Before our trip to Bali this past July, we wondered: Is it actually possible to visit Bali on a budget? I mean, 99% of the Bali photos you see on Instagram involve fabulously beautiful people rolling around in luxury villas, swimming with all 18 of their abs in infinity pools, and eating way-too-fancy breakfasts while wearing high-end watches (sidenote: this is also how I would describe Instagram in general. Yes, I’m salty).
So, we weren’t sure: is Bali a luxury playground, or are there budget-friendly deals to be found?
Well, good news: you can absolutely visit Bali on a budget! You’ll just be experiencing a different side of Bali from the resort-goers and luxury lovers. Leave your high-end watch at home – you won’t be needing it where you’re going.
We’ve partnered with Expedia to create this guide to saving money on a trip to Bali. Here are our favorite money saving tips for visiting Bali on a budget!
Table of Contents
Psst: Looking for more tips for your trip? Check out some of our other posts:
- 25 Things Nobody Tells You About Backpacking Bali, Indonesia
- 42 Backpacking & Travel Essentials for Hot Climates
- How to Plan a Trip: The Ultimate Practical Travel Planning Guide
How to Visit Bali on a Budget
Eat Like a Local
There are a ton of Westernized restaurants meant to cater to tourists, especially in places like Ubud and Canggu. Sure, it’s kinda fun to order a $15 avocado toast in Bali and pretend you’re a digital nomad or whatever.
But we weren’t huge fans of paying San Francisco prices for San Francisco food while on vacation in freakin’ Indonesia, so we steered clear of the pricey Western places and headed instead for local restaurants, called warungs, serving traditional Indonesian food. And MAN, is it delicious – and WAY cheaper! We’re talking like, a few bucks for a giant plate of nasi goreng and some fresh watermelon juice. Who needs avocado toast?! To save cash on food, stick to the warungs.
Another budget-friendly Bali food tip is to eat a the local markets. No, I’m not talking about those touristy souvenir shops – I mean Bali’s early morning and night markets! Here you’ll find tasty Indonesian food for cheap, plus get a taste of local life and a chance to shop for souvenirs created and sold by locally owned business owners and artisans.
Book Online in Advance
Bali is one of those places where it’s much cheaper to book everything online before you show up. We actually expected the opposite, but Bali has a great tourist infrastructure and is highly connected to the internet – local business owners are well versed in using the internet to drive and facilitate tourism.
From day trip drivers to accommodations to tours to cooking classes, you’ll save money by booking deals online when you find them rather than waiting until you arrive and trying to haggle. If you wait too long, you’ll just miss out on the best deals – which is why we only liked 1 out of the 3 accommodations where we stayed, and also why one of our blogger friends was able to score a $50 per night deal at the Four Seasons last month. Put your deal-searching talents to use a few months in advance of your trip to find a place to stay – there are some real gems to be found on sites like Expedia!!
Rent a Scooter in Town
Not every town is small enough to get everywhere on foot, and public transportation in Bali isn’t exactly a thing. You’ll be relying on drivers to get you where you need to go. The good news is that everyone in Bali is a driver, so you’ll have no trouble finding someone to take you wherever you need (I exaggerate, but only slightly). There will be plenty of people standing in front of most tourist attractions willing to drive you to wherever you need to go. The bad news is that it costs roughly the same amount to take a scooter across town as it does to rent a scooter for a day! So, save money by renting your own scooter to get you from point A to B in town.
That said, there are some things we need to Mom you about a little bit. Do NOT rent a scooter without a helmet. If someone tries to rent you one and doesn’t give you a helmet along with the keys, demand one – and walk away if it doesn’t materialize.
Also: don’t leave valuables in your scooter. There will be storage that’s the perfect size for your helmet, but leaving much else in there isn’t a great idea, cuz you know, it’s not in any way shape or form lockable or secure.
We also saw a LOT of scooter injuries (on tourists, and tourists only) during our trip. If you can’t justify wearing jeans or a leather jacket because it’s a zillion degrees and you’re way too cool, then please at least drive really, really carefully.
Follow the traffic laws you’d follow at home, and don’t zip through on the wrong side of the street just because you saw some other a**hole doing it. We also recommend buying travel insurance to cover you in case you do get in a crash (which, full disclosure, we did … because we were driving somewhere without streetlights at night, don’t do that either). We really like World Nomads: we’ve submitted a fun variety of claims with them and they’ve covered us ever time (and somehow still allow us to keep using their servies, bless).
OK, now that we’ve Mommed you a lil’ bit, here’s the good news: the actual act of driving a scooter isn’t all that difficult. At least, according to Jeremy, who had never done it before our trip to Bali (and only crashed once!). Hills are a little tricky, but you’ll be zipping around the flat, paved streets of Ubud in no time. Be sure to ask whoever you rent from to give you a little scooter tutorial before you take off. And if you’re not comfortable on a scooter, please stick to the roads in town and don’t try wandering off on an off-road adventure – that’s just tempting fate. Oh look, we’re Momming you again. We only nag because we care!
Beware Overpriced Taxis
Renting a scooter to jet around Ubud is one thing, but what if you have to get from one side of Bali to the other for your next destination? Or what about when you first arrive at the airport? Not all taxis in Bali are created equally, and some will cost you quite a bit more than they should.
The first rule of thumb is to look for the bright blue Bluebird Taxis. This is a reputable metered taxi company that is generally regarded as the most honest taxi service in Bali. They even have their own app, which you can download and use whenever you need to hail a taxi. You can hail them on the street like a regular taxi, but make sure you’re hailing a real Bluebird Taxi and not a rip-off: look closely at the sign on top to make sure it doesn’t say BLUEBIRO TAXI or some other misleading but similiar-enough title.
Another reliable way to call a car without worrying about overpaying is Uber. We don’t love Uber as a company and tend to stay away from using them at home, but abroad it’s hard to resist that reliable familiarity.
For more information, Trip Savvy has a guide to taking taxis in Bali.
Find a Group & Hire a Driver
While a scooter will get you from your accommodation to that awesome restaurant you read about online, it won’t get you to the temple 3 hours away that you’re dying to visit. You will need to hire a driver for day trips (because, again, public transportation: not really a thing in Bali).
It’s cheapest to go in on this expense with a group of friends or fellow travelers. It’s pretty easy to find drivers – they are literally everywhere advertising their services – but harder to know what price you should be paying or what you can see in a full day.
We recommend booking a pre-set service rather than finding anyone off the street offering a good price. We took a day trip with a great driver who recommended several other attractions near the 2 we knew we wanted to see, but we were sorely missing the benefit of a guide – our driver didn’t give us much context for what we were visiting. Which is, after all, not his job: he’s just a driver. We would have preferred an actual tour guide who could have provided some historical and cultural context.
So if you’re able to book an actual tour rather than a driver, we think it’s worth it to pay extra. But if money saving is your priority, go in on a driver with your new BFF’s from the coffee shop, hostel, or whoever you met online (we met our day trip friends on Instagram.. yes, really) and have fun!
Pay with Cash
Bali isn’t the place to whip out your fancy points-earning credit card: many places aren’t able to accept credit cards at all, and the ones that do will charge you a hefty fee for the convenience. Instead, you’ll be relying on cash to pay for your expenses in Bali. Our first stop whenever we land in a new place is always an ATM at the airport: it’s the easiest and often cheapest way to get out the cash you’ll need!
There is one major caveat, though: to use an ATM inexpensively abroad, you’ll need to make sure you’re using the right kind of debit card. We recommend taking some time before your trip to research whether your debit card/bank charges foreign transaction fees, aka a fee you’ll pay every time you use your card abroad. That adds up FAST, and it can cost you hundreds of dollars.
Instead, you’ll want a debit card that waives foreign transaction fees, like the debit card that comes with a Charles Schwab high yield checking account. We also have a couple of travel-friendly credit cards that waive foreign transaction fees, including the Chase Sapphire, Capital One Venture, and the Barclaycard Arrival.
If your debit card charges foreign transaction fees and you can’t get a new one before your trip, what you’ll want to do is bring a bunch of cash with you to Bali and change it at the airport. Then, immediately stash your cash in multiple places – money belt, bra pocket, buried deep in your pack, your sock, etc – so you’re not just carrying all your money around in one spot. Splitting your cash up is one of the travel safety tips we always follow – read more in our travel safety guide!
Bring a Water Bottle
Sure, this seems like a weird tip to include. After all, bottled water isn’t expensive in Bali: you can buy a bottle for around 3500 IDR, or about 25 cents USD. However, buying bottled water means you’re wasting a TON of plastic, and Bali isn’t exactly up on its recycling game. In fact, you’ll often see (and smell) giant piles of plastic trash burning on the side of the road. It’s one of those things that nobody tells you about Bali (oh hey, we’ve got a post with 24 more of them).
So, please don’t contribute to the plastic choking Bali’s beautiful coral reefs and littering its beaches, and bring a re-usable water bottle!
In addition to our water bottle, we also brought along a Steri-Pen, a travel-friendly tool that uses LED lights to purify tap water. But we actually had no trouble finding potable water: it was available in just about every restaurant, coffee shop, and hotel we visited. We were able to fill up our water bottle throughout our trip and rarely needed to resort to purifying our tap water.
Just to be on the safe side – especially if you’re particularly susceptible to stomach sickness abroad – we’d recommend bringing a LifeStraw water bottle, which is basically just a regular water bottle with a powerful water filter attached to the mouthpiece.
Visit Off-the-Beaten-Path Destinations
Guess what? Bali is an ENORMOUS island. There are a ton of places you can go to escape the crowds, shopping, and luxury resorts. Just because everyone on Instagram is going to Kuta and Seminyak doesn’t mean you have to, too. As a bonus, visiting destinations in Bali that most visitors don’t means that you’ll also be experiencing a more unique side of Bali – and supporting more locally owned businesses, too!
Here are a few of the destinations we recommend looking into. They aren’t exactly undiscovered – Bali has been a tourist destination for decades, after all – but they’re all destinations where you can find plenty of budget-friendly accommodations and fewer tourists. And because there are fewer tourists, prices are lower overall. We’re talking a difference of a $15 plate of curry in Ubud to a $3 plate of curry in Amed – that adds up real quick!
Amed is a sleepy coastal strip of fishing villages at the foot of Mount Agung, Bali’s tallest volcano. It’s located on the Eastern coast of Bali, several hours away from the bustling hubs of Ubud or Kuta.
Amed is rustic, quiet, and small, with black sand beaches and little in the way of nightlife. But what Amed does offer is some of the best diving in all of Bali!
Amed is home to a few diving attractions, including a Japanese Shipwreck, and underwater post office where you can actually buy waterproof postcards and mail them from underwater (how rad is that?!), and marine life including pygmy seahorses, frogfish, and an eel garden.
It’s also located close to some of eastern Bali’s best attractions, like Lempuyang Luhur Temple, home to the famous “Gates to Heaven,” and Tirta Gangga Water Temple.
If you prefer to spend more time in the mountains than on the beach and Ubud is a little out of your price range, head to Munduk for fresh air, beautiful views, and really good organic coffee. Located in the northern highlands of Bali, Munduk is a gorgeous region that’s less frequented by travelers.
Surrounded by mountains and filled with waterfalls, orchid fields, breathtaking viewpoints, and vibrant markets, this enchanting area is definitely worth considering working into your Bali itinerary. There are 5 famous waterfalls to visit in Munduk – so you can get that jaw-dropping “lookin’ fly in a bikini in front of a waterfall in Bali, nbd” pic for the ‘gram.
Oh, and speaking of ‘gram pics (cuz it’s 2018 and let’s just all be honest with ourselves), one of the most iconic and picturesque landmarks in the Munduk area is the Golf Gate, located at the entrance of the Handara Golf Course. Oh, did you think that photo you see all over the place was taken a temple? Nope, it’s a golf course, which means you don’t have to worry about interrupting religious ceremonies or donning the correct Balinese religious attire.
Munduk is also located conveniently close to Ulun Danu Beratan Temple, a 400-year old Bali water temple that’s literally in a lake, surrounded by mountains.
As one of the oldest resort areas in Bali, Sanur boasts golden beaches, laid-back walking paths, and a night market unlike any other. Located southeast from Denpasar, this little beach paradise is the perfect place to spend a night or two here to hang out at the beach or visit the Pasar Sindu Night Market. With its white sand beaches and shaded boardwalk, Sanur is a perfect budget-friendly beach town.
Sanur is a gateway to Nusa Lembongan and Nusa Penida, and you can take a day trip to the islands using a fast boat to travel. However, we really recommend spending several days exploring them!
Nusa Lembongan & the Nusa Islands
The Nusa Islands are technically their own chain of islands located a 45-minute ferry ride off the coast of Bali, not actually a destination on Bali itself. But semantics aside, they’re an amazing place to visit for a few days in paradise!
There are 3 islands to explore: Nusa Lembongan, Nusa Cenigan, and Nusa Penida. You can visit them on a day trip from Sanur, but it’s cheaper to explore them from on the islands themselves – plus, there’s plenty to do! We spent 5 full days staying on Nusa Lembongan.
Nusa Lembongan is the most populated of the 3 islands. Here you’ll find plenty of accommodations, restaurants, coffee shops, dive shops, tour operators, artisan shops and markets, and paved roads to explore on scooter. While the island is from a bustling city, it’s much more populated than its neighbors, Nusa Cenigan and Nusa Penida, which feel truly remote. If you want to have WiFi and a coffee shop to work at, base yourself in Nusa Lembongan. If you want to see more trees and beaches than people, base yourself on Nusa Cenigan or Nusa Penida instead.
Across a bright yellow suspension bridge on one end of Nusa Lembongan you’ll find Nusa Cenigan, a much quieter, smaller island. We recommend renting a scooter and spending at least a day exploring the island. There’s multiple spots to go cliff-jumping on Nusa Cenigan, including Blue Lagoon and Mahana Point. At Mahana Point, you’ll find a restaurant where you can sit and watch the surfers (this is also a fantastic surf spot) as well as
crazy people taking a turn on the high dive straight into the churning waters below.
Nusa Penida is by far the largest and most beautiful of the 3 Nusa islands, but also by far the least accessible. It’s possible to get to the island via ferry – you’ll pick up the ferry at the yellow bridge where you cross to get to Nusa Cenigan – and then immediately rent a scooter once you arrive on Nusa Penida and then explore the island via scooter, but we don’t recommend going this route if you’re not confident in your scootering skills – the road is quite treacherous.
Even though it costs extra, we would recommend booking a guided tour to take you around the island. You can find tours near the yellow bridge that cost around 500,000 IDR (about $35) and will take you to some combination of Nusa Penida’s best attractions, including Kelingking Beach, the famous T-Rex shaped peninsula surrounded by bright blue water that you always see on Instagram; Angel’s Billabong, where you can go for a swim during low tide; and Crystal Bay, a secluded bay with brilliant blue water that’s perfect for swimming and snorkelling.
How much does a trip to Bali cost?
Now that we’ve covered how to visit Bali on a budget, the big question is – how does it actually cost to visit Bali? Before we start throwing out numbers, we want to stress that the most expensive part of your trip to Bali will be the flight. If you’re flying from the USA, you’ll need to be on the hunt for cheap flights ASAP and book your plane tickets several months in advance.
The good news is that once you arrive, your trip to Bali will be pleasantly affordable. Here are some of the expenses you’ll likely encounter on your trip, taken directly from our travels (yep, we write down every single cash expense abroad, cuz
we’re penny-pinching nerds taxes):
- Dinner for 2 at a Warung in Ubud: 145,000 IDR ($10 USD)
- Dinner & Dessert for 2 at a Warung in Amed: 114,000 IDR ($8 USD)
- 4-Hour Massage for 2 in Ubud: 450,000 IDR ($31 USD)
- Taxi Across Town in Ubud: 60,000 IDR ($4 USD)
- Traditional Dance Performance in Ubud: 100,000 IDR per ticket ($7 USD)
- 1-Day Scooter Rental: 80,000 IDR ($5.50 USD)
- Cappuccino: 30,000 IDR each ($2 USD)
- Temple Entrance: 50,000 IDR each ($3.50 USD)
- Watermelon Juice: 33,000 IDR ($2.30 USD)
- Mid-Range Hotel: 500,000 IDR per night ($35)
All in all, we recommend budgeting about $45-60 USD per day on average for a couple. To stick to the low end of that range, you’ll want to follow the budget-friendly tips in this post and score a great deal on your accommodation. But even at $60 per day, a Bali vacation is only $840 for a 14-day trip (minus flights – again, that’s by far the most expensive bit).
Are you dying to visit Bali on a budget? Drop us a comment below!
Psst: Looking for more tips for your trip? Check out some of our other posts:
- 25 Things Nobody Tells You About Backpacking Bali, Indonesia
- 42 Backpacking & Travel Essentials for Hot Climates
- 12 Long Haul Flight Essentials & Travel Tips for Economy Fliers
Disclosure: This post was created in partnership with Expedia, but our trip to Bali was not sponsored or hosted in any way.
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