This is by far the most popular region of Bali with visitors. The airport is here along with the greater Kuta area which now stretches several km to incorporate Legian and Seminyak. The area south from the airport is quieter and largely upscale including Jimbaran and Nusa Dua. The areas north of Seminyak up the coast to Canggu and on to Tanah Lot are more rural but fast being developed also. Sanur on the opposite coast is a mature tourist town which appeals mostly to older families.
Some hotels organize free transfers from the airport, but there are plenty of other taxis also available: just go to the ticketing booth, on the right side just after the exit, buy a fixed-fare ticket and a driver will be assigned to you trouble-free. These are marginally higher than metered fares, so if you're really pinching pennies, head out to the main road and flag a cab or bemo from there.
South Bali is easily reached by car from the north, east and west.
From East Bali the key route in is the new Kusamba to Sanur coast road. This has cut travel times in from the east enormously and Sanur can now be reached from Candidasa (for example) in about 1 hour.
Bemos and shuttle buses link to all major tourist destinations in South Bali from other parts of the island. These are very cheap but are slow and can be a little mysterious with several changes sometimes required.
Public ferry services from Lombok do not arrive in the South Bali region. However, some speedboat and fast catamaran services from Lombok and the Gili Islands do arrive in Benoa Harbour which lies between Kuta and Sanur.
Renting a self drive car for getting around in the congested South Bali region is not recommended. It is better to hire a car with a driver including gasoline for the day. The drivers are usually English speakers and they can also act as a tourist guide recommending good destinations and restaurants. Using rental cars from rental car companies is naturally more expensive than those offered by individuals. You can ask hotel staff to recommend you a good individually owned rental car. Expect to pay Rp 400,000 to 600,000 for 1 day (10 hours) depending on your negotiation and the class of car.
Metred taxis are ubiquitous on the streets of South Bali and are a relatively cheap and reliable way to get around, especially at night. Avoid any taxi where the driver refuses to put the meter on. The largest and most reputable and reliable taxi operator is Bali Taksi (tel:+62 361 701111) who have a 24 hour call service. Taxi drivers usually have only limited small change so it is best to have small notes available to avoid issues.
For those with a sense of adventure, try hopping on the back of a local's scooter. This type of informal transport is called an ojek and is a fast, cheap way to get around. You can also choose to rent a scooter for your stay. These can cost as little as Rp 50,000 per day and are a lot of fun. Insist on a helmet for the motorcycle, for both your own safety and because wearing a helmet is a legal requirement in Indonesia; you will be stopped by the police and fined for riding without a helmet. It should be understood that the streets can be chaotic and dangerous for inexperienced riders so think carefully about whether you wish to rent a motorcycle. If you intend to surf, there are plenty of specially modified motorbikes with surfboard hangers.
The South Bali region is associated most with shopping, beaches and partying. It is far from bereft of interesting attractions though.
Famed Kuta Beach. This 5 km stretch of sand is one of key reasons why Bali has become such a hot tourist destination. With the inevitable crowds nowadays some of the associated romance has gone but it is still a great experience, especially at sunset. There are obvious access points throughout Kuta, Legian and Seminyak but none more popular than the long beachfront road in front of the Hard Rock Hotel (Jalan Pantai Kuta). In Legian, both Jalan Padma and Jalan Double Six run perpendicular to the beach and provide popular access. As you move north toward Seminyak, the beach becomes noticeably quieter and more laid back and the stretch at Petitenget is particularly recommended for those seeking to escape large crowds. The best way in for this northern stretch is via the Petitenget temple car park (Rp 3,000) located on Jalan Petitenget opposite the entrance to the Sentosa villa resort.
The Bali Bomb Memorial is a notable landmark on bustling Jalan Legian in Kuta at the site of the old Paddy's Bar and opposite the former site of the Sari Club (still an empty space next to the Billabong shop). A memorial to the 202 people killed in the dreadful Kuta bombings on 12th October 2002. Please be calm and silent while paying your respects. Every year on the anniversary of the atrocity, the local Balinese community hold a ceremony here to honour the dead and wounded.
Two of Bali's nine key directional temples lie in the south region and both are popular attractions for visitors. Either can be easily reached by visitors with independent transport and both are offered as headline attractions in organised tours. Please remember that (as with all temples in Bali), an appropriate sarong and sash must be worn when entering. You can either bring these with you or rent them for a nominal fee at the temple entrance.
Tanah Lot Temple (Pura Tanah Lot) is located up the west coast from the main Kuta/Legian/Seminyak conurbation and takes between 45 minutes and 1 hour to reach by car. The temple is located on a rock just offshore and is said to be the work of revered 15th century Hindu priest Nirartha. This is an extremely popular tourist destination and the whole area is often very busy indeed, especially in the late afternoons, pre-sunset. The area between the car park (Rp 5,000 per vehicle) and the beach adjacent to the temple is a maze of souvenir shops selling just about every Balinese trinket imaginable. Once you have fought your way through the souvenir vendors to the beach (entrance Rp 60,000), you will see the magnificent temple perched on a rock just a few metres offshore. There is a footpath to the raised cliff area just to the south from where the views of the temple and the sunset behind it are outstanding. Photo-opportunities abound.
In the completely opposite direction at the southwestern most tip of the Bukit Peninsula sits Uluwatu Temple (Pura Uluwatu). The location of the temple is truly spectacular perched 75 metres up on a limestone cliff above crashing waves. There are more steep headlands on either side and sunsets over Uluwatu are a sight to behold. Though a small temple was claimed to have existed beforehand, the structure was significantly expanded by a Javanese sage, Empu Kuturan in the 11th Century. Another sage from East Java, Dang Hyang Nirartha is credited for constructing the padmasana shrines and is claimed to have attained Moksha here. You are free to walk around the temple grounds but the central courts can only be entered during special rituals. The temple is inhabited by large number of monkeys, who are extremely adept at snatching visitors' belonging, including bags, cameras and eyeglasses. Keep a very close grip on all your belongings and stow away your eyeglasses if at all possible. If you do have something taken, the monkeys can usually be induced to exchange it for some fruit. Needless to say, rewarding the monkeys like this only encourages them to steal more. Locals and even the temple priests will be happy to do the job for you.
A trip to Uluwatu combines well with seeing the relatively quiet white sand beaches on the west coast of the Bukit Peninsula. Since the degradation of Dreamland beach by the huge Pecatu Graha development, the most popular and easiest to reach is Padang-Padang. This lies about 4 km north of Uluwatu temple and is accessed from the obvious bridge on the main road (you cannot miss this). The beach is in an attractive cove and is quite deep at low tide. The waves are big here and Padang-Padang is popular with surfers. Only the strongest swimmers should consider entering the water.
This is the partying capital of Bali and arguably of the whole of south-east Asia. If shorts, singlets and lots of beer is your thing, look no further than Kuta. If you prefer a rather more sophisticated night on the town, then the options in Seminyak will appeal.
Legian Beach is a great place to learn to surf, either formally at the surf school or informally with the local boys.
Seminyak is home to many top class spas where you can pamper yourself at prices a fraction of those you will pay at home.
Waterbom Park in Tuban, Kuta is one of the largest water theme parks in Asia and your children will love you for taking them here.
Eating seafood on the beach at Jimbaran is right at the top of the list for many visitors to Bali. Order your choices by weight and have them freshly grilled while you stare at the stars or the glistening ocean. At the seafood restaurants, ask for a discount at the door. A 10% discount is usually granted to attract customers away from the competition.
Seminyak is host to some truly world class restaurants and foodies will not be short of choice here. The Seminyak clientele is very demanding and any restaurant that thrives here has to be top notch. Try the well established beachfront restaurants La Luciola, Breeze or Ku de Ta or, a little inland on Jalan Petitenget, the very highly rated Sarong.
At the other end of the scale, street and market food in Denpasar is not be sniffed at.
For ravish night life, Kuta Beach has no equal on Bali. A 7 kilometer strip stretching north of the original village, packed with bars, nightclubs, massage parlours and whatever the thirsty backpacker needs for a grand night out - it's not pretty, but it's definitively happening.
Another cluster of nightlife can be found near Seminyak, which has laid-back, slick and (very) expensive bar-restaurant-nightclubs like Ku dé Ta and Hu'u, as well as the Bali institution that is Double Six. The latter attracts huge beachfront dance crowds from 2AM onwards and frequently plays host to world name DJs. Seminyak also is the home of Bali's busiest gay scene a bit inland along Jalan Dhyana Pura.
For those intending to sample some nightlife, a good first stop is The Beat magazine . This twice monthly publication contains thorough listings of bar and club events as well as reviews.
This region has a truly huge range of accommodation options. Budget travellers are best off looking in Kuta and Legian whilst Seminyak is almost exclusively the domain of chic high end hotels and private villas. Sanur's largely well-priced hotels are aimed especially at families looking for package deal and Nusa Dua looks for the higher end package tourist.
The bad status of the infrastructure (e.g. streets & public lighting) and the huge traffic load are an injury risk and reduce travel speeds significantly. Wear a helmet if you use a scooter.