LOVE. This is how Bali was portrayed in the movie Eat. Pray. Love. where the main character embarking on few months of spiritual travel to find herself. But what if you don’t have the luxury of time and only given a limited time in Bali? Here’s a week-long Bali itinerary you could consider to relish the island’s activities and experiences.
Bali is one of the bigger islands of Indonesia and also the most visited one with around five million tourist arrivals in 2016. The results are congested roads especially in Kuta, entrance fees on every attraction, and more Western restaurants than local ones. Major signs of mass tourism. Nonetheless, I enjoyed our six-day stay in the most congested island of Indonesia.
There are tons of places to see and things to do in Bali that staying a week will drain your energy and budget. A week is not enough if you want to cover every part of the island. From temples, local dances, heritage sites, coffee plantations, to dealing with aggressive monkeys. Kindly take note that this Bali itinerary and travel guide is only focused on the central part of the island.
THINGS BEFORE YOU GO
Philippines is included in the 140+ countries that can enter Indonesia for a maximum stay of 30 days. Just bring your passport having a minimum six months validity and few pages to spare. No hotel reservations and return tickets were asked during our arrival.
Dry season in Bali is from April to September and would entail more expensive accommodations and crowded tourist attractions. October to March is considered as the rainy season when the sea is rougher and beaches can be quite dirty due to debris being washed onto the shores.
Currency in Indonesia is Indonesian Rupiah (IDR). IDR100,000 is around USD7.5.
HOW TO GO TO BALI, INDONESIA
Airlines in the Philippines offer direct flights to Denpasar International Airport from Ninoy Aquino International Airport for about 4 hours of travel. Another option is to take a flight either to Changi Airport (Singapore) or Kuala Lumpur Intl’ Airport (Malaysia) and take another flight to Bali.
HOW TO GET OUT OF NGURAH RAI INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT (DENPASAR)
We landed in Bali around 9 in the evening and it was already late and tiring to look for a public transportation. We searched for the taxi rates prior to arrival but we were surprised that rates already went high compared to the rates we’ve seen online. Our accommodation was in the center of Denpasar and we paid IDR200,000 (~USD14). The airport is known to be managed by taxi mafias, hence the price.
I couldn’t find a detailed way of commuting from the airport to specific destinations in Bali. With that, if you’ll be traveling in groups, you can book an airport pick-up via Klook for as low as Php340, depending on your destination.
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BALI ITINERARY AND TRAVEL GUIDE
DAY 1 Arrival
If you’ll be arriving early in the morning, good for you. You can wait till check-in on your booked accommodation and start exploring nearby places. If it was already late to start a tour, I suggest to just relax and just prepare for a tiring day ahead. Go around your place and look for restaurants to have your meals during your stay.
While looking for a tour guide and car service for our tours, I decided to visit the Bajra Sandhi Monument which is a 10-minute drive from our hotel. Located adjacent the Bali Governor’s office, the landmark depicts the hardships of the Balinese people throughout history. The remarkable landmark is built with the Tri Mandala architectural principle. The center of the monument is surrounded by an inner courtyard and another outer courtyard. Details and designs of Bajra Sandhi Monument on all sides are similar providing same view on all sides.
DAY 2 East Bali Tour
We hired a personal tour guide and van service on our second day to visit destinations on the east side of Bali. We started as early as 8 in the morning for us to witness the earliest performance time for Barong and Kasik Dance, a Balinese dance narrating the conflict of mythological characters barong the good evil spirit triumphing over rangda, the evil witch. A friend who joined me said that the dance is a tourist trap for the IDR100,000 (~7.5USD) entrance fee. But for me, it was a great show to get to know the Balinese people; their folklore, music, and arts.
We were supposed to drop by Sukawati Art Market but decided to continue to Batuan Temple. Everyone is required to wear a sarong when entering the temple. There’s a complex across the road where you can borrow the garment. No fees were collected just donations. Batuan Temple is a temple complex in Bali with few pavilions with thatched-roof and beams engraved with Balinese arts. A five-tiered gate is heavily carved with Balinese figures.
After a short lunch of chicken curry and a fresh coconut, we went straight to Goa Gajah. Goa Gajah is known as the elephant cave. A pool, with several Hindu figures holding vases that serve as water spouts, welcomes everyone going down the temple. The elephant cave has a massive mural of stone carvings depicting a head of a creature with the mouth as the cave entrance. The cave is not that deep and only a few stone idols can be found inside. The environment that surrounds the temple is really serene and relaxing with the river and few rice paddies.
Gunung Kawi Temple, on the northeast side of Ubud, is one of Bali’s most interesting archaeological sites. It is actually a funerary complex with massive stone walls and rock-cut shrines carved few meters from the ground. Before you reach the temple, you need to walk down the stairs flanked by locals offering items for souvenir. Similar to Goa Gajah, one can also appreciate the lush surroundings of Gunung Kawi Temple.
Last on our list that day was Tirta Empul Temple which literally means “holy water” in the Balinese language. The temple complex comprised of few courtyards. Jaba Tengah, located in the inner courtyard, is where locals and tourists go down the purification pool, submerged themselves in a very cold stream of water, and dip themselves on around a dozen of waterspouts. Locals also ask bathers to buy Balinese canang offerings to offer the gods during their purification process.
DAY 3 Kuta Beach and Uluwatu Sunset Tour
The third day was a little relaxed compared to our tiring first day of touring around the east side of Bali. We spent the entire morning in Kuta Beach watching surfers ride the waves and some tourists lazing on their beds under colorful umbrellas.
Around three in the afternoon when our guide from Bali Golden Tours fetched us for the Uluwatu Temple and Jimbiran Bay tour. Kecak and Fire Dance is an iconic art performance and one of the things why tourists visit Uluwatu Temple. Few minutes before the start of the dance, we roamed on the side of the temple, near the cliff, offering an endless view of the Indian Ocean. We could’ve stayed longer if not for the aggressive monkeys stealing items from tourists.
Kecak and Fire Dance is really a different one compared to Barong Dance. The dance is usually held during sunset where half-naked Balinese men chant the word Kecak, pronounced as “ke-chak”, in different rhythms and tempo. The sound they produce serves as the musical accompaniment of another dance-drama to behold. Costumes and performances are really spectacular add to that the stunning landscape that surrounds the venue. When the sun disappears from the horizon, an element of fire will be introduced in the dance that will surely leave everyone in awe.
Before we headed back to Kuta Beach, we went to Jimbiran Bay, a fishing village in southern Bali famous for the line of restaurants along Jimbiran beach. The tour we availed from Bali Golden Tours had a seafood dinner with a plate filled with crab, fried squid, baked clams, lobster, and grilled fish. It was a perfect way to end a slow day in Bali.
DAY 4 UNESCO Heritage Sites Tour
Fourth day, the weather was really good and we already claimed that it will be a good one. It was scheduled for the UNESCO Heritage sites on the west side of the island. First stop was Taman Ayun Temple, part of the cultural landscape of Bali inscribed in the UNESCO World Heritage list. Similar to other temple complexes in Bali, Taman Ayun has several courtyards with the innermost one only accessible during festivals and rituals. Nonetheless, you can still roam around on a path to marvel at the multi-tiered meru towers.
Bali Coffee Plantation is along the way and since it started to drizzle, a nice coffee tasting experience is perfect as per our guide. There is a quick tour around the plantation and demo of how the coffee luwak (civet) and other types of coffee are produced. At the end of the tour is a coffee taste test with several versions like ginseng, ginger, and Bali coffee among others. The view of the terraces on the background adds a Banaue-like feel to the experience. We also tried the civet coffee, for IDR50,000 (~USD3.5), brewed in a special brewing machine. The plantation also has a souvenir shop where you can buy bags of coffee beans, granules, or powder.
Rain finally befriended us when we arrived in Pura Ulun Danu Bratan area. The rain was persistent that we decided to have an Indonesian buffet first (part of our tour from Bali Golden Tours) to try some delectable Balinese meal. The rain subsided a little so we instantly made ourselves through the main gate. Pura Ulun Danu Bratan is a water temple on the banks of Lake Bratan. If it could’ve been a sunny day, the temple would be complemented with a panoramic view of the mountains.
Our guide mentioned that the water in the lake flows to smaller temples down the mountain and even supply water to Jatiluwah Rice Terraces, another UNESCO World Heritage destination. It’s not the harvest season so the terraces were not that green so we only stayed for a while watching a carefree group of local kids playing on water canals.
Sunset will be in Tanah Lot, our driver-cum-guide mentioned once we boarded our van service. Tanah Lot is a rock formation off the mainland and serves as a pilgrimage site for the Balinese people. If you’re an Amazing Race fanatic, Season 28 had Tanah Lot as one of its locations during the challenge. The place is indeed stunning during sunset.
DAY 5 Ubud Walking Tour
From Kuta Beach, we transferred to Ubud to continue our Bali experience. As much as we wanted to stay in a villa, our budget only allowed us to book two nights in a Puji Bungalows. It’s a hostel, not a villa, but it has its own pool with rice fields on the side, not bad for PHP450 a night.
Ubud is famous for the Monkey Forest where monkeys can freely roam around the park and nearby establishment. Just a reminder to secure all loose items and articles in your body because these monkeys can be aggressive and would snatch anything from you. But the fact that these animals have the freedom to go around makes you appreciate the nature park.
If you’re walking around Ubud, it’s hard to miss the art galleries and stalls comprising the Ubud Art Market. You can find tons of art pieces from figures to paintings and other home decors. Ubud Palace and Pura Taman Saraswati, not far from each other, are also attractions to explore during your walking tour. If you still have the energy to spare, continue to Campuhan Ridge Walk, famous for its grass hillside, hiking trails, and lush surrounding. I continued until the end of the road and passed by some villa accommodations and small villages bordered by rice paddies and terraces.
DAY 6 Departure
Last day in Bali, if you have time, you can still spend the few hours left by visiting Ubud Art Market for last minute shopping fix. If you’re heading somewhere in Indonesia like we did (we went to Lombok!), it’s better to find and book your bus or boat trip in advance.
WHAT AND WHERE TO EAT
Since Indonesia is the first leg of my tour around Southeast Asia, I rarely eat at fancy restaurants. Most of our meals in Indonesia were at random restaurants and usually Balinese or Indonesian meal, we love Ayam Penyet so much! We also had a limited time to chill because most days were spent discovering temples and natural landscapes of Bali.
WHERE TO STAY
Finding a place to stay in Bali is not difficult as long as you know your budget and its corresponding worth for the accommodations. If you’re on a budget, hostels and budget hotels are everywhere. We stayed in Pop Hotels, a chain of hotels in Indonesia similar to Go Hotels, during our stay in Denpasar and Kuta Beach. For Ubud, if you want to experience luxury villas, you can check Airbnb for options or avail the services of luxury hotels.
For a list of recommended hostels in Bali, Indonesia from TripAdvisor, you can check here.
Bali Travel Tips
- Public transportation in Bali is not that established compared to other Southeast Asia cities. If you’re pessimistic about riding motorcycles in touring around, it is recommended to avail a service van. A whole day rental usually starts from IDR500,000 (~USD36) and that includes the van services, the driver, and the gas. You still need to pay for parking and entrance fee to temples and parks. It works best for groups of more than three for greater savings.
- If not, better to avail the services of tour agencies like Bali Golden Tour who can handle your tours from the van service, driver and guide, food (depends on the tour), temple entrances, and other fees.
- Don’t forget to try Teh Botol. I usually have one bottle every meal.
- Uber and Grab is prohibited in Ubud area so don’t be shocked if no one picks you up in Ubud.
- Check your base. On our case, we stayed two nights in each area: Denpasar, Kuta, and Ubud. This made us accessible to our itinerary. According to our guide, traveling from Ubud to Kuta Beach sometimes takes around two hours if traffic is really worse.
- Monitor proper dress code. If you can enter temples in Thailand with your shorts and sleeveless shirts, Balinese people are really respectful to their shrines and temples, and as a tourist, you should too. Always bring a sarong with you.
- You’ll be a millionaire in instant. Your USD75 will be converted to a whopping one million Indonesia rupiah.
- Tips are not expected by guides and restaurant crews. But if you think they went beyond your expectations, it is fine to reward them.
BALI ITINERARY: Sample Expenses
TOTAL EXPENSES: IDR2,893,000 (~ PHP10,950 or USD210)
Tours, food, entrance fees, and transportation: IDR2,268,000
5-night accommodation: IDR625,000