Cheap Travel to Bali: A Complete Guide

By Thibaud (Jakarta100bars)
Traveling cheap in Bali is not difficult if you are well-prepared and well-informed. The following guide is a must-read for any visitor wanting to get the most out of her/his dollars without sacrificing on quality.

I've lived 3 years in the island, enough time to know the best tricks and tips to save money on what is unnecessary. My goal is to help you make the right decisions regarding your flights, your hotels, your meals, your transportation and the attractions you visit.

If you have any questions about your trip, you can leave a comment below or contact me directly: thibaud@jakarta100bars.com.

Best Time to Visit Bali? Choose Your Season Carefully

Choosing your travel dates is the decision that will affect your budget the most. Tourism in Bali is highly cyclical, alternating between fully-booked peak seasons and budget-friendly low-seasons.

Weather in Bali
The weather in Bali is not an exact science. I observed the following:
  • 15th November to 15th March: Rainy season (almost daily rain for several hours, hot weather). During this period, the sea is also rougher and it carries a lot of garbage onto the beach.
  • 15th March to 1st June: Shoulder season (occasional rain, very hot weather)
  • 1st June to 15th September: Dry season (No rain, hot weather)
  • 15th September to 15th November: Shoulder season (occasional rain, very hot weather)

Most Expensive Periods to Visit Bali
The peak seasons in Bali, when the prices are the most expensive, are the following:

- Christmas and New Year: This is the busiest period of the year, when all prices go crazy. Few people realize that it is actually a terrible time to visit as it is raining almost daily. I strongly recommend to avoid traveling to Bali during this time unless you are looking for noise and traffic.

- Lebaran: This is the most important holiday in Indonesia for Muslims. It starts after the end of ramadhan and last for approximately 10 days. Thousands of Jakartans flock to Bali for the occasion, particularly in the South (Kuta, Legian, Seminyak, Nusa Dua). The date of the Lebaran is not the same every year: In 2016, it will start on July 6th. In 2017 on June 24th. In 2018 on June 14th.

- 1st of July to 5th of September: This is the holiday season in Europe. The whole island gets busy during that time, especially around August 17th when you also have the Indonesian Independence day.

- Around 20th of September to 10th of October: This is a school holiday in Australia and you still have a fair number of tourists from Europe.

- Chinese New Year: Usually happening in early February, this is a busy period as both local and international tourists (from Singapore, Malaysia and China) come for a few days, usually in the South (Kuta, Nusa Dua, Jimbaran).

- Japanese Golden Week: It is the longest holiday in Japan from April 29th to May 5th. Since Japanese tourists are not as numerous as before, the impact on prices is now limited.

- Chinese Golden Week: Second longest holiday in China, it happens early October.


Best Periods to Visit Bali
Based on the information above, I would advise you to visit Bali from March 15th to the end of June and from the October 10th to the end of November. This is when you will get the best prices, the best weather and the less tourists.

Bali is also a weekend destination for residents of Jakarta, Surabaya, Bandung, Singapore and Kuala Lumpur. It is particularly true when you have long weekends due to a public holiday falling on a Friday/Monday. Naturally, prices go up during those times.

Finding the Cheapest Flights to Bali

Domestic Flights within Indonesia
Onward flight prices are higher from Friday afternoon to Saturday morning and outward prices are higher from Sunday night to Monday morning.

If you are on a budget, you probably won't choose to fly with the national airline Garuda. I've noticed though that if you check directly on their website, you can sometimes get excellent bargains. The advantage of booking with Garuda is that you get a 20 kilograms luggage allowance, a free meal and more flexibility for cancelling your flight.

AirAsia is usually considered as one of the best local low-cost airlines. Their pricing is not always interesting however, particularly if you have extra luggage and if you want to pick your seat.

I usually fly with Lion Air. Not only it is the cheapest, it currently allows passengers to check-in up to 20 kilograms of luggage for free. If you come early enough, they can also give you seats near the emergency exit so you'll get more space for your legs. Citilink, the low-cost carrier from Garuda is an alternative but slightly more expensive.

The easiest way to save money on low-cost flight is to bring a carry-on luggage only with you (usually under 10 kilograms is tolerated). Consider that unless you trek Mount Agung or Mount Batur, you do not need any warm clothes in Bali, nor shoes, nor pants. There are very few things you cannot buy in Bali. Don't hesitate to leave sunscreen or shower gel at home if it allows you to bring one less bag.


Saving Money on International Flights
I use 3 websites when searching for good deals on international flights: Skyscanner.net, Google Flight and Kayak Explore. Those websites are unique because they allow for flexible search, meaning you do not need to input a particular destination or a precise date.

For instance, on Skyscanner you can find the best prices for a whole month or find the cheapest month within a year. If your travel dates are flexible, it is an incredible tool to use and it can save a lot of money.
Skyscanner allows you to find the best prices during a particular month
Another great feature is that you can input a country as a destination and then see how much it costs to fly to each of the airports within that country.

This feature can help you get great deals to go to Bali if you don't mind making a stop-over somewhere else in Indonesia.

For example, international flights to Surabaya and Jakarta are usually cheaper so you can go there first, and then take a local flight to Bali (Surabaya- Denpasar can be as low as 20$ and Jakarta-Denpasar is not more than 50$).

On the example below, I am looking for flights from Singapore to Indonesia in general, not particularly Bali.
As you can see, Singapore- Jakarta costs only 40$ while Singapore-Denpasar is 150$. In this case, if you do a stop-over in Jakarta you can save at least 60$. It is also usually faster to do your visa in Jakarta.

Kayak Explore and Google Flights offer a similar alternative, except that the results are displayed on a map.

Avoid Frequent Flyer Programs
Almost each airline has its own frequent flyer program. In general, you get a certain number of Miles for each purchases you make with that airlines and its partners. With some companies, you can also get more Miles if you own a partner credit card and use it for daily payments.

Once you've collected enough Miles, you can trade them for a free ticket or an upgrade. If you are a frequent flyer, you can get benefits such as the use of the lounge, priority checking or a more flexible reimbursement policy.

Unless your tickets are paid by your company, I would advise against joining these programs. The companies are usually playing with your ego to make you feel like you are a "special" customer with small attentions and small benefits. On your side, this makes you book exclusively with them, ignoring cheaper prices from competitors. In the end, you pay for your "free" ticket or upgrade much more than they are worth.

Finding Smart Hotel Deals

Hotel developments have gone crazy in Bali. Investors start building hotels without having the necessary permits and license. This absence of regulation has led to a serious over-supply of rooms and a price war.

This is particularly true with the newest hotels that are not centrally-located or far from the attractions. If you don't mind behind a few hundred meters away from the action, you can easily save 50% of your hotel bill. Some of the best value hotels in Bali are on Jalan Sunset Road. Read carefully my advices about transportation below to make sure you don't spend the money you've saved in taxis though.

Apart from the typical booking engines like Agoda or Booking.com, I recommend you to try ZenRooms.com.

They have rooms all over Bali with prices starting only $15 per night, including AC, hot water and sometimes a swimming pool.

Best cities in Bali for cheap travel
The most expensive cities in Bali are Jimbaran, Nusa Dua and Seminyak. For intermediate prices, you have Sanur, Kuta and Legian. The cheapest are Denpasar, Ubud, Amed and Lovina.

Beachfront locations in the South are pricey unless you go to Bingin beach or Balangan beach. If your dream is to stay in a beach bungalow and you don't have a lot of money, it's better going to Lombok or even Thailand.

Getting Around in Bali for Cheap

Can You Go Around Bali With Public Transport?
Semi-public transport options in Bali are limited, but they are good enough to take you to the most famous cities like Kuta, Ubud, Sanur, Lovina or Amed.

Bemos and Angkot
Both bemos and angkots used to be everywhere, but it is much harder to find them as almost every Balinese family now owns a motorbike. Bemos and angkots are minivans with a capacity of about 10 people. They usually follow a straight line from one point to another (the route is written on the front of the car). The price depends on how far you go, usually between Rp3,000 and Rp5,000. It's a cheap and authentic way to travel, but it is not convenient at all because there are not enough lines in touristic locations.

Komotra
Komotra are open-air colourful buses that operate between Seminyak and Kuta on Jalan Legian. You can wave at them if they pass buy and hop on for Rp10,000.

Perama
Perama minibuses are interesting for tourists as they connect some major points of the island like Ubud, Kuta, Sanur, Lovina or Candidasa. They can also arrange transfer to Lombok. You can check the lines available, the fares and the schedule on Perama's website. To get the best prices, you can book directly in their offices or you can also book on line with a credit card or PayPal. Otherwise, the tickets can be bought through your hotel or through one of the numerous "travel agents" you will find on the streets, but the prices may be higher.

If you plan on traveling around Bali with Perama, I would recommend choosing a hotel not too far from their offices/stops (you can see them on their website).

Prices with Perama are about a third of what you would pay for a private taxi. It saves you money but it isn't that cheap either.

Sarbagita
Sarbagita is the latest attempt by the provincial government to develop public transportation in Bali. Unfortunately, due to the pressure of taxi lobbies, the buses stop in very inconvenient locations far away from tourist spots. As a consequence, you may spend more money going to bus stops than on the bus ride itself (currently only Rp3,500/ride).

It is also very difficult to find information on the routes. The most interesting line for tourists is the one going from the domestic terminal in the airport (near Solaria restaurant) to Mengwi in the north of Denpasar. Using this route, you can stop on Sunset Road, and from there take a taxi to Kuta/Seminyak/Legian.

Technically, you can go to Sanur, Kuta, Ubud or Uluwatu with Sarbagita but you'll need some patience finding the stops and waiting for the buses. If you have time, it can be worth it though as the price is hard to beat. The only map I could find is this one. Don't hesitate to ask the driver for assistance.

Kura Kura
Kura Kura was developed by the Japanese travel company JTB because their customers were complaining about the difficulties to get around in Bali.

They have several lines in each major tourist cities of South Bali and one in Ubud. You pay a flat rate for each line wherever you decide to go. The price is interesting but only about half of what you would pay with a taxi.

In spite of a huge demand for their services, they had some difficulties as well at the start of their operation because of the complaints from taxi drivers.

More information on their website: Kura-Kura Bali.

Should You Rent A Scooter?
I was using a scooter the whole time I lived in Bali. It is very easy to rent, cheap, and it gives you much more flexibility. You are supposed to possess an international driving license but it's no big deal if you get caught without (a Rp50,000 bill will make the problem disappear).

Balinese pay around Rp30,000 per day to rent a scooter. The tourist price is between Rp50,000/day and Rp100,000/day. If you rent the scooter weekly or monthly, you can get much cheaper.

The downside of driving a scooter is that it is dangerous. Most of the deaths of foreigners in Bali are scooter-related accidents. Traffic in the Kuta area is crazy and few rules apply: Don't expect cars to warn you if they make a turn. Don't be surprised either to see everybody running a red-light when the police is not around.

In spite of the danger, I still think that scooters are the best way to get around in Bali.

Best Transportation Apps to Save Money in Bali
Transportation apps are a great way to travel for cheap in Bali. As elsewhere in the world, they face protests from traditional taxis and the government has called for their ban several times. They are still working until now.

I use the the following apps:

Grab
Grab is the umbrella app for services like GrabCar, GrabTaxi and GrabBike. GrabCar allows you to call a private car, GrabTaxi calls you a taxi, and GrabBike a motorbike. The prices are very reasonable (30-50% lower at least for GrabCar compared to regular taxis) and you don't have to negotiate anything.

Uber
Similar to Grab, but a bit cheaper. You need a credit card to order a car. They have two services in Bali: UberX and Uber Black (nicer cars, professional drivers).

You can sign up here: Uber Indonesia.

Go-Jek
Similar to GrabBike, this popular local app allows you to book a motorbike (and a driver) for a cheap price. They have other services as well like Go-Eat to order delivery food.

Airport Transport
The airport is one of the most difficult places in Bali to find cheap transportation. Still, unless your hotel provides a free pick-up, it is better to do everything on your own.

There is not a lot of room for negotiation within the airport: Prices are fixed at about twice the normal rate. If you really want to save money, you have only a few options:

- Exiting the airport by foot and getting a taxi outside: If you have a small luggage, it is very easy to do and it takes just 5 minutes to get out.

- Take public transports: As I wrote above, you can now take a public bus from Bali airport. The lines goes to Sunset Road in particular, from where you can take a taxi.

- You can try your luck with Uber or GrabCar, but in that case, make sure your driver is waiting on the parking lot, discreetly. Taxis may get angry at your driver if they see he is picking you up.

Changing money and ATMs

Best Money Changers in Bali
Money changers are one of the most famous scams in Bali. Small ones on the famous tourist streets will advertise very interesting rates, then try to short-change you.

I actually used that trick several time to my own benefit by changing small amounts at a time and monitoring strictly the number of bills I was handled. This allowed me to benefit from quite higher rates. The owner of the shop may change his mind and ask for the money back though...

If you prefer safety, the most recommended money changers in Bali are BMC and Central Kuta Money Exchange. Both have several branches in key locations on the island.

They may refuse dollar bills that look a bit old or folded. Make sure you travel with new ones. You'll get more money out of them too.

If you are not changing dollars or euros, the rate might not be so interesting. For this reason, if you have rare currencies, you may want to change them first in dollars in your home country.

ATM
There are ATMs almost everywhere in Bali. The withdrawal limit is usually just over $100 (Rp1,500,000), but it can be as low as Rp500,000. Some foreign banks like CitiBank or HSBC allow up to Rp3,000,000.

The withdrawal limit is important as you normally have to pay a flat fee each time you take money. Ask your bank how you can waive such fees while you are on holiday.

Shit happens even in Bali, and in particular having your card blocked in an ATM. I would advise you to bring two cards or to keep enough cash to get by for a few days just in case.

Using the proper visa and proper agent

If you are in Bali or Indonesia for less than a month, most likely you won't need a visa. Just check the list of countries eligible for a visa waiver on the website of any Indonesian embassies).

Written on March 5th 2016: This information may not be valid in a few months. Please leave a comment below if you have any question about the current regulation.

If you stay more than a month, you have several strategies:

Visa runs (if your country is eligible for free 30-day pass)
You get a free 30-day pass upon arrival, book a return flight to KL or Singapore, and get a new 30-day pass. If you are lucky, you can get a return flight for less than $100. It's the most expensive and least convenient way to stay longer in Indonesia, but it saves you from the hassle of actually getting a visa.

Note that the free 30-day pass cannot be extended in Indonesia.

30-day paid visa + 30-day extension
Even if you can benefit from a free 30-day pass, you still have the option of paying for a 30-day visa in the airport (currently $35). A 30-day extension is allowed with this visa, for a price varying from $25 to $40. For agents recommendation see below.

60-day visa
The 60-day visa can be made in any Indonesian consulate abroad. At the time of writing, it costs $50 and it takes 3 days to proceed. You do not need an agent. Some embassies allow the process to be done by mail/courier. This solution is good if you stay less than 2 months and if you live in a city near a consulate. If not, even though it is sometimes possible to do it by courier, it becomes more complex and costly.

Socio-cultural visa (SOSBUD - sosial budaya in Indonesian)
This visa can also be obtained from any Indonesian consulate. You need a letter of invitation/sponsorship that can be written by an Indonesian friend, an agent, an organization or a company. The visa allows you to stay in Indonesia for 2 months and it can be extended 4 times for a month each.

In general, agents charge between $100 and $200 for a SOSBUD + $25-$50 per extension.

You can normally do all this by yourself, but it is not recommended. The staff in the consulates and the immigration offices want you to use an agent because they can get money from it. If you don't use an agent, they will make the process slower and more complicated.

Recommended Visa Agents in Bali
Prices can normally be negotiated. Don't hesitate to call several ones to get the cheapest prices.

Bayu Santero Visa Services: http://indonesiaimmigrationvisa.com/
Channel 1 Visa Bali: http://www.channel1.biz/
CCI (expat-owned): http://www.cciindonesia.com/
Okusi Associates: https://okusiassociates.com/balioffice
Lamansa Indonesian Visa: http://www.lamansalink.com/
Visa For Bali: http://visaforbali.com/
Expatrust Bali: http://expatrustbali.com/

6 More Useful Tips For Cheap Travel in Bali

Eating out
If you are alone, it is often cheaper to eat local food on the street rather than cooking by yourself. Indonesia restricts imports to protect its farmers, but it does not provide significant help for them either. In the end, you have few products, with lower quality and for a higher price than in other Asian countries like Thailand or Vietnam.

In spite of that, Indonesian cuisine is varied and delicious. Don't limit yourself to nasi goreng!

You can eat Indonesian street food for approximately $1 for a simple meal without meat, and $2 with meat. In casual restaurants, you can expect prices to be slightly lower than in Western country: About $5 for Indonesian food and between $5 and $12$ for Western food. Most restaurants add a tax and service charge to the final bill.

In the most touristic areas, cheap food stalls may be hidden in smaller streets. Ask Indonesians around for advice. Another possibility is to download the application GoJek: It has a food delivery option for just Rp15,000 that includes some cheap restaurants.

You can also read my guide for affordable restaurants: Cheap Eats Bali.

You have thousands of convenience stores in Bali. On some busy streets, you can find one every 100 meters. Unfortunately, they do not have a lot of choice apart from snacks, candies, sugar drinks and chips. If you need to do some serious grocery shopping, you can visit local supermarkets such as Nirmala (in the Bukit Peninsula) or Hardy's for the best prices.

If you need imported products, you can go to Carrefour, Lotte Mart or Bintang instead.

Finally, for expensive and gourmet shopping, try Papaya (Japanese food) or Bali Deli.

Alcohol and Party
What may cost you more money than food is alcohol and wine. The cheapest bottles of alcohol in Indonesia cost almost $25 in supermarkets, and even more in restaurants. If you plan on drinking wine, a good idea is to buy a bottle in the airport of your home country, and then bring it to the restaurant you want to go to (if they allow corkage).

For heavy drinkers and party-goers, the most affordable bars and clubs are located in Kuta. SkyGarden in particular offers interesting promotion before midnight. Start your night on their rooftop: They have an all-you-can-eat BBQ every night that costs only $5!

For a detailed review of the best places to party in Bali: Bali Nightlife and Best Nightclubs in Bali.

Buying souvenirs and bargaining
In all major tourist streets, it has become harder to bargain when buying souvenirs. Shop owners are agreeing on minimum prices that are often way above the real value of the objects.

If you plan on buying cheap souvenirs, I advise you to visit huge stores like Krisna or Hawaii Bali, both of which have branches near the airport. Most of their customers are Indonesians on bus tours looking for "oleh-oleh", cheap souvenirs, before heading back to their respective islands. You can find anything there including clothes, snacks, painting, bags and accessories. All prices are fixed.

If you buy more expensive products, I advise you to find out who the supplier is. Chic shops in Seminyak can charge you 10 times the price you could get directly from the reseller (some of which are located just 5 minutes away on Jalan Tangkuban Perahu in Kerobokan!).

Resellers do not have fixed prices so it may be difficult to know if you are being ripped-off or not. My method is to evaluate the cost of manufacturing and then add a 30% margin. For that you need to ask questions about the materials used and the number of working hours spent.

The cost of materials can be checked on www.alibaba.com. For the salaries, you can consider that a skilled worker is paid about Rp100,000 per day.

Smiling and being friendly is very important when negotiating a price. Being charming works much better than being threatening.

Laundry
Most hotels provide laundry services, but you can save money easily by taking your laundry outside. Typically, the price is Rp10,000 to Rp15,000 for 1 kilo, including ironing and folding.

You can find such laundries everywhere. Just ask around for the nearest locations.

Staying healthy and safe
It is not compulsory to be insured when visiting Indonesia but it should be. You should understand that the decent hospitals in Bali are all privately-run and they will not treat you if you cannot pay.

Prices are often outrageous and it's not rare to see bills over $10,000 for a broken leg.

A holiday in Bali means you will be taking more risks than you would back home: Thing about road accidents, tropical diseases, sports-related injuries, animal bites, food poisoning, etc. Do not visit the island if you cannot afford a travel insurance. You can read Choosing A Travel Insurance in Indonesia for a complete review of your available options.

Avoid scams, taxi "mafias", tour guides and ... the police
Compared to other destinations in Asia, Bali is relatively preserved from aggressive scammers. For sure they exist, but in general the only problem you will face is being over-charged by taxis, sellers, tour guides and hotel employees.

A little-known fact is that the whole tourism economy in Bali is driven by commissions. Most spas, restaurants, tourist spots, transportation companies and shops give commissions to anyone who sends them a client. The amount can be fixed, or it can be a percentage of the sales. In some extreme cases, the amount of commission can represent up to 50% of the total price. This is the case for some seafood restaurants in Jimbaran, for some fastboat companies between Bali and Lombok, and for most watersport activities in Tanjung Benoa.

For this reason, take recommendations from taxis drivers or hotel staff with precaution. Always double check on internet for reviews from real tourists. If you can, book directly.

Taxis in Bali are sometimes considered a mafia. Some companies will get the exclusive rights (sometimes through intimidation) to pick up passengers in a specific location (for instance in Bali Collection in Nusa Dua). They will then refuse to use the meter and charge you several times the normal rate.

If this happen to you, no need to try to bargain or get angry: Just walk outside of the area for a few minutes, and when there are no more taxis, order a Blue Bird (by phone or through their app), a Uber or a Grabcar.

Finally, the Police in Bali is not as bad as you would think. First, they will not stop you or arrest you for no reasons. If you are driving a scooter and all your papers are in order, they will let you go.

They may try to make problems if you don't have your passport with you. You can carry a copy of it to avoid this issue.

If you get caught for a minor offense, it is your call whether you prefer giving a small amount of money or not. Rp100,000 is more than enough. If you don't pay but act lost, there is a big chance the policemen will let you go after a few minutes.

These are my tips for traveling cheap in Bali. Did I forget something? Please leave a comment below if you think so!

1 comment to '' Cheap Travel to Bali: A Complete Guide "

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  1. Lots of good information here.
    Website Traveloka is good for booking domestic flights and one can pay with a foreign CC.
    Hotels outside High Season are incredibly cheap in Bali at the moment - booking with Agoda we recently stayed in Legian Grandmas and The One for less than 400K a night - probably less than we were paying 10 - 15 years ago.
    N Bali is nicer and cheaper - Lovina and Singaraja are both cool places for a few days.
    IMO avoid Ubud these days - overrun with day-trippers and the traffic via DPS can be awful.
    Uluwatu is lovely.

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