Bali isn't a small island. Eighty-seven miles long from its western edge on the Bali Strait to the easternmost town of Amlapura, it's also 50 miles long at its widest point. Most Balinese live on the southern third of the island.
Most hotels here are also in the south, and clustered around Denpasar, the capital. The southern-coast towns of Jimbaran, Nusa Dua, Sanur, and Kuta all have beautiful beaches and are within easy driving distance of Ngurah Rai International Airport. Ubud, about a 1.5-hour drive inland from the airport, is another resort destination; here, jungle properties overlook the spectacular Ayung River gorge, and the surrounding countryside is filled with rice terraces and temples.
The northeast is the island's active volcanic region, with both Gunung Agung (Bali's tallest volcano, graced by the stunning temple of Pura Besakih), and Gunung Batur (which overlooks gorgeous Lake Batur). Apart from these peaks, the northern coast is almost completely undeveloped—the exception being the dramatic volcanic-sand beach community of Lovina.
The long, thin western half of the island is sparsely populated; much of the land (some 200,000 acres) belongs to the vast Bali Barat National Park. Gilimanuk, at the easternmost end, is the jumping-off point for Java via ferry.
WHEN TO GO
The dry season, from April to September, is also when humidity is at its lowest. January and February are usually a period of unrelenting rain, with its attendant mud and mildew. June is often the golden month, with perfect weather and low-to-mid occupancyand therefore great discounts. Prices go up ten to 30 percent during the high season (July to September) and during the year-end holiday season.
HOW TO GET THERE
Bali is exceptionally well served by international airlines. Flights from the USA on Asian carriers are routed via the carrier's home city: For example, Thai flies nonstop from Bangkok, Malaysia Airlines from Kuala Lumpur, Cathay Pacific from Hong Kong…you get the picture. Most of these airlines offer free layovers at the hub, so you can add a few days of urban fun on your way home. Bali's international airport, Ngurah Rai, is located on the southwestern coast of the island, midway between Jimbaran and Kuta Beach. Most hotels will arrange for a car to meet you on your arrival at the airport. It's easy enough to order a taxi: Turn left as you exit customs and you'll see the counter (cabs are forbidden to cruise at the airport). Fares range from $5 for a ride to nearby Kuta Beach to $20 for a trip to Ubud.
Driving in Bali is difficult, because roads are narrow and often signposted poorly, if at all. However, for intrepid travelers who don't have a problem driving on the left side, car rentals are amazingly cheap—as little as $10 a day for a tiny Suzuki, or $30 for a big, boxy Toyota. One friendly local company, Garlic, will bring the car to your hotel and send an employee to drive you to the airport at your trip's end (62-361-737-092). (Incidentally, you'll find that—like Garlic—many companies here have unusual names). Taxis are easily found on the street in Kuta and Sanur; you can also order one by phone (Bali Taxi, 62-361-701-111, is reliable). In Ubud, it's necessary to hire "transport"—meaning a private car and driver—which is more expensive. Be sure to settle the price of a trip with the driver before you leave. The easiest choice, of course, is to take the hotel's car, which will also be the priciest.
In recent years, there have been several terrorist attacks against public places in Bali and Jakarta. The Indonesian government has scored major successes recently in breaking up the lunatic fringe responsible, but the possibility of another attack is still present in Bali, as at major resorts throughout the developing world. The U.S. State Department has advised U.S. citizens to defer all non-essential travel to Indonesia.
Tap water in Bali is unsafe to drink; bottled water is cheap and readily available. No inoculations are required, but as a precaution, make sure your shots for hepatitis A, tetanus, polio, and typhoid are current. There's no need to take malaria pills, unless you plan to visit the remote, less developed islands.
The government tourist office in Kuta is helpful and conveniently located at 2 Jalan Kuta Raya (62-361-756-175). These Web sites are informative and frequently updated: www.bali-tourism-board.com; www.baliguide.com.View Indonesia Factsheet