Spending a month in Bali: let’s talk money, language and Netflix woes.
I always think budgets are a strange thing; people seem to love then and yet really they are meaningless, since each individual spends differently depending on how they like to travel and what is important to them. Nevertheless this might provide a useful guideline for someone.
Bali is cheap compared to Europe or North America, but expensive compared to some of its cheaper Asian neighbours like Laos or the Philippines. Prices in the less touristy north of the island are around 20% lower than in Ubud or the south.
Bali is expensive when compared to the rest of Indonesia, although that’s not really surprising since it is very much the jewel in Indonesia’s tourist crown.
I stayed in Bali for 4 weeks, which is what I was allowed. If you buy a visa on entry, you pay US$35 and you can renew it for another month. If, like me, you enter with just a tourist stamp then you have to leave after 30 days. Note they call the day you enter the country day one, even if you arrive at a minute to midnight. The day you leave has to be on or before day 30.
Accommodation: £594 / US$770
With the exception of the last few days when I stayed in an inclusive resort hotel, I mostly stayed in older hotels with pools. My rooms were all quite large and had AC plus a private bathroom with hot water. Most looked as if they had seen better days, but they were good for the money. You could certainly find cheaper if you are on a tight budget. If you are happy to forgo hot water and AC it is cheaper (you don’t need AC in Ubud, but it helps).
Transport: £50 / US$65
I haven’t included my flights in and out, since that depends where you’re going or coming from. I didn’t spend too much on transport. This is mainly shuttle buses and shared transport from town to town and taxis to and from the airport.
Tours/activities/admission fees: £38 / US$50
I’m not somebody who feels they have to do everything just because it’s there, and I tend to cherrypick what interests me. I’m happy to spend a lot of days doing nothing much and just walking around, swimming, taking photos etc. Most of the art galleries and temples cost very little to go in. If you like to do a lot of things, or if you’re keen on adrenaline sports, or particularly if you want to go diving, then expect to budget more.
Spa/yoga: £88 / US$115
This is something I spent a great deal of my budget on, particularly when I was in Ubud. Prices for massage and spa treatments are low, although you should always remember to tip the person doing the treatment. These people earn very little and rely on tips to earn a living.
Laundry: £18 / US$24
Prices are very low on this, although things go missing a lot. As always when I’m travelling, getting laundry done is a constant battle.
Souvenirs/‘shopping’: £35 / US$45
I bought very little, since I have to carry it with me and I am already carrying far too much. My only concessions were some new flip-flops (since I’d knackered my old ones on the dreadful pavements of Ubud) and some locally made cosmetics. If you like to shop you should allow more for this, particularly if you have a home and are going straight back to it.
Mobile phone/internet: Zero.
British people with 3 mobile should note that Indonesia is one of our feel at home destinations. I simply continued using my phone whilst I was here; I don’t call anyone but I am a heavy internet user yet still I didn’t get anywhere near my limit. My hotels all had free wifi, so I took advantage of that whilst I was in.
Food and drinks and basically anything else (e.g.chemist goods): £233 / US$303
As always, this figure seems unbelievably high and I never quite know what I’ve spent the money on. My hotels all provided a breakfast of some sort and for other meals I used a variety of cafes/restaurants.
There are places where you can get a local dish in a small eating-house with no fan for as little as 15,000 rupiahs (that’s around a dollar; point to what you want and use a few words of Bahasa if you have them). A meal in a tourist restaurant with a drink (either a fruit juice/ smoothie or a small local beer) would come to between 60,000-110,000 (£3-6, US$4-8), depending on the restaurant. Obviously you can pay more in the top places.
If you like drinking alcohol (particularly if you like drinking wine) you need to add a considerable amount on to this. Alcohol is expensive in Bali, due to heavy taxes. The local beer, Bintang, is quite reasonable and there is a locally-produced drink called Arak, an aniseed flavoured spirit. Quality varies with Arak; it can come in fancy bottles or it can come in a plastic bag tied with a knot. I didn’t drink any Arak this trip although I have drunk it before. Strength can be high and there are deaths from time to time.
Actually rather than alcohol most of my food budget, as always, goes on ‘snacks’, the colas I buy to take back in with me, the ice creams to cool me down, the stops for coffee (which are mainly to rest my feet for a bit ).
Travel insurance: £135
On top of that I paid £135 on travel insurance for the month. Bali comes in relatively expensive on insurance, almost on a par with the US, and I took out just the basic accident and sickness cover for this price. As always, I went with Travel Nomads, since my travel is ongoing and I need a policy that pays out whilst I am travelling, since I have no plans to go ‘home’.
I also paid £26 on book downloads, music and my Netflix account.
Grand total for 28 days: £1,217, which is US$1,584
This figure will probably either seem ridiculously little or ridiculously high to you, depending on your particular style of travel. It’s a little higher than I budgeted for but I think for a month it’s ok.
Something to know about Indonesia: Netflix doesn’t work here (due to some kind of dispute over ‘unsuitable content’). This has proved an absolute Godsend for me, and I have been able to get all kinds of useful stuff done. Normally I come in, a little tired, switch on the computer and say ‘oh I’ll just watch a quick episode of x (insert any crap TV show here) before I start work’. Next thing you know it’s 2AM, I’m battling to keep my eyes open but I’m forcing myself to stay up for ‘just one more’. And I’ve done nothing useful with the whole evening.
This past month I have gotten stuff done. I have read actual books. I have written stuff.
One of the other useful things I have done with my ex-Netflix time is to spend an hour a day learning Bahasa (Indonesian language) from youtube. I am now able to form a few simple sentences and count to a million. This is something I never bothered to master in the year I was living here ; I think I was too busy getting stressed over office politics to think about learning the local language.
Bahasa is one of the easier languages to learn. There is no real grammar; if you want to talk about the past you just insert the word kemarin – yesterday. Doesn’t matter if you mean yesterday literally or the past more generally; it’s all the same. If you want to plural a word you just say it twice, so buko means book, buko buko means books. You can’t argue with a language like that, can you?
I find having a bit of the local language a great conversation starter with locals. They will usually applaud my pathetic efforts but then we switch to English and end up talking about Bali, about their life or whatever. This is what interests me about travelling. For someone like me who finds it near enough impossible to instigate a conversation, I find these kinds of tricks invaluable.
I enjoyed having a month to spend in Bali, but I do feel it is enough. A lot of digital nomads do settle here for a few months; if you rent a place long-term, rather than pay for several different hotels like I did, then it would be a nice economical base. There are some bargain villas to rent in the rice terraces above Ubud, particularly outside of the busy July/Aug season.
However for the time being I am ready to move to my next destination.