Over its long and storied history, Bali has played host to Hindus, Muslims and Christians, making the island a palimpsest of culture and tradition. The sheer variety of things to see and do here can make deciding what to wear in Bali a seemingly impossible choice. Keeping it simple doesn’t just make it easier to meet baggage restrictions, it makes it easier when deciding what to wear, too. Here's a quick guide to your Bali packing essentials.
What to wear in Bali: The Ultimate Packing List
Eat, pray… party
Kuta Beach, Legian, Seminyak — these are the names rightfully etched on the itinerary of travellers who want to experience the island’s party scene. The nightlife is legendary, but the mellow warmth of the island’s muggy nights can present a quandary when considering what to wear in Bali.
For a casual but sophisticated evening look, observe the way stars like Zoe Saldana dress for red carpet events under the hot Los Angeles sun. Saldana’s virtuoso up-styling of a matched short and jacket combo paired with a tank top, worn for the Captain America premiere, shows just what can be achieved with a creative approach to evening wear. Take a leaf out of Saldana’s book and pair a slinky singlet top with Dolce & Gabbana shorts from the Carretto Siciliano range for late-night parties on the beach.
Bali suitcase essentials for men might include the white dress shirt, adaptable for daytime sightseeing as well as evening cocktails. As well as being effortlessly elegant, cotton is a breathable fibre, perfect for sticky Bali humidity. Worn with swimwear during the day, the shirt is your sun protection. Team with smart shorts and a pair of Henderson Baracco loafers for an elevated evening look.
As the sun rises and the shadows draw in across Seminyak’s golden sand, the style savants of Bali’s fashionable Seminyak precinct stake their claim to a sun lounger to while away the afternoon. In such tropical climes the ultimate accessory is, of course, sunscreen, but second to that is undoubtedly a soft, printed kaftan. Drape one over your shoulders as you move from the pool to the lounger or pair it with some elegant flat sandals for a wander to the beach. Etro beachwear includes wrap kaftans that are adaptable as daytime cover-ups as well as evening cocktail attire.
A kaftan in an exotic print can be the statement piece for women, but for men it might be the swimwear that draws attention. It was 2006 when Daniel Craig’s James Bond emerged from the Caribbean Sea in tiny swim shorts and men’s swimwear has never been the same. Although the most effective way to get the Craig look is to enlist the support of a personal trainer, Blue Man swimwear is the next best thing for your Bali packing essentials.
Templates for temples
If you are planning to venture away from the beach, you’ll most probably head to beautiful Ubud. Rsi Markandya, an eighth-century Hindu sage, allegedly founded the town after meditating at two converging rivers. You can still visit the incredible temple he founded at Gunung Lebah and marvel at its decaying beauty or wander Ubud’s famous rice terraces that tumble down the surrounding mountains.
Travel blogger Jessica Stein, Australia’s eminent case of wanderlust (with a wardrobe many lust after), is remarkable for drawing style inspiration from her surroundings. Her outfits, which include denim shorts, maxi skirts and flowing dresses, offer comfortable yet chic suggestions for what to pack when going to Bali. For your Ubud explorations, consider the humble denim short with a Peter Pilotto off-the-shoulder blouse, à la Stein, for exploring the area in style.
For men, there’s no better colour for a scenic walk than classic khaki. Dr. Livingston isn’t usually considered a style icon, but take your cues from his jungle look and don a cotton khaki shirt, either long or short sleeves.
In Ubud’s Sacred Monkey Forest Sanctuary, hundreds of monkeys roam free around three 14th-century temples. The sight of these naturally cheeky monkeys clambering over the ornate Hindu temples set in lush foliage is one of the most spectacular in Bali. Visiting temples means dressing respectfully, which is when the shirt dress comes into its own. Joseph dresses come in a streamlined sleeveless version, which is great for the Bali heat, with a longer hemline that ensures you are appropriately covered.
Remember, however, the meaning of “cheeky monkey” has a basis in reality. You’ll find the audacious wee things more than happy to relieve you of your possessions. If you’re the one always carrying the camera and sunscreen, a good backpack will be one of your Bali packing essentials. Saint Laurent backpacks, made of durable leather and canvas, are perfect for a daytrip into the jungle. Secure the zipper with a padlock — those Balinese monkeys have been known to crack anything!