With its emerald green rice terraces, crashing surf, jungle resorts, and rich, captivating culture, the small, volcanic island of Bali is known throughout the world for its exotic beauty and intoxicating charm. But even though this Indonesian island isn’t short of luxury hotels or sumptuous resorts, it’s actually a pretty budget-friendly destination on the whole – which is one of the reasons why it’s so beloved by backpackers.
So, if you’d like to go to Bali but don’t want to break the bank, here’s how to visit on a budget.
1. Travel at the right time
Bali is a tropical island, so the weather is warm all year round. Wet season runs from November to April and dry season from May to October – though there often isn’t much of a difference between the seasons! June to October is peak season, so it’s best to avoid travelling then, as prices are much higher. The Christmas and New Year period is also best avoided.
The good news is that even if you visit Bali during the rainy season, there’s usually plenty of sunshine. While the weather is unpredictable, often there are only brief spells of rain – and sometimes there are days without even a drop. There are plenty of perks to travelling in the rainy season, too: cheap flights, fewer crowds, cheaper accommodation, less traffic…
There’s also plenty to do when the weather isn’t great, whether that’s visiting one of Bali’s splendid temples, relaxing in a spa, or admiring one of its gushing waterfalls – which are far more impressive after a spell of rain!
Whenever you decide to visit Bali, it’s usually always best to book your flights and accommodation in advance.
2. Pick the right accommodation
Bali might be known for stunning resorts and infinity pools, but it’s just as known for its budget accommodation, like hostels, airbnbs and homestays.
If you’re happy to stay at a hostel, the regions around Kuta, Legian, and Denpasar have the most choice – and while there are plenty of party hostels popular with younger people, there are many others that offer a quieter experience for travellers looking for some peace. Larger hostels usually offer private rooms, too. Just make sure you check reviews first!
If you’d like to immerse yourself in authentic Balinese life, you might want to consider a homestay. Penginapans (also called inns) often tend to be spare bedrooms in family homes, and while they’re simple, they’re very cheap, and allow you the chance to get to know a Balinese family – and perhaps enjoy their home cooking too.
If you’re happy to spend a bit more, you can find plenty of boutique hotels, rooms, and guest houses that offer comfort (and air con!) at decent rates. And if you’re happy to pay mid-range prices, you’ll be very pleasantly surprised at the level of luxury you can find.
Because Bali is generally an inexpensive destination, it’s often worth paying a little bit extra for a higher level of comfort. You can get a room in a lovely hotel, guesthouse, or homestay – with air con and a pool – for around £20 per night. So unless your budget is extremely tight, it’s not worth staying in a more undesirable area or a party-central hostel, for the sake of a few pounds.
3. Eat like a local
Local Balinese food is fresh, delicious, and very cheap. Authentic dishes like nasi goreng (Indonesian fried rice), gado-gado (vegetable and peanut salad), mie goreng (stir-fried noodles), satays, and noodle soups are everywhere – and thanks to the prevalence of both tempeh and tofu, Bali is also paradise for veggies and vegans (Ubud in particular).
If you’re looking for a cheap and delicious meal, head to a warung – which is a local restaurant, often found on the roadside – that serves up fresh and tasty dishes from all over Indonesia. You can often fill up for as little as £1! Food markets and night markets are also great spots to enjoy cheap food, as well as to soak up the local atmosphere.
But even western-own restaurants and cafés can be pretty cheap, especially brunch cafés, vegan delis, and raw food joints. However, if you’re looking for actual western fare, things get much pricier.
While there are plenty of westernised food spots that are designed to cater to tourists, it’s best to avoid them if you’re on a budget – or even if you’re not! With so much delicious local food around, it doesn’t make sense to be splurging on Italian food or avocado toast when you’re in Bali!
The same applies to alcohol. Food may be cheap in Bali, but alcohol isn’t, and if you’re someone who enjoys wine on holiday, it might be best to mix things up if you’re on a budget. The local Balinese beer, Bimtang, is great – and it’s also cheap. So, if you really want to save money, you can just pick up a couple of bottles from a shop and enjoy some beers on the beach while watching the sunset.
4. Choose the right transport
The most expensive way of getting around Bali is by taxi – and there are plenty of taxi scams at the airport too. If you must get a taxi – for example, if you’ve just landed at the airport, or need to get from one side of the island to the other – it’s best to order a Bluebird Taxi. These bright blue cars are the most reputable taxi service on the island. And while you can hail them on the streets, it’s better to download the Bluebird app; some blue taxis on the street are only masquerading as Bluebird taxis!
The cheapest and easiest way to get around is by scooter, and this is the preferred way of travel for both locals and tourists. You can often hire a scooter for just a few pounds a day! While it can be daunting to ride around busy cities on a scooter, once you’re out of the chaotic areas things are much easier, and you’ll soon get the hang of it.
Plus, in Bali they drive on the left side of the road, which makes things much easier for Brits! Just remember to always wear a helmet, to drive carefully, and if you can, wear jeans while driving rather than shorts.
If you like the idea of riding around the island on a scooter but don’t fancy driving one yourself, you can always download the GO-JEK app; this is basically an Uber-style service but on scooters!
The other main way of getting around is by public bus. The bus system here is called the Trans Sarbagita, and fares are very cheap. These bright blue buses usually operate from 5am to 9pm, but because the traffic in Bali can be so unpredictable, the buses are too! Bear in mind that these buses are also more locally-used, so the routes don’t stop at many of the most popular tourist hotspots.
5. Sightsee cheaply
One of the brilliant things about Bali is that many of its most impressive attractions are absolutely free. From royal palaces and temples to thundering waterfalls and gorgeous beaches, there are so many sights that don’t require spending a penny. Some, but not all, temples ask for a donation at the gate, though this isn’t obligatory.
One of the best things to do for free – especially if you’ve rented a scooter – is to visit one of Bali’s many waterfalls. They’re all within easy reach if you have wheels, and while some do have entry fees, we’re talking less than £1. If you can, visit the lesser known waterfalls that are located more centrally. The crowds will be much smaller and the falls will look far more impressive.
Then there are the beaches. While some popular beaches have trendy beach bars, where drinks and snacks cost a pretty penny, you can always lay a towel down a little way away – close enough to enjoy the music, but far away enough that you can enjoy your own food and drink! Or, pack a picnic and head to one of the quieter beaches.
From surfing to scuba-diving, Bali is also known for its water activities, and if you’d like to get involved you can usually do this cheaply, too. Just be sure to do your research first, and get some prices from different operators on the beach.
Bali is famous for its excellent spas, and if you fancy treating yourself to a pamper day, it’s worth bearing in mind that even the more luxurious spas are usually far cheaper than the UK equivalent. However, if you want to spend as little as possible, you can enjoy an excellent massage on the beach; the beach masseuses are usually very skilled, and an hour-long massage can be very cheap.
Learning to haggle is an incredibly helpful way to save money in Bali. There’s often one price for locals and one for tourists, and even prices that seem fixed, like accommodation and tours, can usually be negotiated.
If you’re looking for souvenirs, the local markets are a treasure trove of goods, from arts and crafts to sandals and accessories. If you haggle, you’ll probably find you can get the price down to half the initial price that was first offered.
If you don’t like haggling, it’s always better to book in advance, whether it’s taxis, hotels, or tours. Have a look online for good deals before you leave, as this will save you having to try to haggle when you arrive – or end up paying far more than you should.
7. Head off-the-beaten track
Another one of the best ways to save money in Bali while also experiencing a real adventure is to head off the beaten track. While towns like Seminyak, Ubud, and Kuta are popular, that doesn’t mean you have to go there – and by heading into lesser known areas, you won’t only get to see a whole other side of the island, you’ll also be supporting small, locally-owned businesses.
Bali has been popular with tourists for years, so while there aren’t really any real ‘secret’ places to head to, there are plenty of destinations that are much, much quieter – and because they’re quieter, they’re much cheaper. Almost all of these are away from the touristy south.
Some of the less popular destinations that are still lovely to visit include:
- Amed: Located on Bali’s east coast, by the foot of Mount Agung (the island’s largest volcano), this is a tranquil and rustic strip of coastal villages. The black sand beaches aren’t as pretty as those in the south, and there’s not much nightlife to speak of. But this region boasts excellent diving opportunities, where you can dive into shipwrecks and swim alongside seahorses.
- Munduk: If you’re more drawn to mountains than beaches, head to Munduk, in the Balinese highlands. Far cheaper than Ubud, Muduk is home to waterfalls, ancient temples, gorgeous mountain views, bustling markets, and delicious coffee, which is grown in the region.
- Lovina: In North Bali you’ll find the laid back coastal town of Lovina, which is free of throngs of tourists and noisy street traffic. It’s a great place to relax, kick back on the beach, and enjoy a swim. It’s also the only place on the island where you can spot dolphins, so keep an eye out! You can take a sunrise tour if you want an excellent chance of seeing dolphins.
- Sukasada: Another great spot for nature lovers is Saksasada, a small district in the highlands of Bali. This is an excellent base for exploring the gorgeous twin crater lakes of Buyan and Tamblingan, which are part of the extinct Bedugul volcano caldera. Aside from exploring the lakes and local fishing villages, there are also coffee plantations, rice paddies, and gorgeous waterfalls within easy reach.
Despite its many luxury resorts and high-end spas, Bali is already a pretty budget-friendly travel destination – and by doing a bit of research, you can save yourself enormous amounts of money.
The biggest cost is usually the flights, but by travelling out of peak season, you can save hundreds of pounds and cut significant costs with your accommodation too. Because so many of its most beautiful sights and attractions are free and the local food is cheap and delicious, it’s easy to save the pennies once you’re out there too.
This is a country that it’s impossibly easy to fall in love with – so the good news is that once you know how to visit Bali on a budget, you can come back time and again, should you wish to!