Bali is a budget backpacker paradise. It’s one of the most popular destinations in Indonesia and a hub for travelers, yoga lovers, honeymooners, and digital nomads alike.
Not only does it cater to the budget-savvy vagabond, but the island offers plenty of options for the more affluent traveler as well.
While visiting Bali has become cliched these days with some many people trying to find their “Eat, Pray, Love” experience and chill out at some expensive yoga retreat, I still find the island to be beautiful, budget friendly, and full of things to do. The countryside is beautiful, the beaches (outside of Kuta) are picture perfect, there is great hiking, friendly locals, world-class dining, and it’s inexpensive.
I spent a month exploring the island and would happily go back and explore it again.
The trick to traveling Bali is to get away from Ubud and Kuta. Once you do so, you’ll find a much calmer, cheaper, and less-busy island worth exploring where the touts don’t bother you and the empty beaches are yours to enjoy.
This travel guide to Bali will show you how to make the most of your visit, save money, get off the beaten path and away from the crowds, and have the trip of a lifetime.
Table of Contents
Top 5 Things to See and Do in Bali
1. Dip into some hot springs
2. Visit a Hindu temple
3. Take a trip to Nusa Lembongan
4. Learn about Balinese Culture in Ubud
5. Hike Mount Batur
Other Things to See and Do in Bali
1. Try some adventure sports
There are tons of adventurous activities to do. You can go paragliding, hiking, mountain cycling, horseback riding, jungle trekking, and even treetop zip-lining. Prices will vary, though they are all quite affordable. Paragliding, for example, will cost you around 1,500,000 IDR ($110 USD) per person for a tandem glide.
2. Scuba diving and snorkeling
While snorkeling is always an option here, Bali is most popular for its phenomenal dive spots. The reefs here are beautiful and there is an amazing variety of fish to see. The wreck of a US cargo ship, Liberty, is a highly recommended spot. Prices will vary but expect to pay at least 1,900,000 IDR ($135 USD) for a two-tank dive.
3. Visit the spa
Bali is the perfect place to re-energize by pampering yourself and releasing bottled up stress and tension. Balinese massage is one of the most relaxing in the world, and there are a number of Balinese spa treatments which involve the use of various herbs and spices. Prices vary depending on what you purchase but expect to pay at least 275,000 IDR ($20 USD) for a treatment.
4. Party in Kuta
Kuta is kind of like the Tijuana of Bali. The streets are narrow here and there are hundreds of stalls selling faux-brand ripoffs and novelty souvenirs. There are plenty of hostels and lots of bars that cater to the younger backpacker crowd. If you’re looking to party, this is the best spot on the island to do so. Personally, I hate Kuta and think there are a lot of better places on the island.
5. Go dolphin watching
There are various companies that offer sunrise boat trips — and you are likely to hear about them at every hotel you stay in. It’s about a two-hour excursion and it’s best to get a ticket the day before. Expect to pay around 800,000 IDR ($57 USD) for adults and 560,000 IDR ($40 USD) for kids.
6. Watch the monkeys
In Ubud, you can also visit the Ubud Monkey Forest, a nature reserve and sacred area with temples. It’s very touristy, and a lot of people break the rules and feed the monkeys, which teaches them bad habits so don’t do that! Still, it’s exciting to watch all of the long-tailed macaques running around and playing with each other. Admission is 80,000 IDR ($5.50 USD) for adults.
7. Watch a Buffalo Race
Chances are, after a few days in Bali, you will have seen the water buffalo working in the various fields. In Negara, locals riding chariots race buffaloes every second Sunday from July to October. Negara is a bit out of the way and the races take place at 7am, so you probably should arrange accommodation for the night before.
8. Visit the Mother Temple
Pura Besakih is a temple located on the sacred Mount Agung, an active volcano. The climb will take several hours, and most people arrange this as a tour since you need a vehicle to reach the trailhead. Prices start around 400,000 IDR ($29 USD) per person. Since it is a holy mountain, climbing can be off limits during certain times of the year.
9. Stretch it out
There are tons of world-class yoga retreat centers all around Bali, offering both single classes and multi-day retreats. If you need to relax, destress, and stay healthy this is a great place to do it!
Bali Travel Costs
Accommodation – Cheap guesthouses and hostels usually cost around 75,000-200,000 IDR ($5-14 USD) per night. Most hostels do not offer private rooms, though free WiFi and free breakfast are generally included. If you are looking for budget hotel, expect to pay around 315,000-700,000 IDR ($22-50 USD) per night for a double room. This will generally include free WiFi and breakfast. For a hotel with a pool, expect to spend at least 425,000 IDR ($30 USD) per night. Airbnb is available here too, with prices starting around 150,000 IDR ($11 USD) per night for a shared room. If you want to book an entire home or apartment, expect prices to start at 350,000 IDR ($25 USD) per night.
If you’re looking for luxury, Bali also has some of the most expensive hotels in the world, many costing over 13,000,000 IDR ($930 USD) per night.
Food – Local food is extremely cheap, usually under 10,000 IDR ($0.75 USD) for street food. A basic local meal will cost closer to 15,000 IDR ($1.10 USD). Western food is a lot more expensive but is still affordable at around 125,000 IDR ($9 USD) for something decent. Fast food will cost around 60,000 IDR ($4.50 USD) while a beer at the bar will be around 23,000 IDR ($1.75 USD). A bottle of water will be under 5,000 IDR ($0.40 USD). If you plan on cooking your own meals, a week’s worth of groceries will cost between 275,000-400,000 IDR ($20-29 USD). Be sure to stick to local food items, as imported foods like wine, cheese, chicken, and beef are super expensive. Buying them often will ruin your budget.
Bali Suggested Budgets
On a backpacker budget in Bali, you can expect to pay 355,000-575,000 IDR ($25-40 USD) per day. This will entail staying in a hostel dorm, eating street food or cooking most of your meals, renting a bicycle to get around, and doing a few activities like hiking or seeing a Balinese dance. It’s really easy to do Bali on a budget if you stay in cheap guesthouses, eat local, and stick to the less expensive activities.
For a mid-range budget of 920,000-1,850,000 IDR ($65-130 USD) per day, you can eat out at nicer restaurants that cater to Western tastes, stay in a budget hotel or a private hostel room, rent a scooter to get around, drink more, get tons of massages, and take a few tours. You won’t live large but you won’t want for anything.
For a luxury budget of 4,100,000-5,100,000 IDR ($285-360+ USD) per day, you can stay at international hotels or fancy local villas, take taxis or private minivans around the island, eat Western food, and do any adventure activities you want. Bali has some of the most luxurious resorts, spas, and restaurants in the world so Bali on a luxury budget is really up to you. The sky is the limit here!
You can use the chart below to get some idea of how much you need to budget daily, depending on your travel style. (Remember some days you’ll spend more, some days you’ll spend less. It’s an average!)
Bali Travel Guide: Money Saving Tips
Bali can be as cheap or as expensive as you want it to be. This is the land of cheap backpackers and treks, honeymooners, top of the line expensive resorts, and yoga retreats. Bali is the land for all travelers. If you ‘re looking to save money while traveling Bali, here are some tips and tricks that will help you lower your costs:
- Eat the local food – You can pick up tasty local fare for around 7,000 IDR ($0.50 USD). Stay far away from the western restaurants if you want to save money and experience the local cuisine!
- Bargain – Nothing is ever at face value in Indonesia. Bargain hard and bargain often. Don’t ever pay the first price you were quoted.
- Head north – The southern area of Bali (Kuta, Ubud, Seminyak, etc) is the most popular and most expensive part of the island. If you head to the beaches in the north or northeast part of Bali, you’ll find that prices are about half the cost and you’ll be able to find better deals on accommodation.
- Save money on rideshares – Uber is way cheaper than taxis and are the best way to get around a city if you don’t want to wait for a bus or pay for a taxi. The Uber Pool option is where can you share a ride to get even better savings (though you can get your own car too). You can save $15 off your first Uber ride with this code: jlx6v.
- Drink cheap – Save money on alcohol by hitting the happy hours or just buying your drinks at a local store instead of the bar. This will be the cheapest way to drink.
- Take the free shuttles – Pretty much every budget accommodation will offer free airport transfers. Take advantage of these to save yourself some money!
- Bring a filtered water bottle – Bali has a watse problem, and much of it gets burned. You’ll see (and smell) it during your visit. Bring a reusable water bottle with a filter to save money — and the environment. I like Lifestraw and Grayl.
Where To Stay in Bali
Looking for places to stay? Here are some of my favorite hostels in Bali:
- PADI Backpackers House (Ubud)
- Kememai Hostel (Ubud)
- The Island Hotel Bali (Kuta)
- Warung Coco Hostel (Kuta)
- M Boutique Hostel (Seminyak)
- Capsule Hotel Bali – New Seminyak (Seminyak)
- The Hideout Hostel (Canggu)
- Lay Day Surf Hostel (Canggu)
How to Get Around Bali
Transportation – Transportation around Bali is very cheap. You can get taxis for around 65,000 IDR ($5 USD) and private mini vans across the island for around 200,000 IDR ($14 USD). Flights from Bali to most of Asia and Australia can be found for as little as 1,000,000 IDR ($75 USD), one way. Scooter rentals are available around the island for as little as 135,000 IDR ($10 USD). Bicycles are also available for rent, usually costing around 60,000 IDR ($4.50 USD) per day for a basic bike.
Taxis – Taxis are essential for getting around Bali, and they’re cheap. The starting rate is around 7,000 IDR ($0.50 USD) and then 4,100 IDR ($0.30 USD) per kilometer. For example, Kuta to Seminyak will cost around 85,000-110,000 IDR ($6-8 USD).
Bluebird Taxis are available in most places, and they’re the most dependable company for metered taxis and English-speaking drivers. There’s a smartphone app that makes ordering a taxi simple and convenient.
Grab (an Uber offspring) is a household name in Southeast Asia. It, too, is convenient, but it sometimes costs even more than a taxi. Go-Jek in Indonesia is a similar option though it focues on motorbike ride shares.
Motorbike – Motorbikes are quintessential to the Bali experience, and it’s not uncommon to see whole families riding one together! Motorbikes are so common here because they make it easier to weave in and out of congested traffic.
You can order a motorbike to get around just like you would order an Uber — all you need is the Go-Jek or Grab app. Like Uber, you use the app to request a driver and they’ll come pick you up at your destination. They’ll even bring you an extra helmet (for motorcycle rides) and a hair mask if you’re worried about hygiene. Trips are cheap. Short journeys like from Seminyak to Canggu can cost around 14,000 IDR ($1 USD), while longer journeys shouldn’t cost more than 28,000 IDR ($2 USD).
If you want to rent a motorbike yourself, a rental will cost about 60,000 IDR ($4.30 USD) a day. You should be an experienced driver for this option though.
Bemos & Buses – Bemos are usually a minibus or a van that carries around 12 people in very tight quarters, but they’re not widely used by visitors. They’re usually really time consuming, but they’re cheap and most rides are around 5,000 IDR ($0.35 USD).
Tourist buses are a great way to get around, and they’re cheap They usually have air-conditioning, and some have WiFi. You’ll see signs in most areas offering these services. Kura-Kura Bus and Perama are the two biggest tourist bus operators. Kuta to Lovina will cost you 125,000 IDR ($9 USD), while Denpasar to Kuta is just 20,000 IDR ($1.50 USD). Kuta to Ubud is 60,000 IDR ($4.50 USD).
Ferry – Getting to and from Bali is easy via ferry. Ferries cost around 7,000 IDR/$0.50 USD (and up) for a ticket from East Java to West Bali, and the rates go up from there for other routes. Bali (Padang Bai) to Lombok is about 65,000 IDR ($5 USD) (one way) while Bali to the Gili Islands is 419,000 IDR ($30 USD) (one way) on a speedboat.
While it’s not necessary to book in advance it’s a good idea during peak season or one more popular routes. You can buy tickets on the ferry company’s website or via a ticket agent like 12go.asia.
When to Go to Bali
Bali has a year-round warm, tropical climate with just two seasons: wet and dry. Dry season lasts from April to September, while the rainy season occurs from October to the end of March. The average daily temperature year-round is 80°F (28°C).The high season is from July and August as well as through the Easter holidays and Christmas holidays (about December 11th to January 1st). Bali is busiest during this time, and prices are the highest.
In Bali’s mountainous areas, temperatures are much cooler and there is more rainfall than along the coast. If you plan on spending time in the mountains you’ll want to pack appropriate clothing.
Overall, the best time of year to visit is between May and September when it’s dry and sunny. It’s still pleasant to visit during the rainy season – rainfall usually comes as fast and intense downpours that only last a few hours. In Bali, the extremes between seasons aren’t drastic. Dry season is the best time to climb the volcanoes and participate in water sport activities, and the best time to dive is from April to September.
How to Stay Safe in Bali
Bali is an incredibly safe place to backpack and travel — even if you’re traveling solo (and even as a solo female traveler). Violent attacks are rare. Petty theft (including bag snatching) is the most common type of crime in Indonesia. Theft is also very common on public transit in Indonesia. It’s easy for thieves to grab your wallet or purse when you’re distracted by all the chaos around you. Stay alert.
Credit card fraud is also common in Indonesia. It’s always best to pay with cash when possible. To avoid getting your information stolen at an ATM, enter a reputable bank to withdraw money from there. Make sure you don’t keep all your cash on you. Take what you need for the day and keep the rest secure in your accommodation.
Always trust your gut instinct. If a taxi driver seems shady, stop the cab and get out. If your hotel is seedier than you thought, get out of there. Make copies of your personal documents, including your passport and ID, before you leve home. Forward your itinerary along to loved ones so they’ll know where you are.
As a general rule, if you don’t do it at home, don’t do it when you’re in Indonesia. Follow that rule and you’ll be fine.
Worried about travel scams? Read about these 14 Major Travel Scams to Avoid and be in the know! There aren’t many in the region but the few there are can be quite expensive!
The most important piece of advice I can offer is to purchase good travel insurance. Travel insurance will protect you against illness, injury, theft, and cancellations. It’s comprehensive protection in case anything goes wrong. I never go on a trip without it as I’ve had to use it many times in the past. You can use the widget below to find the policy right for you:
Bali Travel Guide: The Best Booking Resources
These are my favorite companies to use when I travel to Bali. They are included here because they consistently find deals, offer world-class customer service and great value, and overall, are better than their competitors. They are the ones I use the most and are always the starting points in my search for travel deals.
- Momondo – This is my favorite flight search engine because they search such a wide variety of sites and airlines. I never book a flight without checking here first.
- Skyscanner – Skyscanner is another great flight search engline which searches a lot of different airlines, including many of the budget carriers that larger sites miss. While I always start with Momondo, I use this site too as a way to compare prices.
- Airbnb – Airbnb is a great accommodation alternative for connecting with homeowners who rent out their homes or apartments. The big cities have tons of listings! (If you’re new to Airbnb, get $35 off your first stay!)
- Hostelworld – This is the best hostel accommodation site out there, with the largest inventory, best search interface, and widest availability.
- Agoda – Other than Hostelworld an Airbnb, Agoda is the best hotel accommodation site for Asia as it has the largest inventory and offers the best rates. If you want a guesthouse or hotel, book it via this website!
- Intrepid Travel – If you want to do a group tour around Indonesia, go with Intrepid Travel. They offer good small group tours that use local operators and leave a small environmental footprint. If you go on a tour with anyone, go with them. And, as a reader of this site, you’ll get a discount when you click the link!
- Grassroots Volunteering – For volunteering, Grassroots Volunteering compiles a list of good local volunteer organizations that keep the money within the community.
- EatWith – This website allows you to eat home cooked meal with locals. Locals post listings for dinner parties and specialty meals that you can sign up for. There is a fee (everyone sets their own price) but this is a great way to do something different, pick a local’s brain, and make a new friend.
- World Nomads – I buy all my travel insurance from World Nomads. They have great customer service, competitive prices, and in-depth coverage. I’ve been using them since I started traveling in 2003. Don’t leave home without it!
Bali Gear and Packing Guide
If you’re heading on the road and need some gear suggestions, here are my tips for the best travel backpack and for what to pack!
The Best Backpack for Travelers
Straps: Thick and cushy with compression technology that pulls the pack’s load up and inwards so it doesn’t feel as heavy.
Features: Removable top lid, large pocket at the front, hydration compatible, contoured hip belt
If you want something different, refer to my article on how to choose the best travel backpack for tips on picking a pack and other backpack suggestions.
What to Pack for Your Trip
- 1 pair of jeans (heavy and not easily dried, but I like them; a good alternative is khaki pants)
- 1 pair of shorts
- 1 bathing suit
- 5 T-shirts (Unbound Merino is my preferred company. If you’re a member of NM+, you can get 15% off your purchase)
- 1 long-sleeved T-shirt
- 1 pair of flip-flops
- 1 pair of sneakers
- 6 pairs of socks (I always end up losing half)
- 5 pairs of boxer shorts (I’m not a briefs guy!)
- 1 toothbrush
- 1 tube of toothpaste
- 1 razor
- 1 package of dental floss
- 1 small bottle of shampoo
- 1 small bottle of shower gel
- 1 towel
Small Medical Kit (safety is important!!!)
- Hydrocortisone cream
- Antibacterial cream
- Hand sanitizer (germs = sick = bad holiday)
- A key or combination lock (safety first)
- Zip-lock bags (keeps things from leaking or exploding)
- Plastic bags (great for laundry)
- Universal charger/adaptor (this applies to everyone)
- LifeStraw (A water bottle with a purifier)
Female Travel Packing List
I’m not a woman, so I don’t know what a woman wears, but Kristin Addis, our solo female travel guru, wrote this list as an addition to the basics above:
- 1 swimsuit
- 1 sarong
- 1 pair of stretchy jeans (they wash and dry easily)
- 1 pair of leggings (if it’s cold, they can go under your jeans, otherwise with a dress or shirt)
- 2-3 long-sleeve tops
- 2-3 T-shirts
- 3-4 spaghetti tops
- 1 light cardigan
- 1 dry shampoo spray & talc powder (keeps long hair grease-free in between washes)
- 1 hairbrush
- Makeup you use
- Hair bands & hair clips
- Feminine hygiene products (you can opt to buy there too, but I prefer not to count on it, and most people have their preferred products)
For more on packing, check out these posts:
Bali Travel Guide: Suggested Reading
The Backpacker, by John Harris
I picked up this book at a second-hand shop in Vietnam years ago, and it intrigued me as I was backpacking around Southeast Asia. Amazon suggested it to me recently, so I picked it up again for another read and found it just as enthralling! John travels to India, where he meets Rick, who then persuades him to go to the Thai island of Ko Phangan, where John, Rick, and their new friend Dave pose as millionaire aristocrats. after getting on the wrong side of the Thai mafia, they leave for adrenaline-fueled journeys to Singapore, Indonesia, Australia, and Hong Kong. I’ve always wondered if this was a true story since so much of it seems far-fetched, but, even if it’s all fake, it’s an entertaining read about life as a backpacker. Light, easy, and fun, it will get you excited for the road.
A House in Bali, by Colin McPhee
This book was published in 1947, long before Bali became the tourist hotspot it is today. The story focuses on composer Colin McPhee who came across some rare gramophone recordings of a type of Balinese metallic music known as gamelan. From that moment, McPhee dreamt of going to Indonesia so see where the music originated, and he eventually ended up spending most of the 30s in Bali. This is a collection of his writings from that time when Bali was untouched and isolated from Western culture.
The Rainbow Troops, by Andrea Hirata
When this book came out in Indonesia in 2005, it was an immediate sensation selling more than five million copies. It’s a near autobiographical account of author Andrea Hirata’s life. Ikal is a student at the poorest village school on the island of Belitong. The school is at risk of closing. But the students are hopeful, and thanks to some amazing teachers, Ikal’s education becomes an inspirational one. The characters throughout this book are really wonderful, and it offers a lot of insight into the customs of the largest Muslim society in the world.
Eat Pray Love, by Elizabeth Gilbert
The travel book that shot around the world. This book was a phenomenon and inspired millions of women to travel the world. I feel as if everyone has already read this book. While I don’t like the self-indulgence of the book (notice how all the country’s she visits start with the letter I), the book is well written and an really inspirational story. Sometimes that’s all you really need in a good travel book. I was very captivated by her writing and story.
Stranger in the Forest, by Eric Hansen
Back in 1982, Eric Hansen set out on a seven-month journey through Borneo’s rivers and jungles. Although Hansen had already spent a great deal researching the area in advance, the experiences he has while here are something that nobody could possibly predict. From encounters with the Penan nomadic hunters to being mistaken for an evil spirit in a village, Hansen’s expedition is something you have to read to believe.
Bali Travel Guide: Related Articles
Want more info? Check out all the articles I’ve written on Indonesia and Bali travel and continue planning your trip:
Photo credits: 2 – Aleksandr Zykov