by Kristine Ambrose
Kristine Ambrose owns a public relations firm in Los Angeles and is an active globetrotter who has some great information to share with Tango Diva readers. During the winter, Kristine is an avid snow boarder who spends her weekends traveling to where the powder is the finest. And when the weather is warmer, she takes a few weeks a year to venture to some fabulous locations around the world. We caught up with her after an exotic trip to Bali.
* * * *
I had the most amazing time in Bali, and now that I’m back I can pass this information on to you and hope it brings you a blazing good time.
I took a fifteen-hour Cathay Pacific flight to Hong Kong and another four-hour flight to Bali. I flew out of Los Angeles International; the flight was easy and the airline was great. When it comes to cash, I would say budget about fifty dollars per day for everything and you’ll probably have a bit extra at the end of your trip for a lovely treat, like a spa day. Spas are usually forty dollars a day in Bali, and you’ll get the same types of treatments for which you would shell out four hundred dollars here in the U.S. What a deal! It’s worth the flight alone.
You can negotiate on hotels, car rentals, clothing, and surf lessons. Take lots of casual clothing and don’t flaunt that you have lots of cash by what you wear. Hotels may ask for eighty dollars for one night at a cool loft space near the beach, but you can negotiate them down to forty dollars if you use your Tango savvy. I usually said that I was a traveler on a budget and wanted to experience a nice stay at the beautiful hotel. If they know you love the place and you are honest and humble, they like that and give you the reduced rate. If you book hotels from the States prior to going, there is no way to negotiate down once you are there. Book at least one or two nights, so you know you have a safe place to stay when you arrive. I booked a rental car at ten dollars per day, but they asked for about twenty-five per day—so be aware of the rates. The best place to exchange money is at the bank, not at the airport of course.
You will land in Bali in Depensar. You should spend your first night in Legion or Kuta, which are close to the airport and will give you time to get your ‘berings straight’ and adjust. There are some nice loft hotels near the beach in Legion, and it is best to catch a cab there and walk around to each to get the best rate. Have the hotel staff show you the room prior to booking it. Always ask for the best room with the beautiful view, and flash a big smile and say this is the hotel you want to remember forever.
Once you are in the hotel for the night, you can explore and plan. You will need to book a car, and can do that through your hotel. They will help you but, once again, let them know you are on a budget and can only afford a certain amount of money. (If you are not used to bartering, Bali is a great place to learn this skill—expect to negotiate for everything. Don’t settle for the first price offered.) Once you have a car, you should set sights on northern Bali for hiking and beautiful spas, or southern Bali for its exotic beaches like Uluwatu or Dreamland. The hotel will have maps, and I suggest stocking up.
Hotels can run you anywhere from $40 to $150 a night, depending on how luxurious you like to sleep. If you are on more of a budget, there are rooms to rent with a shower for four to fifteen dollars per night. If you want to cook your own food, some families in Bali have a guesthouse on their property and will rent it to you for fifteen dollars a night. You can locate these families by asking a lot of questions at the rental car places and any restaurants you may come upon.
There are the sweetest ladies on the beach who will give you a massage, pedicure, and manicure for a few dollars. These ladies are very poor and they love American clothing, toothbrushes, toothpaste, old makeup, lotions, etc. I recommend to all my friends who travel to Bali that they take a few extra old items of clothing and lotions to give to these women. They will love you for it!
Pack light! Pack light! Pack light! The exchange rate in Bali is amazing and shopping is easy. The clothing there is fabulous and you will not want to wear much. It’s best to stick with a couple bathing suits, two pairs of jeans, and lots of little tops.
Views and Secret Spots
There is a cliff above a beach called Binging. The cliff has cottages on it that rent for thirty dollars per night and have the most beautiful view I have ever seen. You will want to bring a book, and plan to spend time just taking in the view. No phones here, so you have to drive your car to the cliff and ask the owner to use his phone. Just ask for directions to the Binging beach and you will find the cottages.
My favorite places to eat were the little huts on the beaches that serve fish. You need to look for them, but they are there. Usually about six in a row on a beach outside of Legion and Kuta, and some down south towards Uluwatu. Sit at tables in the sand and expect to pay six dollars for a fancy dinner of fish, rice, and vegetables. It is almost too much to eat!
I hope this information is useful, and I know you’ll have a magical time in Bali.