We spent 13 days in Indonesia (Bali and Lombok) and spent on average $83 per day ($41.50 per person) which, was over our projected budget of $50 per day ($25 per person).
Budgeting for travel in Indonesia
Indonesia was the first country in the giant region of Southeast Asia we visited. Traveling to countries in this region is often synonymous with budget travel so we knew our daily budget would be much less than previous budgets for New Zealand and Australia.
We had previously traveled to Bali back in 2011, so we had a rough idea of what things cost there. We also continually came across information that explained that prices in Bali are about double what you should expect to pay when traveling in Indonesia. Thinking that Lombok would be roughly half the price of Bali led us to underestimate how much we would actually spend there.
Where we spent our money
We spent the lion’s share of our budget on accommodation with, surprisingly, food and alcohol following close behind.
We divided our time between an Airbnb stay, guesthouses, and hotel/bungalow living. All in all, our accommodations were really nice. During our time in Kuta, Lombok, we stayed in small bungalows near and sometimes right across the street from the water. They all included breakfast, A/C and a had a pool. For about $35 – $40 /night we weren’t exactly roughing’ it.
The food in Indonesia is simple and pretty good. We found the food in Indonesia to be more expensive than many other countries in the region. We spent $21 /day on food. This does not include breakfast, which was included in our accommodation cost, but it does include water. You can’t drink the water in Indonesia so expect to pay a few dollars a day for the necessary liters of bottled water.
The prices for dishes vary considerably depending upon what you eat, e.g. seafood is more expensive than chicken, and also where you eat. As always, if you go to a place that is packed with westerners and has a WiFi connection, expect to pay about double for your dish compared to local family run food stalls (warungs). Here is what you can expect:
- $2 – $5 this will get you typical dishes of rice, seasonal veggies some maybe some meat on the higher side of the range.
- A pint of local beer (0.5 liters) is $3 – $4.
- Fresh coconuts and seasonal fruit juices range from $1.50 – $3
Expect to pay between $3.50 – $9 for a simple meal and non-water drink for a single person.
Our transportation costs consisted of hiring drivers to take us to and from air and sea ports and hiring a motorbike during our time in Kuta.
- Hiring a driver for long distance transportation is pricier than public options but much faster and MUCH less of a logistical nightmare. The public bus system (bemos) in Bali and Lombok can be extremely difficult to navigate. So we opted to spend some extra cash and hire a car to take us longer distances. For example, when we arrived via ferry from Bali to Lombok, we opted to pay about $30 for a driver to take us from the port city of Lembar to Kuta which took about 1.25 hours rather than attempting to navigate the bemo system. Getting there by bemo would have only cost a few dollars, but we would have had to take 3 different buses and spent most of the day en route to Kuta.
- Motorbikes are omnipresent in Indonesia and hiring one is very easy. In Lombok, you can expect to pay about $5 per day for a motorbike. These are great to get you around town and to more secluded beaches, but be careful! Always drive safely and wear a helmet. See Budget Killers below for more info about this.
There are lots of things to do in Indonesia. We averaged just under $5 a day ($2.50 per person) for yoga and surfboard rentals.
- Surfing – Kuta, Lombok is a surf haven, and pretty much every westerner there is either a surfer or wanting to learn. Boards will run $5 /day and can be found all over. Almost all of the surf breaks are reef breaks. This means that if you are a beginner, it may not be the best place to learn how to surf. The local clinic stays in business thanks to first-time surfers going out in advanced conditions. Most surf breaks aren’t easily accessible by paddling, so hiring a boat will run from $10 /day and up. Locals seem to try and push the tourists to Gerupuk which has 5 different breaks, all of which require hiring a boat. While the waves can be epic, be prepared for hoards of surfers and a minimum cost of $20 /day for a board rental, motorbike and boat transportation. Check out wikitravel and WannaSurf for some suggestions on good surfing spots.
- Yoga – You can find yoga daily in Kuta at Ashtari to the west of town and at Novotel Resorts to the east of town. If you are traveling in high season there will likely be some seasonal yoga practices that are offered in and around town. Novotel has a pricing structure which rewards returning yogis. After the first few classes, you only pay about $6 per class.
Miscellaneous expenses such as laundry, sunscreen and travel insurance made up about 7% ($5 / day) of our daily budget.
Budget Savers and Budget Killers
Here are the top opportunities, decisions, and mistakes that either positively or negatively impacted our travel budget.
Walking isn’t a great option in most of Bali and Lombok. Things are spread out and walking long distances in the midday heat can be brutal. Also, hiring a driver for the day normally starts at around $50. Renting a motorbike is 1/10th of that cost and allows you the freedom to explore on your own schedule. While this is a budget saver, it can also be a budget killer if you aren’t safe (see Wear a Helmet below).
This one is pretty easy to find, but since you will likely pay at least a few dollars for a meal at a warung or restaurant, having breakfast as part of your accommodation is a nice perk. We found that the breakfast at Yuli’s Homestay was handsdown the best (we highly recommend this place, and not just for the breakfast). Each morning you get either a banana pancake or omelet, toast, coffee and fresh seasonal juice.
Street side stalls
You will find family run bamboo huts all along the road. These places are like Indonesian 7-11 stores. They carry everything from water to liters of gas (petrol) in old liquor bottles. Purchasing drinks and snacks here is often cheaper than buying it from your hotel or guesthouse. While the difference isn’t huge, it can add up over the course of your trip. For example, a pint of local beer at our guesthouse was $4 and literally right outside, the same beer was $3. Again, not a huge difference, but after a few beers this savings could have bought you a meal, or another beer! Water is a similar story.
If you aren’t hiring a motorbike and you are planning on frequently traveling long distances, hiring a car for each transportation leg can really add up. Since we flew into Bali, we decided to stay 2 nights in Bali to break up the journey to Kuta, Lombok. From the airport in Bali to Kuta, Lombok we spent $94 for three segments of car transportation and a ferry ride which was only $4 each.
Budget by Island
Indonesia is a HUGE country and spans thousands of islands. Despite all being a part of the same country, each island is vastly different in terms of culture, religion, topography and also costs. It is wise to budget each island separately. We did most of our budgeting research on Indonesia as a country, so we budgeted less than what we should have for our stay.
Wear a helmet
Obvious right? Well about 98% of the travelers we saw driving scooters in Indonesia weren’t wearing helmets! Even parents, who were clearly tourists, riding with their little children didn’t have helmets! This is just dumb. If you have done any traveling in Indonesia you have undoubtedly seen travelers and locals alike with motorbike wounds. If you think it won’t happen to you, you may be right, but it seems like a silly risk to take. It is very common to hear of road fatalities from local news sources. We speak from experience. I (Nic) have rode a motorbike for years in the US, but when Anna and I traveled to Bali in 2011, I lost control of the bike after hitting a sandpatch while going down a hill. Covered in blood and mud caked in our open wounds, we had to go to the a very ‘local’ clinic for 15+ stitches and to clean our wounds. If we weren’t wearing helmets, the damage would have been much worse.
If you are planning to fly out of the new Bali airport be prepared to pay an exit tax of 200,000 Rupiah (~$17.00) per person when you fly out. At the time of writing this article, this fee was not included in the price of our plane tickets.
You will pay this fee, in cash, before you go through customs. Luckily for us, there are a number of ATMs located near the baggage claim to draw out local currency.
*As always with our budget posts, all our amounts are for 2 people and in USD unless otherwise noted.