When most budget travelers think of Bali, the first thing that pops into their mind is, “It’s too expensive!” As a long-term, frugal-minded traveler I came close to skipping Bali altogether during my two-month trip to Indonesia. Guidebooks and friends alike warned me that this world-famous island would be way too pricy for my $40-a-day budget. However, during the three weeks I spent traveling around Bali, I managed not only to live it up but to also stay on budget. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying that Bali isn’t more expensive than, well, every other place in Indonesia – because it definitely can be. Nightly rates run the gamut, ranging from $10 fan-cooled rooms to $1,000 luxury villas. But in my experience, there are great accommodation deals to be found throughout Bali.
During my time in Indonesia, the best value hotel I found was located on the Balinese island paradise of Nusa Lembongan. Nusa Lembongan is a tiny island located a 30-minute boat ride away from the southeast corner of mainland Bali. The first night my boyfriend and I spent on the island was our anniversary. In celebration, we decided to spoil ourselves with a $42 per night beach hut with a view of the glorious Dream Beach. But, as any experienced traveler knows, sometimes even the nicest of hotel rooms can turn out to be a disaster. After our nightmarish first night on Lembongan we knew we had to change hotels.
While we absolutely loved staying near Dream Beach, the beach huts on this corner of the island were double the cost of those in Mushroom Bay and the village of Jungutbatu, the two backpacker hubs of Nusa Lembongan. So that morning we hopped onto our motorbike and set out to explore what Lembongan had to offer. We had no real plan so we ventured off the beaten path, down a random road. As we followed the sharp twists and turns, the road became narrower and the jungle closed in around us. The potholes became larger and more ubiquitous. We bobbed along the rough road, turned on a whim, until, finally, we exited the shadowy jungle and ran into another alluring edge of the island.
There were a couple million dollar mansions standing majestically on the cliffs, while down the way there were a few modest beach huts sprinkled along the coastline. We couldn’t help but think, “If we could build a home anywhere, it would be here.” We stood on the edge of the bluff, looking at the ocean as mainland Bali stared back at us from the horizon. It was perfect.
There were no hotels on this corner of the island that we could afford, so we jumped back on the bike. After about a kilometer, we happened upon a paper sign nailed to a wooden pole which simply read “Dodol” with an arrow pointing down a “road.” It piqued our interest not only because of the location, but because there was no actual paved road to the hotel. It was more like a dirt pathway carved into the jungle.
We steered our bike onto the road. Bushes thwacked our legs as we tried our best to stay on the foot-wide pathway. We cut through an expansive field, following the path until it dead ended into a rusty iron gate. We peered over the gate but there was not a soul around. The gate squeaked as we opened it and entered one of the most stunning properties I’ve seen. There were Balinese cabanas sitting next to an infinity pool, which was perched on the bluff overlooking the ocean. Toward the back of the property there was a row of six hotel rooms. We walked around to inquire about the price. But aside from the sound of the waves hitting the cliffs, the place was silent. We thought that either the hotel was deserted or it was way too expensive for our budget. Either way, there was no way we were going to be able to stay there, right?
When I looked the hotel up online I found that it was only 250,000 rupiah ($21.67 USD) per night. However, on Agoda the room was available for only $18 a night. We booked it immediately. The room was nothing fancy, but it was clean with AC, free breakfast, a great terrace and, of course, an infinity pool right on the cliff – all for the bargain price of $9 per person per night. That’s less than half of what we paid to stay near Dream Beach.
The hotel is located a two-kilometer drive from Mushroom Bay, on the western side of the island near Sandy Bay. We ended up staying at this hotel for the remainder of our stay on Lembongan. It’s isolated and quiet, and it was the perfect place to spend the rest of our anniversary week. We were the only guests at the hotel for the majority of our stay which meant we had the run of the place. We just lounged around our pool, worked on our tans, and enjoyed the sunset every evening from the cabana. When we got hungry we rode our motorbike into town. And at night we looked up at the stars, because you can actually see the stars from this rural little island. We felt like we were in our own private paradise.
Sometimes it takes a little effort to find the best deal in town. But it’s almost always worth the effort to find the perfect place. I’ll never forget our time at this gem of a hotel. Here are a few tips on how you can find the perfect, budget-friendly hotel:
- Walk around and inquire about rooms you come across – Some of the best hotels do not have websites. Plus, even if you don’t think you can afford a certain room, it never hurts to ask.
- Travel with someone else – If I were a solo traveler I would be spending $5-$20 on a dorm bed. However, traveling with someone allows me to stay in a private double room (with a private bathroom and AC) for roughly the same cost.
- Travel during the low season – Don’t be scared off by the rainy season. The weather in Southeast Asia is nice year round and hotel rates plummet during the low season.
- Stay longer – Some hotels will give discounts the longer you stay. If you plan to stay for a few days, ask for a discount. You never know!
- Don’t be afraid to follow “touts” – I typically would never recommend this but, believe it or not, some of the best and cheapest rooms I stayed in Indonesia were places I was taken to by touts. Plus, you always have the ability to walk away if you don’t like what you see.
Note: This is in no way an advertisement for Dodol Lembongan Cliff Sunset Homestay. It’s just one traveler’s experience finding a great hotel and sharing my knowledge with you!
I’m a firm believer that a hotel room can make or break a vacation. Have you ever stumbled upon the perfect budget-friendly hotel during your travels? How did it impact your trip?