If you’re as broke as I am but you love travel, you might want to set your belongings down and read this.
My ticket ended up being a present from my fiance but that doesn’t mean I didn’t save prior to that. In fact, I was saving for a whole year before he gifted the ticket and saved enough for the ticket in a year!
After almost a year and a half later, it was only then that I scraped together enough dough for not only a trip to Bali, but spending cash as well.Originally, I created a “Bali savings box “and planned to take off sometime in 2018 but with a ticket already in plan, I was taking off sooner than expected, May 2017.
One more thing I want to note is that if you use Skyscanner to look for tickets make sure you do so in an incognito tab. If you know anything about computers, they collect what are known as “cookies”, essentially your computer is collecting data about your computer use in order to sell information to advertisers. It’s a known traveling tip that if you don’t use an incognito tab, it can raise the price of your plane ticket because the website essentially knows you are going somewhere and looking for the best price. Save your wallet a few bones and use an incognito tab.
You can also look at the cheapest time of the year to fly to your given destination on SkyScanner. In the case of Bali, May is the cheapest month of the year to fly. We paid $600/ticket plus $220 in taxes. Tickets typically run between $1,000-$2500 before taxes so you may want to use this option depending on your budget.
Before I make my list, I want to point out that you don’t have to spend a lot of money while you’re in Bali if you don’t want to. You’ll still feel pampered in a “low end” place (if you can even call it that) and feel like you’re living it up in paradise for about $20/night and $4-6 a meal. If you’re “fancy” on the other hand, it’s still drastically cheaper to stay in a 5 star resort compared a first world country.
1. Have a money savings plan
I won’t lie I’m no money saving expert or financial planner but I figured out a way to slowly start saving for my trip that worked for me. I’m a yoga instructor so I live on a tight budget with little left over to save. Regardless, I encourage you to take whatever is in your means and put that towards your trip. I could only put aside $25/week but I didn’t let that beat my determination to go to Bali. My family thought I was crazy at some points, but I didn’t let their eye rolling hold me back from the goal.
Although $100/month isn’t much, it was the best I could do to save for my plane ticket. Anytime I made side cash babysitting or pet sitting I immediately set that aside as well. Look for odd jobs on Craigslist or in the newspaper so you can make a little extra money as well! Another suggestion I have, is getting the LETGO app on your phone and selling things you no longer need or want. LetGo is easy to use, you take a photo on your phone of say an old dresser, you add a description and it goes up for sale on their app.
Additionally, I started to prioritize how I spent my money. I met my basic needs of paying bills, buying groceries and paying for gas while cutting out any unnecessary spending. This my friends took discipline but the long term goal of Bali kept me focused on where I wanted my money to go.
2. AirBnB then explore your options
AirBnB is already a cheap option for nice places to stay in Bali but once you get here you realize there are places just as nice for half the price. $37/night for a 4 star villa is a killer deal but $20/night is even better.
After stopping for gas at a small villa in Uluwatu, it came as a surprise to us that this women only charged $20/night at her place. It wasn’t lacking quality and the location was closer to Uluwatu Beach and Temple than our own! Bali is so saturated with places to stay that many places don’t get much traffic even if they’re just as good.
My advice,is to stay in an AirBnB for a few nights and then scope out what you can find around you. If you don’t mind staying in a hostel, I saw a few for around $7/ night in Kuta and Ubud as well.
NOTE: IF YOU HAVEN’T SIGNED UP FOR AIRBNB YET AND WOULD LIKE $40 IN FREE TRAVEL CREDIT, CLICK THIS LINK. YOU’RE WELCOME 😉
Uluwatu /Padang Padang Beach (Southern Bali)
If you’re staying in the Uluwatu or Padang Padang Beach area, I highly recommend the villa I stayed in. CLICK THIS LINK if you’d like to check it out. The room is simple and includes a double bed, A/C, TV, private bathroom and lockable dressers. The outdoor area is a peaceful sanctuary for those looking to do yoga, chill by the two infinity pools, grab a drink at the cafe or take an outdoor shower. Plus CJ the villa manager is super accommodating and will hook you up with scooters, massages and tours at a discounted rate. The staff is friendly, the food is superb and the atmosphere will put you at ease.
TAKE NOTE: you are in a poor country where crime and theft are high! Make sure to lock up all of your valuables! The security guard at the villa got sick one night and went home for a few hours, when he got back, a masked man dressed in black was sitting on our villa porch!!!!! We heard commotion outside around 4 am but had no idea it was right there. Luckily no one was harmed, but the guy in the villa next to us forgot to lock his door and had a laptop stolen.
I don’t say any of that to scare you away from Bali or the Pdang Villas, I would stay there again in a heartbeat. I say this as a word of caution. Locals know you’re staying here to vacation and that typically means you A) have valuables with you and B) you have your guard down. Bali is wonderful but still part of the third world, so it is extremely high in crime and poverty.
Ubud is the so-called “central hub” of Bali. It’s central location makes it a prime spot for anyone looking to make a day trip to different areas of the island. It’s known for its shopping, art district, sacred monkey forest and nearby rice fields. It’s also has a reputation for the best yoga classes in Indonesia which is what attracted me to this city in the first place.
Staying in this city is cheap especially if you don’t mind being on the main road. We opted instead for a place behind three other villas keeping us away from the city noise. It was the perfect combination of being in the heart of the city minus the hustle and bustle. For $34/night you get free breakfast, a shared porch over looking a botanical garden, a private chill spot/yoga spot within the garden and the unbeatable hospitality of Ketut, the on-site villa manager. If you’re interested, CLICK THIS LINK.
I also want to note that if you have asthma, Ubud may not be an ideal choice. The city is crowded, DIRTY and at times its hard to breathe. If I had to do it all over again, I would have skipped this city altogether and stayed in Uluwatu for an extra week. The city has open sewage, broken sidewalks and it reeks like crazy! This is an authentic taste of what a third world city is like.
If you’re budget is lower than this, there are villas, rooms and hostels for as little as $7-$15 a night. They may not include breakfast, a sanctuary within a busy city or anything special but depending on your travel needs they will do the trick.
Kuta is close to the airport so it was our last stop on the trip. Jeff and I also had tattoo appointments in Kuta on the 19th so we wanted to make sure we weren’t too far from this city. If I had to compare Kuta to any city , I’d say it’s a less crowded version of New York City with a beach. If you’re looking to day drink on the beach, learn to surf, shop and party your ass off in the same day I’d recommend this crazy city!
We stayed in the heart of the city at J4 hotel on Legian. If you book through AirBnB or download their app you’ll get a discount on your stay versus booking through their website. CLICK THIS LINK to check out this awesome hotel!
As a bonus if you book through their app you’ll get two free beers and discount on food throughout your stay. We paid $32/night and we were extremely satisfied with this decision. Your stay includes A/C, TV with movie channels, rooftop pool and restaurant, and a SUPER central location. You’re in the middle of Kuta’s nightlife, best restaurants and the beach is a 15 minute walk from the hotel. There is a breakfast buffet every morning on the roof for 80,000rph or roughly $6.
If you’re looking for peace and quiet this is NOT ideal for you. This is a party animals paradise and the bass will be going until 4am each night. Overall good value, great staff and fun atmosphere for the final nights in Bali.
Heads up: When in Kuta, it seems that every restaurant charges a 10% tax and 10% service fee. So always make sure to calculate an extra 20% on top of your bill. The prices are still rock bottom, but your tip is already included in the bill.
3.Buy food & beer away from the beach
This one’s pretty strait forward and applicable to just about any beach town I’ve been to. Restaurants or as they call them in Indonesia, “warongs” are more expensive on the beach versus more inland. Grab a few drinks and some dinner at a warong close to your home-stay then walk or scooter over to the beach bars to party.
If you’re having a single splurge night and like to party I recommend, Single Fin, on Uluwatu Beach. CLICK THIS LINK to check them out. They feature local beer and the best cocktail I’ve ever had in my life called, Shandy Shakti. Being a yogi, the name instantly intrigued me but the mix of lime, tamarind paste, honey and wait for it….BEER really blew me out of the water. Take it from the girl who doesn’t like beer on this one and give it a try. The downside to this place is how expensive it is compared to every other place in Bali. This place also fills up quickly so I recommend getting there early if you’d like a table. I say it’s worth visiting once and you should go on Sunday or Wednesday night for live music.
Now back to being broke, if you want to party your booty off, drink cheap beer/food and listen to live reggae music then head to Summer Warong in Padang Padang. CLICK THIS CLICK THIS LINK to check out their FaceBook page.
Live music is here every Tuesday night featuring local reggae band, Uluroots. Get a taste of their music HERE. I have to say of all nights I partied in Indo, this was by far my favorite. If you want to experience the AUTHENTIC Balinese music and party scene this is it. Unlike Single Fin, you’ll be partying with the locals and tourists alike. This is where young Balinese people go to party on a Tuesday night. My only regret is forgetting my camera and not capturing this kick ass night. This giant warong is located between Uluwatu and Padang Padang Beach. Live music starts at 8:30pm but the party really picks up around 10pm and goes until 11:30pm when the DJ takes over. Admission is 30,000 rph (about $2.50) and includes a free Bintang, the “Budweiser of Indonesian beer”.
4. Rent a scooter or take a bus
Ditch the rental car and/or driver and get a scooter to zip around on. It’s half the price and way more fun than driving a car.
Sure it’s nice to have someone who knows the lay of the land driving you around or cool A/C on your face after the beach but we are afterall Bali’in on a budget here! 😉 The scooter rental came out to about $6/day with insurance and a whopping $40 for an entire week. You go anywhere else to vacation and you’re paying $40+/day plus insurance for a rental car.
Another reason you might want to consider the scooter, is how narrow and windy the streets are. There were some areas I wasn’t even sure how a car could fit on the road! The downside of a scooter of course is safety. Make sure you pay attention and always wear a helmet.
A quick story for future Bali goers, I’ll admit it, Jeff and I did not wear helmets the entire time we rented scooters. (Sorry mom!) One day, we decided to take a long stroll and really explore the island. As we approached a busier part of Southern Bali, we came to a police check point. They immediately waved us down when they saw us.
Apparently wearing a helmet is a HUGE offense in a country where most locals don’t even bother to wear helmets. The cops asked for 1 million rph (~ $50) between the two of us for not wearing helmets. No write-up. No ticket. They strait up pocketed our money.
Do your wallet a favor and wear a helmet, our villa manager said that this happens everyday as cops target tourists. In fact, he said if it hadn’t been the helmets they would have found any excuse in the book to “give us a ticket.”$50 doesn’t seem like much but it goes a LONG way when you’re in Bali.
Lastly, skip the scooter or car in major cities like Ubud, Seminyak or Kuta. You’re in a central area where everything is within walking distance. You’re constantly bombarded by people on the streets asking to give you a ride but to be honest not only are things close, but the city is so congested that it takes less time to walk than it does to drive.
5.Go to the beach before sunrise
OK I know what you’re thinking, why in God’s name am I getting up before sunrise when I’m on vacation!? It’s worth it, I promise! It seems that every beach in Indonesia requires a fee to park, a fee to get on the beach and some even charge a fee right before you enter an area on the beach with homemade toll booths! Now these aren’t big fees by any means, around 5000rph or .40/cents per transaction but this can start to add up if you’re staying for an extended amount of time (especially if you’re a beach hopper like myself!)
Bali “opens” at 8am so if you can get to the beach before then you’re golden. No one will be there to collect parking or beach access fees. As an added bonus, you can watch the sunrise in one of the world’s most gorgeous destinations, you can get in an early morning surf session and you’ll beat the crowd! It’s a win win if you ask me.
6. If the warong or homestay looks fancy or “westernized” avoid it.
Again, pretty obvious point but I do caution you to be careful where you eat regardless.
Many warongs are owned by Aussies and it’s not hard to decide between what’s owned by locals and what’s not. Nicer warongs are going to cost you more but you still won’t be breaking the bank.
A typical meal at a local warong with a fresh juice or beer averages $4-7. While a nicer one might cost you $8-$20 and makes for a killer meal, we’re taking surf and turf or filet Mignon for $15/plate plus a glass of wine for $4. You’ll be ok if you decide to “splurge” a couple nights and to be honest you’re paying what you would in the states for an average dinner but getting the fine dining experience.
SIDE NOTE: Half way into my trip I started to experience the worst stomach pains and diarrhea I’ve ever had in my life. Sorry if that’s TMI, but I’m just trying to save your ass (literally!) I have a few tips here to avoid travelers belly or so called, “Bali Belly.” Jefferson and I spent three days sick in bed because we caught this icky stomach bug.
- DONT EAT STREET FOOD – This is what got us sick in the first place. The food was buffet style, under hot lamps and delicious. Unfortunately, the food was also cold (HUGE RED FLAG) and made my stomach hate life. My grandma is from the nearby Philippine island and told me that often vendors cook food early in the morning say around 4am and serve that same food until close. Food begins to grow bacteria that leads to food bourne illness after FOUR hours. No bueno.
- CHECK BATHROOMS BEFORE YOU ORDER- big rule of thumb in the hospitality industry and a piece of advice from a family friend who manages hotels in Orlando. According to this friend, you should always check out a bathroom before eating at a restaurant. If the bathroom is dirty, the kitchen is most likely just as gross. Also no bueno.
- ALWAYS EAT WELL COOKED FOOD- no raw food and no under-cooked meat when you’re in Bali. There is no OSHA in Bali that makes restaurants accountable for safety or sanitation, you are at your own will. No one is required to wash their hands before predating your food, or to clean/sanitize your food. Avoid ordering salads, buying fruit from street vendors, drinking tap water or eating meat that is cold or under cooked.
- EAT VEGETARIAN IF YOU CAN-my grandma also pointed out that many times meat/fish/poultry is delivered in the morning and never reaches the light of a refrigerator. If you can, skip the meat and protect your gut. If anything, DO NOT EAT CHICKEN in Bali and yes that means you Aunt Mary. 😉 Bali is FAMOUS for food bourne illness related to poultry, just ask Jefferson how that worked out for him!
7. Ditch the Tour Guide and Explore on Your Own
I won’t discredit the knowledge or adventure that comes with a guided tour but if you’re looking to save a buck or two skip the tour and do your own thing.
I came to Indonesia with a very loose itinerary. I wanted to go to Mt.Batur, meet monkeys, try out yoga classes and ride an elephant. I wanted everything else to pan out on its own and it saved ALOT of money. Instead of hiring a guide or going on a tour, get friendly with some locals and learn about Indonesia and what’s worth checking out.
A tour guide can give you an inside scoop but nowadays with Google you can figure out the history of places on your own. Plus it’s more fun to do things on your time versus a strict schedule when you’re on exploring a new country.
Plus Jeff and I found some pretty cool hidden beaches and trails by exploring on our own. You can’t beat that!
I will say that you SHOULD get a tour guide if you plan on climbing Mt.Batur for the sunrise trek. The path is windy, confusing and if done without daylight extremely dangerous. If not for a guide, it would have been so easy to take a wrong step and fall of this mountain. If you do decide to go on your own, go with enough daylight to get you there and back without rushing. The trek is worth each and every step and you can still do it on your own if you feel up to it.
I will also suggest investing in a pair of trekking shoes. The pair I bought are versatile because they are non-slip for mountain treks but also water shoes so they dry quickly and breathe easily, check them out by CLICKING THIS LINK. Usually these shoes go for $85+ at Columbia Sportswear but they’re currently on sale for $63 how about that for saving money. 😉
8. BARTER, BARTER, BARTER.
We met a couple of Australian dudes on this trip that gave us a good rule of thumb for bartering. Whatever price the merchant says for an item, cut that amount in half and negotiate from there. Bartering isn’t disrespectful or cheap, it’s actually expected of you in Bali so you better know how to negotiate! There were even times when shop owners ask you to name the price you are willing to pay. You can’t make this happen at restaurants or for transportation mind you, but if you love to shop and you’re broke this is how you do it.
I’ll give you a bit of advice from personal experience. DO NOT TRY TO BARTER UNLESS YOU ARE 100% CERTAIN YOU WANT TO BUY SOMETHING. I tried to barter with a women the price of essential oils but after really looking at them I didn’t trust the quality. She was so angry with me for wasting her time and said that I would bring her bad luck and no customers. She pointed out that your much better just waking by then talking to someone about buying something or it’s bad for business. Remember that Balinese people are very close to their beliefs and VERY superstitious. This is taken as a form of disrespect so be cautious who you bargain with.
Another thing I’d like to point out is that the Balinese are known for their art work, basket weaving , sewing and carving. All of these crafts are part of their culture and it is all handmade. When bartering for these items, keep in mind the amount of time and effort goes into them. If you could see how intricate some of these pieces of art are, you’ll understand why you shouldn’t be too skimpy when it comes to bartering here.
Lastly, if you visit the Ubud Art District, you’ll notice that most shops feature the same clothes, jewelry, kites, knives, and other little souvenirs. Ask around for the price of something you like to get the best bargain. For example, I wanted a certain t-shirt they sold at every shop and got a different price every place I asked! Something I noticed was that the shops on the outskirts of the market give you better prices than on the inside. They get more business and therefore are more willing to bargain. Another tip is to buy multiples of items for a discount. You’ll get a single shirt for $8 or pay $6 for multiple. To be honest, I got my best prices at shops that didn’t do bartering. These are few and far in between but I managed to find two small shops in Kuta that had insanely low prices on clothes and other souvenirs.
I’m happy to say that I brought back some awesome pieces to sell on my blog if you’re interested in buying them! I’ll have them posted soon but because I got such a good deal, I’ll give you an awesome deal as well. 🙂 It’s also a win-win for the Balinese economy because I purchased from local family owned stores and will be working with a few selected store owners to bring clothes to you at a really good deal. More money savings courtesy of yours truly. 😉 Keep your eyes open for this one!
Thanks for reading! Next blog I’ll talk about my experience with yoga in Bali. Stay tuned.