Disclaimer: I am in no way an expert solo traveler (or expert traveler, for that matter). These are just some tips and tricks I picked up on on my trip.
- Decide what you want out of the trip. What do you want to do? What do you want to see? Is this an adventure trip or a relaxing getaway vacation? Denpasar is a large island with so many different things to do that fit varying interests. You can go surfing off the coast in Canggu, stay at a resort and shop your heart out in Seminyak, visit Omnia Bali in Uluwatu, or immerse yourself in Balinese culture at Ubud centre. Since I was planning a solo trip in Ubud, I took this opportunity to explore Bali’s culture, art, music, dance, and religion.
- Depending on why you want to travel (leisure, adventure) you can decide where you want to stay. There are so many places where you can get good quality accommodation for a good price. If you are on a tight budget, don’t want to splurge on a suite, or are keen to meet people to travel with, a hostel is a great option. There are plenty of affordable options–and some even come with really cool perks! If you’re like me, and are planning a leisure trip a suite is the best way to go. Check out Airbnb for some great options, whether in a single room or full private suite. I was lucky enough to find a bed and breakfast in the heart of Ubud along it’s main road with a private balcony, bathroom, and the fluffiest queen bed ever!
- Look for plane tickets early. If possible, travel on an off day (during the week)–who knows, you may be able to get a sweet deal. Also keep travel time from the airport to your final destination in mind. Ubud is about an hour and a half drive from Denpasar airport and I made the mistake of booking a late night flight. I didn’t arrive to my Airbnb until almost 3 A.M.. I was too excited for my weekend in paradise to sleep even though my body was exhausted from the travel and spent the next day a half-zombie. Plan accordingly!
- Make arrangements before you leave. This includes airport transfers, experiences, tours, etc., and make sure you have a fixed price for these services. For example, Ubud has a strict ban against online car services like GoJek or Grab (Indonesian Uber). It is mostly to protect the local taxis and private driver services since tourism is the lifeblood of Ubud and how a lot of locals make their living. My only concern was how I was going to get around Ubud, since most things are not directly in Ubud centre. I talked to my host about it, and she offered an airport pickup/drop-off service and was kind enough to offer me daily motorbike rides to my destinations within Ubud center!
- Try to have a general plan for your trip, but be open to change! I’m a total control freak when it comes to planning, so I used this trip to practice taking it easy and going with the flow. I had a couple things I knew I wanted to do (visit temples, rice fields, do yoga, shop at Ubud Art market, and visit the monkey forest) and I did my research before going. This included what time they opened and closed, the entry fee, and how far they were from my Airbnb, among other things. The only thing I wasn’t too sure of was what days I would go. I planned on playing it by ear when I got to Ubud to see what made the most sense on each day.
- Don’t forget to do research on the culture, traditions, and customs of the country you’re traveling to. A place like Ubud, Bali attracts many tourists, so a lot of things are tourist-friendly. SIgns are written in English, staff usually speak English, and there are loads of local tour guides that speak a myriad of languages. However, if you go outside of the busy center you may find fewer people who speak English and if they do, it may not be very good. Just be prepared for the language barrier! Even though I am Indonesian and can speak Bahasa Indonesia, the Balinese speak their own dialect (Balinese) which I don’t understand at all. After being a “local” and not experiencing a language barrier, going to Bali was the first time I had the real “foreigner” experience.
- Lastly, try your best to live like a local! Don’t be afraid to ask questions! Talk to people–whether it be fellow travelers, locals, shopkeepers, or wait staff. I found it was always nice to take time to get to know the people around you. Everyone in Bali is so willing to help if you are kind, polite, and eager to learn. I got some great restaurant suggestions, spa recommendations, and so on from the friendly locals I spoke to. I ended up going on a full day tour with a local tour guide (@guiding_by_leni on Instagram) and saw so many wonderful place both on and off the beaten path. It was a wonderful way to see parts of Bali I didn’t even know about!
I honestly can’t recommend taking a solo trip enough! There’s so much freedom in being alone. You’re able to eat wherever and whenever you want, see and do things that suit your personal interests, and take your sweet time exploring this new place–at your own pace and on your own time! It was so refreshing to get away from the hustle and bustle of a big city like Jakarta. I got to escape the noise and chaos to explore the beautiful waterfalls, rolling hills, and grand temples that make up every corner of Bali. I got to learn about Balinese history, art, and their unique and provoking dancing and story-telling style.
Just like countless tourists before me, Bali has captured a special place in my heart. It was the perfect place to explore myself, my limits, and my interests. There’s so much of the world to explore, and what feels like so little time to see it all. If you’re reading this and considering a trip, no matter how far or how long, take this as your sign to do it! Buy the plane ticket, book the hostel! There’s no better time than now.
Tasha Irianto is a fourth-year Liberal Studies major going to BINUS University in Jakarta, Indonesia this fall.
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