With its pure shores, green landscapes and serene spirituality, just being in Bali will melt away all of your troubles. The island's fascinating culture comes to life with traditional dancers in vivid costumers, while intricate woodcarvings and batik paintings in bohemian Ubud portray the rich heritage of these hospitable people. We love blissing out with a Balinese massage on the beach or a milk bath in one of the many stylish spas. Trust us; holidays in Bali are a one-way ticket to your wellbeing.
Bali's beaches blend from the pure white sands of the south to the dramatic black shores of the northwest, from sleepy coves to lively beach resorts. Kuta beach is the place for great nightlife and even better surfing, the golden sands of Nusa Dua are edged by luxury hotels, and Sanur's pale, reef-sheltered shore is lapped by calm waters.
Art is a religion in Bali, where skills are passed from generation to generation and expressed through intricate wood carving and batik weaving in a unique blend of spirituality and tradition. Make sure you catch a performance of Balinese dance, which uses every body part, from eyes to hands, and hypnotises with its graceful, meticulous choreography and colourful gilded costumes.
Tranquil Bali has its fun side too. After the breathtaking sunsets, discover trendy, atmospheric bars and restaurants lit by flickering candles, moonlight and twinkling stars. Seminyak has the chicest nightspots, Kuta attracts a varied crowd with everything from laidback bars to busy clubs, and in Nusa Dua the chilled nightlife revolves around swanky hotel lounges.
Imagine swimming through Bali's underwater world as manta rays glide overhead or a two-metre-long sunfish watches you from close by. Bali is ringed by mesmerising scuba diving and snorkelling sites like Manta Point off Nusa Penida, the mangroves of Nusa Lembongan, and the 30-metre reef wall of Pulau Menjangan, all teeming with marine life.
Indulge your artistic side in bohemian Ubud, the cultural heart of Bali. Surrounded by scenic rice fields and filled with thriving arts and crafts communities, this spiritual town is the place to discover Balinese culture and shop for beautiful souvenirs like silks, wood carvings and batik paintings.
There are a number of airlines flying from the UK to Bali. The fastest flight time (dependent on connections) is approximately 16 hours 30 minutes.
Direct Carriers: There are no direct flights from the UK to Bali.
Indirect Carriers: Singapore Airlines, Qatar Airways, Malaysian Airlines, Thai Airways and Cathay Pacific all operate via points in the Middle East or Far East.
Departure Taxes: All flight tickets purchased after 01 March 2015 now include departure tax. Only passengers travelling on tickets purchased before this date will be required to pay the departure tax at the airport on the day of departure from Bali (this must be paid in cash in local currency and the fee is 200,000 Indonesian Rupiah, approximately £10).
** NEW VISA INFORMATION FOR UK PASSPORT HOLDERS **
British Passport holders are no longer required to obtain a visa on arrival to enter Bali for tourist stays up to 30 days only, more than sufficient for most holidays. Your passport must be valid for at least six months beyond your intended stay in Bali and you must have an onward or return flight ticket. Visas are still required for neighbouring Lombok so if you are arriving into Bali but departing from Lombok you will still need to obtain a visa on arrival. This costs US$ 35 per person and is valid for 30 days.
The official currency is the Indonesian Rupiah. You can buy them before you leave the UK, but you can only take 5,000,000 Indonesian Rupiah in and out of Indonesia; larger amounts must be declared, and more than 10,000,000 Indonesian Rupiah requires authorisation. You should have no problems exchanging major currencies like the UK Pound in the main tourist areas, but may find it more difficult elsewhere. Overall, the easiest currency to exchange is the US Dollar.
Major credit cards like Visa, MasterCard, and American Express are widely accepted in the main tourist areas. Cash machines are available in cities and larger towns; remember to let your bank know that you may withdraw cash in Indonesia. Traveller's cheques can be exchanged at banks and some hotels, although they are becoming less common these days. In more remote areas, it is always best to carry cash, preferably in smaller notes.
Tipping is not mandatory in Indonesia and nobody will be offended if you miss a chance to do so. However, with low salaries for many workers, a little extra will be very much appreciated. In restaurants, a tip of 10 percent is normal unless a service charge is already included on the bill. Tip hotel porters around 5,000 Indonesian Rupiah and round taxi fares up to the nearest note.
October - Mid December and January - April
We recommend all travellers shoud be up to date with routine vaccinations. For full details, please contact your GP.
Indonesia's hot, heavy climate requires cool, light clothing. December to March sees the wettest weather, but you should be prepared for rain at any time of year. Warmer clothes and layers are a good idea for cooler evenings and higher ground. You will need sturdy shoes for jungle trekking. Remember to pack clothes to cover your shoulders, legs and arms in temples and Muslim areas.
A wide-brimmed hat to keep the sun off your face;
lightweight clothing in natural fabrics like cotton or linen;
High factor sunscreen;
Long sleeved cover-ups for evening;
Modest clothing for visiting religious sites;
Comfortable walking shoes or sandals;
Warmer clothes for upland areas;
An electrical adapter (the power supply in Indonesia is 220 volts at 50 hertz).
Indonesian cuisine is built on nasi (rice), corn, cassava, and sweet potatoes, and flavoured with coconut milk, peanuts, spices, and fiery chillies. Seafood is always on the menu, from salt and freshwater fish, to oysters, prawns, shrimp, squid, crab, lobster and shark. Meats like chicken and beef are also main ingredients, but pork is usually left out as most Indonesians are Muslim, with the exception of the predominantly Hindu island of Bali. Chinese-influenced dishes such as noodles and steamed buns are popular, creating an Indonesian-Chinese fusion cuisine. The local's love of rice even makes it into the drinks, with brem and arak wines both made from the grain.
Probably Indonesia’s most famous dish (pronounced sar-tay), make sure you try these skewered chunks of marinated beef, chicken, lamb, or fish, grilled or barbecued on hot coals and served with a fragrant peanut dipping sauce.
As comforting as the chicken soup we get at home, recipes for this meat and vegetable broth vary from region to region. Usually made with chicken or beef and extras like bean sprouts, glass noodles, celery leaves, shallots, or fried potato sticks; the soto is flavoured with spices like turmeric, ginger, garlic and lemongrass.
Translated as ‘mix-mix’, this vegetable dish is a feast of healthy ingredients and flavours. It includes cooked, blanched and raw vegetables such as cabbage, bean sprouts, potatoes, sweetcorn, cucumber and lettuce, as well as proteins like fried tofu and boiled eggs. Everything is coated with the gado-gado sauce, a combination of peanuts, sugar, and spices, and served with rice or lontong, an Indonesian rice cake.
The street food in Indonesia rivals the restaurant cuisine for taste and beats it for authenticity. Vendors sell meals and snacks from bicycles carts known as pedagang kaki lima and modest shacks called warungs. Many have their own distinctive calls to promote their goods; the bakso (meatball soup) seller will hit the side of a soup bowl for example, whilst mie ayam (chicken and noodles) is announced by hitting a wood block. Other mouth-watering street foods include traditional crackers called krupuk, sate, fish cakes, soups, omelettes, noodle and rice dishes, many of which you will also find in local restaurants. Be careful to only order street food from vendors whose food is clean, fresh and cooked right in front of you.
Simply translated as ‘fried rice’, nasi goreng can be made in a number of different ways, although garlic, soy sauce, and chillies are usually essential ingredients. Pre-cooked rice and leftovers are stir-fried with flavours like tamarind, shallots, eggs, chicken and prawns to create a dish eaten everywhere from beaches to buffets.
These savoury fishcakes are made with a dough of ground fish and tapioca, which is boiled or steamed then deep fried. Pempek is usually served with yellow noodles and kuah cuko, a dark spicy sauce which blends palm sugar, chilli, garlic, and vinegar, then topped with chopped cucumber and ebi (dried shrimp) powder.
Much-loved in Bali, follow the locals to their favourite warung to try a portion of this spit-roasted suckling pig, stuffed and seasoned with spicy flavours like chilli, turmeric, garlic, ginger, coriander seeds, and lemongrass.
Although prices are higher in the country's luxury resorts, Indonesia is still one of the cheapest destinations in Asia. On average, a three-course meal in a mid-range restaurant will set you back around 120,000 Indonesian Rupiah, with a bottled beer about 30,000 Indonesian Rupiah. In a shop, a 1.5 litre bottle of water is usually around 4,250 Indonesian Rupiah.
Encompassing art, craft, and fashion, batik is a symbol of Indonesian culture. This traditional cloth is made by hand, using a wax dyeing technique to create colourful, intricate patterns. Batik fabric can then be worn wrapped around the torso or hips, or to make shirts. The kebaya outfit, considered Indonesia's national costume, is worn by women at ceremonies and weddings. A kebaya (blouse) of cotton, silk, lace, velvet, or brocade is fastened with a kerongsang (brooch) over a kemben (fabric wrapped around the torso) and a kain (a wrapped skirt).
Indonesia is the fourth most populated country in the world, with 203 million people living on almost one thousand islands. It is also one of the most culturally diverse countries, home to over 200 ethnic groups with their own languages and traditions, ranging from the Javanese (around 70 million people) and Sundanese (around 30 million) on the island of Java, to the thousands living on remote islands. Most Indonesians are Muslim, although the island of Bali is predominantly Hindu.
When it comes to etiquette, try to remember the following:
• A gentle handshake is the most common form of greeting. The handshake may be accompanied with a slight bow of the head or a palm placed on the heart to indicate respect for the other person. Men should wait for women to initiate a handshake. Putting the hands in front of the chest in a prayer or wai position is also a common greeting.
• Avoid shaking hands, eating, giving or receiving anything with the left hand, which is considered unclean.
• Remember that smiling is a cultural tradition and Indonesians will smile even in uncomfortable or difficult situations.
• Saving face is an important part of Indonesian culture. Avoid losing your temper or saying anything negative to anyone in front of other people.
• Dress modestly and cover your legs and shoulders when visiting temples and religious sites.
Indonesia's diverse wildlife varies across the archipelago. Once linked to the Asian and Australasian mainlands, gradually drifting away over millions of years, western Indonesia is home to more typically Asian wildlife, and the east to more Australasian flora and fauna. In western parts of the country you can spot tigers, leopards, sun bears, elephants and rhinos. Probably the most famous Indonesian animal is the orangutan, found only in Sumatra and Kalimantan. Eastern parts such as Papua have marsupials such as possums, bandicoots and tree kangaroos, birds of paradise, frilled lizards and crocodiles. Central Indonesia, including the islands of Sulawesi, Nusa Tenggara and Malaku, is home to endemic species such as the anoa (dwarf buffalo) and the babi rusa (deer pig). Islands such as Lombok and Bali are surrounded by coral reefs and sea creatures like dolphins, turtles and tiny sea horses.