How to Live in Paradise for $18 a Night – Nusa Lembongan

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.

Dream Beach
Beach huts overlooking Dream Beach. Hotels rooms tend to be pricier in this corner of Nusa Lembongan.

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.

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The road leading to Dodol hotel.

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.

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A million dollar mansion perched on the cliff near Sandy Bay, on the western edge of Lembongan.

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.

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The dirt pathway leading to Dodol hotel contributes to the rustic and charming setting.

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?

Wrong!

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.

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The view from our infinity pool. On a clear day you can see mainland Bali in the distance.
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This is what an $18 a night hotel looks like.
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The infinity pool overlooks the stunning ocean.

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?

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.

11 thoughts on “How to Live in Paradise for $18 a Night – Nusa Lembongan

  1. This place looks absolutely stunning! I’m dying to go to Indonesia and Bali, it’s great to know that there are reasonably priced options out there. I know I’ve always thought of it as being way out of my current price range, but who knows, I may have to book a trip!

    1. It is pretty amazing. My budget was a maximum of $40 a day and it was so easy to make that budget work. In fact, I usually came in way under budget. And the beautiful thing is that you get to stay in amazing places like this … not some grungy hotel or hostel. Plus, food, transportation, etc. is all relatively cheap. So it’s a pretty amazing place for travelers who are on a budget that’s tighter than mine was. I really do love Southeast Asia for this reason 🙂 You should definitely book a trip!

    1. You should definitely look into staying at this hotel … or any hotel near here. The location was unbeatable. It just felt like we were in our own private paradise. If you have any other questions about Lembongan that I haven’t covered feel free to let me know!

  2. Sounds fabulous! We once stayed in an $18/night bungalow on the beach, but this looks WAY nicer. We found most of Bali to be quite affordable too. It was actually pretty perfect because we could find cheap or fancy depending on our mood, for both accommodations and food.

    1. I think you can do Bali on any type of budget. And the best part is you can find great values. Kuta can be especially cheap. We found a large, clean room with a great balcony and a pool for $10! It was fan-cooled but still an amazing value! And there is definitely great food (Western and Indonesian) at pretty much every price range.

  3. In which months were you in Bali? I’m trying to figure out when would be a good time to go… and in this little secret hotel you found, you needed transportation in order to go back to town for food? (i.e. no restaurant or cooking facilities? did you have a fridge, coffee pot, microwave at all) Your posts are the first thing I’ve ever looked at as I’m thinking about my potential visit to Bali next year… so I’ll be looking to you for your best advice and tips. Feel free to PM me. Thank you!

    1. I went to Bali during the off season and I was there from February to March, the rainiest months of the year. A lot of people don’t travel to Indonesia during these months but, honestly, I would have even known that it was the rainy season had I not read about it. Yes, it rained some days, but mostly in the afternoons for an hour or two. But that’s a reality of the tropics no matter where you are. Another perk of the low season is that prices are generally lower and there aren’t as many tourists, which is nice since Bali is very touristy. In my opinion, any time of the year is perfectly fine to travel to Bali.

      That particular hotel was a little bit out of town. It probably would have taken about 20 minutes to walk to the beach and the restaurants. We rented a motorbike but if that’s not something you’re comfortable with a bicycle would have been super easy. That hotel didn’t have any cooking facilities but there are TONS of hotels on Lembongan and I feel confident you can find something with the amenities you’re looking for at whatever price range you working with.

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