07 Jun The Balinese Dream
When we speak of Bali, we think beach, surfing, party, and unlimited ~booze~. But alongside these is the notion that it’s an expensive holiday destination. It’s not. Take it from me – I went home with a few more $$$ than expected, considering I didn’t strictly enforce a budget for my daily expenses.
A little disclaimer – I’m not writing about backpacker hostels and getting drunk in Motel Mexicola and Potato Head in this article. You will, however, read about a rich man’s holiday (ish) without maxing out credit cards. I’m a flashpacker. Also, I travelled with a friend, so most of the bills were split in half; just something to keep in mind.
Om suastiastu, Bali. Nice to meet you.
The trip began with a one-night stopover in Singapore because why not; I love that city. Also because I came from a last minute Hong Kong visit prior to Bali to meet a friend. Being the cheapskate that I am, I didn’t want to fly direct to Denpasar with a full-service airline for obvious reasons. So I flew with Scoot (on a Dreamliner!) to Singapore, and then to Bali with AirAsia.
Note that I arrived at midnight, so Day 0 was spent sleeping in a cheap (but decent, with a pool!) hotel in Kuta – about 8 minutes away from the airport. Day 1 began at 8AM from Kuta to Ubud. Days 6 to 10 were spent in the south of the island in Seminyak.
Aside from the main island, I was lucky enough to discover Nusa Penida – an island off of Bali that is home to a famous billabong, a beach you have to trek down to enjoy, and a diverse marine life. The island has mixed impressions and I wrote a separate post about it.
I wish I had planned better to make time for Komodo, Gili, and the other islands off of Bali. I’m looking to come back later this year; hopefully time and my bank accounts permit me!
Booking a flight to Bali yet? If you haven’t decided where to stay, here are 13 reasons why you should stay in Ubud.
To make it even harder, here are seven secrets of Southern Bali.
I’m listing some tips after the next set of photos. Just some things you need to know (that I wish I knew) before you go to Bali.
GOING TO BALI?
Really quickly – some tips (and budget concerns) to make sure you enjoy your visit:
1. Hire a driver
Bali does not have a metro and you might as well forget about buses. Your best bets going around are either with a private driver for the day or a taxi for point-to-point destinations. It’s never fun coming to a country not knowing how you’re getting to your bed – especially in a place with a nonexistent metro system – so a car hire is your best bet (and it’s inexpensive!).
For a maximum of 12 hours per day, I paid IDR450K. That’s about USD35, inclusive of driver, gas, parking, and other miscellaneous fees; from and to any point in and around Bali. It’s a steal if you ask me, especially that most cars in Bali fit up to 6 adults; that’s less than USD6 per person per day.
For perspective, taxis in the south are metered; a 10-minute ride set me back at IDR15,000, while an in-call taxi from a hotel had a minimum fare of IDR35,000 regardless if the meter just showed IDR8K. These taxis run around the south only; or at least I did not see any in Ubud. Ubud taxis seem to charge more as they are fixed rates and are privately operated by the same ones that offer to be your driver for the day (or the next). Point-to-point, it can set you back at least IDR50,000 per trip.
On top of that, it’s not very easy to find taxis in Ubud and in the north; everyone’s either on a scooter or are serviced by a driver. So yes, hire a driver and thank me later. He can take your photos, too! To save you the hassle, contact Kadek – he was my driver for 7 of the 10 days (2 days with a different driver due to schedule conflict, one day I didn’t need a driver). Slide into his DMs; he can also help in planning your visit. OH AND HE HAS A DRONE! Lol. Reach him on Facebook here or on Instagram here. Great guy, highly recommended.
2. Have a priority list
List priorities – do you want to make sure you dine at this restaurant and at that cafe? List it down. Do you want to see temples or do you prefer waterfalls? Do you want to have lazy days at the beach? List these things, and see if your days in Bali will fit. This was my mistake; I could have had some days spent at the beach or in the pool instead of driving too far to see some temples that didn’t even come close to how they were on Google Images (don’t get me wrong, but lol). Maximise your hours, especially if you’re in the island for just a few days.
3. Plan your days according to locations (or ask help from your driver to organise!)
Bali is big and traffic can be a bane, especially in peak hours. Once you have your list, ask your driver to help you organise it based on available days and targeted locations; they know best in terms of which areas to visit in each day and how much time is needed. You can also maybe allot a day for waterfalls (since you will get wet), a day for temples, and a day for shopping/relaxing.
4. Consider the nearby islands when you plan
I only got to discover Nusa Penida, but there are many islands off Bali. Consider these when you plan; I wish I got to visit the Gili islands, Komodo, and Nusa Ceningan. Maybe later this year!
5. Rent a private villa with a pool
I hate the tourist crowd (I’m not even sorry lol), so if you can spare a few more $ and you have people to share with, get a private villa. Airbnb is your best bet. Bali is home to many private pool villas, and they’re actually inexpensive. Reconsider that expensive hotel; maybe you’re better off having your own quiet (private) escape. Thank me later.
Hotels are relatively cheap, as well; except for those along the coast of course. International chains of hotels are everywhere, as well as small boutique accommodations. Take your pick. But I’d rather get a villa. Or a jungle house, lol.
6. Know how much a regular warung meal is to determine how cheap / expensive a restaurant is
You can eat at warungs (small, local restaurants) for IDR25,000. Some restaurants (local and western) can get you a decent meal at IDR60,000 while some can set you back up to IDR500,000 per meal. Know your budget and dine only at places within the range. I set a personal limit of IDR150,000 per meal, although most meals I had were under or just a little over IDR100K.
Bali is cheap, especially if you know where to get your food.
7. Money, money, money
There are ATMs everywhere in the island, BUT not in every corner. Most tourist attractions have machines, the rest are along main roads and highways.
However, I’m the kind of traveler that brings cash with me, so for those with the same habit, most major currencies are accepted in money changers. However, be aware that there are some that charge commission. Normally, these are small money changers that have a really high (and good) exchange rate posted on the board. If the rate is too good, don’t go. Just don’t. Also – always count your money in front of the person and on the same table in his/her line of sight. Always cross-count.
Only big restaurants and establishments accept credit card payments; it’s a cash-based island, so always have some ready.
Find the good in getting lost,