Think of Bali and you remember Julia Roberts from Eat Pray Love, cycling through the rice fields, visiting Ketut, a medicine man and relaxing on Bali’s crystal clear beaches. Or was it the other way round? You watched Eat Pray Love and instantly got an urge to visit Bali.
For me, it was the latter. I watched this movie back in 2014 and couldn’t help falling in love with Bali. I added it to my bucket list immediately and marked it ‘High Priority’. I could finally visit Bali in 2017, and it was nothing less than a dream come true. I think there is hardly anyone who has been disappointed after visiting Bali.
I was on a tight budget when I visited Bali, but I had an amazing time there. So, I want to share some tips and advice for people who are planning to backpack to Bali and want to make the most of it, without having to shell out much. Let’s start.
One thing that I would like to advise you against is to hire a travel agent for your bookings. DO THEM YOURSELF! Trust me, not only will you end up saving money, you will also get to know a lot about the country, which is a must, I would say.
So, the thing about Bali is that there are a lot of options of accommodation for travellers. Starting from beds in a dorm, home stays, guest houses to high-end hotels, one can choose depending on the budget. I opted for home stays and cheap guest houses. You can find some really nice ones with good amenities and relatively cheap prices, and that too in busy and famous areas. You need to do some extensive and patient research for such places. That is, when you are really not up for a bed in a hostel, otherwise there is nothing cheaper than that.
This way, you not only save money, you also get to interact with the locals, eat their cuisine, and you get to meet fellow travellers in common areas. You definitely don’t get to experience this in a hotel.
DO NOT FALL for those Blue Bird taxis that you can see all around. The best way to commute in Bali is renting a scooter. SCOOTER IS BALI’S LIFELINE. You can see everyone riding a scooter around. It’s sooooo much fun to drive on the roads of Bali. Plus, you can rent a scooter for as cheap as $4 a day (if you are very good at bargaining). You can also hire a bike for cycling around the rice fields, for some peaceful time just by yourself.
1 dollar is 13,979 Indonesian Rupiah, so even if you exchange as little as 100 dollars, it is a lot! But, the catch here is that Balinese currency notes are of high denominations, like a 50,000 IDR currency note. Very confusing right?
Now, when you get your dollars exchanged at a shop, you are overwhelmed seeing the currency notes and the amount you get for your dollars. It, therefore, becomes very easy to get conned. There are thousands of local shops in Bali that provide currency exchange services but at the cost of conning their customers. And, when you try to reason with them, they will have all the logics explaining their actions.
So, here is my advice – DO NOT GET CURRENCY EXCHANGED AT A LOCAL SHOP. Be aware of the current exchange rate and go to a trusted and credible money exchanger. You can also get it done from the airport or from your home country.
There is absolutely NO NEED for you to hire a local guide to show you around. Just put on enough sunscreen, wear light clothes, get in your tactical boots, take a map in your hand and hop on your scooter. Oh yes, don’t forget to grab Bali’s local beer – BINTANG. That is all you will need to get around the city, take hikes through beautiful trails and relax at the beaches.
There is A LOT of bargaining in Bali. You need to be a pro at it. DO NOT ENTER a shop in Bali if you can’t bargain with the shopkeeper. The price they will start with, are triple of what they can actually settle on. So be prepared to bring them down to one-third of they asked you for. Otherwise, Bali is a nice place to collect some souvenirs for your loved ones.
I am sure these tips will help you save money on your visit to Bali, and that you will also be saved of many hassles that come with unawareness and little knowledge. I would like to end by saying “When in Bali, do as the Balinese do” and you are bound to have a memorable experience in this beautiful Indonesian country.