Are you the type who allocates the bulk of your holiday budget to go toward excursions, accommodations, and experiences, as opposed to the food you eat… while still hoping to experience more than just what the local fast food chain has to offer? If that sounds familiar, then fear not, frugal friend; in Bali you will find no shortage of budget friendly fare that is authentic, tasty, and inexpensive! Really, does it get any better than that?
Dining on a Budget in Bali
Our first pro tip is to be willing to explore and to buy locally. We probably don’t need to remind you that Bali is a small island and as such, and some of your favourite foods have to be shipped in. The cost of transporting packaged, processed foods gets passed on to you, making them much more expensive than you likely are used to. For this reason, one great way to score cheap yet awesome food is to check out some of the local markets first thing in the morning before they become overrun with tourists. If you love fresh fruits and vegetables then the markets are a must. Ubud and Denpasar especially are known to have some great markets where locals will sell you fresh produce.
Another great alternative to pricy, formal restaurants are street vendors. For those adventurous sorts who are willing to set aside hesitations about eating food prepared in a cart on the street, pleasant surprises await you. Nasi Lemak, a traditional rice dish served with spices and coconut milk, is a common street vendor offering and can usually be found for $2 – $3 dollars. Typically, it will be served topped with spicy chili sauce, alongside fried peanuts, cucumbers and hardboiled eggs, making it a hearty, filling and (you guessed it!) inexpensive meal. But you must always be careful eating off the side of the street as you don’t want to get Bali Belly!
As you may suspect, much like any other tourist destination in the world, the further you’re willing to venture “off the beaten path” the more authentic, less over priced food you will find. If you’re willing to eat where the locals eat then you can enjoy paying what the locals pay. Once you leave the confines of pricy resort restaurants, you’ll find food that is much more reasonably priced. Depending on which part of the island you’re staying, there are a number of family run warungs to choose from where you’ll be able to find delicious, authentic Indonesian food, often as cheap as $2 dollars per meal.
Since you were savvy enough to book a private villa (effectively making you a rock star of holiday traveler), you also have the advantage of having your own cooking and kitchen space right at your fingertips. It’s no secret that dining out is more expensive than preparing a meal at home and with your very own, fully appointed villa kitchen you will be able to do just that. You also have the ability to buy in bulk, which will often result in getting a better price per item. With a refrigerator to keep cool foods fresh and an oven to reheat them, you won’t have to venture out three times each day to buy food. (Oh and, don’t tell anyone we told you this but you even have the option to bring some snacks with you into the country. Non-perishable items like biscuits, crackers, cheeses, olives, etc. can all be packed in your luggage and will save you even more money in the food department).
One last suggestion for those who love the idea of dining in but loathe the notion of cooking while on holiday: you can also elect to hire a personal chef who will come to your villa and prepare every meal for you. Yes, on the surface this may sound expensive but all of the Ministry of Villa’s chefs are highly trained and capable of meeting their guests’ needs. Simply let your chef know your desire to stay within a certain budget and he or she will work diligently to accommodate that. Usually you will pay 20% on top of the grocery bill to have your very own chef cook for you. This is a good option if you have someone who has strict dietary needs or food allergies.
So, whether you choose to hunt for small snacks at the local markets, partake in freshly prepared street food, venture into the depths of the villages or dine in the privacy of your own villa, the bottom line is that: Bali is teeming with incredible foods and as long as you’re willing to be patient, diligent, and just a tiny bit adventurous, you can enjoy the best the island has to offer at prices that won’t turn your stomach. You may even have enough cash left over to indulge in an extra cocktail or two!