Bali is known as ‘island of the gods’ for a reason. It’s, in many ways, the ultimate tropical paradise. When you think of Bali, chances are you envision gorgeous temples, sweeping rice terraces, thundering waterfalls, fresh smoothie bowls, swinging monkeys, dramatic cliff vistas, yogis twisting into different shapes, or streams of incense floating in the air.
With a dramatic surge in tourism the past few years, it seems like everyone is going to Bali, or has been there recently. I loved the four months I lived in Bali in 2019, and encourage others to visit if they’re interested in venturing to Southeast Asia.
To get to Bali, you’ll need to route through one of Southeast Asia’s regional hubs, and if you have the choice, I’d recommend Singapore.
Singapore seamlessly blends East with West, old with new. Little India and Chinatown mix with skyscrapers in a vibrant display of technology and tradition. It’s a futuristic city with everything from buzzing ‘street’ food vendors, to colorful cultural landmarks, to attractions with conservation at the heart of them.
The juxtaposition of Singapore’s sights and sounds against Bali’s relaxing vibes present the best of both worlds. Visiting both in the same trip offers a bit of something for everyone, and pretty much guarantees a holiday you won’t soon forget.
Why Layover in Singapore
Chances are, if you’re coming from the US or parts of Europe, you’ll need to route through Singapore, Bangkok or Kuala Lumpur before flying onward to Denpasar- you may even have the choice of which route you take. Whichever place you route through, choose to do an extended stopover so you can explore a bit of a new place.
If you’re able to choose which city you connect through, I’d recommend Singapore because it’s a smaller, more compact city than Bangkok or KL. Instead of spending hours in traffic getting across the city, you’ll be able to explore some things on foot, and take public transit or Grab (the ‘Uber’ of Southeast Asia) when the heat becomes too much or the walking distance is too far.
There’s plenty to see in Singapore, but not so much that it feels unachievable to see highlights in only a few days.
When to Visit Singapore & Bali
With Singapore’s proximity to the equator, you can expect it to be hot and humid year-round. Think 80-90 degrees during the day with humidity at +80-90%. My first time in Singapore, I drank a lot of water and took Grab often to help ensure I didn’t overheat.
Worth noting, Singapore experiences two monsoon seasons- from November – January, and June through September. I visited in March, as well as end of September, and had great weather on both of my visits.
In Bali, the dry season is from April through October. From May through July, it’s less hot and humid than other times of the year- you may even need a light jacket at night. I lived in Bali June, July and also September, October. By far, I preferred my time in June and July.
If trying to visit both Bali and Singapore, I’d time my trip for early-late spring- March, April or May. You may find better deals in Bali in March than further into the dry season, and don’t let the thought of rain put you off. From my experience, it rarely rained all day- normally, it’d downpour for a short period of time before clearing up for a few hours or the rest of the day.
What to Do with More Time On Your Holiday
If you’re able to extend your trip by a few days, I wouldn’t spend them in Singapore. Instead, I’d either try to visit another city (Kuala Lumpur or Bangkok) on your way out through booking one way flights each way, or see another part of Indonesia.
If you decide to see another part of Indonesia, a few days in the Gili Islands or Flores would be a fantastic way to see more of a beautiful country, and sneak in some pristine beach time.
Three tiny islands, off the coast of Lombok, the Gilis are postcard paradise- turquoise water, white sand, swaying hammocks, leafy palms. Each island, with their own individual beauty and charm, the Gilis have become an incredibly popular destination. With the ferry from Bali only taking a few hours each way, and the Gilis being small in size, you could easily travel over to see them with three extra days.
If you’ve got three-four days, consider flying to Flores. Located on the island of Flores, Labuan Bajo was once a remote fishing town. It’s rapidly becoming a popular tourist destination, and with good reason. Home to breathtaking Komodo National Park, ace diving and some of the most awe-inspiring scenery I’ve ever seen, Flores is captivating.
How to Get Around Singapore & Bali
From the airport, you can take public transit, a taxi, shuttle or Grab. Usually, I opt for Grab for speed and ease. Getting around the city itself, I tend to mix ride shares (Grab), taking the bus or MRT, or walking.
Singapore’s subway system (MRT) is extensive, efficient and inexpensive. You can buy single ride tickets, a tourist pass or pay per ride by contactless card transaction. Similarly, the buses are a great option with an extensive network. Fares are calculated by distance, and, you can pay the same ways as you would on the MRT.
In Canggu and Ubud, you can walk some places (pending where you’re staying and going). It’s easier to do this in Ubud, there are sidewalks in town. In Canggu, the roads are narrow, but stay to the side and you’ll be fine- I did this for a week when I first moved to Bali.
Ride share apps are banned or very limited in most places on the island. No one uses Uber. Grab, similar to Uber, has car and bike options, but isn’t favourable among locals so I’d stay away from it. Go-Jek, motorbike sharing, is likely your best bet. In Canggu, I used it a few times- they often take +10-20 minutes to arrive, and there usually aren’t a ton available in the app. Always have a back-up plan for getting back if you’re taking Go-Jek.
Bluebird is the main taxi company recommended for tourists. Download the app to avoid haggling over price.
For day trips and flying into the island, hire a local driver and arrange your transport ahead of time. For arrival, wherever you’re staying will usually offer to help arrange a driver that’ll meet you at baggage.
If you need help finding a driver for day trips, ask your hotel/hostel/Airbnb host if they have a recommendation- people always ‘know someone’. You could also try Google, travel blogs and Facebook Groups.
If you’ve ridden a scooter before- then, renting one may be a good option for you. I learned how to ride in Bali on backroads and with someone who has been riding for 15+ years. I wouldn’t recommend doing so for a short stay holiday if you’ve never tried it before. Rules of the road are drastically different to what you’ll be used to in Western countries, with the main rule being there are no rules. I wouldn’t risk it on a short stay holiday- most insurance companies will cover medical, but not crash damage.
Sample 10 Day Itinerary for Singapore & Bali
Day 1: Arrive in Singapore; Explore
Day 2: Explore Singapore
Day 3: Fly to Bali early morning; Arrive in Canggu
Day 4: Canggu
Day 5: Drive to Ubud in the morning/early afternoon; Explore Ubud
Day 6: Ubud
Day 7: Day trip from Ubud
Day 8: Ubud
Day 9: Day trip from Ubud
Day 10: Return to Singapore, continue onwards home
Will you be doing a lot while on vacation? Yes.
Flying across the world to see as much as possible in Singapore and Bali doesn’t exactly cue ultimate relaxation. But, there will be pockets of serenity- hello, massages, yoga, beachside sunsets.
You could certainly hang out and relax in Canggu or Ubud the entire time, but then, you don’t really see or experience what makes Bali Bali.
Key Things to Know About Visiting Singapore & Bali
If you’re able, bring an unlocked phone. You’ll find wifi most upmarket places in both places (cafes, hotels, hostels, restaurants), but the benefits to having wifi to call a Grab, check currency conversions or language translations, or even look up directions or opening hours for something are endless. You can easily pick up SIMs at airports in each country, but be sure to ‘shop around’ in Singapore- often, tourism deals are combined with wifi offerings, which makes some a better deal than others.
Wifi wise, infrastructure varies widely in Bali at Airbnbs, hotel and cafes. And, drops in service are common. If you only need WiFi for social networks, whatever you find at a hotel or cafe should be fine. Most places will give you their WiFi password if you’re staying to order something. In Singapore, hotel/hostel wifi speeds are fairly fast, malls usually have networks you can use while exploring, and upmarket eateries will have wifi as well.
Download a few apps to help make your travel plans and time in each country easier.
Research how to say basic greetings in the primary language of each country you’ll visit, as well as key cultural customs to know. While many people you’ll encounter in Singapore and Bali will speak at least transactional English, don’t expect everyone to. Google Translate is my go-to when I need help communicating.
Consult with your GP on vaccines you may need before your trip– vaccines are a matter of personal preference, but if you’re pro-vaccine and only staying in Ubud and Canggu, then you’ll likely be fine with a typhoid shot (assuming your other jabs are up to date).
Bring hand sanitizer and tissues. Sometimes, there won’t be toilet paper in public bathrooms (cue the tissues). And, in public bathrooms and cities, I find having hand sanitizer critical. Especially if eating street food while wandering.
Make sure you understand the rules of renting a motorbike, as well as the potential risks before doing so.
Always carry local currency. Many places, unless they’re upmarket, are cash only. And, even if they do accept card- there’s likely a minimum spend. No need to exchange at an airport- just withdraw from an ATM, I use global digital banking cards like Revoult to minimize foreign transaction fees.
You run a higher risk of gastro issues anywhere in Asia, Africa or South and Central America than say, western Europe or the US. I rarely had issues while in Singapore and Bali, but used filtered water to brush my teeth and for drinking. I also usually only ate at restaurants or warungs that came recommended vs. a food stall on the side of the road to lessen my risk of food-borne illness. No need to worry though- Singapore has great hospitals, and Bali’s medical infrastructure has significantly improved in the past few years. There are private and public clinics all over Bali, plus plenty of pharmacies, where it’s easy to get OTC and RX drugs to help with ailments.
Get travel insurance before your trip.
Take the same precautions you would anywhere else.
Don’t get incoherently and offensively drunk- alcohol is heavily taxed in Bali, specifically.
Absolutely do not do drugs- drug laws are very strict. The death penalty is still used to prosecute drug traffickers.
Only smoke in smoking zones.
And, specific to Singapore, don’t chew gum or smoke in public spaces.
What to Pack for Visiting Singapore and Bali
This is the full list of everything I packed to backpack the world through different climates for a year- all of which, fit into a 55L Osprey backpack.
Packing wise, what you bring depends on what you’re going to be doing, but a few recommendations to start-
- Clothes/shoes for warm, humid weather, but also a light jacket for cool nights
- Waterproof jacket if visiting during the rainy season
- Medicine (anti-histamines, anti-itch cream, imodium)
- Reef-safe sunscreen & aloe vera
- Mosquito spray (Dengue fever is common in Bali)
- Dry bag
- Waterproof phone case
- International charger (you’ll need a Europe plug)
- First aid kit (there are pharmacies in Bali, but I always carry a few band-aids, anti-bacterial wipes, etc. on me)
- Day pack for day trips (I’d bring a cross body or backpack that can be locked- personal preference as shoulder bags are easy to snatch. Theft isn’t as common here as other parts of Asia, like Vietnam, but still)
- VPN – Indonesia has substantial Internet censorship. I use VPN Express’ monthly subscription, and would recommend it for Reddit, Netflix, etc.
Temples in Bali will require you wear a sarong, but most have ones you can use free or borrow for a small donation. They’re quite particular about what your sarong looks like/how it fits, so I’d just use the ones they offer vs. buying and bringing your own.
Top Things to Do in Each Destination
Singapore may be a tiny country, but what it lacks in size, it makes up for in things to see, drink and eat. A clean, futuristic, cultural city, Singapore is always somewhere I’m happy to layover for a few days.
- Check out the airport on arrival or departure. Singapore’s airport is one of the best in the world, and if you’ve got a short layover, it’s well worth exploring. My favourite bit? The Jewel in T1, it’s a gorgeous free-fall waterfall, surrounded by lush vegetation. Overnight layover? There are a few hotel options in Singapore’s airport, including the small, but cozy rooms at Yotel.
- Wander the beautiful and futuristic Gardens by the Bay. Ever since I first saw a photo of the futuristic Supertree Grove, I knew I needed to make it there someday. Gardens by the Bay is worth visiting not just because it’s ‘v insta’, but because of its mission to educate on the effects of climate change, and take steps towards conservation. The Supertree Grove is free to visit- I arrived by 7:30 am because I wanted to wander the grove without dozens of other visitors, and before the day got too hot. The trees are covered with more than 200 species of orchids, ferns and tropical flowers.
- While you’re here, don’t miss visiting the Cloud Tree Forest. Admission to visit the conservatories in the botanical gardens is steep- but I’m happy to contribute to a cause like the one Gardens supports. Being the first person they let in meant I had the forest to myself for a few minutes. Standing by myself below the thundering waterfalls was incredible. For the next hour, I wandered the layers of the forest, taking my time so I was still in the forest at 10 am when the morning misting was scheduled.
- Eat at a hawker centre. Great for cheap, street eats. In Singapore, these centres are the best way to try a variety of Asian foods. My move? Go during lunch or dinner, and scope out the stalls with the longest queues. Locals always know best.
- Enjoy Kaya Toast, a Singaporean breakfast delicacy. My favourite places for brekkie in Sing are Ya Kun Kaya Toast, which has been around for over 75 years, and Toast Box. At Ya Kun, order toast the traditional way- with butter and cinnamon. And, at Toast Box, don’t miss having it with Kaya, a very sweet coconut jam. If you’re looking for something more off-beat, check out Coffee Box-t hey’ve got a few different flavours on the menu, including a creamy, delicious taro toast option.
- Try cheese tea. Really, it’s fruit or regular tea with a cheese foam topping. Big fan of strawberry and melon cheese teas at Hey Tea and Partea.
- Roam Little India. I loved exploring the streets of Little India- so much to see, smell and experience. The offerings, in particular, caught me off guard with their beauty. The colours and the patterns- just incredible. I’d heard Tekka was one of the best hawker centres in Singapore- I only came for a snack, but was practically drooling over how great everything looked.
- Explore Chinatown, where Chinese, Buddhist and Hindu cultures mix. Wandering Chinatown for a bit, soaking up some seriously cool street art, is a fun way to pass an hour or two while in Singapore. If you’re in Chinatown at night, check out the walking street night market- tons of restaurants and stalls along the sides, a good way to try new things, cheaply. Chinatown’s also home to two of Singapore’s best hawker centres- Maxwell Centre (+100 stalls, mostly Chinese dishes) and Chinatown Complex Food Centre (+260 stalls, Singapore’s largest hawker centre).
- Watch the sun set from atop Marina Bay Sands. Head to the Ce La Vi rooftop bar, adjacent to the famed pool for stunning views with a cocktail in hand.
- Catch the evening light show at Marina Bay Sands and/or Gardens by the Bay. The Spectra show at Marina Bay Sands (MBS) is a great welcome to Singapore. The show is beautiful- lasers whipping through the night sky, shimmering lights, and a beautiful symphony as the backdrop. Best yet? Flexible timings- there are 8 and 9 pm shows daily. Next to MBS, Gardens by the Bay also runs two nightly shows. It’s possible to see both, but you’ll have to do Gardens first, then walk over to MBS to wait for their next one.
- Have dinner in Kampong Glam, a colorful, lively neighborhood. Here, you’ll experience Malay and Arab cultures intersecting. Be sure to stroll Haji Lane, a narrow street filled with trendy bars, cool cafes and boutiques.
- [If you have time] Admire the historic, colorful homes along Koon Seng Road. When I envisioned Singapore, I thought of skyscrapers. Koon Seng Road with its pretty pastel homes couldn’t have been farther from that image. Decades ago, the area was inhabited by the first Chinese immigrants to come to Singapore from Malaysia. Koon Seng Road gets its name from Cheong Koon Seng, one of the first thirteen students at Singapore’s Anglo-Chinese school. Built in the 1920s, some of the houses are still inhabited by the original families. The homes on Koon Seng are stunning- the colors and details are incredible.
- [If you have time] Let yourself be awed at the ArtScience Museum. I’ll admit I visited this museum because of the glittering room I’d seen on Instagram. Per ArtScience’s website, the museum is a world of art, science, magic and metaphor through a collection of cutting-edge digital installations.Translation: Very cool exhibits that are fun to interact with (especially great for children), and in strong air-con.
It’s not hard to understand Canggu’s appeal with its laid back, surfer vibes and plethora of hipster, healthy cafes. And, with proximity to sister ‘hood, Seminyak, it’s easy to chill out in Canggu, and head to Seminyak for pool parties and trendy eateries whenever you fancy.
Be forewarned: There isn’t much to ‘do’ in Canggu, per se.
Unlike Munduk, Ubud or Sideman, where you’ll have an array of temples, waterfalls, rice fields, and the like to visit, Canggu was where I went when I needed to meet with clients (lots of digital nomads live in Canggu), and wanted to work from trendy cafes for a few days.
Should you visit Canggu while in Bali?
Sure, but I’d only go for a few days. It’s a great place to tack onto the beginning of a trip because it’s an easy place to just hang out and relax. If you’ve got a long journey to Bali, a day or two relaxing with hip, delicious eateries, great spas, cool shopping, buzzing beach clubs, and tons of workout options seems like an excellent welcome.
- Have breakfast overlooking a rice field. Canggu may not have the lush jungle vibes Ubud has going for it, but there’s something to be said for the serenity that comes with morning coffee or breakfast overlooking a rice field and the rising sun.
- Two of my favourite spots (go early for ultimate peace & quiet): Crate and Shady Shack.
- Sip on strong, but delicious Indonesian beans and some of the best brew blends from around the world. Just about every cafe has artisanal coffee drinks on their menu, which is no surprise, as most of them are Aussie owned or influenced.
- Top recommendations: Secret Spot, Hungry Bird Coffee Roasters, Coffee Cartel
- Get your vacation glow on at one of Canggu’s beautiful spas. I loved going to spas in Bali so much I budgeted to get a massage weekly. One of my favourite parts about Canggu? Seemingly endless spa choice. My two favourite spots, which I returned to time after time: Chillax (good for affordable, well done massages) and Golddust (fancier than Chillax, ace for beauty treatments).
- Hang at an impossible cool beach club. Admittedly, this isn’t my scene but if you’re visiting Canggu (or Seminyak), it’s likely you’re there, in part, for the party scene. No need to wait until the evening to get the fun times going- the coast of both areas is packed with fun beach clubs, perfect for daytime lounging.
- Some of the best day clubs to hit-up: Mrs. Sippy, Potato Head Beach Club, Finns, and La Plancha Beach Bar.
- Treat yourself to healthy, hip eats. Generally speaking, the food you’ll find in Canggu (and Seminyak) is more Western and trendy than anywhere else in Bali. Ubud has its share of this, but it’s less over-the-top. Love it or hate it, you can’t deny it’s delicious.
- Top recommendations: Peloton Supershop, Crate, Shady Shack, Cinta, Green Ginger Noodle House, Warung Bu Mi, Give, Nalu Bowls, Sprout
- Watch the sun set, beachside. My favourite place to do this? Berawa Beach. At sunset, you’ll see tons of families, people, and kids- locals and visitors- roaming the sand, surfers coming in from the waves, and the street dogs of Bali splashing in the ocean. Enjoy the sunset with a cold coconut from one of the small vendors you’ll encounter up and down the beach.
When you think of Bali, chances are you envision gorgeous temples, sweeping rice terraces, thundering waterfalls, fresh smoothie bowls, swinging monkeys, dramatic cliff vistas, yogis twisting into different shapes, or streams of incense floating in the air.
Ubud is a spiritual haven.
Think: lush jungle, rice paddies, temples, monkeys, and still, a strong sense of Balinese culture.
After living there for months, I could wax poetic about Ubud for ages, but the most important thing I can say is likely this- visit, but go off the beaten path. Don’t try to cram Ubud into one or two days, you’ll miss its magic if you do.
- Spend a morning waterfall hopping
- Watch the sunrise at the rice terraces, then head to two sacred temples, Tirta Empul Temple and Pura Gunung Kawi
- Relax with a crystal sound bath or yin yoga class at Yoga Barn
- Indulge in a flower bath. Much like massages in Ubud, there are plenty of options for these delightful baths- huge fan of Kaveri Spa at Udaya and Karsa Spa
- Unwind with a Balinese massage. Zen Spa is my favourite place in Ubud, but there are plenty of options for all budgets
- Wander downtown Ubud, strolling the art market, popping into the Water Palace, and wandering all of the side streets
- Chill out at an infinity pool, if your hotel doesn’t have one, some resorts like Jungle Fish offer day passes for $25 USD
- Jet to the islands off Bali’s coast, and explore the breathtaking Nusa Penida on a day trip. It doesn’t take long from stepping off a speedboat in the island’s harbour to feel like you’re in another world. The crystal clear water, ocean views that seem to stretch for infinity, and sweeping cliffs topped with swaying palm trees are guaranteed to leave you nothing short of breathless
- Spend a magic day in the Mountains of Munduk. On a day trip to Munduk, you can expect hiking waterfalls, trekking rice fields, tasting coffee and local fruits, admiring temples and gazing at stunning vistas
- Savor all the healthy eats at Kafe, Bali Buda, Warung Biah Biah, Zest, White Ginger Warung, Sayuri, Lazy Cats Cafe, or Milk & Madu
- Cool off with an iced coffee at Gangga Coffee, Monkey Cave Espresso, Senimen Coffee Studio, or Expat Roasters
You’ll find tons of tips from what to wear, to things to know about places I’ve recommended in my ultimate guide to Ubud. In my guide, I’ve also included a few more suggestions for what to do, but if you’re limited on time, the above^^ are my top recos.
Many of the things I’ve listed can be done in the same day- for instance, waterfall hopping or visiting temples in the morning, crystal sound bath in the afternoon, and flower bath early evening. If I only had five days to spend in Ubud, I’d likely do two day trips, and spend the remaining ~2-3 days seeing Ubud.
Posts I’ve written about Ubud: Chasing Waterfalls Near Ubud, Bali // Every Cafe You Must Visit in Ubud // The Best Places to Workout & Zen Out in Bali // 5 Spas in Bali I Loved Enough to Return Time after Time // The Ultimate Guide to Jungle Paradise in Ubud // The Ultimate Bali Planning Guide
Other Posts You May Enjoy
- 5 Places in Southeast Asia I Fell Head Over Heels For
- Every Single Thing You Need to Backpack for a Year
- Why You Need a Digital Travel Card
- 10 Money Saving Tips To Try This Week
- Selling Everything I Owned to Travel for a Year
- 5 Apps to Download Before Your Next Trip to Asia
- Easy Ways to Travel More Sustainably
- The Biggest Travel Mistakes I Made in 2019
- 5 Tips for Booking Awesome Airbnbs Anywhere in the World