Bali is very well developed and there are so many families travelling around that one might think this is the best place in the world for family travel. Well, the truth is not far from that. It´s very safe, the kids will love the beaches and the monkeys, it is very easy to get nice hotels with pools and all kinds of food is available in restaurants. Infrastructure is good and there are no health dangers such as malaria for instance. It is very easy to travel around and the distances are not too big, so everything is really comfortable – it´s a good destination for those who are looking for a first longer trip with kids. There will be something for everybody and the locals will love your kids. The hardest part for us Europeans is the long way getting there, especially if you do not have the best flight connection. This can affect your children sleeping times, so try to get night flights or plan the trip so that you take it easy the first few days. Many choose to stay in one of the big resorts in the south of the island and then explore the rest by making day tours, but we always prefer to move around more.
We packed two big backpacks and Lu had his own small one. Since we made it very clear to him that he will have to carry everything he puts inside, he really took his time to think about what to take. I carried all his clothes and he took one small car, crayons, a set of very thin small books, his water bottle, some papers for drawing, his stuffed dog and his watch (which he never wears but since we have one, he thinks needs one as well). He took the whole thing extremely seriously and we had a small quarrel at Frankfurt airport because he insisted his backpack has to be also checked in, same like ours. Once we got over that, he was carrying the backpack everywhere. He even took it with when we went for breakfast, just 20 metres from our room.
We took light clothes, the kinds that dry faster, since we washed them a few times. Eating an ice cream almost everyday turned out to be costing us lots of detergent ;). Drying the clothes is harder than you think, because of the moist air, so we rather put them under the AC than hang them outside. You don´t need much clothes, shorts and shirts, something for swimming, one pullover and a pyjama.
INTERACTING WITH THE LOCALS
Bali is very child friendly in every way. The locals will love your kids and will often establish physical contact or goof around with them while you eat your dinner. We had very nice conversations with the taxi drivers, shop keepers, waiters and fishermen. They were all used to tourists with kids, so for them it was a normal thing to do.
There is no danger that you don´t find something on the menu for your little ones. Usually it´s pretty easy to find western food, if your child isn´t too keen on trying out new things. There are lots of restaurants with dfferent menues, so you can order a local meal and a pizza from the oven at the same time. You can choose between different noodle or rice with fish or meat local dishes – Lu ate everything but the water spinach. He loved the fish so much, he wished to have it for breakfast also. Oh and always check that the food is not (too) spicy. We got special kids menus in some restaurants which had a coloring page at the back. The waiters brought some crayons and everybody at the table was happy – one was busy coloring and two were enjoying the cold drink until the food came. You can buy fruits and small snacks from the warung stands along the roads. None of us had stomach problems and we ate it all, the salads, fruits, icecream – we just didn´t drink tap water. Take care that your child doesn´t drink too much water at showering – ours loves to do that.
Take care when walking on the narrow sidewalks – from time to time you will need to walk on the street, which can be a bit dangerous for the little ones, especially in the night. Make sure that you hold their hands. Also, take good care when walking, there can be huge holes. We saw one girl fall into one in Ubud. Also in Lovina, it was sometimes horrible to walk by the road in the evening.
Monkeys – not only we saw them jumping on other people, one jumped on Lu also and bit off his small stuffed giraffe key chain. We knew they were after sunglasses and food, but this one seemed to be really an aggressive one.
Street dogs – usually they will just run around the beach and leave you in peace, but if they see your child has food in his hands, they will approach and try to get it. Toilets were always quite clean and everything looked good maintained, so I don´t think there are major hygienic problems on Bali. We also stayed healthy all the time. If you and your kids are not used to the AC it might happen that someone gets cold feet in the night or a slight cold with coughing in the morning. But turning it off completely was also not always an option.
Take care of the heat and try to avoid longer walks in the middle of the day when the sun is the strongest. What we tried to do was, do some walking or other activities directly after breakfast and then either eat lunch in the shade, swim in the pool or drive to our next destination in the hottest hours of the day. This worked quite well for us. There were some mosquito but the bites were not bad, so it really isn´t a problem.
We had pretty good flight connections and stayed some days in Singapore first, so by the time we came to Bali we were already completely adapted to the time change. On the way back we had (after the afternoon Air Asia connection to Singapore) a night flight, departing at 11PM and arriving in Frankfurt at 05:40AM, so that was ok. It´s not a bad idea to take it easy the first couple of days – it can happen that you miss out on things, because your children will sleep in the day and “party” in the night, so less day activities for the start is a good decision.
STROLLERS & CARSEATS
Since Lu is not using his for over a year now, we of course did not take it with. Considering the fact that there are sometimes many holes on the sidewalks that you can literately fall inside if you don´t watch your step and that you can´t really push the umbrella stroller on the sand, I would leave it at home even if Lu was still smaller. It´s much more practical to take a baby carrier if your kids are too small to walk. Car seats are not available in taxis, we decided not to make a big deal out of it and just used the normal seatbelt instead which worked out OK with our 3 year old.
UBUD WITH KIDS
There will surely be many things in Ubud which will interest you much more than your children, so we made sure we did not overdo with our activities. The atmosphere is always better when everybody gets a bit of what they want. We did make it through an hour and a half evening dance performance, where many other families with small kids had to leave early, so this was a little success for us. If you visit one, take care if you are sitting in the front rows it can and will get very loud. The highlight of Ubud for Lu was without a doubt the Monkey Forest. He loves to read/watch the Jungle Book and this place does look much like the jungle Mowgli is having his fun with the animals. There are monkeys jumping around the temples all the time and he loved that, although he was a bit disappointed because we did not see Baloo, the bear ;). The forest is shady so it really makes it a nice place to spend some hours with the kids.
We did get to see Shere Khan, the tiger some days later (who cares if it was just a tiger statue, for Lu it was THE Shere Khan from the Jungle book ;))
He did his best at walking between the rice fields, but we didn´t make it extremely far. It was also getting hot, because we were not able to get up very early + the breakfast terrace was “inconveniently” placed by the pool which meant Lu wanted to jump inside before he even finished his banana pancakes.
LOVINA, AMED AND JIMBARAN & AROUND
Beach, beach and more beach. All kids love the beach, right? Well, Lu had his issues with the black sand in Lovina and Amed – he found it a bit strange to swim in the “black water” so mostly, he preferred the pools for swimming. The beaches are great for evening walks or observing the local fishermen and their boats. If your children are a bit older they can go snorkelling in Amed, the coral reef starts just a few metres off the beach.
Visiting Bali will most probably not meet up your expectations if you are awaiting an adventure, but it´s still a great place to relax and enjoy the days in the sun, not to mention it is very easy to travel to with kids. Our holiday time was running out and at the end we got a bit cheesy and got our selves matching T-shirts 🙂