Bali on a Budget
Once I solidified my decision to attend a friend's wedding in Singapore, I knew I wanted to check out a neighboring country while in the area. I was initially debating between Malaysia and Bali. After a hefty decision-making process that involved me polling my IG followers and talking to a few friends that have been to Southeast Asia, I decided to visit Bali, Indonesia! It ultimately came down to Bali being able to offer the most contrasting experience to the hustle and bustle city life in Singapore. I'm completely satisfied with my choice. My trip to Bali was such a mentally and physically revitalizing experience. One major highlight of this trip was how affordable it was. I spent 4 full days exploring different areas in Bali, had a private driver, stayed in a lovely villa, and ate amazing food for about $600!
Here are some of my top lessons learned from the planning process, an overview of my itinerary, and a detailed budget of my restorative adventure in Bali:
Where to be Based?
While researching areas to stay in Bali, I learned that there are several main areas, each with their own respective feels:
Kuta & Legion: Known for its nightlife and shopping. Things are very low cost, so it does attracts the backpacker party crowd.
Seminyak: Ideal for people who want to be away from the loud party crowd but have easy access to Kuta & Legion. There are a number of reasonable priced villas, hotels, and upscale beach clubs.
Ubud: A cultural hub that is a haven for meditative retreats. It's very lush and surrounded by rice fields, jungles, and temples.
Jimbaran: Coastal area known for its white sand beaches, upscale hotels, and famous seafood markets.
Canggu: Beach town known for its surf camps, villas, and popular retreats.
Uluwatu: Known for its mind-blowing views and home to one of the best surfing locations in the world.
Nusa Dua: It's a pricey area dedicated primarily to tourists. There are tons of international 5-star restaurants and resorts. Primarily frequented by celebrities. This is definitely a honeymoon worthy location.
I chose to stay in Ubud because I wanted to do more relaxing than partying, didn't necessarily need to go to the beach, wanted to ball on a budget, and was looking for an enriching cultural experience.
How to Get There?
We flew into Singapore and stayed there for a night before departing to Indonesia. We flew with a local airline, Scoot Airlines, into the Ngurah Rai International Airport, which is a 1.5 hour drive from Ubud.
How to Get Around?
There are an abundance of taxis in Bali. A taxi from Ngurah Rai International Airport to Ubud should cost around 300,000 Indonesian Rupiah (IDR) one way (about 22 USD). A lot of people also travel by motorbike. I barely like to drive my own car, so we opted for a private driver which was 550,000 IDR (about 40 USD) for 8-10 hours.
Where to Stay?
We stayed at the Padi Eco Villas in Payangan, which was about 20 minutes away from Ubud's center. I liked this location because it was a bit removed from the Ubud's main road filled with shops and tourists. It was a phenomenal experience! The villas are located in beautiful padi (rice) fields, a delicious breakfast was included, bottled water was provided daily, the infinity pool was stunning and never busy, and the customer service was top-notch.
When to Book a Tour?
I did hours and hour of research to plan our itinerary! When I was looking online, I noticed that a lot of the activities were surprisingly expensive. I then went into Trip Advisor's Ubud forum and read a few threads that advised people to wait to purchase tours and book private drivers until they arrive because the prices for these activities are marked up considerably online. I also learned that car hires and tour prices are negotiable. I wanted to arrange my private driver before I arrived in Bali since it was a short trip, I didn't want to waste time trying to find someone and negotiating while there. I reached out to a few of my friends that hired drivers in Bali, contacted the drivers about prices for car hire and excursions and came across Iwayan Suada, who gave me the most affordable prices. He works for Darma Bali Transport Day Tours. Iwayan was extremely professional, reliable, spoke great English, and was funny!
Pro tip: Save yourself research time and and hire Iwayan if you are visiting the Ubud area. You can reach him via FB or WhatsApp at +6281 338 735 308. Tell him Jewels referred you!
What to Do?
Cost: 720,154 IDR (53 USD)
After 30+ hours of airplane travel, the first thing we wanted to do was relax! We headed straight from the airport to the spa! We initially wanted to go to Karsa Spa, which is listed as the top spa in Ubud, but it wasn't available so we went with Jaen Spa. I got a 1.5 hour traditional Balinese massage, body scrub and mask, flower bath, facial, and pedicure. It was the perfect way to jumpstart our Bali experience.
Ubud Exploration Day
Cost: 475,000 IDR (35 USD)
The Bali Swing is probably the most touristy thing I did during the trip, but it was so much fun and who doesn't want to swing in a jungle? Although $35 is relatively expensive compared to other activities in Bali, it included unlimited swing time on 5 different swings, a tasty Balinese lunch buffet, and soft drinks.
Pro-tip: Get there early. We arrived around 10am and it was hardly any lines for the swings. By 11:30am the lines were massive.
Sacred Monkey Forest Sanctuary
Cost: 50,000 IDR (3.75 USD)
The Sacred Monkey Forest Sanctuary, also known as Ubud Monkey Forest, has three temples and is home to 600 Balinese long-tailed monkeys. The temple complex was enchanting. There are numerous sculptures in the monkey forest that symbolize the energies supporting the power of the temples. The monkeys seemed completely unbothered by the humans. If you want to take a photo with a monkey on you, you can purchase a banana for 20000 IDR (1.50 USD) from a staff member who will guide you throughout the picture.
Pro tip: There are a lot of rules to protect your safety plastered throughout the sanctuary - make sure you read them! The top rules are to not stare the monkeys directly in their eye (it's a sign of aggression) and don't touch them. A Jewels rule is to avoid wearing a off-the shoulder top. I was taken aback by how quickly the medium size monkey jumped on my back, over my head shifting my scarf, and towards my chest bringing my shirt down and exposing me to an audience of bystanders. Pictured below is how it all went down. Notice I nervously panic and touched the monkey to save my head scarf and shirt from falling down (failed at this!). Fortunately, I didn't get bit or scratched (monkey hands are actually soft!) but those rules are in place for a reason! Learn from my experience.
Cost: RP 10,000 (0.75 USD)
Tegenungan Waterfall is a popular attraction among nature lovers. The falls are surrounded by a lush jungle. Be warned, if you go during rainy season, the water from the fall will look like brown sugar!
Pura Tirta Empul
Cost: 15,000 IDR (1.15 USD)
Tirta Empul is an active place of worship and one of Bali's holiest sites. It is a water temple located on a sacred hot spring that distributes throughout the complex. Be sure to be respectful of the people worshiping at the temple and dress appropriately. You can borrow a sarong at the entrance. We didn't bath in the holy water, but visitors are welcome to do so.
Sunrise Trek on Mount Batur
Cost: 550,000 IDR (41 USD)
This is by far one of my favorite moments during our trip. Mount Batur is an active volcano located in Batur Village sitting 5,600 feet high! We woke up at 2am to head out for our adventure. Iwayan picked us up at 2:30am, we quickly stopped for some coffee (which I normally don't drink but decided this was the perfect time to try) and headed out on our hour-long drive to Batur Village. There, we met our awesome walking guide, Kacha, who provided us with flashlights and led us to the top. The trek usually takes about 2 hours but we completed it with a few stops in 1.5 hours. Kacha said his fastest group completed it in a hour. During the hike up, I was praying for a good sunrise. My friend had visited a few weeks prior and didn't catch one.
This hike was such a beautiful emotional experience! As we were hiking to the top and the sky was lightening up, it represented the release of dark moments we both faced this year. At the top, we enjoyed the majestic sunrise, ate our Balinese breakfast, and rejoiced in gratitude. After relaxing for an hour, we headed back down.
Pro tip: Pack a light jacket and sneakers with a good grip. Some parts of the mountain are really slippery. I found going down a bit more challenging than going up.
Coffee & Tea Tasting at a Coffee Plantation
Cost: Included in Mount Batur Visit
After the hike, we visited OKA Agriculture Bali where we learned about the different coffee beans and saw the coffee bean grinding process. We also had a tasting of 12 different coffees and teas and had the most amazing rice pudding cake.
Pro tip: Don't leave Bali without trying Kopi Luwak Coffee! It is exclusive to Indonesia.
Shopping at Ubud Art Market
We brushed up our negotiation skills and spent about 1.5 hours shopping at Ubud Market. This was a great place to shop for souvenirs. Most of the goods are quality items made in neighboring Balinese villages.
Private Cooking Class
Cost: 300,000 (IDR) (22 USD)
After shopping, we went to our private cooking class with Teba Bali. We learned how to cook a variety of traditional Balinese dishes. We both enjoyed learning about the staple spices used in Balinese food and cooking with fresh produce.
Tegalalang Rice Terrace
Entrance Cost: 10,000 IDR (0.74 USD)
There are an abundance of rice terraces in Bali, but Tegalalang Rice Terrace is among the most notable. These cliffs of lush, undulating rice terraces are located in the Tegalalang Village, about 30 minutes away from Ubud. The views are breathtaking! The terraces were designed and maintained using a traditional Balinese cooperative irrigation system.
Pro tip: Some of the villagers will ask for a donation to enter their terrace. Carry small bills 5,000 IDR (0.50) for one person or 10,000 IDR for two to give the donation.
Cost for Car Hire: 550,000 IDR (40 USD)
Cost for Entrance: Donation Based
Ending our Bali trip with a visit to Pura Lempuyang, aka the Gateway to Heaven, was the icing on our DIY Eat, Pray, Love-esque retreat. It was the off the beaten path experience we needed. The temple complex is about a 2 hour drive from Ubud, located on a mountain in East Bali. Pura Lempuyang has some of Bali's oldest temples. It would take 4 hours and a lot of physical endurance to see all of its temples. The main temple can be reached by climbing 1,700 steps. Our timing was a bit off so we didn't see all the temples. We were also overheated and exhausted. I would love to return to Pura Lempuyang well-rested and mentally prepared to reach the top.
My budget is based on two people.
Flight from Singapore to Bali in October: $160 pp
Accommodations for two in a villa: $147 pp
Activities with private driver: about $200 pp
Airport Transport: $11 pp
Food & Drink for 4 Days: about $75 pp
TOTAL: $593 pp
Four days is definitely not enough time in Bali, but it did give me a good taste of its beautiful Hindu culture, luscious landscape, and friendly people. I will definitely be back!
Have you ever visited Bali? What did you enjoy most while there?
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