Are you getting ready to travel to Bali and looking to save money on your trip? If so, this post is for you! No matter how much money you have, everyone loves a good savings game.
I’ll admit that it took me a long time to get good at saving. I swear, there’s something about a new paycheck that makes you feel like you’re in the 1% for a day. Except you’re probably not in the 1%, and you’ll spend the next three weeks anxiously avoiding the numbers in your bank account because you don’t want to see how in debt you are.
Now, I’m not saying that I’m a professional at saving money (because I’m not), and I’m in no way trying to give you financial advice (not my job); but, if you’re anything like me, turning saving into a game is a great way to start.
Traveling can be relatively inexpensive if you’re tight on cash or simply want to stretch your travels longer. You just have to decide what you’re willing to sacrifice for it.
The money-saving game changer for me was to pretend like I wasn’t a tourist. I know, that sounds weird, but let’s think about it for a second. Most locals (this goes for any city or country) pride themselves on knowing the best local restaurants and free activities.
When I started to explore things like street food, local transportation, and homestays, I realized I was saving a ton of money without even realizing it.
Now, before you start yelling at me, I’m in no way bashing luxury travel. Trust me, I definitely indulge in expensive food, excursions, and day clubs from time to time. I simply like to see how much I can get out of what I have instead of blowing it all in a week.
Through many trial and error experiences, I have put together a list of my favorite ways to save money while in Bali. Let me know in the comments what your favorite ways to save are!
1. Alternative Lodging and Hostels
Overnight stay is one of the biggest expenses while traveling, but there are a few ways you can save.
Stay At Hostels
Bali is filled with all-inclusive resorts, large villas, and extravagant tree houses that are great if it’s within your budget. If you’re looking for something more inexpensive, do not fret, there are plenty of options. Hostels are located throughout Bali and cost on average $5-$10 per night for a bed. If you are unfamiliar with hostel stay, you will usually have the option to sleep in a dorm or a private room. The dorm sizes range between 4 and 10 beds, with the less populated dorms being slightly more expensive. Private rooms are usually around $20 per night and can be a great option if you are traveling with a friend you want to split costs with.
Want to know more? Here’s everything you need to know about staying at hostels!
Exchange Work for Stay
If you’re traveling with a relaxed itinerary, you may be interested in working in exchange for stay. Many hostels need extra help, especially during high seasons, and will offer you free stay in exchange for helping out at the hostel. If you find a place you really love, it may be worth asking the owners, you might just score a free extra week in your favorite location!
I remember being in the ever-so-popular town, Pai, in northern Thailand, where most of the town staff were fellow travelers. It was incredibly inspiring for me and made traveling abroad for extended periods seem attainable.
2. Eat Street Food
One of the best ways to save money in Bali is to eat street food. I know what you’re thinking. Doesn’t everyone get sick in Bali? Sure, a lot of people get “Bali Belly” (myself included), but that doesn’t mean it’s a result of eating street food. Besides, you don’t know what’s happening in a kitchen either so who’s to say street food is really that much worse than a restaurant?
In my opinion, street food is the best (and most affordable) food you can find in Bali. You can find phenomenal food carts all over the city, especially by the beaches and city centers.
When the sun goes down, you’re sure to find some great night markets, which are essentially empty lots filled with unique food displays and eateries. If you make your way over to Gili T, I highly recommend checking out their nightly market. I discovered it in 2016 and make it a point to get out there during each trip!!
Plates at most street eateries cost around 10,000 IDR which is about $1.50 USD and most of the food is grilled to order.
Pro Tip: Try the local desserts and chocolate bread. You will not be disappointed!
3. Use Local Transportation
If you plan on moving around a lot during your trip you will discover transportation costs can add up quickly. In order to save money in Bali, most people will hire a driver, which is usually the best way to go. If you’re traveling alone this can get expensive so try and recruit new friends to join you for the day.
Another option is to take the path less traveled and look for local transportation on buses and local ferries. Honestly, in Bali, there aren’t many busses available for solo travelers but you can definitely score some cheap ferries!
4. Start Bargaining
If you’ve never been to Bali, you must know how to bargain with the locals. As a tourist, you’re bound to be offered higher prices. It’s always a good idea to negotiate and save some extra cash. The worst that can happen is they say no. Based on experience, you will rarely pay the initial quoted price!
Bali attracts people of all status levels, meaning you’ll see families with designer suitcases taking the same boats and taxis as budget backpackers. The only reason I mention this is because the people who aren’t worried about saving and therefore don’t bargain subsequently set the tone for how much locals will charge.
When I was in Bali earlier this year (August 2022), I decided to hop over to Lombok to escape the crowds. When I arrived at the port, I tried to book a ride 30 minutes North, but he wanted 1,000,000 IDR, which is about USD 65.
Sure, that’s not a lot in the United States, but that’s pretty insane for Bali prices!
I spent the next 30 minutes searching the web for ways to save money on transportation in Bali, and I’m SO glad I did!! I ended up talking him down to 200,000 IDR (USD 13).
Moral of the story: If you have a little extra to give, the locals could use it, but if you’re strapped for cash, feel free to bargain a little.
5. Book in Advance
Booking flights and tours in advance is a great way to save money in Bali. This tip isn’t for someone on a set schedule, as they’re likely booking ahead anyways. But if you’re anything like me, booking anything ahead of time sounds like an excellent way to have a panic attack.
When I travel, I don’t plan much. If I do execute any planning, it’s usually only a few days before whatever I decide to do. Unfortunately, this habit has caused me to lose many potential savings.
So, if you’re anything like me – here’s what you need to do.
- Set up price alerts for different airlines and locations. The signal will tell you if the price is low, average, or expensive for the travel time.
- Add trip coverage to your flights to change the departure date at no additional cost. There may also be a cheaper option that allows you to change tickets for a small fee.
- Check the news for any reports on airfare trends. You might not need to book ahead if flight costs are projected to drop around the time you travel.
- Book through a third party with flexible cancellation policies.
As for booking tours in advance, Trip Advisor always has great deals and offers a flexible cancellation policy. Most tour packages purchased through Trip Advisor allow you to cancel up to 1 day before the event. Please note this does vary, and you will need to check the “terms and conditions” for your specific activity.
6. Meet New People
Meeting new people is arguably the most fantastic way to save money in Bali. Whether you’re traveling alone or in a group, the more people you have, the cheaper deals you can get. You can take more expensive tours, stay in incredible villas, and eat more fancy meals when you’re splitting the price between multiple people. Don’t be afraid to reach out to other travelers along the way. Chances are you’ll gain much more than some savings and meet some lifelong friends.
7. Travel During Off-Season
Bali has two seasons: wet and dry. The dry season falls between May and October, whereas the wet season falls between November and April. In general, traveling during the wet season is cheaper.
Now, if you’re thinking, “Why would I ever want to go to a tropical island during the rain?” Keep reading!
My first trip to Bali was between March and April of 2016 (wet season), and it was bright and sunny almost every day. This time, I went from August 8th to September 8th (dry season), and it rained practically every day.
The weather in Bali is super unpredictable. Just because it’s considered the dry season doesn’t mean it doesn’t rain. It just rains less.
I advise you to travel to Bali at the end of the wet season (April or May), when you’re likely to have less rain without the scorching heat and much lower prices!