So I went to Bali. Alone. Solo.
It wasn’t originally planned that way. It was a birthday trip that I was planning with two other women. One had personal reasons for cancelling and the other ghosted me. I initially cancelled my trip. Fed up with being disappointed, I started doing research on solo travel. To my delight, it turns out Bali is one of the most accessible, affordable, and safest solo travel destinations in the world. After many blogs read, several encouraging DMs, and a few pep talks later, I booked a roundtrip flight to Bali. Solo.
I knew it would be more than just a vacation for me. It’d be a journey where I could spend a great amount of time with myself, getting to know myself through yoga, journaling, and adventure. It’d be the ultimate solo date.
Lucky for you, I did all the research and made all the right mistakes so that you don’t have to. So here’s the rundown on where I stayed, what I did, what I paid, and other gems to get you to Bali, Indonesia too.
Booking the Right Flight at the Right Time
Once I decided to go to Bali solo, I started watching my flight on an app called Hopper. (I'll write more on my process and hacks for booking flights soon.) Once Hopper let me know my flight was affordable enough, I booked with China Eastern Air through Expedia for $659 from SFO to DPS, Bali’s airport. This cost included $39 travel insurance, which I always recommend for international travel. I got lucky with booking my flight in early August for my early September trip. I’d recommend at least starting to watch your flight as early as possible for the best deals.
The coolest thing about China Eastern is that their tickets include a free carry on, a personal item, and two checked bags. Clutchhh. It cost me $120 total to check one bag when I went to Europe when I flew with British Airways. Take into account how much baggage will cost when you’re comparing the cost of flights.
Pro Tip: Figuring out when to travel to Bali is easy. The weather is consistently beautiful all year, but be aware of dry (April - September) and rainy (October - March) seasons, with the most popular season for tourists being July and August. The good news is that hotels and flights are typically cheaper in rainy season as there are less tourists for fear of the rain. I’d say the best times to go are on the edge of the dry seasons, May and September. I went in September and it only briefly rained once while I was there.
First, you should know that budgeting is going to look differently for solo travelers than people who are traveling with others. If you’re going solo, you won’t have other people to split your taxis and accommodation with, as those will be your biggest expenses.
First, decide how frugal or luxurious you’d like to be, then look at the cost of accommodations. Below, I detail the cheapest and most expensive, but a good rule of thumb is to decide how much you’re willing to pay for your hotel or AirBnbs first.
Aside from my flight, I spent about $1,600 on my solo, semi-luxurious, 11 night Bali trip.
Here’s my very rough breakdown of my largest expenses:
- Accomodations: 3 Airbnbs, 2 Resorts, 1 hotel: about $620
- Taxis: $10 - $20 per day
- Food & Drink: $20 - $40 per day
- Activities & Shopping: $10 - $20 per day
I detail where I stayed and what I did below, but understand that you could spend a lot less or a lot more, depending on how you plan to play your cards.
Reducing your daily spending is easy in Bali. Here are a few ways to reduce costs:
- Opt for cheaper accommodations like hostels and homestays that are anywhere from $8 - $20 a night
- Take advantage of complimentary breakfast in homestays or hotels
- Eat at non-touristy places that are off the beach and off the main roads
- Rent a motorbike for $3 a day instead of calling taxis
Pro Tip: Bring Cash and Exchange for Rupiah! Bring cash and exchange for Rupiah when you arrive in Bali. You’ll definitely need cash for taxis and shopping as drivers and street vendors don’t take cards. While many upscale restaurants accept cards, know that you’ll be charged by both the restaurant and your bank each time you swipe. I brought $500 and exchanged my USD for Rupiah at the airport, which allowed me to pay for my first taxi. Toward the end of my trip I needed more cash, and it was easy to find a bank and get rupiah from an ATM. There are ATMs all around downtown Ubud, and many are located in convenient stores across the island.
Deciding Which Cities on the Island to Stay in and/or Visit
Once I knew I was headed to the island I had to choose which cities I’d kick it in. I knew I’d fly in around midnight, so I should start close to their airport. I wanted to be near the beach and venture inland eventually, then end up back near the airport. Since I was traveling solo, the nightlife scene wasn’t much of a priority. I wanted chill, boutique accommodations, yoga, cultural stimulation, and good eats.
I planned to spend my first few days in Seminyak and Canggu, cute, vibrant beach towns with lively nightlife and yoga retreats galore. I’d then go inland to Ubud, a cultural rich area known for its rice fields, waterfalls, and yes - the Bali swing (there are a ton, btw.) I’d end my trip in Jimbaran, a fishing town along the beach just south of the airport, known for its fresh seafood cafes down the beach as far as you can see.
A quick rundown of the most popular cities in Bali:
- Kuta/Seminyak - Most popular & party meca areas. Beachclubs glore.
- Canggu - Hipster chic cafes, juice bars, and other healthy, hipster things.
- Ubud - Cultural, jungly vibes. Lot's of yoga, Bali swing, and religious ceremonies and activities.
- Jimbaran - Seafood heaven near the airport.
- Southern tip - More beachclubs, waterfalls, and native shows.
- Nusa Peninsula - A really Instgrammable island south of Bali.
- Gilli Islands - A boat ride away, maybe go here if you have a day or 2. It's a beautiful, car-less island.
Pro Tip: Stay in Ubud and Seminyak or Canggu. If you’re in Bali for a short time, I’d recommend staying in the most popular areas like Seminyak and/or Ubud and day trip to other areas with a private driver. Don’t sell yourself too thin.
Getting Around the Island
Look sis. Don’t let the taxi drivers play you, ok. Especially at the airport. I recommend booking airport pickup with your resort or villa. That way you won’t have to worry about hailing a cap after you’ve traveled 20 hours and you just want a meal and a bed. When hailing a taxi, always ask drivers how much to your destination and then bargain with them down whenever possible. If they decline to lower the price even a little, say ok you’ll find another driver. Most of the time, they’ll cave.
While I tried to make a point to support the local taxi drivers as much as possible, Bali has car app services similar to Uber like Blue Bird, Grab, and GoJek. Note that if you use Blue Bird, make sure your driver turns on the meter instead of quoting you a fixed price. You can download these apps and call car and scooter rides in most parts of the island. Be sure to note that in places like Ubud, car app services are banned and severely frowned upon. Luckily, in most areas, taxis are easy to find. If you have trouble, ask a local for help calling a cab.
When I was traveling from Canggu to Ubud, I had arranged pickup with my next host costing ~500K irk or $35 for the private, 2 hour car ride.
Pro Tip: Rent a Motorbike! If you feel comfortable driving a motorbike, rent one! You can often rent them from your resort, airbnb host, or a local bike shop for $2 - $4 a day! Motorbikes are very popular in Bali and you’ll see more of them than cars. Just take note of the crazy streets in Bali. There are very few traffic lights or street signs. It’s wayyy too easy to get lost of overwhelmed.
Accommodations From the Most Affordable to the Most Luxurious
Bali has a ton of accommodation options from hostels, to homestays, to hella instagramable resorts. Although I was traveling solo, I knew I wanted to go to luxurious route and treat myself, but not break the bank. Many solo travelers will choose inexpensive options like hostels and homestays. Hostels can be as cheap as $8 a night, and many are bunk-bed style, so you’ll likely share a space with others. This can be a great way to meet other people traveling as well! Bali is known to have nice hostels for the price. With homestays, you essentially rent a room in a family’s home. You are able to eat the meals the family cooks and get immersed in authentic Balinese culture. However, Airbnb is always the first place I look. If you've never book on Airbnb before, here's $55 off your first stay. Thank me later.
I wanted to be extra, but sorta kind frugal. So I decided to book a mix of affordable private Airbnbs and sprinkle in a couple of nice resorts during my stay.
I spent my first few days at Movement Yoga, a was small and intimate boutique resort in Seminyak, offering daily yoga and surf lessons. It was also a quick cab ride to shops, restaurants and the beach.
In Canggu, I pulled up to the most beautiful villa I could have imagined. It was decorated like nothing I had ever seen, with an open living room, kitchen, and bathroom. The bedroom conveniently opened to the perfect sized pool. It was my little slice of heaven for the night.
In Ubud I stayed in an affordable airbnb overlooking the beautiful rice fields. My host offered laundry service, motorbike rentals, and daily breakfast. This was all pretty clutch as this was my cheapest rental per night in Bali. Getting laundry done cost me less than $2 and the bike rental was about $3 a day.
Then came the bougieee resorts. I checked into Anulekha Resort & Villa for a night as this was my most expensive rental. I booked a one bedroom villa with a private pool. The resort offered free afternoon tea and snacks near the open pool, happy hour, and a full restaurant. The also offered free transportation to and from city center, as the resort was pretty far from downtown. I was also able to order floating breakfast (!!!) for about $10, a steal. Most resort are 10xs more expensive and their floating breakfast is too. I was able to get the luxury experience here without breaking the bank. The staff also surprised me with a birthday song and cake the day before my birthday. It was magical.
I then moved on to a cheaper resort closer to town called Kori Ubud. They also offered a free shuttle to city center and offered a complimentary breakfast buffet. I also enjoyed room service, a spa treatment, and amazing views from the pool.
Pro Tip: Mix it up! If you're solo, mix it up! Get a cheap place, but spend a night or 2 in a nice villa. Don't miss out on your villa dreams just because you're alone. If you're with bae or in a group, you're in so much luck. You can find a super nice place for under $100 a night and split the cost.
Building an Itinerary
Now to the fun part. Creating my itinerary was the perfect pregame for actually living it. When planning my activities, I strategically planned things by the day according to the area I was in and how I thought it’d feel. I made sure to leave time and space for random adventures and for time to myself for yoga, meditation, and journaling each morning as these were super important to me.
No matter if I’m traveling to Las Vegas or Paris, I always start my search looking for things to do on Instagram. I like picturesque views, restaurants, and activities. I use Instagram as a search engine by hashtagging the location I’m going (I'll make a post for this too). This let’s me see (sorta) authentic photos and experiences from regular people of these destinations instead of relying solely on what paid post on Trip Advisor and the like. I also always always always look at experiences on Airbnb. There’s always a seamless way to book tours, classes, etc.
So here’s what I did and tips for planning your adventure or whateva.
Did you even go to Bali if you didn’t spend a whole day (or 3) at the spa???
I knew jetlag would be terrible, so I had a beauty and spa day planned for my first day. My first stop of the day at The Cottage Beauty Spa. I had an appointment booked for a facial (~$21), full set of lashes (~$50), and pedicure (~$12). A steal amirite?!?! The service was amazing and the place was clean. 10/10 would go back.
Later that day, I took a cab to The Canopy Spa at Lloyd’s Inn where I had a spa package booked that included a 60-minute full body massage, full body scrub, a rooftop shower, and rooftop flower bath (~$39 for everything). You start by picking your essential massage oil and body scrub, and the rest is pure bliss. They offer a ton of different spa packages, and the place is utterly beautiful.
One of the most high highlights (what?) of my trip was my spa day at Karsa Spa in Ubud. I booked an 8 hour spa package that included a Balinese massage, reiki, flower bath, pedicure, reflexology foot massage and facial - all for about $75. They even gave me an hour break for lunch where they sat me at a beautiful hut overlooking the rice fields. This was the most beautiful experience for me, as I had never experienced that kind of bougieness in my lifeeee, ok? Would 11/10 recommend if you’re in Ubud.
Aside from all the luxurious spas and Bali, there are spas lined up and down the main roads, especially in Ubud that resemble nail shops where you can get anything from a pedicure to a full body massage. It’s easy to pop into a shop without an appointment and get a 60-minutes foot massage for $3.
Book a private driver and take a guided tour! You can book a driver for a whole day for around $60! They make the perfect tour guides and it’s an easy way to visit another area of the island, especially if you’re looking to sightsee solo.
I booked a photo tour through Airbnb experiences. I knew I’d book a driver and tour guide at some point, so it was clutch that I found a talented photographer and got the shots I knew I’d want. My photographer Wayan picked me up and dropped me off at my Airbnb. We went to the Alas Harum Coffee Plantation to get some shots of me on ~the~ Bali swing. Let me tell you, this was one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever seen. The experience started off with a complimentary tasting of 14 different coffee and teas. We then headed down to the swings where you can choose between a faster, higher, much more exciting “Super Extreme” Swing (that’s obviously the one I tried first), and a much less fun, but less scary “Extreme” swing (that I also tried), and even a small couples swing (not applicable to me. lol).
We also ventured to the Tegenungan Waterfall and got some shots there. It was my first time seeing a waterfall and it was breathtaking.
There are a ton of ways to immerse yourself in Balinese culture from cooking classes to attending a religious ceremony! I decided to take a coconut oil making class with a local family. The host picked me up from my resort on a motorbike and we biked through the beautiful rice fields of Ubud to their family’s home. It was a private tour where I dressed in a traditional Balinese Sorong and make coconut oil from scratch. Being immersed in authentic Balinese culture for the morning was the highlight of my birthday.
For the turn up:
If you’re looking for the turn up look no further than the Kuta/Seminyak area, known for its beach clubs galore. There you’ll find relatively cheap cocktails, bites, and people from all over the world trying to have a good time. Here are a few to put on your list if you’re in the area:
Mano Beach Club is a chill beach cafe right on the Indian Ocean with an amazing happy hour. I had the steak and potatoes, a side of grilled prawns, and 3 cocktails, all for under $30. I highly recommend if looking for a chill vibe with cheap drinks (from $3 - $5) and lovely staff.
I spent a whole afternoon lounging poolside at Azul Beach Club, a tiki bar and restaurant with pretty dope views. It’s across the street from the beach and has a great menu and a chill enough vibe to spend the day. You can book a daybed for 2 - 4 people near the pool for a minimum spend of about $50 on food and beverages, which is muchhhh cheaper than you would spend in Vegas or Miami. Those were all booked, so do it in advance. I impatiently waited for a beach chair - which are first come first serve - to become available and finally snagged one by the pool. I spent the day poolside reading, eating shrimp flatbread and drinking mojitos. What more could a girl ask for in paradise?
One night I randomly ended up at Tropicola. I went for the tapas, because duh, but upon entering, I realized that this was a club club. There was top 40 and rave music alike, a dance floor, and people just living their best lives. Naturally, I sat upstairs, ordered my tapas, and people watched for an hour or so.
Other must experience beach clubs when you’re with a group:
Potato Head Club
Thank me later.
Other Things You Should Know Before You Go
Keep Your Gut Healthy
I was skeptical of the food in Bali, as I was warned how easy it is to get food poisoning in Southeast Asian countries. I started taking a probiotic a few days before my trip and prayed. A lot. I was happy to find that there was kombucha on the menus of most cafes - basically a liquid probiotic that aids in digesting. Gotta protect your body while ya traveling, sis. Also, don’t drink or brush your teeth with the water.
Everyone speaks English. No really, everyone speaks English.
Be respectful of the religion.
In summary. Bali is perfect, ok? I hope this place changes your life like it did mine.
Any questions? Comment below.
People always ask how I find flight deals, cool things to do, and hacks for making traveling easier. Somehow, a simple tweet about my love for planning travel turned into people saying they'd pay me to do it for them! So by popular demand, I create custom travel plans for adventure seekers, because we need more of us seeing the world, ya know? Just reach out if you want more information.