Ballin’ on a Budget in Bali: A Two-Day Guide for the Cheap Traveler

The most vital lesson I’ve learned while living abroad is that there are a lot of unnecessary first-world comforts we don’t actually need to survive, and ridding of these will inevitably provide you a freedom you never knew existed. I downsize my belongings a little bit more each year that I’m away, taking pride in the fact I can fit everything I need to live in one suitcase and one traveler’s backpack.

Having a best friend coming to visit and freak out over the fact I only own one towel, or having my mother say things like “how can you live like this” for lack of kitchenware are just instances that make me smirk under my breath, knowing that if there were an apocalypse tomorrow, I’d at least survive longer than these two.

After a year of living in Bangkok, I was headed out for a three-week long Southeast Asia tour of Myanmar, Cambodia and Indonesia. Since Indonesia was the last leg of my trip, I was strapped for cash and knew I had to do what I do best as a proud frugal traveler: ball out on a budget in Bali.

I only had two days on this unparalleled island and it was without a doubt the most anticipated part of my trip, thus contrary to how I normally travel as a laidback and carefree wanderer without a plan, I wanted to cram as much as I possibly could into these next two days, for fear of not being able to return.

How was it that I was possibly going to reach all corners of this island in only two short days and not break my bank account? For those visiting Bali with little time and money and who refuse to risk their lives renting motorbikes, do yourselves a favor and rent a cab for a day or two. For a whopping 540,000 IDR per day (approximately 38 USD), travelers get 10 hours of driver service, unlimited mileage and hotel pick-up and drop-off, with fuel and tax included. If 10 hours isn’t enough, you can pay 54,000 IDR (around 4 USD) per extra hour. Split between three people, the total cost came to about 14 USD per day and I was able to see the entire island, from Mount Batur in the north to Uluwatu in the south.

Choosing tourist attractions is completely up to the traveler, and routes can be discussed with the driver. Have a plan ahead of time, otherwise, the driver will choose a route for you that probably won’t last the full paid 10 hours. Maintaining the “ballin’ on a budget” status quo, it should be noted that entrances into most tourist attractions in Bali range from about 10,000 to 20,000 IDR, or 1 to 2 USD. Detailed below are all the tourist attractions we hit on our two-day Bali cab tour, with information on entrance fees, hours and dress codes.

Day 1

1) Tegenungan Waterfall

Entrance Fee: 10,000 IDR
Hours: Mon-Sun, 6:30 to 18:30
Dress Code: None

At the bottom of Tegenungan Waterfall. Photo Credit: Alexandra Mahoney
Before heading down the steep steps to reach the bottom of the waterfall. Photo credit: Alexandra Mahoney

Like a scene from The Jungle Book, Tegenungan Waterfall is one of Bali’s predominant cascades nestled just between Ubud and Denpasar, the island’s provincial capital. This picturesque waterfall can be reached by climbing down a set of about 150 steep steps, thus arriving earlier in the day is suggested to avoid Bali’s blistering heat. A great photo-op opportunity, this waterfall is a prime destination for nature lovers wishing to take a little break from the hustle and bustle of Ubud and Denpasar.

2) Goa Gajah

Entrance Fee: 15,000 IDR
Hours: Mon-Sun, 8:00 to 16:30
Dress Code: Modesty is appreciated though no known dress code, sarongs provided free of charge if knees are uncovered

Before entering the deep abyss of Goa Gajah, or “Elephant Cave.” Photo Credit: Alexandra Mahoney
The jungles and gardens surrounding Goa Gajah. Photo Credit: Kimberly Lucht

Goa Gajah, otherwise known as the “Elephant Cave,” is a 19th-century sanctuary that is believed to have been built for the purpose of spiritual meditation. A walk through this dark, mystic cave is filled with the aroma of burning incense, and a stroll through the cave’s surrounding gardens transports travelers through jungles of flora and fauna, fountains, rice paddies and miniature waterfalls. Goa Gajah has been listed as a tentative UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1995.

3) Pura Tirta Empul

Entrance Fee: 15,000 IDR
Hours: Mon-Sun, 9:00 to 17:00
Dress Code: Swimsuit should be worn, sarongs also provided

Visitors participating in the holy water blessing tradition at Pura Tirta Empul. Photo Credit: Alexandra Mahoney
Waiting in line for the holy water ritual. Photo Credit: Alexandra Mahoney

A spiritual experience worshippers from around the world come to take part in, Pura Tirta Empul is a Hindu Balinese water temple located near the town of Tampaksiring. As the busiest and most visited water temple in the country, Tirta Empul was founded in 926 A.D. and is dedicated to Vishnu, the Hindu god of water. When first dipping into these frigid waters, visitors and worshippers alike queue at each water spout (minus the 11th and 12th) and follow the tradition of dunking their heads, splashing their faces and sipping and spitting out a gulp of water three times each, in this order.

4) Tegallalang Rice Terrace

Entrance Fee: 15,000 IDR
Hours: 24/7, 365, though restaurant and cafe are open daily from 9:00 to 18:00
Dress Code: None

Sitting and reminiscing at Tegallalang Rice Terrace. Photo Credit: Alexandra Mahoney
Photo Credit: Kimberly Lucht

One of Bali and Ubud’s top attractions, Tegallalang Rice Terrace features stunning rice paddies hanging over cliffs 600 meters above sea level. Using the subak, a traditional Balinese cooperative irrigation system, the rice fields are famous for their scenic hilly vistas and lush greenery extending for what seems like miles across idyllic 360 panoramic views. For a small additional cost, travelers can take a ride on a giant swing, haggle for souvenirs being sold by locals or have a snack at the terrace’s cafe and restaurant.

5) Ubud Monkey Forest

Entrance Fee: 50,000 IDR
Hours: Mon-Sun, 8:30 to 17:30
Dress Code: None

Monkeying around at Ubud Monkey Forest. Photo Credit: Alexandra Mahoney
Photo Credit: Alexandra Mahoney
Wandering through the forest’s hundreds of trees species. Photo Credit: Alexandra Mahoney

A sanctuary and natural habitat for Balinese long-tailed monkeys, the cherished Ubud Monkey Forest lies within the village of Padangtegal and is considered amongst residents as a vital educational, economic, spiritual and conservation center. Boasting more than 700 monkeys in total, the forest invites visitors to walk through the giant forest to catch some fresh air, feed the monkeys and gaze upon its 186 trees species.

Day 2

1) Pura Tanah Lot

Entrance Fee: 60,000 IDR
Hours: Mon-Sun, 7:00 to 19:00
Dress Code: None unless entering the temple, then sarong and/or covered knees and shoulders are required

The 16th-century rock formation and Balinese Hindu temple. Photo Credit: Alexandra Mahoney
Photo Credit: Alexandra Mahoney

A Hindu temple towering atop a vast rock formation that appears to be floating mid-water, Pura Tanah Lot near Tabanan sits on a colossal offshore rock that has been continuously shaped by the ocean tide. The rock formation is home to the ancient Hindu pilgrimage temple and has been an aspect of Balinese mythology for centuries.

2) Pura Luhur Uluwatu

Entrance Fee: 30,000 IDR
Hours: Mon-Sun, 9:00 to 18:00
Dress Code: Mandatory sarongs provided free of charge at the entrance

Cliff drop-off at Pura Luhur Uluwatu. Photo Credit: Alexandra Mahoney
Photo Credit: Alexandra Mahoney
Panoramic views from Uluwatu overlooking the Indian Ocean. Photo Credit: Heather Lucht

This Balinese Hindu sea temple sits on a cliff representative of Ireland’s Cliffs of Moher, located on the south-western tip of the Bukit Peninsula. As the number four surf destination in the world, Uluwatu and the Pura Luhur Uluwatu temple are a prime destination for sunset, with a traditional Kecak dance based on the Ramayana being performed daily at 18:00 on the temple’s cliff-side.

*NOTE: Be extremely careful of your belongings. Monkeys WILL try to steal any loose bags, clothing, sunglasses, phones, etc. In the case that belongings do get stolen, there are on-site employees with motorbikes who will help retrieve belongings when notified.

3) Mount Batur Hot Springs

Entrance Fee: 150,000 IDR
Hours: Mon-Sun, 7:00 to 19:00
Dress Code: Swimsuit required

Hot springs overlooking Batur Lake. Photo Credit: Alexandra Mahoney
Photo Credit: Alexandra Mahoney
Photo Credit: Kimberly Lucht
Photo Credit: Alexandra Mahoney
Photo Credit: Alexandra Mahoney
Photo Credit: Alexandra Mahoney
Visitors embrace their inner mermaid at Mount Batur Hot Springs. Photo Credit: Alexandra Mahoney

After a failed attempt to trek Bali’s famous Mount Batur due to rain, our cab driver told us we could drive down to Mount Batur Hot Springs, and this ended up being our favorite destination on our two-day cab tour of the island. Although a pricier tourist attraction, the hot springs are situated at the bottom of Mount Batur with incomparable views of Lake Batur and the surrounding area. A welcome drink, snack, towel and locker are included in the price.

*NOTE: If you get carsick, take a Dramamine before heading down the mountain to the hot springs. The 15 to 20-minute drive is curvy and winding and will cause motion sickness.

7 thoughts on “Ballin’ on a Budget in Bali: A Two-Day Guide for the Cheap Traveler”

  1. You covered an amazing amount of territory in 2 days. I’ve only been to Ubud–spent a lovely 3 days there. Need to go back to see some of the places you went to.

  2. Bali looks really beautiful, especially the temples! I imagine living in Bangkok affords all kinds of cool weekend trips to exotic places!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *