The best things in life are free – or, at least, affordable! Bali may not be the cheapest place in Southeast Asia, but it’s still a great destination for budget travel. A large chunk of Bali’s appeal is its sensational landscapes and scenery, from its lush forests to its picturesque lakes and waterfalls. The great news is that Bali’s natural wonders, along with many of its spectacular temples, are among the cheapest things you can see on the island. Here are our top picks for inexpensive and free things to do around Bali.
Cheap and free things to do in Bali
Visit the temples!
Bali is home to thousands of ancient temples, all stunning examples of the region’s traditional architecture and culture. These are usually very inexpensive (or even free!) to enter, so this is a great way to learn about Bali’ cultural history on a budget. Here are our top picks on the best temples in Bali to visit during your trip!
Where? Abang (East Bali)
How much? Recommended donation: $1-2 USD
Home to the insta-famous Gates of Heaven, Lempuyang Temple is one of the best known and most sacred holy sites in Bali. Perched 600m above sea level on the slopes of Mt. Lempuyang, Lempuyang Temple is actually part of a complex of seven holy sites. The highest of these sits at the top of 1,700 steps, so it’s a stiff hike to the top. If you don’t feel up to it, don’t worry – you can enjoy spectacular views of Mt. Agung framed by the Gates of Heaven at the first temple.
Taman Ayun Temple
Where? Mengwi Village (Badung Regency)
How much? $1.50 USD
Taman Ayun is one of Bali’s most visited temples and is a stunning example of traditional Balinese architecture. Constructed in 1634 and dating back to the Mengwi Empire, this royal temple is a must visit for culture-hungry budget backpackers. Stroll through the beautifully landscaped gardens surrounding this large temple and enjoy the serenity of this fascinating and ancient holy site.
Gunung Kawi Temple
Where? Tampaksiring (northeast of Ubud)
How much? $1 USD
The ancient temple of Gunung Kawi is a little off the beaten path but is definitely worth checking out if your adventures take you nearby. Built in the 11th century, this enormous funerary complex is home to 10 enormous stone carvings cut out of the rock face. These colossal monuments are thought to commemorate King Anak Wungsu of the Udayana Dynasty and stand an awe-inspiring 8 meters high.
Go shopping at the Ubud Market
Just because you’re travelling on a budget doesn’t mean you can’t treat yourself to a few souvenirs! The best place for scooping up bargains in Bali has to be Ubud market, where you can browse beautiful clothes, bags, jewellery, trinkets and much more besides.
The goodies on offer here are unlike the usual merchandise found in SE Asia, so it’s the ideal place to pick up something unique. To find it, head to the Monkey Forest junction in the center of Ubud. The large number of stalls here makes pricing competitive, but remember to haggle for the best deals!
Enjoy Bali’s beaches
Bali’s spectacular tropical beaches are credited with a big chunk of the island’s popularity among travellers and no wonder! Their miles of soft white sand and cool, inviting waters means you can easily spend days relaxing by the ocean. Budget travellers particularly can benefit from all this free natural beauty, but where are the best beaches in Bali?
How much? Parking fee: $0.35 USD
One for the surfers, Bingin Beach has a laid-back vibe and powerful swell. Rent a surfboard for around $3 USD, or grab a beer from the beachside restaurants and watch from afar. Bingin Beach is mostly rocks at low tide, so if you want to kick back on the sand you should check the tidal patterns before you go!
Where? Ungasan (near Uluwatu)
How much? Parking fee: $0.35 USD
Located on the coast of Ungsan, this hidden beauty sits at the foot of towering, foliage-fringed cliffs. Green Bowl beach takes a certain amount of dedication to reach, as there are hundreds of steps down to the sand. Once you reach it, however, Green Bowl is a soothing and stunning place to hang out. Come at low tide to explore the beach’s famous cave and to get the most of that clean, white sand.
Where? Gili Trawangan
How much? Free!
For the most mind-blowingly beautiful sunsets in Bali, hit up Sunset Beach on the party island of Gili T. Situated on the northwestern coast, this beach is reachable on foot from everywhere on the tiny island. Come to marvel at the technicolour sky, which draws travellers and locals alike as the sun begins to set.
How much? Free (if you can resist the seafood)
Head to the soft, pristine sands of Jimbaran beach for rest, relaxation and some of the best sunsets you’ll see in Bali. After a day of chilling at the beach, check out the beachside restaurants here for a taste of Jimbaran’s famously fresh seafood.
Feel the spray of The Devil’s Tears
Where? Nusa Lembongan
How much? Free!
Visiting Nusa Lembongan is a smart move for budget travellers, as there are a whole bunch of inexpensive things to enjoy here. One of the coolest and most impressive has to be The Devil’s Tears though and, the best part? It’s completely free!
Located just 10-minute drive from the main strip in Nusa Lembongan, Devil’s Tears is best visited at sunset. This fascinating natural rock formation has been formed over centuries by the powerful action of the waves slamming into the coast. Watch the waves crash into the rocks and throw up clouds of crystal spray, before cascading back to the ocean at this unforgettable sunset spot.
Take a road trip
For adventurous spirits, taking to the road on a rented scooter is the best way to visit the lesser-explored regions of Bali. What could be better than hitting the open road with the wind in your hair and nothing but a map, your wallet and a change of clothes in your bag?
The great thing about road trips is that they’re also super budget-friendly. Motorbike rental can be negotiated down to a very low price in Bali if you rent for a week or more (think no more than a dollar or two per day). The cost of gas in Bali is minimal and once you hit those smaller villages you’ll notice that the cost of everything, from food to cigarettes, drops noticeably.
But where should you go?
The choice is yours, but to immerse yourself fully in the beautiful scenery of Bali, head to Munduk Village in Bali’s central region. The steep, winding roads leading to this picturesque village offer sensational views of Bali’s twin lakes, with several viewpoints along the way. Once you reach Munduk, you’ll have plenty of opportunities for inexpensive, outdoor fun, such as…
Hiking and trekking
Where? Munduk Village
How much? Entry fees: $1-2 USD
The peaceful village of Munduk is heaven on earth for nature-lovers and is surrounded by unbelievable scenery. Nestled amidst lush, tropical jungle, Munduk Village is within walking distance of several waterfalls, rainforest plantations and rice fields. Trekkers will be spoilt for choice when selecting a path, and you could easily spend days exploring the various beauty spots in this area!
Where? Nusa Penida
How much? Parking fee: $0.35 USD
Active and outdoorsy travellers will adore this day trip, which combines Bali’s gorgeous coastal landscape with a good, challenging hike. Officially, taking the trail down to the picturesque white-sand bay of Kelingking Beach is discouraged, given the dilapidated state of the path. However, experienced hikers who reach the bottom can cool off in the turquoise waters of this almost-deserted beach paradise.
How much? Free!
Take the scenic route in Ubud and head for the Campuhan Ridge, where you can enjoy sweeping views of the surrounding forests and hillsides. This easy 2km trek follows a paved path over the Campuhan ridge, the start of which is reachable on foot from Ubud. Come early in the morning for sunrise, when the surrounding landscape is at its most beautiful!
Tips for budgeting in Bali
Cheap eats in Bali
Bali’s selection of fancy restaurants is impressive, but these are pretty pricey by the standards of most budget travellers. To avoid overspending on food, immerse yourself in Bali’s delicious traditional cuisine during your stay. Look for warungs (small streetside restaurants) where you can find a variety of tasty local treats, all for far lower prices than you’ll see in western eateries. Prices at local warungs usually start at around $1 USD for Mie Goreng with a dollop of spicy sambal – much more wallet-friendly!
Cheap travel in Bali
Public transport systems are scarce in Bali and taxis are the dominant mode of transportation for most travellers. If you like to move from place to place, these fares can really start to stack up over the course of your trip. Luckily, there are a few travel hacks you can employ to get cheaper transport around Bali:
Rent a motorbike
If you’ve got the true spirit of adventure (and a valid driver’s license) renting a motorbike in Bali is the best way to get around the island. This gives you complete freedom to explore as you please and will only set you back around $3 USD per day. If you plan to rent a bike for the duration of your trip, you can negotiate lower prices for longer rental periods.
Meeting new people is one of the joys of travel, but it can also come in handy when you’re trying to cut travel costs. Finding fellow travellers to fill up the cab and share the fare is a great way to reduce your expenses and make friends!
Download Grab or GoJek
Even if you don’t drive, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t take advantage of cheap motorcycle transport in Bali. The apps Grab and GoJek work exactly like Uber, giving you a pre-set fare and pickup location. Choose Grab Bike for the lowest prices and avoid getting ripped off by drivers in the street!
Cheap drinking in Bali
Alcohol is pretty expensive in Bali, which is bad news for budget partygoers. Fortunately, there are ways around this (there always are), so you can enjoy your night in full spirits. As every dedicated partygoer knows, the trick with this one is to pre-game. Beers, although pricey in bars and restaurants, can be bought from corner shops for much less. Expect to pay $1.50-2 USD, compared to the $3-7 USD you’ll be charged in-house. If you really want to cut your drinking costs, you can also pick up a bottle of the local arak. This cheap (and lethal) local spirit can be bought for around $1.50 per liter and can have an alcohol content of up to 70%. Make sure you buy from a trusted source, however, as manufacturing processes are often rushed and unregulated.
Top scams and how to avoid them
Getting repeatedly ripped off can really put a dent in your travel funds, but how can you avoid it? It can be difficult to get a true local price, but you can reduce the ‘tourist tax’ by familiarizing yourself with the most common cons.
Taxis are one of the more costly ways to get around Bali, especially given the frequency of scams in this business. Many drivers will tell you their meters are broken, getting you to agree on an inflated fixed price. Finding a reliable service can seem like an impossibility but you can cut the hassle altogether by using the Bluebird Group. This taxi company has earned a reputation as the most trustworthy in Bali and are known for their fair pricing.
At the airport
When you arrive at Denpasar airport, you’ll almost certainly be bombarded by taxi drivers the minute you leave the terminal. Many will be welcoming and friendly but will take advantage of your ‘newness’ to charge extortionate fees.
To avoid paying a premium, look for the official counter at the airport and take a prepaid taxi to your next destination. Alternatively, you can walk five minutes out of the airport and order a Grab.
Shopping at the market
Never agree on the first price! As with most places in Asia, you are expected to haggle the cost of goods at markets. Bargaining can be intimidating for first-timers, but it’s a vital skill for travelling in Asia.
At the currency exchange
Beware of currency exchange businesses offering what looks like overly-generous rates. Seems too good to be true? It probably is. Dodgy exchange shops are known for luring and shortchanging tourists, so count and re-count your money before leaving!