Travelling Bali With Kids

Travelling with kids can be either a dream or a nightmare depending on where in the world you are. You want to keep them entertained, show them a bit of the world and also hopefully get a little time for some personal R&R.
A holiday in Bali will provide ample opportunities to fulfill all of these wishes, in fact it is arguably one of the best places in the world to travel with children. 

The distinct local culture is incredibly vibrant and almost certainly very different from anything they are likely to witness back home, and, perhaps most helpfully of all, the Balinese people, almost as a rule, adore children (babies are considered sacred). 

There are so many things to do, from exploring ancient temples and climbing mountains to waterparks and quad biking, that there is no reason any child should ever be bored in Bali.

What to pack?
Shops and markets in Bali cater very well for tourists, both in terms of clothing and basic supplies (toiletries, medicines, snacks etc.) and you may find you do not need to bring as much with you as you think. However, whether you choose to stock up at home or wait until you arrive, there are a few items you will need:

    Beachwear - swimmers, hats and thongs etc.
    Sunscreen / Aftersun (very expensive in Bali)
    Hand sanitizer (for during travel)
    Toilet paper - often a scarce (or non-existent) resource in public toilets
    Light summery clothing - this is a tropical island after all!
    Light jackets / jumpers - this may seem like strange advice, but if you plan on going up into the mountains, it can get pretty chilly.
    Sarong(s) - most temples insist that visitors (men included) wear one of these in order to enter and they work well as makeshift blankets / towels for the kids etc. This is an item that you can purchase once arriving in Bali (at the start of your trip).
    Nappies (for the younger ones) – particularly for the flight and first few days in the case that you cannot instantly locate a place to purchase.

Where to stay?
Although there is nowhere in Bali that could really be considered off limits to those travelling with children, some places are more child-friendly than others. Kuta, and its surrounding urban sprawl, can get very busy, there are a lot of people, a lot of cars and a lot of nightclubs. There are some nice family friendly resorts in the area and, of course, the famous white sand beach, however, the surf that makes it so good for surfing and bodyboarding, may make this unsuitable for smaller children.

So whilst it is certainly possible to enjoy a family holiday in Kuta, there are some better options. Sticking to the south of the island, Jimbaran, Nusa Dua and Sanur all have great beaches, with calm waters and a range of accommodation and dining choices to suit all tastes and budgets.
The lack of surf around Nusa Dua makes it great for kids to paddle around in the water. Jimbaran has its famous stretch of seafood restaurants, where you can enjoy super-fresh seafood right on the beach, whilst you watch the sunset over the ocean. Sanur is something of a quieter version of Kuta and Seminyak with an atmosphere that is definitely a little less frenetic. It has plenty of shops and restaurants and even a few good spots for diving.

If you want to your kids to experience a bit more of the traditional Bali, you are better off heading north. Ubud is the main town in the island’s mountainous interior, and is often considered to be its cultural heart. Nowadays, as more tourists discover its charms, Ubud is becoming a bit of a mini-metropolis, but it still retains a laid-back feel and some traditional charm.
Obviously, this is not so good for a beach holiday, but the surrounding countryside is absolutely incredible (volcanos, lakes and terraced rice fields), and there are so many cultural and action based activities nearby that you will never be short of anything to do.

Along the north coast, is another famous resort area known as Lovina Beach, this is nothing like the party scene in the south, although there are some nice restaurants and a few bars. Accommodation here is very cheap, even for good quality resorts and villas. Popular activities around here include a dawn dolphin spotting expedition on a traditional outrigger, scuba diving and tours into the nearby mountains.

What to eat?
Bali is full of great places to eat and the local food is often delicious and nutritious, however, be warned, the Balinese like their spice and may use a few ingredients that western diners (particularly children) are not so familiar with. 

This can often cause a problem for any fussy eaters. Most places will be happy to alter the amount of spice in a dish, just be aware that you may need to ask them to do so. 
If your kids are feeling brave, or you want to encourage them to expand their culinary horizons then there are a few Indonesian staples they may enjoy; nasi goring (fried rice with meat, egg and veggies) and mie goreng (fried noodles with meat and veggies) are usually the safest options, as is chicken satay (bbq chicken with peanut sauce & white rice). 

Gone are the days where it is hard to find good quality western food in Bali and you will have to go pretty far off the beaten track to find a place that doesn’t have somewhere serving burgers, pizzas and pasta etc if the little ones aren’t quite ready for a culinary change.

What to do?
There are so many things for a child to see and experience in Bali that it is hard to narrow them down, but here is a here is a brief list with just a few of the highlights:

Elephant Safari
There are a few animal themed attractions in Bali (The Bali Safari and Marine Park was another contender for this list) but a particular favorite is the Elephant Safari just outside Ubud. This is Bali’s only dedicated elephant rescue centre, they have a herd of 31 Sumatran elephants most of whom were rescued from government camps.

The elephants live in a purpose built environment, which also happens to be very beautiful and the park’s dedication to conservation ensures that they are well cared for (unlike any of the nasty places you see on the news). There are a variety of ways for visitors to the park to get close to the animals from riding them through the jungle to giving them a bath. As part of the park’s mission to educate the public about all things elephantine, they have a museum (with a full size replica of a woolly mammoth skeleton!) and presentations held several times a day.

Water-sports / White water rafting
Bali’s fame as a surfing destination (pretty much wherever you find a beach, you will find a surf school!) precedes it, but there are also plenty of other water-sports on offer here, including jets skis, banana boats and parasailing. The coral reef, surrounding the island makes for some great snorkeling and diving opportunities as do several shipwrecks and there are also a several places where it is possible to swim with dolphins.

There are a couple of whitewater rafting tours available in Bali, but the one on the Ayung river, that flows close to Ubud, is a top pick. The rapids here are little calmer (although still exciting enough for older children and adults to have an enjoyable time), and the scenery you glide through is stunning (steep-sided gorges, lush green jungle and precarious looking rope bridges)

Visit a temple
You can’t visit Bali without going to at least one Hindu temple, you just can’t! There are plenty of fun temples to visit that will provide something for both kids and adults. Two of the most famous and most easily accessible are Uluwatu and Tanah Lot, fortunately, they are also two of the most picturesque.

The best time to visit both of these sites is at sunset, they can get pretty busy but you are absolutely guaranteed some breathtaking views and amazing photo opportunities of the family.
At Uluwatu, you can buy packs of food to feed the troupe of monkeys that have made it their home (be careful though, they steal anything shiny!) and at Tanah Lot there are a couple of viewing spots with nice bars so parents can enjoy a cheeky cocktail or a cold Bintang.

Goa Gajah (the Elephant Cave), in Bedulu, is another great option. The entire complex, courtyard, bathing pools and cave, can be done in less than an hour and to enter the cave itself you must pass through the mouth of a giant monster that has been carved out of the rock.

Waterbom is the most famous waterpark in Bali and whilst there’s nothing particularly ‘Balinese’ about a day at Waterbom (you can find similar parks the world over), it is a fun day out that will ensure the kids have an AMAZING night of sleep. There are plenty of slides, suitable for all ages, including a few that are scary enough to give even brave adults a thrill, as well as a few cafes and bars. The park is within easy walking distance of the Discovery Mall shopping centre and Kuta beach.

How to get around?
There are a few transport options to choose from when deciding how to get around the island. Taxis are relatively cheap and a great choice for short journeys down south - it is highly recommended that you stick to using Bluebird Taxis (pale blue with a bluebird logo), the company has been operating for years, uses metered taxis and has a solid reputation (lookout for imitators though as there are more than a few similarly coloured cars driving around!).

If you want to go further afield, it is a good idea to hire a car.
A good quality 4x4 can be hired for around $40AUD a day without a driver and about $80AUD with one.
Just remember that driving in Bali is not like driving in a western country, the roads are often poorly maintained and the traffic can be crazy. Going for the extra expense of hiring a local driver, who knows where they are going and is familiar with the unwritten rules of the road here, can turn what would have been a stressful drive into a relaxing afternoon excursion. Motorbikes can be hired for as little as $5AUD a day but obviously may not be suitable if you have small children.

Buses and bemos of varying quality operate on major routes and between most of the big towns, however, their terminals are often not conveniently located and you will lose flexibility due to fixed schedules.

How to stay safe?
Its easy to get lost in happy holiday vibes whilst in Bali but it is important to remember that there are a few dangers lurking out there, particularly for small children. Here are few simple precautions and things to look out for that will help to ensure that you and your kids stay safe:

1.      Don’t get too friendly with the local wildlife: Bali has a lot of stray animals (e.g dogs on the beach), many of whom are unfortunately not in the best of health and, whilst it can be tempting to make friends with them, it is probably for the best to give them a wide berth to avoid a stomach bug, skin rash or every parents biggest fear – a bite. If anyone does get bitten by an animal (including the monkeys), whether it looks serious or not, go straight to the nearest hospital - rabies is present on the island and time could be of the essence when it comes to treating an injury.

2.      Eating and drinking: Food in Bali has come on leaps and bounds in recent years and there are many great quality restaurants, however, ‘Bali belly’, has earned its reputation for a reason. Avoid drinking tap water (even when cleaning teeth) and don’t have ice in your drink outside of reputable establishments. Some of the food sold by local street vendors can look tempting, and you will probably be fine eating it, but, hygiene levels are likely not the best and there is an element of risk. Although you will have to use some judgment, if a place looks dodgy (or, worse, unpopular), it’s probably worth avoiding.

3.      Health and safety: this is pretty much an unknown concept in Bali. For example, its not unheard of people to fall through the pavements, due to either broken, or, completely absent paving stones and guardrails are often missing in places where there really should be guardrails. As mentioned previously, the roads can be crazy and extra care should always be taken when crossing them, especially when small children are involved. The motorbikes are legion and can come out of nowhere - sometimes they even take to the pavements when the traffic on the actual road is too busy for them to drive on!

4.      Vaccinations: check for recommendations and make sure these are up to date; especially if you are planning on spending much time in out of the way places. Remember, some medications such as malaria tablets can often require you to begin consumption a few weeks before your travel and continue medication after you arrive home in order to take a full course.

5.      Bug spray: As soon as it starts to get dark, the mozzies will come out. Bali is not considered a high risk for malaria, but there are a few other nasty bugs that these annoying little critters can carry, so don’t forget to spray up.

6.      Insurance: getting good travel insurance will provide you with support and help to avoid any prohibitive costs should anything bad happen to one of your family members or possessions.

7.      Emergency numbers: look up the local numbers and make sure you have them saved to your phone.

8.      Sunscreen: this is an obvious one, but worth mentioning as the sun here can be fierce - don’t forget to keep reapplying throughout the day.

If they get sick:
If an unfortunate event does occur and either you, or one of your family members becomes sick or has an accident, all is not lost, whilst healthcare is not as good in Bali as you would find in a western country, it is probably better than you are expecting.

For minor ailments, there are a couple of pharmacy chains (Kimia Farma and Guardian) that carry a good range of first aid supplies and basic medications and most resorts will be able to put you in contact with English speaking doctors (or dentists) should you need further assistance.

If the problem is of a more serious nature then there are a couple of good hospitals on the island that are able to provide a very high level of care. In particular the two BIMCs (one in Kuta and the other in Nusa Dua); these are both International hospitals run by Australian doctors, they provide 24 hour care and have emergency departments. Another option is the Sanglah hospital in Denpasar that has a well-resourced international wing.
This guest post was contributed by Luci from Bali Villas. 

With extensive experience in servicing Australian clients, Bali Villas know exactly what families are looking for in terms of location, style and pricing. Each of their family friendly villas situated on the beautiful island of Bali have been hand-picked by their ‘family expert’ – someone with children who knows exactly what families are looking for. 

Contact Bali Villas for a short consultation, and they will be able to find you the perfect villa. Bali Villas aim to take the stress out of planning your holiday, so you can concentrate on creating lasting memories with your family.

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