Travel Expert of the Week: Exploring Bali in 4 Days – the Whirlwind Tour

Bali is on our minds this week – and we have travel guru Monique Wise from Wanderlust, My Way to thank for this sudden bout of, well, wanderlust! Your expert tour guide is sharing one of her favorite destinations and itinerary from this tiny slice of heaven – come along and share in her joie de vivre!

Sometimes I do this thing where I travel to do absolutely nothing at all, because the excitement of being in a new country is enough for me. But I get it. People want to know what to do when they get there. To me, 4 is the perfect number of days to spend in a new place. You can do a lot in four days, and while more time can be great not everyone has that extra time. I recently spent some time in Bali and applied my 4-day plan to the situation at hand. Here’s how you can tackle one of the world’s top travel destinations in just four days.

Day 1

Bali sunset

Once you land at Ngurah Rai International Airport and make your way outside, you’re going to be accosted by taxi drivers who’ll vow to take you to your destination for the cheapest price. This is where your negotiation skills come in. Maybe ask your hotel, Airbnb, or hostel what the average price to their establishment should cost and keep that in mind when negotiating.

I stayed in Seminyak (a busy part of town) because, as a solo traveler, I like to stay in areas with more people so I don’t feel so alone. I like to think I chose wisely because I immediately felt as if Seminyak was all that Phuket, Thailand, should’ve been for me. I was also adamant about being near a beach, and it didn’t hurt that my very affordable hotel was walking distance to the waves.

Use day 1 to settle into your room, or villa if you’re fancy, and walk around the area to get a feel for it. During this “get my bearings” time, I usually decide where I’d like to eat and narrow focus on areas I’d like to explore. One delicious restaurant I can recommend is Sushimi Sushi Restaurant, where you can score sushi, spring rolls and a beer for under $7 USD. Don’t forget to set aside time to get the spa pedicure you’ve been dying to try or the massage you couldn’t wait to book. Treat yourself. You’re only in Bali for a short while.

Day 2

bali rice fields
There are some beaches that you can lounge on and never run into another soul, and then there are beaches where every person that walks by is excited to speak with you whether or not you’re on the way to REM sleep. Seminyak Beach was the latter. After breakfast, you might make your way to the bustling beach when it’s most quiet and peaceful, and chat up locals in the know. This is how I usually get the best recommendations for things to do and meet people that will offer to do them (often at a very reasonable price). On Seminyak Beach, I was offered a tour for a fraction of the price that I’d already booked it for prior to my beach outing. I wish I had hung around the beach a bit before agreeing to do anything with someone else.

If you ask me, day 2 should be less for relaxing and more for getting out of your comfort zone. Real, genuine scientific studies (ahem!) have proven that it’s virtually impossible to lie on a beach in Bali without subsequently being offered surf lessons. So when your post-breakfast nap is complete, take those lessons. A typical surf lesson can last for anywhere from one to a few hours, and instructors work with everyone – kids, adult beginners, and pros. It’s nice to book in advance, but there’s absolutely nothing wrong with just showing up in your bathing suit and sunblock.

Later, take some time to head to one of the restaurants you may have earmarked the day before. Enjoy huge crowds and your kind of music at that al fresco sushi spot, or try the traditional Indonesian restaurant. Go for it.

Day 3
Day 3 is here, and that means it’s time to ditch the beach and head up into the hills of Ubud for a day tour. The best thing about these tours is that you can create your own itinerary. A guide will run down a list of the various activities available (lots!), and while you could choose to do them all, I recommend choosing a few highlights to hit. For instance, you can visit the Monkey Forest, the Ubud Market, a temple or two, and rice fields. You can also go further north and visit Gitgit Waterfall, Lovina Beach, Buyan Lake, and the Ulun Danu Beratan Temple. The possibilities are endless. Just let your personal driver know the experience you’re looking for.

balinese temple

While I had no desire to be attacked by pushy monkeys, I did visit the rice fields, hustled my way through the Ubud Market, and tasted various teas at an amazing coffeehouse. Now, I’m not a coffee drinker (hence the tea tasting), but if I were I would have sampled Kopi Luwak coffee, the most expensive coffee in the world. When I return to Bali, I’ll probably go the nontraditional route and explore more secluded beaches as well as travel to northern Bali. My adventures in Thailand left me with “temple fever,” so I’ll go out of my way to visit more temples on my next trip to Bali.

artisans in the marketplace

Day 4
Your last day in Bali should probably be a day to wind down and just relax. After breakfast, stop at a market for last-minute souvenirs, and then just laze around until time for a quiet dinner. If you need to keep things a bit more high energy, take another day trip. Just make sure you build in some relaxation time. Otherwise, you can wear yourself out pretty quickly.

If you’re inclined to keep exploring, a day trip to Lembongan Island is an excellent way to end your Balinese adventures. You can snorkel and swim in the clearest water you’ve ever seen, or kayak, or even ride on a banana boat. Then again, if you’re like me (and will literally travel for a full day to do nothing), you can lie around on the beach and perfect your tan. It truly is an art, trust me.

Whatever you do during your trip to Bali, make sure your trip includes exactly what you truly want to do. Don’t be the traveler who keeps to the list of recommendations instead of trusting your instincts and enjoying yourself. There’s something to be said for sightseeing, but in my world sometimes the best memories don’t come from visiting “that popular monument,” or “this famous museum,” or that “top-rated restaurant.” I never feel bad about my choices. I travel at my own speed doing exactly what I want, and not a thing more. And that’s how it should be. I hope you enjoy your stay in Bali.

For more of Monique’s thrifty, fun, and stylish takes on places we love like Cuba and Iceland, please visit her at Wanderlust My Way and on Instagram.

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