I’ve spent two 2 months stints living in Ubud as an in betweener (digital nomad, not fully mainstream, not fully hippie), and I get asked for recommendations by millions (maybe 20) people, so I’ve created this blog for anyone travelling to or considering travelling to Ubud or Bali, for holiday or for work, or both.
You won’t find me chiming gongs and chanting near crystals, but you also won’t find me wearing a Bintang singlet chugging back Bintang in an Aussie-filled seaside town while complaining about the $7 manicure I just got.
I’m a digital nomad, but you also won’t find me teching out over Ebay stores or advanced sales funnels, nor am I in the life coach camp promoting self love or espousing veganism.
If you find yourself somewhere between these worlds and keen to check out Bali anyway, this is the guide for you.
Most of the info and recommendations below I had no idea about before I landed in Bali, a lot of it is local knowledge that you won’t find online. I hope you’ll find it helpful!
- The Elephant** (Jalan Raya Sanggingan) – super yum food, great coffee, awesome relaxed vibe, lovely staff and amazing view. My new favourite.
- Alchemy** (Penestanan) – raw vegan, but yum. Breakfast bar is awesome. Lots of raw desserts
- Pacha Mama** (Penestanan) – Mexican, vego, awesome place made of recycled cam belts, lovely staff, delicious food, heuvos rancheros for breakfast is my favourite. Even better if you go at night when there’s live music
- Clear cafe** (Penestanan) – beautiful view over the temple and bridge, chilled vibe, huge menu of yum food
- Rouge Sushi bar** (Jalan Bisma – this place is seriously epic and beautiful, lovely staff and delicious sushi. Super trendy experience yet pretty cheap. Often has live jazz and piano)
- Yellow flower (up the Campuan steps – hard to find) – beautiful view, vego
- Soma (Jalan Gotama, Ubud central), beautiful place, relaxing and like a tropical garden in the middle of the craziness, vego, community vibe, often has live music where local ex-pats all join in. Very Ubud.
- Seeds of life (Jalan Gotama, Ubud central), amazing raw vegan food, treats and pancakes, even if you (like me) don’t really love raw vegan. Lovely relaxed vibe.
- Bali buda (Jalan Jembawan, top of ubud central, near radiantly alive yoga).
- Sari Organik (A beautiful walk or scooter ride through rice fields up on the Tjampuan ridge, a must do (the walk, if not the restaurant**)
- Kafe (good food, near the yoga barn on Jalan Hannoman)
- Watercress (Jalan Monkey Forest, great menu with delicious food, good barista coffee BGC tells me)
** If you’re short on time, I’ve starred my absolute favourites/ must dos above.
High end dining
- Copper (Jalan Bisma – seriously beautiful and ambient, high end restaurant but still cheaper than Australia, great atmosphere, really inventive, yum cocktails)
- Mozaic (Degustation menu is stunning, really creative and delicious, around 70 AUD for a 6 course degustation without wine)
- Swept Away at the Samaya (Stunning place with a thousand candles all over the rocks and with a river running by. We did the degustation and it was nice but not inventive or wowing, would recommend just going there for the view and an a la carte meal).
I haven’t explored the Ubud nightlife hardly at all, so my recommendations are limited!
- Bali Bohemia bar – super cool place near monkey forest, often live music
- No Mas on Jalan Monkey forrest, also a great bar, ambient lighting, good vibe, Hubud often runs Friday social nights here. Good Malbec
- Hubud, near monkey forest (raw cafe there too, you can go and have a look and hang out for free, it’s very casual and welcoming. Very social and community oriented. Voted by Forbes as one of the top 10 coworking spaces in the world!)
- Outpost, Nyuh Kunning (newer and beautiful view upstairs, more quiet/ productive space with aircon and a pool)
- At markets, expect to pay around 1/3 – 1/2 the price they initially quote you.
- Great leather bag shop up Jalan Raya Sanggingan near the Elephant Cafe, you’ll see the leather bags spilling out of the shop on the left as you head north, I bought my favourite, beautifully made leather handbag here for 800,000 IDR (Around $80 AUD), it would cost hundreds back home.
- The best clothes shops are in Seminyak and Canggu. Ubud is mostly hippy and touristy stuff, though some nice places on the main road, Jalan Raya
- There are a lot of yoga wear shops along Hanoman, you can get awesome, comfortable yet sexy crissy-crossy back sports bras for 80-90k ($8-9 AUD), I bought 6 this trip as they are so comfortable and last really well. There is one shop called Wayan Jirna Shop, next to Clear Cafe Express on Jalan Hanoman where the quality is much higher than the others, and better price, the young dude that runs it, Wayan is lovely and a real character. He’s always wearing a cap. Walk round all the shops before you decide.
- Yoga barn (World famous, huge place, lots of Lululemon type folk here but also loads of regular lovely folk and local ex pats, but great teachers and the biggest, most diverse timetable –Tina Nance, Denise Payne and Les Leventhal are EPIC teachers. Go to ecstatic dance Friday night or Sunday 11am – SO much fun, scariness, madness, and a really amazing experience, don’t miss it).
- Radiantly alive (smaller studio (though still huge), they have fly high yoga where you hang upside down which is fun. So far haven’t found any teachers there I love as much as YB
- Intuitive Flow (stunning view, in Penestanan, hard to find, get there via a foot pathway opposite Alchemy)
- Ubud Yoga House (up near Sari organic, beautiful view over rice paddies. Limited classes, only in the morning.
- Shangri la spa/ shambala spa just off Japan monkey forest is really great, super professional and nice atmosphere while still really cheap – is very popular so you need to book a day ahead.
- Nicks massage on Jalan Bisma (also a handy scooter shortcut to monkey forest to avoid crazy traffic) – quite hidden, often can fit you in on the spot
- Bali Botanica is epic for a day spa – I took my Mum here for mothers day around $130 AUD for and ENTIRE DAY of day spa, 7 hours. Seriously epic.
- Reflexology (Jalan Dewi Sita) is simple, no ambience, but really great all male therapists with super strong hands that really know what they’re doing. My favourite place for a walk-in back and shoulder reflexology massage.
- Goutama Spa, (Jalan Goutoma), just up from Soma Cafe, ask for Putu – she was recommended by a local ex pat, amazing hands, super strong, awesome massage, one of the best I’ve ever had in Bali. The Spa itself is tacky and full of tourists, but once you’re in your massage room it’s all good!
- Spa Bali (Jalan Raya Pengosekan) – Awesome place for manicure/ pedicure and some of the best massages we have in Bali, friendly staff, spacious, clean, great atmosphere. Often have appointments at the last minute.
Cost of living (like a boss)
You can have a massage every day for $7-20 you can eat for $2 (local Indonesian places)- $5-15 per meal at the western places which are a lot like Melbourne (it costs me around $6-10 per meal because I can’t eat local with my coeliacism), In ubud the food is amazing, heaps of raw vegan and heappps of organic. You can find a place like guesthouse Lasan Mas for $30/ night a 10 min scooter ride from ubud or you can splash out and get an unreal place for anywhere between $50/ night to hundreds a night. Airbnb is where you’ll find most good places, or even Ubud/ Bali Rental Facebook groups.
- In 2015 I stayed in the blue room at Teblin oasis/ (now called The Arc in Penestanan in Ubud, (there are a few other bigger, more expensive rooms in the one beautiful house, it’s fucking magical, it’s way more exy than a lot of places in bali yet still only $900 USD for a month.
- In 2016 I stayed at Lasan Mas Guesthouse which is stunning, the photos don’t even do it justice. There’s a waterful river thing right in front of you in the valley. It’s a bit further out (10 min scooter ride from Ubud), 5 million IDR ($500 ish AUD) per month. Whatsapp the lovely owner Wayan, (contact me for his number), he’s super helpful or book through Airbnb.
- I also stayed at an awesome house run by a lovely family in Penestanan with a pool. Great location and nice view over ricepaddies and other houses. It’s called Santi Lobong house, it has an airbnb listing (with very average photos haha, here are better photos that I took when I was staying there), but it’s better if you contact the owner by email as her tech skills are not good and she doesn’t really understand Airbnb, I was helping her with it while I was there. She may have improved since then. Her name is Santi, (pronounced Shanti), (contact me for Santi’s email address). Santi’s english is not great, but enough to get the basics across. The room is between 700-900 AUD/ month but more if you’re only staying a few weeks or days. Tell her I told you about her house, she’ll be very happy, and she’ll look after you, she’s really lovely. Santi’s house is hard to find and down a long driveway with a scooter so it’s best to get Komang (below) to drive you there. You can hire a scooter from a place part way down the driveway.
- In 2017 I stayed at both Putri Ayu (great location in Jalan Bisma, quick scooter ride to get anywhere), lovely pool, bathroom very average but the rest of the place is perfect!) and Rumah Semanggi (Stunningly beautiful location in the middle of rice paddies and a beautiful tropic garden, a bit further out from Ubud, I would only stay here if you’re happy to scooter around and/or hire a scooter driver. Super friendly staff, very tranquil and peaceful – a great place to get away from the hecticness of Ubud.
- Agung Wock is a great dude, very honest and won’t rip you off, 300k IDR pickup from Airport (around $30AUD). Whatsapp him: +62 857 92168621 (He gave me permission to share his phone number).
- Santi’s husband (see above), Komang is a driver (like everyone in Bali) and can arrange an airport pickup for around $30 AUD which is pretty standard. Is good to arrange before you arrive to avoid queues and rip off merchants! Contact me for Komang’s number.
- Wayan of guesthouse Lasan Mas is also a driver, super lovely and won’t rip you off (contact me for his number)
- You can rent a scooter taxi (jump on the back of a scooter driver) very cheaply.
- There are marked taxis (taksi), but as well as taksis, almost every man in Ubud is a driver and will call to you on the side of the road and/or beep at you as they drive past to check if you want a ride. Make sure you agree a price before or if they have a meter, make sure they turn it on. The taksis will try not to use a meter as the rates are crazily cheap, so they’ll easily try to rip you off and charge you $5+ when it should be 50 cents.
- Getting taxis/ drivers round Ubud in cars is a pain because the traffic is often bumper to bumper – but in a scooter you can whiz down the inside or outside and avoid a lot of traffic along with all the rest of the scooterers.
- You can also get Uber in Ubud, but I didn’t try it out.
- I can’t recommend renting a scooter enough, there are few footpaths in Ubud so it actually seems safer to scooter around than to walk. Most of the best parts of Ubud are spread much too far to walk, so you’ll miss a lot without one. You can bike but there are some serious hills, it’s very hot, and the traffic is pretty insane so cyclists never look that safe to me. Scootering around is one of my favourite parts of being in Indonesia. You feel very free.
- Scooter rental is around 50 AUD (500k IDR) per month or $5 (50k) per day (don’t pay much more), petrol like 8000-10,000 per litre, 2 litres for most scooters, $1-2 AUD).
- You buy petrol on the side of the road from absolut vodka bottles, plastic bottles, sometimes even olive oil bottles! It’s usually by the litre for 8000-10000 IDR. Ask for 2 if your tank is empty. Bensin = petrol in indonesian, and Pertamina seems to be the main (or only) petrol company in Bali, you’ll see signs for it all over.
- You should be able to rent a scooter from the hosts of most villas and guesthouses, if not there are places all over Ubud, a few on Jalan Pengosekan, a few on Jalan Monkey Forest.
- Be aware that though it’s legal to drive a scooter with a car drivers licence in Bali, western travel insurance companies do not usually insure you unless you have a motorbike licence in your home country. Check the fine print and be aware that you’re probably not insured for damage to the bike or to yourself in the case of an accident. That is the case for me but I choose to take the risk because without a scooter in Ubud I feel I would be restricted and miss a huge amount of the experience.
- Make sure you have 1. a helmet, 2. your drivers licence (preferably an international one if you don’t want to be scammed by police), and 3. the papers for the scooter (usually under the seat).
- Police: If you get stopped by police (they often have a roadblock set up on the only road to Kintamani, the beautiful volcano up north that attracts a lot of tourists), they may tell you you have to pay a fine of 1 million IDR or go to jail, (they told us this because we didn’t have an international drivers licence, but I suspect if we did they would have made up another reason). We ended up paying 500k ($50 AUD) and later found out that 200k will usually suffice with police, and it’s a good idea to cary a fake wallet with just 200k in it and the rest elsewhere so you can tell them it’s all you have.
Money: Credit Cards and Cash
- Many places in Ubud don’t take card, only cash, though hotels and bigger restaurants do.
- There are ATMs everywhere though. If you bank with ASB (NZ) or Commonwealth Bank (Aus), you can use Indonesian Commonwealth Bank ATMS which will only charge you a $2 fee per transaction if you use an eftpos/keycard.
- You have to be careful with skimming at ATMs, use your keycard/eftpos if you have one (a card with no chip, one that is linked to a savings/ cheque account that you use to get cash out at home, usually with a Plus or Cirrus Logo on it), not debit or credit cards, otherwise peeps can steal your CC number and your bank will cancel your card. With a key card your bank may freeze the card if they realise it’s been skimmed, but they won’t cancel it as it can’t be used online. Bring multiple cards just in case. It only happened to me once last time and not this time, but good to be safe.
- If you’re staying for 30 days or less you’re good to go (for most countries), you can get a tourist visa for free.
- If you wish to stay 60 days, you need to pay for a Visa On Arrival ($35 USD) when you first arrive (don’t go on the free 30 day visa), and then renew it before the 30 days is up. You can only renew it once and then you have to leave the country. Many expats get cheap flights to Singapore, KL, Borneo, HK, etc and do a one day visa run. You can re-enter the country as many times as you like (as far as I know) and keep doing the visa extension for a total stay of 60 days.
- For Visa extensions your best bet is getting a visa agent, otherwise you have to make multiple trips to Denpasar, and it’s confusing as hell. Visa agents charge around 600k for a visa renewal, they take your passport, (it’s scary, but always seems to work out fine), then a week or so later you have to go to Denpasar or Jimbaran Immigration to be fingerprinted and photographed, then you’re good to go. There are 2 visa agents I have used, both great – Komang at Bali Buda and Rolly (in Jimbaran) (contact me for Komang or Rolly’s phone numbers)
- Gold dust spa is epic, more pricey (but still cheap)
- Betel nut cafe is delish
- La Laguna is EPIC- Instagram it.
- Dojo is the coworking space
- Great clothes shops in Canggu and Seminyak, beautiful clothes, more towards the western end of prices but still often cheaper than home
- I stayed at Calm tree bungalows for a couple of nights, is lovely and not too crazy on the prices as a single traveller.
In 2015 and 2017 we went to Nusa Lembongan island, fairly touristy as with the rest of beach-bali and the roads are very bumpy and potholed in some areas, but fun to scooter round on, some of the beaches are so beautiful – Dream beach is beautiful, though covered in tourists. The island is mostly about scuba and surf. I enjoyed it the first time and loved it the 2nd time.
Our favourite places to eat/ drink:
(Bearing in mind I have coeliac disease so the places we can eat are restricted by that)
- Sandy Bay Beach Club – cocktails and best food on the island
- The Deck – cocktails, breakfasts
- Tigerlily – breakfasts
- Pisang Pisang – breakfast, gf cassava pancakes, smoothies
- Muntigs – dinner
- Le Pirate beach club – drinks and sunbathing
- Two towers coffee shop – coffee and banana pancakes if you’re not a coeliac!
- Taman Seaview – beautiful view, a bit away from the main tourist street which we loved, beautiful pool, and they rented us a couple of scooters for 50k per day. ($5AUD/ day)
- Rama garden – we stayed here in 2015 and loved it, it’s connected to Pisang Pisang which is great for breakfast and smoothies and healthy (but yum) options
- We learnt to surf with the guys at New Bro, who were awesome, fun, and great teachers, especially Agus and Robot.
- Serenity Yoga on the north of the island, great yoga deck and lovely teacher.
We also went to Kuta, Lombok (NOT to be confused with Kuta Bali). Lombok is great, much more relaxed and less tourist-destroyed, many empty beaches (still with some rubbish problems, but still some lovely ones to be found), long open roads for some awesome scooter exploring. We loved it here. Check out Ashtari for yoga and food (stunning view over the beach) and we stayed at Yuli’s Homestay which was awesome, super friendly and helpful. Lombok is a Muslim island, we didn’t have any troubles down the south in Kuta and were told by our homestay that we didn’t need to cover up, the locals seemed fine with non-covered up female tourists there, but I believe it’s more strict in other parts of Lombok. Many mosques and early morning wake up calls in Lombok, but in Bali there are always loud noises, roosters, Mosques, barking dogs, you get used to sleeping through it.
I haven’t been to the Gilis yet, but it seems Gili T is apparently party/ bogan young Aussie central, Gili Air is beautiful and more quiet and Gili Meno is beautiful and quite and coupley. Don’t quote me on it.