Bali on a Budget
Bali, the Island of the Gods, has made a name for itself as an affordable luxury escape. Pinterest and Instagram are full of images of infinity pools overlooking lush jungle landscapes and elegant beach bars with cocktails and stunning sunset views. It’s changed a lot over the years but Bali still holds on to its backpacker roots with affordable options that will allow you to travel on the cheap. I’ve already written a guide on how much does it cost to go to Bali for mid-range travellers. But, here are some of my top tips for experiencing Bali on a budget.
Bali on a budget – Transportation
Considering how popular a tourist destination Bali is, getting around isn’t always easy. Especially if you plan on going any long distances. Getting around Bali may cost you a bit more than expected or require some advanced planning.
The public transportation in Bali is called Bemo and is essentially a hot and dusty minibus that connects the different areas of Bali. They are slow, uncomfortable and typically tourists do not use them. In fact, most tourists don’t even know they exist as they are used mainly by locals. If you do decide to use one, they are the cheapest option. Prices start at 5,000 IDR (about US $0.36) for short distances but know that as a foreigner, you will be overcharged. Still, it’s the cheapest option there.
Tourist shuttles are relatively new and only exist in certain areas. But, they do make travel easy and they are pretty inexpensive. There are two popular options. The Kura Kura Bus Shuttle and Perama Shuttle. Keep in mind, these routes may not be regular and typically only go to the main/popular spots in Bali so they do require some planning. You should also be booking these tickets more than a day in advance to ensure your spot. However, since a 7 day Kura Kura pass is less than $20, it’s definitely worth taking the time to do some planning since it’s so affordable.
Taxis / private driver
Depending on when and where you want to go you may have to use a taxi (only available in South Bali and Ubud) or hire a private driver. Unfortunately, the taxis have a bad reputation for scamming visitors by claiming ‘broken meters’ and overcharging. Blue Bird is consistently said to be the most honest, so be sure to use them.
Private drivers are also available but, again, are more expensive. However, if you want to do a day trip with plenty of stops to see nearby attractions such as waterfalls, temples, or rice paddies then hiring a private driver is a good deal. They usually have a flat rate for the vehicle so if you can get together 2-4 people and split the cost, then it comes out to good value.
Renting a scooter
If you are an independent traveller in Bali and want to explore a lot, then renting a scooter is probably your best bet. That is, assuming you can drive one. Roads in Bali can be dangerous so it is not recommended to those who don’t know how. Keep in mind Balinese police can also be corrupt and frequently pull over tourists and foreigners looking for a way to make some money off of them. For this reason, it is highly recommended that you get an international driver’s license and keep it on you at all times. Also, be sure to wear a helmet. Scooters typically cost US $5-$10 per day depending on what you get, plus the cost of fuel.
Bali on a budget – Accommodations
Pinterest is full of stunning 5-star Balinese resorts with infinity pools and jungle views. While these may be cheaper than, say, a 5-star resort in Bora Bora, they still are not budget-friendly. However, there are some very cheap budget accommodation options in Bali.
When it comes to cheap accommodation in Bali, hostels are an easy pick. Many offer private rooms as well as dorm room options and have breakfast included in your stay. If you choose to stay in a multi-bed dorm, you can find rooms for under $10USD although there are pricier options if you choose to stay in more upscale hostels with pools. Take a look at:
Homestays are the equivalent to budget hotels in Bali. Many homestays offer pool access and/or garden areas. They are more private than hostels but still very affordable. The nicest ones will cost you around $50 per night, but you can find cheaper. There are many around the $15 range as well. Try:
If you are travelling as a couple or a group, it might be worth your while to look into renting a villa for your stay. You can find 1 bedroom villas for around $50 per night. Divide that between two and that’s a pretty good deal for a more luxurious experience! Check out:
Bali on a budget – Attractions
A lot of what makes Bali so attractive is its natural beauty and history. Things like waterfalls, rice paddies, and temples are what most visitors come to see.
As mentioned above under transportation, one of the best options to explore Bali, especially Bali’s nature, is to hire a private driver to take you on a day trip. If you have a small group or can round up some fellow travellers this becomes very affordable and lets you see part of the country that you likely wouldn’t see on your own. A full day (8-10 hours) will cost you about US $40-50 total. Split that between 4 people and its great value. Keep in mind, many temples and waterfalls do have small fees associated with them as well.
If you want to experience a bit of luxury in Bali but aren’t ready to splurge on one of the high-end hotels, look into getting a day pass for one. These passes normally give you access to pools, wifi, restaurant, and bar. The Kayon Resort near Ubud is one of the most popular spots for day pass visits which start at just US $15 per person.
Bali on a budget – Food
Bali is very tourist-centric in many regards and that includes food and drink. There are a number of western-style restaurants cafes and beach bars on the island, especially in the places most frequented by tourists. While the prices may seem cheaper than what you are used to at home, your will pay much more for these types of meals than you would if you ate at local warungs which are family-owned Balinese restaurants.
These types of restaurants serve up local meals that will cost under $5 per person. Typical types of local meals include:
If you are staying in a hostel or homestay that serves breakfast, banana pancakes are something you will eat a lot of. They are quite delicious and often served with honey. Sometimes they are also made with coconut.
This is a classic Indonesian staple that you will find all over Bali. It’s a fried noodle dish served with vegetables and your choice of chicken, shrimp, or pork. Sometimes there is also a fried egg served on top.
Nasi Goreng is essentially the same as mie goreng except instead of fried noodles this dish is made with fried rice.
Meat mixed with spices barbequed on a stick. Sometimes a peanut sauce is included. Typically, the meat is chicken but fish is a popular option in Bali as well.
This is kind of a mixed plate with rice, vegetables, and some type of meat. There is no ‘true’ recipe to make it right. It’s kind of like a tasting plate.
In the past decade or so Bali has made a name for itself as a luxury destination. However, while there are certainly plenty of high-end accommodations and dining options on this island, there is still a backpacker feel to many places and with it, lots of low-cost options too. Bali can absolutely be a place to splurge if you want. But, if you are looking for an inexpensive vacation, you can definitely experience Bali on a budget. Need some more inspiration? Check this Japan on a budget guide.