The 10 Biggest Mistakes People Make When Traveling to Bali for the First Time

If you’re planning a trip to Bali for the first time, I’m so excited for you! This beautiful paradise island has been my home-away-from-home for 2 years now (my fiance Kenny’s brand Kenny Flowers manufactures resortwear here, so we spend about half the year in Bali!).

One thing I’ve learned over the past couple years of having tons of friends come and visit us in Bali, and helping you all plan countless awesome vacations and honeymoons in Bali, it’s that navigating this island can definitely be overwhelming for people! There are so many misconceptions about Bali that lead vacationers to make fatal mistakes in planning Bali itineraries, so I wanted to write this post summing up the biggest mistakes first-time Bali travelers make and the best advice I can possibly give anyone planning a trip to Bali for the first time!

1. Not realizing how big the island of Bali is

Bali is not a small island – it’s huge! Many people assume it’s an easily-navigable tropical island like Aruba, but the reality is it’s HUGE. It would take you 6+ hours to go from one tip of Bali to the other, and it often takes 2+ hours to get to one area to another in Bali. Which leads me to my next mistake people make when coming to Bali for the first time…

2. Thinking you can see all of Bali in one trip

I get asked “Can I see all of Bali in one trip?” alllll the time. Many people plan vacations and honeymoons in Bali and want to see EVERYTHING. I get it – it’s a haul to come all the way out to Bali, especially from the USA, so you want to see as much as you can! But seeing the whole island in one trip is just not possible, even with two whole weeks!   

Because Bali is so big, there is SO much of Bali to explore, so it’s important to understand the different regions of Bali, and prioritize what to put in the perfect Bali vacation itinerary. It’s also key to remember you don’t want to spend your whole vacation driving from region to region! Or maybe you do! But that would exhaust me. I like to recommend to honeymooners that they make sure to spend enough nights in each hotel to truly have time to relax versus feeling like they’re on the go all the time. 

3. Spending too much time in transit!

That leads me to my next mistake everyone makes – not studying the Bali map (see below!) and understanding just how much time it takes to get everywhere in Bali! If you plan to go from the Nusas, to Uluwatu, to Canggu for dinner, and then make moves to Ubud, you’re going to driving yourself crazy in a car for your entire Bali vacation. Not to mention there’s often traffic in Bali, so driving can take even longer. Do yourself a favor and plan around how much time it will take you to get to place to place. Also keep in mind places like Canggu get extremely trafficky around sunset, and right after sunset, so plan for that. 

4. Only seeing a couple areas of Bali

When you’re planning your Bali itinerary, you definitely want to stay in at least 2 different areas of Bali, but preferably 3+, depending on how much you want to be moving around. You can’t come to Bali for the first time and just go to Uluwatu but miss Ubud, and you definitely can’t just do Ubud and miss out on the beautiful beaches! If you need ideas of where to spend your time, read up on my Bali itineraries here. 

5. Not spending enough time in Ubud

Ubud is most people’s favorite area of Bali. It’s the green, lush, jungle that you think of when you think of Bali. It’s the rice fields and waterfalls that you’ve spent your life dreaming about visiting. It’s the monkeys, rainforests, and raw, wild, natural beauty that takes your breath away.

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And, as anyone who’s been there will tell you, Ubud is just kind of magical. No, seriously. The energy and zen of this place is hard to put into words, but once you’re there, you get it. And you’re ALWAYS going to want an extra day or two in the jungle. 

6. Not getting enough sleep on the plane and feeling jet lagged

It’s a loooong flight to Bali. Probably one of the longest travel days you’ll have in your life. (And believe me when I tell you it’s WORTH IT!!!), but it is so, so important to make sure you get sleep on the plane and do everything you can to fight jet lag on your way over to Bali. 

I recommend using a natural, non-medical, non-groggy sleep inducer like zzzquil or LiquidIV SLEEP for falling asleep easily on the plane, even if it’s at an awkward time to be sleeping. 

7. Not packing bug repellent

This is an easy one to fix. Pack some good bug repellent for Bali!  Especially for the jungle, but you’ll still need it at the beach.  I like using Repel for every day – it’s super-strength!) I also love these all-natural mosquito-repelling BRACELETS! So cool. Deet-free and great for kids and families traveling to Bali.  

8. Staying only in Nusa Dua

Not to hate on Nusa Dua or anything, but I’m gonna…. It’s an extremely touristy area of Bali full of big huge resorts and not much else. It’s fine for a couple days if you’re looking for that, but there are suuuuuuch better beach resorts in Bali with better locations than Nusa Dua – my favorites being Ayana, The Legian, and Six Senses Uluwatu. If you stay your whole trip in Nusa Dua, you’ll miss out on seeing the REAL Bali, and feel like you’re in a resort you could get anywhere in the world. 

9. Not preventing Bali belly

Everyone wants to know how to avoid getting Bali belly sick in Bali, and it’s by taking probiotics every day (a week before your trip and during) and coconut charcoal (a natural body detox) the second you feel any nausea, cramping, uncomfy-ness. I swear. WORKS EVERY TIME FOR ME. 

Also, don’t brush your teeth with sink water and be very careful about eating at good, clean establishments. Bali is not the place to try street food. 

10. Trying to do both the Nusa Islands and the Gili Islands in the same trip

“Is it possible to go to Nusa Penida and the Gili Islands in the same trip?” I get this question allllll the time when people only have 10 or so days on Bali. And the answer is technically yesssss, but you don’t want to!  Like I said in the beginning of this article, you don’t want to spend your whole trip transitting from place to place – and getting to the islands (either Nusas or Gilis) is usually pretty much a full day. While the ferry only takes an hour to Nusa Lembongan and hour and a half to the Gilis, you have to factor in shuttle time to get to the ferry port, transit time to your hotel once you’re on the island, etc etc. At the end of it all, you have to realize that Bali is not Europe, or America, and things run slower than you want them to, roads are rougher than you’re used to, and it’s generally just not as easy to get around from place to place. It takes time. But it’s worth it once you’re there! You just want to make sure you have enough time if you’re making it out to the islands, and you won’t do that if you’re rushing to try to visit both the Gilis and the Nusas in one trip. 

Oh and PLEASE don’t try to do Nusa Penida as a day trip. You will be beyond exhausted, and not even see everything you want to see. Stay at least one night, preferably 2 if you’re out in the islands. 

11. Packing too much!

I’m adding this one because I feel like people always pack more than they actually wear in Bali. Here is my ultimate Bali packing guide, but you really just need a few key LIGHTWEIGHT outfits that you love (because it is SOOOO hot, you will not want to be wearing anything with sleeves or too much fabric!) 

Here are some lightweight, cute outfits I love wearing in Bali:

Bobi Flowy Pant in Mykonos Song of Style Kezia Open Stitch Pant in Natural L*SPACE Nico Dress in Cream

and 12.  Not studying JetsetChristina’s Bali blog posts!

Jk, if you all are here you haven’t made that mistake 🙂 but seriously check out these blog posts on Bali to help you plan and make the most out of your Bali vacation!

My instagram story highlights for Bali are also a great place to go to see a lot of my favorite places!

The Best Bali Itineraries

The Ultimate Bali Travel Guide

The Best Hotels in Bali

The Ultimate Canggu Guide

The Ultimate Ubud Travel Guide

The Ultimate Bali Honeymoon Guide

What to Pack for a Trip to Bali

The Ultimate Uluwatu Guide

The 5 Best Smoothie Bowls in Bali

The Ultimate Bali Bucket List

Where to stay in Bali

The Best Waterfalls and Rice Fields in Ubud

Bali packing list

The best luxury villas in Bali to rent

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Christina is a leading luxury lifestyle and travel blogger with over 2 million readers. Follow her on instagram @jetsetchristina.