Bali is an island paradise known for its history, nature, adventure, beaches, and gastronomy.
It’s easy to fall in love with Bali, but it is also easy to get caught in the tourist traps. As with any famous travel destination, the country has become a hub for tourists. Lots of tourists. Because of that, most who experience Bali either love or hate it.
I confess that I almost hated it. My first couple of days in Bali were not what I expected. Luckily, I stayed for a while and got to know its non-touristy side. Once I had a chance to experience Bali the way locals live,I fell in love with this small, Southeast Asian paradise.
My month-long stay in Bali taught me a few things about making the most of the island and finding all the treasures that the average visitor might overlook. After reading this list, I’m sure you’ll fall in love with Bali, too.
- Stay away from downtown
This applies to Canggu, Kuta, Seminyak, Ubud, Denpasar, and any other central area on the island. If you want to get a feel for what Bali is like sans tourists, stay as far as you can from any downtown area, which always have heavy traffic and get pretty crowded and noisy.
- Get a scooter
If you want to get away from the crowded areas, you’ll need a scooter. The public transportation in Bali is very bad, and a scooter makes it much easier to move around. It will give you the freedom to enjoy Bali at its best, especially the remote parts.
- Get lost
My favorite thing to do in Bali was to get lost. It sounds counterproductive, but I found myself in the most beautiful places this way. So, get on your scooter, put your map away, and go for a ride. I can promise that you will end up in a stunning place, surrounded by amazing nature, and experiencing the local life.
- Rent a villa
A villa can be pretty cheap–even cheaper than staying at a hostel. My friends and I each paid $150USD for a month in an amazing 3-bedroom house with private pool, wifi, and cleaning services. Renting a villa is a pretty common practice in Bali and there are several options. If you want to get the best deal, search for places advertised on the supermarket boards or in Facebook groups, which have better (and cheaper) options than on Airbnb.
- Eat local streetfood
Bali has incredible gastronomy. There are thousands of delicious, affordable restaurants and cafes. However, if you want to experience the local culture and eat even cheaper (we’re talking $2.50USD a meal), then eat on the street! There are several food stands selling local dishes. Forget the restaurants and eat the way the locals eat. You’ll be pleasantly surprised.
Volunteering is one of the best ways to get to know the local people and learn from their culture. You can find a short or long term volunteer position, which is also a good way to extend your stay.
- Learn basic Bahasa
By learning the basics of the local language you will be able to speak with locals, which makes all the difference. Not only will you be able to get a better price on souvenirs, but you’ll be able to get to know the Balinese people better. Locals really appreciate when you speak their language, even if it is broken Bahasa.
- Be yourself
Many of Bali’s main hubs carry heavy stereotypes. Ubud is the hub for yoga lovers, Canggu is where all the surfers congregate. But you don’t have to be any of those to enjoy this beautiful place. Just be yourself and experience the island in your own way. Find what you like to do and make Bali the place you want it to be.