Bali has been on my bucket list for more years than I can remember. It has been on all of my vision boards and if there is a YouTube video out there about Bali, I've watched it. I was obsessed with this country before ever going there or knowing anything about it. All I knew was that I needed to go. So when the opportunity of a confidence and wellness retreat came up (that happened to be in Bali) I knew this was the Universe nudging me to go. Before my brain could talk me out of it I jumped at the opportunity and said yes to the solo trip of a lifetime.
I am beyond in love with this magical island and it has changed me forever. I cannot wait to go back soon as I have honestly never felt so myself, anywhere else in the world. If you also have a soul-pull for beautiful Bali then I hope this guide can be of help to you when deciding what to do and where to go when you're there.
I live in the UK so it was a fair old journey from door to door. I flew out from London Heathrow to Kuala Lumpur (about 12.5 hours) and then had a 5 hour wait in Kuala Lumpur Airport (this wasn't fun but you've gotta do what you've gotta do, right?!). From KL to Bali it was a short 3 hour flight, which was welcomed after the previous long haul flight and tedious stop over. I landed in Denpasar International Airport (Ngurah Rai International Airport) at around 3.30pm (Bali time) and didn't actually get out of the airport until gone 5pm. This was due to the extremely long queue to get through passport control, luckily the wait for my luggage wasn't too bad. I arranged for a driver to pick me up from the airport as I had read (prior to going) that the airport taxis will most likely over charge you and to be honest I just didn't want to be dealing with the hassle of trying to get a taxi at a decent price after almost 24 hours travelling. So I would highly recommend pre-booking your airport transfer either through your accommodation or a private driver. I used Your Man In Bali and couldn't recommend him more. From the airport to Canggu, where I was staying is only a 20km drive which should take 50 mins maximum, but due to Bali traffic (which I speak about later in this blog) it took 90 minutes.
The main way to get around Bali is by scooter/moped. However, as someone that has never ridden a scooter, I decided it was wise I didn't try and learn in Bali. This was a good decision. The roads in Bali are absolutely hectic so be prepared for a lot of traffic, wherever you are heading. This is the reason most of the locals (and a lot of tourists/expats) use scooters to get around as they can whizz in between all the traffic. However, personally I stuck to taxis for short trips and a private driver for day trips and airport transfer.
As mentioned above I used a driver called Putu who runs Your Man In Bali. Putu was recommended to me by someone I follow on Instagram and I am so glad I went with him! When Putu wasn't able to pick me up from the airport himself, he organised another of his staff to meet me which saved me the stress of finding someone else! I went on 2 day trips to explore waterfalls, temples and rice terraces and hired Putu for the day (8 hours) each time. It was 600,000 IDR for the day with him (which is roughly £30), however, on the second day I paid him a little more to show my appreciation for his time and he was extremely grateful. Putu was amazing because of his local knowledge (he knew the best places to take me) and also his friendliness and openness about the culture (he answered my 21 questions as I love learning about new cultures). A lot of the time because I was travelling solo, he not only drove me to each location but also came with me and took lots of photos for me which was amazing.
In most areas you will see signs that say 'please do not use online taxis'. This means they don't like you using Blue Bird Taxi (their version of Uber) as opposed to the local taxi service. The reason for this is because the 'online taxis' are cheaper. Although, you are not supposed to use the online taxis, most people still do and you will see them driving up and down the streets. Before you get in any taxi (local or Blue Bird) always ask them to put the metre on otherwise you will end up paying too much. You can download the Blue Bird Taxi app so you can order a taxi (like you would Uber) but there are so many taxis driving around you can usually just call one down and hop in.
You will see some people hopping on the back of locals scooters instead of getting a taxi. This does tend to be cheaper however, it wasn't;t something I felt comfortable doing. But at the end of the day it is up to you!
Where To Stay:
I stayed in a few different apartments/hotels/guest houses so I will share all of them.
Bima Sakti Guest House - Canggu
The location of this guesthouse was good and close to restaurants and shops. It was fairly basic but it was fine for the one night (12 hours) I stayed there. The bed was massive and the bathroom was okay although not as clean as I am used to in the UK! Price wise it was very cheap (£21 per night) which was great for my first night in Bali before the retreat began the next day. It did also have a pool however, I wasn't there for long enough to use it!
Villa Tirtidari - just outside Canggu
This was the villa we stayed at for the wellness retreat and it was incredible. The rooms were stunning, the open concept living area was beautiful and the garden and pool was nothing short of bliss. It felt like we were in our own magical oasis inside the villa and it was the perfect space for the retreat.
FRii Bali Echo Beach Hotel - Canggu
This was probably my favourite solo accommodation, perhaps because it was more of the hotel style I was used to. The staff were so friendly and helpful, the room was lovely and super clean and the room I had opened directly out onto the pool which was magical. My room was £41 per night but there were other rooms that were cheaper (that didn't have pool access). The location of this hotel was great as it was just off the main street in Canggu. So easy to get to all the shops and restaurants but not super busy or noisy. I would happily stay there again on my next trip.
Budi House Bungalows - Ubud
This was the only place I stayed in Ubud and I stayed there for 4 nights. The staff were very friendly and the room itself was nice enough. My favourite part was the balcony outside my room where I spent every morning journaling, drinking tea and doing yoga. There is also a pool which was really nice after a hot day of walking around exploring. The bed was absolutely massive (all the beds in Bali seemed to be huge?) and I purposely opted for a room with a mosquito net around it as Ubud is more inland (think jungle vibes) so there are more mosquitos. Again this accommodation was really good value at only £24 per night and in a brilliant location just off the busy main streets.
Canggu Beach Apartments - Canggu
This was very different to the previous rooms I'd stayed in as it was more than just a bedroom. It would be perfect for someone staying longer, as it had a little kitchen and living area which was really nice. This apartment was £49 per night and I could have happily stayed there another few nights. The location was fantastic, and close to all the restaurants and not a long walk to the beach. It did have a pool area which was lovely however there were lots of centipedes around and in the pool, so if you are a wimp like me and don't love bugs that was ideal, but something that can't be helped and wouldn't put me off going back. Check out was at 11am and my flight wasn't until 7pm but luckily they let me chill by the pool and held my luggage for me which as really helpful and a big bonus.
What To Do:
Coconuts at The Lawn
This was probably one of my favourite hang out spots in Canggu as it has all the vibes regardless of what time it is! Head here in the day for a laid back afternoon with a coconut and some lunch, a dip in the pool and some sun bathing. Or go with your girls in the evening for a high vibe energy, sunset drinks and a good dance.
Drinks at Old Man's
Great vibe and right next to the beach. They also do food so why not make an evening of it and watch the sunset from here!
Watch a sunset on the beach
This might sound obvious, but it is a must. The sunsets I saw in Bali were some of the most beautiful I've ever seen (and I've seen a lot!).
Workout at Motion Fitness
We did a workout here on the first day of the retreat I was on and man oh man it was tough but so awesome! It was a HIIT and abs class that wiped me out but I felt so awesome afterwards. The studio is really cool and the staff are so friendly. If working out is on your list of things to do in Canggu then highly recommend checking this place out.
I knew Ubud was well known for it's market but I didn't realise there was one in Canggu. It is slightly hidden just off the main road of Batu Balong, not far from Cafe Organic. It is inside and there are loads of stalls selling everything from jewellery to bags to homeware. I found the people a little pushy but if you are up for bartering to grab a bargain then this is well worth checking out.
So I did 2 day trips around Ubud as this is the more traditional area of Bali. I visited temples and waterfalls and hiked up an active volcano.
Day trip 1:
I visited Tegelalang Rice Terraces, Tegalalang Swing and Tubumana Waterfall all on the same day and it made a good combo.
Tegalalang Rice Terraces
I had seen so many photos of the infamous rice terraces on social media before heading to Bali and needless to say I wasn't disappointed. Although i was surprised by the location (directly off the main road), these rice terraces were absolutely picturesque and the vibrant greens of the fields and trees is indescribable. Absolutely recommend you head here for a wander around but just be aware it is a bit of a walk especially in the heat and sun so be prepared with water and plenty of suncream and mosquito repellent! There was a small fee of around 15,000 IDR (less than £1) to get in and there was a woman about half way round that insisted we also pay her (it was a minimal amount, maybe 10,000 IDR) although I'm not convinced that was entirely necessary. To my surprise there were several places you could buy a drink as you wandered around including a little cafe with seating overlooking the terraces which was lovely. We did get lost a few times so be sure to stick to the main pathways although they aren't always very clear. I think there is one main entrance to the terraces but there are several exits, so you may not end up coming out the same way you went in!
Just down the road from the rice terraces, this is a beautiful little haven with an added adrenalin rush for anyone that fancies it. I didn't realise prior to going but there are actually a few different options for which swing you can do. There is a solo swing, an extreme swing (I think I did this one), a tandem swing, an air bicycle and a few other options. After you've got your adrenalin hit you can wander down some steps and enjoy the jungle greenery and a few other cool features. On your way back up you can enjoy a hot drink including the famous Luwak Coffee but personally it was far too hot for tea or coffee so we just headed straight back to the car!
This waterfall was beautiful. It is a less well known waterfall which was great because it wasn't as busy so I was able to enjoy a little swim in peace and get a good photo without having to wait too long! There is a small fee of around 15,000 to go down to the waterfall and a bit of a walk but nothing too difficult. If you take your time it only took around 10-15 minutes to get to the fall.
Day trip 2:
I visited Tukad Cepung Waterfall, Tirta Empul Temple and Goa Gajah Temple all on the same day.
Tukad Cepung Waterfall
This waterfall was like no other that I have ever seen before. The waterfall itself was obviously incredible however the thing that took my breath away most was the rays of sunlight shining down between rocks and trees giving it a magical God-like look. I would highly recommend trying to get here on a sunny day so you can experience the sun rays as it is truly magical and of course makes an awesome Instagram photo! My advice when visiting this waterfall is to wear water shoes or flip flops because you will have to walk through water to get to the actual waterfall. I would also recommend changing into your swimwear/clothes you don't mind getting wet at the car before you head down as there is no where to change once you are done at the waterfall. It can be quite busy here so be prepared to wait a little to get the perfect insta shot but I couldn't think of anywhere more amazing to wait so soak up the magic and enjoy. There was a small fee of around 15,000 to go down to the waterfall and a fairly steep hike to get down there but it will only take about 10-15 mins to get down and there are a few little stops along the way where you can buy a drink or have a rest. Going down isn't too bad but back up is another story as the steps are quite steep so just take your time!
Tirta Empul Temple
Also known as the Spring Water Temple, this is where many Balinese locals and tourists go for water blessings. However, I wouldn't recommend having a blessing yourself as the water in Bali isn't safe to drink and some people have been known to contract Ecoli from this temple. So enjoy the ritual from the dry sidelines. The spiritual vibe of this temple is absolutely magical and one I would really encourage you not to miss. The entrance fee was 50,000 IDR and you will be provided with a sarong to cover your legs so you are allowed to enter. I would also ensure that you cover your shoulders out of respect.
Goa Gajah (Elephant Temple)
This is another fascinating temple that is well worth a visit. Again the entrance fee is 50,000 IDR and they lend you a sarong if you need one. There are locals inside that will offer to give you a tour and tell you the history (for a price I would assume) but I was happy just wandering around by myself. There is also a beautiful little waterfall and pond if you venture down some steps.
There are an abundance of beautiful shops and cafes along the main streets of Ubud centre, so I would definitely recommend setting aside a day to leisurely stroll around and take it all in, hopping from cafe to cafe and people watching along the way.
This is a beautifully chaotic experience that you should definitely add to your list. Each stall sells sarongs and bags and jewellery, local art and traditional pieces as well as gorgeous homeware. Be prepared to barter but I promise you will go home with some really amazing things.