Bali is one of 922 inhabited islands in Indonesia boasting idyllic beaches, a magical underwater world, big waves and even a volcano! The island is known for both its booming party lifestyle and its calming yoga and meditation retreats. Frugal travel within Bali is definitely possible, so here’s my guide to see the best of Bali whilst still remaining on a bit of a budget.
Local “Warungs” (the Indonesian word for ‘restaurant’) can serve up the local dish Nasi Goreng for under $1 USD. There’s a plethora of markets across Bali that offer up weird and wonderful local food at very low prices.
If like me, you’re happy to sample local food, but night after night you’re aiming for good service, great views and well-presented food for a good price, then you’re looking at about $4-$10 USD.
Be careful to read the menu before ordering. Many places in Bali add 20% tax and service charge on to the bill at the end that wasn’t inclusive of the food price. This can unexpectedly make your bill a lot more expensive.
As I’m a frugal, yet comfortable traveler, I never stay in the absolute cheapest accommodation. I have traveled Bali staying only in dorm rooms and only in private rooms and both are readily available in Bali. For all of you backpackers who are more than happy with a dorm bed, the price of a dorm bed in a hostel is around $10 USD. This time around, we found great private rooms for around $25-100 USD a night. But of course you can stay in huge lavish resorts and pay thousands.
Small Bintang beers range from $1-$3 USD and large Bintangs from $2-$5.
As with the rest of Asia, the best way to get around Bali really is on two wheels. You can hire a scooter from most hostels and hotels but, if not, there are often many scooter hires in the main areas. We found the cost of them to vary depending on your location or cost of hotel room. We paid 60,000-100,000 rupiadh ($4-$7 USD) per day.
Fuel is around 60c a liter. If you share a bike between two people, the cost is halved and can form a very cheap way to get around.
uber, (the lift sharing mobile app) works in Bali, but there’s mostly only available drivers in the busy touristy areas. I found uber to be a lot cheaper than the normal taxis on meter, but not as readily available. For $10 free uber credit for new users, sign up with the code ‘katrinal1309ue’.
Most hotels and hostels can sort you out with car rental, taxi day trips or taxi rides to do a tour of the island. Prices will vary massively dependent on your location and your haggling skills.
Top Things to Do Here
It’s true that the underwater world is even more magical in Indonesia than the tropical haven under foot. Although there are more magical spots to go diving in Indo like Komodo National Park and Sulawesi; Bali’s conditions and coral beds are stunning. You don’t have to be certified to dive in Bali as you can begin with an introductory try dive to see if you like it. But if you have a few spare days in Bali and fall in love with breathing underwater, then doing a diving course can be super rewarding and a really cool way to spend a few days on the islands.
If diving deep really isn’t your thing but you still want to catch a glimpse of the Manta Rays and turtles, then why not grab a snorkel and head to one of Bali’s many snorkel sites. If you’re stuck on where to go, there’s an abundance of really great snorkel day trips that take you to all the best sites.
Climb Mt. Batur
Scrap that lie in and brace yourself for a 2 am wake up call that’s totally worth it. Of course you can climb Bali’s volcano at any time of the day, but making it to the summit to watch the sun rise is an experience you’ll never forget. Just pack a wooly jumper and your camera!
Yoga in Ubud
Feel like unwinding in the jungle and finding your inner peace… as well as sweating and (if you’re anything like me) awkwardly composing oneself into various unattainable poses. Well if this is your thing, Ubud is your new found mecca. Once you’ve picked between meditation, reflexology and a billion types of yoga; you can then pack away a healthy meal or ten in the abundance of health food cafes.
Watch the Sunset at Single Fin
Built into the cliff faces of Uluwatu lies a very popular bar/restaurant named Single Fin. Go by day to soak up the sun and watch the surfers do there thing. Arrive at night with your dancing shoes firmly on as every Wednesday and Sunday live DJ’s and bands will warm your cockles. Sunsets here are amazing—nearly as good as the grilled Snapper on the menu!
Hire a Motorbike and Explore the Beaches
As I mentioned in another blog post (and to everyone I ever meet), the only way to get around Bali and the rest of Asia is on two wheels. Credit to you if they’re motorized wheels. Obviously wear a helmet and be responsible, but go explore. Take the dirt path to the unknown as there’s a small chance you’ll stumble across an empty beach on a beautiful balmy day.
Beginner or pro, Bali’s got a wave or two for you! So many surf breaks offer world class surfing as well as gentle whitewash beginner waves. Canggu and Uluwatu are renowned surf spots whether you’re partaking or observing.
Become the Ultimate Foodie
Thanks to the huge waves of tourism that flood little old Bali, there’s a huge array of restaurants and cuisines for you to pick from. Not only that, but they are so inventive and use some incredible natural ingredients. See full list of my foodie recommendations further down this guide.
Island Hop in the Gili Islands
Now of course the Gili Islands have their whole guide, but here’s a synopsis of the place if you will. Hop on board a fast boat over to the Gili’s where you can pick from three paradise islands all boasting white sand, turquoise water and so many turtles. Gili T is the most inhabited where you can party all night and beach all day on the East side, and relax horizontally with an ice cold Corona whilst waiting for the sunset on the quiet west side.
Remembering age is just a number, head down to Waterbom in Kuta for a splish splosh splash on crazy rides. Tried and tested by yours truly, I can confirm, this place is not just for kids. But, hey, if you’re boring then there are always sun beds, nail salons and plenty of food stops in the water park to keep you occupied.
Drive inland from any beach and you’re more than likely to stumble across some rice paddy fields. Watch out for the sun soaked, hard working locals who are hunched over farming the rice.
Love cooking? Check! Love culture? Check! Love eating? Massive check! Then get your scrawny ass down to a cooking class that will lure you in just by the scent. You will learn to cook three traditional Balinese feasts with a group of fellow travelers and get to devour it all after. What a time to be alive!
Downhill Mountain Biking
Whilst in Ubud, a great way to get around and see the rice paddies and coffee plantations is on two wheels without a motor. Don’t worry though, they drop you off at the top of a hill so basically all you have to do is roll. The reason I love it the most is that you have a guide who explains everything you’ve ever wanted to know about Ubud, Bali and Indonesian culture. You can be a walking fountain of Balinese knowledge afterwards!
Git Git Waterfall
Wind up and down the mountains to the beautiful Git Git Waterfall where you’ll be greeted with refreshing water and even a rope swing for you adventurous types. Stop at some coffee/tea plantations on the way up and have a glimpse at the stunning Lake Batur for some Instagrammable moments.
Places to Eat
I was pretty drawn in to this café by just the name. I mean, who doesn’t love a good avo? Simple and beautiful healthy food awaits you in this tiny street side café in Canggu. If you get to meet the owner, then even better! Lovely people, lovely place, lovely food. Just lovely.
Apparently along with the rest of the world, I’ve become totally addicted to acai bowls. Not only can you sample these delights at Crate, but you can also delve into sausages, eggs and all other amazing breakfast items. Now I’m sure they have lunch too… But who would ever eat lunch when you have an all day breakfast, right?
Sombrero’s on people! Time for a bit of Mexican to spice up your life. Ohana is cheap and cheerful with portions of epic proportions. Not that you’d ever scrimp out, but do yourselves a favor and get the guac!
Beautiful bowls of yummy delicious goodness. Not a lot left to be said really other than they almost look too good to eat!
POTATO HEAD BEACH CLUB—SEMINYA
You’ve got to spend a day/night at Potato Head forgetting about your frugal ways and living it up at a beach club. Whilst prices are higher than the norm, the service, sunset views and fun vibe definitely makes it worth the spend. Get in early (and I mean 9 am-early) to secure a poolside bench or on weekends just take a blanket and sit on the grass. Sunsets here are epic.
YOGA BARN GARDEN KAFE—UBUD
Perfect post yoga breakfast and delicious no-guilt treats to charge you until your next yoga session!
Most people go to Old Man’s to boogie on down to some good tunes. But believe it or not they also do some cracking food during the day time too. Good place to cool off after a sweaty sunbaking session on Echo Beach.
Noticing a theme here? Canggu has so many easy eateries to tickle your taste buds. Beetlenut is hugely popular, and for good reason. Dragon bowls, hearty brekkies and fresh coconuts draw in the tourists and pack it out. Yum!
More Mexican! Wash down your burrito with a dirty Margarita and some live music!