Indonesia is an affordable destination to reach from elsewhere in Southeast Asia. With Air Asia flying into Jakarta and Denpasar for under 200 USD most of the year, and the islands easily accessible to Australians for a tropical getaway, it’s no wonder the infrastructure and amenities have radically changed over the past few decades. Not too long ago, travelers could take it for granted that Bali was a budget destination. However, with the influx of Starbucks, high-end hotels, and vendors capitalizing on western tourists, it’s not impossible to live on the cheap in Bali, but it doesn’t hurt to know where to look.
1. Eat nasi goreng.
This staple Indonesian dish is available everywhere, but that doesn’t mean you should head into a four-star restaurant and spend $10-20 for something you can find for $1 or less. Fried rice with vegetables and meat, usually chicken, is enough to sustain you between $2.50 beers on the beach. Let’s be honest: there are plenty of amazing Indonesian foods available on Bali for reasonable prices, but when it comes to getting only what you need to keep going, nasi goreng is the cheapest you’ll find.
2. Rent a motorbike, don’t take a taxi.
Riding a motorcycle in Southeast Asia is still one of the few things in this world that scares me, due to the number of accidents I’ve seen and heard about. Nevertheless, renting a small scooter — AND a helmet, please — is clearly the cheapest and easiest way to explore Bali. Uber is still completely illegal in all of Indonesia, and drivers caught operating the app have been cornered and beaten. Taxi prices are inflated, even from the official kiosk at the airport, and drivers will haggle with you at every turn.
3. Go snorkeling in Pemuteran.
A lot of water activities in Bali can set you back quite a few bucks: renting a surfboard, taking a ferry to the Gili Islands, diving classes, and signing up for the weird and oddly entertaining water jetpack. Nevertheless, it won’t cost you more than a few dollars to slather on some sunscreen, rent a snorkel and mask, and jump in the waters around Amed and Pemuteran. The famous submerged Buddhist temple is actually about 15-20 meters down, but if the water is particularly clear, you’re swimming during low tide, and you’re lucky, you just might be able to catch a glimpse without even being certified to dive.
4. Take free and cheap yoga classes.
Cheap yoga classes are available all over Bali, but the highest concentration of studios can be found in Canggu. If you time it just right, you can actually hop from one free class to another, but even if you need to pay, they start at around $10. Just don’t expect air conditioning or heavy mats; you’ll be sweating your heart out any time of the year, but your money will stay put.
5. Crash Nusa Dua’s beach.
If your time in Bali has been limited to stays in Kuta or Seminyak, you might be sick of the crowds, vendors hustling on the beach, and feeling as though this is not the idyllic getaway you were looking for. A sunset on this section of beach is still hard to beat, but if you really want something more low key, head over to Nusa Dua early in the morning for the sunrise and a walk to the Water Blow. The hotels in Nusa Dua are all upscale and massive, meaning their owners probably make extra efforts to ensure the beaches are cleaner and quieter… for the most part.