Trip planner Bali
Photo: Rice field scenes in south Bali.
A week in Bali
What with all the cheap flights that are now available to the Indonesian island of Bali, more and more people are popping across for a short holiday of anything from a couple of days to a week. So what's the best way to spend a short break in Bali? The simple answer is it depends ... on you.
Are you looking for a week-long laze on the beach with a bit of surfing thrown in or would you prefer bike riding and volcano climbing? You've no double heard of Eat, Pray, Love so perhaps a hideaway in the hills of Ubud with a generous dose of yoga thrown in would do the trick?
We're going to depart from our standard itinerary model and instead suggest a few different places for different kinds of people – you can put the pieces together yourself.
Bali is bigger than you may think and the generally poor standard of roads – and the heavy traffic in the south – makes the going even more time consuming than it should be. This means that while it is possible to get around by the local transport system (bemos) in practice most people tend to get around by hire car or taxi.
We'd say with a week, pick three spots at the most as you'll otherwise be spending too much of your time in transport, packing and unpacking.
Bali in a nutshell
Here are some of the main destinations in Bali you might be looking to fit in to your week-long stay. Remember: no more than three!
This is the heart of the south Bali beach set. Kuta and Legian are the most crass, migrating to something slightly more upmarket in Seminyak. Think an oversupply of bars and restaurants, some really quite good, some awful. Similarly awful are the touts and dodgy characters. On the plus side, especially in Kuta you'll find some very affordable beds (and beers), and the beach, when clean, is quite good for learning to surf on. If you're young (or young at heart) and like to party, this is where all the action is. Beyond Seminyak lies Canggu, once all paddy, now filling with high-walled private villas which are often (illegally) available for rent.
The teardrop shaped sandstone rise at the southern tip of Bali is home to some of its best beaches. Balangan, Padang Padang, Bingin and Uluwatu are just the better known of some classic Bali breaks. Most beaches have a good range of budget beds, but bear in mind you'll be a long way from the party at Kuta/Legian. Many choose to stay at the latter, commuting for the waves by motorbike.
This is Bali's five-star bubble. When Obama comes to hang out in Bali and meet with other world leaders, this is where he stays. Think with six-star food and drink prices. Like the rest of the Bukit, you're quite isolated here and while the hotels can seem affordable for the standard, they'll kill you on F&B. Nusa Dua is popular with families due to its calm waters and self-contained resorts, but as independent travellers, this is not somewhere we'd put near the top of our list.
Ubud is struggling with its popularity. The traffic is terrible, touts worse and the beautiful rice paddies are slowly being paved over for yet more . It retains a charm and sublime beauty once you're off the main streets. It's popular with new agers, yogis, outdoors types and those trying to discover their inner selves with a yoga mat under one arm and a copy of EPL under the other. The town goes to bed early and is known more for its organic food than its party scene. If you're looking for the scenery without the touts and hordes, consider either Sideman (midway between Ubud and Candi Dasa) or Munduk (halfway from Ubud to Pemuteran).
Sanur and Candi Dasa
Both are old school family beach resort areas. Sanur has a good offshore reef break, Candi Dasa some good snorkelling. Neither's beaches are lovely - Candi Dasa has next to no beach left. Prices are moderate and both can serve as good bases to visit outlying sites. Think: slow couple of days with the family.