The Solo Traveller’s Guide to Bali

Walk the breathtaking cliffs and beaches of Nusa Penida on your solo trip to Bali
Walk the breathtaking cliffs and beaches of Nusa Penida on your solo trip to Bali | © R.M. Nunes / Alamy Stock Photo
Alex Robinson

Bali is breathtaking. Volcanoes loom over lush valleys of terraced rice paddies, while moss-covered temples tinkle with waterfalls and rolling ocean surf pounds golden beaches. There are village markets piled high with Hindu art, exquisite silks and festival masks. And you’ll find theatre, dance and gamelan music everywhere. The scent of ginger, lotus and galangal will tickle your nostrils. No wonder the first European visitors called Bali the Enchanted Island. Whether you come to hike, scuba dive, eat, pray or love, you’ll fall under its spell.

What’s the vibe?

Bali is a top solo traveller destination. From cooking and meditation classes to surfing and volcano hikes, there’s no end of things to see and do, and there’s always a local tour company with a ready-to-go group trip. Safe, sociable and a cinch to get around, Bali has long been popular with women of all ages traveling on their own, especially since Elizabeth Gilbert and Julia Roberts (Eat Pray Love) found inner peace and true love on the island in the Noughties.

A Bali trip overview for solo travellers

Bali is a long flight from pretty much anywhere, so allow at least a week to explore. You’ll want plenty of time to rest on the southern beaches, to get mindful in nature and to revive yourself in one of the myriad world-class spas. Don’t miss Ubud village – with its temples and arty shops, it’s a great place to meet fellow travellers. Be sure to take a a Balinese cooking class and to see the Tegallalang Rice Terraces as well as the twin Banymala waterfalls. There’s enough to keep you for weeks more – from sunrise hikes up Mount Batur, to scuba-diving the wreck-strewn reefs and walking the cliffs and beaches of Nusa Penida.

Bali is as laid-back as a snooze in a hammock

Where to stay in Bali

No matter where you go, you’ll find all levels of comfort and big name hotel brands. So, it’s really about where to base yourself. The beach areas west of the capital Denpasar are immodestly blessed with resorts. Those in the east around Candidasa and the wild north are quieter. Bali’s true beauty lies inland: around the village of Ubud, volcanic valleys drop through terraced rice fields and woodlands lush with rushing streams and waterfalls. And in the Sidemen district, sleepy villages with tiny, intricately carved temples huddle beneath Mount Agung’s perfect cone. For something Balinese, book a villa in a nature-based hotel with an infinity pool.

What to do in Bali as a solo traveller

Whether it’s cocktails by the beach, a spa wellness retreat or group light adventure, Bali has you sorted. But no trip would be complete without these must-do experiences, and you’ll meet like-minded people on them all.

Visit the rice fields

Bali’s steep hills cut with rice fields are an Instagram must – especially in the golden early morning or late afternoon light. For the best, concentrate on two main areas: Jatiluwih, in the shadow of the island’s second-tallest volcano; and Tegallalang, near Ubud village.

The beautiful rice terraces in Bali are not to be missed

Surf, scuba dive or snorkel

With great beach breaks for experienced surfers and sheltered bays calm enough for beginners, Bali is a great place to surf. And with reefs offshore – in shallow and deep water – there’s good snorkelling and diving, too.

Climb Mount Batur at dawn

It’s not for everyone. If you’re fit enough for a steep but easy multi-hour hike, though, then this is the best on the island – with stunning views of the sun rising over Mount Agung and the Bali Sea.

Climing Mount Batur is also a must-do if you’re up for a challenge

Solo travellers can enjoy these activities and stacks more on our Ultimate Bali and Lombok group tour.

Eating and drinking for a Bali solo traveller

Like the island itself, Balinese cooking floods the senses – fragrant ginger flowers and nutmeg swirled together with white turmeric, lemongrass and tangor-tangerine. Sauces are creamy with coconut and sizzle with chilli. Slow-cooked tender fish and meats are roasted in banana leaves in hot stone ovens.

The dishes you’ll find in traditional restaurants in Kuta or Ubud were once reserved for royals and ceremonial events. Try lawar – a curry that zings with kaffir lime and galangal – or slow-cooked bebek betutu duck, which is the favourite of Ubud’s current king, Tjokorda Kerthyasa. The street food you’ll see on sale for tourists everywhere is a mix of everyday Balinese staples and Indonesian classics. Try the charcoal-grilled sate lilit kebabs and pisang rai – sweets made with coconut and cooked banana.

Dishes served in traditional Balinese restaurants in Kuta or Ubud were once reserved for royals and ceremonial events

Getting around Bali

The narrow winding roads and backcountry tracks are more suited to a motor scooter than a car, and bikes can be hired for pennies on every other street corner. Car rental is straightforward in Denpasar airport, but consider a car and driver deal. They’re excellent value. You’ll never get lost, and solo women travellers can even book a car with a female driver. Public transport on Bali is difficult to negotiate, but the island is small and taxis are ubiquitous and good value.

Stay safe, stay happy during your Bali trip

Bali is one of the safest destinations in Asia. There is petty crime – especially in the busier western resort areas – and some of the open ocean beaches to the far east have dangerous rip tides. But solo visitors don’t need to go beyond the usual travel precautions: avoid deserted areas at night, be vigilant with your bags on boats and buses and keep your bags kerbside rather than roadside, as motorbike snatch theft is not uncommon.

Cultural need-to-knows

Bali is as laid-back as a snooze in a hammock. Nonetheless, there are some no-nos, especially around religion. Dress modestly when visiting a temple and remove your shoes. If you plan on attending a ceremony, you must buy temple clothing. Men need a sarong, sash, white shirt and Balinese cloth hat (destar) and women a sarong and a white kebaya top.

Remember to dress modestly when visiting temples like Pura Penataran Agung Lempuyang

Fancy joining a small group of like-minded travellers? Sign up for Culture Trip’s 12-day adventure Island of the Gods: the Ultimate Bali Itinerary – you can learn to surf, tackle Balinese cooking, visit temples and swim under serene waterfalls.

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