I had the best intentions of planning out my ten days on Bali to really maximize my time. I thought I’d make a list of all the places I wanted to see, prioritize it, pre-book some cool accommodation, etc. Instead, I arrived on the island with my first night booked at a hostel in Seminyak and a vague idea of some places that sounded nice.
Despite my lack of organisation, my ten days on Bali were amazing. I was trepidatious considering I had just spent an amazing 10 days in Australia with friends – how would I feel about being thrown back into solo travel? Turns out, I felt great. Bali is absolutely one of the best places on earth for solo female travel. It’s easy to get around while still feeling like a challenge, it’s safe (you just have to watch out for traffic) and there are SO many other backpackers wandering around looking for friends.
I spent two nights in Seminyak, four nights in Ubud and three nights on Gili Trawangan, a nearby island.
TOP TIPS FOR BALI
1. Don’t be afraid to hire a driver
To me, hiring a driver sounds like the height of decadence. However, once I got to Bali, I realized public transport was not really a thing, and even if I had a driver’s license I would never personally feel comfortable driving on Bali’s tiny, chaotic roads. I arranged a driver for two things: a ride from my Seminyak hostel to my Ubud hostel, and then for a full day of touring around Ubud before being dropped at the airport for my flight to Singapore. The first drive was really out of necessity, as I don’t even know what my other route to Ubud would have been – and it certainly wouldn’t have been as pleasant and convenient. But I’m so glad I ‘splurged’ on the second day of driving and got to see a TON of sights around Ubud.
Now, splurging is a relative term on Bali. For my FULL day, I paid $56 Canadian, and for the drive to Ubud I paid $23. Can you believe that a private driver (AND photographer) all day is only $56? I can’t. And imagine if I had been traveling with someone – we would have been able to split the costs and pay basically nothing for such a fantastic day.
I may have been able to find these rides slightly cheaper, but my driver was so delightful that I don’t regret a single penny. Listya messaged me through a female travel Facebook group we are both part of, and I was a lot more comfortable with having a female driver. Her husband was the one who took me on my touring day, and he was great as well and ALSO a great photographer. He took all of the photos of me in this section!
2. Mix it up with hostels and Airbnbs
Next time I go back to Bali, I will hopefully be with friends (or at least one friend!) and I will definitely book more Airbnbs. There are some absolutely insane villas you can get for a total steal. I could only splurge once, but man was it worth it. I stayed at a $2.50 hostel my first night in Ubud, and it was so horrible that I slept for approximately 2 hours: I felt like bugs were crawling all over me, the noise from the street was deafening, and it was so hot. I woke up, left immediately and booked a gorgeous Airbnb. I paid $21 a night for a top floor room with private bathroom, made-to-order breakfast in the mornings, and the host even booked all my tours/transport for me without ripping me off.
I stayed in some other fairly decent hostels, including Gili Mansion on Gili Trawangan (super fun and made some great friends, but the three bed dorms are REALLY awkward if you get stuck with a couple) and Padi Backpacker’s House for a short night in Ubud (would definitely go back) – but the Airbnb was extremely memorable.
3. Make friends who can drive a scooter
My day tour was amazing, and if I go back alone I will definitely hire Listya for more time, but the flexibility and freedom of hopping on a scooter is just unmatched. I had ridden a scooter in Turkey before and knew I wanted to do it in Bali.
I had trouble making friends in empty hostels my first couple days in Ubud, so I decided to go for an alternative route. I fired up my Tinder, put in my bio that I was “looking for someone to PLATONICALLY go on scooter adventures with” (see the disclaimer mom?) and within 10 minutes I had a buddy to drive me to a waterfall the next day! He was German living in Sydney, and he drove a scooter there every day so I decided to trust his driving abilities. The next morning we headed off to Tukad Cepung, about a 1.5 hr drive from Ubud. It was so lovely to drive through the countryside with the wind in my hair, children and women shyly smiling at me and beautiful scenery rushing by.
The waterfall was busy but not as busy as some others that I would see, and partway through our visit some amazing light rays appeared that turned into something out of an Elven Kingdom in Lord of the Rings. My pictures can’t really communicate how ethereal this was – but I did not regret this random adventure at all.
So, my takeaways? Bali is best travelled in a different way than I normally travel. I never hire drivers, rarely stay in Airbnbs, and certainly don’t make a habit of going on random people’s scooters, but here – my trip wouldn’t have been the same without these things!