My Solo DIY Backpacking to Bali: Why I Will Never Do It Again
It was my birthday last 16th of October, which was not only a farewell to my golden year but also my first birthday away from my home and my friends. I knew I had to do something before I get so emotional and cry a river because I am all alone here. So when I said that I had to do something; I meant that I had to travel somewhere. The initial plan was to stay in a temple in Chiang Mai for 10 days to meditate, and come out right on the day of my birthday – this sounds fine, but not really fun. I was certain that there’s a much fun way to celebrate my first ever birthday thousands of miles away from home than meditating in a temple for 10 harmonious days, so I thought of going to Bali. Okay, I am not going to deny that Julia Robert’s Eat, Pray, Love movie somehow tickled my curiosity about this island; so after thinking through it for a week I booked two-way tickets to the island of Bali and went backpacking on a shoe-string budget, solo – which I will never do again.
Ulun Datu Temple
Beautiful beaches, glorious sunset, food haven, historical temples, greenish rice terrace, and amazing locals – welcome to Bali, Indonesia. To be honest, when I was planning my backpacking route across Southeast Asia, one country at a time, Bali was not on top of my bucket list for no dodgy reason at all. I just haven’t thought of it that much. Apparently Indonesia is like a twin sister of my home country, Philippines. Except for the religious beliefs; Indonesia and Philippines have so many things in common. Both are archipelago and located in the pacific ring of fire. They got similarities in culture and traditions, and even close facial features are evident among the respective country’s locals. You can say that I blended in so much that people were talking to me in Bahasa almost all the time.
I should be clear that not wanting to do the Bali do-it-yourself solo backpacking trip again had completely nothing to do with the island being a couples/honeymooners’ paradise nor with any uncanny situations that happened. Bali is beautiful and there are just too many breath-taking and jaw-dropping places to see. Indonesians are wonderful hosts and the friendliest locals that I have ever met too. But being a solo budget traveler that I am, I have always been keen on my expenses. And traveling to Bali required me pretty much budget planning, yet still ripped plenty of rupiah (Indonesian money) off my pocket. Apparently Bali is not a budget solo traveler-friendly destination. My solo trip to Bali left me disappointed, frustrated, and yearning for more.
Getting around Bali is a Pain in the Ass
Not only because you have to take a motorbike for long drives as it is the fastest and the most practical mode of transportation when going around the island, but also because the places to see are tens of kilometers away from each other. If you have been doing DIY travel, getting to places is one of the most crucial things you must be concerned about. Bali does not have a public transportation system. So traveling to places was almost my everyday dilemma, because I do not know how to drive a freaking motorbike. So what to do? Although you can always resort to Uber and Grab app as they are the most convenient and are widely used in the island, I was told that at the time of my trip (October 2017) Uber and Grab had an ongoing conflict with the taxi and other local transportations. You can book a trip going to Uluwatu Temple for instance, but be warned that you won’t be able to book a bike/car on your way back to your hostel which left taxis, shuttles, and tour guide-type private drivers as your options.
I haven’t tried the shuttle; however, I was told that it is not also very convenient as well as they follow a set route that usually adds more hours to travel time. As you have probably guessed, taxis and private drivers are the most expensive options. You can try to haggle with private drivers and will probably be able to drop the price a bit, but not much. For example, I had to pay 200,000 IDR from Ngurah Rai International airport to my 40,000 IDR per night dorm hostel in Legian which is just roughly 15 minutes drive. I was told that this is the standard price for a private car service from the airport. You have no idea how stressful it can get. I originally really wanted to go to the coast sides of the island, but with private cars being the only option and considering my budget, it just wasn’t feasible. So I just ended up hiring a local driver in most days to drive me around the main areas of Kuta, Seminyak and Ubud.
Private Tour or Group Tours are the Way to Go
We are solo traveling for a reason and at some point we would really love to have our own me-time. Apparently, touring around Bali always comes in groups as you have to pay much extra if you’d avail it solo. In my first two days I met this amazing Argentinean guy, Valentin, who just learned how to drive a motorbike in Bali; and happily agreed to take me with him. It was a crazy and rainy long drive to the northern part of Bali. It was a one memorable trip as we drove through the craziest road! Thank you, Valentin!
Valentin and I
I met the coolest group of travelers in the best hostel in Kuta! But even if it was nice to have the company on these day trips, it also meant we had to decide where we wanted to go and what we wanted to see as a group. Good thing that I’m pretty easy going and cool with anything, but I can imagine it could be frustrating for someone who wasn’t as flexible and had their mind set on certain places.
Rainy (my soul sister) and Adi (Bedplus Backpacker hostel staff)
Everything is Tourist-Price
If you’re trying to do some cost-cutting in your budget do not go shopping, unless you know how to bargain. Ubud Market has so many great local products from colorful sarungs to beautiful beach dresses but they are all on ‘tourist’ rates. For example, I bought a pair of emerald fancy earrings for 50,000 IDR which was originally 100,00 IDR. My local guide told me that it can only be bought for 10,000 IDR, so it is not really a good deal but I liked it so whatever. He told me that you should always bargain half of the price all the time. According to him, that’s how you bargain smartly.
My Bali Take Away which you might find helpful on your trip to this beautiful island:
- I will bring friends (or someone) next time to share my expenses with. The trip could have been a lot cheaper if shared.
- I should learn to drive a motorbike.
- Befriend the locals, I am glad I did. They can bring you to the best warung (local food place) and help you bargain when shopping.
- Tempes are must-try! Fall in love with Indonesian food (but try not to with Indonesian charm). You have been warned.
- Ask when is the best time to visit one spot. Locals know when it is less crowded.
- Bring nice dresses! Almost everything is picturesque.
- Get a private tour. It’s less hassle and more practical. I will never travel Bali via DIY again!
For private tours, you may check out Java Adventure Trail Bali packages. Look for Mas Sofyan Yudianto.
To be honest, I have no decent itinerary in Bali as my trip was really spontaneous but here’s something I have tried to pull up from what I have experienced. Here’s a sample of a 5-day trip itinerary around Bali, Indonesia:
DAY 1: NGURAH RAI INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT IN BALI – HOTEL IN SEMINYAK AREA
I personally suggest Seminyak, as it is a bit quieter and the Double-Six beach has the most fabulous sunset.
DAY 2: HOTEL IN BALI – BEDUGUL TRIP – SUNSET IN TANAH LOT TEMPLE – HOTEL IN SEMINYAK AREA
- Taman ayun
- Ulun Danu Temple Bratan lake
- Jati Luwih Rice Field Terrace
- Sunset at Tanah Lot Temple
DAY 3: HOTEL IN SEMINYAK AREA – RAFTING IN UBUD – UBUD ART MARKET (WOOD CARVING, PAINTING, SILVER) – DINNER IN JIMBARAN BEACH – HOTEL IN SEMINYAK
- Rafting in Ayung River
- Ubud art maker (woodcarving, painting, silver)
- Sunset and dinner in Jimbaran Beach
DAY 4: HOTEL IN SEMINYAK AREA – TEGENUNGAN WATERFALL – GUNUNG KAWI TEMPLE – TIRTA EMPUL TEMPLE – LUNCH WITH MOUNT BATUR VIEW – COFFEE PLANTATION TOUR – TEGALALANG RICE FIELD TERRACE – MONGKEY FOREST – DINNER WITH LOCAL CRISPY DUCK – HOTEL IN SEMINYAK
- Tegenungan waterfall
- Gunung kawi temple
- Tirta empul temple
- Tegalalang Rice field Terrace
- Monkey forest
DAY 5: FLIGHT DAY
This morning is free for other leisure activities before heading to Ngurah Rai International Airport for your departure flight.
Over all, my Bali trip was amazing. It was a pretty crazy and spontaneous trip for my birthday. I’ve traveled solo to other countries before, but my Bali trip was a bit extraordinary compared to others and a total contrary to what I expected. I was in awe by how hospitable everyone I met in Bali island was, and it made me miss home even more. Terim kasih, Indonesia! I’ll see you again soon but I’II make sure to see everything you have to offer. I will never ever go solo in your beautiful island again!
Have you been to Bali alone? Let me know your stories!
About the writer:
She is a young teacher-writer-wanderess from the Philippines. She blends her passion to touch lives with her lust to wander and with her love for life. She’s consumed by all things pertaining to places, people, culture, and words. Follow her adventures on Instagram@pinaywanderess and on Facebook.