Indonesia travel


Agung, Batur and Batukaru: climbing Bali mountains

For an adventurous few, Bali isn’t a tropical beach hang with good shopping and cheap food – it’s a trekking paradise.

With numerous mountains suited to a variety of skill sets, the Bali trekking scene need not be reserved for the truly intrepid traveler. The sojourn can be made easy by finding a local trekking guide from the neighbouring villages, or saddling up with a group through one of several travel companies that have this activity on offer.

Opting for a local guide is an intimately cultural experience, as most guides will be able to unravel the secrets of the mountains and allow you the chance to understand these spectacular structures. Travellers are led to the best views through the safest routes depending on the weather and their ability to catch their breath.

…they unravel the secrets of the mountains, allowing you the chance to understand these spectacular structures.

Don’t like to be led? You can always choose to self-guide your ascent, but be prepared – these mountains should not be taken lightly! With the tropical weather combined with high altitudes, unexpected showers and significant drops in temperature can occur rather suddenly. The conditions can be dangerous, effecting the terrain and making it easier to slip. Have the right gear, check volcanic activity, look at weather predictions, wear proper shoes and have enough rations (it gets expensive buying food on the mountain). Local guides are always recommended, because to put it simply: if you don’t know – you shouldn’t go. But that’s enough of safety 101, let’s assess Bali’s mountain climbing scene…

Bali mountain climb #1: the mountain of God, Mount Agung, 3,031m


Enter the heavyweight champ of Bali’s mountains. At 3031 meters, Mount Agung is the highest point on the island and dubbed the most challenging trek in Bali. It requires a pretty sturdy level of physically fitness and some serious trekking experience.

Mount Agung is by far the most challenging trek in Bali. Enter at your own risk.

As a child, my father (born and bred in Indonesia) had been told that this was the mountain of God. As their thrones, the Gods placed these mountains around the islands – with Mount Agung forming the highest in Bali. The mother temple, Pura Besakih, lies on the slope of this mountain and houses offerings and cremation mounds formed in the shape of the mountain. You can see why the Balinese pay their respects to this active volcano – in 1964, the wrath of Mount Agung devastated many villages, killing 1,500 people.

The mountain of God will bring you to your knees (literally) – it gets so steep in parts that it’s easier to do the trek on all fours.

As spectacular as it is devastating, Mount Agung is definitely a challenge for the brave to conquer when visiting Bali. Start your hike through the thick forest near the Pura Besakih temple before your seven hour steep ascent up the mountain. The terrain becomes a rocky scrabble as you make your way up, so make sure you are wearing the appropriate hiking boots. The mountain of God will bring you to your knees (literally) – it gets so steep in parts that it’s easier to do the trek on all fours. If you time your climb perfectly and start trekking late at night, you will reach the highest peak in time to witness the spectacular sunrise overlooking encapsulating views of neighboring Lombok and Nusa Penida. It is a view not to be missed!

Bali mountain climb #2: the rumbling mountain, Mount Batur, 1,717m


In the Kintamani District of East Bali stands the iconic Mount Batur. It lies in the heart of a massive crater about 14 kilometres in diameter, permanently showing the magnificently devastating eruption that occurred more than a thousand years ago. Part of UNESCO’s Global Geopark Network, it is one of Indonesia’s most active volcanoes, sometimes deemed unsafe to trek due to its volcanic temperament. Highly sacred in Hinduism, the mountain is surrounded by the Kedisan, Songan, Trunyan and Toya Bungkah villages, where guides are easy to find.

A group of backpackers trekked the mountain in 2009, only to be surprised by a new eruption.

Mount Batur is a relatively short and easy trek, making it the most advertised and visited volcano in Bali. Popular since the 1970s, my father remembers the time he rode his Honda CRV from Bali to Kintamani with three of his Aussie mates, enjoying Mount Batur then relaxing in the hot springs at one of the villages.

Being easy to climb, the trek is suitable for children, and can be completed in about an hour or so. Be your own guide and trek the rim of the volcano before ascending to the summit. You will pass three craters clouded by steam, lava flows, and steam fissures. If nature permits, you may witness the adorably cheeky Macaque monkeys congregating by the largest crater.

If you choose to trek unguided, be sure to check the current volcanic temperament before your commencement. A group of backpackers trekked the mountain in 2009, only to be surprised by a new eruption. Do not take risks if there is a chance of activity.

Bali mountain climb #3: the green mountain, Mount Batukaru, 2,275m


Coming in at the second highest is Mount Batukaru, the highest peak in the Bedugul volcanic area. As an extinct volcano, its landscape makes it the most unique rainforest mountain trek experience in Bali. Batukaru’s rainforest is hidden away from populated areas, perfect for those that shy away from the ‘touristy’ places. Largely undiscovered, this offers tourists the combination of nature, culture and wondrous views.

its landscape makes it the most unique rainforest mountain trek experience in Bali.

My father explained that villagers in the area believe that after departing this world, their spirit will return to the mountain. This is a highly spiritual and sacred place, worshiped by the Balinese with the Pura Luhur Batukaru temple devoted to its presence.

Unlike the other mountains, it is rare to see other trekkers along this hike. This rainforest is the largest wetland in Bali, and for conservation, the number of trekkers permitted are limited. With the mountain’s fertile volcanic soil combined with its dense rainfall, the rainforest is home to a myriad of wildlife. Trekkers can witness the Kijang (small deer), Pangolin (ant eater), Macaque, the leaf eating monkey, and the infamous Luwak that digests then passes out coffee beans to be roasted. This rainforest is THE brewing ground for Kopi Luwak – the most expensive roasted coffee in the world.

This nine hour challenging ascent traverses a narrow and unsealed trail that is mostly shaded by tropical rainforest. Visit the small mountain temples along the way, with entry politely denied to women menstruating. As you will be entering their sacred ground, it is only polite to accept their customs.

Arriving at the summit, trekkers will be rewarded with complete serenity, overlooking views of Mount Agung, Lombok, Java and the north, south and east of Bali. The largest crater in Bali sits atop the mountain with a view of the lakes of Bedugul. Avoid climbing Mount Batukaru in times of rain as the rainforest becomes a very dangerous place to trek with the pathways getting very slippery.

Whether you take the treks to challenge yourself, or choose to climb to be environmentally and culturally immersed, you will be entirely engulfed and struck with the natural beauty of Bali that is not normally experienced. Just remember to leave your vertigo at home

Getting a Bali visa: everything you need to know

About 85% of all legal problems for travellers in Bali are the result of a visa issue. Bali may be a relaxing and intoxicating holiday destination, but when it comes to the business of visas, there are rules and regulations in place.

Bali visas are most definitely not a ‘one size fits all’ kind of deal. So rather than being caught out in customs or deported, it’s much easier to spend a little time getting visa savvy.

Read on for everything you need to know about getting a Bali visa, but were too afraid/ lazy/ busy or disinterested to ask.

Travel tip:

Indonesian visa protocols and requirements are subject to change, so its always a good idea to check with the Indonesian embassy or consulate, as failure to meet the requirements will purchase you a swift ticket back home.

And it doesn’t hurt to see what the custom regulations are either.

Do I need a visa for Bali?

Hells yes! Unless you are a foreign national from a few select countries, you will need an Indonesian visa to enter Bali.

According to Directorate General of Immigration Indonesia, citizens from the following regions can enter Indonesia visa free for short visits of up to 30 days.

  • Brunei, Darussalam
  • Cambodia
  • Chile
  • Ecuador
  • Hong Kong SAR
  • Laos
  • Macau SAR
  • Malaysia
  • Morocco
  • Myanmar
  • Peru
  • Philippines
  • Singapore
  • Thailand
  • Vietnam

There is talk of China, Russia, Australia, South Korea and Japan being added to the list, but as yet this has not been finalised.

What type of Indonesian visa do I need?

What type of Indonesian visa you require depends on the nature of your trip.

If you are going for a quick holiday break, then a Visa On Arrival (VOA) is the one for you, whereas if you are planning on studying, have a work-related business trip or want to relocate permanently, you will need to plan your visa before booking your plane ticket.

Below is a breakdown of the different types of Indonesian visas on offer and what they require from your sweet self.

Visa on Arrival example

Visa On Arrival (VOA)

If you have your heart set on a relatively short Balinese getaway, filled with breathtaking beaches, exotic wildlife and unique culture, then a 30-day single entry VOA is for you.

The ever-popular VOA is available to over 60 nationalities and doesn’t require you to run around before your trip dealing with pesky paperwork.

There are usually no issues getting a VOA, other than having to queue up to get one after a long flight when all you want to do is throw your bags down and get to the beach. There are a few requirements to keep in mind, however, in order to make sure your journey through customs is a fuss-free one.

  • Make sure your passport is valid for another six months – minimum.
  • Have your immigration/arrival card filled out and ready to go.
  • Have a print out of your confirmed flight out of the country handy. You rarely get asked for it, but it’s good to have one on hand just in case, as the more time you spend with airport customs, the less time you have to get your holiday on.
  • You will need to front up US$35 during processing to enter the country. Yes, it was US$25, but things change. Having the right change in USD, AUD or EUR dollars will prove to be the most efficient option for you. If you require masses of change it will be handed to you in IDR.
  • If you are sporting a derelict chic get-up or working a particularly scruffy look, it’s not unheard of to be asked for a copy of a bank statement or something that proves you can actually afford your holiday. To avoid this, do yourself a favour and run a comb through your hair, wear some shoes and make yourself look semi-presentable for the nice customs officials. Or, if no one is intervening with your sense of style – bring a copy of your bank statement.

A quiet word on your arrival and departure card

Let’s go back a bit and get acquainted with your necessary (but quite frankly annoying to fill out) arrival and departure card. You will receive this official bit of cardboard while you are on the plane.

You probably won’t feel like filling it out when you receive it from your smiling flight attendant.

You will most likely be a) watching a movie b) enjoying a mid-flight nap c) just too irritated by flying to fill in a form. But it’s better to do it before you land. On filling out said card you will probably have to have a rustle about in your bag for your passport details, flight details and the address of where you will be saying in Indonesia (you don’t need to go overboard with the location, a hotel name and city is enough).

Keeping these details written down and accessible will be easier than having to get up off your uncomfortable plane seat and crawl over strangers to get to your overhead luggage. Filling it out while on the plane also means you can benefit from the conveniently placed fold-down tray attached to the seat in front of you, rather than using your cocked up knee or friends bent back whilst in the customs queue.

Make sure you sign the card at the bottom of the second page.

You will also be given a tax card. All you need to do here is tick “no”, unless you need to declare something or are swag enough to be carrying over US$10,000 with you.

Sadly, most of us don’t seem to have this issue. Sigh. Keep the departure card for later when, you guessed it, you will be leaving fair Bali. Fill it out if you are on an administrative roll or tuck it in with your passport to get around to later. The customs officers will collect the card when you exit through customs.

Arrival card Indonesia

 card arrival


Don’t be a damn fool and bring the following things into the country – as you might have guessed by now, immigration officials in Bali don’t take too kindly to contraband, with the most serious consequence being the death penalty:

  • any more than 200 cigarettes, 25 cigars or 100 grams of sliced tobacco per passenger
  • any more than one litre of alcohol per adult passenger
  • any more than Rp 100,000,000 (or equivalent in other currencies)
  • fire arms, knives, explosives or any weapons of mass destruction


You will need to pay a departure tax when leaving in IDR. The amount varies from airport to airport, but expect to pay about 200,000 IDR from Bali (Ngurah Rai) International airport.

Visa policy of Indonesia

Countries eligible for Visa on Arrival are:

  1. Argentina
  2. Australia
  3. Austria
  4. Algeria
  5. Bahrain
  6. Belgium
  7. Brazil
  8. Bulgaria
  9. Czech Republic
  10. Cambodia
  11. Canada
  12. Cyprus
  13. China
  14. Denmark
  15. Estonia
  16. Egypt
  17. Fiji
  18. Finland
  19. France
  20. Germany
  21. Greece
  22. Hungary
  23. India
  24. Iceland
  25. Iran
  26. Ireland
  27. Italy
  28. Japan
  29. Kuwait
  30. Laos
  31. Latvia
  32. Libya
  33. Lithuania
  34. Liechtenstein
  35. Luxembourg
  36. Maldives
  37. Malta
  38. Mexico
  39. Monaco
  40. New Zealand
  41. Netherlands
  42. Norway
  43. Oman
  44. Panama
  45. Poland
  46. Portugal
  47. Qatar
  48. Romania
  49. Russia
  50. Saudi Arabia
  51. Slovak Republic
  52. Slovenia
  53. Spain
  54. South Africa
  55. South Korea
  56. Suriname
  57. Sweden
  58. Switzerland
  59. Taiwan, PRC
  60. Tunisia
  61. Timor Leste
  62. Uni Arab Emirates
  63. United Kingdom (British)
  64. United States of America

What happens if I stay longer than 30 days?

Heed the fact that your VOA is only valid for 30 days – counted from the day of your arrival.

If you overstay your welcome, you will have to pay a penalty of about US$20 per day. If you REALLY overstay your welcome and keep living it up for another few sneaky weeks, you could face jail time.

There is a bit of a leeway if you overstay for three days or less, as lots of tourists automatically think of 30 days as a month and discard the fact that some months of the year have 31 days instead of 30. Whoops!

If you seriously don’t want to go home (who could blame you?), it is possible to extend a VOA for another 30 days from within Bali. You will need to consult a local visa/travel agent, which will cost you around US$50. Once your 60 days are up, it will be time to leave the country.


Airport Denpasar, Bali.

Other types of Indonesian visas (Visa in Advance)

If you want to stay more than 30 days or have something more lengthy in mind like starting a business or visiting family, you will need to apply for a visa in advance – as in before you leave for Bali. For this, you will need to apply through an Indonesian Embassy and/or Consulate in your home country.

You can apply for a visa in advance yourself, but it is significantly easier to get the help of a professional travel/ visa agent who knows exactly what to do and how to streamline the process a bit. If things get a bit messy, then you also have the added benefit of blaming someone else.

Tourist Visa

A Tourist Visa lasts up to 60 days and is perfect if you are planning some in-depth island hopping and want to go at your own relaxed pace. For this visa, you will need your passport to be valid for at least another six months and three blank pages left on your passport. No biggie.

Social/ Cultural Visa

If you have a decent reason for staying longer such as studying, visiting relatives or taking part in a foreign exchange program, you can apply for a Social/Cultural Visa. For this, you will need a valid passport and passport photo.

You will also need to obtain an application form from an Indonesian embassy or consulate, and a letter of introduction or promise of sponsorship from a trustworthy person or school in Indonesia. The visa is valid for 60 days, but it can be extended for one month at a time at an Indonesian immigration office for a period of up to six months. Expect some application and visa extension fees. Well worth it.

Business Visa

If you are visiting Bali for work (e.g. a conference or seminar), you can get a 60-day Single Entry Business Visa. If you need to extend your stay, you will need to pay a visit to the local immigration authorities or a visa agent. There is also the option of a Multiple Entry Business Visa that is valid for up to 12 months.

A Business Visa means that you will not be taking up employment in Indonesia, but are visiting for business purposes such as to meet overseas business partners etc. For a Business Visa, you will need to have a passport with at least six months left on it, a passport photograph, a completed visa application form and evidence that you have enough funds to cover the cost of your stay in Indonesia (usually in the form of a bank statement). You will also need two supporting letters that outline the nitty-gritty of your visit, one from your place of work and one from your guarantor in Indonesia.

Employment Visa / KITAS

An Employment Visa is for foreigners who will be employed while in Indonesia. For this, you will need to be sponsored by a company or organisation in Indonesia. This is sometimes referred to as a Temporary Stay Permit or KITAS, and is great for those seeking an extended work-play-stay visit to Indonesia.

Retirement Visa

If you are over 55 years old and looking to spend your twilight years amongst the tropical vistas of Bali, you can get yourself a renewable five-year visa. For this, your passport will need to be valid for at least 18 months and certain insurance standards such as financial capability will need to be proven.

60 Day Tourist Visa ‘211’

It seems many people don’t know about the 60-day tourist visa called “the 211” or “B-211 Tourist Visit Visa”. It can be obtained in embassies and consulates, and is also extendable for up to 6 months (costing about 550k for each month over the 60 days). It is effectively the same as the social visa, but much cheaper in comparison (costing about $50AUD, and there are usually no agent fees). Processing time varies from country to country and this option in particular seems to be quite elusive – it’s worth doing your own investigations.

211 Visa Bali
211 Visa Bali

And then there’s the Visa Run …

A long-time favourite jaunt for expats in Bali, a visa run is a quick return trip to a neighbouring country. This run is usually done on the day their Indonesian visa is set to expire (or in a couple of days before), with most popping across to Singapore in order to reset the visa clock and extend a stay.

Singapore is popular for a visa run as the Indonesian embassy in Singers is known to be quick and efficient. The visas take three days to process, but you can pay extra for an ‘express service’ and secure a new visa in the one day.

NOTE: The jig might be up for this beloved form of immigration exploitation however, with Thailand immigration officials declaring there will be no more visa runs in and out of Thailand from August 13, 2014. At this stage, there hasn’t been a crack down on Bali, but it’s good to keep in mind if this is something you’re interested in doing.

Travel tip: The Indonesian Embassy is an official organisation and has a dress code. Don’t be caught out wearing short shorts, singlet tops, sandals or anything that you would wear day-to-day in Bali. The embassy has standards people!

Good news for Australian travellers

The Indonesian Government has announced that it will cut its US$35 visa entry fee for Australian nationals from January 1 next year.

Indonesia is undoubtedly a popular holiday destination for Australians, with more than 704,000 Australian travellers visiting Indonesia between the start of 2014 and the end of August, according to recent Indonesian immigration figures.

There are even suggestions that a million Australians will visit by mid-December. So we can consider this a thank you for Australian’s dedicated Bali loving. Big yay!

Indonesian Embassy Singapore
No. 7 Chatsworth RoadSingapore 249761
Tel. (65) 6737 7422
Fax. (65) 6737 5037 / 6235 5783

If you want to extend your 30 day VOA for another 30 days, or run into any issues while in Bali, there are a number of places you can visit that will help you out for a fee.

Bali Expat Services
Jl. Kunti I No. 12, Seminyak, Bali.
Phone: +62 361 733744
Fax: +62 361 733744
Email: info@baliexpatservices.com
Website: www.baliexpatservices.com

If you want to DIY and extend your visa in Bali, there are two immigration offices in Bali. Even though ‘Bali time’ applies, it’s best to rock up at the office between 9am and 12pm. And don’t wear what you were wearing at the beach.

Immigration offices in Bali

Ngurah Rai International Airport
Jl. Ngurah Rai, Kuta.
Tel: (0361) 751038

Denpasar Immigration Office
Jl. Surapati 7, (in the Renon Complex), Niti Mandala, Denpasar.
Phone: (0361) 227828.

For anything else, you can also visit the friendly crew at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Indonesia
Jl. Pejambon No.6. Jakarta Pusat, 10110, Indonesia
Telephone: (+62 21) 344 15 08

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 info@thesevenseas.net.

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.

From manic markets to swanky boutiques: a comprehensive guide to shopping in Bali

Even if you’re not “planning” to make your Bali trip a shopping bonanza, chances are you will leave with more in your suitcase than when you arrived. Whether you’re just after a couple of cheap souvenirs to take home for the kiddies or you’re seeking some unique designer threads – there is a perfect destination for all discerning shoppers in Bali. The trick is to know your shopping style, and to then find the right destination to match.

The markets

A modern authentic Bali experience – a little rough around the edges perhaps, but chock full of vibrancy and local charm.

If you want to get intimate with the Balinese shopping culture – get thee to a market asap. The markets are a good place for travellers to meet the locals and get to know a bit more about Balinese culture. Pros: A modern authentic Bali experience – a little rough around the edges perhaps, but chock full of vibrancy and local charm. An opportunity to get your bargaining strategy sorted so that a good price is yours for the taking. Cons: Balinese markets can be intense. There is often a lot going on at once, including foot traffic, music and sneaky pedestrian potholes. If you are looking for a relaxing shopping experience, the markets may not be your cup of tea. Here are our market hot spots:

Sukawati Art Market, Jalan Raya Sukawati, Gianyar

The Sukawati Art Market is Bali’s most well-known and long-standing art market. If you are looking for traditional handmade products for your home or as gifts, then this two-story market is where you want to be. It has everything from wooden sculptures and paintings to handicrafts, textiles and accessories. You will find it on the Jalan Raya Sukawati main road in Gianyar.

Sukawati Market stall

Ubud Art Market

The Ubud Art Market is located opposite the Puri Saren Royal Ubud Palace and is open daily. Ubud is well known for its artistry and here you will find everything from silk scarves to baskets, woven goods and clothing such as shirts and sarongs. Known for featuring items of high quality and variety, this colourful and intoxicating market is perfect for finding special mementos – just make sure that you are getting a fair price that works for both you and the seller.


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Department stores

If haggling at the markets for the best price on a Bintang singlet isn’t your idea of a happy shopping experience, perhaps a western-style shopping experience might be more up your alley. Here you will find the at-home comfort of price tags and brands you know and recognise. Pros: Air conditioning and decent public toilet facilities. Cons: Bargaining for a better price is not really appropriate here. Prices may be a little better than they are at home, but don’t expect to pay next to nothing, particularly for imported merchandise. Here are a few department stores you shouldn’t miss in Bali:

Bali Collection, Nusa Dua

If you are looking for some high-end retail therapy, then make your way to the Bali Collection. Set over eight hectares in the same ‘hood as Bali’s best international five-star hotels, the Bali Collection offers luxury fashion brands, exotic souvenir gifts, spa facilities and restaurants. It’s advisable you get changed out of your beach towel and thongs before venturing into this department complex.

Mal Bali Galeria, Kuta

This large shopping complex is located right near the Simpang Dewaruci landmark. This self-proclaimed ‘family mall’ is popular with both locals and tourists. It features the Planet Hollywood Bali restaurant (yes, they still exist), the DFS Galleria Bali duty free shop and the Galeria 21 Cineplex, Bali’s premier cinema complex. The cinema is a great place to kill a few hours before heading off to the airport for an international flight.

Discovery Shopping Mall, Kuta Beach

This three-story shopping destination is one of the largest shopping malls in Bali. Here, you will find a load of recognisable retail brands and food franchises. If you have a hankering for Pizza Hut or a Starbucks coffee, you will find it here. The mall is located on the Jalan Kartika Plaza, but you can also access it from the beach.

Discovery Shopping Mall Entrance

If you are looking for something a bit different or unique to clothe the bod or enhance the home – boutique shopping might be your perfect match.


If you are looking for something in between the massive retail complexes and the heady hustle of the markets, Bali has some great boutiques featuring both local and international designers. If you are looking for something a bit different or unique to clothe the bod or enhance the home – boutique shopping might be your perfect match. Seminyak is well known as Bali’s designer hub. You will find knots of shop fronts on Jalan Laksmana and Jalan Raya Seminyak. Kerobokan, north of Seminyak, has a lot more to offer than the infamous Kerobokan Prison. JI Raya Kerobokan in particular has a great selection of home-wares to explore. Legian offers a bit of a reprieve from the hectic shop fronts of Kuta; try the main Jalan Legian for fashion boutiques and art shops. Don’t be afraid to explore little laneways and streets off the main drag. Some of the best treasures are often found of the beaten track. Pros: Locate something distinctive among the crazy mass-produced tourist market finds. Something that you would actually wear when you return home. Cons: Bargaining is subjective here. There is no harm in trying your luck, but be prepared for a shut down of epic proportions.

Main street shop fronts

This is where you will find boulevard-style shop fronts boasting everything from low-grade designer fakes and pirated DVDs to beachwear and sarong shops. Here, you are pretty much expected to haggle for the best price. A friendly note, however: if a local business is blatantly selling designer knockoffs such as handbags, sunglasses and jeans, you have some room to bargain. A shop that stocks boutique and original stock? Proceed with respect and caution.  Pros: Lots of tourist merchandise and souvenirs if you are looking for those knock off beauties such as Ray Bans, leather goods and anything with the name Bintang emblazoned on it. Bargaining required. Cons: See ‘pros’. We suggest Kuta Square, which offers a bit of everything and is 50 metres from Kuta Beach. The two-way avenue is full of fashion stores and places to sit and grab a bite. Any main city street near the beach or tourist attractions will usually serve you well.

Village shopping

There are a number of villages in Bali that are dedicated to certain arts and crafts that sell locally and export internationally. Here you will get long roads filled with Balinese artistry and handiworks that are often a stop on tourist tours. Pros: If you after that certain something special, then going to an area that specialises in it should skew the odds in your favour. Cons: Seeing streets upon streets of traditional handicrafts can be overwhelming. Here are a few amazing village shopping experiences not to miss:

Celuk Gold And Silversmiths, Celuk Vill

If you are hunting for some unique holiday bling, the main road of Jalan Raya Celuk is lined up with galleries and workshops filled with high quality and intricately designed gold and silver jewelry and Balinese ceremonial adornments. If window-shopping is more your thing, then you can check out how the artisans actually make their wares by having a sticky beak at the production processes.

Tegallalang Handicraft Centre, Ubud

Tegallalang handicraft centre is famous for arts, crafts and curios. Located in the district of the same name just several kilometres north of the main area of Ubud. Numerous shops feature assorted ornaments, jewelry, furniture, and traditional souvenir bits and pieces. If you are looking for stone carvings, then Batubulan Village, situated in west gate of Gianyar Regency, is well and truly worth a visit. Batuan has great paintings and Mas is famous for its woodcarvings.    

handicraft shopping bali

Main photo by carmenandnatasha.