We spent a month on the beautiful island of Bali, and were initially surprised at the costs of Bali (particularly food in tourist areas), but overall we were able to come up with some great ways to experience this beautiful island on a budget by researching in advance, and doing activities on our own rather than booking day-tours. Bali is an amazing place, and we had a blast for the month that we spent there. Here are some great budget-friendly activities in Bali for your next trip.
Take it to the Beaches in Bali
Bali offers some of the best surfing in the world, in fact, surfers come from all over the world to test the waves in Bali. If you want to test your hand at surfing, you should be able to find a couple of boards that you can rent. If you aren’t much of a surfer, don’t worry. There are plenty of other relaxing beaches that are perfect for chilling and soaking up the Indonesian sun.
Many of the beaches in Bali are free, and local beaches may even have a pop-up restaurant or store nearby. But you can save a couple bucks by stopping to pick up some supplies at a nearby convenience store, where you can get your water and snacks before hitting the beach.
There’s really nothing much cheaper than spending the day at the beach. It’s an affordable, peaceful, and one of the best ways to experience Bali. For great sunsets, we really enjoyed Padang Padang beach, in the far south near Uluwatu temple. It was one of our favorite beach days in Bali — and hardly any crowds!
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If You Really Want to Do a Day Tour…
Overall, we feel like the best way to see Bali on a budget is to do your own thing. Rent a motorbike and cruse around to see the temples, rice terraces, waterfalls, etc. In the end, you can save a lot of money this way. However, we understand that not everyone is comfortable renting / driving a motorbike in a foreign country, and especially navigating some of the roads and traffic.
The thing to keep in mind is that buying tours on the Island of Bali during your trip will be SUPER expensive! Everywhere we went, there were people selling tours (including at all the hotels), and we always found them to be quite overpriced!
So we highly recommend doing some research in advance to find out what you really want to do, and compare it with different online booking providers before you arrive in Bali. We’ve discovered that you can get some good deals in advance of your trip, especially when you consider the cost of transportation (atrocious on Bali) and even food in touristy areas. Here are a few notable mentions for good day trips in Bali — which we feel give a nice mix of popular attractions and amenities for the price.
Check Out the Local Temples in Bali
There are temples situated all over the island of Bali. Many of them will have small fees to enter, and you must have your own sarong to wrap around your legs (which you can buy or rent). We recommend buying one because it makes a nice souvenir, and you can use it many times. However, beware of buying them onsite at the temples or very close by…they tend to charge high prices and you will really need to haggle with the shopkeepers.
Also while there are many guided day tours around Bali to these temples, a great money-saving option is to rent a motorbike and go on your own. If you are comfortable on a bike, it’s a fabulous way to see the island and save a lot of money because tours are extremely overpriced here and the individual entrance fees to each of these temples is much less if you go on your own.
Uluwatu is one of the more popular temples in Bali, and there is a small fee. In the end, this was NOT our favorite temple in Bali, but the views on the coast line cliffs may be worth the trek out here for some people. But the temple itself was underwhelming, and we couldn’t go inside. If you do choose to come out here, know that you will not be alone. Tour groups flock here.
Our recommendation is to skip Uluwatu if you are on a tight budget. But if you do want to check it out, DON’T pay for a tour. Rent a bike and explore on your own — that way, you can also spend an afternoon at one of the fantastic nearby beaches too!
Pura Tirta Empul – Water Temple
This was by far our favorite thing to do in Bali! In fact, we loved it so much that we visited this temple twice during our time on Bali. The ambiance of this temple is peaceful and beautiful. Plus, the fresh springs are very important to the locals, who come to pray and wash themselves in the fresh spring water. There is a small entry fee for this, but well worth the small cost of admission.
Not only can you witness the bathing ritual, but visitors are welcome to participate, at no additional charge. Each water spout has a different meaning, so you will see people praying and going from one spout to the other. However, be sure to watch the locals to see which spouts they avoid. Some of them are for death (or for blessing the dead). So you don’t want to accidentally use that one!
The crisp, cool waters are refreshing and amazingly invigorating. You can take tours out here, but again, that’s a much higher fee than just renting a motorbike and going on your own. As with any temple in Bali, you will need to wear a traditional sarong (bring your own or rent one), but for this temple you might want to have your own because you will need to wear it in the water.
This is very interesting temple that isn’t far from the popular town of Ubud. It’s a great temple to check out on your own if you have time, but we would NOT recommend coming here on a tour. It just isn’t far from Ubud, so you could even take a taxi and the admission fee is nominal as well. The stone work here is really quite interesting, and there are some walking paths down by some springs too.
Pura Gunung Kawi
This is a massive UNESCO Temple a bit north of Ubud, and it is quite the sight to behold! The Pura Gunung Kawi has a long and interesting history, along with large carvings throughout. Be prepared to park at the top of the hill and walk down into the valley…then back up the large staircase to get out. Coming in the morning is not so hot, but after lunch the tour group crowds disappear. Lastly, there is a beautiful and relaxing cafe just at the top of the hill before you descend into the temple. The food isn’t terribly expensive, but at minimum, it’s nice to have a drink and look out over the rice fields — quite a beautiful view actually!
Visit The Tegallalang Rice Terraces in Bali
For many visiting Bali, the rice terraces are high on the list. If you absolutely want to do a tour (if you don’t drive a motorbike), then book one that shows you as much of the island as possible for a reasonable price (if you can get some meals included too, that’s great). But we also recommend visiting the rice terraces on your own with a motorbike to save the most money. The most famous is only a short distance north of Ubud, and it’s a beautiful drive on the bike.
Once at the terraces, you can just relax at the top and enjoy the views or you can go down for a hike. The main thing to know when you are hiking around the Rice Terraces is that you should make sure to have plenty small change with you during your hike. All along the walking paths there will be people asking for “donations” to pass. It’s one of those things where you don’t really know if it’s required, or if it’s some entrepreneurial local trying to make a buck off of unknowing tourists.
To save money, having small change will allow you to get by with what you feel is an appropriate donation. Some people don’t buy into it and refuse to put a donation in the buckets, they may get away with it with only a some harassment and a nagging conscience. So it’s up to you.
Overall, it is a fantastic hike – and there are trails all about. Especially late in the afternoon, most of the tour groups are gone – so you can really explore in peace. So bring some change, and some good balance to walk along the narrow edges!
Visit a Coffee Plantation in Bali
Balinese coffee is some of the best in the world. While traveling around Bali, you will see plantations all around. Stopping in at these plantations is a beautiful and informative experience (especially those up in the mountains). Often times they will take you on a free tour and even a tasting; however, they may expect you to buy product at the end. This is a great way to find a nice souvenir to take home to friends and family, but you could technically skip out on buying the product. For us, we loved tasting 12+ versions of intensely flavorful tea and coffees. We were hooked for sure!
** NOTE: You can buy the same coffee on convenience stores around Bali for much cheaper than buying it at the plantation!
You will also see signs about Kopi Luwak Coffee all around Bali — the most expensive coffee in the world! However, it’s not one of the most animal-friendly ways to get your coffee. Ultimately, it’s up to your discretion if you want to sample this coffee. Personally, we preferred the normal coffee better for its rich taste!
Overall, visiting a plantation can be an inexpensive way get a free sample of the local teas and coffees & it is a really cool experience. Again, going on your own will be cheaper than booking a tour as well!
Seeing a Local Dance & Music Show – Away from the Most Popular Venues
In Bali, there are beautiful cultural shows every evening — especially in popular towns like Ubud. Some of the most popular shows are quite touristy and cater to group tours — those will be the MOST expensive shows to attend.
However, stopping by local tourism offices you should be able to pick up a schedule that shows you different local troupes (even some schools) where you can watch these performances for a much lower price. The great thing about these smaller shows is that you may also find that there are fewer people there, so it makes for a more personal experience rather than attending a big show with a huge audience.
See traditional Balinese dance and musical performance is something we will never forget. And having a more intimate atmosphere and experience made it much more enjoyable, as well as saving us money! For this show (video above) we sat in the front row, and there were only about 15-20 other people there.
Affordable Accommodation in Bali
It’s amazing just how expensive accommodations can be in Bali – you would be surprised. However, it’s hardly necessary to spend that much money – unless you are going to Bali for the purpose of luxury. Of course, compared to many popular vacation destinations Bali’s prices may be much less than you are used to paying.
For example, we spent 1 week in an incredible wooden bungalow in Ubud. It was called Joglo Taman Sari, and it was perfectly located walking distance to the busiest parts of Ubud town, yet surrounded by rice paddies. It had a wonderful pool, and they woke us with breakfast on our patio every morning! The cost was about $30 USD a night — a steal compared to prices in the States.
During another part of our stay in Bali, we did an Airbnb homestay — with our own thatched-roof bungalow and our own kitchen where we could cook breakfast and keep snacks. For a longer term rental down south of Denpasar, we actually rented a short-term apartment for 2 weeks, at a cost of about $17 per night (which also included a kitchen).
** If you’ve never used Airbnb – click here to claim a discount from us!
With a little research and creativity, there are definitely some great options in Bali for accommodations on a budget. Of course, you can spend more — but when researching, we discovered that paying more didn’t necessarily get you more (as far as service, comfort, or amenities). We felt like the $30 range was actually really good for what we got.
Food in Bali
The food prices in Bali can get crazy expensive, especially in the major touristy areas. Just as any other destination, eating local and away from the main tourist zones will save you a lot of money. This is where having a motorbike could be helpful as well! You will also save money if you eat traditional food as opposed to expat food (like Pizza). Even in places like Ubud, where there are endless numbers of expensive cafes, if you walk around and look carefully you can find little nooks in the street where there is local food being served for a very inexpensive price.
Also, if you can get a hotel that serves a free breakfast or has a kitchen where you can cook breakfast (such as our Airbnb), then you can also save a good deal of cash on some of your meals.
Enjoy More of Bali With Your Budget
Bali is a special and an amazing place, but it can really kill your bank account if you aren’t careful or plan ahead. We loved our one month in Bali – it went by so fast! So we really look forward to going back and exploring more of the beautiful country of Indonesia soon.