Nov 01, 2016
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Destination Guide: Bali

There are two Balis. One is a Bali of tourists' invention, a place where the beaches are packed and the clubs are bumping. The other, authentic Bali is a place known for its Hindu temples, jungles, and open-armed hospitality. Luckily, the real Bali is not hard to find.

Bali has long been the most famous — and the most visited Indonesian Islands, drawing more than 3.76 million foreigners per year.Bali is a long journey from the United States: one route takes you from Newark to Hong Kong (16 hours) then on to Singapore (4 hours), then to Bali (just under 3 hours). With these long travel times, you’ll want to give yourself ample time to explore the many beaches, attractions, and natural wonders. Here's just a small selection.

The Best Things to Do in Bali

Millions of visitors think Bali is synonymous with Kuta, the beach resort town famous for great surfing and rowdy vacationers.  Venture to other areas of the island and you'll find many other things to do. 

North of Kuta is Seminyak, a laid-back town with stunning beaches, boutiques, and spas. Be sure to visit the temple of Pura Petitenget, built in the 15th century and still in use, and admire its intricate carvings.   

Surrounded by green rice paddies in central Bali, Ubud has become a favorite destination for meditation and relaxation. See Balinese art in the Museum Puri Lukisan, or spend an afternoon getting a massage and a flower bath at a spa. Of all the things to do in Bali, a perennial favorite is visiting the Ubud Monkey Forest. It's exactly what it sounds like a jungle preserve that's home to some 600 macaque monkeys. You may be either delighted or appalled by the monkeys' aggressive curiosity; they're known to rummage through pockets, steal food or wallets, and even chase or bite visitors.

Bali Monkeys

Nature lovers should plan to visit at least one of Bali's beautiful waterfalls. One of the best is Sekumpul Waterfall, about two hours drive from Denpasar. The trail is arduous and slippery (wear tough water shoes, not running shoes or boots) Hike around the area and you'll see not just one but seven waterfalls. One warning: At the entrance, people will tell you that you must pay $14 for a tour. "Do NOT fall for this scam," TripCanvas advises. "The route leading into the Sekumpul waterfall is quite well maintained and you can walk by yourself."2

Where to Stay in Bali

Bali has an interesting rule: No building can be taller than a palm tree (about 15 meters). This has spared the island the construction of mega-resorts and created a plethora of intimate guesthouses and villas.

Bali Hotel

High-end resorts line the sand in south Kuta. One that stands out is Kayumanis Nusa Dua, which houses guests in small villas with private pools, rose petals in the bathtub, a driver on call and a personal butler. It's hard to go back to a normal hotel," says a friend who recently returned from there. One note: the resort does not allow guests under 16 years old.

The Viceroy Bali in Ubud, known as one of Bali's best hotels, is famed for its sumptuous service. Expect to be greeted with a fresh flower lei and a fruity drink. Villa Saraswati is another lovely hotel in Ubud with treetop views, a garden courtyard, and just five rooms.

Wondering where to stay in Bali if you're on a budget? You'll find plenty of inviting hotels for under $50 per night, such as the beachfront cottages of Sunset Coin Lembongan or the boutique FRii Bali Echo Beach in Cangguu.3

Bali Restaurants to Try

Bali Food

In Ubud, one of the best Bali restaurants is Bridges, which marries Japanese, Indonesian, Australian and even Italian influences. At lunch, create your own tasting plate of Indonesian tapas: delights like gadon daging (seasoned minced beef and coconut custard, steamed in banana leaves) or barramundi in yellow curry. In Seminyak, try Bambu for classic Indonesian dishes and airy ambiance, (just don't wear short shorts, or they won't serve you.)

While Bali restaurants offer abundant fine dining, your most memorable meals may come from small, family-owned restaurants called warungs. Pak Malen Warung in Seminyak is known for its babi guling (roast suckling pig). Warung Putu, a waterfront cafe in Nusa Lembongan, is beloved for its friendly service and caramel chicken.  

Afraid of "Bali belly"? Don't be. "Once upon a time, salads, cut fruit, ice cubes, and most meats were on the danger list, but hygiene standards have improved markedly across the island, and many kitchens offer good quality organic produce," Lonely Planet says. Do a good deed and bring a reusable water bottle (safe filtered water is available at hotels and restaurants). 30 million plastic water bottles are sold each month in Bali, creating an environmental disaster.4

Ready to jet off to Bali? Protect yourself in case of unexpected illnesses, injuries, or vacation mishaps with travel insurance from Allianz Global Assistance. Travel happy!

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