A Frugalista’s Guide to Kuta, Bali

As I established in a previous post, Kuta Beach is not for everyone.  But if you’re traveling to Bali, chances are you’ll end up spending at least a night or two in this wild and crazy party town.  Some people might be put off by Kuta’s spring break-like atmosphere, but in my opinion it’s not the worst place to kill a couple of days.  Not only is Kuta set on a gorgeous five-kilometer stretch of beach, but for one of the most popular destinations in Southeast Asia, Kuta is incredibly budget friendly.  Don’t get me wrong, Bali is more expensive than other parts of Indonesia.  But luckily budget travelers and backpackers will find a plethora of inexpensive restaurants and budget hotels in Kuta.

A Backpacker’s Guide to Kuta, Bali…

Great Meals for Under $5:

Most travelers don’t go to Bali to gorge themselves on Western food.  But Kuta has some pretty amazing options for anyone who’s a little sick of eating nasi goreng (Indonesian fried rice) or soto ayam (chicken soup).  A simple stroll through town will reveal that Kuta is packed full of great little eateries where you can easily fill up for a few bucks.  Here are a few of my personal favorite budget restaurants in Kuta (and they’re vegetarian-friendly too!):

Mojo’s Flying Burritos

A Backpacker's Guide to Kuta, Bali - Travel Lush
The cheapest and best Mexican food in Bali – Mojo’s Flying Burritos!

I honestly can’t convey the pure joy I experienced when I came across this burrito joint during my first ever trip to Kuta earlier this year.  It’s so good I decided to go back there during my recent trip to Kuta.  No joke, I ate there every day I was in town – it was that good!  Mojo’s has all of your typical Mexican staples from heaping platefuls of nachos to overstuffed burritos to saucy enchiladas.  But the best part is that this modest little eatery does Mexican food really well.

The fresh guacamole is prepared authentically with cilantro and oregano (and it’s most definitely not made from powder like most places in Asia).  The salsa is homemade and it actually has some bite to it.  The refried and black beans are both excellent.  And the tortillas are on par with Mexican food places back in my hometown of San Diego, California.  I’m not saying it’s just like home – I mean they do use white rice instead of Spanish rice.  But Mojo’s has the best Mexican food I’ve ever tasted in all my years traveling in Southeast Asia, by a long shot.  Oh, did I mention it’s cheap?  Seriously, these amazing Tempeh Tacos only put me back $2.70 (32,000 rupiah).  With most menu items ranging from 30,000-50,000 rp, Mojo’s might just be the best deal in town!

Stakz Bar & Gill

I’ve only ever visited Stakz for breakfast, but believe me when I say that this place does breakfast right.  Meals are filling and they serve real coffee in big mugs (not always the case in Southeast Asia).  Options range from jaffles (34,000 rp) to eggs benedict (64,000 rp) to the enormous Stakz Hangover Cure (76,000 rp).  Because, let’s face it, everyone in Kuta is either drunk or hung over.  Because I’m a vegetarian I went for the Veggie Breakie which comes with eggs, sautéed veggies (spinach, mushrooms, and tomatoes) topped with pesto, sliced avocado, and hash browns – oh and coffee!  All this only cost $4 USD (48,000 rp).

Falafel House

A Backpacker's Guide to Kuta, Bali - Travel Lush

I was so happy that this place just happened to be located right across from my hotel.  I’m a huge falafel fan and since good falafel is hard to come by in Jakarta, there was no way I wasn’t going to try this place.  Falafel House is a vegetarian restaurant that specializes in falafel wraps, burgers, and Middle Eastern salads.  I tried the Lebanese Falafel Wrap (42,500 rp/$3.50 USD) which was stuffed with crispy falafel, fresh cucumber and tomato, tahini, and homemade hummus.  And though it was a little on the messy side, it was super good.  They also serve fresh juices – such as mango, pineapple, and avocado – and other healthy beverages.

Great Budget Hotels in Bali for Under $20 a Night:

Before I ever traveled to Bali, a lot of my backpacker friends warned me that there was no way I’d be able to afford traveling in Bali on a budget because “it’s just so expensive.”  I was worked into a tizzy as I made my way to Bali, fearing that I would be hemorrhaging money and forking out $40 or $50 on a decent hotel room.  Oh, how wrong I was.  Here are a few of my favorite budget hotels in Kuta:

The Pavilion*

A Backpacker's Guide to Kuta, Bali - Travel Lush

This lovely boutique hotel has become my go-to budget hotel in Kuta.  I’ve stayed here on a few different occasions and I still cannot believe what a bargain it is.  I typically only stay at the Pavilion on weekdays, when prices are cheaper.  And I always book through a discount booking site because they typically offer substantial discounts.  The walk-in rate is around $40-$55 (which is too pricey for me), but I’ve consistently been able to book the most expensive room for $18 through Agoda.com.

I stayed at the Pavilion during my recent trip to Kuta and I still can’t believe what an incredible value this hotel is.  I was spoiled with every creature comfort I could imagine as a budget traveler.  I had a king size bed, smart TV, mini fridge, coffee and tea making facilities, a huge balcony, and even a pool.  This place is a steal for $18 a night.  *(Note: The hotel added two more floors in 2015. I recently stayed in one of the new rooms at it was horrible. Definitely ask to be put in the old wing; those rooms are still spectacular!)

Tanaya Bed & Breakfast

A Backpacker's Guide to Kuta, Bali - Travel Lush

I paid $19 for this double room through Agoda.  Prices were slightly higher on Tanaya’s website.  When I pulled up to the hotel my heart sank when I realized the hotel was located right on the main drag of Jalan Legian, which is where most of Kuta’s noisy nightclubs are.  Even though this place was smack in the middle of everything, it was surprisingly quiet.  So it’s location ended up being a huge plus.  Tanaya’s only downside is that it doesn’t have a pool, so I’m not going to argue that it’s the best deal in town.  However, I was really impressed by the hotel’s customer service (I was given a free room upgrade upon arrival without asking) and the free breakfast was a definite perk!

Mekar Jaya

A Backpacker's Guide to Kuta, Bali - Travel Lush
For less than $15 a night Mekar Jaya is a super cheap and quality budget hotel in Kuta, Bali.

This first time I visited Kuta, I arrived in town at midnight and I made the mistake of not prebooking any accommodation.  It was one of those situations where I was faced with the prospect of either knocking on doors in the middle of the night or trusting my cabbie to take me to “his friend’s hotel.”  This is one of the only times I’ve handed the reins over to a taxi driver and things have actually worked out.  I paid 175,000 rupiah for a double room (this was the walk-in rate for two people).  The room was fan-cooled and pretty barebones but it was quiet, comfortable, and clean.  This place was such a good value, I extended my stay for three nights.  Not only was it located in the heart of town, but it had a great balcony and a pool.  Seriously, Mekar Jaya is a great deal for $15 USD a night for two people.  Air-conditioned bungalows were available for 300,000rp.  (Location: Jalan Benesari, kuta-Bali, Bali 80361, Indonesia – Phone: +62 361 754487)

Have you been to Bali?  Did you find it to be too expensive?  Do you have any other budget-friendly restaurants or hotels to add to this list?

About Justine

Justine Lopez is a California native who always seems to take the unconventional route in life. She also suffers from a serious case of wanderlust. In 2013, she set out on a yearlong round-the-world journey and never looked back. Since then she's lived the expat life in both Jakarta and Phnom Penh. She's now living and working as a freelance writer in Beijing. As she meanders her way through Asia she's always seeking out great vegetarian food, budget travel deals and amazing new travel destinations.

16 thoughts on “A Frugalista’s Guide to Kuta, Bali

  1. Great photos Justine! Those restaurants all look amazing! I was definitely surprised by how “expensive” Bali was, not western prices but still pricier than the rest of SE Asia. I was mainly comparing it to Thailand at the time so paying $5 for a meal instead of $1 was almost insulting! Haha
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    1. Thanks Leah! Bali is definitely expensive when you compare it to Thailand (and the rest of Indo). And it is so easy to spend tons of money there. When I was backpacking around Bali, I took major issue spending $5 on meals too! But, hey, I’d spend $3 on those tacos any day 😉 So good! Ha, it is true that I’ve had some of the best meals of my life at street stalls in Thailand and they only cost $1!

  2. Great review about Bali ! Btw, Bali is my favorite place to go every year and I never missed a chance to go there even once. For me, Bali are not expensive if you know the exact place to stay or to eat.
    Mia Ben recently posted…DECISION

    1. Thanks Mia :) I can see why people absolutely love Bali. It’s not my favorite place on the planet but there are some parts of it that I really enjoyed traveling to. I agree Bali doesn’t have to be expensive. If you ask me, it’s possible to live and eat well in Bali on any budget.

  3. That food looks amazing!! You must’ve been in heaven! 😀

    We’ve never made it to Kuta (the whole spring break atmosphere thing…), but overall we found Bali Ubud and surrounding) to be quite affordable. We rented the whole floor of a private house with pool for just about $40, a scooter for $5 per day, and we were able to find amazing, healthy food and good coffee everywhere for very good prices. And don’t forget about the massages!!! I swear Bali has the best massages in the world, for the best prices… about the same price as Thailand, except you get to experience it in a stunning spa environment, instead of in a roomful of chattering masseuses and hungover tourists!! 😉
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    1. Oh my god, I really was in heaven. Falafel and Mexican food are two of my favorites :) The place you rented in Ubud sounds incredible!! I found accommodation in Ubud to be pretty affordable too and the value there is really amazing. I stayed at a place for $15 and it was pretty bad. But after searching online I realized if I would have been willing to spend $30-$40, some of the places looked absolutely incredible – super nice, with amazing pools, views of rice paddies, etc. Your dollar goes a long way in Bali, especially when it comes to accommodation. Ha, you’re going to kill me but I’ve never had a massage in either Thailand or Indonesia! I had a bad massage experience in Mexico once (nothing crazy or anything) and now getting massages freaks me out. But everyone keeps telling me how great they are in Bali. Maybe it’s time to get over it and just go get one 😉

  4. Wow! Such lovely places to eat and stay! Bali is one of the most sought after honeymoon destinations. At least, I have heard a lot of people from India heading there for a beachy vacation. But I am not sure if they know about such lovely budget options. I think the simple to saving money and enjoying more is to research and ask other travelers about cheap accommodation options. Thanks for this info!
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    1. Kuta is a little rough around the edges but there are some really cool boutique hotels and great eateries there! I’ve heard that a lot of people honeymoon there. I actually saw quite a few wedding photoshoots while I was there :) But, yes, it’s totally possible to live in style on any budget in Kuta (and Bali in general)!

    1. The prices are decent! I mean, yes, Bali is more expensive than other place in Indonesia and Southeast Asia. But I was still (very easily) able to stick to my $40-a-day budget while I was traveling. And I could have probably done it for half that and still lived fairly comfortably! Ha, I went crazy for the Western-oriented restaurants this time around. I guess now that I’m an expat I am dying for things like Mexican food and falafel. And Bali has a killer selection of restaurants!

    1. I totally agree that it’s a fine place to spend a few days. Like you, I was traveling long term when I first visited. I wanted to see it for myself, and I enjoyed my time there. But I suppose if I’d had limited time in Bali I would just skipped Kuta. Now that I’ve been living in Indonesia for almost 4 months I’m all about eating western food (if it’s good!). Bali actually has some pretty great options! Finding decent Mexican food in Asia is a rarity 😉

  5. I’ve never been to Bali and I don’t know what is available or not food wise, but the look of that Lebanese falafel wrap is pretty good which means that the falafel house would probably be where I’d go most days, I don’t need much to make my tummy and myself happy :)
    Franca recently posted…How Travel Made Me More Minimal

    1. I love falafel. It’s one of the many foods I miss from the US (we have some great falafel places in California!). The Falafel House just opened a few months ago. I would have never even known it was there if my hotel hadn’t been right across the street. I was so excited when I saw it. I actually didn’t realize it was pure-vegetarian until I did a little more research on it. It’s definitely a great addition to Kuta :)

    1. Thanks! The tacos were so good. I only wish that place was located next door to my apartment in Jakarta! I hope you get to return to Bali soon. I would be so interested in hearing your account of how it’s changed. I imagine it’s pretty different!

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