Bali Guide (2018)
This guide covers visas, where to stay, find a place, getting around, things to do, and places to eat to get you ready to go. It’s your jumping off point into further exploration.
Most countries (India included!) are granted 30 days on arrival. This option is free and requires no prior paperwork. Effectively show up with a valid passport and you're in.
There are two options for stays more than 30 days. You can pay 35 USD for a 30 day visa on arrival which can be extended by another 30 days. If you want to stay longer than 60 days, then you must apply for a visa in your home country before coming to Indonesia. That visa may be extended another 60 days once in Indonesia.
We recommend using a visa agent for handling the extension. This saves you a trip to Denpasar. You'll need to head to Denpasar for fingerprinting regardless. We used Visa for Bali without complaints. They pick up your passport, schedule everything, tell you when to come for fingerprinting, and deliver the passport back to you. There are multiple agents advertising these services, so talk to fellow travelers and see what worked for them.
Picking a Place to Stay
The main areas are: Ubud, Kuta/Seminyak, Canggu, and the Bukit Peninsula. Generally speaking Ubud is a bustling place for foodies, digital nomads, and yogis. Kuta/Seminyak is a more shopping/retail vibe with an attached beach. Canggu and the Bukit Peninsula have a more laid back surfer feel. Areas outside the big destinations are naturally more quiet, inexpensive, and farther away from places to eat and things to do.
We spent our first week in Ubud. It was nice, but there were too many people and it was too hot for us. We ended up moving to Mesari House about half way between Tegallang and Mt. Batur. That was a perfect for us. It was significantly cheaper, bigger, nicer, had a pool, better climate, included breakfast, and more. Seriously, we could go on for ages about Mesari House. It's our "good place" benchmark. The only negative aspect was that it was 30 minutes away from Ubud (a.k.a. great food).
Choosing a place is an important decision. That's why you should always decide after visiting the place in person. If you're coming to Bali for a month, two months, or even longer then invest the time to check out each area before making a decision. Pick a home base for the first week and explore out from there. There are daily/weekly/monthly rental options as well. Entire villas are on offer around the island. These are the cheapest and best option for long term travelers. Don't go sight unseen though.
Scooter rentals are 300,000-350,000 IDR (5-7 USD) a day and you may even negotiate lower rates for longer rentals. You need a scooter if you want to do anything outside walking distance. Plus, riding a scooter around the island is best way to get out, explore, and have a good time. If you've never ridden one before (looking at you Americans) then dive in and you'll have a great time. I promise. Just don't ride for hours at a time though. Get off, take a break, and enjoy a coconut water. Your hind parts will thank you.
Don't bother renting a car. Hiring a daily car with driver costs 600,000-700,000 IDR for the entire day. You can set the itinerary or let the driver show you around. Given the cost difference between renting a scooter and hiring a car, it makes sense to hire a car for long distance trips when riding a scooter for the time/distance is impractical.
Obvious foreigners riding scooters may be stopped by police (or "police" depending). They'll check you for an international license and demand you pay varying amounts if you don't. It's likely you don't, so you'll need to write this off as cost of doing business (so keep a "bribes" category in your expense tracking). You can also get a temporary license in Denpasar to avoid this racket completely.
There is plenty to do in Bali from active adventures, beaches, spiritual retreats, waterfalls, and yoga. We tended to focus on activities within a 1.5-4 hour scooter ride radius.
Vegans and vegetarians have plenty of options across Bali. Naturally, they're clustered in larger areas like Kuta and Ubud. Our favorites were around Ubud. Here's some of our favorites.
Is Bali Right for Me?
If you're looking for a place to chill out and have slower placed days then Bali is the place for you. There's coworking spaces (some even have on-demand surf lessons) for remote workers. You should skip Bali if you're a city person. There's not that vibe here. Look elsewhere if you're into skyscrapers and high class international cuisine.