by Chelsea Pickens
Monday, January 14, 2019
Following a break-up and a few too many viewings of Eat Pray Love, I decided to take the plunge and book that solo trip to Bali, Indonesia. Yes, I wanted to find myself as well. Here’s why you should do it too.
Bali Is Cheap
Coming from New Zealand, flights bought at the right time, from this side of the world are CHEAP (and the flight time isn’t long either). You will also find that you can book the most beautiful, idyllic tropical paradise of a room in a perfectly adequate location for a very small price (see mine below). This is a major plus for solo travellers – paying for a whole room just for one can get very pricey and unattainable at times. In Bali there is an abundance of amazing rooms you might pay 10x as much for in other parts of the world, so why not take advantage? I also booked a mountain trek and a week-long yoga retreat ahead of time and found these very reasonably priced for the quality of experience.
And the shopping is amazing. Not only because of how cheap it is but because of the beautiful style of goods. I picked up an array of beautiful clothes, creams, oils, soaps, paintings, jewellery, etc, all for minimal price. In most markets/market-like shops it is expected to haggle over price a little. This is totally acceptable, however, don’t go too far the other way in your ecstasy that you have finally arrived in the land of beautifully crafted cheap shopping. Remember this is someone’s livelihood, and dragging the seller to rock bottom prices out of desperation, just so you can save a couple of bucks, isn’t worth it. If you think the first asking price is fair and a good price for what you’re receiving, then be happy to pay it – everyone wins.
Bali Is Set Up For Tourists
It’s Just Generally Easy
This was the main reason I chose Bali as my first solo destination. I had heard about how easy it is to get around and experience Bali, without speaking the language or necessarily having much knowledge about the island. Bali has long hosted hoards of excited holidaying Aussies, and more recently has seen increasing amounts of European and American travellers. The result of this appears to be an amazing adaptation by Balinese people to embrace the constant flow of tourism and make life very easy for those of us who want to see what Bali has to offer.
Most of the Balinese people I interacted with spoke more than enough English for us to communicate well, and all were very friendly. Everyone knows (or is) a driver who can drive you around all day, to where ever you want to go for the equivalent of about $50au, amazing bang for buck even for a solo traveller. And if you can’t decide where to go, most drivers will take you to some hot spots they think you would like. It is not necessarily expected to tip drivers but it is appreciated, otherwise inviting them to lunch and picking up the bill is a nice way to offer thanks.
Most attractions are tourist-friendly and the process is generally simple, with an admission fee of a few dollars. All the restaurants I went to had an English menu, and all shopkeepers/sellers knew how to converse in English. Food is super tasty and there is loads of fresh health/vegetarian/vegan food for us millennial tourists (but also McDonald’s if you opt for a break from all that). Yoga is also amazing and cheap, particularly on an all-inclusive yoga retreat. And if you need any help, most accommodation staff will be happy to help you arrange anything.
Bali Is Beautiful
Of course, this is the draw of Bali. We’ve all seen someone’s screensaver of the rice terraces or googled some sweet images of the sun setting over a peaceful Balinese temple. The nature, the landscape, the spirituality of Bali is its essence.
Ubud is a fantastic place to start for some jungle beauty. I stayed just down the road from the monkey forest which is exactly what it sounds like, a gorgeous wander through a tropical forest, complete with vine-draped statues and mischievous chattering monkies darting about. Not far away are the Tegalalang rice terraces, which really were all they were cracked up to be. A moderate walk will take you all the way to the other side for some fantastic views and a cold beer at the little cafe on the ridge, or a bungey swing-thing if you’re into that. The Campuhuan ridge walk was also well worth it, an exhilarating little wander atop the ridge with views either side and some lovely restaurants to reward you at the end. What was NOT a little wander was my expedition to Mt Batur. This hike is a few hours all uphill. Not sure why I didn’t really consider that, but it was very difficult for me not being as fit as I would like. However, the sunrise views from the top were amazingly beautiful and possibly worth it.
There are temples all around Bali offering beautiful buildings and great photo ops. Tanah lot is a particularly popular spot where dramatic sea cliffs meet aged temples, close by the town of Canggu, which tourists flock to for the beautiful beach sunsets, surfing and chill vibes. Kuta is the well-known party spot of the island, with busy beaches and teeming bars and restaurants – while this wasn’t particularly my scene, I went to the turtle conservation centre on Kuta beach where you can donate to release a baby turtle into the ocean (who wouldn’t have survived hatching on the busy beach), which was a definite highlight. Do your research and contribute to ethical animal tourism, don’t visit captive animals (like elephants or turtles – they are usually suffering and trained cruelly).
But you don’t really even need to travel around to see the beauty of Bali. Just book a room right in the jungle or over-looking some rice fields and you can be equally content to laze around your accommodation, soaking in the beauty between cocktails.
Things To Be Aware Of
I never really ran into any major problems in Bali but, like most places, I did come across a few issues, or hear some tales of caution about things travellers should be aware of:
- Monkies bite. One bit my butt – that is not literary liberties, one really did bite my butt when it was attempting to go through my bag (it approached me, do not approach them). If you get bitten and it breaks the skin, you will need to go to a doctor/hospital.
- You will inevitably see many stray animals, mainly dogs, in bad condition. Many can be aggressive out of pain, or the fact that they’re mainly used as guard dogs. If you’re a dog lover like myself, this can be incredibly heart-breaking. BAWA (Bali animal welfare association) does amazing work to rehabilitate dogs in need – taking some time to donate, volunteer, or deliver much-needed dog food to their facilities will make you feel a whole lot more helpful. They also have shops where you can buy souvenirs to support their work.
- I try to walk around most places but I found the footpaths in Bali very hard to walk on through bad condition, road works or just generally being non-existent. It’s still possible but a bit dodgey and very hard to cross the roads in busy areas!
- The traffic can also be terrible – keep in mind you can be sitting in traffic for a couple of hours at peak times if you’re travelling around or through busy areas.
- The beaches often have a fair bit of rubbish, usually from tourists. Join a beach clean up (find them on facebook), or just do one of your own! There’s no better way to give back to the beautiful land that hosted you than trying to minimize the impact of tourism.
All in all, it was a great trip, well worth it for solo travellers. Go to Bali and find yourself, you know you want to!