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Last updated on September 12, 2023 by Wandering our World

The sun-kissed beaches of Bali have been on the bucket lists of backpackers. Long before the term ‘The Banana Pancake Trail’ was coined, the Bali section of a second-hand copy of The Lonely Planet’s Southeast Asia On A Shoestring guidebook—the S.E.A. backpacker’s Bible of yesteryear—often contained the most dog-eared pages. Known as the Island of the Gods, Bali boasts a bonanza of beautiful beaches, trekkable volcanoes with stunning summit views, picturesque terraced rice paddies, world-class scuba diving and snorkelling, and consistently good waves for surfers. And on top of all that, Bali’s affordability means you can get plenty of bang for your buck and stretch out your time in paradise.

Read on as we delve into the dos and don’ts of budget-conscious travel on the island of Bali to help you find the best-value accommodation, budget-friendly activities, and the best beaches, and also give a few tips and tricks to help you stretch your funds as far as possible.

CONTENTS

  1. Bali’s Budget-Friendly Accommodation
  2. Best Bali Activities For Backpackers
  3. Best Volcanoes To Check Out In Bali
  4. Best Scuba Diving & Snorkelling Spots In Bali
  5. Best Surfing Spots in Bali
  6. Some Of The Best Temples in Bali
  7. The Amazing Rice Paddies of Bali – Subak Irrigation System
  8. Requirements for International Driving Permit
  9. Its Polite to Learn some of the Local Language
  10. Getting Around – Taxis
  11. Street Food & Warungs

Bali’s Budget-Friendly Accommodation

Bali’s bustling airport, Ngurah Rai International Airport (DPS), is located in Denpasar, a short drive from the island’s busiest tourist area, Kuta. While Kuta is the island’s busiest area, it divides opinion…

If you’re looking to party into the night, you will probably enjoy a few nights in Kuta, but if you prefer to be closer to nature in a more tranquil area, it may not be your cup of tea. But, either way, it’s a good place to find cheap accommodation especially given the rise in rates at the popular region of Canggu. If you’re landing in Bali late at night, its proximity to the airport makes it an easy and convenient choice too.

A popular plan of action for many is to spend their first few and final few nights in Bali in and around Kuta. Once landed and settled, you can then plan your travels around the island. However, if you’re looking to be on Bali around Christmas and New Year, booking in advance may be the wiser path to take.

Hotel booking apps have made life easier recently when it comes to finding a good hotel deal, but bear in mind that those apps take a slice of the pie, and sometimes speaking directly with the property can yield a lower price.

If you are traveling as part of a larger group, you can also look into renting a villa on sites like Air BNB. Villa rentals can be a great way for a group to keep accommodation costs down and also allow more freedom to come and go as you please compared with being in a resort with other guests.

Bali has been on the backpacker trail for decades, and as such, there is no shortage of accommodation options to suit all budgets. If you are backpacking around the island for a month or more, you get more flexibility and are better placed to find deals and low prices if you book as you go rather than booking everything for your entire stay in advance.

Here are some recommendations with the highest reviews at reasonable prices depending on your budget:

Kuta: One of the highest rated Hostels in Kuta is Pudak Sari Unizou Hostel that have a selection of dorms or private rooms.

Canggu: If you are wanting to spend a bit of time in action of Canggu and happy to fork out a little more in your budget then here are a couple suggestions with stacked reviews. Only 450m from Echo Beach is Tribal Bali. Modern and Clean and spend plenty of time chilling poolside.

Best Bali Activities For Backpackers

Bali, due in part to its stunning nature and its rich culture, has a slew of fantastic activities that you can enjoy while still keeping an eye on your budget. The island boasts excellent trekking and hiking, myriad temples to explore, UNESCO World Heritage Sites, and an ocean that offers some of the best snorkeling and surfing on the planet.

Best Volcanoes To Check Out In Bali

While a few people may grumble about the early start times, trekking to the summit of one of more of Bali’s numerous volcanoes is a budget-friendly activity that will also afford you the best views across the island’s landscape. The island has several volcanoes, with the three most popular for treks being the ‘ABC peaks’ of Mount Agung, Mount Batur, and Mount Catur.

Mt. Agung – Bali, Indonesia

Mount Agung is Bali’s highest peak and, until recently, its most popular volcano trek. However, Agung is rated as one of the most active volcanoes on the planet and has been active enough to force local evacuations a few years ago. Keep your eye out for news if you are planning on hiking this one’s summit; it may be off-limits.

Mount Batur is the second-most popular volcano hike and is located a little to the north-west of Agung. An early morning departure for the summit will give you the opportunity to take some stunning sunrise photos along the way and from the summit. From the summit, you will be able to see Bali’s other volcanic peaks, including Agung, and you can also see across the ocean towards Lombok and the Gilis.

Mount Batur, Kintamani – Bali, Indonesia

Mount Catur is one peak among several volcanoes that are often referred to collectively as Bratan Volcano. Mount Catur is Bali’s fourth-tallest volcano and an easy trek, and the area is also famous for its three caldera lakes and water temples.

Each of these treks usually involves a crack-of-dawn start time in order to reach the summit as the sun pokes its nose above the horizon. Although physically challenging at times, the treks involve no technical climbing and are relatively straight-forward. You will need a guide, but the cost of climbing Bali’s volcanoes is relatively low.

Best Scuba Diving & Snorkelling Spots In Bali

Sitting at the heart of the Coral Triangle, the world’s most biodiverse marine environment, means that the coral reefs that surround Bali are teeming with all manner of fish life and stunning coral growth, and there’s even a WWII shipwreck to explore.

The best way to get up close and personal with Bali’s diverse marine life is undoubtedly to go scuba diving. Scuba diving allows you to get closer and gives you more time to watch the fish go about their daily chores, but it is a little more expensive than snorkeling. If you are looking to dive when in Bali, the best way to keep the prices down is to travel around the island, stopping at its dive towns en route.

One of the most popular dive sites in Bali is the wreck of the USAT Liberty, which lies a few yards from the shoreline off Tulamben’s beach. It’s a fantastic dive, full of color and weird and wonderful marine life, and divers travel from all over the island to see it. The cheapest way to dive it is to head to Tulamben, in Bali’s north-west corner, and speak to the dive centers there. If you dive it while staying in the south, you will also be paying for the transport there and back—a two-hour drive each way.

The shipwreck USAT Liberty undersea in Bali, Indonesia.

Staying a few nights in Padang Bai also allows you to sample some of Bali’s best diving in a cheaper way, and the seaside village also has excellent snorkeling, which is even cheaper!

If you do plan to move around Bali while there or are looking to be there for a while, then we recommend investing in your own mask and snorkel. This way, you will have a ‘free activity’ that you can enjoy any time you hit the beach!

Best Surfing Spots in Bali

In addition to boasting world-class scuba diving and snorkeling, ocean lovers can also enjoy some top-class surfing on Bali. If you are already an avid surfer and this is one of the reasons you are heading to Bali, you won’t be disappointed. If you do have your own board, surfing can be a very cheap activity, and many people buy a second-hand board when they arrive and then resell it before they leave. There’s a large surf community on Bali, and selling it when you leave should be pretty easy.

surfer on waves in Bali
Idyllic breaks off the banks of Uluwatu, Bali.

If you have never surfed before and are looking to give it a try, you can find surf lessons available for reasonable prices; it will be much cheaper to book surf lessons in Bali compared to Hawaii or Australia, for example. Kuta and its neighbouring beaches are a good place to start for newbies, while the Bukit Peninsula to the south of Kuta boasts several awesome breaks for the more experienced boarders.

Getting around with your surfboard is also pretty easy. Scooter rentals are available throughout the island, and as Bali is such a huge surf destination, you can even hire ones with racks to hold your board.

Some Of The Best Temples in Bali

While Indonesia as a whole is the world’s largest Muslim country, Bali’s population mainly follows the practices of Balinese Hinduism, and the island has several Hindu temples to visit. The most famous of which is Pura Tanah Lot, not too far from Kuta.

Tanah Lot, Temple in the Ocean. Bali, Indonesia.
Tanah Lot, Temple in the Ocean. Bali, Indonesia.

Tanah Lot is the name of a rock formation, and the ancient Hindu pilgrimage temple of Pura Tanah Lot (meaning Tanah Lot temple) sits atop the rocks. It’s a very popular attraction, due largely to the fact that the temple is located on Bali’s western coast, and the setting sun’s fading light bathes it in pastel shades. The temple is one of Bali’s most Instagrammable spots, and you should expect big crowds around sunset.

Temple by lake in Bali
Pura Ulun Danu Bratan Temple, Bali.

Ulun Danu Beratan Temple, located on Lake Bratan in the shadow of the nearby volcanic peaks, is another of Bali’s most-visited temples. The water temple sits on the lake and also offers superb photography opportunities. For a great day out exploring without busting your budget, you can combine a morning volcano trek to the summit of Mount Catur with a late morning and early afternoon exploration of the lake area and the temples.

Beautiful rice terraces in the morning light near Tegallalang village, Ubud, Bali, Indonesia.

The Amazing Rice Paddies of Bali – Subak Irrigation System

If you have ever thumbed through a copy of a Bali guidebook, chances are you have seen images of Bali’s terraced rice paddies. Bali’s cultural landscape includes five areas of rice terraces and their water temples that together cover almost 20,000 hectares. The system of irrigation for the rice fields, known as the Subak System has been recognized and preserved by UNESCO as part of their efforts to safeguard the world’s intangible cultural heritage.

The best known and most visited of these rice paddies are Jatiluwih in West Bali, and Tegallalang in the central region, close to Ubud. These areas are also popular for photographers, especially around sunrise and sunset, when the sun’s orange glow reflects off the water.

If you are already staying in Ubud, you can easily get to the terraces via a short scooter or taxi ride.

Backpacker Budget Tips & Tricks

Requirements for International Driving Permit

As mentioned earlier, moving around Bali on a hired scooter is a popular way for tourists to see the sights. Rental fees are very reasonable, but you should be aware of the driving laws in Indonesia for foreigners. Should you be stopped—and there are several police roadblocks in busy areas—you will be required to produce a licence, and those issued in other countries are not valid.

To be able to drive from beach to beach and temple to temple on a scooter, you will need to get your hands on an International Driving Permit (IDP) before leaving your home country. Failure to produce a valid driving licence for Indonesia will lead to you having to fork out a hefty chunk of your budget on police fines.

Its Polite to Learn some of the Local Language

If you’ve already been working your way along the Banana Pancake Trail and have spent some time in Thailand, Laos, Vietnam, Myanmar, or Cambodia, you will understand the difficulties of communicating in those languages. The Indonesian language, Bahasa Indonesia, however, is a little easier to pick up the basics.

The fact that the language is written using the Roman alphabet makes it much easier for Westerners to read. As long as you remember that a ‘c’ is pronounced like a ‘ch’ in English, you can read Bahasa Indonesian and can therefore pick up new words quite easily.

Being able to speak just a few choice phrases will be a big help. Not only is it good manners, but if you can ask for a few things in the local language, you will also be less likely to be ripped off or scammed. Having a few words of Indonesian in your arsenal can make people think you have been in town for a while and that you know how things should work and how much they should cost.

Getting Around – Taxis

One situation in which knowing a few words of Indonesian can be really helpful is when getting a taxi. Taxi drivers have a certain reputation, not just in Indonesia, and they have been known to occasionally ‘overstate’ the price for your journey. If you are able to enter your taxi and tell the driver where you want to go in Indonesian, they will assume you have been here for a while and know the prices already, and you should get a more honest price quote.

Taxis in general can be a little hit-and-miss in Bali when it comes to honesty with fares. It’s a similar story to other busy tourist destinations, and the problem is less of an issue during daylight hours. Bali has several taxi companies, and while you can hail one in the street, booking via an app can be safer on the price front. Of all the taxi companies, Bluebird Taxis have the best reputation among Bali’s tourists and expats.

Bluebird taxes have the best reputation for Tourist in Bali

Street Food & Warungs

One of the best things about life on the Banana Pancake Trail is the endless street food options in the different countries in the region. And Indonesia has some exceedingly good options to try that will not put a big dent in your budget but may put a bulge in your midriff.

The two classic backpacker choices for food in Indonesia are mee goreng and nasi goreng: fried noodles and fried rice. You will see a multitude of stalls dotted around the island’s busier areas selling both of these delightful dishes. They are made by frying noodles or rice with sambal, a local chili paste, and vegetables, and you can also ask for a fried egg on top (‘dan telur’ is Bahasa Indonesian for ‘with egg’).

Bali food and culture

Aside from street food stalls and carts, there are many local restaurants known as warungs throughout Bali and Indonesia. These cheap and cheerful eateries offer wider menus than the street stalls, and the delicious local dishes are very budget-friendly. Aside from the nasi and mee goreng options, you will also find dishes like gado-gado, satay chicken, and nasi campur (‘campur’ means ‘mixed’ and is pronounced ‘champur’).

Opting for street food and warungs at meal times is much cheaper than eating at restaurants in the busy tourist areas of Bali. As well as saving you some money, you will also get to enjoy some truly delicious dishes.

Our Final Thoughts…

Bali has been welcoming backpackers to its shores for many a long year, and the island is one of the world’s best destinations to explore on a budget. The vast array of accommodation options at every price level means that there are always bargains to be found, and you can eat well for a few dollars per day.

Transport around the island is also reasonably priced, but if you do plan to explore by scooter, grab yourself an International Driving Permit before you arrive! Hiring a scooter will then also allow you to move freely between Bali’s top tourist attractions and explore its myriad beaches on your own schedule.

With superb snorkeling, scuba diving, and surfing, you can also spend a day enjoying the ocean with minimal costs involved, and a trek to a volcano summit may take your breath away, but it won’t steal your dinner money or eat into your budget.

Indonesia’s Island of the Gods has been one of the top stops on the Banana Pancake Trail for a long, long time, and its affordability is one reason why it shows no signs of slipping off the list anytime soon.

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  • Wandering our World

    Hi and welcome to Wandering our World! This article was written by one of the Wandering our World team - a team of travel enthusiasts who live around the globe.