Is Bali Expensive or Cheap?
Many have the misconception that Bali is an expensive destination. Truth is, Bali is an extremely cheap destination to explore. A/c double rooms can be as low as $8 a night, scooter rentals are $3/4 a day, $1 for a local meal (Indonesia has some of the world’s best dishes) and waterfall entrance fee is around $1.
However, Bali is also a luxury destination and parts of the island have been influenced and catered to high end travelers. World class Resorts with infinity pools overlooking the ocean and stunning pool villas hidden in lush jungle landscapes are synonymous to Bali’s travel culture.
To answer the question “is Bali expensive”, it will depend on your travel style. If you intend splurging in high end locations, Bali is expensive to visit. But if you’re on a budget and your main focus is to explore the amazing landscapes, waterfalls and beaches, then Bali is a cheap travel destination.
Here is a quick summary of this guide's content
- Bali Cheap Transport
- Bali Cheap Eats
- Bali Hotels
- Bali Cheap Flights
- Why is Bali so Cheap
- Our Daily Budget in Bali
Bali Cheap Transport
Cheap transport in Bali comes in many shapes and forms. But the most common is to travel around Bali with your own cheap rental. Cheap Bali rentals such as hire cars, rental cars with driver and scooters can be found in popular towns in Bali.
Another option is to use a bemo, one of the Balinese public transport system. But keep in mind, this option is relevant to travel short distances and between neighbouring towns.
Bemos run on fixed routes, they aren’t really regulated and you won’t find much information online about any route. Sometimes to get from point A to B it is necessary to change van, this is where the whole thing gets quite confusing. However, it is fun trying to figure out this network.
Between popular areas in Bali that are more spread out, shuttle buses run daily and are offered by most agencies.
Cheap Bali Rentals
Scooters are one of the most common ways to cruise around Bali. Scooter rentals start at around $3 a day for an “OK” scooter. And if you’re in Bali for an extended trip, you can find cheap monthly rentals were that price will be slashed in half.
Check out Kuta Scooter Rentals. This company offers well kept scooters which is usually hard to find in Bali. We had one of their scooters for 2 months and when we found a tyre worn out, they changed the bike to one that was brand new.
Bali isn’t a small island but is just about the right size to explore the entire island on your own two wheels.
In fact, we travelled all the way from Pemuteran in North West Bali, all the way down to Denpasar. And back to Pemuteran in a single day and including stops at waterfalls, ricefields and Ulun Danu Beratan Temple.
Roads in Bali are good throughout the island. But the Balinese driving is something to look out for. Cars overtake just about anywhere, even on winding roads through the mountains.
Traffic in popular areas such as Kuta, Denpasar and Canggu gets crazy especially during peak hours. Scooters squeeze in each inch of space and you just have to try and blend in with all this chaos.
If you’re not used to the Asian driving, then you’ll be in for an interesting ride that honestly I don’t recommend unless you’re an experienced driver.
An international driving licence isn’t mandatory. Cheap scooter rentals are handed out even to inexperienced riders with no bike licence. But, in that case, insurance won’t cover you and if stopped you will get fined or asked for money by the officer as a bribe to let you go.
Bali Car Rentals
Similar to a scooter rental, you can rent out a car. With this rental there is an option of renting out the car with a driver. This is definitely a great option if you don’t want to navigate your way through the streets.
Apart from the local acting as your driver, drivers usually tend to replace the need of a guide and also act as a personal photographer.
Your driver will also suggest the best routes and other tourist attractions along the way to your destination.
Prices start roughly around $40/50 for an 8 hour trip including driver. The price is usually excluding fuel cost.
Although rental cars in Bali are a more expensive option of getting around, it is a reasonable price.
Bali Public Transport
Beside taxis, online and not, Bali has its own public transport system.
Bemos are a means of transport to travel short distances and between towns. Bemos act similar to buses and are minivans with benches fitted in the back and have fixed routes.
The system is rather complicated since there isn’t much route information. The best way is to ask the locals for directions and which bemo to use. But considering English isn’t so widely spoken, navigating your way will get interesting.
This service is mostly limited to popular tourist areas. But as long as your destination is somewhere along the way, it is possible to use whichever route is best.
Most agencies offer this service and the cost will depend on the distance.
Bali Cheap Eats
Food in Bali is cheap. Even pizza, burgers and pasta costs around $3/4 depending on the restaurant.
However, you should go for local food and eat where the locals eat. I don’t say this only for those on a budget but any traveller should try the local cuisine.
Local food is always fresh, costs $1 for a decent meal and it just so happens that Indonesia has some of the top rated dishes in the world.
For instance, beef Rendang is rated the best dish in the world. This is a beef stew, cooked and simmered in coconut milk, lemongrass, spices, ginger and galangal until all the liquid has reduced and penetrated the meat. What is left are melt in your mouth chunks of meat.
Another typical meal in Bali is Babi Guling, or whole roast pork. Each portion costs $2 including different pork cuts, pork scratchings, rice and broth.
Masakan Padang is a typical eatery in Bali and Indonesia. It is kind of an Indonesian version of fast food. Dishes with different meat and veg based meals that have been precooked, are stacked up and displayed in a glass cabinet looking onto the street.
To be honest, until we had actually tried the local food, we were both unsure what to expect from these eateries. The food is usually cold unless you choose a stew or broth so it does take some getting used to. But I can guarantee that if you just forget about the set up and focus on what you eat, you will be amazed how good the food is.
Bali Cheap Hotels
Although Bali boasts some of the world’s most luxurious hotels and expensive ocean front resorts and surrounded in jungle hideaways with private pool are synonymous to the island, cheap hotels, guest houses and hostels in Bali are easily found.
But keep in mind that some areas are catered specifically to resorts and higher end hotels. This is the case on the South East tip of the peninsula in Nusa Dua which is dotted with world known hotel brands. Similarly, is Seminyak another high end part and close to Canggu and Kuta where prices drop drastically.
Beside some exclusive areas as those just mentioned, Bali accommodations are cheap.
Our average accommodation cost in Bali was $12 a night. Some nights we paid just $8 other times the cheapest we found was $17. But each place had good ratings and we always opted for double private rooms with A/C.
Bali Cheap Flights
Truth is, although Bali is cheap, flights are another thing. And the cost will depend widely on which part of the world the flight departs.
The best way to check for cheap flights to Bali and all the different airlines is through a search engine.
We use kiwi.com as a way to speed up this process and we know what deals are out there with just a few clicks.
Why Is Bali So Cheap
One reason Bali is so cheap is that Indonesia in general is a poor country. And the fact loads of businesses aimed at tourism have popped up in recent years, but tourism hasn’t grown as much has created a big deal of competition in each category whether it’s lodging, dining, transport.
Usually, the more touristic a place is, the more competition there is. Therefore, a variety of options will be found from cheap to luxurious in each category.
Our Daily Budget
Keeping to our daily budget of $30 in Bali was easy. In fact, with that budget we explored the entire island, spent a week in Nusa Penida, a week in Lombok, did a 4 day 3 night boat trip from Lombok to Flores and spent a few nights on the Gili Islands.
And as I write this, it is hard for me believe that it didn’t seem to be such a tight budget. Considering almost every day we ate a western meal and a couple of beers.
Here is a quick breakdown of our daily cost and are calculated for two persons.
Breakfast and Lunch: Nasi Campur** – $ 2.50
Scooter rental: $2
Accommodation with A/C: $12
Fees (waterfalls, temples, fire dance): $4
Evening meal (western): $12
That brings us to $20 per person which is under our budget with the rest of our budget being taken up by addition costs such as the Lombok to Flores boat trip, ferry ride to Nusa Penida and Lombok.
**Nasi Campur is a rice based meal with pieces of meat, tempeh and noodles. It can be found in restaurants and eateries. However, in the case I mentioned it will be packed in a cone shaped package and costs $0.30 per portion.
The fact we only got on a taxi a few times, ate local food and transport cost was minimum all contributed to keeping us on budget without losing out on anything we wanted to do.
I have just one small regret. On my Bali bucket list I had listed 2 or 3 nights in a resort hidden in the jungle with private pool. When I checked the price I almost choked. It would cost $450 a night. We gave that a miss, but it is still on the list for another time.
Other - ATM transaction fee & credit cards
ATM transaction fees: most ATM’s in Bali don’t have a transaction fee. Avoid the ATM’s that are the most convenient like the one’s near convenience shops and near tourist hot spots, those usually have a high fee. Stick to the big branch ATM’s.
Credit Cards: usually banks offer a crappy rate of exchange and may even charge a fee for any foreign transaction. All this adds up even if just travelling for a short holiday. For this reason we use Revolut and Transferwise. Both are online banks and offer rates of exchange according to the day’s rate. They have a 200 Euro no fee cash withdrawal limit and unlimited on other POS transactions (that is when paying at hotels, restaurants, etc.).
Considering our personal banks don’t offer a good rate of exchange and each transaction would incur a fee, our estimate we would have paid each to our personal banks came to around $120 a month.
Sim Cards and Mobile Data
Mobile data in Indonesia costs just over $11 a month for 20GB of data which you can share with someone else. This amount is more than enough and will definitely work out cheaper than what you will get offered back home.
Here is a link to Telkomsel’s site and will take you to #kuota keluarga package. A 20GB package costing just $11 and can be shared between 6 people.