Updated: Sep 9
Passports Matter Brand Ambassador Danielle Pikes gives the inside scoop on her recent trip to Bali.
Can I let y'all in on a not-so-unknown fact about me? I’m cheap when it comes to travel. Seriously. Yet despite that fact, I still require nice accommodations when I lay my head down. You’re probably thinking “Well, how the hell is that possible?" My answer is easy. I don’t play about my hotel or airline rewards points and I stalk websites for deals. Daily. By no means am I one of those people who budget around using a credit card or ONLY use my cards to milk it for every last point. I’m just extremely strategic when it comes to racking the points up. For example, I once paid under $200 for a R/T to Abu Dubai, I’ve stayed in $900/night villa in Koh Samui for free, and I’ve also bought a one-way ticket for $12.
All that to say, when I first decided I’d be returning to Asia, Bali was at the very top of my list. I was drawn to the culture, food, allure of the island, the beach/ocean (I’m a Pisces), the Hindu people nestled in among so many Muslims in Indonesia, the sights, the weather, and the conversion rate (if we’re being real). I stalked flights for over a month and pulled the trigger in March. Bali was FINALLY happening. After flights were booked (cheap traveler tip: I recommend getting a R/T to Singapore, then flying a low cost airline to Bali if you want to save some major coins), I was on a mission to get any and all advice about this island I had my heart set on that was 13 time zones away. To my surprise not one of my travel friends had been to Bali. Understand, I live for traveling and planning trips, so you know what that meant to me? Challenge accepted. Plan an amazing adventure! We only stayed 5 days, 4 nights but I loved every minute of it!
If y'all are anything like me, you try to plan for every possible scenario when you travel. Bring a mini pharmacy, only pack a personal bag and 1 carry on, have copies of your itineraries, have a copy of your passport, you bring insurance cards, get an international cell phone plan (FYI- if you have Sprint, your international data will NOT work in Bali, but calls/text messaging do and you can access everything via wifi), etc. You [over] research because let’s face it, all surprises aren’t pleasant. From my research of the trip, when we arrived at Bali’s airport I knew Indonesia didn’t have a tourist fee to enter their country. I knew that the conversion rate was heavily in favor of the American dollar (I exchanged $160 USD for over 2 million of their dollars. Yeah.). What I also knew (but didn’t fully expect fresh off the plane at 8am) was Bali is absolutely a haggle island. Rarely is a price actually set. While walking out of the airport, I get approached by a gentleman that informs me his transportation company can take me to my hotel (Hilton Resort in Nusa Dua) for $450,000 IDR (roughly $34 USD). I think, “that’s reasonable,” but something told me to ask a second quote. Yall. He tried it. I ask around and found another company that would only charge $175,000 IDR. Not getting the chance to haggle in America, I go back to the original gentleman to let him know I wouldn’t need his company’s services. It was then he offered me his “early morning” special for $150,000 IDR (roughly $11 USD).
Lesson: Rides to your hotel from the airport should be no more than $200,000 IDR. Trust me.
There are so many hotels along the coast. When I was researching, they all looked gorgeous. I chose the Hilton Resort in Nusa Dua because I was able to lower the already cheap price by using some Hilton points. The resort was gorgeous! It is large and somewhat spread out. The staff was very responsive and eager to accommodate. They provided me with an outlet converter to charge my devices. Their daily breakfast buffet cost around $20 USD and was worth every penny. For their buffet, Hilton literally does not leave a culture out. You’ll find everything from pad thai, ramen noodles, and fried rice to pastries, cereal, an omelet station, and pancakes/waffles. They have a swim up bar at the pool if that’s your thing. Me personally, the beach was a selling point and Hilton does have staff assigned to serve you there. All prices included a 21% service fee/tip. A beer was roughly $4 USD including the fee. Collectively, I enjoyed the resort. I got it for a steal too. If I were paying full price, I wou
ld have preferred to stay a little north of the Nusa Dua.
Pro Travel Hack: Take the first flight there and ask for early check in. Worst case, they’ll hold your bags for you and allow you to use the facilities until your rooms ready
Dinner at Metis
I’ll keep this brief because the only positive from the restaurant was the ambience. The food was good but we found a thick, long black hair in the spinach and when it was brought to the server’s attention, he simply took the plate away (we still had to pay for the item). I would say go for drinks and the atmosphere but insect larvae was in the ice of my drink. Disappointment is an understatement.
Advice: Find another dope restaurant. They’re a dime a dozen there.
During the planning stages of the vacation, I made sure to jot down everything I wanted to experience while in Bali. I knew I wanted to be a full on tourist at least one of the days and go sightseeing. I also knew I wanted to take a cooking class. I lucked into finding amazing companies for both.
The Google Machine is a helluva invention. I found several companies that offer cooking classes for a great price. I was focused on learning to make traditional Balinese food. I came across Anika’s Balinese Cooking Class. What stood out most and ultimately why I selected to take this class? The menu. We attended the morning session which cost $847,000 IDR ($64 USD). The cost includes transportation from/to your hotel, a trip to the market to learn about common foods used in Balinese households, tea/light breakfast, the lesson, and a very large lunch. I thoroughly enjoyed the instructor, the helpers (one of them knew about the trap and loved August Alsina, I wasn’t ready), the menu, and most importantly the food. Upon completing the class, they dress it up and make it real for you by giving you a certified cooking certificate with your name on it and a small cook book with the recipes/instructions for the food you made. I highly recommend this class for all. As long as you love amazing food, you will enjoy this class.
A friend who lives overseas asked his circle of friends for recommendations in Bali and the piece of advice they had for me was to download an app called Visit A City. I know what you’re thinking (because I thought that too). “What?” Trust me though. I found a full day excursion for $49/person. It included transportation, admission to all the places we visited, lunch, tolls, etc. The driver spoke English and after we were picked up, we were able to further customize the tour. We went to one of the oldest temples on the island, see how/where silver is made, experience a fabric factory (they paint the patterns by hand), explore an art studio, play with the monkey’s at the monkey forest, see the rice fields, toured a coffee farm and sampled 16 coffees/teas, have lunch overlooking an active volcano, walk around the markets and just immerse ourselves in the culture that is Bali. The only thing I we didn’t have time for was the temple with the springs you can get in. I highly recommend downloading the Visit A City app to book an excursion.
All the hotels have huge patrolled gates quite a bit a ways from the actual hotel. When any vehicle pulls up to the gate, an armed guard will search the car. Underneath the car (with mirrors). In the car. Possibly even a suitcase. Don’t be alarmed, they’re checking for bombs.
The ocean was cold. I never even fully submerged myself. Not once. It was cold.
Be prepared, they don’t serve their food hot. I couldn’t get a real answer for this, but everything I ate (outside of the cooking class), was as though they finished cooking the food and let it cool off in the back before bringing it to you. It isn’t cold, but it’s not hot.
Corn is used in a lot of their dishes. It’s a major crop there. Behind rice of course.
They love kites in Bali. They have elaborate kites flying randomly throughout the island. They also have shops dedicated to selling just kites.
Their clubs don’t exactly close. Most stay open until 5am, we were told (we didn’t make it out)
Kuta seemed to be where there was a concentration of things. Restaurants, night clubs, the “city” life
They drive on the left side of the street. Even if you are comfortable with driving on the opposite side, they drive crazy there. They also have as many if not more mopeds on the road vs cars. I don’t recommend you getting a rental OR a moped. If any accident were to occur, I was told it is always deemed the tourist fault.
DO NOT DO/TAKE/SELL/BRING any illegal drugs. On the flight when you’re given the immigration form, they state if you get caught with drugs, they’ll sentence you to death. Just don’t.
The healthcare/medicine here is minimal. I was looking for sinus medicine and had to settle for cold/flu.
At the Monkey Forest, please listen to them when they say do not bring in anything. The monkey’s can be aggressive if they smell food. I saw them jump on a guys backpack and unzip every compartment looking for the food they smelled.
Questions? Email me at DanielleP@passportsmatter.com
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