Here’s our roundup of the best things you can see and enjoy in Bali for free, without needing to spend even a dollar. After all, who doesn’t like keeping the budget down while on holiday? In compiling this list, we wanted to include not only the obvious free attractions and activities on the island, but also the odd and unusual that you might’ve not even heard about before.

    Bali’s affordability is one of the factors that make it a favourite holidaying destination. Getting around might require you to shed just a bit off your travel money, but trips spanning popular beaches to scenic hills and valleys provide great value for budget travellers, as the discoveries on each journey end don’t cost you any extra.

    Bali owes part of its fame to its collection of beaches, mostly public and easily accessible. The popular ones, such as Tuban, Kuta, Sanur and Nusa Dua have additional footpaths that allow for leisure walks at any time of the day, especially sunrise and sunset. The cliff-fringed beaches of the southern limestone Bukit peninsula require much more effort to get to, with stone pathways and crags, but with scenic views and quieter scenes.

    Kuta Beach is more urbane, with modern malls the likes of Kuta Beachwalk on its northern half and Discovery Shopping Mall on its south – both freely accessible from the beachside and great for window shopping after a day out on the sand.

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    While in Bali, surf to your heart’s content. Surf spots abound, and range from sand breaks to challenging (barrelling) reef breaks – there’s a fair share of beginners and pros around. Surfers from across the globe bring their own boards and head to these favourite spots as soon as they get out of Ngurah Rai Airport. You can enjoy the underwater wonders of Bali’s colourful coral gardens by snorkelling for free, too.

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    If you’re the adventurous type, Bali’s mountains are free to climb but the more gruelling ones such as Mount Agung and Batukaru, 2 of the island’s highest, usually require an acknowledgement or permit from the local village community organisation or the forestry department (for safety issues).

    No extra charges, however. Some lower mountains offer ‘modest’ climbs, such as Mount Lempuyang in Karangasem, East Bali, with its lush forests, hordes of timid grey macaques, and the prized discovery of an ancient temple named after the mountain at its peak.

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    Walk the Campuhan ridge

    As one of the best attractions in Ubud, the Campuhan ridge is free to access. It’s also a relatively easy nature trek, with a well-beaten trail that leads you into the vast and green valley expanses of this highland area.

    While the hike lets you enjoy cool and fresh air and probably the most gorgeous hillside vista in the region, it also allows you to shed off some calories too with its 9-km hill trek. Some consider it a must-see while in Ubud, just to escape the urban and traffic scenes of town and discover a more pristine side of Bali.


    photo by Jnzl's Photos (CC BY 2.0) modified


    Witness the creation of a masterpiece

    Make your stop at any of Bali’s major art markets where you can find stall after stall of crafts and curios of different shapes and sizes. A visit to any of Bali’s artistic villages and communities of craftsmen, such as the Pakudui village in Tegallalang, or the gold and silversmith communities of Celuk and Mas, south of Ubud, can be an eye-opening experience.

    You can observe how woodcarvers shape intricate Garuda statues, or how silversmiths craft gemstones into their shiny and sophisticated jewellery pieces. Most workshops allow you to witness the process (in hopes that you buy something in the end… well, that’s all up to you).


    Learn about sea turtles at Kuta

    There are 2 major turtle conservation sites on the island that are free to visit, one of which happens to be in a convenient spot in Kuta Beach. The Bali Sea Turtle Society (BSTS) has a conservation centre right next to the Balawista lifeguard tower and the Headquarters Beach Club.

    It has a huge nursery in the shape of a sea turtle, which contains a sand bed with clusters of eggs rescued from contiguous nesting sites, to protect them from natural predators and human beach activities. Consider yourself lucky when they release hatchlings out to sea –  and you can freely participate!


    Experience the local traditions

    You’ll most likely encounter a Balinese Hindu procession during your visit, whether it's a funeral or temple ritual that has a whole village fleeting along roads from or to temples. Locals dress up in temple attire while carrying elaborately crafted heirlooms and towering fruit offerings on their heads.

    The idea of going to a funeral on holiday might sound strange, but, unlike the west, these are actually festive occasions where you get the chance to mingle with the locals and learn about village rituals. Wear a sarong and sash around the waist as standard respectful attire.


    Visit lively communal halls

    Each village in Bali has its sub-village community gathering hall where youths regularly practice performing arts, from traditional Balinese dances to gamelan orchestras. Outside visitors are usually welcome to drop in and watch. It’s a great alternative to those dance shows where you actually have to pay tickets!

    March usually coincides with the Saka New Year preparations, you can witness giant ogoh-ogoh effigies (used in street parades) being crafted by the villagers in these same halls.


    Test your nerves at a ‘ghost town’

    For a truly offbeat experience, head to Bali’s collection of weird sights. Some of them are free to access. These include a vast abandoned amusement park north of the Sanur Beach proper, a collection of ‘lost planes’ in some of the weirdest places, and several cave-like temples. Some are eerie and mysterious – great for the adventurous type looking for a dare.


    Most of Bali’s annual festivals are free to watch, particularly the Bali Arts Festival opening parades, which are a great opportunity to witness the arts and vibrant cultures of the island in a single street procession. Another is the annual Bali Kites Festival, which is held during the windy season – around June to August – following favourable weather conditions. The community of Sanur rejoices yearly with the Sanur Village Festival, a week of various agendas that are mostly free admission.

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    Ari Gunadi | Compulsive Traveller

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