Visiting Bali with kids is relatively easy and there is plenty for children to enjoy on this amazing little island. I would say that Bali and Thailand are the two easiest places we have travelled in South East Asia with children because of their well established tourist infrastructure and good facilities. Bali must be one of our favorite family destinations so far, we have spent time exploring the island, moving around and staying a while if we liked a spot, shooting through if we didn’t. We, and the children, loved it. We had fun, learnt loads and found so many things to do. Here is our take on Bali for kids.
Bali with Kids: Family Accommodation.
What’s your style?
Suit the accommodation to suit your family, you’ll find it all on Bali.
When we travel I usually book a couple of nights accommodation for us on arrival. Family accommodation is always harder to find than rooms for couples or singles so it gives me peace of mind knowing we have somewhere booked online in advance. After that, we make our own way.
Agoda works particularly well for this part of the world. If you like to remain free to explore your way, just book the first couple of nights, if you want a more structured trip, maybe a resort or villa based experience, go ahead and book up your whole trip! We all like to do things differently, what works for one doesn’t work for all.
If you like to wing it, check out hotels and guest houses when you arrive and take your pick, on foot or by taxi . We took rooms with all sorts of sleeping arrangements big double bed and an extra mattress on the floor and adjoining rooms and twin double beds. It is often easier to negotiate reduced rates face to face.
Generally we found a good choice of accommodation in Bali, the cheapest place we stayed was $15/night for a room in a traditional courtyard home in Ubud, the most expensive $100 for a pretty luxurious sea front hotel in Sanur.
Ubud, in particular, had plenty of options, it’s very easy to walk up Monkey Forest Rd. and check them all out. You can find far more expensive places to stay, we enjoy travel on a modest budget, staying in small guest houses.
We struggled to find cheap accommodation in Sanur. It’s such a big package holiday resort town that most accommodation was in large hotels. Many places in this town had no vacancies, they were full of over-wintering Europeans, so booking ahead would be your best option. We eventually found a room in a beach-side hotel for $100/night, this was the only time we had to search for long, our taxi driver taking us from place to place.
Accommodation that includes breakfast can save you a lot of money, particularly when traveling with children, they can fill up on pancakes, eggs, toast and fruit and be set for the day. We had fantastic breakfasts in Bali, my husband and I tend to go for the Balinese options of noodles or rice, the kids stuck to the western dishes and loved their first ever hot chocolate in the morning.
Getting Around Bali
There are plenty of taxis available, we found taxis were the best option for touring Bali with kids. The airport taxi we took on arrival was more expensive than any other we took, despite the fixed fare system. You may do better to arrange your own airport pick up or transfers direct with a driver. We found it best to hire a driver with a decent sized car for the day, often a 4 wheel drive. Check out the car, see if you like the guy. You will be constantly approached by drivers wanting your trade on the street. As a family of four, this worked out cheaper than buying 4 bus tickets and gave us total flexibility to tailor our day as we chose. Our drivers were very helpful and suggested a few places to visit that we hadn’t thought of. We didn’t run into many scams. With Mum Goggles on, I worry about my children’s safety and I thought driving around Bali with kids would freak me out. Despite a general lack of seat belts I felt pretty good about using the roads in Bali. People drive slowly and carefully to avoid bicycles, dogs and chickens, it was OK.
Best Time of Year to Visit Bali
Bali enjoys a tropical climate as it sits just 8 degrees south of the equator. May-July are normally considered the best months to visit. The dry season runs from May to October, but even in the wet season conditions can be pleasant and dry days and sunshine not unusual. Find out more about Bali weather here.
Balinese Food For Kids
Balinese food isn’t as amazing as Thai or Vietnamese but we liked it a lot. We had some great food and some not so great, mostly down to us picking the wrong establishments. Generally, we found the small, family run cafes and restaurants better than the big backpacker places, and cheaper. We picked up a few munchies at markets and at roadside stalls, sticky rice, barbecued corn. It was all good. We didn’t get a chance to try the marinated spit roasted pork, Babi Guling, that Bali is famous for, there were huge queues every time we passed the recommended place in Ubud, Ibu Oka. We’ll try harder next time. Gado Gado, a sort of lettuce based salad with slightly spicy peanut sauce was good. I don’t think the Balinese use chilies with the same abandon as the Thais, or maybe they were just toning it down for the foreigners. The children loved satay dishes, they are mild and peanuty, they also tried a few squid dishes with vegetables and ginger. Vegetable spring rolls are always a hit with our kids.
We didn’t go everywhere and see everything, we’re not the Lonely Planet unfortunately, but this is what we managed to cram in. We will be back in Bali soon to explore further.
Places To Visit In Bali with Kids
Bali is a small island, you could probably take these day trips from just about any town, we took most of these from Ubud.
Ubud is where Bali stole our hearts, we spent the bulk of our time here enjoying the little town and its neighbouring rice paddies and villages. We have a separate post about things to do in Ubud, day trips and just hanging out in Ubud. It’s our favorite part of Bali and we’ll be back there soon. Ubud is where you’ll find the famous monkey forest, take kids here with caution, these animals are the thugs of the animal kingdom and can be aggressive. Hotels, guest houses and villas are plentiful and can be particularly good value in Ubud.
Bali Bird Park
The bird park is a must-do with kids, ours loved having parrots perch on their heads. There is also a small 3D cinema on site, we watched a film about birds. Next door is Bali Reptile Park, admission covers both areas. The kids enjoyed the reptile park but it wasn’t huge.
The Elephant Cave. Goa Gajah
You have to go here to take the photo of the demon mouth cave opening. Goa Gajah is a lovely site but access is via steep stairs, you may have to watch out for small children. It’s lovely and worth the trip, you can have a quick look around the Hindu and Buddhist parts, check out the linga in the cave and the sacred pool in half an hour. If you want to stay longer you can find a guide to talk you through it. Men must wear sarongs, for hire at the entrance.
Spice Farms and Kopi Luwak
Our driver took us to a spice farm on the way back from the volcano, Gunung Agung. We usually avoid these places as we’ve seen plenty before and there is usually some hard sell. As this was a first for the kids we agreed to go. It was a great experience for all of us, spices, chocolate, tropical plants, coffee and Kopi Luwak. Bali coffee, Kopi Luwak is something special but it might gross you out slightly. It’s in another post, click the link above.
Visit a volcano ( or not) Gunung Agung
Your driver will take you up to a viewing spot and temple near the top of Bali’s active volcano. The view was pretty spectacular, but as we left the car women swarmed around us and my children, dressing them in sarongs, demanding money and separating them from me. My youngest was in tears. We left straight away, never to return. This is the only time we saw this sort of pushiness in Bali, or anywhere else, our driver was full of apologies.
Meet the elephants (or not) Elephant Safari Park
I have major issues with animals doing tricks, but this was the children’s first up-close elephant encounter, so we went. It’s expensive, but rather good, the kids loved it. They fed the elephants and took an elephant back ride through the forest. Make your own call on the ethics of elephant riding and remember the Facebook horror stories mostly come out of Thailand and Burma. I’ve ridden elephants many times over the last 30 years, I’ve read up on the subject and I make a call based on individual circumstance and location. I would never visit an animal circus and actively campaign against them back in Australia ( yes, they still exist there). May I recommend a book? Travels on My Elephant by Mark Shand, it gives better information than Facebook. I have a degree in zoology, if that counts for anything, and a deep fascination with animals. I really have no knowledge of particular conditions in Bali, but I think today, I wouldn’t visit this one.
Pura Tanah Lot
One of seven sea temples around Bali, Pura Tanah Lot is incredibly beautiful and great for photos if you can visit at sunset. You can’t visit the temple itself, it’s closed to foreigners, but it’s lovely to look at. The temple is perched on a tiny island, at low tide you can walk out to the rock. The kids received a blessing from a priest at the sacred spring, they were quite pleased with that. The temple is guarded by a legendary giant sea snake, there is a cave with a resident snake on the mainland, we didn’t visit. There are little shops and food stalls nearby.
Padang Bai, Fishing and the Blue Lagoon
We spent two nights in Padang Bai in a glorious and cheap hotel just behind the beach. The town is very small, not much to keep you occupied, but there are some lovely trips in traditional fishing boats. The Blue Lagoon is just around the headland, it’s sold as a snorkeling spot. My husband snorkeled, he said it was OK. The boys jumped in briefly but the deep water freaked them out. They are 8 and 6 now and last week snorkeled with absolutely no fear on the Great Barrier Reef, they were just too young in Bali.
We took an early morning fishing trip too, very early, well before dawn. We expected rods and lines, instead we went miles out to sea in a tiny boat to watch the owner net fishing. He didn’t catch anything. It was an interesting experience and the views of the volcano at dawn were spectacular but I wasn’t entirely comfortable being out at sea with two small children.
We didn’t find very much to do in Sanur, other than hang out on the beach, check out the market stalls and get a massage and pedicure. The beach has the protection of reef and breakwaters so doesn’t have the big surf of Kuta making it safer for children. It’s nice to eat on the beach in the evening, there are plenty of restaurants and bars but this place is a resort town, it wasn’t for us.
Kuta and its Neighbor Legian
We spent a day inKuta, just to see what it was like. Kuta and Legian seem to blend into each other, Legian is supposedly more up-market. There are a lot of big shops, a lot of sports bars, plenty of fast food , busy roads and traffic and a wide sandy beach with surf. I guess you could find some interesting places if you actually stayed here, we only saw the main streets, that was enough. I wouldn’t recommend this part of Bali for kids. Our driver showed us the spot where the bombings took place, it was pretty sobering.
Bali Essentials, Things to Take to Bali With You
Take anything that you may need importantly and urgently, like sun block, mosquito repellent, contact lens solutions, paracetamol ( adults and kids) and any other medications or products you use often. There are shops in Bali and you can buy just about anything, but if you’re likely to need something in a hurry, take a stash. We like to carry a small bottle of iodine, cuts and bites can get infected rapidly in the tropics. Hand sanitiser get or antibacterial wipes are a good idea with kids ( not least on the plane!) What gear you need depends on your style of travel and duration of stay, as long term travellers we carry everything from mosquito nets to travel towels, but if you’re staying in a resort or hotel, of course you won’t need much. Visit our travel gear page to see which products we need, but don’t go crazy, you probably won’t need to buy anything special for a normal holiday.
Because everyone has heard the Bali horror stories and worries about that, right?
Two of us had diarrhea by the end of the trip. It wasn’t serious and didn’t stop us doing anything, but there were a few urgent trips to the bathroom.
When we got home I flew by the doctors where stool cultures revealed that we actually had a strain of salmonella. That was surprising, we weren’t too bad at all. There is no treatment for salmonella, so my Doctor told me, you just wait for it to pass and take probiotics ( live yogurt or pharmacy probiotic preparations)
People seem to worry about food hygiene in Bali quite a lot, particularly if they are visiting Bali with kids, I really don’t think that Bali is outstandingly dodgy in the food department based on our experience. We were not really careful about what we ate at all, we had fresh fruit juices with ice and ate salads, it’s just one of those things, a lottery. As I have rarely been ill while travelling, not even in India, I was a bit overconfident. Everything looked pretty good hygiene wise, so we ate what we wanted, including pizza. One of my golden rules is to avoid Western food in Asia, it’s a recipe for disaster.
My best tip to avoiding all this stuff is to keep your hands clean, we use antibacterial gels and baby wipes. It is interesting that only 2 of us went down with it, one adult, one child, we were all eating the same things and shared and tasted each other’s food constantly. It could have come via direct hand to mouth transmission, not food.
I’m not one to let a bit of tummy trouble put me off anything, it was a minor inconvenience.
So what do you think? Have you been? Are you going? Did we miss out on lots of good things in Kuta? Please share, we love to hear from you!