A Beginners Guide To Bali

A statue of budda holding the famous red hibiscus

Originally published in the Massive magazine July 2013 edition.

Bali is a small Indonesian island, roughly 5500km. Myself and my friend Libby flew 11 hours to this delightful island in June. It cost me $1800NZ for plane tickets and four-star accommodation, which is doable on a student budget.

Kuta is the main tourist zone.  However Legian is only five minutes away and slightly quieter and safer. We stayed in The Legian 101- a hotel perfect for students as, most nights, they have pool parties with buy-one get-one-free cocktails and live DJ’s.




The 101 is also on the main street in Legian, so shopping, spas and restaurants are at your doorstep.

Bali’s currency is the Indonesian Rupiah, and the exchange rate for New Zealanders is very good. For example, dinner at a nice restaurant in Legian costs – from my experience – around $15, which includes a starter, main, dessert and a couple of cocktails.

Bali has everything you could want for a study break- shopping, beautiful beaches, exquisite cuisine, and rich cultural experiences. You can go there to party, or simply relax poolside, beachside, or at one of the luxurious spas.

What to pack

If your aim is to shop till you drop, don’t pack much. Seriously. Take a few pairs of undies, and one set of clothing suited to hot weather. June is the best time to visit Bali: it is summer, and the temperatures average in the mid-thirties. Everything in Bali is ridiculously cheap – I took only NZ$500, which covered me for shopping, gift-buying, and meals at restaurants.

Stay hydrated

When we arrived, two people fainted in the customs’ line. Shifting from nine degree temperatures to the mid-thirties can sometimes have a negative effect on those with low blood pressure, so make sure you stay hydrated on the plane.

Do not drink the tap water in Bali as it can cause the dreaded “Bali Belly”. Always carry a bottle of water with you. Your hotel should provide bottled water for you to brush your teeth with.

What to do

Waterbom Park is an absolute must! There are 20 hydroslides, including “The Climax”, featuring a trap door under your feet which releases and sends you plummeting down at a 2.5 G-force speed. Waterbom also has restaurants, a poolside bar, and a day spa. Get your feet exfoliated by skin sucking fish, or tan by the pool. It is the perfect way to start your Bali adventure.

Next on the must-do list is snorkeling. This was definitely the highlight of my trip, being a snorkelling newbie. I felt as though I were in Finding Nemo. Angel fish, dolphin fish, zebra fish and many others swam peacefully beneath me, coming up to nibble at the bread we were provided with to feed them.




This experience was part of a three-island rafting cruise, which took us to Bali’s “sister” islands: Lembongan, Ceningan and Penida.

If you aren’t too squeamish when it comes to animal parks, then I suggest the Elephant Safari Park in Taro, Ubud. Ride, feed and cuddle one of God’s most gentle giants. The elephants at this safari park are breath-taking; there is currently a baby elephant there who is too cute for words. The restaurant buffet lets you sample many of the traditional Balinese dishes, and you can sit and watch some of the elephants perform tricks.

If you are keen to party, make sure you head to Bounty Bar and Sky Garden Lounge, the two most popular clubs in Kuta.

Make sure you dip your toes into the culture of Bali. Visit the Mother Temple of Besakih, the largest and holiest temple in Bali. It is comprised of 22 individual temples, and offers an amazing view of Bali’s highest mountain point, Mount Agung.

I also recommend you spend a day getting pampered. For NZ$20 I got a one-hour massage, pedicure and manicure. This is one of the reasons students should go to Bali! Knots caused by late night study were carefully kneaded out of my back and I left, two hours later, feeling like a goddess.

Be aware

People will attempt to sell magic mushrooms to you, especially near the two main drinking holes: Bounty Bar and Sky Garden Lounge. Under no circumstances should you take them.

Never put your cell phone or wallet in your pockets – unless they are deep – because you could be pickpocketed. Embrace the convenience of a fanny pack, or a bag with a short shoulder strap you can carry close to your body.

Good travel insurance is a must if you go to Bali. We ran into some tourists who had their money or possessions stolen.  However, don’t let this put you off going to Bali, the people there are very friendly, and we didn’t have any problems during our stay.

Also- don’t drink arak (rice wine). If arak isn’t distilled properly, it can contain methanol which can cause brain damage, blindness and death. A New Zealander died in 2011 after drinking this at his hotel, so it is important to drink only bottled alcohol. If you feel strange after eating or drinking anything, visit a doctor.

If you use your common sense and do your research, you will have an amazing time in Bali!




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