Kuta & Seminyak
Bali, the "Island of the Gods," has an estimated 20,000 puras (temples) and shrines. Unlike the predominantly Muslim peoples of other Indonesian islands, Balinese are Hindu and animist, making their culture unique, and quite different from that of neighboring Java. Interwoven with art and ritual, Balinese Hinduism has produced a graceful people, decorous in their behavior, in harmony with their land, at ease with themselves and one another. Self-assured, curious and genuinely friendly, they bathe naked at rivers in rural areas, but outsiders should await an invitation before joining in. Sexuality is seen quite differently than in the West, and though tolerant and gay-friendly, Balinese themselves rarely embrace gay lifestyles as an identity.
The tourist-popular Seminyak-Kuta-Legian area is mostly a place for foreign visitors and off-island Indonesians to play, and young guys arrive here from all over Indonesia for the freedom to live more openly. Some of those might sideline as freelance 'money boys' for tourists, and the Javanese are well represented among local drag divas.
Androgyny figures prominently among the mythical figures of traditional music and dance, and homosexuality is not listed among the various sins. So while marriage and children are vital to full participation in village life, same-sex intimacies are no big deal for the young and unmarried. Even after they yield to family pressures to produce children, many continue to have relationships with men. Blogs tell of flings with horny locals, but encounters might involve only playful flirtations. Some knowledge of Balinese or Indonesian can be helpful outside tourist zones, where English is the most commonly spoken foreign language.
Food is inexpensive, with a wide variety of foreign cuisines to complement the intriguingly different flavors of Balinese food with their complex blendings of spices and fragrant roots. Unlike Indian Hindu preferences for vegetarian food, the Balinese eat meat, including pork, not eaten elsewhere in Indonesia where Islam predominates. Fresh fruit and seafood are plentiful, and young green coconut milk is a daily staple, considered very good for health.
The town of Ubud, set among the rice paddies and steep ravines of the central foothills, is the cultural center of the island, with museums, art galleries and performance spaces, but there are others scattered across the island. See the Bali-Indonesia and BaliGuide websites for listings.
The Kecak Fire Dance, Balinese dance and music drama based on the Hindu Ramayana, employs gamelan suara, storytellers, and a choir of a hundred or more men sitting in concentric circles. Performances can be seen by members of the Taman Kaja Community at Pura Dalem Taman Kaja, Jalan Raya Ubud.
The Bali Theatre mega-stage complex at the Bali Safari & Marine Park in Gianyar, presents grand productions with over 150 dancers and performers along with puppets and animals.
Consult the Bali Dance website for more information about traditional dance and music in Bali, and where and when to see performances.
Neighborhoods/ gay scene
Seminyak, North Kuta and nearby areas along the coast, to the west of the capital city of Denpasar, are the heart of the island's newer tourist district, home to most of its gay and gay-friendly businesses, north of the more established parts of Kuta between here and the airport. Jalan Laksmana (also known as Jalan Kayu Aya), at its center, is Bali’s ‘Eat Street,’ just east from the coast at Legian Beach, with plenty of restaurant options, and some fashion boutiques too.
To the south a bit, along a short strip on Jalan Camplung Tanduk (formerly Dhyana Pura), there are a half dozen or so gay bars all in a row. Also marketing themselves to gay men, sometimes exclusively, are a number of Seminyak resorts, some with clothing-optional pools. The area has several men-for-men massage spas as well, one with a sauna. See below for listings.
Batu Belig Beach, on Jalan Pantai Batu Belig near W Retreat and Lazy Monkey Guesthouse, north of Seminyak, was known as the ‘Gay Beach’ but according to recent reports you might find more guys at Berawa Beach these days. The Double Six Beach, a small strip of sand near the Double Six Hotel, can be found where rainbow flags flap above beach chairs and umbrellas for rent, and cold drinks can be bought. Also nearby is the Blue Ocean Restaurant on Pantai Double Six, once a hippy hangout in what was the middle of nowhere in those days.
The Ngurah Rai International Airport (aka Denpasar) is located just to the south of Kuta, on the isthmus at the southernmost part of the island. Lt.Col. Wisnu Airfield is found in north-west Bali. Thirty-day non-renewable visas are issued on arrival for Europeans, North Americans, Australians and Kiwis among others from 169 countries.
There are plenty of public taxis for the trip to town. Fixed-fare tickets for anywhere on the island can be purchased at the ticketing booth, and a driver will be assigned to you. Hotel shuttles and transfers are often available too, free, or for as little as $15-20 to Seminyak resorts.
Besides Blue Bird metered taxis, there are "bemo" minivans to get you around quite inexpensively in Kuta and beyond. Bali street maps are hard to follow, but drivers generally know the resort, restaurant and nightclub locations.
Motorbike, moped and car rentals are widely available for those with an international permit, but Bali can be informal about traffic rules, roads are crowded, and they drive on the left -- so first-timers might want to resist that temptation, and hire a seasoned driver to handle the roads.
The rupiah (Rp) is the official currency of Indonesia (code IDR). Indonesians also use the word "perak" ('silver'). Each rupiah was subdivided into 100 sen, but with inflation (one US dollar equals around 13,600 rupiah in May 2016) sen are now obsolete. ATM machines are to be found at banks and other locations in major cities. Inform your home bank of plans before leaving for credit card transactions and cash withdrawals to work smoothly, and for info on partner banks or ATM networks to save on fees. US dollars are widely accepted, but exchange rates vary widely, and crisp new hundred dollar bills are preferred over old, damaged, or smaller denominations.
Media & Resources
Bali Gay Guide has an overview of LGBT information for the island.
Utopia, and Travel Gay Asia, the gay Asia travel websites, also have up-to-date listings for Bali, including explorations of the "real" Bali, away from the commercial Kuta scene. They also list gay-friendly resorts all over the island from central mountain jungles around Ubud to the North or East Bali coasts.
Bali Medika is a modern clinic providing GP consultation and sexual health care at international standards.
Utopia reports that some Indonesian ISPs block gay content websites, and suggest avoiding Telkomsel or Indosat SIM cards, or hotels that use these providers. The locals have found other ways to get around the problem, so ask around.
For general news and information see a full range of English-language Bali newspapers and magazines at BaliNewspapers.
Other useful sites for visitors include: the Bali Tourism Board, Lonely Planet/ Bali, Bali by Hotels, and the Bali Travel Guide. For an opportunity to observe Legong, Kecak and Barong dance performances, see the schedules at website Bali Dance.
Indonesia.travel is the official Ministry of Tourism website.
The Beat is a bi-weekly print, and daily internet magazine and facebook page about the clubs and entertainments scenes of this island, and Jakarta too. They also have a radio station, Radio Plus 98.5FM, with internet live stream and archive shows.
The Yak is a slick fashion, culture, food, music, travel and lifestyle magazine about Bali and beyond.
See the Jonathan Copeland blog for photo essays of Bali sights.
Our gay Bali listings page has a map of gay and gay-friendly businesses.
The gayest bars and nightclubs are clustered along a short strip of Jalan Camplung Tanduk (formerly called Dhyana Pura).
Bali Joe (Jalan Camplung Tanduk, 8), gay/mixed crowd, men/women, sofas, bar/lounge, drag shows, dancers on the bar.
Bottoms Up Bar (Jalan Camplung Tanduk 10), gay club, men/women mix, drag shows, go-go boys and shower dancers.
Cafe ChicoRico (Jalan Kunti 7, Kuta), daytime cafe with WiFi from 11am, lunch and dinner, gay-popular evening cocktails and snacks.
Club Pride at Sky Garden (Jalan Legian 61, Kuta), nightly gay/mixed bar on 4th floor of nightclub complex, restaurant service, dancing.
Face Bar (Jalan Camplung Tanduk 10), gay pub, drag shows, go-go boys and ladyboys, theme parties.
Ku-De-Ta (Jalan Laksman Oberoi 9), gay-popular casual/upscale International/Mediterranean beachfront restaurant and cocktail lounge; sunset views.
Mixwell (Jalan Camplung Tanduk 6), cocktail bar, terrace, DJs, dancing, mixed men/women early crowd, drag shows, go-go boys, theme parties.
Sea Vu Play (Jalan Petitenget at Taman Ganesha), Australian/Mediterranean food, drinks and music, TV sports, outdoor tables under the palms; weekly parties include LGBT nights.
Seven Elephant, a local entertainment/ events company, throws unrestrained and raucously fun events in association with different venues, collectives, musicians, artists and brands, local and foreign, for unique party experiences.
Other mostly straight but gay-popular nearby establishments include:
The Double Six Club, at the eponymous luxury beach resort, the after-2am dance club of choice for many gay people and friends, with bungie jump alongside, and pool too.
The Ka De Ta (Jalan Laksman Oberoi 9), popular Seminyak beachfront restaurant and nightclub with international DJs and performers.
The Potato Head Beach Club (Jalan Petitenget), next to the W Retreat hotel resort; gay-friendly and known for distinctive old window shutters of many colors and sizes -- a nice place for cocktails by the pool, relaxing music and great sunsets.
Terrace at Red Ruby (Jalan Raya Pettitenget 919, Seminyak), Western dining w/ Asian twist, cocktail lounge, live Jazz and Blues, dancing, DJs play rotating nights of Hip Hop, RnB, EDM, House, Techno and other music genres.
CLOSED: DIX Club (Jalan Camplung Tanduk 7), gay/mixed bar/lounge between Bali Joe and Mixwell; divas and go-go boys.
Koh (Jalan Camplung Tanduk 8-9), underground EDM dance club, closed March 2017. After a series at Electrik/Red Ruby/Terrace, the Koh team will now be going nomadic between venues for one-off indoor/outdoor parties in 2017/18 -- see their facebook.
Mint (Jalan Raya Pettitenget 919, Seminyak), Tech/House/Electronic music dance club, international DJs; closed in late 2016. Their Terrace Bar became Electrik, then Red Ruby - which opened August 2017 - see above.
Spas, Massage Services and Sauna
Banana Spa: Bali Men’s Club (Jalan Drupadi, 69), gay day spa/ club next to the Harris Hotel; massage services, swimming pool, sun deck, barista coffees, beer, wine and juice bar, free WiFi, all-day breakfast, burgers, ice cream and snacks.
Elegantz Spa & Sauna (Jalan Tangkuban Perahu 18, Kerobokan), man-to-man Balinese warm oil and body-to-body massages, body scrubs, sauna, dark room, steam, plunge pool, TV lounge, smoking terrace, and cafe.
Fantasie Gym & Sauna (Jalan Tangkuban Perahu 101, Kerobokan), gay men's sauna/gym, dark room, cabins, maze, cruise/play area, bar; foreigner and bear discount nights.
M2 Spa (Jalan Petitenget 41B, Kerobokan), men's club provides massage and spa services, sauna, Jacuzzi, garden plunge pool, and TV lounge with WiFi.
Several other spas, including Adam’s Apple, Antique, Baliman Healing Spa, Bonita, Coco Grande, Jari Menari, M2 Spa at Paul's, Place, Minahasa Spa, SEB Massage, Shooter, and teMAN, also offer man-to-man massage services of many varieties, plus scrubs and facials -- all at hard-to-resist prices.
A number of Seminyak resorts market themselves to gay men, some exclusively so, and some with clothing-optional pools.
Balinea Villa & Spa (Jalan Merta Agung 11, Kerobokan), "a friendly rainbow private place," eight guest rooms each with terrace, around pool, garden, and Jacuzzi; with gym, massage services, restaurant and bar.
Green Chaka Paradise (Petitenget 41, Seminyak Beach), private 2-bedroom villa, short walk to beach, restaurants, bars; clothing-optional mineral water swimming pool and water-massage, lush garden, laundry, satellite-TV, WiFi.
Lazy Monkey Guesthouse Lombok Senggigi (Jalan Pantai Batu Belig Gg Papuan 8), four men-only studio apartments, just 60 metres from the Batu Belig "gay" Beach; private Japnese garden, swimming pool, sun deck, American breakfast, plus lunch/dinner options. Formerly Zen 4 Men.
Phil’s Place (Gang Melati 40), gay men-only five-room boutique hotel just 10 minutes walk from the gay clubs; with central pool, garden gazebo, breakfast, cable TV and DVD, plus massage services.
Spartacvs Bali (Jalan Pura Telaga Waja Petitenget), gay men-only boutique resort near the beach and fine restaurants; with restaurant, pool-side bar, Jacuzzi, and massage services.
Sunclad Villa (Jalan Umalas Klecung 10, Kuta), secluded private villa, kitchen, clothing-optional pool/Jacuzzi, garden, steam sauna, satellite TV, WiFi.
Villa Angelo (Jalan Petitenget 884), men-only clothing-optional guesthouse, five guest rooms, big swimming pool, terraces, tropical garden, IP-channel cable TV & Apple TV; near beach and commercial area of bars, restaurants and shops, with an international mix of guys.
Villa Layang Bulan (Gang Daksina 10b/ Jalan Batu Belig), all-men 21+ resort/spa, dorm beds and private rooms, clothing-optional pool, home-cooked Western and Asian meals, motor-bike and car rentals; near gay beach, restaurants and services of male masseurs.
Villa Mango + Villa Burgis (Jalan Drupadi Gang Cempaka 14, Seminyak), over 30 Balinese-style 1 to 6 ensuite-bedroom villas in four seperate but central Seminyak locations; each with large private pool, sun bathing terrace, lush tropical garden/lawn, fully-equipped kitchen, bar, living/ dining facilities, and most with BBQ and gazebo.
The Wood Double Six Villa (Jalan Baik Baik, Gang Taman Sari 7), gay men-only clothing optional villa resort near Double Six Beach and gay bars; pool, gardens, lounge, kitchen, cable TV, rain showers, massage sevices.
The Seminyak coast has plenty of luxury resort options. With beachside gourmet dining, infinity pools, spas, lush tropical gardens, tour and concierge services and every other kind of amenity, you hardly need to wander -- but then the central gay nightlife and restaurant scene isn't far away either. Browse these websites to check out a few: Anantara Seminyak Resort, Double-Six, The FuramaXclusive Ocean Beach, Grand Balisani Suites, The Legian, The Oberoi, The Royal Beach, The Semaya, The Seminyak, and W Retreat Hotel Bali.
On the north coast Bali au Naturel (Jalan Airsanih, Tejakula, Desa Bondalem) is a gay-owned, clothing-optional resort offering a tranquil escape from the busy Kuta scene; mostly gay men, but all welcome, two swimming pools, whirlpool, small gym, tropical gardens, massage services.
Some other resorts are less expensive, and there are many private full-service villas for rent all around the area. See more hotels and guesthouses, and some restaurant options -- from beach cafes, noodle shops and BBQ/burger joints to some of the finest world-class dining establishments -- at our map & listings pages.