Bali. A practical Travel Guide for First-Timers



Bali is world-wide well-known by its paradisiacal beaches, temples arisen from the sea, spectacular volcanos, iconic rice fields, corals and exceptional marine bottom. I’ve put together this 8 days Bali useful travel guide with all the best spots in order to inspire you and make the most of your trip, especially if your first time on the island.

We spend 8 days in Bali which we distributed as follows:

  • 4 days in UBUD
  • 2 days in AMED
  • 2 days in GILI ISLANDS



Ubud is the heart of Bali Island besides to its cultural epicenter. Ancient temples surrounded by lush vegetation highlights its vibrant green color reflected in its ancient rice terraces. These terraces that are the livelihood of life for many peasants are a real spectacle for tourists.  

As a tourist destination, hosts plenty of restaurants, cafes and hotels for all budgets. It’s slightly more expensive than the other islands (some prices in restaurants similar to European ones). 

In fact, the royal family has their house in the Palace Puri Saren Agung. This palace can be visited for free and beside, traditional Balinese dances are represented, which are well worth seeing. 

Accomodation in Ubud

We stayed at the Best Western Premier Augung Resort Hotel, located north of Ubud. Both the location, the service and the breakfast buffet were perfect, so I recommend it. Although we booked on the go hotels in, it’ advisable to make reservations in advance because July is peak tourist season.

How to get to Ubud

Traffic dependent, it will take about 2 hours to reach Ubud from Denpasar Airport. You can take a taxi at the taxi rank at the exit of the airport. Its cost is approximately 350,000 IDRs.

In the same way, most of the hotels offer a shuttle service. In our case, we arranged for this service when booking the hotel.
As I mentioned before, we hired a driver for two days who guide us to the landmarks places of worship for locals, as well as the most popular tourist attractions.

 The best experiences in Ubud

You can experience old Bali as well as get into some of the island’s hidden gems with this list of top experiences in Ubud.


Attending a traditional Balinese dance show, it’s one of the best things to do in the afternoon. You can purchase the tickets at the same theater or near Ubud Palace where ticket vendors are usually available.


We saw at Ubud Palace the Legong & Barong Dance. The story relates the eternal struggle between Good and Evil. The dance starts at 7:30 pm every night, entrance fee is IDR 100,000.  It is worth attending such a performance.

For more info, check it out updated schedule about the dances in this website:


Another must-see visit, are the monkeys. You can not come to Ubud and not visit the Sacred Monkey Forest Sanctuary, a nature reserve of over 12 hectares, with forests, fountains, rivers and temples that seems like a fairy tale.  Located south of Ubud in Padangtegal. Its forests is home of 700 macacos, besides other species, as well as birds and fish.
The Sacred Monkey Sanctuary, comprises 3 temples, among them, Pura Dalem Agung (dedicated to Shiva) is the main one.


Don’t be afraid of monkeys that are all over the park, look at that innocent faces! Just keep some precautions like not feeding them and storing valuables because the moment you don’t watch out they hand in your backpack (if you carry it open).  On this web you can see more information:


As far as temples is concern, Bali is home of thousands, but below you will find a list with the most beautiful and interesting ones that you should not miss:



Besakih Temple is Bali’s most important religious Hindu complex, made up of 24 stunning different temples. It is located at an altitude of 1000 meters at the foot of the Agung volcano.

The entrance fee is IDR 60,000.

What you need to know:

*Once you have paid for the entrance, it’s not mandatory that you hire a guide to show you the complex. Many people will show up to persuade you that there are restricted places within the complex and that only with them you will have access to them. No matter what, places closed to the public no one can visit them.

*All visitors must wear a sarong in order to cover their legs. If you don’t have one, they’ll rent you one when buying the ticket.

* ULUN DANU BATUR – Lake Temple


This is the second temple in importance after Pura Besakih Temple. Pura Ulun Danu Batur is located in the island’s northeast, by Lake Bratan at the foot of Mount Batur. The complex is made up of 9 temples with 285 shrines dedicated to different gods protecting water, rivers and lakes. Here the farmers come on pilgrimage to pray for water for their crops. The entrance fee is IDR 50,000.



Pura Tanah Lot Temple, an Hindu temple dedicated to the gods of the sea, is one of the most popular among tourists due to its impressive views at sunset.
Interesting to note, the temple is built on a rock and, when the tide is low you can walk towards the temple, but when the tide is high, the islet is almost covered. You can access to its interior through a staircase carved into the rock, but it cannot be visited. Entrance fee: IDR 60,000.



From Pura Uluwatu you can see one of the best sunsets in Bali. Its location is stunning, sitting on top of a cliff over 70 meters above sea level. It preserves all the details of Balinese religious architecture.

Balinese Hindus consider this temple significant because it is one temple intended to protect people from evil spirits. To access the temple, you must climb some stairs, and from the clifftop, you will enjoy stunning views over the Indian Ocean. Entrance fee: IDR 40.000.


Nestled half an hour’s drive from Ubud, Pura Gunung Kawi captivated me by the surrounding nature: rice paddy landscapes, a river that runs through the entire area and lush vegetation.

Go down 300 steps to get to the temples. It has 10 huge shrines dug into the rock dedicated to King Anak Wungsu and his favorite queens.

To access the temples it is necessary to wear a sarong, don’t worry, they lend you one right there when you pay the entrance. Entrance fee: IDR 15,000 per person.


Situated 10 km away from Bal, it’s a unique temple because thousands of worshippers come to it to purify themselves. They practice a ritual comprising wetting 3 times their face, drinking 3 times water and submerging their head under the water jet.  This rite has to be performed on the 10 water pipes along the pool.

After the ceremony, the Balinese rice is placed on the forehead and a flower behind the ear when blessed, it is very curious to see. The entrance fee is IDR 15,000  per person.


Among Balinese people, rice means not only a food, but also is key in their ceremonies. They have an ancient rice paddy irrigation system, “subak”, of the ninth century approximately. This system comprises driving through channels the water to the upper rice terraces and going down to the lower terraces, using the exact amount of water they need.

Terraces are part of Bali’s culture for their traditional value and way of life, so take the chance to visit some. There are many all over the island, but here are the most impressive ones:



These splendid terraces located in Tabanan north-east of Ubud are so spectacular that they have been declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 2012.

On the road from Tabanan to Jatiluwih you will have the chance to stop at viewpoints to see the most stunning rice terraces on the island.



Tegalalang rice paddies are the most famous and visited ones in Bali. Help to this the stunning landscape and the easy access since they are a few kilometers from Ubud. The spot has become a very touristy one, so much so that there is a swing to take photos in such an idyllic landscape.


The Munduk area, being further away from Bali’s tourist circuit, is not so bustling and busy and as a result an air of authenticity and harmony spreads all over, which I enjoyed. Dense vegetation surrounds these rice paddies where you can get lost, explore its villages and contact with locals.


An impressive spectacle offered by Sidemen’s extensive rice paddies through the valleys south of the Agung volcano.

You’ll see these rice paddies on your way to Pura Besakih and Tukad Cepung Waterfall,  and also when you go to get a boat for the Gili Islands, in this case from Ubud on the Padang Bai road.


Hidden very close and a few meters away from the Palace of Tirta Gangga do not miss these small and beautiful rice paddies. Few people know them, so you will enjoy at your ease these beautiful rice paddies.


Aside from the breathtaking terraces, Ubud is home to some stunning waterfalls. I’ve put together a list with my favorite ones in or around Ubud, where you can cool off:



It is a 15-minute drive from Bali in Bedugul. The Git Git Waterfall, has very good access and is great for bathing in it.

Entrance fee is IDR 20,000 per person and 3,000 for parking.

Good to know, is close to the Twin Lakes (Tamblingan and Buyan) so you can take advantage to make a joint visit. And also from Pura Danu Bratan, these two spots are usually visited on the same route.


In the north of Bali, surrounded by jungle, chase one of the most beautiful waterfalls in Ubud, but also is the farthest. It is 2 hours by car or motorbike, about 62 km away. Along the way you can stop at one viewpoint on the road to see the Twin Lakes.

Access to the waterfall is easy. In the parking begins a path that goes down to the falls, a small “mini-trekking” of about 1 km, along the road we see several cocoa and coffee plantations, the two lakes , paddies and all the rich vegetation that surrounds them. Entrance to the waterfall is 20,000 IDR per person.


You will find this amazing waterfall near Munduk. The ticket just to view it costs 10,000 IDR, but if you want to swim, you need to hire a guide and then the price is between 175,000 to 375,000 IDR, depending on the activities you choose.


This is one of the most beautiful waterfalls in Bali, 1 hour drive from Ubud and is easily accessed, which is appreciated. Once in the parking you have to take a path of great vegetation that leads you to a canyon and after passing it you find the falls. The views are stunning.


Also in the north of Bali, these waterfalls are breathtaking and yet, easily accessible. Once in the parking, you have to go down some stairs and enjoy! Admission is IDR 10,000.


In the event that you’d like to dig up at the Indonesia culture, consider visiting one of Ubud’s many museums, especially the ARMA (Agung Rai Art Museum), Ubud Art Museum and NEKA Art Museum.


Shopping time…here you can get gifts, local crafts, clothes,… it’s the ideal market!.

How to get to Ubud Market:  is located right in the city center (at the beginning of Jalan Karna Street with Jalan Raya).

Side Note: In the afternoon almost all the shops are closed for that reason try to visit the market in the morning.



After visiting Ubud, our next destination was Amed. Amed is a fishing village 49 km from Ubud, about three hours north of Bali. The village comprises a single main street parallel to the coast, full of hotels, restaurants, warungs and homestays.  Above all, the top best thing to do in this place (apart from relaxing) is to practice the best diving and snorkeling on the whole island.

We stayed at the Double One Villas Hotel, a nice well-located hotel .  I definitely recommend it.

What to see and do in Amed

Taking Amed as a base camp, head to northeast Bali, where you will discover its best attractions:

Kusamba fishing village

Among the activities of this village, its participation in the production of salt is a very important one. During our visit we could appreciate the colorful canoes lined up along the black sand coasts. 

By the coastal road you come to GOA LAWAH (bat caves) the walls are full of bats.



Considered one of the most beautiful temples in Bali, belongs to the Karangasem Royal family.

Hindus consider sacred the water from its fountains and use it for Ceremonies. At the very entrance, catch your eye, a huge swimming pool with points through which you can walk among decorative sculptures. Quite enjoyable!

LEMPUYANG TEMPLE (Gates of Heaven)


This temple is one of the most well-known landmark of Bali and its gates the most instagramables ones. Situated in Karangasem at the top of Mount Lempuyang, its famous and photographed gates of the sky are located in the central area of the complex.

On the drive from Tirta Gangga to Lempuyang Temple, nestled over 1000 meters above the sea, you can see from stunning natural viewpoints to large rice terraces, which persuades us even more to make these visits. 

Finally, no list of things to do in Bali is complete without Watching the sunset from the beach with the Agung volcano in the background, it’s magical!. The best spot for this is from the Sunset Point café, when lying in the hammock and a drink in hand.

From Amed the Gili Islands are only 1 hour 15 minutes by boat. 



If you enjoy diving or snorkeling, this is your place! You shouldn’t miss out!
It’s an archipelago formed by 3 wonderful islands: Gili Trawagan, Gili Meno and Gili Air.

The largest of the three and the most overcrowded, Gili Trawangan, is the one with the youthful tourism looking for a party.

Gili Meno, the middle island, is the least exploited of the three, has very few accommodations and little entertainment.

On the other hand, Gili Air, a calm island yet with nightlife so you can go out for dinner or for a cocktail in the evening. Taking into account its size, this remarkable island holds a lively spirit and quite a few restaurants.

Moving around on the 3 islands is by walking, cycling or horse cart.

How to get there

By boat: the transport company Free Bird Express has daily departures at 9:30 a.m. It makes 2 stops: The first one is Gili Trawagan 1 hour length. If you continue traveling to Gili Air, is 15 minutes more. Gili Meno is reached by local boat from either island.

Side Note: Buying tickets at a local agency in Bali comes out cheaper than online.
Boats from the Gili and Lombok Islands usually depart early in the morning from Padang Bai Port. 

Since the boat literally drops you on the beach in the south of the island, be prepare to get off with the flip-flops on and your suitcase aloft or backpack placed, as applicable.

As soon as you set foot on the beach, you will face many donkeys-taxis offering you a ride to your hotel for about IDR 100,000, although everything on the island is within walking distance.

We chose Gili Air island because of the 3 islands was the one that best fit our expectations.

Where to stay in Gili Air

Regarding accommodation, the best area to stay in Gili Air is in the southeast area, where most of the hotels and restaurants are located.

What to do in Gili Air

As I mentioned above, Gili Air is a true paradise that can be explored on foot in less than an hour where there are neither cars nor motorbikes.  You can enjoy:

Tour the island on foot or by bike. There are many spots to rent a bike to discover the island. The most interesting thing is definitely to get lost for it.


– Enjoy a beautiful sunset. Undoubtedly the best thing about Gili Air are its amazing sunsets. A good place to do so is Mowie’s Bar, while you have a drink on the beach loungers.  

Diving or snorkeling. One of the main attractions of these islands is the possibility of diving or snorkeling on its reefs. The transparence of its waters makes them an ideal place to start in this world.

Snorkeling you can see giant turtles and thousands of very colorful fish less than 50 meters from the shore.

For me, this was the first time I did snorkeling, and could not love it more! Being able to breathe underwater calmly and being present at the moment. In fact, it has set the bar very high for my next incursions.

Bali Travel Guide Wrap Up

I hope that this guide is useful to you, especially if it is your first time in Bali. Are you traveling for an extensive time in Indonesia, perhaps you would like to read my guides dedicated to Lombok, Sulawesi, Flores and Yogyakarta (Java).

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