Visiting Asia for the first time as a solo backpacker, I decided that my first stop was going to be Bali, and it was a great decision. It has a good mix of local southeast Asia feel but with enough comforts of the Western world that I didn’t feel totally out of my comfort zone. If you’re looking for somewhere off the beaten track and truly authentic, this is probably not the best place for you but it was exactly what I was looking for. The food, the attractions, the hotels/hostels, everything can be done on a backpacker budget but the quality you’ll be getting is simply amazing.
Best Time to Visit
Bali is south of the equator and has a tropical climate, as such, you won’t get the normal 4 seasons we have in the north but rather 2 distinctive seasons, wet and dry (referring to the wind and rainfall). Dry season is May to September while wet season is October to April. The best months to visit are April, May, June and September. Just near the beginning and end of high season (high season is dry season) so you’ll still get decent weather but it will be less crowded. It’s also worth noting that even though it’s called rainy season, that doesn’t mean it rains all day everyday. Most of the time it will just rain for an hour or two and be sunny for the rest of the time.
|January||Wet/Low||Skip if you can|
|February||Wet/Low||Skip if you can|
|March||Changing Season/Low||Skip if you can|
|April||Dry/High||Best (less crowded and dry season)|
|May||Dry/High||Best (less crowded and dry season)|
|June||Dry/High||Best (less crowded and dry season)|
|July||Dry/High||Ok (crowded and dry season)|
|August||Dry/High||Ok (crowded and dry season)|
|September||Dry/High||Best (less crowded and dry season)|
|October||Changing Season/Low||Ok to visit, but weather may not be great|
|November||Wet/Low||Skip if you can|
|December||Wet/Low||Skip if you can|
While not as cheap as it’s southeast Asia counterparts, Bali is still incredibly affordable for backpackers. You can get a private room in an amazing shared villa for around £12 while shared dorm rooms in nice hostels go for around £5. You can of course go all out and splurge on the 5* resorts and they won’t cost you nearly as much as in other parts of the world. Food is also very inexpensive as well as taxis, entry fees, and tours.
The best way to get around Bali is on a motor bike. I had never ridden one before I visited but with a little practice, I picked it up quickly. Just be careful and go slow, be aware of the drivers around you, and don’t panic. If others are going faster than you, don’t think you need to keep up and start going at speeds you’re not comfortable with.
If you’re very set against driving your own scooter then definitely just grab a taxi. There are a few ways to do this. First, there are the metered taxis run by the company called Blue Bird. These are acceptable to take everywhere in Bali just like the local taxis that you would order through your hostel or hotel. I took one from Canggu up to Ubud and it was only 180k (~£10) so not bad on price at all. They have an app you can use or you can just wave one down.
Your other options, although somewhat frowned upon by the locals, is to use one of the local Uber-esque apps called Grab or GoJeck. You’ll probably see signs around saying no Grab, GoJeck, or Uber but most of the time it’s perfectly fine. Both Grab and GoJek are set prices up front on the app. Grab is for taxis while GoJeck is for scooters.
My last piece of advice is do not try to use Uber! Even though the price is agreed in the app, you will get the drivers messaging you to agree a higher price or some will even pick you up and drive a bit, pull over and then make you pay a higher rate or kick you out. I’m not sure how Uber still operates here as they must get loads of complaints.
What to Do
Go shopping and cafe hopping in Canggu
There is no shortage of good food or coffee in Canggu. You have a million great cafes and restaurants to choose from, the hardest part is narrowing it down! This spread is from the popular vegan brunch spot, Shady Shack.
The shopping in Canggu is also great with load of cute little boutiques as well as a good size market to browse through. This photo is from the Love Anchor Market.
Explore and swim in the Kanto Lampo waterfall in Ubud
This waterfall is lesser known but probably one of the best on the island. It’s certainly larger and prettier than its more widely known counterpart Tegenungan. When we visited there were hardly any people around and the locals helped us climb through the rocks and even took a few photos for us (we tipped them in the end of course). There’s also an are to swim and a smaller waterfall just downstream a bit.
Go shopping in the Ubud Market
This place has hundreds upon hundreds of stalls and you can find almost anything. It’s popular for clothes and jewelry as well as decorative pieces for home. My tip is to go prepared by having a good idea of exactly what you want to get or else you may get overwhelmed with choice and just give up. I knew I wanted earrings, a ring, and a skirt and it made shopping so much easier and quicker which is ideal in the extreme heat and humidity.
Go surfing at Uluwatu Beach
If you love surfing then you can’t miss this part of the island. If you don’t surf at all, you can’t miss this part of the island. The beaches alone are incredible.
Where to Eat
I’m going to write a Bali food guide on its own because there are just too many good places to fit here. For now though, my top 5 recommendations for food are:
Bro Resto (Canggu)
This French and Chinese fusion restaurant was the creation of two surfer friends. Think dumplings but with raclette cheese and bacon. Yeah it’s amazing. These are the fried chicken bao buns which were delicious.
Hungry Bird Cafe (Canggu)
This is hands down my favourite cafe in Canggu. It’s so so so cheap and the food is amazing. I got all of this for approx. £3. If you like good coffee, you will love this place.
The best Mexican food I had in Bali. The drinks here are quite expensive but the food is reasonable. I was too busy chowing down on my food to take a picture but I found this one from the Bali Bible.
My Warung (Canggu)
MyWarung has 4 locations and I would recommend either but I’ve featured the Canggu branch as this is where I had their steak special and it was incredible and also affordable. You get all of this food for only 150k!! Each branch has it’s own highlight including brunch, steak, drinks, and coffee. You can’t go wrong at either. You can read my comprehensive review of the MyWarung brand here.
Biah Biah (Ubud)
Biah Biah is an Indonesian tapas restaurant, meaning you can sample loads of different types of Indonesian food but in small portions. It’s also super cheap.
Where to Drink
Great beach bar that’s buzzing every day of the week. Food and drink are delicious and I don’t think I’ve seen a more Instagramable beach club in my life. Nice place to catch the sunset as well.
Definitely check this place out if you’re around on a Wednesday. They do a great happy hour (buy 1 get 1 on beers) and a massive party in the evening. It’s right on the beach so attracts the surf crowd.
Great on a Tuesday or Thursday to go watch those that are brave enough drop in to the converted (once an old pool) skate arena.
Go here on a Sunday for an unforgettable party. Great atmosphere, drink, food and DJs! Photo courtesy of The Bali Bible.
Incredible live music and a good happy hour if you get there at the right time.
Where to Stay
Only £12 a night for the single private room. Complete with a huge kitchen, common area, and pool. This is a great place to meet other travelers as well if you’re traveling solo.
This is one of the nicest and cleanest hostels I’ve ever stayed in. The beds are incredibly comfy and the bathrooms are sparkling clean. A shared 8 bed dorm runs about £11/night.
One of the more affordable but still nice places to stay in Uluwatu. It’s a quick scooter ride or even walk to Single Fin and also has a great restaurant right around the corner that I ate at twice. If you can’t tell from the photo, the pool is also epic.