The Ultimate First Timer's Guide To Bali

Young woman in a white dress walking through the lush green rice fields of Ubud in Bali

Bali is one of the world's favourite holiday destinations, and it's not hard to see why. Spectacular beaches, lush jungles, friendly locals and affordable accommodation, food and drinks... what more could you want?

However, if you've never been before, planning a trip to Bali can be pretty daunting. Firstly, there's the advice from all those mates who claim to be Bali experts. Then, there's the thousands of resorts, hotels and villas to choose from.

That's why we've decided to take the stress out of holiday planning and bring all the essentials to you right here. So grab your partner, girl gang or the boys and get planning - we're going to Bali!

The Basics

You probably know this already, but it doesn't hurt to have a refresher. Bali is the beautiful Indonesian island nestled between Java and Lombok, north-west of Australia.

The official language is (surprise, surprise) Indonesian, however many inhabitants also speak Balinese. That being said, thanks to the island's popularity as a tourist destination, English speakers can get by just fine.

While the majority of Indonesians are Muslim, on Bali, Hindu is the main religion. When visiting sacred sites, always be respectful by covering your legs and shoulders and taking note of signage and other instructions.

Bali uses the Indonesian Rupiah (IDR). One Australian dollar will get you about 10,000IDR, depending on the exchange rate. Bali can be done on any budget - nasi goreng can go for as little as AU$2, and beer often starts at AU$2.50.

Best Time to Go to Bali

Many people will tell you there's no bad time to go to Bali, however, some months are more popular than others.

The dry season lasts from April to October, bringing sunshine and very little rain to Bali. It should come as no surprise, then, that this is by far the most popular (and expensive) time of year for travellers.

While the wet season (November to March) does bring rain almost every day, it usually only rains for a couple of hours. It's also way less crowded and a lot cheaper. On the downside, the humidity can be incredibly uncomfortable, so make sure your accommodation has air-con!

No matter when you go, one thing's for sure - it'll be hot.

Read more: When's the Best Time to Go to Bali?

How to Get to Bali

Fights to Bali depart most major Australian cities every day with Qantas, Jetstar, Virgin Australia, Tigerair, Garuda Indonesia, AirAsia, Singapore Airlines and more.

Direct flights can take anywhere between six and a half hours (departing Sydney) to just three hours and 45 minutes (from Perth).

According to Skyscanner, it's cheapest to fly to Bali between the months of August and December. However, sales come around all the time, so keep your eyes peeled and you might just get a great deal even during peak season!

Where to Stay in Bali

The best place to stay in Bali depends on what kind of holiday you're after.

If you love the beach almost as much as you love partying, Kuta is for you. It's the most budget-friendly part of the island, but as a result, it's also one of the noisiest and busiest. If you want to be close to the action but away from the hustle and bustle, Legian (just north of Kuta) is a good choice.

For somewhere just as kind to your bank account but without the Kuta craziness, Sanur is a great option. It's a lot quieter, not as touristy, and provides a more authentic Balinese experience.

Heading off on a romantic getaway? Jimbaran is perfect for couples. Known for its spectacular sunsets and fresh seafood, Jimbaran is peaceful and isolated enough to truly relax and unwind.

For a couples' escape with a bit more action, try Uluwatu. Famed for its surf breaks, Uluwatu is also home to some seriously luxe resorts.

Families will love Nusa Dua, thanks to its huge number of resorts that cater to everyone. We're talking massages for mum and dad while the little ones run amok in the kids club. Perfect!

If you're an aspiring yogi, solo traveller or simply want a serious digital detox, give Ubud a go. Set among the lush, leafy hills of Bali, it's the ideal place for those wanting to give their mind, body and soul a little TLC.

Seminyak and Canggu are great all-rounders with plenty of variety no matter what type of getaway you're looking for. Seminyak is renowned for its uber-cool restaurants, cafes, bars, shops and luxury private villas. On the other hand, Canggu is super relaxed, chilled-out and home to some of the coolest black sand beaches and best swells on the island.

Read more: Where to Stay, Eat, Drink and Shop in Seminyak

How to Get Around Bali

Don't go expecting high-quality public transport - if you want to get around Bali, you're going to have to do it yourself.

Going to and from the airport, your best bet is a taxi or shuttle. Otherwise, look for accommodation that includes return airport transfers.

Unless you're planning on going further afield from where you're staying, you can generally get by on foot or with a rented bicycle.

For short distances (and if you're willing to brave the crazy Balinese roads), scooters are an easy and affordable option, costing anywhere between AU$4 and AU$7 per day, plus petrol.

What to Do in Bali

There is no shortage of things to do in this island paradise, and there's something for every age, budget and desired activity level.

First of all, there's the beaches and all the fun that comes along with them. Most resorts offer snorkelling gear, kayaks, paddle-boards and more, but you'll also find rental places in most town centres. On the flip side, you could always just bail on doing anything resembling exercise and laze on the beach with a cocktail and a good book instead!

There are also a number of temples everyone should visit, including Tanah Lot, Uluwatu's famous Monkey Temple, Saraswati Temple in Ubud and Ulun Danu Beratan.

A trip to Ubud's jaw-dropping Tegalalang Rice Terrace is also a must, as is exploring the nearby jungles and waterfalls. If you can, make it a full day trip so you can get the most out of this stunning area.

Shopaholics, don't worry - there's plenty for you, too. Seminyak and Petitenget are filled with beautiful boutiques showcasing both Balinese and Australian designers. If markets are more your thing, head to Ubud, Denpasar, Gianyar and Canggu for a huge range of locally produced goods, farm-fresh food, fashion, crafts and more. Just be prepared to haggle!

Oh, and don't forget to get the perfect snap! Check out our picks for the eight most Insta-worthy places across Bali.

Where to Eat in Bali

You've probably heard of 'Bali belly' before, and if you want to avoid it, be careful where you eat (and make sure you don't drink the tap water).

We get it, those street food stalls look seriously appetising, but ask yourself: Is it worth risking wasting those precious vacay days out of action? The same goes for those cheap-as-chips bars. At the risk of sounding like your parents, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is!

Instead, stick to popular, clean-looking restaurants, and when in doubt, consult your new best mate, TripAdvisor. Need some ideas? See our picks for the 10 best restaurants in Bali and the 11 hottest bars and beach clubs!

What to Pack

There are two things to keep in mind when packing for a Bali holiday: It's hot and it's humid. Stick to light linens and cotton, and avoid anything thick, heavy, tight-fitting, or dark in colour.

Next, make sure you stock up on the essentials. It's easy to come back red as a lobster and covered in mosquito bites, so take plenty of broad-spectrum sunscreen and strong insect repellent. A hat and some sunnies won't go astray, either!

And as much as you might not want to think about it, you should plan for the unexpected. That means diarrhea remedies and electrolyte sachets (in the case of Bali belly), a first aid kit, and aloe vera if you accidentally get a little too much vitamin D.

No matter what you end up packing, though, make sure you leave room for all your Bali buys!

Now that you know the basics, it's time to get planning! Book those flights and head over to Scoopon Holidays now to save big on luxury Bali accommodation. We're talking villas with private pools, family-friendly resorts and luxe five-star sanctuaries. Get on it!

Read more: 12 Best Places to Stay in Bali