When we decided to stay with our nine month old daughter in Bali, we had numerous concerns. Many Asian countries are not considered to be the easiest destinations for travelling with small kids, and there are good reasons for that. A lot of parents worry about possible health risks, environment, logistical challenges, baby food and many other issues that would not even cross your mind if you were traveling without little ones.
Me and my husband are adventurous and experienced travelers, but travelling with a toddler is a whole different story. Before heading to Bali, we already tested our “baby travel muscle”. Besides occasional trips and hikes in Germany, we traveled to Russia (in and around my native Moscow) and spent some time Morocco. Moreover, as half of our family is in India, we had some basic understanding of what it’s like traveling with a small kid in Asia – and this knowledge surely helped.
In preparation for our trip, I looked for experience of other parents in Bali, but the only information I found referred to 1-2 weeks stay in hotels, close to the beach. While it can be an enjoyable experience, it was not the type of travel that we’d imagined.
Our plan was to stay at least three months, to move around the island and to explore different sides of Bali – as much as it’s possible with a toddler. Our free time was also limited as I continued working on my online businesses, so we had to choose a “base” for most of the stay. In our case, Ubud became our main base (you can see my detailed Ubud guide here).
In this article I put together our experience and main takeaways, that can be of great use for parents traveling with babies and toddlers to Bali.
1) Leave your stroller at home
While cruising the streets of Ubud with a happy baby in a sling, I often bumped into parents, trying to navigate narrow and crowded islands of pavements with a stroller. Their faces were expressing frustration and irritation, and I instantly knew that they were “newcomers”.
Choosing sling over stroller is the general rule for most South-East Asian cities, let alone rural areas, except for urban unicorns like Singapore. Bali is no exception. Pavement rarely exists in towns and villages, and you might stumble upon unexpected holes or simply stray dogs sleeping in the middle of the road. If you want to explore a natural side of Bali (and you should!), be ready for small and hilly paths among rice terraces, abrupt cliffs and jungle routes.
The only place where you could possibly make use of a stroller is Sanur, I will write about it in more detail further.
2) Understand the real situation with the transport and a car seat
In Bali everyone is moving around on a scooter. There are absolutely no public transport options, and distances are simply not walkable. Those who can’t drive a scooter have to hire a driver with a car and most of people with kids do.
Some brave souls manage to drive a scooter with a baby in a sling, and among locals it’s in fact a normal practice. We did risk to do the same, at a very slow speed, but only because my husband is an extremely experienced driver. Long story short: I wouldn’t recommend it for most of the people.
Alternatively, you can also hire a car. Most of the car hire prices that we came across though equaled hiring a car with a driver (around 30 eur), and we always went with a driver for longer trips. Keep in mind that the cars will not be having baby car seats, so you have to travel with your own. Car seats are not obligatory and locals travel without them, but if your baby travels in one at home, it makes sense to take it with you.
3) The best place in Bali to be with small kids is Sanur
If there was one place in Bali I could recommend for families with small kids – I would name Sanur. This peaceful coastal town has some unique features that no other place on the entire island can offer. First of all, you can stay there long term without a car or a scooter, especially if you love riding a bicycle. It has a 5 km long paved beachfront for pedestrians and bicycles, where you can safely take long strolls with your little one. The beach itself itself is very shallow, with literally no waves. While it’s a huge no-no for many ocean lovers, it’s the best you can have for toddlers to enjoy. There is a wonderful market with local produce, and plenty of restaurants if you are not into cooking. The location is also perfect to explore the South of the island. The only drawback is that there is a low tide, so the beach can unexpectedly turn into a salt water pond – but for a baby it is, really, not such a drama.
4) Baby food options
Every family follows different approach when it comes to baby food, so it’s hard to give a general recommendation, but it’s important to understand what options are available. We never used store bought baby food or formula, so I can’t share personal experience with this regard. Our daughter never ate pureed food and most of the days we pre-cooked her meals. Some grains and legumes that she was used to we brought from home (buckwheat, millet, lentils), but most could be bought in health stores like Bali Buda. Organic vegetables are available in certain markets. That said, all restaurants were extremely accommodating to babies, and it was never a problem to ask them to cook something in a certain manner (like boiled potato without salt and oil).
5) Baby supplies and emergency
Most of the basic baby supplies are available in big supermarkets, but quality is a big issue. Surprisingly, many things were also more expensive than in Europe. Except for diapers and emergency clothes, I would try to bring all I need with me.
During our 3 months in the region our daughter got fever once and we did pay a visit to a hospital, even though it was not necessary. It was a small local hospital with basic facilities, not as polished as a German one, but I trust they can offer a good care if necessary.
6) Toddler-friendly places to visit
The best place to be around with your toddler is, of course a beach and here I’ll mention Sanur again. Except for the beach there are not that many places in Bali where your toddler can run around freely. You can make a trip to Botanical gardens, but keep in mind that it will be a full day get away. Another good options for a nature day trip are Twin lakes and Tamblingan lake in the North of the island. For a walk you can head to Jatiluwih Rice Terraces or Campuhan Ridge in Ubud (there is a paved path as well).
In Ubud, museums have also very beautiful territories (like ARMA), where you might enjoy hanging out with your little one. Our daughter also loved dance performances and temple visits, as there was always a big outdoor area to run and explore.
7) Health and other risks to consider
A question that comes up often not just for parents is: what vaccinations should you do before going to Bali? And how is the health situation on the island overall? Probably the biggest health risk is a possibility of dengue, that is transmitted by mosquitoes. In this case, however simple it sounds, your best protection is to keep mosquitoes away by all means. Luckily we haven’t experienced it in out family, but we met a few long-term residents who did. This article (and me personally) are not qualified to give any medical advice or recommendations though, so please check the necessary health information yourself, before taking any decisions
8) Type of accommodation to look into
Based on our experience, we had only a few criteria for choosing the right place to stay: (1) It needed to have self-catering options, so that we could make our daughter’s food (2) It needed a pool. For a short-term finding a self-catering villa can be an issue, so just make sure you look for it early enough. Balinese love kids, and they are very accommodating – in that way, we found all type of properties extremely child-friendly!
Here are some baby-friendly hotels and villas I can recommend:
Disclaimer: these are affiliate links, but the recommendation is based on my personal experience or friends recommendations. If you decide to choose a product I recommend, I might get a small commission, which is crucial to keep this blog up and running.
- Praschita Bali (budget self-catering apartments)
- Villa Frangipani (for a luxury stay)
- Exquisito Villa (mid-range)
- Kampoeng Joglo Abangan (for a budget stay)
- Honeymoon Green Villa (mid-range)
- Capung Cottages (mid-range)
It’s natural to classify countries into those that are easier to travel with a toddler or a baby, and those that are harder. We felt that for our family, for example, time away from the crowds and busy cities was much more enjoyable – without a baby it could be otherwise.
Surely, there might be certain limitations for your activities when you are travelling with a little one, but on the other side it gives you experiences you would never have before. For us, it was the endless kindness of Balinese people and many friends we made on the road, because our daughter was a great conversation starter!
Enjoy your family travel and please share what was your favourite country to travel with a toddler.