Before reserving a hotel in Bali, there are a few things to consider, mainly when searching for accommodation online before your trip.
Should you select a traditional hotel, small guesthouse, family homestay, or Airbnb? Bali has an extensive variety of choices catering to more than 4 million guests arriving on the island every year. Hotels in Bali range from luxurious, 5-star properties in secluded areas to backpacker hotels that cost less than $10 per night.
Bali is a top destination in Asia. In fact, it’s the most visited of Indonesia’s projected 922 inhabited islands. Bali regularly stays busy no matter the time of year, but there’s enough good accommodation for everyone. Don’t risk your dream vacation by getting trapped in a place you don’t enjoy!
The Best Place to Stay in Bali
There are a lot of places to stay in Bali, but certain zones tend to fascinate specific kinds of travelers and budgets. Thanks to nearly five kilometres of extensive beaches and proximity to the airport, Kuta is where the action is—but that’s not always a good thing. Most travelers spend at least a little time in South Bali before moving to quieter places farther afield. Although not exhaustive, here are a few of the most popular places to stay in Bali:
- Kuta Beach: Kuta entices a lot of new surfers and backpacking travellers, so there is are plenty of noisy, budget accommodation selections around the neighborhood of Poppies I and II situated behind the Beachwalk shopping centre. Parallel to the beach, Jalan Pantai (Beach Road) in Kuta is well the main drag for Bali. Jalan Legian in Kuta is a busy strip of nightclubs, restaurants, and shops. Life usually gets quieter and a little more “grown up” as you move beyond north from Kuta Beach.
- North of Kuta Beach: Just above Kuta Beach, you’ll find Legian. It’s somewhat calmer aside from the sports bars filled with day-drinking Bali regulars. North of Legian is Seminyak where hotel and dining choices are significantly more upscale compared to their neighbours in the south.
- Canggu: Ongoing north, you come to Canggu, one of Bali’s newest areas exploding in popularity. Canggu is famous with surfers of all skill levels, digital nomads, and travelers who want a extensive variety of choices for cafes, eateries, and nightclubs.
- Ubud: Verdant Ubud is well-known for attracting a growth-oriented crowd interested in yoga, spas, and health workshops. The green setting, organic eateries, artisans, and “new age” culture make up for the lack of a beach.
- South of the Airport: Jimbaran and Uluwatu are well-known for the world-class surfing. Rocky beaches and big waves keep many families away, but some great agreements for boutique hotels and homestays can be found in the area.
- Sanur: Sanur, on the west coast just opposite of Kuta and Denpasar, is home to the oldest luxury hotel on Bali. The band tends to attract older, more “sophisticated” travellers than Kuta. The beach is laid back, but as with anywhere, a slight nightlife can still be found.
- The Northeast: Amid, on the northeast corner of the island, is rapidly becoming famous for diving, snorkeling, and free diving. Many of the small hotels along the black-sand beach aren’t found online.
Moving Between Places to Stay
Picking one area in Bali doesn’t essentially mean you’re stuck there! You can move around to see other areas, but traffic on the island is especially slow. Preferably, you’ll want to stay nearer the area that most suits your travel style and budget, so you don’t waste too much trip time sitting in traffic.
Bali’s communal vans are pretty well a thing of the past. Now, travellers use taxis, rideshare services, or traveler buses (although routes are restricted) to get between places. When moving around by taxi, opt for authorized Bluebird taxis. Unlike the other taxi companies trying to emulate Bluebird’s success with blue cars and similar logos, Bluebird has a long reputation for trustworthiness.
Grab, a rideshare app like Uber and Lyft, is a famous option on the island. GoJek is a local ride sharing substitute with app for download. If you’re comfortable driving in lots of traffic, Bali is a great place to rent a motorbike (scooter).
Booking Ahead vs Booking in Person?
The old problem of whether to book the duration of a stay or only the first few nights before arriving is a real challenge in Bali.
Though booking a hotel in Bali before arriving does provide a lot of peace of mind, there are some risks. Building is rampant as Bali continues to grow or renew. There are few tourist places on the island where you don’t hear the thrashing of work in progress. Finding out there’s a loud construction project going on and your room is non-refundable is a common, annoying experience in Bali.
Unfortunately, online photos of hotels in Bali have often been doctored to make them look extra appealing to people who are making reservations from overseas. Changes in online reviews is also common practice in Bali; don’t trust everything you see or read.
Assuming you aren’t one of the many honeymooners moving to Bali each year and are eager to take a small gamble, you could book only the first couple of nights and then change hotels if required. This approach is risky at famous places during high season, particularly those ranked well on Tripadvisor.
Some travellers book only the initial two nights, then if a place meets expectations, ask the front desk to extend. Confirm that you’ll get the original online price offered and not an exaggerated “walk in” price, as sometimes happens.
Irrespective of whether you book online or in person, you’ll need the name and address of a hotel when departing the airport. If you select not to book ahead, at least do enough study to know where to start. Never take the taxi driver’s reference for a hotel in Bali.
Not All Hotels in Bali Are Online
Not all hotels and guesthouses have an online listing. Don’t be disheartened by prices or lack of accessibility based on what you see from booking sites.
For every hotel in Bali you find available on the famous booking sites, there are possibly three more independently owned budget hotels nearby that aren’t set up for online bookings.
What’s more, not all rooms in each hotel are registered as available to booking sites. In fact, hotels may only open a handful of their many rooms to online bookings. Since a booking site tells you a hotel is full doesn’t always mean that no lodgings are accessible. Booking sites like to spook visitors with warnings such as “1 room left at this hotel” to inspire snap decisions, but there are possibly more open rooms at the same property.
Reception May Ask You to Book Online
Strangely, Bali is one of the few places in Southeast Asia where hotel management now and then prefers that you book your room online rather than in reception! Walk-in and online amounts may differ greatly because of strong competition between hotels on travel sites.
Rather than corresponding the price for a room listed online, management will sometimes wish to pay the commission and ask that walk-in guests sit down in reception, within a few steps of the front desk, to book their own rooms.
Tip: The amount to extend your room may be significantly higher than what it was when you booked online. Don’t assume that you can add a day to your reservation for the similar rate you’ve been paying—ask first.
Rules Are Rules
Indonesia has a status as one of the friendliest places in Southeast Asia. The hotel staff are almost always overwhelming polite and try to accommodate needs.
Knowing how to say hello in Bahasa Indonesia correctly will certainly get you some smiles around the hotel. But you’ll also find that staff members value their jobs and strictly adhere to hotel policies and protocol, more so than hotel staff in the West.
In this case, the client isn’t always right. As an alternative, the payroll-controlling boss is always right. If mealtime ends at 10 a.m., don’t turn up at 10:10 a.m. and expect to accept anything more than a sweet smile and “I’m sorry.”
Use the Net
Not the internet, the mosquito net! Sleeping underneath a mosquito net isn’t just a romantic notion. If your room has one, it’s there for a reason. Use it. Keep the net closed during the day or biters may become trapped on the inside.
Open-air bungalows and rooms with balconies are part of the attraction on an exotic island with tropical weather, but Bali has a sizable mosquito population that gets hungry at night.