There was a time when Bali shopping equated to knockoffs, Bintang singlets and cheap sarongs. Now the retail therapy is sophisticated and broad ranging – from high-end boutiques, incredible homewares, stone works, surf threads and custom-made furniture – so it's well worth packing light to bring home a suitcase bulging with bargains.
You can easily tackle shopping on your own, especially if you know your way around, but your best bet is to hire a local driver to take you from place to place in an airconditioned vehicle and wait while you shop. For the ultimate shopping excursion, contract a personal shopping guide. If you choose the former go armed with your own list of places so the driver doesn't take you to their cousin's silverware shop that is of zero interest.
Bali is hot, sultry and humid so factor in drink breaks and re-energising lunches at any one of the hip eateries in Seminyak or Petitenget. Finish off with a relaxing foot massage and you'll be ready to face the shops again the next day, in between swims and cocktails that is.
The place: Seminyak and Petitenget
Best for: Designer clothes, shoes and accessories made from organic silks and cottons.
Why: Seminyak and Petitenget are home to Bali's finest concentration of gorgeous boutiques. Many stores are owned by Australian and global designers that base themselves in Bali.
The highlights: Try Mr Zimi (www.misterzimi.com) for loud flamboyant prints, Bali Boatshed for colourful beach gear (baliboatshed.com), Saint Tropez (www.bistrosttropez.com.au) for fabulous men's trunks in every hue possible (local version of Vilebrequin), Uluwatu (www.uluwatu.co.id) for classic black and white linen and lace resort wear, Bali brand Biasa (www.biasagroup.com) for super-fine linens, cottons and kaftans that scream quality, and Brazilian brand Uma and Leopold (www.umaandleopold.com) for gorgeous one-off pieces.
Ni Luh Djelantik (www.niluhdjelantik.com) features handcrafted shoes worn by the likes of Gisele Bundchen and Tara Reid, while Natasha (www.natasha.net.au), another Australian designer, offers dreamy maxi dresses and bohemian-inspired accessories. Press Ban (www.facebook.com/PRESS.BAN.BALI) along Jalan Oberoi, Seminyak, has a quirky collection of repurposed vintage wear.
For kid's gear check out the gorgeous Coco and Ginger (www.cocoandginger.com) in Kerobokan for tropical playsuits and dresses, Indigo Kids (www.indigokidsglobal.com), a classic Bali brand that is Australian designed, for playful prints and designs (multiple outlets in Seminyak and Nusa Dua) and Kids A Go Go (www.kidsagogo.com), a charming boutique in Jalan Oberoi for contemporary designed clothing, also by an Australian designer, including playsuits, swimsuits, shorts, dresses and T-shirts for children up to the age of nine.
After traipsing one end of Seminyak to the other, be sure to have lunch at Will Meryick's hip new Tiger Palm (www.tigerpalmbali.com) at the newly opened Seminyak Village (www.seminyakvillage.com) and then head to Spring Spa (www.springspa.com) on the rooftop for a well earned hot milk and almond pedicure.
Insider tip: Wear super comfy and light clothing that you can slip in and out of when trying on clothes, and flat shoes. Pavements in Seminyak are way better than they once were, but there are stretches where you will have to walk on the road and dodge holes in the sidewalk, so ditch the heels.
Best for: Handcrafted artisan wares, home-grown homewares and colourful art work with a Balinese twist.
The place: Kerobokan, Seminyak and Ubud.
Why: Driftwood mirrors, linen placemats, shell chandeliers and handcrafted ceramic tiles are just some of the treasures you'll find in Bali.
The highlights: Souq (www.souqstore.co) in Seminyak is a lifestyle store with homewares, gifts and a charming cafe, Mercredi (www.facebook.com/Mercredi-116135838444477), also in Seminyak is the home of French-inspired beachy chic with hand-blown glass ornaments, linen napkins and vibrant bedspreads. Hobo (www.thehobostore.com) along Bali's famed shopping strip Jalan Raya in Kerobokan (and also at Seminyak Square) celebrates Indonesian artisans and artists with rattan-topped occasional tables, up-cycled colonial 1940s vintage furniture, authentic school chairs covered in Javanese batik and hand-made terracotta from Lombok.
Bathe (www.bathestore.com), as the name suggests, opposite the W Seminayk, is the place for bathroom inspired goodies ranging from custom made scented candles, essential oils, scrubs, lotions and potions, while Kody and Ko (www.facebook.com/kody.ko.7) tucked away on a side street off Jalan Kayu Aya, a short walk from Seminyak Square offers quirky, neon pieces like ceramic deer heads and pineapples, oversized beanbags and floor cushions.
In Bali's spiritual heart of Ubud, Kevala Ceramics (www.kevalaceramics.com) on Jalan Dewi Sita (and at locations in Seminyak, Nusa Dua, Sanur and Kerobokan) offers stunning tableware, seen in some of Bali's best restaurants and hotels, Blue Stone Botanicals (www.bluestonebotanicals.com) has a fabulous collection of aromatherapy soaps, oils and burners, while Australian Janet DeNeefe's store, The Emporium (www.casalunabali.com/the-emporium), next to her cooking school Casa Luna, has beautiful batik and plain trimmed bed linen by local Balinese craftsmen and women, along with arts and crafts produced across the Indonesian archipelago. Macan Tidur (www.macantidur.com) meanwhile has divine traditional fabrics and antique tribal gems at its store along Monkey Forest Road.
Insider tip: Put on your walking shoes and hit the streets. It's a good idea to shop around before committing to a purchase as you will often find the exact same thing, but cheaper, if you put in the legwork.
The place: Kuta, Ngurah Rai, Legian and Seminyak
Best for: Custom-made boards, heavily discounted surf wear.
Why: Apart from the ubiquitous markets, shopping in Bali was once aimed primarily at Australian surfers. Now cool surf boutiques cum cafes selling retro surfboards, wooden longboards, hip street wear and espresso sit alongside the likes of Billabong and O'Neill.
The highlights: Ripcurl's flagship store (www.asia.ripcurl.com/indonesiastores.html) on Jalan Legian features an impressive surfboard-shaped space crafted from local and sustainable building materials. Surfers can watch their board being shaped before testing it on local waves. Drifter (www.driftersurf.com) situated along Jalan Oberoi Seminayk by local surfers Jake Mackenzie and Tim Russo. It features an espresso bar and hangout area along with designer surf gear and artwork, photography and memorabilia. Deus Warong, of Simple Pleasures (www.deuscustoms.com), along Jalan Kayu Aya in Seminyak is the second location for big brother Deus Ex Machina in Canggu. The store houses Deus Ex Machina fashion items and bags, handmade bikes, custom motorbikes and wooden longboards, as well as a cool cafe.
For discount Billabong gear, the company's only factory outlet in Asia (www.billabong.com/asia/stores/id/bali) is jam-packed with Billabong apparel, and offers regular sales. Down the road you'll find Bali Surf with all the big name brands under the one roof, the huge Original Surf Outlet (www.facebook.com/pages/Original-Surf-Outlet/384727571577381) and Surfers Paradise for brands Oakley, Reef, Roxy, Quick Silver, Sunsuko, Cult, Volcom, Hurley, Industry and Bilo Australia.
Insider tip: If you have the time, engage a local shaper to custom-make your own board, but do your homework and check out your options before parting with your cash.
The place: Kerobokan, Denpasar and Seminyak.
Highlights: Teak furniture, recycled antique doors, stone sculptures and lighting.
Why: You could easily fill your entire house with a shipping container of beautiful furniture from Bali. The Balinese and Javanese have rich artistic traditions, and on travels through the island you'll often see local craftsmen chiselling away at stonework or handcrafting exotic teak beds. Chaise longues, custom-made chairs, rattan furniture, oversized sunlounges and cool artwork can be found across the island.
Highlights: Christy Furniture and Art Gallery (www.2016.id.all.biz/) on Jalan Raya Kerobokan features wooden furniture including oversized daybeds and garden furniture, Stoneworks in Denpasar offers stunning sculptures and statues (www.richardnorthlewis.com). Try Orchard Fine Furniture, a gorgeous two-storey store in the heart of Seminyak, for contemporary colonial decor, including classic furniture made from aged reclaimed teak (www.ibaldesigns.com/the-orchard-shop). Many a celebrity has shipped furniture home from this iconic store with its four-poster beds, plantation chairs and antique Balinese prints. Zapp Design (www.zapp-design.com) focuses on high-end contemporary furniture with Brazilian flair fused with Scandinavian and Asian accents by Rio-born founder, Reynaldo Maldonado (aka Zapp). Warisan (www.warisan.com) in Kuta features art, furniture and antiques as well as custom-made plantation-harvested teak and mahogany furniture featured in some of the world's best hotels and resorts.
Jalan Mertanadi, better known as Jail House Road due to its most famous landmark Kerobokan Prison, is strewn with furniture and homeware stores. Here you'll find everything from colourful recycled-boat wood furniture, model ship makers, oriental-style and reproduction furniture makers and more.
Insider tip: Buying furniture in Bali is terrific fun and everything is way cheaper than you'll find at home, but do your research in terms of the cost of shipping it back to Australia, customs regulations etc. If you're new to the game contract the services of a professional freight service company. See www.indostyle.com.au; www.sourcing-bali.com.
The place: Ubud, Denpasar, Gianyar and Canggu.
Why: Markets are a huge part of life in Bali. It's where the locals shop, eat and come to socialise. Now along with traditional markets, you'll find organic and farmer's markets set up by local expatriates, while a new wave of markets are selling samples and leftovers by locally based designers.
Highlights: The iconic, bustling Sukawati Market in Gianyar, about 20 minutes from Denpasar, is a two-storey treasure trove packed to the rafters with paintings and sculpted wooden sculptures, curios, handicrafts and traditional handmade products as well as typical Balinese clothing and accessories. Prices are inexpensive, and haggling is welcome. Badung Market in Denpasar is Bali's biggest traditional market and well worth a visit, but brace yourself for the chaos, heat and noise. The four-storey market built in traditional Balinese architecture, is located in Gajah Mada Street, close to the city centre. It's Bali's biggest food market but you'll also find Balinese and Javanese crafts and textiles. The Ubud Art Market, featured in Eat, Pray, Love, is located opposite the Puri Saren Royal Ubud Palace and is open daily. The "Western" market features items made by local villagers and includes handcrafted woven bags, figurines, traditional hand-painted kites, silk wear, topeng masks and homewares.
For something with more a feel of Bondi rather than Bali, take a mosey around the Old Man's Market (facebook.com/oldmansbali/) at Canggu with its bric-a-brac stalls, Australian designers selling samples, designer swimwear, organic skin care, snacks, dream catchers and more. Held on the last Saturday of the month at Old Man's at Batu Bolong Beach, grab a latte and soak up the cool Canggu vibe.
Insider tip: Unlike retail stores in Bali, the markets have no fixed price and haggling is expected. Offer about half of what they first offer you, and negotiate from there.
*Alila Seminyak's 'Sensational Retail Therapy' takes guests on a fun shopping expedition in a head-turning restored VW Kombi. The three-hour bespoke shopping tour takes in some of the best boutiques and homeware stores in Seminyak, Petitenget and Kerobokan. The tour includes six stops, fully stocked mini-bar, scented towels and personal shopping assistant for $AUD150 per person. www.alilahotels.com/seminyak/alila-experiences
Sheriden Rhodes is a confessed Bali tragic and visits the Island of the Gods at least twice a year.