Friday, June 9, 2017

Solo Travel Guide: Eat Pray Haggle in Bali

Where to begin? I feel like I could write a book out of this trip. I guess that's what travelling is about. It leaves you speechless, then turns you into a storyteller. For the longest time, I've been wanting to travel SOLO abroad. Sure I tried it so many times around Manila provinces just to get the feel of it but it's not as difficult as compared in abroad for obvious reasons. And then there's Bali. Just writing that four-letter-word is enough for my heart to skip a beat. Ever since I read Eat Pray Love by Elizabeth Gilbert, I knew I'm in trouble. I understood perfectly what she's trying to convey. I'm with her for that "One woman's search for everything". Her description of the country led me to believe that it was something to be experienced in real life, not just through a book. There's no denying that I needed to go to Bali. But I'm not gonna do an Elizabeth Gilbert thing & try to recreate what she experienced no matter how much I adore the book. I mean it's her personal journey to find the balance within herself, I wanted my own experience, my own story. And I can't afford to stay in Bali for 4 months anyway, I think I'm going to be homeless within a week lol So yeah, I'm travelling to Bali alone for 5 days & on a budget. 

How To Go To Bali from Manila
Several airlines fly from Manila to Bali but Cebu Pacific offers the cheapest fare especially if they are having a seat sale. I often got asked why I travel so much (maybe I will make a separate post about that lol) but I'm usually just on the lookout for seat sale/piso fare. I got my ticket for Php 6,394.30 all-in with 15kgs baggage allowance on return. So stalk their websites (I visit them everyday-stalker at its finest haha) or bookmarked them so you can reach their website in one click.

Getting Around in Bali
The most challenging part for me was to discover the lack of public transportation in Bali. The most common mode of transportation here are taxis, hiring a private car or renting a scooter/motorbike, the latter being the cheapest option. If you do decide to drive, you have to secure an international drivers license in order not to risk paying a penalty when the police  randomly do a check point. They do have local/shuttle buses around but it only goes to limited routes. I think I've only seen one Kura-Kura bus during my stay in Bali & I can't figure out where are the bus stops since it's not very common. So paano na ang 'travelling-on-a-budget' mantra ko bes? All the options doesn't suit me well haha

Another problem I face is that because of the lack of public transportation, all the tourist destination are offered in tour packages. We all know what that means, it's very expensive unless you're in big groups. At this point I wasn't feeling good about Bali after all lol. I never consider taking taxis or tour packages when I'm abroad. I avoided them at all cost but I'm only making an exception here in Bali since I really don't have any other choice. But I still have my last redeeming skills though & that is to haggle. The amount of haggling I did in Bali was beyond normal, my Mom would be proud of me haha    

Where to Stay in Bali
I initially thought staying in Bali for 5 days is too long but I was wrong. There's just so much to do & so many beautiful places to visit in Bali. I had a hard time choosing which places I wanted to go since I only have limited time but finally decided to split it into 2 cities: Ubud & Kuta. Do note that this two are estimated to be an hour apart depending on the traffic (the traffic situation is also bad in Bali). Ubud is the center of Bali, located amongst rice paddies with hundreds of museums, temples, yoga, cafes, the list goes on. It is promoted as the place for the arts & culture while Kuta is famously known for the beaches, surfer haven & better known as the night-life of Bali. So if you want peace & quiet, stay in Ubud but if you're a party person, stay in Kuta. What does my choice makes me then since I chose both?lol Don't get me wrong. I don't think people stay in Kuta just to party alone. I think tourist are more drawn to stay here because of its close proximity to the airport & I'm guilty with that which is why I decided to spend my last 2 nights here. Not to mention that it is also close to the beach but was far too touristy for my liking.

Once you decided which city proper you're going to stay, finding a place is fairly easy. Good thing about Bali is that it caters to all kinds of travellers whether you're a backpacker or a high-flyer or somewhere in between. Accommodation is actually cheap, prices can be as low as Php 150.00 (dorm room). I was so surprised that I did a double take whether I'm just hallucinating when I was looking for a hotel in Agoda. You can have your own room (fan room) with private bathroom & free breakfast & of course free wifi for as low as Php 500.00. So if you're going with someone you're just going to pay Php250.00 per night. Amazing, right? I ended up staying in Pande Permai Bungalows in Ubud because it's just a walking distance going to Monkey Forest & Ubud Market (ok it's more of because of the pool haha). If you're afraid of monkeys, then better not stay here since monkeys often visit the hotel every morning. Don't worry they really won't hurt you, mostly they are just looking for food. For Kuta, I stayed in Sayang Maha Mertha Hotel. You can book them through Agoda or

Suggested Itinerary

Day 1: 
Arrival in Ngurah Rai International Airport (Bali)
Taxi going to Ubud (Check-in at the hotel) - IDR 290,000.00
Lunch - IDR 55,000.00
Visit Monkey Forest - IDR 50,000.00 (Entrance fee)
Tanah Lot Sunset Tour (Half Day Tour) - IDR 480,000.00 inclusive of entrance fees
Dinner - IDR 55,000.00

- Travel time from the airport to Ubud is around 2 hours or more depending on the traffic but since I arrive early morning (8:00AM), the travel was smooth. Be sure to take the Bluebird Taxi (they use meter) outside the airport so you wouldn't get ripped-off by taxi drivers which is very common in Bali. Fare would be around IDR 300,000.00. I paid IDR 290,000.00 (around Php 1,500.00). Sakit bes.

- For the booking of tour packages I just did them on the spot. You can see them in every corner of Ubud. The thing about booking them on the spot is you can haggle with them. I was charged IDR 500,000.00 but I manage to lower it to IDR 400,000.00 although I feel like I can still lower it to IDR 300,000.00 if I didn't get too excited with the sunset tour. It was one of the best sunset I've seen by the way.

Tanah Lot

Day 2: 
Kintamani Besakih Tour (Whole Day Tour) - IDR 350,000.00 inclusive of entrance fees
*Lunch - IDR 160,000.00
Buy Pasalubong in Ubud Market

- After breakfast, I started hunting around tour package deals that will somehow meet my budget. I chance upon a great deal, just a few blocks away from my hotel. I was asking the staff how much for the whole day tour when she said "Well we have one scheduled to leave today, if you want you can join them" And then I ask the million dollar question "How much?" "It's only IDR 250,000.00" so of course I join right then & there. When I asked around later that day just to know whether I made the right choice, it's actually hard to join other group tour package. Most of them doesn't do that kind of arrangement which is all part of their business strategy. Naturally you will have to pay for the whole car to avail their service which is very expensive if you're travelling solo.

- There are only 3 of us in the group, all girls travelling solo for the first time in Bali & both of them are from Europe - Holland & Germany. Bes, mali ata tong napasukan ko haha. They have this flawless accent that I suddenly feel conscious about my own pronunciation lol But they are both super cool & really nice. They've been travelling all over Indonesia for 3 weeks. I almost want to ask them "How to be you po?'' Sila po talaga yung #travelgoals bes haha

Asia represent!

- *The thing about tour packages in Bali is that your driver will bring you to touristy/pricy restaurant & in this case we ended up having our buffet lunch overlooking the rice terraces (pero bes mas maganda pa rin ang rice terraces natin). Even if you're not in a mood to take the said buffet lunch, you will still feel oblige to take it anyway since it is part of the 'tour'. Isipin mo na lang hanggang dinner na yung kakainin mo bes haha

Day 3: 
Private car/Taxi to Sanur beach/port - IDR 150,000.00
Nusa Penida (Round trip boat ticket) - IDR 350,000.00
Renting a motorbike with driver/guide - IDR 200,000.00
Entrance Fees in Pasih Uug & Kelingking Beach-IDR 10,000.00
Dinner - IDR 50,000.00
Private car to Kuta/Hotel - IDR 120,000.00
**Additional 1 night in Kuta - IDR 160,000.00

Kelingking Beach! 
- Going to Nusa Penida was one of the best thing that ever happened to me in Bali. This is the place that I'm most excited about. Well, the pictures alone speaks for itself. Not many tourist know that Bali has 3 separate islands namely Nusa Penida, Nusa Lembongan & Nusa Ceningan, located just 45 minutes away from Sanur beach. I myself doesn't know about this, I think it was just fate that I saw a gorgeous picture of Kelingking Beach in one of the accounts I follow in Instagram just days before my scheduled trip in Bali & I was still finalizing my itinerary at that time. I told myself I have to get here no matter what it takes. Na-no matter what it takes nga because I can't eat due to excitement & nervousness during that day. I was so nervous if I can pull off this trip because I decided not to take a tour package since it was so expensive & most of the tours I ask require at least 2 people. There's also limited information about this island when I search in the internet making it even more a challenge. Come to think of it, most of the tourist that day are Caucasian or even the whole of Bali. I was like 'where are my people?'lol In the end it was all worth it, it's still hard for me to get over the beauty of this island up to this day.

Who needs a drone when you can be one?

- If you do decides to go in Nusa Penida (which I highly recommend), you can do it on your own or avail a tour package if you're in big groups (you can try to book here Discover Nusa Penida). If you want to do it DIY like me, be sure to be at the port early, the first boat is scheduled to leave 8:30AM & last trip is 4:30PM. You will be ask if you're going there on day tour or will be staying ovenight. If you have more time, do stay here overnight so you can enjoy the island more. You can book here at Agoda. I was almost tempted to stay overnight though but I can barely stretch my budget so I bought a round-trip ticket for a day tour.

Pasih Uug/Broken beach

- Once you arrive in the port of Nusa Penida, there are a lot of motorbike drivers who will offer their service. It's actually cheaper to rent a motorbike (around IDR 50,000.00) & you can ride here even if you don't have a license unlike in Bali. But the roads here are not developed & dangerous if you're not a very experienced driver. There's no hospital in the island just in case something bad happens so I wouldn't dare risk it. I need my guide to take my pictures anyway haha. It's important to know that most of the locals here doesn't speak English so I was lucky to find a guide that can conversed well in English. If you do need a guide, you can contact Mr. Puto at +6282144045779. My guide was indeed one of the best, he was willing to go down to Kelingking Beach with me since he saw I was falling head over heels overlooking the beach but decided against it since I only have limited time. It's actually 1 hour going down & 2 hours or more going up because the trail is very steep. I really would like to go down there & swim if I have the chance to return so do me a favor & go down there will you? :)

Angel Billabong

- I feel like there's still more hidden spots in Nusa Penida waiting to be discovered since this is the biggest island out of the 3. I actually heard a lot of rave reviews about Nusa Lembongan but my mind was already set for Nusa Penida. You.just.can' No matter what it takes nga diba? lol If you have a lot of time & resources in Bali, be sure to check out this 3 islands before it becomes another commercialized tourist destination.

Sorry na..nka-hundred shots ata ako dito haha

Crystal Bay

- ** Since I wasn't sure if I can come back to Bali for the day or ended up stranded in Nusa Penida to which I really don't mind (choz), I didn't book any hotel for my 3rd night. It wasn't actually a prolem since there a lot of hotels scattered around in Bali especially in Kuta area. You can do it on the spot but of course it's not hassle-free unlike pre-booking it online. What I did was to try to talk to the hotel staff that I'm supposed to be staying for the next day & just ask for an additional charge for the night. Fortunately they agreed & are not fully booked because it's not yet peak season in Bali. And yes hinaggle ko yung IDR 160,000.00 lol

Day 4: 
Explore Kuta beach
Brunch - IDR 30,000.00
Uluwatu Tour (Whole Day Tour-Garuda Wisnu Kencana,Padang2x Beach,Padawa Beach, Uluwatu & Jimbaran) - IDR 300,000.00
Entrance fees & Kecak dance - IDR 320,000.00
Dinner - IDR 28,000.00

- Just like in Ubud, I had a hard time finding or should I say negotiating a tour package. The first thing they will ask is for how many person & when I answer them only one, they lose interest already. I was about to give up when I tried it one last time just near the hotel I'm staying at. I just pull off my most charming face or maybe the staff just took pity on me haha  I take the cheapest option which is to hire a motorbike with driver for the whole day tour worth IDR 300,000.00. So ang sakit ng balakang ko after the tour haha

Seal it with a kiss

- Visiting Uluwatu is a must-see in Bali with its temple situated on the top of a cliff bank overlooking the Indian Ocean. The best time to go here is before sunset so you can avail the hashtag chasingsunset lol Unfortunately, it was cloudy during my visit & the sunset wasn't as beautiful as I expected it to be but the view was still amazing. Beware of the monkeys wandering around since they are not as friendly as the one in the Monkey Forest in Ubud. So hide your hats, eyeglasses or even your phone since they will try to snatch it away from you.

- One of the most famous performance in Bali is the Kecak Fire dance which can be found in Uluwatu & Ubud. It is a form of Balinese ritual dance & music drama that was developed in the 1930s. The show starts just as the sun is about to set providing a picturesque backdrop from 6:00-7:00PM. There's an entrance fee of IDR 100,000.00 to watch the show. I know, very expensive.

- It is highly recommended to have a guide waiting for you in Uluwatu since the place is very remote & taxis are scarce. Also expect heavy traffic when going back to the city.

Day 5: 
Motorbike ride going to the airport - IDR 60,000.00

Breakdown of Expenses (Daily total):

Philippine Travel Tax: PHP 1,620.00
Roundtrip Airfare: PHP  6,394.30
Pre-book of hotel for 3 nights: Php 2,210.00

Day 1: IDR 930,000.00
Day 2: IDR 510,000.00
Day 3: IDR 1,040,000.00
Day 4: IDR 678,000.00
Day 5: IDR 60,000.00
Total exp. in Bali: IDR 3,218,000.00 or equivalent of PHP 14,627.28
Grand Total : PHP 24,851.58

More Travel Hacks:

  • The one rule I always live by is to never exchange ALL your money in the airport of your destination because they have the lowest rate compared to money changers located in the city. Just change what you only need for your transportation fare then exchange the rest in the money changers near your hotel.
  • Once you're already in the arrival hall of the airport, you will be meet by a lot of 'so-called' taxi drivers that will try to offer their service. Ignore them & walk outside the airport to take the Bluebird Taxi since they are not allowed to to pick you up inside the airport due to some local rule . Better yet ask the airport security to point you to proper direction, it's just short walk coming from the airport.
  • Uber & GrabTaxi are available in Bali although I never tried it. A lot of people actually said that this is a cheaper option compared to taking the Bluebird Taxi which might be true because taxi drivers are having a protest to banned them & you can see a lot of posters of this around the city.
  • Renting a scooters/motorbike are easily found in every corner of Bali. In fact people of all ages in Bali know how to ride one even little kids. Nakakahiya sa part ko haha Again, just make sure to bring International drivers license to avoid problem with any police officer. Also, drivers always go on the left side lane (driver's seat are on the right) , a complete opposite to what we are used to.
  • I think frequent travellers already know this but I'm saying it anyway. Always buy dollars before leaving the Philippines especially now that our peso is not doing well in the market. I'm not saying buy a lot of dollars (depending on the length of stay & country of destination), your 200 to 300 dollars can already go a long way, I think that will already cover 4 or 5 days worth of expenses in Asian country.
  • I always play a little game with random money changers when I'm abroad. It's nothing unusual, just hunting which money changers gave the best rate. Most people think that all of them gave the same rate since they are just sitting next to each other but each of them have different rates so don't forget to compare & contrast. At some point money changers already recognize me because I'm changing 2 to 3 different currencies at the same time just out of fun & to test them whether they know their job lol. I'm such a nerd. During my last night in Kuta, I was asking the guy manning the money changer why the peso exchange rate is lower compared the one in Ubud. He surprisingly agreed to give me a higher rate maybe because he badly needed a peso currency. So ayun pati money changer hinaggle ko na bes Only in Bali!
  • Tour guides in Bali are on time. If you ask them to pick you up in your hotel at 7:00AM, they will be there on the dot or sometimes even minutes earlier so Filipino time is not applicable.
  • Bali is predominantly Hindu so expect to see a lot of temples & wearing a sarong is strictly practiced when entering inside.
  •  Balinese food is really good, it taste the same as ours but they also have their own special delicacies like Bakso, Nasi Goreng, Sate among others. If you eat like a local, the food is extremely cheap. The best food I taste was in Sanur beach after my Nusa Penida tour. I came across a small eatery but packed with a lot of locals just next to the ticketing office. When I ask for a menu, the staff confidently answer me "No menu, we serve only one dish" & led me to the front to see what they are serving. I was thinking if they only have one dish then it must be bloody good. And it was! Naka 2-rice po ako lol The whole meal only cost IDR 50,000 or Php 250.00 but it's a big serving that can fit for 2 people.
  • The best place to buy a pasalubong is in Ubud market. Do note that the first price they will offer you is usually 2 to 3 times higher. What I do is always ask more than half of what they are asking (of course vendors will not agree) & slowly work it higher until we can both agree on the price. If they don't, walk away from them. Chances are they will still chase you & give you the price that you want (it happened to me). I think it's better than to sell nothing.
  • Lastly, Bali is safe for solo female traveller which is why I wasn't worried about my safety. It is more of the cost actually lol But tourist have every right to be skeptical because even though Bali is beautiful as it looks, most locals are notorious for overcharging prices so haggle, haggle & haggle.
Travelling solo for the first time abroad can both sound intimidating & daunting. In fact I was so nervous the night before my flight that I hardly sleep. Everything was going wrong that I was considering not to go anymore but I think I'm going to hate myself more if I didn't do it. I always do something that I'm a little not ready for. I think that is how you grow. Sometimes it is our own doubts & fears that stops us from doing the things that we always wanted. So go on, save up & book that flight. You will never be the same person as you are after the trip. You will see things differently. Coming back to where you started is not the same as never leaving.