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10 FREE THINGS TO DO IN BALI, INDONESIA

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Mt Agung from Sanur beach- Bali

Mt Agung from Sanur beach

10 FREE THINGS TO DO IN BALI, INDONESIA

Anyone who knows me or has visited LashWorldTour knows that I’m crazy about Bali, Indonesia. To date, I’ve written 10 posts on Balinese culture and life, 4 posts on scuba diving in Bali, and 14 posts in my Cycling Bali series. I’ve made 27 photo galleries and generally rave about that fabulous island.

I’ve been visiting Bali regularly since 2000, staying 2-6 months each time; have worked 3 diving seasons there; have circumnavigated the island by bicycle twice; and, most recently have written and published two guidebooks on Bali: Cycling Bali and Hiking in Bali.

As an ultimate testament to Bali’s fabulous-ness (especially coming from a long-term nomadic world traveler) Bali is the only place I’ve found that I would eventually like to retire to one day.

Balinese ceremony in Amed

Balinese Hindu ceremony in Amed

Needless to say, in all my roaming, adventures, and explorations of Bali on a budget, I’ve amassed an extensive repertoire of free things to do all around this magnificent island. At long last, I’m presenting my insider tips. Without further ado, here you go:

empty beach in southwest Bali

empty beach in southwest Bali

1. Enjoy Bali’s superb beaches

 

Since Bali has so many stunning beaches, and since beaches offer so many fantastic free activities, and since I have so many other suggestions around Bali, I’m lumping all the free beach activities I can think of into tip #1.

 

Suntan, swim, body surf, build a sand castle, read, listen to music, watch sunrises and sunsets, watch people, watch surfers, chat with locals or other travelers, walk, jog, run, meditate, practice yoga, stretch, skip to the loo… If you’re traveling with snorkeling gear, a frisbee or hackysack, then add those activities to the long list of great free ways to enjoy Earth’s natural beach paradises.

 

(* warning- the seas at many of Bali’s beaches have extremely strong currents and undertows at times. Pay attention to any warning flags and/or ask locals about water safety before simply leaping in *)
Sanur Beach

 

more free things at specific Bali beaches:

 

On Seminyak beach, at the end of famous Jalan 66 (Double 6 Road), every evening before sunset, hundreds of travelers, expats and locals alike gather to socialize and play beach games such as paddle ball, Frisbee, badminton, and soccer. You’ll be more than welcome to join them! Local guys also sit around meeting girls and playing music, mainly drums and guitars. You’re also welcome to join the jams.

 

At Sanur beach on weekends, but especially on Sundays, hordes of local families with young children, romantic couples, and groups of teens flock to the seaside to enjoy socializing and swimming. If you’re interested in the daily life and activities of local people, Sanur beach is a fascinating place to watch Indonesians at play and leisure.

 

Balinese foods on sale at small local evening market

Balinese foods on sale at small local evening market

2. Check out the huge variety of traditional Indonesian foods at night markets

 

Sanur, Seminyak and other Balinese towns have fantastic night markets selling an astonishing variety of dishes from Java, Sumatra and Bali.

 

You’ll see satays, rice soups, noodle soups, rice with mixed veggies and meats, grilled chicken, fried sweets, fruit shakes, and lots of other dishes that are hard to describe. Better to go see them in person.

 

Looking at all the foods and wondering what they taste like is an interesting cultural learning experience. Of course it costs money to eat, but since you do have to eat everyday anyhow, night markets are one of the cheapest options in Bali, definitely one of the best places to find delicious, authentic dishes.

 

gamelan troupe

gamelan troupe performing at small local ceremony

3. Watch gamelan orchestras and/or Balinese dance performances

 

Bali’s gamelan music, dance and drama performances are still an integral part of daily Balinese life, mainly because of the plethora of Hindu ceremonies and festivals.

 

Gamelan troupes are employed for weddings, funerals, teeth filings, baby ceremonies and all temple ceremonies. Dance and drama are performed at larger temple festivals.

 

Performances of gamelan, dance and drama are also held weekly, if not daily, at hotels, resorts, and restaurants around the island, specifically to entertain tourists. Those performances are often held in conjunction with dinners and buffets.

 

In Ubud, Bali’s cultural heartland, daily performances are also held at specific temples and palaces solely for the benefit of tourists. Obviously, these performances cost money.

 

Balinese dance performance

Balinese dance performance at beach side resort

 

Luckily, there are several ways to watch gamelan, dance and drama for free:

 

Rehearsals. Sanur and Ubud have several renowned gamelan and dance troupes. They practice regularly, some in afternoons, some in evenings. Visitors are entirely welcome to watch the rehearsals. If you hear gamelan playing, just wander inside! Members of the troupe will readily invite you to come in and take a seat. It’s a great opportunity.

 

Ceremonies and festivals. Several times every week one ceremony or other takes place in Bali’s villages, towns and cities. It’s almost impossible to visit the island without stumbling upon at least one of them.

 

You can also find out about scheduled annual festivals, cremations and other ceremonies at the Tourist Information Center in Ubud. If you stay in a community for a week or more, locals you’ve befriended or staff and owners of your guesthouse / hotel are quite likely to tell you about personal ceremonies of one relative or other. They’ll often invite you to attend. 

* Read more about Gamelan: Bali’s Percussion Orchestras


carved stone statues along the Batuan-Ubud road

carved stone statues along the Batuan-Ubud road

4. Watch artisans at work

 

Balinese are incredibly talents artists in a variety of mediums. Along the roads between Sanur and Ubud are a series of villages each specializing in a particular art or handicraft. Starting at the southernmost village of Batuan and heading north for 20 km ( 12 miles) you can visit small factories and workshops to watch the artists at work.

 

Unless you want to walk, your only expense will be transportation. It’s cheapest and easiest to rent a motorbike. You could also hitch hike quite easily and safely from point to point.

 

Batuan has dozens of stone statue carving workshops, with thousands of completed statues on display and workers diligently carving away. Bautan also has a few large batik factories.

 

Celuk specializes in silver jewelry. Watch jewelers make cut silver, filigreed, and more.

 

Mas is famous for wood carvings and masks.
Lash at Art exhibition

here I am at a friend’s art exhibition

5. Admire Bali’s vibrant paintings

 

Among international art circles, Balinese paintings are deservedly famous. Many paintings fetch huge prices at international art auctions around the world.

 

Bali’s center for painting is Ubud. There are several large museums and dozens of small galleries. While a few of the most famous museums have entry fees, many are actually free. The galleries are all free as well.

 

Ubud has so many galleries and museums without entry fees that you could literally exhaust yourself gazing at paintings for several days.

 

If you’re interested, you can learn the fascinating history and development of Balinese art and be able to distinguish the many different painting styles simply by wandering more slowly through Ubud’s galleries and museums. All for free!

 

arak in Amed

local friend pouring me arak in Amed

6. Drink arak with local guys

 

If you hang out in an area for a week or more, and you take time to meet local guys, particularly artists or musicians, there’s a very good chance they’ll invite you to join them drinking arak some evening.

 

Groups of friends get together, sit around chatting, often playing music, and drink communally from a cup that’s passed around in turn to each person. Whoever has some spare money that day buys a bottle of arak for everyone.

 

Naturally, if you join them more than once, it’s considerate to buy a round. But the first time at least, the Balinese are more than happy to invite you to drink with them on their tab. It’s a great way to be part of the local community and to try out Bali’s bootleg booze.

 

Please note that you won’t find any local women drinking! But western women are more than welcome to join the guys.( read more about Arak and Tuak: Bali’s Local Moonshine )

7. Learn how to make salt from sea water in Amed

 

Salt making is a traditional industry in remote Amed. Although it’s rapidly dying out, a few local families are still plodding away in their scenic salt fields beside the Bali Sea.

 

The unusual looking salt apparatus and the labor-intensive techniques are quite intriguing. You can learn all about it at Cafe Garam, Amed, where they have a display explaining the entire process. The staff will be happy to go into detail.

 

You can visit the salt fields behind the Cafe. I’ve actually written a detailed article about the salt-making process, based on my visit to Cafe Garam and Amed’s remaining salt fields. But it’s even more interesting to visit in person.

local man carrying sea water to make salt in Amed, Bali

local man carrying sea water to make salt in Amed, Bali

8. Watch a sea full of colorful sailboats- Amed

Amed is one of the few remaining places in Bali where locals actually use the beautiful, colorful Balinese outrigger sailing boats known as jukung. In Sanur the vibrant little boats mostly sit parked on the beach, adding a wonderful splash of color and culture to Sanur’s serene beach. But in all the villages along the Amed coast, local fishermen actually use their boats daily for mackerel fishing.

jukung in Bali Sea at Amed

jukung in Bali Sea at Amed

Rustle yourself out of bed at dawn and meander over to the beach along Amed’s coast, where you’ll be treated to the astonishing sight of a horizon speckled with bright flashes of colorful sails as the mackerel fishermen return from their early morning fishing. The main mackerel season runs from about August to October, which is when you’ll see the largest number of boats on the sea.

Balinese ceremony in Ubud

Balinese ceremony in Ubud

9. Join an exciting Balinese Hindu festival

 

As I mentioned above, several days per week there’s one ceremony or other in Bali. Throughout the year larger annual festivals take place. Occasional mass cremations are held.

 

On such important occasions, hundreds of locals, dressed in ceremonial clothing, march through the streets to a temple or beach, where they complete the festivities. These mass human parades block traffic.

 

Funeral ceremonies are often held at beaches, where the ashes and offerings are released into the sea. In Sanur, beach funeral ceremonies are held at the far south end, at the central beach just north of the Grand Hyatt, at Sanur’s far north end, and at the beach just north of Sanur.

 

At the Kuta / Legion / Seminyak / Cangu coast, funeral ceremonies are also held at designated spots along the beach.

 

Balinese stone statue

Balinese stone statue guarding entrance to garden

10. Stroll through award-winning landscaped gardens

 

Bali is also famous for its stunning landscaped gardens. Two award-winning gardens I personally love are the Grand Hyatt in Sanur and Tjampuan in Ubud.

 

The Grand Hyatt’s extensive gardens spread through courtyards amidst the hotels wings, out from the main lobby to the beach, around the side of the hotel complex, and along the inland side of the resort.

 

Tjampuan Hotel is built on an extremely steep hillside plunging down to the Wos River. Both hotels allow visitors to admire their famous landscaped grounds.

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Balinese carvingMt Agung from Sanur Bali Interested in being guided around Bali by an expert of the island?

Come join me on my 2-week small group tour of Bali in June, 2014. Four to ten guests will accompany me on a fun culture and nature immersion tour of the Island of Gods: Bali Nature & Cultural Tour.

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100 Free Things to do in Asia - eBook - LashWorldTour

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If you found this post useful, you’ll love my FREE eBook:

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Check out my eBook here

 

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18 comments

3 pings

  1. Anonymous says:

    Wonderful..!!! Your pictures so nice to see and make another would like to visit there, but one time if you still have sparetime please visit Lombok island, here you will see different than the other and you will see Bali too. LOmbok the unspoilt beauty island a waiting yr coming and come with yr relations too. Thank You, I like so much of yr photos and yr wide experiences. C U…

  2. LASH says:

    Thanks anonymous.
    YEs, I've been to Lombok and the Gilis. Also very nice. i would like to visit Kuta Beach, Lombok and travel across the island to Sumbawa.
    Thanks for stopping by. cheers, lash

  3. Scuba Diving says:

    After I initially left a comment I seem to have clicked the -Notify me when new comments are added- checkbox and now each time a comment is added I receive 4 emails with the exact same comment. Is there a means you can remove me from that service? Kudos!

    1. Lash says:

      Hi there- where did you leave a comment? I don’t see your previouis comment on this post. If you tell me where your comment is, I’ll check it out and see what I can do… cheers, Lash

  4. things to do in Bali says:

    Great pictures but i think that beaches are not so nice in Bali. Much better for example in Gili islands.

    1. Lash says:

      Thanks for stopping by. Interesting, I guess everyone has their own opinions on what makes a great beach. I think many of Bali’s beaches are wonderful. Gili beaches are beautiful, too, but very narrow. I like how super wide and long some of Bali’s beaches are. Thanks for your input. Cheers, Lash

  5. eling says:

    hi,mayi know bali have any intersting place?
    Can recommend me the place n things to do?
    Between i wanna go holiday on the next year chinese new year
    to bali, with 9people.
    I would like to go snorkeling,which beach is suitable n nice?
    Thank you so much!

    1. Lash WorldTour says:

      Hi Eling,

      thanks for stopping by. Bali has MANY interesting places!
      To start with, on this website, I’ve written about 20 articles about Bali. You’re welcome to read them for information.
      Later this week, I have a guest post coming up that explains 5 great places to visit in Bali. So stop back to find that article. :)
      For snorkeling, I recommend Amed, Tulamben, Pemuteran, Padang Bai. Sanur has great snorkeling, too, but it’s a bit ‘advanced’ snorkeling.

      Any other questions? cheers, Lash

  6. Christian Reno says:

    Hi, this is a very interesting article. Bali was already widely known to the public. Because Bali is a beautiful place.
    I just wanted to add, if you want to find snorkeling in Bali, Padang Bai and Menjangan Island is an interesting place for diving and snorkeling. Thx

    1. Lash WorldTour says:

      Hi Christian,

      Thanks for your addition. Yes, I agree that Padang Bai and Menjangan do have some great snorkeling. At Padang Bai, can do that for free with your own equipment. But Menjangan is very expensive… so it doesn’t quite fit on this list of free things to do. :))

      Thanks for stopping by. cheers, lash

  7. Mohhamad says:

    Love all of the FREE things above, but We need more choices for things that we can do in Bali. Anyone have an idea? this is my first time to Bali.

    1. Lash WorldTour says:

      Hi Mohhamad,

      Thanks for stopping by and commenting.

      Though I must say your comment is very very interesting considering your website is named ’100 things to do in bali’ ! hahahaaa.

      cheers, Lash

      1. Mohhamad says:

        Yeaa…hahaaaa…..i just decided to make it after my return and thinking that we have to share a lot things about Bali. From my experience before ( leaving Bali without do anything ) then just informed by our taxi driver on my return way to the Airport that there is a lot of such things we can do in Bali. Ooohh damm…regret to realize that i have to wait for my next journey on 2014.

        1. Lash WorldTour says:

          Hey Mohhamad,

          OOpps! Yeah, too bad you found this article AFTER your trip to Bali!
          Well, in 2014 you’ll certainly have lots to do!
          cheers, Lash

  8. Rosa says:

    I write to ask for your advice and suggestions with regards to travelling in Bali. I am an 18 year old female and am taking a gap year before I go to university. I plan to do some voluntary work with FNPF on the island of Nusa Penida. After doing this I would like to extend my trip and stay in Bali to do some exploring. I will be travelling alone and would not be hiring a vehicle of any sort and wondered if you could suggest how long to stay in Bali for – at least, where would be suitable to stay (area and accommodation-wise at a reasonable price) for a lone traveller, and how to stay safe.

    1. Lash WorldTour says:

      Hi Rosa,

      Ok, congratulations on your upcoming trip! Great!

      Don’t worry about your safety there as a lone female traveler. Bali is very safe. No problems.

      the only thing I’d warn you about are the Bali ‘gigalos’ They usually hand out on the main beaches and do a lot of girl hunting. They’re not dangerous in terms of theft, rape or your personal safety. If you would like to just have a fling (if you’re even intereested) that could be ok and fun. BUT dont’ get sereiously invovled with any Bali boys! Almost ALL of them are married. But they won’t tell you taht. And there friends wont’ tell you either. Many of them also have 2 – 3 western and/or Japanese girlfriends who come visit them yearly. None of the girlfriends know about the other ones. Basically, don’t take those Bali guys seriously. And know you wont’ be their only GF. If you meet a guy you really like, you won’t believe my advice. YOu’ll think, “No, not HIM”. I’m telling you, YES, HIM, too! SEriously. I’ve seen sooooo many girls tricked.

      In terms of where to stay without a vehicle, I recommend Sanur, Ubud and Amed. I”ve written many posts about these places, so feel free to read through them. Another post I recommend you read is ’10 Cautions and Tips about Visiting Bali’. :))

      Hope that helps! Feel free to ask me more Qs. cheers, Lash

  9. josieleen najarro says:

    i plan to visit bali june2015, ist timer only with my daughther, any suggestion ,thanks

    1. Lash WorldTour says:

      Hi Josieleen,

      Welcome!

      Great, you’re going to BAli! It’s wonderful there.

      I have written over 60 posts about Bali on this site. Please feel free to read through them for all my suggestions and tips.

      After that, if you have any specific questions, get back to me. Please ask specific questions though. “Any suggestions” is really vague. :))

      Thanks for stopping by. Enjoy reading my other posts and have a great trip to Bali!

      cheers, Lash

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