When you think Bali you probably think swanky luxury villas and posh beach restaurants, right?
Well, it is true that those things do exist in Bali, and there is some element of that lifestyle there. But when you actually get down to the nitty gritty of planning a trip there, you actually see that it’s truthfully one of the more affordable destinations out there. Yes, from the USA it is literally on the other side of the globe, BUT when you think about the fact that flight prices are released 331 days prior to travel, you actually have a whole year to plan and budget for it! Slap that flight on your credit card and you have an entire year to pay it off (though I don’t recommend taking that long…).
What I learned from my trip to Bali is that you can literally travel on a shoestring there. It’s the getting there that’s the expensive part, but once you’re there, you’re not spending a thing! With other destinations, you have to think about the huge chunk of change it’s going to cost for meals, entertainment, souvenirs, etc. My flight cost there and back for Bali was around $1400, but I changed $200 US dollars for Indonesian Rupiahs before I left and I didn’t have to go to the ATM even once while I was there! As we speak, 1 USD =13,661.89 rupiahs. So what are you waiting for? Even if you are staying at a swanky luxury villa or taking yacht rides, it’s not going to break the bank in Indonesia. I got a pedicure for the equivalent of $3 USD in Ubud.
I got a huge bowl of prawn curry and a Bintang for the equivalent of $2 USD, and the best part about it? Every meal purchased at Fair Warung Bale buys two medical consultations for someone in need. Not only that, but the food was delicious! I’m getting off topic…
For the first half of my trip, I stayed at Kumara Sakti, ONEWORLD Retreats in Ubud, Bali. I like to describe this place as heaven on Earth. Absolutely gorgeous. And not only that, but it was all-inclusive as well. Throw in an all-inclusive experience on a trip whenever you can. That way whatever it is you are paying is all before you get there, so you have the luxury of experiencing it without having to take your wallet out of your pocket. I paid about $1200 USD for the 6 night package including 3 hours of yoga classes per day, all meals, sightseeing, accommodations, and education about the local culture included! And I must say, it was worth every single penny.
I got unspoiled views of the rice terraces…
Some of the most delicious meals I’ve ever had served right on my balcony…
A visit to a traditional Balinese healer…
And a Balinese cooking class where the result was a feast fit for a Royal Court.
And all of that and more I got for around $200 USD per night.
You can also hire a driver for the day for less than $30 USD. At the end of my yoga retreat, there was one place in Bali I didn’t want to leave without seeing and that was Ulun Danu Beratan Bali. It was about 2 hours out of the way from where I needed to go. The people of Bali (more specifically, my retreat hosts), being so accommodating and friendly and perfect, offered to set up a driver for me for my last day and before heading to my next destination. They also offered to take my extra backpack for me to my end-destination (they actually drove it to me for FREE on my last day before heading to the airport so I didn’t have to carry an extra backpack around with me for the week!). The driver took me to the Bali Botanical Garden, the market, and to the temple I wanted to see, all before driving me through the winding mountain roads to Candidasa where my next half of my trip would begin, and it all only cost about $28 USD!
I had seen this temple on the front of my Lonely Planet guidebook a hundred times and just had to see it in person…
The point is, not every destination is what it seems on the outside. Yeah, if you’re only visiting the top tourist spots in a country, you’re going to spend more. But if you’re interested in getting out and experiencing the culture, mingling with the locals, and seeing some of the lesser-known spots (and in my opinion, the most interesting), you’re not going to spend an arm and a leg.
Bali’s neighboring island of Lombok is less visited by tourists and just as beautiful; and it’s like a whole different country from Bali! You go from the lush rice terraces of Bali to the drier areas of Lombok. Where Bali is almost fully Hindu, Lombok is Muslim (as is most of the rest of Indonesia). They are two very different experiences and only a two hour ferry ride apart.
One of the highlights of my trip was a visit to what locals call the “pink beach” in Lombok.
Not very pink you say? That’s what I thought too… but if you look really closely you can see little pieces of pink coral in the sand. The point is, this was one of the best moments of my trip and one of the most beautiful beaches I’ve ever seen. And the cost? $0 USD. All it took was the advice and guidance of a friendly local and we found this hidden gem.
In terms of communicating with the locals–the thing about these destinations is that most of them are either studying or have studied English. They aspire to get jobs in the travel industry because those are the most profitable in the area. Most people you encounter on your travels will know key words and phrases in English but if you are in an especially rural area, sometimes they won’t. In that case, they usually immediately know of someone who does speak English and will run to grab them to translate. In Bali particularly, I didn’t encounter one person who didn’t know English because they’re so accustomed to tourists. But in Lombok, I could see how it might be possible to run into a language barrier at times.
Don’t think that just because you see a destination in the movies in some glamorous light that it’s unobtainable. It’s just a matter of setting your mind to it and making it happen. Think outside the box and you could find yourself in a setting you never dreamed you’d be lucky enough to set foot in! It just takes some careful planning, close attention to fluctuating flight prices for a short time, and an open mind, and you, too, could be lounging on the beaches of paradise!
CAITLYN WITHOUT A COMPASS
PS-Check out this video by ONEWORLD Retreats that highlights the retreat I attended called “Immerse Yourself in Bali.” It’s really amazing.