As Bali has come into maturity as a tourist hot spot, prices have also become more mature- ie. With all the upscale restaurants and shopping it seems that Bali isn’t as cheap as it used to be. However we’ve scratched beneath the surface to find you the best insider tips for sleeping, dinning and shopping on a budget. Bali is known as one of the world’s favourite and most affordable playgrounds, and is relatively easy to reach for most travellers. Check out our tips on saving Rupiah in Bali to keep Bali an accessible island destination for you.
By Rosie Patterson, Account Manager for The Bali Bible
1. Getting to Bali
Aussies will enjoy discounted direct airfares for most of the year. Those travelling from farther countries will often find cheaper fares flying into Jakarta, Singapore or Kuala Lumpur and can book a cheap on going flight to Bali Denpasar. Obviously low season warrants cheaper airfares. Check that you are flying outside of various holiday times for your country.
Citizens of Brunei, Chile, Honk Kong, Macau, Malaysia, Morocco, Peru, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam, Ecuador, Cambodia, Laos, or Myanmar have an advantage entering Bali as they aren’t required to pay for a visa on arrival.
2. Avoid the Scams
The long anticipated moment you enter into Bali post immigration and luggage collection is usually when hoards of drivers, money-changers and other overly friendly people promising life long friendship and their first born son will approach you with various scams and rip offs. Best to keep your guard up to ensure that you and your money are not so easily parted.
The airport drivers band together to keep their prices mutually high. You won’t be able to get a metered taxi from the airport but with some bargaining you should be able to get to Seminyak from 150,000rp, or around $15USD. Some people choose to walk out of the airport to catch a public metered taxi. A slight inconvenience depending on how much you’ve packed but you can expect to save up to 50,000rp ($5USD).
3. Stay, sleep, snack
The Backpacker realms in Bali are located in Kuta, Legian and around Denpasar, while some cheap guesthouses operated by locals are also available in other resort areas like Sanur and Ubud. Although they tend to be very basic, they’re good for a night’s sleep. Rooms that come with a fan and no air conditioning are usually cheaper. Prices start from around $17USD, and guesthouses and dorms can go for lower than $10USD per night. Some of the cheapest Bali hotels on AsiaWebDirect come with free nights, and there are ‘mystery hotels’ worth having a look at, as they are usually more expensive hotels trying to fill rooms at rates more heavily discounted than what they advertise.
If you are game to try walk-ins to find a cheaper stay, you might get lucky around Poppies Lane in Kuta or Jalan Kajeng in Ubud. For ultra-budget accommodation in the Kuta and Legian area, try the Nakula Stay and the Billy Pendawa Homestay. If you get free breakfast with your room, eat it.
4. Eat and Drink
Avoid the fancy French and Italian restaurants, the flashy sushi places and the modern fusion Asian type eateries. Going local will help you keep your costs down the most. ‘Warungs’, or local style restaurants serve a variety of Balinese dishes from the famous nasi and mie goreng friend rice and noodle dishes to meatball soups for as little as IDR10,000 or $1USD. Not to be missed is the Nasi Campur restaurants where you can load up your plate from a smorgas board of local dishes for around IDR 20,000 or $2USD.
We recommend Warung Bu Mi outside Deus in Seminyak, Warung He Bow in Canggu, or any of the warungs lining the beaches of the Bukit. The night markets in Kuta on Jalan Blambangan serves grilled food, wok fried dishes and other fresh produce for around IDR15,000 to IDR 20,000 or $1.50-$2USD which can be enjoyed whilst sitting on plastic stools along with hospitality and tourism workers. Many Western style cafés and restaurants borrow the name ‘warung’ and sell affordable meals.
5. Chill-outs on the cheap
Wine on a budget is out of the question in Bali, with the cheapest local bottles costing around $20USD in a supermarket and even more at bars and restaurants. Local beer ‘Bintang’ can be purchased for as little as IDR15,000, or $1.50USD in mini-marts that you will find all over the island. If you are being charged upwards of IDR25,000 ($2.50USD), you may want to reconsider your choice of venue! Why not grab a couple drinks from the mini-mart and head to the beach for sunset. The beach clubs of Seminyak might be out of reach for some but if you sit on the beach nearby you can enjoy the same view and music for a fraction of the price. Many bars also offer great value happy hours so make sure you take note of the times and buy drinks accordingly!
6. Getting Around
Taxis around Bali are relatively cheap, with a 30minute fare being no more than $10USD. But for those truly budgeting, Bali has a new public bus called Trans Sarbagita that runs from 05:00 to 21:00. It’s a bright blue bus that costs only 3,500rp (35c) per transit and is mostly targeted at locals. The times can be very unpredictable due to the traffic. For the more adventurous, mopeds are generally the cheapest and easiest way to get around with rental costing from $5USD-$10USD a day. The police often target tourists for bribes so make sure you always have a helmet and international drivers license when using mopeds and always exercise caution as you won’t be familiar with all of the road rules.
7. See and Do
You will find a number of freebee activities in Bali. It won’t cost you to spend the day on one of Bali’s stunning beaches. You’ll find natural vistas of mountain panoramas and rice fields that you can visit as well as temples and royal palaces that have little to no entrance fee. Once you leave the tourist spots you will find Banjar community halls where villagers rehearse their dance performances or colourful processions on the street for ceremonies and funerals. Behind the Denpasar Arts Institute there is an amphitheater where you are sure to find regular performances by students.
Bali Arts festival and Bali Kites festival will also provide you with a rich cultural experience that you can enjoy free of charge. Up coming is Nyepi festival where you will see unique celebrations involving papier-mâché ogoh-ogoh parades amongst local communities. Definitely a once in a life-time experience!
8. Buy and Bargain
You will find everything from Rolex knock offs to Oakley Sunglasses and even fake electronics available on the beach and street side stalls. You might find the prices tempting but bare in mind that the quality is low and you will find your items won’t last long once you get home. Don’t be afraid to bargain, vendors expect it and seem to even enjoy it. Share a laugh and bargain your way up from about a third of the initial asking price until you reach an agreement.
Artwork and handicrafts however can be a good buy. There are fixed price art shops such as Erlangga and Krishna Bali that can save you a lot of hassle.
9. ‘Spa’ on the Beach
Getting a massage on the beach can be cheaper than visiting a spa. You won’t get all the bells and whistles but the beach masseuses are generally quite skilled, and you will find the gentle sea breeze will help you doze off. Of course, prices can be negotiated, with a 30min back massage or an hour’s body massage costing you from IDR 25,000-100,000 ($2.50USD-$10USD).
10. Leaving Bali
Even some budget accommodations have free shuttle transfer services to the airport. Ask at the front desk to see if this service is available to you. For those who have spent too much money having too much fun, you can even walk to the airport from your accommodation in Tuban or South Kuta