that is truly untarnished from the demands of tourism, remarkably loyal to its own culture and traditions.

With this handy  guide to budget eating, living and travel, money no longer has to be  the defining factor in making this trip the adventure of your life.

The secret to getting by cheaply as a backpacker in Bali is following what the local Indonesians do when they travel.

As one of the world’s most popular holiday destinations, the sheer mass of people bustling around the island should come as no real surprise. Everyday thousands of tourists arrive ready to party, shop or be pampered in massage salons right round the clock. With no scarcity of high class shopping malls, a strip of clubs that could challenge Las Vegas, and more 5 star hotels than you could ever dream, you would be forgiven for thinking that the only tourist market that Bali caters for is people with money to burn.

But if you take a stroll down to Poppies Lane 1 and 2 in Kuta, you’ll quickly find yourself right in the heart of what has become Bali’s most energetic point for backpackers. If you’re looking for accommodation on a tight budget, this is the very first place you should start.

Bali Backpackers Scene. Photo by Adde Adesokan.
Bali Backpackers Scene. Photo by Adde Adesokan.

Like most backpacker hot spots, this street does not serve as the most ideal place to experience authentic Balinese culture. But it will offer a place to rest your head for next to nothing and head off the next morning to explore. Poppies Lane 1 and 2 is also where you will find local Indonesians staying that have travelled over to Bali from other islands. They choose to stay in this area for its affordability and strategic location – it’s super close to the airport, the all-famous Kuta Beach and Denpasar city.

In this area you will find guesthouses and small hotels where you can rent a single room. Daily  Prices range from as low as 60,000 – 350,000 IDR per night depending on the season.

*Hot Tip: Don’t book online. You can often get far cheaper prices by walking from hostel to hostel asking and bargaining for the rate. Many of the cheapest hostels and guesthouses in Bali don’t have websites anyway. If you find a guide or local wanting to show you accommodation, remember they might be getting commission just for showing you the place. It may be very convenient for them to suggest it, but not necessarily the best or cheapest place for you to choose.

Affordable accommodation

Bali doesn’t have an abundance of dormitory style hostels like you might find in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia or most other Southeast Asian countries. But here are some low rate rooms that won’t excite your gag reflex:

  • Ayu Beach Inn, Poppies Lane 1 – Around 65,000 IDR per night (about $7) No AC, but has pool.
  • Dua Dara Inn, Poppies lane 2-  from 150,000-200,000 IDR per night ($15-20) AC available in some rooms.

If you’re itching for a dorm (sorry), here are a few that won’t leave you scratching:

  • Bedbunkers – Roughly 90,000 IDR (about $10) for a bunkbed per night). Safe, clean and close to the city. 45-18E Jalan Dewi Sri, Legian and Kartika Plaza Road
  • Kayun – 190,000 IDR (about $19) per night in 8 bed dorm. Brand new hostel, very modern and clean with swimming pool and bar, 176 Jalan Patih Jelantik, Legian
Consider staying with locals for a more authentic experience. Photo by Adde Adesokan.
Consider staying with locals for a more authentic experience. Photo by Adde Adesokan.

Other forms of accommodation to consider:

  • Kost:  A single room in a building complex, often with a shared bathroom. Recommended as a cheap option for those staying in Bali for a few weeks or months, though they can be rented for a higher daily rate if needed. Kosts are often found off back streets, so just ask around.
  • Homestay / host family:  Staying with a local family is a great option if you want to really understand the Balinese culture and way of life. A great website to search is Prices are usually similar to staying in a hostel, but it’s often more rewarding and enriching.
  • Couchsurfing: Stay at someone’s home (usually for free) after registering and becoming a member at Be mindful of your safety and be respectful to those who provide space in their homes for you. This is a great way to meet expats as well as locals and fully submerge yourself in Bali life.
  • Global Freeloaders: Another website that offers free accommodation options to travelers from all over the world. The conditions are that, in exchange for staying in a guests home, you must  be able to provide space in your own place for them within 6 months. Become a member at

Getting from A to B

When it comes to getting around in Bali as a backpacker on the cheap, there are plenty of options. It will all come down to your patience, bravery, and just how far you want to go.

  • Catch a Bemo. A Bemo is a small public mini van that is super duper cheap and will take you just about anywhere on the island. Sometimes they are very difficult to find and the schedules are unpredictable, but who can complain for the next to nothing price?
  • The all famous Ojek. (You’ll get sick of hearing this word yelled out on the street, “transport, ojek!?). An Ojek is a motorbike and driver who will take you anywhere on the island for a negotiable price. Make sure you  bargain because initially they may suggest a price that is out of your range. Always wear a helmet!
  • Hire a motorbike. Motorbikes can be hired for around 30-50,000 rupiah per day ($3-$5) with a full tank of petrol at about 20,000 Rupiah ($2). Be warned that foreigners technically need to hold a motorbike license issued from the police, to avoid being slapped with a fine (also known as a bribe). If you can ride one, this is the cheapest mode of transport by far. Getting used to the chaotic traffic in Bali is initially quite a hassle but once you can handle it, it becomes a lot easier.
  • Catch a Ferry. If you need to travel to Lombok or another nearby island, take the slow ferry, not the fast one. It’ll take you a few extra hours but the difference in price is quite substantial when you’re on a tight budget and you still have a lot of time to spare.

Cheap eats

Traditional Nadi Goreng via
Traditional Nadi Goreng via

When we explore a new country for the first time, tasting the local food is one of the most exciting and memorable parts of the whole trip. New aromatic smells, beautiful colors and textures that excite the palate; the experience is simply unforgettable. But eating in Bali doesn’t have to cost you an arm and a leg and if you follow this sound advise, your wallet will thank you!

The best advice? Don’t be scared to eat street food! Most of the time the food won’t make you sick and it really tastes great.

You should also hit the Warungs – local restaurants with fixed prices and cheap local cooked food. They are usually banquet style with food from all over Indonesia. Locals (sometimes) unfortunately view foreigners as dollar signs and may raise the price when you order. To avoid this, make sure to read the price on the wall or board before you order and pay close attention to how much other Indonesians are paying. Prices are usually as low as 10,000 to 25,000 for a good, hearty meal.

*Hot Tip: Always go to Warungs that are full. It not only means that the food is delicious, but that there is a high food turnover rate, greatly reducing your chance of getting sick. Thumbs up for that!


Nasi Jinggo  (4000 Rupiah a serving, 40cents) 

Named after Bali’s notorious Beach Boys, the “Kuta cowboys” (who eat it for its affordability), Nasi Jinggo is a small serving of rice with a side option of chicken, beef or egg and sold on the back of a motorbike on the side of the road after 6pm. Featuring some of the best spiciest sambal sauce you’ll ever get your fingers on. (You won’t  find a replicate sambal sauce in any restaurant on the island that tastes as good as it does on the street. FACT.)

Bubur Ayam  (10,000 rupiah per bowl, $1)

Bubur Ayam is a satisfying thick porridge made out of rice that is viewed as a comfort food in Indonesian culture. The porridge is usually served with shredded chicken, coriander, shallots and an oily but utterly delicious dressing sauce. Then topped off with crispy prawn crackers and salted peanuts. If you’re on a budget you can’t go wrong with this one, tasty and cheap! Look out for it being sold from a street vendor cart day or night. One again, always bargain if the price you get charged  sounds ovrpriced.

Juices (70,000 rupiah, 70 cents)

Bali has an abundance of absolutely mouth watering tropical fruits all year round meaning fantastic Juices. Check out the local juice stall on Jalan Patimura off Legian street , Kuta. Cheap and mind-blowingly good!

Pasar kodok in Denpasar

Bintang Supermarket in Seminyak offers a wide range of products but is slightly overpriced and targeted towards tourists, not locals. To purchase cheaper fresh fruits and vegetables head to Pasar Kuta (Kuta Market).

Café Soerabi Bandung on jalan Dewi Sri, Kuta.

A locally famous café  from the city of Bandung in West Java. Prices are very affordable and they serve Soerabi, an Indonesian ‘pancake’ (which looks more like a crumpet) that is toasted in the oven and topped with various different sweet and savory ingredients. The one you have to try is cheese and chocolate, a strange Indonesian household favorite.

Other must know tips for smart Bali Backpackers

  • Make sure you travel outside of South Bali. While Kuta remains a cheap area for backpackers, it should serve as a base to sleep – not as the only area you see.
  • International ATMs charge high fees to withdraw cash! Make sure you withdraw a lot each time to save you from unnecessary and unwanted charges.
  • You can save a stack of money by buying alcoholic drinks from the local Circle K (international mini mart) or directly from a bottle shop, instead of from the tourist bars. Avoid drinking locally made spirits (like Arak) and premixed drinks – there have been a lot of cases of methanol poisoning.
  • If you’re after a cheap local gym, Nana Lisa gym in Denpasar is a great option. It’s 15,000 rupiah ($1.50) for a casual pass and has basic equipment and no AC but is sufficient for weight training.
  • Never drink water from the tap – it’s not clean! Think green and buy a gallon to keep in your room instead of lots of individual bottles. A whole gallon only costs around 15,000 rupiah ($1.50), whilst individual bottles can cost up to 8000 rupiah each (80 cents). Or if you want an even cheaper option, a refilling point for the gallon bottles can be found in various areas in the alleyways of Legian.
  • Get travel insurance! If you need a doctor, many clinics can be found in the tourist dense-areas on the main roads. To get prescription medicines or vitamins there are several pharmacies (Apotek) in the Kuta area with English speaking staff.

Backpacking can be one of the greatest and most eye opening adventures you’ll ever have. Circulate with locals and indulge yourself in the Balinese culture and you will gain an experience that you will never forget.