This trip to Bali was canceled and rescheduled three times. I was able to redeem my airline voucher up to a year after the first change, so of course I waited until the last minute to finalize these plans. It was so late that I ended up traveling by myself, and on a very very low budget.
First “solo travel” and first “ballin’ on a budget” trip and it turned out better than most my trips with my closest loved ones and spending lavishly.
It was a time in my life where I didn’t know it, but being alone was the best way to heal from the grief of losing my brother the year before. Bali was said again and again to be a transformative place, but it took me being solo and vulnerable to fully feel the healing powers of the sacred space. I know a lot of people travel to Bali to party, and to sightsee every important tourist spot but my goal was to seek peace in the jungle via yoga and nature, all whilst spending the least amount of money possible.
BALI ON A BUDGET (6 days, 5 nights)
Total Expenses: $298.89
As always, don’t bother to exchange money at the kiosks at the airport. Use your American debit card to withdraw local currency (IDR) at local ATM’s, and spend on a credit card that has no foreign transaction fee any chance you get.
DOORS OF BALI
Traditional Balinese homes follow ancient Hindu & Buddhism architectural guides. Each home’s entrance consists of a gate and shrines to either side. A courtyard is in the center of the home, surrounded by pavilions. Ornate details are a part of the norm, and I could not help but stop and admire each and every carving.
Plumeria (Frangipani) yellow flowers are the signature flower of Bali. Used in offerings and scattered across stairways and the ground, it’s the prettiest natural decor of the island.
“Air Terjun” is “waterfall” in Indonesian. I have tried to research the exact number of waterfalls on the island of Bali, but there are so many that I was never able to quantify it. Let’s just say I did a lot of waterfall research and when I asked my local driver, Nyoman, even he wouldn’t always know where each one was!
AIR TERJUN TEGENUNGAN
Tegenungan is the closest waterfall to Ubud, only a 30 minute motorbike ride out of town into Gianyar. It’s very popular with tourists, as it’s an easy trek to the bottom of the falls. This was my least favorite waterfall in Bali (due to the crowds), and my driver told me never to submerge myself in it’s waters as it is “dirty” sewage runoff.
Entrance fee: 10,000 IDR
Photos: taken around 5:30pm, no sunset views here. Go early in the morning to avoid crowds.
Hike: Easy. 172 concrete stairs , then a few muddy steps to the base of the falls. Can climb to upper falls on the right.
AIR TERJUN NUNG NUNG
Nung Nung Waterfall is the highest waterfall in Bali, at 900 meters. It is an hour’s ride away from Ubud and is an intense leg workout! This hike can be done midday as the sun is almost all hidden by the jungle canopy top. There are two waterfalls at the bottom of the valley. You will hear the falls before you see them, as the tall falls are loud and the mist covers the entire base. Not many tourists, so the stillness of the jungle trek is peaceful!
Entrance fee: 10,000 IDR
Hike: Moderate. 509 steep concrete steps. Complete shade.
Tip: bring waterproof camera gear to protect from waterfall mist
AIR TERJUN DUSUN KUNING
Dusun Kuning Waterfall was my favorite waterfall during this trip to Bali. The only signage noting the entrance-way to the falls was a piece of paper nailed to a tree, with a small opening into the trees, down deep into the jungle. Again, the hike is a steep descent into the jungle with muddy/dirt carved steps and one extremely steep/vertical climb. It’s about a 1.5 hour ride from Ubud in the Bangli Regency. I saw 4 total humans during the entire hike, and is where I felt most like Jane of the Jungle.
Hike: Moderate to strenuous, not for those with a fear of heights/ steep staircases
“Pura” means “Balinese Hindu Temple” and are so abundant on the island of Bali that it’s been nicknamed “Island of a Thousand Puras”. Here are a few that I visited:
Goa Gajah is also known as “Elephant Cave” built in the 9th century, and a very popular tourist destination. However, tbh I would skip this visit unless the architecture and religious aspect is important to you.
Cost: 15,000 IDR (includes sarong rental)
PURA TIRTHA EMPUL
Pura Tirta Empul is a water temple where locals visit for ritual purification. It was founded in 962 A.D. and continues to spout holy water from a spring. The temple is beautiful!
Entrance cost: 15,000 IDR (includes sarong rental)
As with all Balinese Hindu Temples, you may not enter if you are menstruating, 6 weeks within giving birth or not wearing a sarong.
The Banyan tree is considered sacred, because it is believed that deceased ancestors, gods and spirits hang out at these trees.
Poleng is the black and white checkered textile that is used to wrap these sacred trees in an effort to give the spirits a nice place to relax.
PURA TAMAN SARASWATI TEMPLE
The Lotus Temple, located in downtown Ubud, is free to enter the grounds and a part of a Cafe Lotus (pricey meals but great views of the large lotus pond). In the evenings, there is a dance show for 100,000 IDR pp but I haven’t attended.
TEGALLALANG RICE TERRACE
This is the most iconic photo and area of Bali- the rice terraces. It is what I was most excited to see and what ended up being the most lackluster. Yes, the steps are beautiful and an amazing irrigation system, however the amount of tourists and crowds were exhausting.
Cost: 10,000 IDR
Tip: Go for sunrise or don’t go at all
WHERE TO PRACTICE YOGA
I spent a week practicing yoga in Bali and came home having improved by at least a level in skill. The tranquil environment and practice in Ubud lends to an ease of opening your mind.
My most favorite place to practice yoga IN THE WORLD. Tucked in the south of Ubud, down a narrow alley and under a giant hut where you will find a delicious vegan restaurant, cafe and multiple studios to practice with the best. I learned how to stick so many arm balances and head stands from a couple classes with Marcus than I have my entire life taking yoga classes all over the world. Go here now and take as many classes here as you can!
Credit cards accepted.
Cost: 1 class= 130,000 IDR; 3 classes 330,000 IDR, mats provided
This studio was just a couple minutes closer to my Airbnb, so I decided to switch things up and give it a try. It is a very nice studio, however I felt that I vibed better with Yoga Barn. If you have a chance, check it out!
Cost: 130,000 IDR ($10 USD) per class, mats provided
Every waterfall trip requires a bit of a hike, albeit most of the hike is up/down stairs.
Mount Batur early morning hike up the volcano for sunrise was something I wanted to do, but never mustered up the energy to be ready to leave at 3:00 am. I heard that the hike is very crowded, but I’ll probably do it next time I’m in Bali and you should too!
WHERE TO EAT
My favorite restaurant in Ubud is Warung Sopa. “Warung” means “small family-owned business” and will be the most authentic eating experiences in Bali. This particular warung is vegetarian, local, organic, MSG-free, serving Nasi Campur (rice with selection of small dishes), soups and juices. This photo shows my favorite Indonesian meal, where red rice is served with any side dish of your choosing (try the Sayur Jepang, it’s veggies in coconut sauce).
Sapta House, a family-run 5 bedroom airbnb/hotel was a perfect stay for me. Breakfast each morning was included, cooked by the family each day and served on the pavilion. The breakfast alternated between banana pancakes and fried eggs with rice.
This small warung is on a quiet road of Ubud, Jl. Jembawan that serves the cheapest food I encountered in Bali. This is Kwetiaw Goreng, a fried rice-noodle dish with chicken, veggies and egg scramble for 28,000 IDR ($2.10 USD).
Herb Library is right next door to Binar Warung! It’s a part of Alaya Jembawan Resort, and the most beautiful restaurant I may have ever been to. I wasn’t even hungry but I stopped in for coffee and the free wifi. There’s a “Heavenly High Tea” that looks… well, heavenly. Go!
Everything is wrapped or plated on banana leaves in Bali, it’s the most glorious thing! One food item I noticed everywhere was Nasi Jinggo, pictured here. My airbnb host family makes them together each evening and sells it in front of the home.
Nasi Jinggo is a rice packet, separated by a banana leaf from a variety of toppings: chili, chicken, noodles. It’s secured with toothpicks and a cheap eat!
This is restaurant has an incredible view of rice fields in the very back of the store. The cafe is about a 1 minute walk from the Airbnb, full of vegan yumminess (I’m not even a vegan) and super cute. Credit cards accepted.
I meant to stop at this restaurant, which was 2 minutes walk from my airbnb but never had the chance. The circular door is enough to return!
My driver Nyoman chose a spot for lunch while we were out by Pura Tirta Empul, and told me how much he loved this restaurant, De Koi. It’s an outdoor spot with beautiful huts, impressive food plating, steep pricing and no wifi.
WHERE TO GRAB COFFEE & CHILL/ WORK
SENIMAN COFFEE STUDIO
A legit coffee shoppe serving up quality beans and a perfect spot to get some work done on your laptop or catch up with a friend.
Hubud is a co-working space near the Monkey Forest Sanctuary with a cafe downstairs. Wifi is free for one hour, and the food tasted great but I wouldn’t come here unless you have some serious remote work to do in silence, willing to pay for a wifi subscription.
Penestanan is a small village just outside of Ubud. I walked from my airbnb in about 30 minutes at a leisurely stroll. You know you’re there when the streets get narrower, the cars are fewer and walkways begin to look more and more jungle-y.
CAMPUHAN RIDGE TREK
On the edge of Penestanan, is the nearest hike to Ubud- Campuhan Trail. When traveling east on Jl. Raya Ubud, make a right turn at Warwick Ibah Villas then a left at the fork.
This hike is best done at sunrise, to avoid crowds, the best lighting for photos and the most comfortable temperature away from midday heat. The trek is verdant and lush, in the month of May.
Hike: Easy. 2 km on a paved walkway culminating at Karsa Kafe for a meal or drink before routing out the way you came in.
Cost: Free. Karsa Kafe is cash only with free wifi.
YELLOW FLOWER CAFE
Nestled above the hills in Penestanan, is a quaint little jungle cafe serving up yogurt bowls in a real life paradise.
INTUITIVE FLOW YOGA
A yoga studio next door to Yellow Flower, try out a class if you’re in the area!
WARUNG IBU PUTU
A small restaurant, art gallery and guest house hosted by the sweetest grandma!
SHRIMAN VEDIC ASTROLOGY
If my trip couldn’t get more “Eat, Pray, Love” I sealed the deal with this. Recommended by a dear friend, I booked a Vedic Astrology reading with Ashish for midday in Penestanan. This was my very first encounter with Vedic Astrology, and I wasn’t even sure I believed in it but went in with an open mind and curiosity… and left with contentment and clear eyes.
Bookings via What’s App: +62 82236651836
Cost: 400,000 IDR (approx 1 hour)
A short walk next door is Sari Organik restaurant, a literal farm to table hut where I spent some time thinking about the reading over a fresh green juice.
My stay was at Sapta House, booked via Airbnb but also posted on Booking.com and other hotel websites. At $20 USD per night, it was a steal for the comfortable lodging, welcoming family, and delicious breakfast. The airport pick up was 300,000 IDR by the hosting family.
On one of the smaller streets in Ubud, is Ketut Traditional Massage which goes for 70,000 IDR for a full body massage with sandalwood oil.
Nyoman Manso was my driver, who took me anywhere I wanted (secret waterfalls and all) at anytime I requested. He was respectful, timely and reasonably priced.
Book via What’s App: +62 813 3874 7322
Goa Gajah & Tegenungan: 150,000 IDR
Tegallalang, Tirta Empul, Nung Nung: 270,000 IDR
Dusun Kuning: 150,000 IDR
Ubud to Airport: 300,000 IDR
As part of my “Bali on a Budget” plan, I went to the local supermarket almost everyday. It may look like I dined out a lot, but all of my dinners were purchased at the grocery store as well as all bottles of water and coffee. Coco is an awesome supermarket, accepting credit card over a certain amount. It’s next to Yoga Barn, so it’s perfect for a post-yoga stop.
Ubud forever has my healed heart and I will always remember my first Balinese experience with fond memories. Bali is the perfect spot for your first Solo Travel, as I always felt safe and met many other solo travelers every where I went.
I hope this has inspired you to travel alone, at least once in your life! It’s a liberating experience that should be on everyone’s bucket list. Cheers to taking care of one’s self!
All photos taken by Melllypoo via Canon 6D and iPhone 7.