Bali on a budget: Free things to do on the island, from nature trails to art galleries

File photo of a hill in Bali. Photo: Sven Scheuermeier/Unsplash
File photo of a hill in Bali. Photo: Sven Scheuermeier/Unsplash

While we enjoy pampering ourselves with a sweet spa treatment, killer cocktail, or artisanal goodie, from time to time, there’s no better bargain than “free”. So, if you’re searching for an affordable vacation itinerary in Bali, look no further. Replete with stunning natural landscapes and beautiful traditional arts, the island offers plenty for visitors to explore without breaking the bank. From exploring rice terraces and majestic mountains to intricate crafts and cozy wine tasting sessions, here’s our list of things to do in Bali that won’t cost you a cent.


Climb Mount Batur without a guide

Photo: Richard Ha/Flickr
Photo: Richard Ha/Flickr

It’s not the easiest thing, since you’ll be harassed by guides who want you to hire them, but make it past the threats and you’ll be on your own, ready to take on the two-hour hike. Just be sure to do your research beforehand so you know what you’re getting yourself into. Oh, and it goes without saying that if you’re doing it for the sunrise views, you probably don’t want to be lost in the darkness alone.


Sand and sun, on repeat

Photo: resa cahya/Unsplash
Photo: resa cahya/Unsplash

When you’re in Bali, beach-hopping is a given. So if you’re down for a day of crystal clear waters and sun-soaked adventures (and don’t feel like dishing out to go to a beach club), throw on your best beach gear for a some waterfront action. Apart from popular tourist hotspots like Seminyak Beach, Kuta Beach, Jimbaran Bay, and Nusa Dua Beach, you can make a day trip to Nyang Nyang Beach for a surf or some quiet time, or find the hidden gem that is Suluban Beach at low tide for caves and cliff-side views.


Immerse yourself in art

If art is your jam, you’ll want to set aside some time to delve into the art scene of Bali. First stop: the Pakadui village showroom of Pak Made Ada, Bali’s original Garuda carver whose sculptures reside in the presidential palace. You can also watch painters at work in Syah Gallery, wander around the realm of pop art at Reservo Art Gallery, check out woodcarvings at Bali Parcel, or look for handmade crafts at Sukawati Art Market.


See the island’s landmark sights

Photo: Raj Eiamworakul/Unsplash
Photo: Raj Eiamworakul/Unsplash

You’ve spotted ’em on social media — those viral snapshots of landmarks in Bali that make for perfect pictures. Since they’re free to see, you might as well catch a glimpse in real life, too. Famous architectural icons to sneak a peek at include the Gates of Heaven at Pura Lempuyang temple, the floating house on Lake Batur, the Marigold Flower Field, and Ubud Palace, the traditional temple that used to house the royal family of Bali.


Sip on a glass of Balinese wine

Photo: Hatten Wines - Bali/Facebook
Photo: Hatten Wines – Bali/Facebook

Producing its own batches of wine on the tropical island since 1994, Hatten Wines is a Balinese institution that makes vino from grapes grown in its vineyards on the north coast. Offering tasting sessions seven days a week, the cellar door in Sanur is where you can sample a variety of red, white, rosé or sparkling bottles, including new-latitude wines made from indigenous Balinese grape varieties such as Belgia, Probolinggo Biru, and Alphonse Lavallée.


Stake out the island’s abandoned spots

Always wanted to explore a deserted plane? Little is known about the infamous one near Pandawa Beach that you can spot from a bird’s eye view, while another Boeing 737 lies just a couple miles away next to a Dunkin’ Donuts in Kuta. Or, if art in abandoned spaces is more up your alley, then there’s Taman Festival Bali, an amusement park that was never completed and left to sit in ruins over a decade ago. The complex has since been turned into a huge canvas for graffiti artists and now contains dozens of murals sprawled out across decrepit buildings and statues. And if you’re into desolated temples, the one in Karangasem sits under layers of overgrown weeds and cobwebs.


Trek the tranquil Campuhan Ridge Walk

Photo: Artem Bali/Flickr
Photo: Artem Bali/Flickr

An oasis of green that’s as peaceful and calming as the traffic-congested streets nearby are noisy, this Ubud nature trail takes you on a stroll past rice fields, rivers, and valleys. With idyllic views of nature’s prettiest, the short trek is best done in the early hours, so you can watch the world awaken, get your morning workout in, and be on your way back before those sunny rays scorch you. All you need as companions are proper footwear and comfy clothes, really.


Visit the scenic Jatiluwih Rice Terraces

Photo: Roberto Faccenda/Flickr
Photo: Roberto Faccenda/Flickr

Forget the famous (and overcrowded) Tegallalang Rice Terraces in Ubud — the sprawling landscapes at Jatiluwih may be low-key in comparison, but they’re no less picturesque. A UNESCO World Heritage-listed site, it offers panoramic vistas and magnificent sunset sights.


Window shop at markets

Photo: Love Anchor Canggu/Facebook
Photo: Love Anchor Canggu/Facebook

If you can resist the urge to take out your wallet whenever you spot a good buy, head on down to one of Bali’s myriad markets for a window shopping session. Colorful and bustling, these stretches of stalls hawk everything from apparel and accessories to souvenirs and crafts.

Ubud Market is an easily-accessible central spot, but if you’re up for a chill time rummaging through handmade crafts, swing by Samadi Sunday Market. Bagaholics can check out Kumbasari Market for its range of bags in all colors and materials, while the trendy crowd makes a beeline for Canggu’s fairy-lit Love Anchor, a whimsical space of chic knick knacks. Once a month on weekends, Old Man’s Market also pops up with its boho fashion, beach ware, and chill vibes.


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9 Bali seafood restaurants serving up mouthwatering, fresh seafood

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