Backpacking Bali Where to go!
This overview backpacking Bali covers:
The different areas of the Island, general costs, things to know, tips, transport, accommodation options and my overall experience of the country.
Sun, surf, sand, paradise beaches, beach bums, bingtang, yoga, spiritualists, paradise, rice paddies, color, drunk tourists in bingtang vests, expats, backpackers, tourists, erupting volcanoes, temples, festivals, monkeys, parties, peace, a pink lake, tranquility, chaos, fine dining, seafood BBQ and chefs from all over the world.
What do you get if you throw all that together?…No idea? I’ll tell you…You would get Bali!
Probably the most famous of the 17,508 Indonesian Islands. This island is a budget backpackers dream and a hotbed for tourists all year round.
If you’re considering backpacking Bali you should know, although the Island is small, it’s split up into distinct areas. Want to know what areas are what?
Central Bali and the south.
Even for such a small Island, Bali can be split into distinguished areas, with central and south Bali most popular areas for backpackers. These two areas are polar opposites, sometimes it’s hard to even believe you’re on the same Island. Put it this way whatever you’re looking for while backpacking Bali it will be covered.
Ubud will most likely be your hub in central Bali, and base for exploring the North, East, and West of Bali.
This is where you will find the more tropical and spiritual side, the tranquility, yoga retreats, vegans, untouched wilderness, pristine paradise beaches, rice paddies, native exotic animals, national parks, and active volcanoes. – This is where you want to get in touch with your spiritual side, find yourself or learn yoga.
However, do keep in mind Ubud has now started to get as popular as the south and don’t be surprised to find some snobbery and pretentiousness.
Well, let’s just flip all the above on its head from the peace and tranquility of central and north Bali. The south brings the chaos in full force and is the hub of most of Bali’s tourism.
The south-west is split into beach areas like Seminyak (I lived here), Legion, Changgu, Jimbaran (I worked here) and the Aussie tourists favorite Kuta (I partied here). Over on the south-east, you have Nusa Dua, more up-market resorts, and more beaches.
Kuta is the Aussie ‘go to holiday area’ – There’s even a joke flying amongst locals saying that Kuta actually translates to ‘place of drunk Australian tourist’. It’s fair to say Australians don’t have the best reputation in Bali, It’s also the main backpacker hub. When backpacking Bali you will inevitably encounter Kuta. You’ll know when you’re there from the chaos, hoards of tourists, Bingtang vests, parties, restaurants, bars, clubs, and streets full of cheap and fake souvenir and DVD stalls all crammed together.
Seminyak is slightly more upmarket with designer clothes shops, fine dining restaurants, more expensive bars, bigger resorts, nicer villas and generally a cleaner area but compared to western prices it’s still very affordable. This is an island you can treat yourself and not have to worry about your budget (Too much).
Bali is also a good hub to get to other Islands like the Gilli Islands, Java, Lombok and Nusa Lembongan. Flight’s and boats to Komodo Island are available but be warned you have to book in advance.
A few Tips when backpacking Bali:
- – Don’t fall for scammers – they know their craft well and are well adverse to ripping off tourists so be smart.
- – Renting mopeds is the best way to get around.
- – Be careful of other tourists on mopeds – a drunk tourist coming at you is not fun.
- – The food in Bali is amazing, from street food to fine dining. (Good restaurants are cheap too)
- – Nasi goreng and Nasi campur’s are must-try local dishes.
- – Try an alcoholic slush puppy in Kuta.
- – With Bali being close to the equator It gets dangerously hot between 11 am and 2 pm (There were times it was hard to step outside)
- – Police can be heavy-handed with Westerners and look for bribes.
- – Bingtang is the cheap beer of choice for backpackers.
- – Bluebird taxis are the official taxis in Bali, the others will try to mimic them so be wary.
- – The south is more synonymous with partying and lazing on the beach and the north is more for spiritualist’s and full of yoga retreats.
- – Balinese people are very spiritual and take their religion and beliefs seriously. You will often see public ceremonies and festivals going on.
- – Try and get involved when religious festivals are going – Even If you’re not religious they are fun.
- – Roads can and will get shut down for public religious ceremonies and even weddings.
- – If you visit the monkey forest in Ubud, hide your belongings, don’t have anything loose because the monkeys will steal them.
- – Stray dogs are everywhere, if you feed them they will want more and become more aggressive.
Some things to be wary of:
- – Unofficial taxi’s trying to give you off the meter rates – insist you go on the meter.
- – Children begging on the roads – They are not homeless, nor starving. They are sent to beg by criminal organizations to target tourists.
- – If you rent a moped be wary that Bali has 1 rule on the roads – That rule is – There are no rules!
- – Police will do regular spots check especially in low season and stop tourists – But they are just looking for bribes.
- – Western expats and tourists don’t always have the best reputation in Bali, so don’t get too lairy with locals.
- – If you are out partying in South Bali, watch out for children running around, they are master pick-pocketers.
- – They work in groups, one or two will beg while the other will try to steal yr purse or wallet. Sounds harsh but I’ve seen it with my own eyes and also the only time in all my years of traveling that I was Pick-pocketed.
- – Bali belly – Infamous stomach bug that can hit at any time – days of throwing up and diarrhea.
- – ATMs in Bali give you your money first, then ask if you want your card back – Remember this as it’s easy to walk away from ATM after receiving cash and forgetting your card.
Basic things to know:
- – Language spoken: Bahasa (Bali & Indonesian)
- – Other Languages spoken: Indonesian.
- – Is English Spoken: Yes.
- – Currency: Indonesian rupiah.
- – Backpacking in Australia is – Very cheap.
- – To check live rates click here XE.com
- – 30 days or less – No visa required
- – 30 days or more – Visa on arrival (VOA) apply before or get when you arrive into Bali costs $35US
- – If you are looking to work in Bali, the company you are working for will have to provide a KITAS Visa.
- – More information can be found here Bali visas
Things to know when budgeting for Bali
Despite being so popular with tourists Bali is one of the cheapest places you will find but I know as a budget backpacker you will still have to be mindful of your budget. This is definitely one of those places that you can easily take your eye off the ball and end up massively overspending.
You know the scenario: things are so cheap you can loosen the purse strings a little and spend a little more here and there. You can have that extra coffee, drink another beer, eat in a nicer restaurant do a tour instead of doing it by yourself and next thing you know; you’re out of money. So you will need to be mindful.
In general, everything is cheap in Bali, food, especially eating locally can only cost pennies. Activities are cheaper than most other South East Asian countries and as the It’s a small Island you don’t have to worry about taking long distance journeys.
As I lived there, for once in my life I didn’t have to budget I was able to spend as much as I wanted where I wanted so it would be grossly unfair of me to speak about budgeting in Bali. I didn’t stay in hostels or eat in the cheapest places so I can’t give you an idea of prices but most budget backpackers I know were comfortable on $10-$15 per day.
Getting Around Bali:
With Bali being so small getting around is fairly simple, you can get organized mini-vans to get you from the north to the south or the easiest way is to rent a Moped.
NOTE: Driving in Bali can be daunting at first – They have heavy traffic, there are no rules on the road – It is organized chaos.
- Rent a Moped – The easiest way to get around.
- Taxis – Be careful and get official taxis, not scammers (There’s a lot of them)
- Private van shuttles – Safe and cheap.
- Bicycles – It’s that type of Island.
- Boats – A range of options to get you across to other Islands.
Popular Tour companies:
Many others to choose from once in Bali, especially in Kuta, Legion, and Seminyak.
Bali caters to all kinds of tourists and travelers so when you’re backpacking Bali there are plenty of options. Everything is so cheap so even if your budget is super tight, you will be able to afford something a little more lavish than just a basic hostel bed.
- – Hostels – Backpacker hostels are aplenty.
- – Guesthouses – Lots of choices of private rooms for affordable prices.
- – Budget hotels – same as guesthouses.
- – Eco-Hostels – More popular in rural areas amongst rice paddies.
- – Villas – Rent your own villa at affordable prices.
- – Homestays – Stay with a family and see life as a local.
- – Air BnB – Becoming ever more popular with Expats renting out rooms.
- – Couch surf – Find a localhost.
My overview of Living and traveling Bali:
Bali was a completely different experience to what I’m used to. Not only because I wasn’t budget backpacking Bali but because as an expat I got to know locals on a completely different level. I wasn’t just a tourist or a traveler to them I was seen as one of them.
It’s an Island I would go back to over and over. At the end of the day, I get to say I lived on a paradise Island and where I didn’t have to worry about money. I was able to step out of work onto the beach and sink a beer while watching the sun go down in front of me as I ate my fresh seafood BBQ. I was able to sample some of the finest cuisines, party like there was no tomorrow or just take a step back and feel the utmost tranquility.
This was the first and probably only time in my life I was able to live like a king. In-fact like the phrase my friend coined I was able to be a ‘ghetto snob’.
Living in Bali as a westerner also came with challenges, sure I had lived in other countries before but this wasn’t a western or European country. In Bali, views and beliefs are completely different but to be honest I’m so grateful I had this opportunity. I saw things from a different perspective how tourists and foreigners are seen and treated; how attitudes changed when I would say I’m not a tourist I live in Bali.
The local view.
Living in Bali taught me a great deal, I got to know taxi drivers well and they would brag to each other how much they ripped a tourist off; as they would say, there are two types of tourists ‘stupid tourist’ or ‘stupid drunk tourists’. Or I wouldn’t have learnt how the children begging were not actually homeless. They are housed and fed they just work for criminal organizations that target tourists; It’s sad and you might not like hearing it but it’s true. I’ve seen children throw away meals as soon as the traffic lights turn red, run to the tourists begging saying they haven’t eaten in days. Once the lights turn green they run off and get a fresh plate and eat away.
There are so many things even as long-term or slow budget travelers who spend a lot of time with locals that we just don’t see. Living in Bali was an eye-opener but if ever you have the chance to do so – you should jump at it.
Some of my highlights:
Living in paradise.
Being able to live in my own villa with a private swimming pool.
Not having to worry about money.
Being able to eat in fancy restaurants and sample fine dining.
Feeding a Tiger. (I was in a cage, not the tiger)
The wilderness up north.
Finding and exploring amazing hidden waterfalls around Bali.
Seeing a volcano.
Feeling so tranquil and relaxed the majority of the time. (Not used to that)
Seeing Del a soul on the beach.
The temples scattered around the Island.
The Gilli Islands.
Snorkeling and swimming with Sea Turtles.
The countless sun sets on the various beaches.
The more secluded parts of the north of the Island.
Some of my dislikes:
Australian tourists thinking they are above the locals.
Scam artists on every corner.
Taxi drivers trying to rip me off.
Children that are not homeless begging.
Being Pick-pocketed by a child.
Having to actually work.
Not really having any rights as a westerner living there.
Police not caring about westerners.
The unnecessary tension between locals and westerners.
Being there when the Bali 9 were executed.
My route getting around Bali
As I lived in Seminyak, this was the hub from where all my trips started.
Did you find this backpacking Bali guide helpful? Let me know in the comments below if there is anything else you would like to know.
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