This post is in collaboration with TUI, who provided me with this trip in exchange for the content I am sharing.
I recently had the absolute pleasure (it was all mine, trust me) of flying to Bali courtesy of TUI. We spent a glorious week in Seminyak on the south of the island at The Seminyak Beach Resort & Spa and a month on, I’m still suffering from the post-Bali blues. It’s an island that steals your heart like no other: the people, the food, the sun, the crashing waves of the Indian Ocean. It’s rather a long way from the UK but that doesn’t really matter because when you get there time seems to stand still (though I’d have happily stayed much longer!) Read on for the best of Seminyak and a few general Bali tips and tricks…
- Time Zone: GMT+7
- Currency: Indonesian Rupiah (prices are in thousands, so if something is ‘100’ on it’s actually 100,000, about £5)
- Flight time: Approx. 18 hours (2 flights)
- Weather: 26-30 celsius all year round (but watch out for rainy season!)
- Plug socket: takes European adapter
- Language: Indonesian, but English widely spoken
Seminyak is rightly heralded as the more commercial district of the island. This isn’t for everyone, but it does mean that you’ve got all the best restaurants, shops, pools, clubs and a beautiful stretch of beach right on your doorstep. Kuta and Canguu are both down the coast in either direction and easily accessible by car or moped, or on foot along the beach (about an hour) and are very popular with backpackers. There’s a lot of nightlife in Kuta – ‘Magaluf for Aussies’ – whilst Canguu is much more laid back.
How to Get There
TUI flies the 787 Dreamliner from London to Denpasar, and if they haven’t got appropriate flights on the day that you want to travel then they also work with lots of other airlines to offer the most competitive and widest selection of flights for your holiday. Regardless, you’ll still be met in Bali by a TUI transfer and have a rep on hand if you need any help throughout your stay. I’m going to be really honest, before this trip I had no idea TUI even went as far as Indonesia. I wrongly assumed that they just offered European package holidays so it was a real joy to learn that there’s such a wide breadth of destinations on offer!
To get to Bali from the UK you’ll need to take two flights, usually with a layover somewhere like Dubai or Hong Kong, with approximately 18 hours in the air. It’s the furthest I’ve ever travelled and I wouldn’t hesitate to do the journey again.
Denpasar Airport Tip!: I’ve never experienced anything quite like the arrivals hall in Bali. It was almost 10pm and over 24 hours since I’d left home the previous day and I was totally overwhelmed – and I’m not an easily shaken person – by the sheer number of name boards and taxi drivers desperate to make a fare. There were hundreds and hundreds of names and I just couldn’t find my own, all the while people were attempting to ‘help’ with the bags and offering lifts and I may or may not have ended up crying ‘leave me alone!’ before bursting into tears. Don’t let it put you off at all, I just wish someone had warned me about the chaos that is the airport. Go with that in mind, have a pre-arranged transfer and the number of your driver if possible and be firm with the unsolicited assistance. If you’re getting your own cab then walk straight out the back of the airport and turn right for the rank (a loose term) – know the approximate fare of your journey beforehand so you’re not ripped off, and go for a metered cab if possible.
Where to Stay
TUI offers a really wide range of hotels and resorts to choose from if you’re booking a package holiday. We stayed at The Seminyak Beach Resort and Spa (next to Ku De Ta in Seminyak) and I simply cannot fault a single thing about it. With its own gorgeous stretch of beach, an infinity pool, swim up bar and the best buffet breakfast I’ve ever had, I genuinely felt a bit gutted to have to leave. In just 6 short nights it really felt like home, not least because the staff are truly wonderful. They cannot do enough to make you feel welcome and incredibly valued; the resort is a total oasis of calm with little but the waves to interrupt your thoughts.
TUI offers loads of other options too ranging from 3 to 5 star, all with the same flight, hotel and transfer package peace of mind. Alternatively, there are lots of villas available for rental in Seminyak and the surrounding areas which are great for bigger groups.
Where to Eat
I don’t think I’ve eaten better anywhere in the world than I did in Bali. Seminyak is host to so many fabulous restaurants from lavish Indonesian meals to the best grab-with-both-hands burgers you’ll find and if you’re a Londoner you’ll probably be in awe of the value too. There are a lot of Australian influences and all day brunches and the famous smoothie bowls are everywhere, but you don’t have to eat vegan or live off of avo on toast by any means. Because the breakfast at The Seminyak was so good I largely avoided these places in favour of evening meals, of which there is more option than you probably have nights!
Alcohol tip: wine is very expensive in Bali because it’s all imported, instead opt for a Bintang, the Indonesian beer (a pale larger) that costs as little as £2 at even the swankier places
Brunch and all day eatery mirroring laid back Aussie cafe culture. Great food, good coffee and super Instagrammable interiors. Go for brunch or lunch and order the Pulled Pork Charcoal Roll or Sticky Nam Jim Pork Belly and their famous polenta fries. Expensive by Bali standards (around £30 for 2) but worth a visit!
Bambu was a really happy accident after Motel Mexicola was booked the night we hoped to go. It’s a total hidden gem specialising in modern Indonesian food and – get this – the seating is surrounded by beautiful ponds. It’s a great way to experience Balinese food in a more luxury setting than the street side warungs and is excellent value fine dining (about £50 for 2 including drinks). Again, this is by no means cheap by Bali standards but you’d easily pay more than double for the same setting and quality in London.
Arguably the most fun place in Seminyak to go for dinner, Motel Mexicola is a large, vibrant Mexican restaurant with modern, sharing style plates, jugs of margarita and hits that make you want to get up mid-Taco and dance. Despite its size, it’s always incredibly busy and booking is essential if you want to eat. You can also go in for a drink at the bar instead and soak up the atmosphere, but I guarantee you’ll get guac-envy. It’s a real thing.
Those ace burgers I was on about. I’m not actually usually a burger person but these are just so good. Order a burger and a beer and either take them down to the beach or sit outside on the communal benches and dig in with both hands. The Kim ‘Chi’ Un – Korean fried chicken, kimchi, sweet pickled cucumber sesame emulsion & gochujang mayo – is not to be missed, nor are the truffle, porcini & parmesan fries. Take me back.
Another one to book, Mama San offers Indonesian and East Asian food in a trendy setting that wouldn’t be out of place in Shoreditch. The Peking duck & five spice hoisin steamed bun w/ sriracha was definitely a highlight. If you need to choose between this and Bambu, I’d opt for Bambu for the sheer wow-factor of the setting.
More of a beach-side day bar (see below), Mano also offers really tasty lunch options that you can munch away on whilst lounging on a beanbag or sunbathing on a day bed. They offer everything from breakfast through to curries and the focaccia sandwiches are a great option for lunch time.
Bebek Tebasari (Ubud)
Tebasari is technically just outside Ubud (accessed by car) but as I’m highly recommending that a day in Ubud is on your itinerary, it’s a must for lunch. Overlooking the rice paddies, ask for one of the bamboo huts – you’ll probably need to book unless you get really lucky – where you’ll sit crossed legged on cushions and eat delicious Indonesian cuisine. They’ll recommend the Bebek Betutu (roast duck in Balinese spices) and you’d be silly to refuse (unless you’re a vegetarian!)
The Best of the Day Clubs
The pace of life in Bali is luxuriously slow and whilst you can go off and adventure if you wish, nobody will judge you for lounging the day away in the sunshine at one of the many pool day clubs.
Tip: Take swimwear wherever you go. Lots of the bars and day clubs have pools and you’re never far from the beach either. After day one I just wore swimwear under my clothes everywhere and if you can’t be bothered to carry a towel then the sun will do that part for you.
Basically paradise. Mrs Sippy is a dreamy saltwater lagoon pool and day club with huge floating beanbags, a swim up tiki bar, day beds and gorgeous decor. Entrance is 100k, half of which can be redeemed against renting a day bed, towels or against food and drinks. You can email or WhatsApp ahead to reserve a bed, which is probably necessary in high season or if you want one of the double pool-side beds. The perfect way to while away a sunny day…
Potato Head is a bit like Mrs Sippy, but beach side and a lot bouji-er. It’s got an infinity pool, an incredible cocktail menu and a waiting list that will make you wince so turn up early, nab a space and spend the day. If you don’t manage to get a bed then you can just use the pool and order drinks to sip whilst you dangle your feet, but they don’t like stuff (bags, shoes etc) left around so travel light or hire a locker. It’s basically what Soho House Seminyak would look like.
Much smaller and far more laid back than the other two (if that’s even possible!), Mano is on the beach front just opposite the Petitenget Temple and seems to be something of a hidden – in plain sight – gem. Bean bags and loungers overlook the ocean and the pool, whilst small, is the perfect place to cool off with a book and a Bintang. It’s basically effortlessly cool but more more low key than the above.
Things to Do
Watch the Sun Set at The Champlung
If you happen to find yourself in Kuta anywhere near sunset (such as for the below turtle release) then don’t even think about jumping in a cab back toward Seminyak. The walk takes around an hour along the beach and offers some great people watching as the vibe changes from the backpackers in Kuta to the locals drawing their football pitches in the sand, to the glossy resorts in Seminyak. Time it right so that you end up at The Champlung – just between Legian and Seminyak – just before sunset; grab a beanbag and a Bintang and watch as the sky turns deep purples and pinks.
Definitely not the most spectacular of Bali’s temples, but worth a stop in none the less. You pay a small donation and are given a Balinese skirt to wear (make sure your shoulders are covered too).
The Bali Sea Turtle Society works tirelessly to collect eggs from the beach and hatch them safely, before releasing the babies back into the ocean. A spectacular sight and a really heartwarming experience; keep an eye on their Facebook page where they update each morning that they have hatchlings. Usually at 4pm in Kuta.
Monkey Forest, Ubud
Oh, SO much fun. I was a bit apprehensive but didn’t find the monkeys to be aggressive or a nuisance at all. The occasional one will jump on you and the best I can liken it to is a cats paws. Go early in the morning as close to opening as possible; its far quieter (and therefore calmer) and the weather is more bearable too given you’re in a forest.
The Sanctuary is in Ubud and the best way to get there is to hire a driver. Significantly cheaper than a taxi, you’ll have someone with you for the day to take you where ever you want. Around 8 hours including the Monkey Sanctuary, the rice paddies and Bebek Tebasari cost 600k (around £30!)
Tip: If you’ve got an unwelcome monkey pal on your shoulder then just walk away, they’ll immediately jump down!
You can’t go to Bali without seeing one of the amazing rice paddies. It’s up to you whether you want to wander around it or to simply enjoy it’s magnificence from one of the hillside cafes. Make sure you’ve got some low value cash with you; there are people every few hundred meters blocking the path and asking for a donation to pass. Yes, it gets very annoying.
You can’t go to Bali without treating yourself to a Balinese massage. The spa at the Seminyak has the most breathtaking treatment rooms overlooking the ocean and the massage was so invigorating. Bodyworks also comes highly recommended and costs just the equivalent to £14 for an hour.
Bali has some of the best surf and there are boards for hire or lessons available up and down the beach