Bali on a budget: How I spent less than $20/day

by Lara
Bali swing

In 2017 Bali was voted the world’s favorite travel destination by Trip Advisor users. It is no surprise, except having a stunning nature, from waterfalls, white and black sand beaches to volcanos, caves and rice terraces, Bali is also rich on art culture, laidback lifestyle and exquisite cuisine.

As the world’s most favorite destination, you would guess it has to be quite expensive, right? That’s what I thought before spending a month and a half on the Island of Gods. I had a budget of $2000 for my first month and wasn’t quite sure if it will be enough. Some friends even told me it is a really tight budget which made me even more uncertain about going there. What is the point of visiting a destination you can’t properly enjoy because you don’t have enough money to experience it as you want it?

That being said, after one month I left Bali with $200 in my pocket, which is unusual for me since I always spend as much as I have. I enjoyed Bali so much that after I came back home, I felt a strong urge to return. The problem was, after I pay an airplane ticket, I will only have $400 left which was supposed to last for two weeks. I knew it is possible although I didn’t know if I will like the experience, but a wish to come back was stronger than that.

What happened is, I’ve spent even less than that. In whole two weeks in Bali, I have spent $200!

So how I managed to spend less than $20/day?

My first month in Bali I was spending around $60/day without being too careful how much I am paying for food, drinks or transport. Only thing I was saving on was accommodation which I never paid more than $20/night, and I was staying at some boutique hostels, bungalows, homestays, and villas.

I even fell for a few tourist traps and spent way more on some things than I should have been spending. For example, I bought my first SIM card with 8GB data for $20. After I said that to my local friends who I met later on, they felt sorry for me and took me to the store. That time I paid for a new card with 30GB only $5. It is true, they will try to trick you when they can.

The most common question I get is- “How much money I need for this and that destination.” My usual answer is- “That’s the question no one can answer you.” Bali is a place where you can spend from $20/day to few thousands per day. And that’s the beauty of it. The Island of Gods is all kind of budgets friendly. If you are tight on a budget but still want to visit Bali, the good news is that you can do it and I will tell you how!

1. ACCOMMODATION

The accommodation can take up a big chunk of your budget. But it doesn’t have to, especially if you do Couchsurfing! I used the CS app for the first time in Bali, not because I didn’t have money for the accommodation but because I was traveling solo and wanted to meet locals. That ended up being the greatest decision of all since getting to know locals and expats living on the island has given me completely different experience than I would have without them. I learnedΒ  about local culture and customs from the first hand, lived more like locals and made some valuable friendships. Couchsurfing gave me an experience that no travel agency or organized tours would ever do. And the bonus is, you get to save quite a lot of money too!

If you are not comfortable with Couchsurfing for whatever reason, the next best option, if you want to save on accommodation, is staying at hostels. In Bali you can find really cheap ones, starting from $5/night. I stayed in a bit pricer place, but if you can afford it, definitely check out Kosta Hostel in Seminyak. You can read my review here. Anyway, I still recommend you to use CS app, at least its Hangout option to meet fellow travelers and locals.

MINIMUM COST PER DAY: $0

2. TRANSPORTATION

Transportation is a bit tricky in Bali since there is basically no public transport. If you don’t want to spend money on personal drivers who charge around $20-30/day or use taxi all the time which can be quite pricey too, you will have to rent a scooter. Renting a scooter for a day will cost you $4, but if you are staying longer, the best way is to rent it per month which will come around $40-50/month, or less than $2/day. The price of one liter of gas is 50 cents.

If you don’t fancy the idea of driving a scooter, download a GO JEK app. It is the cheapest taxi you can find, especially if you take a scooter, not a car. If you are going for a longer trip, find people with whom you can share the costs for the driver. If you need a tip for the good, cheap, and reliable driver in Bali- shoot me a message on Curious Journeylist’s FB.

MINIMUM COST PER DAY: $5

3. FOOD

The places you want to go if you need to save money are warungs, which merely means restaurant. Warungs are restaurants with local cuisine and can be found everywhere on the island. You can have a proper and delicious meal that includes rice, chicken, eggs, and lots of vegetables for $1-1.5. Water will cost you less than 50 cents.

MINIMUM COST PER DAY: $3

4. SIGHTSEEING

Plenty of sites, including markets, beaches, and most of the temples are for free. You will have to pay a small fee ($1-2) for some waterfalls, major temples and rice terraces.

MINIMUM COST PER DAY: $2

5. NIGHTLIFE

Drinking in Bali is expensive, so they say. Actually, it is not that expensive if you compare it with alcohol in Europe or States, but comparing it with prices of some other stuff in Bali, it is ridicoulusly expensive. For example, one mixed drink/cocktail in a bar will cost you from $10-15 and for that money, you can have accommodation, lunch, and dinner!

But! There is always “a but,” isn’t it? πŸ˜‰ If you don’t want to give up entirely on going out and occasionally party, I might have good news for you. Indonesians have the local alcohol, similar to what is rakija in Balkans or uzzo in Greece or whatever strong liquor your country is famous for. It means it’s strong, smells bad and gets you drunk fast. In Indonesia, it’s called Arak.

Arak is distilled from coconut or rice and they mix it with some juice because it does taste awful. It is quite strong and cheap, so if in bar you find a cheap vodka juice or some other mixed drink, be sure you are not drinking vodka, you are drinking arak. One liter of this drink (mixed with juice) costs about $2 and it is enough to make you and your friends tipsy.

IMPORTANT:Β  With Indonesian arak you do have to be careful and know where you can get a good one. Most of the locals do drink it, but they know where to buy it. Most of the tourist drink it as well, even if they don’t know it. The advice is to never buy homemade arak because some people don’t know how to properly make it and in these cases can be dangerous. If you want to know more about this drink, please first read this post which is quite comprehensive and accurate.
Another solution to expensive drinks in bars is simply buying a beer from the store which will cost you about $1.5 , have it on the beach and later join a sand bar party.

MINIMUM COST PER NIGHT: well

Being on a tight budget gives you the opportunity to experience place like a local

I believe I’ve covered all the basic costs you are going to have in Bali. If you are on a tight budget, you can do it with $15/day if you do CS and don’t drink too much. Please note that this budget, although doable, is more suitable for long-term travels. When coming to Bali (or anywhere for that matter) only for a week, you will most definitely spend more because you will use organized tours and faster transportation to be able to see and do as much as possible in a limited time.

So, to sum it up. I was in Bali 2 times. The first time I was there one month and spent $1800 what was, in average, $60/day. With that money, you can stay in very nice (not luxurious) accommodation, eat in more expensive restaurants than warungs, have an occasional night out, take taxies and personal drivers, do surfing lessons, snorkeling, cooking classes, and basically everything you want to do in Bali.

On my second visit, I stayed two weeks, did CS all the time and spent $200. I have to say that those two trips to Bali were two completely different experiences, so it is impossible to say which one was better.

When I had more money I also did some organized touristic things such as cooking classes or snorkeling trips. I was buying clothes and souvenirs and didn’t care how much am I spending if going out. It was fun.

On my second time, I already felt like local. I lived with locals and drove on scooters with them. We explored the island by ourselves, ate in the cheapest places (some of the best food I tried), drank arak in Cube (cool place in Canggu, give it a go). We cooked dinner together or were just sitting on the beach and chatting while watching the sunset. It was real experience and real moments that made this trip so unique. I had a feeling of authenticy, and not the one you are being sold in a tourist brochures.Β  I started to feel like home. Which is not the best thing when traveling, but I will write about that some other time.

I do like to splurge sometimes, eat in fancier restaurants, not care how much am I spending and where, but being on a tight budget was a quite rewarding experience. I was automatically avoiding all the touristy places and activities and got to know real Bali.

So, in case you still wonder whether you have enough money for Bali or not, the answer is- yes. You have. But be honest with yourself and think about if you can fully enjoy traveling on a minimum budget. There are lot of people who would never travel like that. Although let’s be real, if you are all inclusive type of person who can stay only in resorts or luxurious hotels, you wouldn’t even be reading this, would you? 😊

And for the end, I’ve written down the costs of the things you might want to know.

ITEM/FOOD/ACTIVITY PRICE
small bottle of water 30-50 cents
large bottle of water 75 cents
cigaretts (local) $1.5
cigaretts (Marlboro) $2.2
smoothie $2-3
coffee $1-2
snorkeling trip (half day) $10
cooking class $20-30
gass 50 cents/L
scooter rental/per day $4
massage $5- …
hostel $5-15
hotel $20-…
villa $50-…
small bintang (beer) $1.5-2
large bintang $3
1 hour surfing lesson $25
lunch in warung $1-2
lunch in Mama San (high end restaurant) $30-…
lunch in middle range rest. $5-10

Did you find this post useful? If you did, you can share it and show me some love πŸ™‚ If you would like to read more posts like this, follow me on FB and IG accounts to stay up to date with new articles.

And if you have any questions or comments, write me below, I will gladly answer them!

Thank you for reading,

Lara

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15 comments

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Tihana October 19, 2017 - 12:11 am

If Bali is good for every budget, then I can go to Bali right away, as I have none πŸ˜€ just kidding, but I do love your posts from this place and they really make me want to go there. I’m definitely craving some seaside relaxation with cheap good food.

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Lara
Lara October 19, 2017 - 12:14 am

You sure could! πŸ˜‚ You will not spend more than home that’s for sure.

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Nicholas October 19, 2017 - 2:16 am

Great post, thank you for writing it! I’ll arrive on Bali on Friday an am really excited. I will probably do the more luxurious style for the first 2 weeks (while my friend is with me) and go for the cheaper hostel & couchsurfing style afterwards when I am alone.

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Lara October 19, 2017 - 8:02 am

Thank you for the comment! πŸ™‚
Ah I have to say I am a bit jealous on you, wish that I am traveling tomorrow to Bali. πŸ™‚
You will love it, it’s an amazing place!
Your plan is exactly what I did and it is a great combination. Have fun and let me know how did you like it when you come back, ok?

Safe travels,

Cheers

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Selma October 20, 2017 - 7:52 am

Great post and great tips. Thanks πŸ™‚

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Lara October 20, 2017 - 8:45 am

Thabk You! πŸ™‚

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Karen October 20, 2017 - 10:34 am

We have been to Bali many times and you have given good advice to travelers on a budget … well done

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Lara
Lara October 20, 2017 - 10:40 am

Thanks! πŸ™‚

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Rachael stray October 24, 2017 - 7:28 pm

Love the pictures along with your tips. Haven’t been to Bali but it looks stunning! Xx

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Ashlee October 24, 2017 - 8:04 pm

Oh, how I miss Bali prices!!

xx
http://www.whitepetaltravels.com

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Troy Luff April 8, 2018 - 3:39 am

Hi Lara,
Well done on this, a lot of good information for new comers.
Just a thought, you may want to adjust the prices and perhaps use rupiah instead of dollars. I would assume it’s USD but as this can be viewed by anyone from any country it may be confusing. And the rupiah exchange rate is highly volatile so it changes quite frequently. It’s now 13,775 to the USD but 3 months ago it was 13,300 which makes a huge difference to the prices you stated.
Anyway, just a suggestion. A lot of the prices you quoted are actually a lot higher than they actually are. For example I pay 35,000/day ($3.30) for scooter rental. If you’d like some price tips I’d be happy to help after many trips to Bali, cheers, Troy

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Lara
Lara April 12, 2018 - 6:09 pm

Dear Troy,

thanks for your comment and thoughtful advices, I appreciate it. I put the price in US dollars thinking it is the most recognisable currency but I guess you are right, I should have stated that it is US dollars. I wouldn’t try putting it in rupiah because most of the people have no idea how much rupees are in their currency but most of the people know how much is something in their currency when they see price in US $. And for the scooter, when I was there half year ago to rent for a day was 50.000 rupiah but you could get a scooter for one month as low as 600.000 which is 20.000 per day (if you knew the locals). If you want, I will get you the information where exactly! πŸ™‚ Cheers!

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Troy Luff April 13, 2018 - 3:25 am

Hi Lara,

Thanks for the reply. A lot of people may think it is Australian dollars as so many from Australia go there. The prices you quoted are probably more comparable with AUD anyway.
And thanks for the offer re the scooter, I use the same guy every time and happy to pay 35,000/day as I’m normally there for less than 2 weeks.

Cheers
Troy

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Adam June 6, 2018 - 4:17 am

Hi Lara. Bali on a budget I need before I go to Bali, this I will prepare carefully and your article has helped my holiday preparations, thanks Komodoresort.com

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Lara
Lara July 26, 2018 - 10:59 pm

I am glad, Adam! Enjoy your holidays πŸ˜‰

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