Though it is only one of over 18,000 islands that make up Indonesia, Bali is one of the most memorable because of its natural beauty and its warm, welcoming and colorful culture. A trip to Bali is truly the adventure of a lifetime.
While much of the island still feels like a tropical paradise, recognize that the island is also rapidly being developed for mass market tourism and many of the fancy resorts, nightclubs and restaurants are meant to cater to budgets far beyond the average backpacker’s. Nevertheless, you can still experience all the island has to offer without losing your shirt. Here are a few ways to enjoy Bali without breaking the bank.
Hang out at the beach
As one of the island’s main draws, there are numerous beaches all around the island, from the white sand surfer’s paradise at Kuta to the secluded black sand beaches to the north at Lovina. Many of the beaches are free and you can relax and suntan to your heart’s content.
Enjoy a temple festival
Balinese society is very religious and there is almost always a festival going on somewhere. You can usually see them at major temple complexes, such as Tirta Empul, Uluwatu and Tanah Lot, but sometimes you can spot a procession right on the city streets of Denpasar. These ceremonies are very beautiful, with dances, costumes and handmade offerings set out for the gods. In order to be respectful, just stand off to the side and watch the performances, taking pictures only if permission is given.
Visit a gallery in Ubud
When you’re through exploring the coast, you can head inland to the village of Ubud, which was featured in Elizabeth Gilbert’s popular memoir “Eat, Pray, Love.” Ubud is known as a center for artisans, and there are many galleries and specialty shops selling unique artwork and traditional crafts, where you can go and have a look around. Think of it as visiting small art museums where you have the option to buy.
Go for a hike in the Kintamani region
If you go further inland and are looking for a bit of an outdoor adventure, you can explore the Kintamani region, where you can hike to the top of Mount Batur. There are also several nearby small villages with basic restaurants and facilities. To get there, you can take the bus from the Batubulan terminal in Denpasar (25,000 rupiah, or $2.50), or arrange transport from the main tourism center in Denpasar.
Take your meals in warungs and night markets
Instead of going to the pricey restaurants in the five-star hotels along the beach, you can try some authentic Balinese cuisine at small, family-run eateries called “warungs,” where you can get a nice plate of nasi goreng or a bowl of soup with bak so meatballs.
Alternatively, you can check out the night market. There are night markets in Sanur, Seminyak, Denpasar and other places, where you can not only find local specialties but also fresh fruit, juice, coffee, and spices as well as dishes from other islands.
In short, if you’ve been dreaming of visiting Bali, don’t put it off any longer. Now is the perfect time to go before things get more built up and while you still have some budget options open to you.
Sophia Guida has been living in Lima, Peru off and on since the beginning of 2012, where she works as a freelance writer/photojournalist and takes every opportunity to explore the areas left out of the guidebooks. You can find her on Twitter, Instagram and Tumblr. She wrote this article on behalf of Tucan Travel, providers of reasonably priced tours to Bali and all over Southeast Asia.