Denpasar is the bustling capital and largest city in Bali. The city is an important hub of government and commerce, but not many tourists visit the city. Instead, Denpasar is where local Balinese and Indonesians live, work and study. For most travellers, Denpasar equals the airport which is actually located in Tuban, about 30 minutes from the city centre.
For better or worse, Denpasar feels like an Indonesian city. With a population just shy of one million, Denpasar is crowded and traffic often gets congested. Though most of the population are Balinese Hindus, Denpasar offers a glimpse at Indonesian diversity with sizeable minorities hailing from the neighbouring islands of Java, Lombok, Sumba and beyond. This is very much an everyday city which the few travellers who do visit tend to find overwhelming and noisy.
Denpasar doesn’t have one clear centre but instead shops and restaurants are sprawled across the city. The city is a kaleidoscope of Indonesia both past and present, with traditional markets and village like neighbourhoods rubbing shoulders with brand new malls and trendy coffee shops. Prices in Denpasar are as a rule lower than in the more touristic areas.
Planning Your Trip to Denpasar
As the busy capital city of Bali, Denpasar remains vibrant throughout the year but attracts few travellers. Our Denpasar travel guide aims to give you the essential information, list the most popular things to do in Denpasar, provide more information on locations you want to visit, and finish with some inspiration from our travel writers. For more information on events and festivals taking place throughout the year, check out our comprehensive Bali guide.
Bali is pleasant all year round! May through September has the best weather (drier, less humid) and is the best time for many activities including diving and surfing. November though March is rainy season – though rainfall is never excessive so you can do most activities except volcano treks.
The temperature ranges from 24 degrees to 31 degrees all year round.
Rainfall ranges from 0cm to 140cm during the wet season.
Things to See & Do in Denpasar
Denpasar is a bustling city offering something interesting to look around every corner. The city offers a dizzying combination of big city buzz and Balinese village life, with wayward roosters crossing the street in front of brand new mega malls. Again, this is not a tourist destination and the few travellers who do visit generally only pop over for a few hours to check out the malls, visit a museum or to sample some authentic local food.
One of the best things about Denpasar is the shopping. The city offers a good mix of modern malls and traditional bazars where you can pick up beautiful local textiles. The city doesn’t have a specific centre and shopping means having to hop from area to area. Most of the malls are focused around the main streets of Jalan Teuku Umar and Jalan Diponegoro, with cool local boutiques dotted throughout the city. For some local colour, visit the traditional Pasar Badung which is surrounded by shops selling jewelry and local textiles.
Tours & Activities
Though Denpasar is not a location geared towards tourist, the city does offer some points of interest for travellers looking to get a deeper understanding of life on the island. The leafy neighbourhood of Renon is home to the Lapang Puputan park which offers a great setting for people watching before sun down as locals gather in the park for jogging, football and family friendly fun. Bali Museum focuses on local art and history and offers a fascinating glimpse of the island’s rich heritage. For a mix of Bali past and present, visit Pasar Badung where local vendors peddle everything from meat to poultry to fresh fruit and spices, with the surrounding streets lined with shops selling beautiful textiles and traditional Balinese clothing. Located in the heart of South Bali, Denpasar also offers a prime home base for visiting the neighbouring areas, including Sanur, Seminyak, Kuta and beyond. Ministry of Villas can arrange a car and driver to help you explore further afield.
Eating & Drinking in Denpasar
If you’re looking to sample Balinese food and Indonesian delicacies, Denpasar is a real treasure trove. The streets here are lined with warungs, stalls and restaurants serving delicious local food which you’ll be hard to find in most touristic areas. For more information on local cuisine, check out our detailed Bali guide.
Due to the city’s sprawling infrastructure, you won’t find a definitive cluster of restaurants but rather a seemingly endless offering of eateries dotted throughout the city. While most travellers are familiar with your run of the mill nasi goreng, Denpasar is the perfect place for broadening your horizons and trying out some authentic babi guling (suckling pig), ayam betutu (roast chicken) and more. Besides local fare, Denpasar offers a good selection of hipster coffee shops and trendier restaurants which offer delicious food, coffee and snacks at remarkably low prices.
Denpasar is a busy city but doesn’t offer nightlife in the way you might expect. On the weekends, locals gather in popular restaurants, cafes and warungs and spend long hours dining, snacking and hanging out with friends and family. There are no actual nightclubs in Denpasar and you’ll rarely see anyone truly intoxicated – many of the popular night time venues don’t even serve alcohol. Where alcohol is present, it usually ranges from basic Bintang beer to the local spirit, arak.
Denpasar is a large city sprawled over a large metropolitan area and the city includes many different neighbourhoods, each with their own unique charm. The layout of the city can be disorienting with seemingly endless one way streets adding to the confusion.
The busy street of Jalan Teuku Umar is a major artery which runs through town, lined with large shopping malls, fast food restaurants, local warungs and mobile gadget stores. While this area is by no means a tourist attraction as such and can be hard to navigate due to heavy traffic and no sidewalks, it is a convenient pitstop for travellers looking to do some shopping away from the tourist traps. Major shopping malls located along Jalan Teuku Umar include Level 21, Matahari and Ramayana.
Close by, Renon is a leafier part of town, dominated by government offices and a spacious park. This area is home to Bali Museum and Lapang Puputan Renon, a park popular with locals for an afternoon jog or a game of football. Another place of interest is the area surrounding Pasar Badung. This traditional market is a chaotic riot of sights, sounds and yes, smells as local vendors peddle fresh fruit, vegetables, meat, fish and more. The surrounding streets are lined with shops selling beautiful batiks, textiles and jewellery.
Denpasar & Surrounds
Denpasar is the bustling capital of Bali, surrounded by some of the most popular areas on the island but only rarely visited by travellers. To the east, the city blends in with the charming area of Sanur which attracts families and more mature travellers with its calm beach and classic Balinese ambiance. To the west, Denpasar is flanked by the popular areas of Kuta, Legian, Seminyak and Canggu, all framed by a long beach which offers terrific views at Sunset.
As the area is not a tourist destination and offers little to attract a casual visitor, there are no Ministry Approved villas in Denpasar. There are, however, hundreds of Ministry Approved villas in South Bali (in areas like Seminyak, Legian, Sanur and Kerobokan), within a short drive from Denpasar for those keen to visit. We can also organise a car and driver for guests looking to visit Denpasar.
All of our villas come with professionally trained staff. Many villas offer personalised services including: butlers, chefs, nannies, 24-hour security personnel, drivers and other services you won’t find in a hotel.
Bali’s only airport, Ngurah Rai International Airport (a.k.a. Denpasar Airport), serves over 20 million passengers a year. Located in Tuban in South Bali, the airport is connected to several major cities across Asia, Australia and the Middle East. Direct flights to Bali are available from Singapore, Sydney, Melbourne, Kuala Lumpur, Hong Kong, Shanghai, Tokyo, Doha, Dubai and more, from carriers including Qantas, Cathay Pacific, Singapore Airlines, Qatar Airways, Air Asia and Jetstar. A new airport is set to be built in North Bali though the plans are still in early stages.
By boat, Bali is connected to the neighbouring islands of Java and Lombok which also have their own international airports. Ferries from Java to Bali arrive in Gilimanuk in North Bali and boats from Lombok to Bali arrive in Benoa, Sanur, Serangan, Padang Bai and Amed.
Nationalities from over 160 countries are eligible for visa free entry into Indonesia. This means your passport will be stamped on arrival at the airport, allowing you to stay in the country for 30 days. For stays longer than 30 days, you will need to obtain a visa which will require further arrangements. Please note your passport must be valid for six months after your date of arrival in Indonesia.
There is no public transport to get you from the airport to your accommodation, so the only option is to use a private driver or a taxi. Ministry of Villas can arrange a chauffeur to greet you upon arrival and escort you to your villa. This service is included for most villas when booking more than four nights. To avoid queuing at the immigration counter, we can also arrange a VIP airport service for guests. This service includes lounge access, allowing you to relax while waiting for your luggage.
Alternatively, there is a taxi stand located next to the information desk at the international arrival’s hall, after you exit the small duty free shop. This desk offers fixed price and metered fares across the island. The listed fares are updated frequently, making it very challenging to find reliable, up to date pricing before arriving. Besides the official taxi stand, there are countless independent taxi drivers floating around the arrivals hall, offering rides at varying rates. It’s always easier to have a car arranged beforehand than trying to navigate the taxi jungle at the airport.
There are a few options for getting around Denpasar, so we’ve ranked them according to our recommendations for first-time travellers.
Scooters are arguably the most popular way of getting around the island. While hiring a scooter can be an easy and fast way of exploring Denpasar, you should only hop on a bike if you have an international driver’s licence and previous experience driving. Traffic in Denpasar can get very hectic and there are plenty of one way streets to navigate, so the setting is not ideal for a first time driver. If you do decide to drive, a valid licence and proper helmet are a must – driving without either will result in a fine if you get pulled over by the police. Scooter rentals usually start at around IDR 50,000 (USD $4) per day.
While parts of Denpasar are fitted with sidewalks, it is practically impossible to explore this sprawling city on foot. The city has no clear centre so distances can be too great to walk. Another thing to consider is the traffic which can get very busy with little to no consideration to pedestrians. A good option is to get a taxi to drop you off in a desired destination (say, Pasar Badung or Lapang Puputan Renon park), explore your immediate surroundings on foot before hopping back into a nice, air-conditioned car.
Hopping in a taxi is one of the best ways of getting around Denpasar, though the roads get congested and even short distances can take a while to navigate. You generally can’t hail a taxi down in Denpasar as this is not a tourist area, but you can order one over the phone or through a mobile app. The best taxi company to use is called Blue Bird which offers trusty metered fares (other drivers might refuse to use a meter all together). Blue Bird’s meters start at IDR 7,000 (USD $0.5), with a minimum charge of IDR 30,000 (USD $2) applied when ordering over the phone or through the app. You can order a Blue Bird taxi by calling +62 (0) 361 701 111 or by downloading the app. If you accept a ride from a taxi with no meter, always agree on the price before getting in.
Denpasar is one of the few areas in South Bali where the use of Uber-like ride hailing apps has not been banned. You can order a ride using the Grab or Go-Jek mobile app with a fixed price determined through the app. This can be a very convenient and cost efficient way to explore Denpasar.
Hiring a car and driver can be a great way to experience the sights and sounds of Denpasar. As the city doesn’t have a clear, walkable centre, having a driver to whisk you from location to location – say from Bali Museum to the mall and finally to Badung Market – can be ideal. Ministry of Villas can arrange a private car and chauffeur for you. This little luxury is remarkably affordable and we can also help you arrange an itinerary, instructing your driver in advance.
The Balinese are among the friendliest and most welcoming people on the planet. This is all the more reason to return the favour and be respectful towards the local culture. Like anywhere else in the world, common sense and basic human decency goes a long way. For more detailed information about local culture, language and safety in Bali, check out our comprehensive Bali guide.
SHOPPING & BARGAINING
Bargaining can be an enjoyable part of shopping in Bali… or it can be frustrating! To ensure a smooth exchange first decide what the item is worth to you, then ask the seller for their price – your first offer can be from one-third to two-thirds of that price. They are likely to respond with a counteroffer, which you can either accept or negotiate further. If you don’t like the price and you walk away there is a good chance the vendor will call out to you with a better (usually final) price. Keep in mind, if an agreement is reached, you’re committed – you should buy if your offer is accepted.
In late 2018, Bali’s governor banned single use plastic on the island, meaning shops, boutiques and supermarkets no longer give out plastic bags. When out and about, it’s best to carry a reusable bag with you.
Most restaurants and villas include a service component already so tipping is not expected, but if service is good, an additional cash tip is appreciated.
Indonesia’s country code is +62. Data speeds of 3G and faster is the norm across Bali. Local prepaid SIM cards are sold everywhere; any modern mobile phone will work. As of 2018, all prepaid SIM cards need to be registered which you can usually do with a copy of your passport directly at the shop where you purchase your SIM card. Prepaid SIM cards come loaded with pulsa (credit) or mobile data which you can later easily top up at other outlets. Most if not all minimarts and local phone shops can top off your SIM card when needed. Most villas provide broadband Internet and free Wi-Fi is common in cafes, restaurants, hotels and shopping malls.
Health & Safety
It’s important to note that compared to many places in the world, Bali is fairly safe. There have been some high-profile cases of visitors being injured or killed on Bali, but in many cases these tragedies have been inflamed by media sensationalism.
Many of Bali’s beaches are subject to heavy surf and strong currents – always swim between the yellow flags where present. Be careful when swimming over coral and never walk on it. It can be very sharp and coral cuts are easily infected. In addition, you are damaging a fragile environment. Lastly, water pollution is a problem in busy neighbourhoods. Avoid swimming near open streams flowing into the sea as they are often contaminated by run-off from built-up areas.
Violent crime is uncommon in Bali, however bag-snatching from motorbikes and petty theft does occur. Take extra care with your phone if riding pillion on a motorbike as phones regularly get snatched from unsuspecting tourists using a navigation app. Otherwise, take the same precautions you would in any urban area and secure your money before leaving an ATM (and don’t forget your card!), don’t leave valuables on a beach while swimming, and use in-villa safes to store your valuables.
Tap water in Bali is not safe to drink. Bottled water is widely available and cheap, however Ministry of Villas encourages visitors to keep a reusable water bottle to reduce plastic consumption.
Travel insurance is absolutely essential for every traveller. A typical travel insurance policy will have coverage for a traveller’s main concerns, including trip cancellations, medical emergencies, travel delays, and lost luggage. Most policies are built to be comprehensive to protect travellers from a variety of events that may cause financial loss before or during their trip. Some policies specifically exclude ‘dangerous activities’ which can include scuba diving, renting a local motorcycle and even trekking.
Worldwide travel insurance is available at World Nomads and you can buy, extend and claim online anytime – even if you’re already on the road.
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Denpasar is a bustling city full of life and colour. Though not a tourist destination as such, the city is worth a visit to get a glimpse of life in a modern Balinese city. Check out our latest Bali blog posts written by experienced Ministry of Villas travel writers.