I thought a “Bali on a budget” post was sort of a given as the whole place is sort of on a budget. But after asking around what some of my other friends’ budgets were while being here they were always quite surprised I could live well and eat well on a budget of $20-30 per day, all in, pretty easily.
When I first arrived I tried hard to avoid the western type restaurants, thinking they would be much more expensive than the local food I was eating. They were more expensive, but don’t get me wrong here, because even when I did start eating in western places, everything was still pretty cheap. Breakfast lunch and dinner could be found for $3.50-7 USD with a drink included (non-alcoholic). You could easily have a budget of $50/day including accommodation but this post is going to give you tips on living and eating local, and slimming down your budget to as cheap as it can possibly go and still feel like you are living pretty well.
I’m an avid believer in budget, budget, budget, SPLURGE. And this post will explain how I live really comfortably, eat really well, and do everything I need to do, on $20-30 USD per day in Bali, Indonesia.
Accommodation: Live Like A Local – Or As Close As You Can Get
Living like a local to me is trying to live in their homes or renting them from them, (for their prices – or as close to as you can get.) Airbnb or homestays are where you will find some really cheap living. Believe it or not, you can still talk them down on the price even on Airbnb. I do it almost every time I book something, it must be the Jew in me.
If you plan to stay awhile like we usually do, they give major discounts for staying for a week, month, 6 months and if you stay even longer up to a year, is when the major discounts come into play. I realize that not everyone can move to Bali for a year let alone wants to stay in the same house – but I just wanted to let you know that if you found your perfect paradise, you can easily live for $400-600 USD per month (and you are most likely still paying double what the locals do).
If you travel with a friend, boyfriend, girlfriend or group of friends – prepare to get the best deals. The bigger the place, the better the deal you will get per room and per person.
Traveling solo is amazing, but there’s no one to split the accommodation cost with. Unfortunately, a room is the same price whether you are one person or two. And for some reason hostels can come out to double the amount that a homestay or a room in a villa would be – Think of it like you are paying for the experience in the hostel. Hostels are a great way to go about it if you are a solo traveler. It’s harder to meet people as a single traveler if you are staying in homestays or in your own villa but the hostels have “instafriends” at your fingertips all waiting to go out for a surf, waterfall adventure or dinner and drinks. I’ve met some of my best friends from meeting them in hostels from around the World.
Normally, I would say staying in a hostel is your cheapest option, but not in Bali.
Most locals are very poor compared to a Westerner salary. Their minimum wage is 3.5 million Rupiah per month (in 2019) which comes out to $250 USD, if they have a job, but most seem to be entrepreneurs selling food etc. out of their homes. By living like a local I mean I’m not staying in fancy hotels or resorts that you can easily find for $75-150 USD per night – and trust me you can stay in some nice, even 5 star hotels for $126 – I am writing this blog from one right now(because every so often I need a SPLURGE). It’s freaking amazing and I wrote a review on it which you can read here. Generally, I’m staying in villas (our own place) or a room in a villa living with locals for $10-30$/ night. To find these good deals on villas I used Airbnb. Airbnb has any and every option when it comes to villas.
This is one of the only places I would say a homestay is a better/cheaper option than a hostel.
Food: Eat Like A Local
You can find good local food for as cheap as $1-3 USD per plate. The western food can start at $4-7 so you can see that already, you don’t have to eat local if it isn’t your style or you don’t like it. You can still eat super cheap and get pizza, burgers, tacos, eggs benedict, pasta, etc. But to really eat cheap, and really stretch your dollar, like really stretch, you stick to the local Warungs which is what they call the street food or local restaurants. And they are very good. You almost cannot go wrong with any that you choose which is nice. I am an avid, “lookup the restaurants before we eat there so we don’t waste a meal on a crappy meal” kind of girl, and with Warungs, you can stop off at any one of them and enjoy a really good street-side plate of fresh food.
Types of Warungs to look for:
There is the straight-up street food Warung: cooking chicken satay while sitting or standing on the side of the road. Finding them cooking up stir-fried veggies, or bbq chicken or bbq fish is not rare to be seen being made on the side of the road or in a place you would not expect them to be. Those will be your cheapest options, and they will be very good. Don’t be afraid to stop at one of these spots if you see one. The places you would immediately think… no thank you, will be having you putting your hands in prayer position telling the woman or man inside how delicious the food was as you are leaving.
A single man food cart run by bicycle or on foot with just a few options. “Meatball soup” is what you will find called bakso. It’s cheap, maybe $0.40 USD if you are a local and they usually tack on a bit more if you are a tourist so maybe this will set you back a whole $0.90. It can be spicy, it’s full of noodles, chicken or beef meatballs, you can add chicken feet – I saw the locals almost always getting chicken feet – maybe it was even cheaper or just really good, and some light vegetables like cabbage.
I keep hearing about this Bali belly – but I’ve yet to experience it (knock on wood). And I eat at these street food type places at least once a day so if you are avoiding the street food because you think you will get sick, I don’t think you have to worry about that. I think you might be more apt to get sick at a western type food place, I am not sure why but for some reason that is ringing a bell.
It doesn’t look anything like a western restaurant. It looks like street food with a roof over its head. It might have a large laminated sign that says Warung or Lelepan, with pictures of the animals they have to cook – examples of that would be chicken, fish, duck etc. They cook your meal to order and it’s so darn good. These are my favorites but they can take up to 15-20 minutes to make your food as they are making it only when you ask for it and if there is a ton of people there, you can expect to wait a while. Worth it!
Local Buffet (I wish I knew the term for this but I don’t remember)
The next type of street food you will find is already cooked, looking like a buffet style. When I first arrived to Bali I wasn’t really about these. Why would I eat “old” already cooked food?! But when I tried one, that was it. It’s such a good way to get a delicious meal, fast and cheap. Not everything is going to be hot, but it will all taste good. We always joke we are craving cold noodles and soggy corn fritters (they are crispy when fresh) but somehow, it’s still a really good meal and you pay very little money for it all. $1-3 USD and even then you are probably being overcharged compared to what a local pays. Have to love that.
Western and oh so trendy restaurants
I tried to avoid western food for a long time thinking it would be expensive and not as good as the local food we were finding. I could take 100,000 Rupiah and buy three local meals or I could buy one meal for that same amount in a western type place. However, that 100,000 Rupiah is still only about $7 USD, and after living in Bali for 5 months, I’d say trying out a few of these places is also very part of the Bali “culture.”
All the food is pretty darn good. If there is one thing I really miss about Bali, It’s the food. It’s been a long time since I’ve had a bad meal and when you are craving pizza or Mexican, or vegan or acai bowl or whatever your go-to is, they have it for you for 1/4 the price of what you are used to. Which, is pretty cool…I will finally admit it. Also, I will add, because I am from California and we always like to say it’s cheaper to make home-cooked meals than to always eat out at restaurants, but in Bali, it’s cheaper to eat out than go to the grocery stores.
I suggest you search out in the area you are staying to find a local market to get your fruit and veg from. In these markets, you find the fruits and vegetables that are grown in Bali. There are so many things to choose from! It’s like the land of the fruit, and always at good prices. We leave the markets with bananas, mangosteen, salaks, mangos, watermelon, turmeric and ginger, all for less than 100,000 Rupiah $7USD, we blend them up into smoothies and a good bunch of fruit usually lasts a few days.
Transportation: Scooters & Taxis. The cheapest ways to get around
Transportation from the airport is undeniably going to be expensive but try to look for the bluebird stand of Taxis. I’ve heard from many people these are the most trustworthy and lowest priced of the taxis. Hopefully everywhere else, you can use apps such as Gojek or Grab which are basically your Lyft and uber of Bali. Ditch uber and Lyft for now as they are nonexistent in Bali.
Once you are settled into your Airbnb or homestay or hostel, your host should be able to direct you where you can rent your own scooter, and ultimately this will be your cheapest way of transport and having the freedom to go wherever you want. The scooter will cost 50,000 – 60,000 Rupiah per day ($3-5 USD) and to fill your gas take will cost about $2 USD every few days. I wrote a fun read on tips for riding a scooter in Bali, before you hop on a scooter, give it look.
GoJek & Grab
If you don’t feel comfortable riding your own scooter, then Gojek and Grab apps are your next cheapest option. You download the app like you would Uber or Lyft, and you use it the same exact way. You enter your location, and where you want to go. It’s extremely cheap. Also, you can order food to be delivered using these same apps for incredibly low prices.
If you don’t feel comfortable riding a scooter at all, your next best option are BlueBird Taxi services. Trustworthy taximen to get you safely from A to B. And if you cant find a Bluebird, a regular taxi is sort of your last option.
I didn’t see any busses for public transport from one place to the next, they seem to use taxis if you need to get around. Taxi’s won’t be super cheap, they might be the most expensive expense of the day but they will be cheaper than what you are used to back home. Like all travel, it’s cheaper to stay where you are and explore a place for longer, than to always be on the go every three days needing your next flight, train or taxi to the next destination.
So if you are trying to make your money last, settle in and stay awhile and really get to know the place around you before you move on. Staying longer helps you live cheaper, scope out all the cheapest eat spots and even make some friends with local people.
Yoga & Gym
Strangely, I find that yoga classes and certain gym memberships can cost as much or more than they are in California. Yoga classes are anywhere from $10-16 USD each class and a gym membership I have found as cheap as $.70 per day up to $10 USD per day. Obviously they did have many differences when it came to the facilities and I found working out at both equally as enjoyable. There will always be both options wherever you are staying.
If you are looking to live on that $20/day life, look for the local, less fancy gyms. They probably won’t have AC just FYI but they will have most of the equipment that you are looking for. The gym I found for 10,000 Rupiah ($.70) also included a refrigerated water bottle and the owner of the gym was always there quite friendly and happy to teach me anything I had questions on about the Bali culture. I found this type of place a much better place to be for what I wanted to get out of the experience.
The “fancier” gyms are where you will find most of the ex-pats and western people. But you won’t get the same experience as you do in the $0.70/day gym where I met the owner who took me to a local cremation ceremony and explained what was happening along the entire process. And, I know for a fact he would be happy to answer any of your questions as well as bring you along to a ceremony that happens to occur while you are there. He was very passionate about teaching westerners about his culture and I loved that.
Working out, outside – for free
I realize you can go for runs, or work out on the beach for free, so I hope you know that is always an option. However, going for runs on the street is probably the least safe thing you can do in terms of your health (pollution from trucks and cars, and the risk of being hit). But if you can get your workout on at the beach for free, this is obviously going to be your best and cheapest option.
Surfing seems to be cheap and accessible where you can rent a board for a few hours a day for $3-7 depending on where you are. If you want to surf every day, you might be better off buying your own board and trying to sell it used at the end of your stay. (You can also do this with a scooter if you are staying 4-6+ months).
If you happen to be in Bali and a yoga retreat or silent retreat is calling your name I definitely suggest going for the SPLURGE on this one and making it happen. I spent more on one week at a yoga retreat than I could have spent on an entire month in Bali I think, but in the end, I didn’t regret it. And since I was budgeting so heavily on everything while I was there, it left little savings to be able to do something with.
You will find locals (even your Airbnb host) and businesses willing to be your driver for the day or days while you are in Bali to take you around and be your tour guide. We never did this. I am sure it’s a great way to see a few things that maybe you haven’t quite heard of, but I know that they also will take you to the biggest tourist places so you can get your photos and go on a swing that they will charge you for (yeah it’s only a few dollars, but to me it took away the fun for me when I saw it was a tourist attraction to make a few bucks.) Instagram really is quite a highlight reel.
You can spend $7 USD or $45 USD and have a great experience at both. I wish I got even more massages than I did, and I got a lot! I mostly spent $7-8 USD but every so often I would go to my favorite cliffside villa, La Jolla, and I would splurge on a $30 massage and you really get a nice treat for just a few dollars more. But since I was trying to live on $20-30 all in every day, this was a rare splurge for me but boy did it feel great to be pampered a bit extra.
Ballin on a budget
If you are looking for a place to vacation, or better yet live for a while either because you have a job that you can work remotely with or maybe you just quit your job to travel (I know the excited feeling you must have as I’ve now done both) you really can’t beat living in Bali.
There are definitely ways to still spend $100/ day or more, if you are going to the fancier gyms, eating only western foods, getting cocktails. Alcohol is very expensive in Bali so we skipped it – not to mention that Bali has this feel about it that makes you want to be healthy and join a gym, so adding alcohol excessively can be a few steps back in your health journey.
You can do yoga every day, and you can rent space at a hub to be able to get some decent wifi and work remotely. You can get pampered massages, stay in more lavish hotels, get taxis everywhere you need to go, and have a great time in Bali.
However, if you are there to save some cash, or have your cash last longer than you could expect it to, you could 100% live on $20-30 USD per day, and not feel like you are missing out on anything, even less if you were really stretching it. It’s an amazing place with kind-hearted and willing to help people. You feel safe everywhere you go, but as always, you need to keep your guard up especially if you are traveling as a solo person. Tips for traveling solo can be found here.
The only downsides to Bali? Pollution. Crowded. Corrupt. But hey, you can’t have it all in any place that you are. I definitely think the pros outweigh the cons when it comes to Bali and I would recommend it to almost anyone who was teetering on going there especially if they were planning to travel on a budget. You can’t get much better of a cheap yet great stay if you are into the local food and savvy on a scooter.