The island of Bali evokes tropical party vibes together with many opportunities for adventures through its pristine beaches and lush forests. The country’s timeless tradition and welcoming culture make it an ideal doorway to start your Southeast Asian backpacker trail. Here some tips to help you make the most of your backpacking mission in Bali.
The backpacker scene
Bali summons backpackers from all over the world. They love Bali. It offers everything: cheap accommodation, food, parties, easy transport, surf, hikes and mesmerizing natural wonders. Being a very popular destination, with an established tourism infrastructure, high season months like July, August and December can be busy, but that won’t take the charm out of the dreamy island. Instead, it will increase the chances of making more friends along the route.
Bali meets all tastes and needs. Here, wave-riders can find the best surfing spots in the world; soul-seeking travelers can experience the timeless traditions and spirituality of the villages in the central highlands; avid hikers can climb 3,000-meter-high volcanic peaks; and waterfall-chasers can find bliss in the deep tropical forests. Plus, there’s also the parties. Bali is home to some of the coolest bars in Asia and hosts epic music festivals throughout the year. You’ll be spoiled for choice.
Making the most of it
Learn how to drive a scooter – safely
Roads are small in Bali and getting around by scooter will give you freedom to move around. It’s cheaper than getting a driver, and it’s faster. Normal daily rent is around 50.000 Indonesian rupiah, so don’t get yourself fooled – bargain if you must. If you’ve never ridden before, ask your rental guy to give you a quick lesson and always, always, always wear a helmet. It looks exotic to ride with hair in the air, but it’s neither safe nor smart. Get out of the main roads and drive around remote country roads. The breeze, the scents and the views will make you feel ecstatic.
Explore off the beaten track
Bali is bigger than people think. The northern part of the island, which is more difficult to reach as it’s far from central towns, usually remains unexplored. So for the avid off-the-beaten-track adventurers, that’s the perfect place to go. If you feel confident enough, you can travel all around the island by scooter only. Make sure to pack warm and wet-weather clothes; it can get chilly up there, but it holds the most outstanding secrets of the island.
Don’t limit your diet to banana pancakes and fried rice
Who hasn’t thought of Bali without thinking of banana pancakes, Bintang (the local beer) and nasi goreng (fried rice)? Well, Balinese cuisine is so mouth-watering and vast that it deserves more attention. Find a local warung (restaurant) and try their bakso or meatball soup, their nasi lawar or a salad of chopped jackfruit, as well as coconut and local spices or babi guling (suckling pig).
Balinese economy is almost totally based on tourism, which makes it a very safe place to travel too. Locals are welcoming and warm. However, the common sense rule applies here. In hostels, always put your bags in your locker or take them with you. Do not leave unattended belongings in the car with drivers and hide your bags – or wear cross shoulder bags or backpacks – when driving your scooter. Always wear a helmet and be careful when crossing the streets – there are no zebra lines and even if there were, no one would stop. In parties and crowded areas – maybe after one too many beers – be aware of your belongings and of possible, although unlikely, scams. Bali is a safe destination for solo female travelers but again, common sense safety applies here.
Food and accommodation
They say that frying makes everything taste good. And there are lot of goreng or fried dishes in Bali ready to please your avid tastebuds – and for cheap too. There is everything from nasi (rice) goreng, mie (noodles ) goreng, ayam (chicken) goreng, and to pisang (banana) goreng. For backpackers on a detox, the tropical fruits here are the juiciest and cheapest you’ll ever try. The local warungs will make your stomach and wallet happy and full. And if the infamous Bali-belly happens, drink some good coconut water and go to the pharmacy.
Hostels are everywhere on the island. For a cheap price of 100.000 Indonesian rupiahs a night, you can get a bunk in an air-conditioned dorm, including a simple breakfast in the morning. Juice, coffee and yes, banana pancakes. Some hostels even have a pool (bring on the beers!). Local homestays in a family compound are cheap too, and ideal if you have a friend to share a room with. They usually charge 200.000 Indonesian rupiahs with a fan, and a bit more with air-con. A perfect accommodation to experience the local culture in a more authentic way.
The best part of a backpacking adventure is the friends you’ll make on the road, and Bali will welcome you with so many new precious friendship and connections. From the local owners of your hostel or homestay to the people you’ll meet in the bus or while surfing and hiking. But the most fun bonding activities are the adventurous ones. Book a hike to Mount Batur, or a raft down a river gorge, or a spiritual visit to a temple for some unique memories. Speaking a little bit of the local language can also help along the way. Here some of the must-know phrases in Indonesian – the Balinese speak a local dialect as well.
Money, money, money
Welcome to the Indonesian rupiah kingdom, where, as in most of the Southeast Asian countries, you can be a millionaire with only $70. Bali is cash-based, but credit and debit cards are accepted in most places and ATMs are everywhere. Tip: always withdraw money at an ATM attached to a bank. It’s not uncommon for people to get their card skimmed, so be careful.
1 meal ($1-$7USD)
1 beer ($2-$5). Bintang and Bali Hai are the cheapest.
1 night at a backpacker hostel ($7-$14)
1 cheap mode of transport for inner-city travel ($3.5-$7)
1 hygiene/medical essential (at a local shop) ($2 – $7)
1 affordable experience (e.g. average entry to visit a temple) (1$ – $10)
Where to go
If you are looking for parties, avoid Kuta (way too overrated and busy) and head to Seminyak instead. Located only 30 minutes’ drive from Bali International Airport depending on traffic, it’s the perfect initiation for your backpacking journey in Bali. Some of the best beach clubs and bars on the island are here. Indulge on some good beats and mojitos, but in moderation!
Head here for a dreamy surf and magical sunset on the beach. Some pretty cool spots like Pretty Poison, which is a bar/skate park, and Old Man’s are also in the area – the perfect mix of nature and fiesta for all tastes and needs. Canggu is only 20 minutes’ drive from Seminyak on the same coastline.
Located on the central Balinese highlands, Ubud is the cultural and spiritual heart of the island. Home to golden temples, monkey forests and infinity pools overlooking the lush jungle, it’s an ideal spot to relax and dive deeper into timeless local traditions.
Surf, cliffs and rock bars. Uluwatu is on the tipping point of the southern Bukit peninsula, and is a prime wave spotting location. The sunsets from here are pretty magical and the parties are few but lit. Do not miss the Sunday sesh at Single Fin bar.
If you like off-the-beaten-track adventures, North Bali is the place to go. On the East coast, visit the fishing village of Amed (the snorkeling is gold here). Same as Pemutaran on the North-west coast. The road leading to those shores hides waterfalls and jungle treks, so do stop and have a ball in the tropical wilderness.
Bucket list experiences
Go for a sunrise hike on Mount Batur
Mount Batur is a volcano in East Bali and one of the most popular destinations for sunrise chasing. It’s gonna be busy up there, but watching the sun rising on your sweaty skin after a tough hike up will probably be something you’ll never forget all your life.
Surfer or not, you cannot go to Bali without jumping on a board at least once. Renting an average board is easy and for first-timers, every board rental includes a lesson. Don’t forget to put cream on your precious back, bottom and legs and enjoy the ride.
Go waterfall-chasing in Git-Git
If you have time to venture up North, do visit the area around Git-Git, which is pure deep jungle adventure. Make sure to pack warm and wet weather clothes because it can get chilly up there. Yes, even in the tropics.
Bonus articles about Bali
Before you leave, here are some more articles to help you out.
Best Backpacker Hostels
The Best Things to Do For Free in Bali
The Coolest Neighborhoods in Bali
The 8 Best Backpacker Hostels in Ubud, Bali
When’s The Best Time of Year to Visit Bali?
Top 10 Things To Do And See In Bali
Top 10 Unusual Things to Do in Bali
Volcanic Iceland Epic Trip
meet our Local Insider
HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN A GUIDE?
WHAT DO YOU LOVE ABOUT YOUR JOB?
It's the personal contact, the personal experiences. I love meeting people from all over the world... I really like getting to know everyone and feeling like I'm traveling with a group of friends.
WHAT DESTINATION IS ON YOUR TRAVEL BUCKET-LIST?
I have so many places on my list, but I would really lobe to go to Africa. I consider myself an “adventure girl” and Africa feels like the ULTIMATE adventure!
Every CULTURE TRIP Small-group adventure is led by a Local Insider just like Hanna.
KEEN TO EXPLORE THE WORLD?
Connect with like-minded people on our premium trips curated by local insiders and with care for the world
Since you are here, we would like to share our vision for the future of travel - and the direction Culture Trip is moving in.
Culture Trip launched in 2011 with a simple yet passionate mission: to inspire people to go beyond their boundaries and experience what makes a place, its people and its culture special and meaningful — and this is still in our DNA today. We are proud that, for more than a decade, millions like you have trusted our award-winning recommendations by people who deeply understand what makes certain places and communities so special.
Increasingly we believe the world needs more meaningful, real-life connections between curious travellers keen to explore the world in a more responsible way. That is why we have intensively curated a collection of premium small-group trips as an invitation to meet and connect with new, like-minded people for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in three categories: Culture Trips, Rail Trips and Private Trips. Our Trips are suitable for both solo travelers, couples and friends who want to explore the world together.
Culture Trips are deeply immersive 5 to 16 days itineraries, that combine authentic local experiences, exciting activities and 4-5* accommodation to look forward to at the end of each day. Our Rail Trips are our most planet-friendly itineraries that invite you to take the scenic route, relax whilst getting under the skin of a destination. Our Private Trips are fully tailored itineraries, curated by our Travel Experts specifically for you, your friends or your family.
We know that many of you worry about the environmental impact of travel and are looking for ways of expanding horizons in ways that do minimal harm - and may even bring benefits. We are committed to go as far as possible in curating our trips with care for the planet. That is why all of our trips are flightless in destination, fully carbon offset - and we have ambitious plans to be net zero in the very near future.