Bali on a Budget – Travel Guide for Backpackers
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!
Disclaimer: this post contains affiliate links.
When to go
Bali has two seasons: rainy season and dry season. Usually the rainy season starts around October and lasts somewhere around April. 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 a scooter. There are scooter rentals everywhere around tourist areas so just ask around and test drive few different options before you decide. 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! Daily price is normally around 50 000 IDR, but if you rent your scooter for a longer time the price is cheaper.
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 the correct price! Taxis are all over the streets in tourist areas, but unfortunately, nowadays they are banned to access some popular areas (i.e. Canggu and Uluwatu) because there are private local transportation companies operating traffic in these areas. For ordering a Blue Bird Taxi the most convenient way is by using their My Blue Bird App.
For longer trips around the island one quite convenient option is to hire a private driver. They usually come with a comfortable air-conditioned 7-seater minivan so with bigger groups this is actually quite an affordable choice. Sometimes the driver may even have good travel tips and take you to some cool places you didn’t even know about.
Uber, Grab, GoJek
Last time I was in Bali these relatively new services seemed to gain huge popularity as a transportation option. I have heard that Uber is actually illegal (though people use it anyway) but similar services Grab and GoJek were operating visibly so I guess they are ok to use.
There is some nice reef around Amed / Tulamben on the east coast and also a nice reef wall in Menjangan Island in the north-west corner of the island, although that is a bit more difficult to access.
If you are into snorkeling I would strongly suggest visiting Gili Islands cause I think the best snorkeling around Bali is there. You can access Gilis either with a speedboat or with a ferry through Lombok. If you are not planning to visit Lombok then the speedboat option is much faster and less hassle. You can buy the speedboat trip from various ”travel agencies” in Kuta and other tourist areas or from Padangbai where the boats are leaving. Before buying it is a good idea to visit few places and compare the prices since they can vary a lot.
Whitewater 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 probably 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 that have any waves and there are also several surf schools and surf camps 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.
There is good surf in Bali all year round, but the seasonal trade winds may turn some spots messy. A thumb of rule is, that during the dry season (May–September) the surf spots located on the west side of the island work the best (wind is coming from the east). During the wet season (October–April) the wind is blowing from the west, so the surf spots located on the east side of the island work the best. You can check the surf forecast for example from magicseaweed.com.
The surf best breaks in Bali for beginners are:
- Batu Bolong in Canggu
- Kuta Beach in Kuta
- Double Six in Seminyak
- Medewi in the west coast and
- Baby Padang in Padang Padang.
Remember to also learn the surfing etiquette!
Knowing a few words of Bahasa Indonesia is really beneficial if you want to enjoy Bali as cheaply as possible. The cheapest and tastiest food in 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 a 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. The reef in the bottom makes the waves break clean which makes Bukit really popular place to surf. It is also a home to two of the 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 asking around because a lot (probably the most) of the homestays are not online and even if they are you probably get a cheaper price on the spot.
I highly recommend staying at Made Suardani Homestay which has become my favorite place to stay in the whole Bali. Made’s place is located on the cliff of Padang Padang and is such a relaxing spot to be on this increasingly hectic island. Made’s homestay is offering basic bungalow accommodation with shared bathroom facilities and AMAZING ocean views (just look the picture below)! Made also operates a warung with small but delicious and affordable menu, try banana porridge for breakfast! Cost per room is only 150 000 IDR/night for 2ppl. If you surf you have also direct access to paddle either to Padang Padang or to Impossibles.
To get to Made’s place follow the main road from Pecatu towards Uluwatu (Jalan Labuhan Sait). Few meters after Padang Padang Mart you’ll see a bunch of surfboard signs on the right-hand side of the road, turn right and follow the signs to the end of the road and down the stairs where you’ll find this little piece of paradise.
Eat & drink
Single Fin in Uluwatu is a popular place for drinks especially on Sundays and Wednesdays and it is also a 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 really good.
If you are a friend of seafood a sunset dinner on the beach of Jimbaran is a must. There is 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. This is not the cheapest place to have dinner but totally worth the money.
This is the main tourist area of the island and the place to go if you want to book tours, 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 around Poppies I and Poppies II. However, there is one great and affordable place to stay nearby between Sunset Road and Kuta – Pondok Sutya. Economy room is 190 000 IDR/night/2ppl and includes air conditioning, hot water and breakfast. The place is super clean and modern and the staff is really friendly.
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 are 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. Meal prices are starting from 10 000 IDR.
A short ride away in Kerobokan you’ll find popular Warung Sobat II which has been my regular place to go whenever I’m craving for Western food, although their Indo food selection is also pretty wide and tasty. I usually spend around 40 – 70 000 IDR in here. Portions are big and all meals include salted peanuts for the appetizer and small dessert which is usually a fruit salad.
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 rumored 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 you’ll find the trendy hub of the island – Canggu. The district constantly increases its popularity among Westerners but still remains to be more peaceful area than Kuta and Seminyak. Nowadays this is the place where a lot of tourists and travelers are heading when visiting Bali. Also a lot of Western expats live around Canggu.
The building of Deus Ex Machina is definitely one place worth a visit in this area. Located in a 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 of Canggu there is the famous Tanah Lot Temple, that is actually located in the ocean. On low tide, you can walk down to the reef but there is no tourist access inside the temple. It is a bit of a tourist trap but I think it is still it is worth a visit and especially beautiful during sunset.
Hostels have not been a major thing in Bali until recently when more and more backpackers are visiting Bali and especially Canggu. Personally, I prefer to stay at homestays which are actually really cheap when you are sharing the room with your travel companion. There is a lot of homestays in Canggu especially around Batu Bolong and Berawa beach. My favorite place to stay in Canggu is Putra Dhadi Homestay which is located on a small alley off from Jalan Pantai Berawa. This place is really new and super clean. The owners are the friendliest and most hospitable people ever, offering you coffee every morning and also providing free drinking water. Fan room is only 150 000 IDR/room/2ppl.
Also D’Canggu Homestay is a good place to stay. Location is great, Batu Bolong Beach is only short walk away. Owner couple is really nice and helpful. Cheapest rooms are 150 000 IDR/room/2ppl and include air conditioning.
Eat & drink
For food options in Canggu there is a lot of hipster cafes and restaurants but also good and affordable Indo food can still be found. Warung Dapur Mamke serves tasty and cheap local food in Jalan Canggu Permai. Meals are only 15 000 – 20 000 IDR and portions are reasonably sized. For Western or Asian food On Waroeng on Jalan Pantai Berawa is always a great choice. Prices are affordable (starting from 20 000 IDR) and the food is really good. For Western style breakfast, Satu Satu Cafe is my favorite in this area. Coffee is great (medium Cappuccino is 25 000 IDR) and breakfast is really tasty and high quality. Prices for breakfast meals are around 40 000 – 50 000 IDR.
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 visiting also this part of the island.
Most well-known and popular town among tourists in the central area is Ubud, the cultural center of the island. This is the place for art, handicrafts, museums, dance performances, yoga, temples and all things alike. Ubud Market is a 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 a 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 an 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.
For escaping the crowds of Bali’s tourist areas and experiencing more authentic island vibe I highly recommend visiting Nusa Lembongan – a small island east side of Bali just a stone throw away from the mainland. Here you’ll find crystal clear waters, mangrove forest, loads and loads of white sandy coastline and few nice surf spots.
I didn’t go snorkeling in Lembongan but I’ve heard its really good in here and also in neighboring islands Nusa Ceningan and Nusa Penida. You don’t really need a scooter here since everything is more or less on a walking distance, but I suggest to rent one at least for a day for driving around the island and visiting Nusa Ceningan – a tiny island next to Nusa Lembongan. The coastline of Nusa Ceningan is really beautiful and filled with rugged cliffs, caves and lagoons.
I stayed at Wahuy 1 which is a perfect basecamp for budget travelers visiting Nusa Lembongan. It is located only a few meters away from the beach in front of Shipwrecks surf spot. They have good, affordable warung, swimming pool and the cheapest (really basic) room is only 150 000 IDR/night.
How to get here
The boats in Bali are leaving from Sanur Beach. You can either book an organized trip or drive your scooter to the beach parking lot in Sanur and buy your tickets from there. The public speedboat cost 200 000 IDR one way (cheaper to buy a return ticket) and the office is located on the beach next to Mandiri ATM. The trip takes around 30 minutes plus the undefined time for loading and unloading the boat. The public boat is not the most comfortable mode of transport but, it takes you to your destination and is budget friendly.
Travel inspiration: Photo Gallery of Nusa Lembongan and Nusa Ceningan.
Top 5 Tips for Budget Travelers
1. Rent a scooter
2. Eat local
3. Stay at homestays
4. Learn how to haggle
5. Learn some basic Bahasa Indonesia.
Do you have any travel tips to Bali? Please share in the comments below. 🙂
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