The (almost) perfect 3 week itinerary for Bali for first timers

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I think it’s fair to say that Bali is the top destination on a lot of people’s wish lists. With its beautiful beaches, wonderful people, delicious food and rich culture, it’s easy to see why. After finishing our first year in Australia, it was time for a change of pace. Tom and I booked the cheapest flight to Denpasar and started planning our 3 week itinerary for Bali with the hope of fitting in a bit of everything.

You might be wondering why I’ve called this the ‘almost perfect’ itinerary for 3 weeks in Bali, and that’s because we were unable to get over to the famous Gilli Islands due to the swells of the sea meaning the boats weren’t running there. Sometimes things are out of your control when you travel and nature is certainly one of them. However, Bali and the Nusa Islands offer plenty to keep you busy, so I’ve put this guide together to share my itinerary, which I hope helps you with your planning!

The route at a glance

Planning a trip to Bali but not sure where to start? Here's my 3 week itinerary for Bali, perfect for first timers.

Through the trees

How to get to Bali

Bali’s international airport is called Ngurah Rai and is in Denpasar, one of the main cities on the island. From here you have a number of options to get yourself to your accommodation. It can be a little overwhelming when you start to leave the airport as there will be lots of taxi drivers trying to get your business. If this is something you don’t want to have to negotiate with then the best idea would be to arrange a transfer through your accommodation so they can pick you up straight away.

If you don’t find this type of situation too tricky then you can either go to the taxi booking office in the airport and they can help you, or speak to the taxi drivers and practise your haggling skills to get a good price to your hotel.

How to get around Bali and useful apps for your phone

Bali is a wonderfully busy place but with limited public transport, the easiest way is to travel between the main areas by taxi. It’s comfortable, convenient and it’s hassle-free when you have luggage to deal with. There are local taxis on Bali but it also has its version of Uber offering cheaper prices that you book through the relevant apps. These companies are called Grab, Go Jek and Bluebird. Grab and Go Jek have a fixed price that’s set when you book, although this varies depending on the demand at the time, and Bluebird works on a meter system but gives you an estimated cost when you book.

Tom and I found Go Jek and Grab to work out cheaper over Bluebird as the traffic can be crazy busy in Bali and we saw the meter creep up above the top estimate a few times. Overall though, taxis are super affordable and if you can get a few people together to fill the car and split the costs then even better! If you’re only going a short distance then Grab and Go Jek also have a motorbike taxi option which is a fun and fast way to get from A to B.

It’s important to note that these companies are not allowed in all areas as the local taxi drivers are not happy about them taking their business. The apps have a messaging facility and there were a few occasions where we were asked to meet the driver along the next road so he didn’t get in trouble. It’s up to you which companies you decide to use whilst in Bali but I wanted to share what I found to be the most budget-friendly.

Things to know before you go to Bali

  • The local currency is Indonesian Rupiah. I would recommend downloading the ‘XE’ currency app on your phone to help you get familiar with the money and help you keep track of what you’re spending
  • You can’t drink the tap water there so be sure to always have bottled water to hand
  • It gets really hot and humid here so it’s important to keep hydrated and it’s a good idea to pack lightweight and breathable clothes
  • There are loads of dogs in Bali and they are free to roam around. Don’t worry too much though, most are either super friendly or will just completely ignore you.
  • Suncream is really expensive in Bali so be sure bring plenty with you as well as a mosquito repellant for daytime and evening
  • Bali is a great place for shopping and rummaging through markets where you can practice your haggling skills
  • If you want to visit any of the temples in Bali, both men and women are required to dress in Balinese clothing. Many of the temples have sarongs that you can use but some of them don’t, so it’s a good idea to pack one and have it with you on day trips to avoid disappointment
  • Thank you in Balinese is ‘Sukseme’, pronounced ‘sook-sa-mar’. This was pretty much the only thing I as able to pick up but I felt it was definitely appreciated by the locals
Planning a trip to Bali but not sure where to start? Here's my 3 week itinerary for Bali, perfect for first timers.

Quick bike selfie!

My 3 week itinerary for Bali

2 nights in Seminyak

Seminyak is a great place to start your 3 weeks in Bali as it’s close to the airport making it a quick journey to your accommodation no matter what time you land. This town is a popular place and it’s bustling streets, boutique shops and great nightlife will be sure to put you in the holiday mood right away. The roads are lined with gorgeous boutiques, spas and some great restaurants It’s also close to some gorgeous black sand beaches which are great for both surfing and grabbing a cold Bintang on one of the many beachside bars. I also move the amalgamation of the modern shops with the traditional Balinese buildings here, too.

You can read my full guide to Seminyak here, but here are the top things I recommend checking out:

  • Relax on the colourful beanbags on Double Six Beach and watch the sunset
  • Indulge in a slice of luxury and have a drink at the famous Ku De Ta
  • Find some great items of clothing in the boutiques
  • Try your hand at haggling at the Flea Market

Where to stay in Seminyak

I stayed at the perfectly located GrandMas Plus Hotel in Seminyak and I can’t fault it. It’s in the heart of Seminyak surrounded by shops and restaurants and is just a couple of minutes walk from Seminyak Beach. It’s compact, clean, modern and really affordable. You can read my review here and search below to check availability.

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3 nights in Canggu

Canggu is the new area to go to and I loved it here. It’s full of colour, street art, great food and beautiful beaches. I was speaking to a local and was told that 5 years ago no tourists were visiting, but now it’s rapidly expanding, so get there before it gets too crazy! It’s just an hour or so north of Seminyak but has a more chilled out feel making it a great place to relax. Here you will find all sorts of food from the delicious local dishes from warungs, to burgers, Italian and vegan-friendly smoothie bowls. It’s fast becoming known as a bit of a hipster area but it’s certainly not pretentious! I actually visited Canggu twice since my plans changed and I didn’t go to the Gili Islands because I loved it so much and there’s plenty to see and do.

Check out my full guide to Canggu here where you can read more about my must-see things there:

  • Have a rummage through the Love anchor market for some souvenirs
  • Chill out at Old Mans
  • Search for street art
  • Visit Tanah Lot Temple, one of the most important temples on Bali
  • Chill out or learn to surf at Echo Beach or Batu Belong Beach
  • Rent a motorbike and head out of the main area to explore the rice fields

Where to stay in Canggu

Splurge

I stayed a stone’s throw from Batu Belong beach at the beautiful Aston Canggu Beach Resort. This hotel is the perfect place to stay if you want to really relax and indulge. The hotel is the only one in Canggu with a rooftop pool and what’s more is it overlooks Batu Belong Beach which is an amazing spot to be at for sunset! The breakfast is delicious and the sports bar on the ground floor serves up a mix of western and Asian foods. Check out my full review here.

Save

If you’re travelling on a budget and looking for a great place to stay then check out Nudel Beachside Room. Despite its name, it’s a little out of town but is super comfortable, nice and quiet and the wifi is decent. We opted to have breakfast included as well for ease which is a handy option to have. They also have motorbikes for you to hire making it super easy to get around.

 

4 night in Ubud

Ubud is the cultural centre of Bali and no trip to Bali should be without a visit. It’s where you find the lush green forests, the tumbling rice terraces, monkeys, temples, waterfalls- you name it, it’s here. I actually could have happily spent longer here as there are loads to do and it’s a great base to explore some other areas around Ubud. There are loads of tours that run both north and south of Ubud so if you have particular places that you really want to see then this is an easy way to get to them.

You can read my full guide to visiting Ubud here, but here are some of my highlights:

  • Visit the famous Tegallalang rice forest at sunrise
  • Do the Mt Batur sunrise trek. This is one of the most popular treks to do in Bali and it’s not as difficult as it sounds, even when you’re having to hike in the dark!
  • Go shopping at the Ubud Art Market
  • Visit some of the most beautiful temples in Bali
  • Go on a waterfall hunt
  • Visit the Sacred Monkey Forest in the heart of Ubud
  • Walk the Campuhan Ridge walk

Where to stay in Ubud

Splurge

If you’re looking to experience the beautiful rice fields of Bali and get away from the crowds and hustle and bustle, then you have to book a stay at Pajar House Villas. These beautiful suites are literally in the middle of a rice field, away from the main road and it’s pure bliss. The rooms are large, really comfy and the bathrooms have a beautiful waterfall shower adding in that extra bit of luxury. There’s also a beautiful infinity pool to cool off in. It’s located a 15 minutes drive from the centre of Ubud and they operate a free hourly shuttle going too and from all day.

Save

If you want to stay in the heart of Ubud and are travelling on a budget then the Gusti Kalar Homestay is the perfect spot. It’s located halfway down one of the quieter side roads off of the main streets of Ubud making it a quiet place to relax whilst still being in the thick of things. It’s simple but comfy and super pretty.

1 night in Sanur

Sanur is the gateway to the nearby islands with lots of boats running to both the Nusa and Gilli Islands. It’a  small seaside town and is pretty sleepy compared to nearby Seminyak and Kuta. It has some history and culture to explore, as well as shops and a nice beach with small waves if you want to swim.

Things to do in Sanur

I mostly chilled out on the beach and promenade here but the Crazy Tourist has a great guide of more of the things to see and do in Sanur here.

Where to stay in Sanur

If you want to be close to the ferry area to be able to catch the boats to the islands and to chill out on the sand then the brilliantly named Agung and Sue Watering Hole homestay is in a great location. It’s just a couple of minutes walk away from the beach where the ferries leave from and it also has a great restaurant out the front.

2 nights on Nusa Lembongan and Nusa Ceningan

It takes less than an hour on a fast ferry to get from Sanur to Mushroom Beach on Nusa Lembongan and from this island, you can cross its famous yellow bridge to hop over to Nusa Ceningan. These two places offer a little insight into Balinese life and are far quieter than Bali but I love them. If you like to travel slow and relax for a bit then a couple of nights here is a must.

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Take a look at my Nusa Lembongan and Nusa Ceningan guide here to find out more, but here are some of my favourite things to do:

  • Visit the spectacular Devil’s Tear during the day and at sunset
  • Relax at some of Nusa Lembongan’s beautiful beaches such as Dream Beach, Jungut Batu beach and Mushroom Beach
  • Cross the famous yellow bridge
  • Admire the ocean from the Blue Lagoon on Nusa Ceningan
  • Chill out at any of the cute and colourful beach front bars on Nuse Ceningan

Where to stay on Nusa Lembongan

The main area of Nusa Lembongan is close to Mushroom Beach where you will find loads of restaurants, warungs, cafes and bars as well as shops and tour operators. I stayed at Soka Homestay which sits down a quiet road from the main street. The rooms are clean and modern and the owners are incredibly helpful. They also have a warung next door which serves the most delicious breakfasts.

Planning a trip to Bali but not sure where to start? Here's my 3 week itinerary for Bali, perfect for first timers.

Soka homestay

3 nights on Nusa Penida

Nusa Penida is the largest of the Nusa islands so 3 nights here are easy to fill. This island is becoming increasingly popular due to its stunning beaches, dramatic coastlines and wildlife. it’s just a short boat ride from the Yellow Bridge on Nusa Lembongan where you can catch a small public boat across. The only tricky thing about Nusa Penida is that the roads to many of the attractions are not paved and to say they are pot-holed is a huge understatement. Many people do manage to get around Nusa Penida by motorbike but I would highly recommend hiring a driver with a car to see the spots. Tom and I hired a bike for one day and struggled so much it got to the point we weren’t enjoying it so the following day we went by car and it was far, far more relaxing. The bad roads also mean your sightseeing will take longer than you might think so it’s a good idea to spread the places you want to see over the few days you are there.

Read my full guide to Nusa Penida here and see some of the highlights below:

  • Visit Broken Beach and Angel’s Billabong
  • Check out the ‘t-rex’ at Kelingking beach and walk down the stairs if you’re feeling energetic
  • Watch the sunset over Crystal Bay
  • Take a snorkelling tour to swim with Manta Rays

    which is actually an amazing temple under a cliff

Where to stay on Nusa Penida

I stayed at Nusa Penida Homestay which was in a quiet location a short walk from the beach. The room was spacious and comfortable and on the way to the beach there are a number of restaurants and warungs. The owners were also incredibly helpful and got us in touch with a driver to take us around too.

2 nights in Nusa Dua

Nusa Dua is on the Bukit peninsula towards the south of Bali and covers a long strip on its east coast. It’s mostly famous for its luxurious resorts where tourists flock to but there are also some great places to visit and eat at.

Things to do in Nusa Dua:

  • Find the abandoned plane
  • Try your hand at some watersports
  • Visit the cultural park and amphitheatre
  • Visit some of the areas beautiful temples such as Pura Geger and Pura Mendala
  • Eat at Warung Beten Kelor for the best local food

Where to stay in Nusa Dua

I stayed right on the main road in Sari Room Bed & Breakfast which was perfect for exploring the area and to be close to restaurants and the beach. Breakfast was included and they had a good number of options to chose from.

2 nights in Uluwatu

On the western side of the Bukit peninsula, you’ll find Uluwatu. This area is spread out and instead of there being a main street, you’ll find smaller areas to pick out and explore. Uluwatu is a haven for surfers with its unsheltered beaches throwing up some decent waves. If you want to chill at the beaches, like I did, Uluwatu is the perfect spot.

Things to do in Uluwatu:

  • Walk through a mini Santorini to reach Bingin Beach
  • Watch the monkeys on Padang Padang Beach
  • Visit Uluwatu temple

Where to stay in Uluwatu

As Uluwatu is a spread out region of Bali, deciding where you want to stay will depend on whether you have somewhere specific you want to visit. Saying that, it’s an easy area to get around my motorbike and visit the main attractions. I stayed at the Made Roejas Homestay which was comfortable and has a fun colourful warung at the front. There is also an awesome restaurant right opposite doing great lunch and dinner deals as well as live music and movies.

1 night Legian

The Kuta/Legian area is definitely the most touristy area on this 3 week Bali itinerary but don’t let that put you off. It’s the place to haggle like crazy at the stalls lining the streets, grab a final cocktail or Bintang at one of the many happy hours and take a walk along the beach. I stayed in Legian but both areas are also close to the airport meaning you’ll have a panic free and quick ride through the Bali traffic to catch your flight.

Things to do in Legian

  • Chill out on the beach
  • Nab a bargain at the market stalls
  • Release baby sea turtles with the Bali Sea Turtle Society who focus on rescuing, preserving and education around these beautiful animals.

Where to stay in Legian

For your last night in Bali, I would highly recommend staying at the GrandMas Plus Hotel Legian. Like their Seminyak hotel, the rooms are modern, minimalistic, really comfortable and the hotel is in a great location. The hotel is decorated in a beautiful rainforest theme and the central restaurant serves delicious breakfast. Their spa (Rehat) is also amazing and having a massage before your flight is the perfect way to end your 3 weeks in Bali. Check out my full review here.

Planning a trip to Bali but not sure where to start? Here's my 3 week itinerary for Bali, perfect for first timers. #baliguide #3weeksinbali #baliitinerary #nusaislands

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