Guide to Bali for Budget Travelers
Bali seems to constantly increase its popularity among tourists and no wonder – whether you are a backpacker looking for cheap stay or if you want to enjoy finer things in life this island has something to offer for everyone.
Here is my travel guide to bali for budget travelers and backpackers!
When to go
Bali has two seasons: rainy season and dry season. Usually the rainy season starts around November and lasts somewhere around March. Naturally best time to go would be outside the rainy season, but if you don’t like sharing the beach with hundreds of other tourists I would also suggest to also to avoid peak tourist season, which is from June to August.
How to move around
Traffic jams in busier areas can be really bad so the fastest and the cheapest way to move around is with scooter. There are scooter rentals everywhere around tourist areas so just ask around and test drive few different options before you decide. Longer term rentals are usually cheaper. The traffic may look very chaotic but it actually isn’t that bad as it seems, just follow the locals and always wear a helmet!
Taxis are also really cheap but the problem with them is the traffic which may be really bad sometimes so it can take a long time to travel even the shortest distance. The most reliable taxi company is Blue Bird Taxis which are light blue in color. Always tell the driver to put the meter on to get correct price!
For longer trips around the island one quite convenient option is to hire a private driver. They usually come with air-conditioned 7-seater cars so with bigger groups it’s actually quite affordable choice. Sometimes the driver may even have good travel tips and take you to some cool places you didn’t even know about.
There is some nice reef around Amed / Tulamben on east coast and also a nice reef wall in Menjangan Island in the north-west corner of the island, although it is a bit more difficult access.
If you are into snorkeling I would strongly suggest to visit Gili Islands since I think the best snorkeling around Bali is in there. You can access to Gilis with either a speed boat or with a ferry through Lombok. If you are not planning to visit Lombok then the speed boat option is faster and much less hassle. You can buy the speed boat trip from various ”travel agencies” in Kuta or other tourist areas. Before buying it is good idea to visit few places and compare the prices since they can vary a lot.
White water rafting is super fun! Especially if it has been raining and there is a lot of water in the river. There are many companies that organize rafting trips and you can buy these from the travel agencies around tourist areas. Wear your swimsuit or board shorts as you will get wet! They have waterproof bags for cameras and phones etc. so you don’t have to worry about them.
Bali is propably one of the most popular and easiest place to start surfing. There are good waves around the island and a lot of safe beach breaks for the beginners. You can rent boards from all the beaches there is some waves and there are also several surf schools operating around the island.
Surfboards in Bali are usually cheaper than in many other surf destinations in the world. If you are interested in buying your own board there is a lot of affordable surfboard shops in Kuta that sell new and second hand boards.
The best breaks for beginners are:
- Batu Bolong in Canggu
- Kuta Beach in Kuta
- Double Six in Seminyak
- Medewi in the west coast and
- Baby Padang in Pagang Padang.
Remember to also learn the surfing etiquette!
Knowing a few words of Bahasa Indonesia is really beneficial if you to enjoy Bali as cheaply as possible. The cheapest and tastiest food is Bali is found in places where the menu is not in English and people also don’t speak any English. Knowing some Bahasa Indonesia also helps you with haggling if you know at least the numbers – you’ll probably get better price when you speak a little bit the local language.
Bukit Peninsula (southern part of the island)
This is the area where the most beautiful beaches of Bali are located. Reef in the bottom makes the waves break clean which makes Bukit really popular place to surf. It is also home of two most famous surf breaks in Bali – Uluwatu and Padang Padang. My personal favorite is Padang Padang beach which is really beautiful but on the downside it is also quite touristic.
For sightseeing there is the famous Uluwatu Temple located on top of the cliff in Uluwatu. Watch out for the monkeys they can be really sneaky thieves.
If you are looking for accommodation from this area there are a lot of affordable homestays on the road that goes from Padang Padang to Uluwatu. We paid around 120 000 – 150 000 IDR for a room for 2 people in this area. In Bali in general the best way to get budget accommodation is just ask around because a lot (probably the most) of the homestays are not online and even if they are you probably get cheaper price on the spot.
Eat & Drink
Single Fin in Uluwatu is popular place for drinks especially on Sundays and Wednesdays and it is also nice place to see the sunset. There is one good restaurant, Warung Yeye’s on the way from Padang Padang to Uluwatu. It is much fancier than traditional warungs but the food is delicious.
If you are a friend of seafood a sunset dinner on the beach of Jimbaran is a must! There are a lot of seafood restaurants by the beach where you can choose your fish from the desk and they cook it for you as you prefer. It is not the cheapest option but totally worth it!
This is the main tourist area of the island and the place to go if you want to book tours or if you want to buy something like clothes, sarong, surfboard, souvenirs etc., or if you are looking for a party. Kuta does not have much to do with Balinese culture so if you are looking for authentic experience try to avoid this area.
I do not recommend to stay in this area but if you choose to do so there is a lot of cheap hotels in Poppies I and Poppies II.
Eat & Drink
Even though it is a tourist area there is still some decent and budget friendly food to be found especially in small alleyways between Poppies I, II and Jalan Benesari.
If you have been a long time away from home and especially if you are Scandinavian, Alleycats serves some pretty good köttbullars (meatballs) in Poppies II. It is also a popular place for pre-drinks so it is usually pretty packed on Friday and Saturday evenings.
This is also tourist area although a bit more poshy and sophisticated than Kuta. Personally I like the area more than Kuta and the beach is also nicer here. In Double Six beach you can just chill on a beanbag with a bottle of Bintang and watch the waves go by.
There is some really good options for food in this area. One highly recommended and definitely a budget option is Nakula Night Market in Jalan Nakula. This is a good place to get authentic local food which is much tastier and cheaper than in tourist areas (meals around 10 000 – 15 000 IDR).
For a bit fancier dinner there is an Italian restaurant Ultimo in Jalan Kayu Aya that has some really tasty food and excellent service. Not the cheapest but a bargain price for what you get. From the same company there is also Rumours almost next to Ultimo and it is rumoured that the food in here is as delicious as in Ultimo. Reservation is a must since these are really popular.
A bit further North along the coast there is Canggu that constantly increases its popularity among westerners but still remains to be more peaceful area than Kuta and Seminyak. The building of Deus Ex Machina is definitely one place worth a visit. Located in beautiful area next to rice fields this big complex has a restaurant / cafe, shop, art gallery and a skate ramp only to name a few. For more information check out their website.
A bit north from Canggu there is the famous Tanah Lot Temple, which is located in the ocean. On low tide you can walk down to the reef but there is no tourist access inside the actual temple. Still it is worth a visit and especially beautiful during sunset.
There is a lot of affordable homestays in the area especially around Batu Bolong and Berawa beach. Canggu is a nice place to stay especially if you are looking for something more peaceful area from this part of the coast. We paid around 150 000 IDR for room for 2 people in this area.
Eat & Drink
For food options in Canggu there is a lot of western style cafes and restaurants. If you want something more authentic the small warungs with cheap Nasi Goreng are always a good option and you find them from almost every street. If you want to have dinner on a beach there is one good BBQ buffet located on Echo beach.
This is the part of the island where you can find some really stunning natural attractions such as waterfalls, mountains, rainforest and volcanoes. Also the human build attractions like rice terraces and temples in this area are pretty amazing. Even if you are an ocean lover and prefer staying close to coast I still recommend to visit also this part of the island.
Most well-known and popular town among tourists in the central area is Ubud, the cultural centre of the island. This is the place for art, handicrafts, museums, dance performances, yoga, temples and all things alike. Ubud Market is good place to buy handicrafts, sarongs, art or other souvenirs. It is in the culture to haggle from almost anything and especially in the market it is part of the experience.
Even if you are not that interested in cultural stuff Ubud should still be on your bucket list. The town itself is located in really nice area among rice terraces and rainforest. It is also home to Monkey Forest, a sacred nature reserve and temple inhabited by hundreds of monkeys who are much friendlier than in Uluwatu.
If you are not a vegetarian Babi Guling at Ibu Oka is a must. Babi Guling is traditional Balinese roasted pork dish, where the pig is stuffed, seasoned and cooked for hours on open fire. You can find Babi Guling also in other places in Bali but many claim that Ibu Oka is the best.
Mount Batur & Lake Batur
Mount Batur is an active volcano and a Lake Batur is its crater lake. Awesome views from the lookout and you can also do a sunrise trekking on top of the mountain.
Tegalalang is the most famous one but there are many others, especially around Ubud.
There is a lot of waterfalls in Bali. I have visited Tegenungan and Munduk waterfalls which are quite touristic but still very beautiful.
There is a lot of temples especially around Ubud. In some temples you can go inside and in some there is no access for tourists inside the temple. Most of the temples have small entrance fee that includes borrowing a sarong if you wear shorts, as knees must be covered when entering the temple area.
Buyan Lake & Tamlingan Lake
These are actually located in the northern part of the island but the scenery around this area is pretty amazing so it’s worth a drive.
Top 5 Tips for Budget Travelers
- Rent a scooter
- Eat local
- Stay at homestays
- Learn how to haggle
- Learn some basic Bahasa Indonesia