Living cheap in Bali


Smart shopping: the island’s weekend markets, art bazaars and garage sales

Markets are a huge part of everyday life for Balinese people – a fun part of it; shopping, socialising, gossiping, meeting neighbours. And now the expat community has brought their own market tradition to the island – the culture of weekend bazaars, where all the liveliness of the local markets happens. Just in English.

Every market feels like a little celebration, and that’s why we love them oh-so-much.

Samadi Sunday organic produce market

Samadi farmers market Bali Canggu

shopping at Samadi market Bali Canggu

The Canggu neighbourhood is booming, with more and more cool places popping than you can possibly fit into your schedule. Samadi , a beautiful space with a yoga pavilion so modern it would compliment any design hotel and a cosy open-air vegetarian cafe with an eco Ubud style pile of young coconuts in the corner, is worth cramming in.

As the owners are very serious about their healthy lifestyle, the idea of the farmer’s market came…well, organically. Every Sunday, the independent farmer’s from the emerald hills of Bedugul bring their just-off-the-veggie-patch young asparagus, cherry tomatoes, beetroots, strawberries and even mulberries, down to the south.

There is also a fresh fish stall, where shiny bouncy snapper and silky squid can be found in all their salty glory. A homemade jam stall complete with baked scones, brownies and the most delicious hummus on the island is also a draw card; this stall’s goodies made even sweeter by their charity profit share.

But the most popular market maker at Samadi is the one selling organic chicken, eggs and goat milk. There is always a line of regular customers waiting, happy to fork out the steep prices for good quality.

To round it all off, there’s vintage clothing aplenty, a paint-a-tee activity stand for the little ones, and some homemade, all-natural cosmetics up for grabs. The trade opens up at 9am, and you need to get in early as all the best foods sell out like hot cakes.

39 Jalan Padang Linjong (Echo Beach)

Old Man’s Canggu mix bag market

markets in Bali old mans

Oldman's market in Bali Canggu

On one sunny Saturday of each month, everyone’s favourite beachfront beer garden at Batu Bolong transforms into a whirlpool of small stalls where everything from homemade ‘Granny’s’ Oreo cookies to odd bric-a-brac can be found.

The biggest hit is the corner where Kevala Ceramics, Bali’s original fine-pottery studio that collaborates with Australian designers, sell off their samples and leftovers. Nobody can go past them without buying a couple of zigzag patterned bowls or tea cups or a vase…or all of them! And how can you resist when they cost around 50k (while the same would cost you a minimum of 250k in their official outlets)!

Old Man’s market is the favorite playground for the Canggu community; so if you wish to make some new friends or catch up with the old ones, don’t miss it!

Old Man’s
Pantai Batu Bolong, Canggu

Deus’ weekday farmer’s market

fresh fish food shopping at Deus farmers market canggu bali

food shopping from the North of Bali

Yet another food bazaar in Canggu, but this one completely ignores the weekend, daytime staple and pops up weekly on a Wednesday night. Deus stands out in everything they do – be it their custom bikes or trimming of beards – so why should their market be a mundane event? Trade is organized in a cozy inner yard and, being in its early days, is still fairly simple. Let’s face it; you’re here to mingle more than meander the markets anyway.

DEUS Temple Of Enthusiasm
Jalan Batu Mejan, 8, Canggu

Biasa+ eccentric art space Market

market Biasa+ Bali Seminyak

food shopping market Biasa+ Seminyak Bali

Twice a month on Saturdays, the most famous art space in Seminyak, Biasa+, becomes a market meeting spot. The main gallery area remains intact, while the inner yard with the spacious green lawn transforms into a cozy bazaar square. Everything about this market is artistic – even the posters announcing the events are cool enough to be sold at an auction.

The atmosphere is uber sophisticated and the crowd is a melting pot of the noble ‘first wave’ expats and their children and even grandchildren, almost all of them artists or designers of some sort.

At the Biasa+ Market you can find greens and vegetables straight from the farm; potted plants, ready to go to their new home; scrumptious meat pies (that are alone worth a visit); a little sushi corner; well brewed coffee and some extras, which vary at each event.

This one gets a tick for its lovely laid-back environment and the eclectic mix of people to make friends with while lining up for your hot pie.

Biasa ArtSpace
Jl. Raya Seminyak, 34, Seminyak

Sanur Sunday Market

shopping market bali Sanur

The spacious restaurant, Sand, hosts this weekly market in quiet, residential Sanur. It’s quite a drive for those coming from the Canggu and Seminyak regions, particularly given similar markets can be found much closer. But if you’re based in Jimbaran or Ubud, this might be the perfect way of spend your Sunday.

Apart from the batiks, neon Buddha statues, wild-patterned kaftans and homemade brownies, you can find some curious artisans presenting their works; fixed and vaccinated puppies waiting for adoption; and various fun activities for the little ones such as mask painting, bracelet making and even exotic snake patting.

The vendors change every week, a rotation that keeps the market attractive to its regular visitors. Live music performances start from midday – a nice opportunity to listen to some young local talent while doing your grocery shopping.

Sanur Sunday Market at Sand
Jalan Danau Tamblingan, Sanur

Black Market creative gathering

markets in Bali Seminyak Black Market

market Black market Seminyak bali

The regular gathering of the local and expat hipsters: rock stars, indie jewelry makers, graphic designers, vintage collectors and other young bright things. The risk of creativity overdose? Very high. An alien visitor might feel uncomfortable being not-so-cool in this pond: you’d better check if you have enough random tatts on your skin and holes in your clothes before you step in. Intimidation aside, this is probably the best way to catch all the creative forces in Bali at one time.

The location varies. It was tucked away in the patio of t-shirt store on Jalan Drupadi for a while, but has now relocated to the Warehouse 82 space at Jalan Mertanadi, close to the legendary Kerobokan Jail. Check their facebook page for the relevant info regarding the next event.

Warehouse 82
Jalan Mertanadi, Seminyak-Kerobokan

Pasar-Pasaran art market at Hubud, Ubud

weekend art market pasar-pasaran Ubud

This is a stray event that is really going places. The next installment is set to happen in Hubud, a popular co-working space in the centre of Ubud. Organized by local Balinese artists, this market is the most original of the lot: it’s the free spirit of Yogyakarta (the artistic capital of Indonesia) that reins in Bali. Crafts and more crafts, all beautifully displayed by the creators themselves who are always open to a friendly talk. Paradise for the kids, as there is so much to do. The next one is November the 7th – mark it in the diary!

Jl Monkey Forest 88x

Garage sales

cafe Seminyak Petitenget Bali

The Western tradition of a garage sale is quite new to Bali. The ‘all must go’ and ‘moving sale’ kind of trade is happening mostly online in expat Facebook groups. But flea markets and their variations are starting to pop up around the island. Locations are quite varied, from the small Hotei warung in Umalas, to the parking lot of Blue Glue bikini store, and Chat cafe at Sunset road, you just never know where you’ll spot one next. The Bali Expats and Bali Unlimited groups on Facebook are the best place to hear about them.

The little cafe Drop.The Coffee Spot at Jalan Petitenget in Seminyak is probably the only one that keeps a regular schedule: their Garage Sale event happens on the last Sunday of the month religiously. Bali residents bring clothes and shoes they don’t wear, children’s clothes that their kids have outgrown, books, DVDs and handmade jewelry.

Every time the Garage Sale happens, the Drop cafe transforms into a joyful mess of coffees being delivered, kids running around, beers being sipped, patrons sitting on bikes when there isn’t enough space inside, and clothes being tried on within public view. Even if you don’t plan to buy anything, it’s definitely worth stopping by.

The Drop folk even host a special event from time to time called Bling Bazaar; jump onto their FB page or Instagram account and they’ll keep you posted.

Drop.The Coffee Spot
Jl Petitenget 888x, Seminyak

Street bazaars of Seminyak

Even in the universe of cool boutiques that is Seminyak’s Petitenget and Oberoi streets, there is an opportunity for bargain shopping.

There are two street market spots you don’t want to miss when looking for obligatory souvenirs for extended family and must impress friends: one sits on that curve of Jalan Petitenget right in front of Hu’u Bar and Baba restaurant and the other, which is way bigger, occupies the square next to KuDeTa Beach Club, at the foot of Townhouse – the clubbing giant of the hood. The assortment is the same: bright-colored, perfect-for-beach-strolling tropical caftans, breezy dresses, exotic-skinned pouches and belts and some silver jewelry.

The quality is not top-notch, but it’s bright and fun and will make you (or your friend/mum/nonna) happy for at least one season. These markets are actually a smart choice for the bargain-seeker as some shops in Legian, Seminyak and Kuta sell all the same goods but their prices are almost twice as high. Our suggestion? Start your shopping route from here just to check out what’s available.

More markets and market tips

While some of the markets in this guide have fixed prices, the street bazaars are still a haggling free for all. Stay calm and smile, even if the vendor is stubborn and make a joke or two. Ask for the ‘morning price’ if it seems you’re amongst the early birds or an ‘afternoon price’ if it’s later than 3pm. When all else fails, drop the line ‘Saya minta harga local‘, which means you’d like a price that locals get.

If all that doesn’t get you at least 30% off the initial price, walk to the next stall where you will more than likely find a similar garment with a more flexible seller. Use this technique at any local market, from the seafood stalls in Jimbaran to Ubud’s central bazaar.

The traditional markets of Denpasar are worth visiting too: for fruits and vegetable shopping, searching for the perfect piece of batik, sampling the original street food, observing the colorful everyday life of Balinese, practicing your Indonesian (even very basic knowledge will be much appreciated by the locals) and understanding more of the island’s culture and traditions.

Find more about Denpasar’s daytime and night markets , and find more info about shopping in Seminyak.

On the cheap:  A backpacker’s guide to absolute budget eating, living and traveling in Bali.

No one understands the phrase “Sticking to a Budget” quite like a seasoned backpacker. And if you’re next destination is Bali, this phrase should be no exception.

Regardless of whether this is your first trip to Bali or your twentieth, as a traveler you will know that there is always something more to see or do. The real secret to getting by cheaply as a backpacker, and making the most of your time, is following what the local Indonesian’s do when travelling and backpacking. You’ll discover that exploring the island as the locals do has a beautiful way of revealing Bali in its most pure and authentic form; a side of the island that is truly untarnished from the demands of tourism, remarkably loyal to its own culture and traditions.

With this handy  guide to budget eating, living and travel, money no longer has to be  the defining factor in making this trip the adventure of your life.

The secret to getting by cheaply as a backpacker in Bali is following what the local Indonesians do when they travel.

As one of the world’s most popular holiday destinations, the sheer mass of people bustling around the island should come as no real surprise. Everyday thousands of tourists arrive ready to party, shop or be pampered in massage salons right round the clock. With no scarcity of high class shopping malls, a strip of clubs that could challenge Las Vegas, and more 5 star hotels than you could ever dream, you would be forgiven for thinking that the only tourist market that Bali caters for is people with money to burn.

But if you take a stroll down to Poppies Lane 1 and 2 in Kuta, you’ll quickly find yourself right in the heart of what has become Bali’s most energetic point for backpackers. If you’re looking for accommodation on a tight budget, this is the very first place you should start.

Bali Backpackers Scene. Photo by Adde Adesokan.
Bali Backpackers Scene. Photo by Adde Adesokan.

Like most backpacker hot spots, this street does not serve as the most ideal place to experience authentic Balinese culture. But it will offer a place to rest your head for next to nothing and head off the next morning to explore. Poppies Lane 1 and 2 is also where you will find local Indonesians staying that have travelled over to Bali from other islands. They choose to stay in this area for its affordability and strategic location – it’s super close to the airport, the all-famous Kuta Beach and Denpasar city.

In this area you will find guesthouses and small hotels where you can rent a single room. Daily  Prices range from as low as 60,000 – 350,000 IDR per night depending on the season.

*Hot Tip: Don’t book online. You can often get far cheaper prices by walking from hostel to hostel asking and bargaining for the rate. Many of the cheapest hostels and guesthouses in Bali don’t have websites anyway. If you find a guide or local wanting to show you accommodation, remember they might be getting commission just for showing you the place. It may be very convenient for them to suggest it, but not necessarily the best or cheapest place for you to choose.

Affordable accommodation

Bali doesn’t have an abundance of dormitory style hostels like you might find in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia or most other Southeast Asian countries. But here are some low rate rooms that won’t excite your gag reflex:

  • Ayu Beach Inn, Poppies Lane 1 – Around 65,000 IDR per night (about $7) No AC, but has pool.
  • Dua Dara Inn, Poppies lane 2-  from 150,000-200,000 IDR per night ($15-20) AC available in some rooms.

If you’re itching for a dorm (sorry), here are a few that won’t leave you scratching:

  • Bedbunkers – Roughly 90,000 IDR (about $10) for a bunkbed per night). Safe, clean and close to the city. 45-18E Jalan Dewi Sri, Legian and Kartika Plaza Road
  • Kayun – 190,000 IDR (about $19) per night in 8 bed dorm. Brand new hostel, very modern and clean with swimming pool and bar, 176 Jalan Patih Jelantik, Legian
Consider staying with locals for a more authentic experience. Photo by Adde Adesokan.
Consider staying with locals for a more authentic experience. Photo by Adde Adesokan.

Other forms of accommodation to consider:

  • Kost:  A single room in a building complex, often with a shared bathroom. Recommended as a cheap option for those staying in Bali for a few weeks or months, though they can be rented for a higher daily rate if needed. Kosts are often found off back streets, so just ask around.
  • Homestay / host family:  Staying with a local family is a great option if you want to really understand the Balinese culture and way of life. A great website to search is homestay.com. Prices are usually similar to staying in a hostel, but it’s often more rewarding and enriching.
  • Couchsurfing: Stay at someone’s home (usually for free) after registering and becoming a member at Couchsurfing.org. Be mindful of your safety and be respectful to those who provide space in their homes for you. This is a great way to meet expats as well as locals and fully submerge yourself in Bali life.
  • Global Freeloaders: Another website that offers free accommodation options to travelers from all over the world. The conditions are that, in exchange for staying in a guests home, you must  be able to provide space in your own place for them within 6 months. Become a member at Globalfreeloaders.com.

Getting from A to B

When it comes to getting around in Bali as a backpacker on the cheap, there are plenty of options. It will all come down to your patience, bravery, and just how far you want to go.

  • Catch a Bemo. A Bemo is a small public mini van that is super duper cheap and will take you just about anywhere on the island. Sometimes they are very difficult to find and the schedules are unpredictable, but who can complain for the next to nothing price?
  • The all famous Ojek. (You’ll get sick of hearing this word yelled out on the street, “transport, ojek!?). An Ojek is a motorbike and driver who will take you anywhere on the island for a negotiable price. Make sure you  bargain because initially they may suggest a price that is out of your range. Always wear a helmet!
  • Hire a motorbike. Motorbikes can be hired for around 30-50,000 rupiah per day ($3-$5) with a full tank of petrol at about 20,000 Rupiah ($2). Be warned that foreigners technically need to hold a motorbike license issued from the police, to avoid being slapped with a fine (also known as a bribe). If you can ride one, this is the cheapest mode of transport by far. Getting used to the chaotic traffic in Bali is initially quite a hassle but once you can handle it, it becomes a lot easier.
  • Catch a Ferry. If you need to travel to Lombok or another nearby island, take the slow ferry, not the fast one. It’ll take you a few extra hours but the difference in price is quite substantial when you’re on a tight budget and you still have a lot of time to spare.

Cheap eats

Traditional Nadi Goreng via Saveur.com
Traditional Nadi Goreng via Saveur.com

When we explore a new country for the first time, tasting the local food is one of the most exciting and memorable parts of the whole trip. New aromatic smells, beautiful colors and textures that excite the palate; the experience is simply unforgettable. But eating in Bali doesn’t have to cost you an arm and a leg and if you follow this sound advise, your wallet will thank you!

The best advice? Don’t be scared to eat street food! Most of the time the food won’t make you sick and it really tastes great.

You should also hit the Warungs – local restaurants with fixed prices and cheap local cooked food. They are usually banquet style with food from all over Indonesia. Locals (sometimes) unfortunately view foreigners as dollar signs and may raise the price when you order. To avoid this, make sure to read the price on the wall or board before you order and pay close attention to how much other Indonesians are paying. Prices are usually as low as 10,000 to 25,000 for a good, hearty meal.

*Hot Tip: Always go to Warungs that are full. It not only means that the food is delicious, but that there is a high food turnover rate, greatly reducing your chance of getting sick. Thumbs up for that!


Nasi Jinggo  (4000 Rupiah a serving, 40cents) 

Named after Bali’s notorious Beach Boys, the “Kuta cowboys” (who eat it for its affordability), Nasi Jinggo is a small serving of rice with a side option of chicken, beef or egg and sold on the back of a motorbike on the side of the road after 6pm. Featuring some of the best spiciest sambal sauce you’ll ever get your fingers on. (You won’t  find a replicate sambal sauce in any restaurant on the island that tastes as good as it does on the street. FACT.)

Bubur Ayam  (10,000 rupiah per bowl, $1)

Bubur Ayam is a satisfying thick porridge made out of rice that is viewed as a comfort food in Indonesian culture. The porridge is usually served with shredded chicken, coriander, shallots and an oily but utterly delicious dressing sauce. Then topped off with crispy prawn crackers and salted peanuts. If you’re on a budget you can’t go wrong with this one, tasty and cheap! Look out for it being sold from a street vendor cart day or night. One again, always bargain if the price you get charged  sounds ovrpriced.

Juices (70,000 rupiah, 70 cents)

Bali has an abundance of absolutely mouth watering tropical fruits all year round meaning fantastic Juices. Check out the local juice stall on Jalan Patimura off Legian street , Kuta. Cheap and mind-blowingly good!

Pasar kodok in Denpasar

Bintang Supermarket in Seminyak offers a wide range of products but is slightly overpriced and targeted towards tourists, not locals. To purchase cheaper fresh fruits and vegetables head to Pasar Kuta (Kuta Market).

Café Soerabi Bandung on jalan Dewi Sri, Kuta.

A locally famous café  from the city of Bandung in West Java. Prices are very affordable and they serve Soerabi, an Indonesian ‘pancake’ (which looks more like a crumpet) that is toasted in the oven and topped with various different sweet and savory ingredients. The one you have to try is cheese and chocolate, a strange Indonesian household favorite.

Other must know tips for smart Bali Backpackers

  • Make sure you travel outside of South Bali. While Kuta remains a cheap area for backpackers, it should serve as a base to sleep – not as the only area you see.
  • International ATMs charge high fees to withdraw cash! Make sure you withdraw a lot each time to save you from unnecessary and unwanted charges.
  • You can save a stack of money by buying alcoholic drinks from the local Circle K (international mini mart) or directly from a bottle shop, instead of from the tourist bars. Avoid drinking locally made spirits (like Arak) and premixed drinks – there have been a lot of cases of methanol poisoning.
  • If you’re after a cheap local gym, Nana Lisa gym in Denpasar is a great option. It’s 15,000 rupiah ($1.50) for a casual pass and has basic equipment and no AC but is sufficient for weight training.
  • Never drink water from the tap – it’s not clean! Think green and buy a gallon to keep in your room instead of lots of individual bottles. A whole gallon only costs around 15,000 rupiah ($1.50), whilst individual bottles can cost up to 8000 rupiah each (80 cents). Or if you want an even cheaper option, a refilling point for the gallon bottles can be found in various areas in the alleyways of Legian.
  • Get travel insurance! If you need a doctor, many clinics can be found in the tourist dense-areas on the main roads. To get prescription medicines or vitamins there are several pharmacies (Apotek) in the Kuta area with English speaking staff.

Backpacking can be one of the greatest and most eye opening adventures you’ll ever have. Circulate with locals and indulge yourself in the Balinese culture and you will gain an experience that you will never forget.