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For as long as I could remember, Bali was a destination tucked into a folder categorized for honeymooners and rich older people. Fittingly, it was also labeled as expensive in my head. And so it was never near the top of my “next place to explore” list.
When a rough patch at work got me to surfing last-minute vacation deals, however, Bali became an unexpected top contender. And so off we went to Bali last year on a birthday trip.
Nine days of luxurious experiences for under $1400 (gifts and souvenirs included!), and all without the crazy crowds of the peak season. Here are 7 tips for experiencing Bali on the cheap.
Length: 9 days, including flights
Budget: ~$1400, inclusive of flights from San Francisco (Flights have become significantly cheaper in 2017, so you could probably do this trip for under $1200.)
Lodging type: Private villas and 4-star resorts
Travelers: 3, all females
1. Don’t be afraid to go for private villas
So much of Bali’s economy is based on tourism that there are great lodging deals to be found outside of peak season. We booked our flights and Ubud lodging together and only paid approximately $35 per night (total for 3 people!) for this gorgeous villa, complete with a private patio, yard, and pool.
We’d highly recommend Suara Air Luxury Villa Ubud. It’s tucked away about a 7-minute drive from Ubud city center, separated from all the hustle and bustle by some of Bali’s famous rice terraces. But there’s a free shuttle service that will get you to town and back; it’ll also offer you rides to locales farther out for cheap. There’s a full-service staff that serves you a free continental breakfast wherever you’d like, and despite being surrounded by the peaceful and immense jungle, there’s spotless WiFi.
2. Make sure to hike Mount Batur
While we didn’t have time to travel all of Indonesia, we did want to experience the country’s beautiful outdoors while in Bali. So on our second day, we got up in the middle of the night to hike Mount Batur for sunrise.
We really enjoyed our trip with Bali Eco Cycling Tours ($33pp). Not only will you get a good workout in and be amazed at the locals’ ability to summit it in flip flops, you’ll also be rewarded with gorgeous dawn and sunrise views and the entertainment of mischievous monkeys.
Are waterfalls more your thing? Check out the coolest waterfalls in Bali.
3. Explore Ubud’s temples and enjoy a traditional legong dance
And lose yourself when you get tapped to dance on stage, even if you’re exhausted and half asleep like I was!
Related: Check out this post for other things to do in Ubud.
4. Go off on your own and get a little lost
Instead of taking a tour to go see the Goa Gajah Elephant Cave and village night market in Gianyar, we got our villa driver to drop us off at the cave and then explored on our own. While we did end up walking way longer than expected and the night market was not what we expected, we got to encounter a lot of friendly Indonesians, popped into some corner stores, and got a memorable story out of having to go to the police station to find a way home. Plus we saved a lot of money and got to see a side of local Bali that we never would have otherwise!
Related: Traveling with kids? Check out this kid-approved Bali itinerary.
5. Eat your heart out without breaking the bank
Meals in Bali were incredibly cheap, ranging from $5-$12 on average. Even a multi-course celebratory birthday dinner at the fancy Pearl Restaurant (French cuisine, not pictured) in Legian was only slightly more than half a Benjamin.
We also took a morning break from the beaches to take a cooking class and learn how to make some of the requisite Indonesian dishes. Bamboo Shoots Cooking School in Sanur provided us with a wonderful experience and only cost $38 for a multi-course cooking class plus private transport to and from our hotel in Legian.
6. Get in some eat, pray, love with yoga at a Bali studio
Or in our case, it was more like eat, eat, and get lots of massages. High marks for Kimberly Spa in Seminyak for the best Thai massage I’ve ever gotten, and for only $15.
At $10-$15 a class, these yoga classes were probably the most expensive things we paid for in Bali (relative to everything else), but there’s something special about down dogging in the middle of the jungle.
7. Find a private beach or two and create your own paradise
There are so many beaches along Bali’s coast. Whether it’s finding a quiet corner at a public stretch or walking onto a private one 😉 , it’s easy and (mostly) free to make yourself a little piece of paradise and enjoy the sun and water.
The biggest cost-saving tip you’ve probably realized by now? DIY the planning as much as you can and skip the pre-packaged deals. You’ll save hundreds, if not thousands.
Looking for more details on when to visit and where to stay in Bali? Check out this Bali travel guide.
What’s your favorite way to enjoy Bali? Got any other tips for enjoying Bali on the cheap?
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