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Sun seekers and spiritual seekers alike are sure to find their hearts content on the ethereal island of Bali

With its cliff-top temples, verdant jungles and sublime beaches, this Indonesian isle is surrounded by the tropical Indian Ocean and blessed by year-round sun. Bali may conjure up images of exotic beaches lined with sleek honeymoon resorts, but there’s much more to it.

You won’t wander far before stumbling upon another beautiful and intricately carved temple, a consistent reminder that religion is a way of life here – from meditation and daily flower-petal offerings of gratitude, to joyful traditional dances and colourful temple ceremonies

Then there are the Balinese people themselves – gentle and generous, with a spark of mischievous humour to spice things up. Very much in tune with nature and seeking balance in all that they do, smiling comes with a beatific ease to the Balinese, and happily we’ve found that it’s contagious.

 

Culture and history

Religion rules the rhythm of life in Bali, with 90% of the population being Hindu and the remaining 10% either Muslim, Buddhist or Christian. There are many Hindu festivals throughout the year, so don’t be surprised if the streets are blocked by a colourful temple procession or if your taxi driver pulls over to make a blessing, this is all part of Bali’s charm.

A firm favourite on the hippy trail, Bali has been busy with tourists since the 1970s. This was ramped up a pitch when the 2010 film starring Julia Roberts – Eat, Pray, Love – was set here. The film further fuelled the popularity of wellness spas, yoga retreats and Boho chic boutiques, and the towns of Ubud, Swminyak and Kuta are particularly popular with the ex-pat contingent.

Despite all of the comings and goings, Bali’s distinctive culture has remained intact and there is a strong tradition of dance, music and song. Traditional dress is also a delight with bright fabrics and elaborate headdresses and jewellery. The earliest human artefacts to be found on Bali date back to around 3000 AD. Though it was certainly occupied before then, little in known about the island’s inhabitants.

It was Indian traders who first brought the Hindu religion to Indonesia, and its influence spread from Java to Bali during the 10th Century. The first Europeans to arrive were the Dutch in the late 1500s. They returned just over a century later in search of profit and conquest.

Initially taking control of North Bali it took the Dutch several centuries to seize full control of Bali from its many kingdoms. They marched on the present day capital city, Denpasar, in 1906 and finally Bali in its entirety became part of the Dutch East Indies… but not for long.

During WWII, the whole of Indonesia came under Japanese rule. Bali proclaimed its independence just after the end of the war, but the Dutch disputed this, intent on regaining their former colony. It wasn’t until 1949 that the Dutch at last conceded and recognised Bali’s independence.

Things to do

With some of the world’s best spas, surfing beaches and dive sites, it’s no wonder Bali is described as the ‘Island of the Gods’. On our escorted tours you’ll explore the pristine coastline, tour sacred temples amidst the most dramatic of scenery and stay in beautiful hotels.

If you can tear yourself away from the beach, travel inland to uncover the delights of Ubud, Bali’s arts capital, or go trekking in the monkey-filled rainforests encircling Lake Buyan and Tamblingan. For the ultimate sunrise adventure you can climb the active volcano, Mount Batur.

And did we mention the temples? From the cliff-top Ulluwata Temple, to the mystical Goa Lawah and the water-bound Tanah Lot, it is said that there are more temples on Bali than houses.

Ubud

This inland town surrounded by serene terraced rice paddies and dotted with Hindu temples is known as a centre for traditional arts and crafts. This is where you’ll find many of the island’s galleries and museums, such as the Neka and Agung Rai art galleries and the Puri Lukisan Museum.

It is also very popular with ex-pats who gather to indulge in yoga retreats and frequent its many cafes, restaurants and artisan shops. The Ubud Monkey Forest, a sacred temple complex, and Goa Gajah, the Elephant Caves, are both within easy reach of town and well worth visiting.

Flight time

It’s around 17 hours from London to Bali, usually including a transfer in an Asian hub airport. This gives you plenty of time for a couple of films, a snooze and perhaps even a novel.

Currency

Indonesian Rupiah -

The currency is the Indonesian rupiah. There is no restriction on the importation of foreign money in either cash or traveller’s cheques, nor is there any problem returning with money – though it is always wise to keep exchange slips until the end of your stay.

Tourist prices in Bali are frequently quoted both in rupiah and US dollars. Where prices are shown in dollars, payment can be made in either currency. Traveller’s cheques are widely accepted at banks and exchange rate centres throughout Bali, and both US dollars and sterling can be exchanged.

Passports and visas

Please note that local regulations require you to have one completely empty page in your passport upon arrival to enable the authorities to add a visa stamp.

Visit GOV.UK for more advice on passports and visas.

Phrases

Some useful words and phrases:

Yes/no – ya/tidak

Please/thank you – tolong/terima-kasih

Good morning – Selamat pagi (se-la-mat pa-gi)

Good afternoon – Selamat siang (se-la-mat si-ang)

Good evening – Selamat sore (se-la-mat so-re)

Good night – Selamat Malam (se-la-mat ma-lam)

How much/many – Berapa (be-ra-pa)

Timezone

Indonesia is seven hours ahead of GMT.

Electricity

All sockets take small, round two-pin plugs so an adaptor is required for British appliances: please bring one with you, as they are not easily found in Bali. Bathroom shaver sockets usually have a transformer switch and mains voltage is 220 volts, 50 cycles.

Language

Indonesian -

Bahasa Indonesia (a variant of Malay) is the national language, but English is widely understood. In addition, there are over 250 recognised languages spoken by as many distinct ethnic groups within Indonesia.

Tipping

Tipping in Indonesia is generally 10%, except where a service charge is included in the bill. Taxi fares should be rounded up to the nearest number.

Climate

The tropical Indonesian climate varies from east to west. The driest weather is found during eastern monsoon from June to September, while the main rains are prevalent in the western monsoon from December to March.

Having said this, rainstorms do occur all year round. As such, you’d be wise to pack a waterproof jacket along with some warmer clothing for the cool evenings in upland areas.

Other than the beach, it’s best to cover up a little, and it’s considered appropriate to cover your shoulders and legs in public, and especially so in or around the temples.

Health

As health information can change at any time, we’d advise you to consult your GP at least 12 weeks before departure.

Country-specific information and advice on possible health risks is also published by the National Travel Health Network and Centre, and The British Foreign and Commonwealth Travel Advice Unit provides important health and safety information for British nationals travelling abroad.

Population and size

Home to some 4.225 million people, Bali is reasonably populated for its diminutive size. At 5,780 km², Bali is a little over a quarter of the size of Wales.

Smoking

Smoking is prohibited in all public areas and flouting the law could cost you a hefty fine or even imprisonment.