How to Enjoy Bali on a Budget - Five Killer Tips
Bali has fast become the most expensive destination in Indonesia, thanks to many years of booming tourism as well as its newly anointed status as an idyllic homebase for digital nomads. But that doesn’t mean that backpackers on tighter budgets have to completely bypass Bali on their adventures through Southeast Asia. There's still plenty of fun to be had on this beautiful Indonesian island for relatively cheap. And if you plan accordingly you can even find bargains on accommodation and food and drinks. Here are five travel tips to help you enjoy your holiday or backpacking adventure through Bali without completely blowing your budget. And, more importantly, to ensure that you still have enough cash to treat yourself to the occasional ice cold Bintang – or three.
Oh, and I've included a few pretty pictures from my last trip to Bali to fuel some of your wanderlust too.
Book a multi-stop flight – or consider exploring a stopover city
Getting to Bali is pricey from most corners of the globe. Only the Aussies are lucky enough to hop over to the island for a short getaway. Unfortunately for those of us based as far as the UK, there are no direct flights to Bali just yet. So expect your trip to include at least one stopover, if not a few.
But here's the good news: if you’re willing to endure a longer journey, you can save a bit of cash by booking a flight with multiple stops. Even just two stopovers can dramatically reduce the cost of your plane ticket. Red-eye flights can also make your trip more affordable. And if you’ve got time to spare, you can even consider breaking up your journey by spending a few days in one of your stopover cities along the way. Savvy sites like AirWander now allow you to integrate a few extra days in a city you’ve been wanting to check out. I’m constantly on their site hunting down places I've yet to visit that I might be able to squeeze into my next trip.
Try alternative accommodation
Bali's hotel prices continue to go from strength to strength so you’ll want to consider alternatives like guesthouses, hostels or homestays to say your pennies. Kuta, Legion and Ubud are some of the island's more touristy areas where you can, surprisingly, still find cheap accommodation. I tend to rely on my favourite sites: Booking.com and Hostelworld. But if you’re willing to go more off-the-beaten path, then head to less popular but more affordable areas like Sideman (which is great for nature treks) and Menjangan Island (where you can dive). Homestays are also a great option because you’ll not only save some £££s, you’ll also really immerse yourself in the local culture by living with a Balinese family for a few days.
For those of you willing to splurge for that truly luxe tropical Bali experience you've always imagined, consider something more along the lines of Bali villas. These will certainly be more expensive, but if you’re travelling with a large group of friends, you can split the cost and make your stay much more affordable. Timing matters too. Booking either well in advance (I’m talking like six months ahead of your trip) or very last minute (which is more my bag) can often also get you access to excellent hotel deals.
Try ALL of the street food
One of my very favourite things about Southeast Asia is that the region's most delicious food is often also the cheapest. It's usually the neighbourhood's moody granny who's serving up the best dish in town. Street stalls that stay open late and barely have any seating (let alone cutlery) but queues around the block are usually my favourite. And Bali has no shortage of these joints. You'll find hawkers serving practically any dish you can dream up. So go explore - and don't miss out on a good pancake, fresh meat skewers and Nasi Jinggo, a popular street food you’ll find throughout Bali that consists of vegetables, spices and your choice of meat or fish.
Take the bus
To get around the island quickly, Bali’s bus network, which is fairly new and modern, is a great option. It might also feel like a real luxury after months of roughing it on sleeper buses as a budget backpacker. But what's great is it's still one of the cheapest ways to get around. Kuta to Lovina (which is literally going from the South to the North of the island) costs 125,000 Rupiah - the equivalent of £6.50. If you prefer to take in the local sights and sounds at your own pace, consider hiring a bike and cycling around the island instead. You'll save your pennies and get your exercise in too.
Soak up Bali’s free activities and attractions
Many of Bali’s best attractions, much like on any tropical island, are 100% free. You’ve got your pick of stunning beaches to lounge all day and perfect your holiday glow. And for those who prefer to be on their feet, there are countless natural waterfalls and volcanoes to explore. Savour a day of hiking, swimming and really connecting with Mother Nature. But even if what you're after is a cultural fix, you'll be surprised to find temples such as Lempuyang - the island’s oldest - can be visited for free. You'll scale its hundreds of steps and be rewarded with astonishing views at the top. So do some digging and a build a day of adventures that won't cost you a thing.
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