Destination Bali, Indonesia
Bali had never been on our destination wish list. We had heard completely opposing points of view from friends and family but decided to visit and experience it for ourselves to form our own opinion. Bali is a third world country and I found the difference between the extremes of the dirty 'run down’ streets to the absolute luxury of the hotels unsettling. If you were wanting to go laze by the pool at a luxurious hotel or villa, read books and relax, then this is a great option as a travel destination. We, however, like to get out, explore and go on an adventure and I didnt feel comfortable with the kids leaving the resort to do this.
People and Culture
One of the best things about Bali is the people, they are very friendly and helpful. We found that the Balinese loved our kids and everyone wanted to hold them, which made me feel uncomfortable and very protective being in a foreign country. The Balinese have a strong Hindu-Buddhist religion with many temples, shrines and an offering to the gods on every shop front and corner.
Where to stay
My biggest tip when choosing a place to stay is get the best hotel or private villa you can afford and check out what facilities they offer as you will want to spend most of your time within your resort. We stayed at The W Bali Resort in Seminyak, see our review here, which is supposed to have the most luxurious beaches, restaurants and shopping. The sunsets over the beach are nice but we found the beaches to be littered with rubbish and there were a few nice shops in Seminyak but I wouldn't put this as a shopping destination.
Ubud is closer to the centre of Bali and is known for more of an authentic Balinese experience. Think lots of beautiful 5 star resorts, temples and the monkey forest.
Kuta is the party destination of Bali with a young crowd. Very dirty, expect to get hassled, cheap drinks and busy crowds.
Driving to the hotel was our first insight into Bali and our driver was really friendly and happy to answer all our questions. If you are happy with a specific drivers service you can get their card and phone number and book them as your driver on other days. Most people travel by car, motorbike/moped or bus. Tourists can rent motorbikes but I would advise against it, if you must, check your insurance for coverage. You'll see lots of people on motorbikes carrying children without any helmets, seatbelts or protection and it doesn't seem that they bother with child safety in cars with baby car seats either. However, we learnt that you can request baby seats when you book a driver as some can provide this.
Travelling as a family
Bali is a third world destination, the streets are smelly and dirty and we did have children come up to the car begging, which broke our hearts, but, we were told that it is organised and not to give anything to people begging on the streets. We hear that Bali is very corrupt.
There is a lot of building works, and as a friend of mine put it "It's like they're in the middle of construction but nothing is ever finished, maybe thats just Bali?". Health and Safety was obviously not enforced here. For example, thongs seem to be the type of footwear worn by the locals except on worksites, where the workers were barefoot. We struggled with the stroller on the streets as it in uneven, blocked off, or there will be a random massive hole in the ground which meant we had to walk on the roads with the cars and bikes, otherwise we would get cabs for short trips. I didn't let my kids go down onto the beaches as they were littered with rubbish and waste.
Travel tip to skip the lines at the airport.
We arrived at Ngurah Rai International Airport after a 6 hour flight and had pre-booked the Vip airport service which was about US$50pp. As soon as we stepped off the plane, we were met by 2 airport staff who carried our hand luggage to a room with refreshments where we were to wait for them to collect the rest of our bags. The best part of this service was that we got to skip the line at immigration, which we hear can be up to 2 hours, and went straight up to an immigration officer and taken straight to our car and driver waiting to take us to the hotel. With 2 kids, the hardest thing about travelling can be the airport so having extra hands and getting though the airport quickly with 2 very tired kids was worth every cent.
Please leave me a comment if you have any questions or if you have any tips or suggestions for Bali and I hope you found this information helpful in planning your own family travel to Bali.