With vaccines offering a hope that 2021 (or maybe 2022) will see the return of international travel, you’re probably starting to think of places to go on that first big overseas trip in a while. And, if you’re from New Zealand or Australia in particular, you’re probably considering Bali. What’s a trip to Bali really like though…?
Bali is one of the world’s most polarising travel destinations. For many, it’s an exotic island paradise filled with friendly locals, beautiful scenery and Instagrammable food. For others, it’s an over-touristed, messy place full of drunk, annoying Australians. And for the rest, it’s somewhere in-between. For me, Bali is whatever you want it to be. Want to hang out with drunk Australians? You’re in luck! How about a yoga-filled holiday in the green interior of the island? You can do that too. Tired of the crowds? Head to somewhere like Munduk, which is anything but over-touristed.
For a lot of tourists, the first night in Bali will be spent at one of the beach resort towns near the airport. Kuta is a popular one, as are Seminyak, Legian and Jimbaran. If your first experience of Bali is Kuta, you’re in for a shock. It’s loud, seedy and the beach isn’t even very good (great sunsets though). If you spent all your Bali days in Kuta you won’t have a great experience (unless you’re a perma-drunk Australian), so it’s best to move on quickly. The other beach towns nearby aren’t quite as “much” as Kuta, but there’s a similar vibe. Also, the loud traffic, touts and rip-off taxi drivers may get annoying.
That isn’t Bali
Ok, it is Bali, but it’s not the only version of Bali out there. There’s so much more to this island, but to see it you’ll have to venture away from those convenient beach towns. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with having a boozy holiday by the beach, but if you’re looking for more you’ll easily find it. There are much quieter beach towns (Lovina, Amed, Padangbai to name a few) and a few inland towns that have a far different vibe to the coastal ones.
I reckon the beaches on Bali are a bit average (compared to nearby islands) and that the real charm of this island is found in the interior. There’s heaps to see, including volcanoes, waterfalls, temples, and rice terraces. In terms of scenery, and the variety of things you’ll see, it’s hard to look past Bali as a sightseeing spot in Southeast Asia. There are also some cool towns to stay in, including Ubud and Munduk. Ubud is sprawling and hectic in its own way, but it’s still a lot more pleasant than the busy beach towns.
A trip to Bali doesn’t mean you have to stay on the one island. There are heaps of islands near Bali to explore and most are reached within an hour or two. You’ve got the nearby Nusa islands (Nusa Penida and Nusa Lembongan) as well as the Gili Islands, home to some of the best beaches in Southeast Asia (and way better than the ones on Bali). There’s also Lombok and Java nearby, which are holiday destinations in their own rights. Basically, you have a huge array of options when visiting Bali.
READ MORE: 10 of the Best Islands Near Bali
But what will my trip be like?
I have no idea of who you are and what you’re into, so I made a few “sample travellers” up –hopefully you’ll identify with one!
Jimmy – Tradie – Australia
Jimmy loves drinking with the boys in exotic locations. Kuta is the perfect spot for him. He also has a keen interest in Balinese basket weaving and has Instagram, which means he wants to take some photos to impress people. He’ll spend most of his time in Kuta, but will branch out to some temples during the days and maybe visit a waterfall or temple. Oh, he’ll also do a basket weaving course somewhere.
Shaz – Teacher – Australia
Shaz likes to escape the grind of teaching for a couple of weeks each year, and Bali is always a good idea. She spends most of her time in Ubud, doing yoga, seeing shamans, and strolling through rice-fields. She’ll eat smoothie bowls in open-air restaurants, do yoga poses in front of volcanoes and maybe do a cooking course.
Grant – Business Owner – New Zealand
Grant has a strong dislike of loud Australians but doesn’t realise how loud he gets when he’s drunk. He went to Bali 20 years ago and hated it, but is willing to give it another go. He gets a private transfer from the airport straight to a flash resort and spends his days doing trips around the island.
Jamie and Ashley – Office Workers – New Zealand
Jamie and Ashley are a couple who love taking holidays together. They’ve been all over the world but considered Bali to be a little too “common” for their tastes. They finally cave and book that cheap ticket, and for a start regret doing so. After spending a few days in the Gili Islands, their tunes change. They see Bali for what it is – a place where whatever kind of trip you want can be a reality. They’ll never again allow themselves to be swayed by negative opinions about a place. Their next destination is Somalia.
I hope those completely made-up caricatures give you some idea of what a trip to Bali could be like. The key takeaway is that a trip to Bali is whatever you want it to be – so book that ticket when you can!
Have you been to Bali? Let my readers know about your experience in the comments below!
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