Visiting the Cultural Hub of Bali: A Guide to Travelling in Ubud
Thought to be the cultural hub of Bali, Ubud is home to outdoor adventure, amazing Balinese cuisine and accommodation for every budget.
In the centre of Northern Bali sits a hidden gem called Ubud. Not everyone takes the time to visit this area of Bali and after spending four days there, I couldn’t imagine why. No, it’s not on the water, but it is a very culturally dense area that boasts both lush forest and captivating scenery. And of course, you can’t forget the food. You could travel all the way to Ubud solely for the food and leave a happy traveller.
There are a couple of hostels in Ubud that may be worth checking out. I was with three friends whilst there, so we decided to stay in a homestay with a pool near the main road, Monkey Forest Road. You can snatch up a fairly nice place for roughly $12-15 CAD a night per person. If you’re like me and you crave a way to cool off at the end of the day, look for a homestay with a pool.
The homestay we chose was called Ayu Bungalow 2. Despite a couple of small flaws, I really enjoyed our stay here and would recommend it to other backpackers solely because of the pool, fantastic location, friendly staff, comfortable bed, and cleanliness (tip: ask for a room upstairs).
Walking vs. hiring a motorbike:
The centre of Ubud is very walkable, so I would say that unless you’re not keen on walking a couple of hours a day to explore, I would not hire a motorbike. The roads are a bit crazier than Uluwatu and Nusa Lembongan. In other words, if you’re not experienced on a bike, it’s best to stick to walking. That way, you can also stop to see more as you explore.
Visit Ubud’s Monkey Forest:
On the one hand, there’s Monkey Forest Road, the main street in Ubud, but believe it or not, there’s actually an entire forest filled with 650 monkeys too. Yep, they’re everywhere. You have to pay 30,000 IDR to get in, but Monkey Forest is a must visit for any first time visitor to the area.
Meander through the forest for an hour or two and watch the monkeys interact with one another. There are stands located throughout the park where you can buy bananas to feed the monkeys, but this can be a bit of a risk. Sometimes they’re friendly, and other times they’re anything but. I have talked to a few people that have been bitten in Monkey Forest trying to feed a monkey, so it’s up to you if it’s worth it (in other words, if you didn’t come to Bali with a rabies shot, you might want to leave the banana feeding to someone else).
Attend a Yoga Class:
There are many many yoga studios in Ubud, so it’s hard to go wrong. I’ve heard good things about Seeds of Life (190k IDR/class), Yoga Barn (130k IDR/class) and Radiantly Alive (125k IDR). Keep in mind these prices aren’t cheap relative to other travelling costs in Ubud, but that’s because Yoga in Bali is usually catered to westerners.
Eat copious amounts of vegan food:
Surprisingly, Ubud is very vegan and vegetarian friendly. Most menus will have separate sections on their menu for vegetarian food and even vegan food. Try: Atman Cafe, Alchemy Cafe, Clear Cafe, Fussy Bird, Pachamama Mexican, Fussy Bird, or Dayu’s Warung. I didn’t manage to get to all of these spots, but I’ve heard through word of mouth that they’re all delicious. Keep in mind, if you want cheaper options, these restaurants/warungs may be out of your budget.
Dine out for cheap at smaller (yet equally as delicious) restaurants:
If you’re on a budget like we were, eat at: Dewa’s Warung, Nessa Warung, or Run’s Warung. All of these spots are great and have good food at very cheap prices (18k-25k IDR for a meal). They may look more hole-in-the-wall-ish but that’s the fun in trying local Indonesian food; it shouldn’t matter how fancy the restaurant looks, so long as the food is delicious.
Take a day trip to the Tegallalang Rice Terraces:
If you’ve seen photos of Ubud, you’ve most likely seen photos of the infamous rice terraces. Unlike some tourist attractions, they are just as amazing as they look in pictures. Our driver dropped us off at a parking lot across from the entrance and we were charged an “entrance fee” of 10k IDR. To this day, I’m still not convinced that you need a ticket to enter the rice terraces, since no one asked us for one once we entered. Not surprisingly, we were also stopped at a few gates along our trek to pay a donation to get through.
Bring your camera and water because you’ll be walking up and down steps to get to the best views at the top.
Spend the afternoon or morning at the Campuhan Ridge Walk:
This walk can be completed as a round trip from the centre of Ubud, or, alternatively, you can take a taxi to the far end of the walk and make your way back to Ubud downhill. The start of the walk is roughly 2km from Ubud and begins on a paved road, eventually turning into a fairly narrow ridge with views the entire way.
Fine tune your bartering skills at the Ubud Markets:
These indoor/outdoor markets offer an impressive variety of souvenirs, trendy clothing, jewelry etc. The catch? Just like every other budget market, the vendors will do everything in their power to try and rip you off because they know that you’re a tourist. Don’t be afraid to be ruthless; they’re experts at making you pay way more than what you should and will still end up with the better deal at the end of the day.
Tip: Never ask, “how much?” Asking how much will only cause you to barter down from the highest most ridiculous price ever. Instead, start by offering a very low price first and keep in mind your ideal “best price”. Work your way up to the middle somewhere, but remember that they will try to make you feel guilty for offering your “best price”.
Walk away and try someone else if they won’t budge. If you’re successful you will never pay more than 40k IDR for anything in that market (yes, even that Bintang shirt you’ve been dying to buy. If you’re good at bartering they should sell it to you for 30k or 35k.