How to Travel in Bali on a Budget
By Chelsea Blackwell
Fancy a getaway to an unbelievable journey in the Pacific Islands but lack the cash to make it work? Whether this is your first or 40th trip, here are some tips to travel in Bali on a budget.
First thing's first, when you arrive at the airport in Bali, you will be absolutely overwhelmed by the crowd of hundreds (yes, hundreds) of drivers and taxi drivers literally screaming at you asking where you're going. To avoid this headache of haggling in a foreign country with unfamiliar currency, I suggest to do one of two things:
Have your accommodation arrange a driver to pick you up. Almost all hotels, Airbnbs, hostels and guesthouses will have a designated driver (or heck, a friend — it's Bali) that will come pick you up with a sign with your name written on it. You will generally pay a small premium for this compared to the cheaper drivers on the island, but it's way better than getting ripped off by a driver that knows you're a tourist, or trying to find the cheapest way to your accomodation after coming off 25 hours of travel.
If you want to be a bit more thrifty (you'll probably only save about 5 bucks) you can download the "GoJek" app on your phone, and request a driver in a car or scooter from the airport. This option requires more preparation on your part however, as you'll either have to trust the airports wifi (potentially sketchy,) have a travel data plan with your company at home, or have your phone unlocked and buy an Indonesian SIM card at the airport in order to access the app.
In terms of getting around the island itself, for longer journeys from town to town, I'd suggest hiring a driver. To give you an idea, it costs about $15 CAD for an hours car journey with a driver, and would be significantly cheaper using a GoJek driver, especially if by scooter. If you'd like any contact for drivers by car, I've got a couple lovely, reliable, and affordable drivers whose Whatsapp numbers I'd be happy to forward.
In terms of getting around when you're staying in a town for a few days, many people will hire a scooter. It costs about $5 a day, and it's well worth it. You can almost always rent through your accommodation, or they will at least be able to point you in the direction of a rental service. On my trip, I was lucky enough to make friends with people who didn't mind taking me on the back of their scooter whenever we had places to go (with a helmet of course). I am certainly looking forward to learning to drive myself next time (from what I've heard it's very simple) and scootin' myself around as I please.
Everyone in Bali seems to use the app "Whatsapp," maybe because their are so many tourists and thus foreign numbers. Have the app downloaded on your phone- it will come in handy when wanting to keep in touch with other travellers and locals whilst on the island. It is also used by Gojek drivers as well as Airbnb and guesthouse hosts.
Again, I'd recommend coming with your phone unlocked to by a local sim card. I chose not to on my trip, as I wanted to remain relatively unplugged, and communicated only when I had wifi. Looking back, because I was travelling alone, I should have gotten a SIM card. It also would have prevented me from acquiring the hefty phone bill from some emergency calls I had to make when I was in the hospital, but hey, let's not talk about that right now! I know it seems kind of dumb, but it's sort of nice to have data for stuff like keeping up your Snapchats and Instagram feed. I purposefully didn't, and I was fine, but just sayin'.
This all depends on the kind of trip you want to have. If you're not looking to stay at the more extravagant villas in Indonesia, try a mix of Airbnb's and hostels. Because I was travelling alone and on a budget, I didn't venture into the hotel scene. However, if you're interested in splashing out, and if you're travelling in a couple or group, hotels or resorts might be more your scene. As far as I'm concerned, however — I've said it before and I'll say it again — spend some time in hostels. Even if you're in a couple, that's where you have the real fun, meet the best people and get the most authentic experience.
When you're sick of staying in a dorm with seven other bunkmates, need some alone time with your partner, or are just arriving and need a minute to recover from jet lag, I recommend Airbnb 100%. I have honestly never once had a negative Airbnb experience - I've used it in Canada, the States, Europe, and Indonesia. The best part is you get to stay with and interact with a local, so you really get to know the location better than your average tourist! I also found that in Indonesia especially, basic Airbnb Villas cost a very minimal amount more than a decent hostel- sitting between $20-50 a night. This is obviously much more affordable if you've got a travel buddy, but still do- able for the solo traveller especially for a couple night hiatus from the hostel scene. Also, since Indonesian people are some of the loveliest, most generous, friendliest, and hospitable people I've ever met, you'll likely end up with some new friends and most amazing hosts.
It is very easy to eat on a budget in Bali. It's kind of funny, because it's also very easy to spend loads on food and drink in Bali- you've just got to know your budget and stick with it. There are tons of places absolutely catered to tourists and tourists' budgets — which are generally wonderful and delicious. However, you will pay prices closer (though still cheaper than) to home. Don't despair, budget-conscious traveller! There are many smaller Indonesian run and authentic Indonesian cuisine restaurants where you can feed yourself for $2 or less! Woohoo! And hey, if you're really strapped for cash, you can get instant noodles for twenty cents. Same goes for basic grocery store stuff like avocados and mangoes — they're like 1/10th of what they cost in Canada. Score.
A lot of people staying long term at my hostel in Canggu would buy a few grocery things, mainly for breakfast to save some cash, and dine out mostly for lunches and dinners.
Alcohol is funny in Bali. If you like beer, you're in luck. Beers run at about $2-3, both in stores and bars. If you don't like cheap light beer, you are not in luck, because that's whats on offer. It's kind of funny, because there are literally no sorts of pale ales, darker beers, ipas, or anything of the sort- just a few different sorts of cheaper lagers/ pilsners. From what I understand theres a monopoly on beer production and importation on the island.
Oh yeah, and if you don't like beer, be prepared to spend more. Like $10/ cocktail more, which is more than we pay in Canada- apparently liquor importation tax is crazy in Indonesia. The good news is, that for me at least, I didn't have the urge to drink very much, as it is so hot. You know how you get kinda warm when you drink to much? It's so hot there that after a couple drinks, I found, at least, you just stop. Keep in mind I was violently ill for half my trip, so maybe it's just me.
And if wine's your thing, I'm so sorry, because that's some rich people shizz. Also, the wine there is generally island-made and not ideal as they really don't have the climate for wine production, so best to stay away nonetheless.
There is SO MUCH to do and see in Bali. There's lots to do for free, like just walking around on the streets or beach, cruising around on your scooter, or hangin' by the pool. There are also load of things you can do for little to no cost, like checking out things like waterfalls, rice fields, or the monkey forest in Ubud. You can also hire a driver for about $50 for the entire day, and they will take you anywhere you'd like go go! Loads of people also go to Bali for it's world-famous surfing. It is super affordable to get a quick surf lesson, and renting a board only costs a few dollars for a couple hours!
Surf's up dudes!
This article was originally written by Chelsea Blackwell for ChelseaInBali.com and was reposted with permission. Check her out today.