When to go
No check-ins or check-outs are allowed on 9 March 2016, when Bali observes Nyepi Day (Day of Silence), although stays are still possible. Bali’s airport also closes for the day. July to September is Bali’s high season, when the temperature and climate are at their most appealing. Fans of peace and quiet may want to avoid August, the busiest period, but don’t leave it later than early October because after this point, the rain clouds start to gather.
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Tales from our travels
PlanesFly into Bali’s Ngurah Rai International Airport (www.baliairport.com), south of capital Denpasar and within easy reach of Seminyak, Canggu, Jimbaran Bay and the Bukit Peninsula (Ubud is a tad further away). It's served by a host of global carriers including British Airways, Cathay Pacific, Singapore Airlines, Qantas, Jetstar and AirAsia. You can buy a Visa on Arrival, if required, for 30 days for US$25 (bring US dollars cash to speed your progress through the queues). Many hotels offer free transfers or you can pick up a taxi easily at the airport. Some hotels can also fasttrack you through immigration and customs on arrival or departure.
BoatsFerries nip back and forth from Java to Gilimanuk in Western Bali regularly, although they’re far from the smoothest of rides.
AutomobilesYou can rent a car at the airport to explore the island easily enough (although you’ll need to pick up a tourist driving licence) but given Balinese drivers’ rather ‘informal’ approach to the rules of the road and the narrow, bumpy streets it’s not exactly recommended. Chauffeur-driven cars are readily available at keen rates.
TaxisYour hotel will be able to arrange legit, metered taxis on request. The best of the bunch is Bali Taxi (+62 (0)361 701 111), whose blue cabs are clean, safe and charge a fair fare.
Underwater explorers will love Gayana Eco Resort's coral-dotted, marine-reserve dive centre (the treks into the Borneo jungle won't disappoint, either). Bali's Alila Manggis is splashing distance from seven of the globe's best dive sites and is edged by sublime snorkeling waters. Sumba, an hour's flight from Bali, is a hush-hush travellers' secret, and at Nihiwatu you'll sample the island's best: incredible ocean views, breeze-cooled outdoor living and world-class surf breaks in reach. A speedboat ride from Amanzoe, a marble-hewn hilltop haven in southern Greece, is the island of Dokos, whose diver-drawing coast lays claim to the world's oldest known shipwreck.
Hidden in the heart of beachside Seminyak, The Amala’s a holistic retreat of sleek thatched-roof pads, plunge pools and herb-infused showers. Balis’ finest wellness gurus are at hand to soothe and restore with yoga and water Pilates.
Ubud Hanging Gardens’ villas, spectacular infinity pool and Balinese spa hug the steep hillsides of the Ayung River. Thankfully, there’s a funicular for those after a truly languid retreat.
Ringed by eight cloud-shrouded volcanoes and lush jungle foliage, MesaStila’s antique-filled villas are set in hectares of lovingly tended gardens. Watch the sunrise at Borobudur before indulging in an authentic hammam and coffee-infused spa therapies.
Fried, grilled, boiled or steamed: Indonesia’s food is rich, subtly spiced and delicately fragranced. Food carts gather at street corners, peddling moreish crispy chicken, hearty bakso meatball soup and all manners of nasi (rice) and mie (noodles). Bali’s a tempeh-and-tofu haven for detox junkies, but also offers star-worthy dining and masterful fusion dishes. Métis’ foie gras and sweet soufflé menus bookend memorable meals; call ahead for a paddy-field perch and a taste of Bebek Bengil’s smoked duck (+62 (0)361 975489). Don’t leave the island without sampling its two meatiest finger-licking roadside eats: Ibu Oka’s lemongrass-stuffed suckling pig (+62 (0)361 976435) and Naughty Nuri’s coal-grilled ribs, washed down with as many dirty martinis as required (+62 (0)361 977547).
Borrow a sarong and sash to gawp at sea-perched temple Pura Tanah Lot, or climb Borobudur’s nine platforms to its majestic crown of stupas. Uluwatu’s clifftop temple is an atmospheric sunset setting for the percussive kecak monkey dance; for a closer encounter with scrabbly-pawed macaques, stroll through Ubud’s Monkey Forest and keep a sharp eye on your belongings. The islands are peppered with active volcanoes, surfing waves, trekking jungles and diving sites teeming with everything from whale sharks to pygmy seahorses. When you tire of all the adrenalin-seeking, surrender to the siren call of Indonesia’s divine spas, where you’ll be poulticed and pampered to a blissful state.
Mount Agung’s lunar landscape, the white waters of the Ayung river, Lovina’s black-sand beaches, rugged Ahmed’s snorkelling hostpots: there’s more to Bali than endless paddy fields, surfing beaches and designer boutiques, and much much more to sprawling Indonesia than this breeze-blessed island of gods. Dizzying Jakarta is the vigorously modern hub for committed shoppers and dyed-in-the-silk party people, and the jumping-off point for the archipelago’s true wonders: untamed Sumatra, mystic Yogykarta and the deep, clear diving waters from Komodo to Sulawesi.