Context: I’ve been to Bali twice. One for a week in “vacation” mode and second to live for almost two months. The first time I stayed in Seminyak for 5 days, Uluwatu for 2 days and Ubud for 2 days. Overall Bali is a place that can be both incredibly cheap and insanely expensive. It just depends what your goals and budget are. Here are my reflections on living in Canggu as a digital nomad for almost two months.
Arriving & Airport
If you are staying more than 30 days, make sure to buy the Visa on arrival which will allow you to stay up to 60 days (you have to extend it after that I believe), otherwise visa-exempt will do.
- SIM: You should be able to get a good SIM card at the airport for $10-20 covering you for more than a week. These can be recharged at many roadside cell phone places, so no need to buy the most data right away (airport price is higher). I recommend Telkomsel for cell phone service
- Cash: You will need cash. I recommend getting a Charles Schwab checking with no international ATM fees.
- Transport (Cash only): You will be mobbed by drivers upon arrival asking to drive you to your hotel. I recommend arranging something beforehand or using Grab. The typical scam of drivers is to tell you a price (example 200k IDR) and then add “airport charges” at the end and try to get 200 IDR. With grab, you either need to sign up in the US before arriving or use your new Indonesian number to start an account. If you use grab, you need to walk through the exit and towards the parking garage and there is a sign that says something like “arranged driver pickup” or something like that. The grab drivers are typically pretty skilled at sending you a message on where to go. Prices:
- Grab prices: Seminyak: 75-125k IDR; Canggu: 125-175k IDR; Ubud: 150-250k IDR
- Arranged car: 200k and up
- Airport driver: probably 200k+ but negotiate for sure
Getting Around & Basics
I recommend getting a motorbike as you may find yourself moving around quite a bit as places are all very close, but not close enough to walk (plus sidewalks aren’t great).
Bike Rental: I rented a motorbike for 850k IDr for a month and another one for two weeks for 450k IDR. You want to pay somewhere around these rates. You can probably go a bit cheaper. I recommend getting a Honda Scoopy as they are comfortable and easy to ride. Typically your hotel can help arrange this.
- Beware: If you just walk up to someone you will likely be quoted something very very high for Bali. I was quoted 4 million IDR for a month, which would have been a ripoff.
- Contact: I had a good experience with a woman (WhatsApp +62 819-3309-667) who will deliver directly to your hotel (I was in Canggu, so she may not do other areas)
Ride Sharing: There are two options – Go Jek and Grab on the island. Both have very cheap ridesharing on motorbike and car. They also offer food delivery if you are looking to get some food while its raining or don’t want to leave your pool for the day. I have only used Grab for a car ride, so can’t speak to the others, but they are pretty prevalent on the island.
Food: The food is a mix of indonesia and western instagram food. The local places are called Warungs and can range in quality. The cheapest local food is Nasi Campur which is a plate of buffet style local eats which typically costs from 12k-25k. Nasi Goreng and Mie Goreng (nasi = rice and mie = noodle) are the other classics. You can find them for 25k-40k at almost any restaurant and are an amazing simple meal. If you go to Bali and don’t try either, you aren’t living right! Warungs are also a great place to grab and drink a full fresh coconut, which is typically the cheapest drink on the menu.
In addition to local eats, this is food heaven for vegan, paleo, smoothie bowl fanatics. If you use google maps, you can see many of the pictures posted of the food, which is a good guide. You can eat epic meals for between $5-10 a person per meal.
Kuta: Skip it. Very packed and every other place offers the same things but in a better environment.
Garuda Wisnu Cultural Park (4/10): Everywhere you go in Bali, you see this giant statue emerging into the heavens and wonder “what the hell is that?” Well it’s a massive hindu temple in a culture park. Pretty cool place, but definitely skip it if you don’t have time. Kind of a tourist trap and very modern (I think they built it pretty recently). Here is a free view without going:
Seminyak (5/10): This is the place that will emerge the most if you google around on where to stay. This is because there are the most number of resorts and high-end hotels on the beach. If you are looking to stay in a high-end accommodation and not explore much, this could be a good option. There is definitely some good food, partying, massages and shops in this area, but this is definitely the “Miami of Australia” where Australians come to party and hang out and party for a week.
- Accomodations: This is the typical villa look (left) that is very prevalent in Seminyak and you can get for a pretty good price and then the beach resort views (right) which are a bit more pricey
Uluwatu (8/10): Beachside village that is famous for its cliffs and surfing as well as Pura Uluwatu, an amazing cliffside Hindu temple filled with monkeys who will steal peoples hats and glasses in exchange for snacks (true story). Good for a 2-3 day trip as part of a longer trip.
- Accomodations: You can find anything from $250 a night resorts overlooking the ocean or a no-frills room for $20 a night also with the same view. The two areas I’m familiar with are padang padang or Suluban beach, which is an amazing cliff with a hidden beach you hike down to. It also has a bunch of cliffside dining ranging from top-shelf to local Warun eats (nasi goreng, etc…). I think there are more top notch hotels in padang padang but I don’t know it as well.
- Attractions: I definitely recommend visiting the Pura Uluwatu. It’s an amazing cliffside view and a pretty cool temple in the middle of Bali. Come for the view and stay for the Monkeys. Each time I went, I saw a monkey steal stuff off of people and then hold on to it until the trainers or people trade them snacks for their stuff back. This is amazing to watch.
Canggu (9/10): I lived in Canggu for almost two months and absolutely loved it. If you like sunsets, good foods and relaxed vibes, this is the place for you. I think this can offer almost all of what Seminyak does but for a little less money and people. Good for an extended stay or even 4-5 days.
I definitely recommend renting and riding a motorbike to get around Canggu. The bike directions on google maps are pretty good and accurate.
- Accomodations: You can find anything from $15 a night to $300+ a night (example high-end resorts here, here, here and here)
For more detailed Canggu recommendations click here
Ubud (8/10): Ubud is an amazing and popular spot. While the main area is packed with tourists, the outskirts are more chill than anywhere else I’ve been on the island. The overwhelming views and colors of the rice paddies, volcanos and sunsets are enough to make you ask “why don’t I live here?” as many people who I know have decided. Good for extended stay, 2-3 day trip or 5-7 day trip as well. Click here for detailed recommendations.
I only have been here for two separate day trips and two other trips of two days, so don’t have as much to offer, but have friends who have lived here long-term. Let me know and I’ll help you figure out some places to eat/see!
- Where to stay: I don’t have any great recommendations, but I’d recommend staying slightly away from the heart of the city, renting a motorbike and finding a place with an incredible view and sunsets.
Here are some of my favorites with a * by places that you must go
- Best beachside cheap eats: Warung Middle is my favorite spot for chilling with some cheap food (their mie goreng is amazing in a tasty, but not good for you instant noodles kind of way) and a $2 smoothie
- Best bang for the buck: Warung Ithaka is probably the best value for $, view, and ambiance you will find in Canggu. You can eat an amazing Nasi goreng for 38k IDR (about $2-3) and watch the sky turn red over the ocean while drinking a $2 mango smoothie
- *Is this real life? La Brisa is one of the coolest places I’ve been to watch the sunset. You will feel like you are in some sort of movie. I only went there once, but the Chef is the former private chef of Richard Branson (or so someone told me)
- Lunch Spots: The Shady Shack and Cafe Vida are two of the most popular (for good reason). Almost everything I’ve had at both has been top notch. $5-10 a person for a meal.
- Cool day spot with pool: I thought Bokacika was pretty cool with a pool to hang out in and a view of the rice paddy.
- Ride Paddy Cafe: Cool view off the back of the Cinta Cafe for some chill afternoon or brunch.
- *Best Warung: Warung Dandelion is an amazing experience, but be prepared to encounter an entire staff that is very talkative and welcoming. Don’t go here if you want to be left along. All of the food here is amazing.
- Other: For workout eats, check out Motion Cafe or Savage Kitchen. For local granola and organic food,
- Coworking/Events: The best three places for coworking are Dojo, Tropical Nomad and Outpost. Each have a lot of free events for the public, so just check the facebook pages (linked) and see what’s going on. A cool way to meet local nomads and entrepreneurs. Dojo is the most popular and famous and also the most expensive – you also get access to Hubud in Ubud if you’ll be moving around. If you just need good internet and the lowest price, Tropical Nomad is best for short-term travelers. Most cafes also are great spots to work..
- Exercise: You can check out S2S or Wanderlust Crossfit (most expensive) or Avenue ($10 a visit) or Victory Fitness (cheapest, about $5 a week or $10 a month). Odyssey MVMT comes highly recommended as well for HIIT classes and Yoga. Also, if you search facebook for events, there are also a lot of bootcamp style events on the beach you can find. For Yoga and meditation, there are also countless options, but I cannot recommend The Practice highly enough. It’s an amazing venue and place to disconnect and even try Yoga or meditation if you’ve never done it before.
- Spa/Massage: I never made it there, but Amo Spa has the best reputation in Canggu. People seem to love the massages and the day spa experience (free with $15 massage if you download the GU GUIDE app and grab the coupon). Otherwise, you can get a pretty awesome massage all over from 80kIDR to 200kIDR ($6-$15)
- Tanah Lot: A touristy area about a 25 minute bike ride north of canggu. Pretty cool temple in the ocean. You can get some solid food on the sunset deck and watch the sunset.
- Sunsets: Check out the sunset at the different spots along the beach. There are slightly different scenes at the end of Batu Balong, Echo Beach and Pererenan.
- Trip to Ubud: You can take a day trip to Ubud for about 150-200k on grab (maybe cheaper).
Attractions: Some things to do in Ubud:
- Monkey Forest: Good, not great. Basically walk around for 100k IDR and see monkeys jumping all around. Worth checking out for sure (not too expensive), but definitely a tourist trap
- Tegalalang Rice Terrace: Both a tourist trap and a must-see. Absolutely beautiful. Get there in the morning and grab a smoothie and some food before walking through the terrace from the road overlooking it.
- Ran out of time, but the Campuhan Ridge Walk looks like a beautiful way to walk through the heart of Bali.
- Mindfulness/Yoga: As I said I didn’t get a ton of time to explore, but these are highly recommended by others: Pyramids of Chi: Sound healing and acoustic bioresonance sessions come highly recommended from a friend.Yoga Barn: One of the most popular spots for Yoga
- Coworking/Events: Hubud is the most popular coworking space and you can also get access to both Dojo (in Canggu) and Hubud with one membership. Many cafes are also fantastic for working.
- Epic sunset/great food: A bit challenging to get to, but completely worth it. Check out the sunset from Cafe Pomegranate or one of the restaurants on that road. Beware: you’ll have to go down a very tiny strip in between rice paddies so if you are not comfortable with driving a motorbike, consider walking there.
- Sweet view/cafe: I didn’t eat here, but The Elephant offers a beautiful green-soaked view overlooking view of fields, the mountains and local terrace walk.
- Hidden Gem: Even though it is in the center of Ubud, Sweet Orange Warung has never been that packed when I went there. You have to walk from the main street (use the google map directions). It is a blissful paradise in the middle of a massive rice paddy.
- Other Recommendations From A Bali Friend/Five Year Resident: Muse is a great cafe with a good view and good Tali dish. Clear Cafe is great for some healthy eats.