15 things to do in Ubud for the budget traveller
1. If you don’t rent a scooter, it can be difficult to get around
Public transport on an island is commonly known to be unreliable to practically non existing. The same is true for Bali. Renting a scooter is the best way to explore the island in full depth, choosing your destinations independently and being flexible.
For those who are afraid to drive a scooter, as the traffic can be scary and dangerous if you don’t have driving experience or your driving skills got a bit rusty, there are quite some options to get a ride.
For those who want to make this trip an adventure, renting a scooter is the best way to get started. Read here about the advantages of a scooter on Bali’s streets.
50,000 rupiah per day is the standard price so always keep this in mind when searching for a scooter rental place. Every price above shouldn’t be accepted by you. Bargaining is very common in Bali and often ends in meeting halfway. Especially if you’re renting the scooter for a full week or a full month, try to agree on a discount. We rented a scooter for one month and got a discount, so that the daily rental price went down to less than 40,000 rupiah.
Once you have a scooter, get a local SIM card with data. You’ll need it for Google Maps to not get lost. Try to adapt to the traffic (drive on the left) and avoid getting stuck by zigzagging past the cars and squeezing through little spaces.
2. Not only Tegallalang has nice rice fields, look beyond
Ubud is famous for its widespread rice fields, creating a peaceful and rural atmosphere.
As soon as you leave the center, you’ll pass mile long rice fields. There is one thing that bothers me as hell when it comes to finding worth seeing rice fields.
There is only one rice field in Tegallalang that is praised to the skies. Every guide and travel blog I read so far, kept on idealizing this rice field as if there is no other rice field. Come on guys, the whole island is a huge rice field! Why does it then always have to be Tegallalang? Why continuing this cult and paying tremendous entrance fees, if there are plenty of rice fields all over the island?
And guess what? Some of them are hidden and maybe some of them are not even explored. Is that not what we seek for when we travel? Uniqueness. Secrets. Magic.
While driving outside of Ubud, we came across a bunch of rice fields. Some of them were simple. Some were built on levels. Some were more spectacular than others. But is that not how life is? Sometimes it’s simple. Sometimes complicated. On some days more beautiful than on other days. That’s how it is and it’s good as it is.
So why all invade the same rice field when we are surrounded by diversity? Tell me, which rice fields have you spotted?
3. Drive into the side streets and don’t stop if the condition of the road looks bad
The first time visiting Ubud, we were accompanied by our couchsurfing host, what was useful, as he introduced us to places we think are off the beaten path.
You know those hidden places that are tricky to find and once you found them, you can’t believe that this gemstone is located in such an area. Where the roads are so bumpy and halfway destroyed, that you’ll be afraid the scooter’s tire will blow at any moment.
The location of the restaurant Kiss Me Ketut, that gained fame through the movie “Eat, Pray, Love” is such a gemstone.
How to get there?
As expected when it comes to hidden places, it’s difficult to explain the way to go there. What words can’t do, a map most often can. Below you’ll find the destination on the map. When you follow Monkey Forest road to the end, Ubud Palace is right in front of you. Take a left turn and follow the main road, Jalan Raya, for about 500 meters.
If you’re driving down the part of the street that is overgrown with trees and hanging lianas, you went too far. On the right side there is a ramp, hard to see. The road has tons of cracks and bumps. Be careful and drive slowly. Go up and follow the path behind a wall that looks like a narrow footpath.
Don’t worry; there is space to stop when scooters from the other side want to pass.
The path leads right through rice fields with galleries, arts stalls as well as many warungs and organic restaurants on the way. At the end of the road there is also an organic farm.
It’s 15 minutes to walk from the main road. Have a look on the map.
The best time to come here is in the early evening, just before the sunset. Grab a fresh juice and enjoy the colorful sunset over the rice fields.
4. Visit the monkeys of Monkey Forest every day for free
Ubud and Monkey Forest belong together. The Monkey Forest is Ubud’s main attraction, where you can see the majority of the monkeys.
Be aware that those sweet creatures are not always welcoming towards the visitors, as it might appear at first glance. Most often they’re little thieves, suddenly grabbing your bag if you don’t pay attention or if they see you eating or drinking.
Therefore, never eat or drink if you’re close to monkeys. Also watch your stuff and keep it safe in case a monkey attacks and tries to snatch it away from you.
To enter Monkey Forest, you have to pay 20,000 rupiah. If you’re in Ubud for the first time, it’s okay to visit Monkey Forest. For all those who have already been to Monkey Forest and intend to stay longer in Ubud, it’s not worth to pay the entrance every time just to see some monkeys doing funny things.
There is a secret access at the end of Monkey Forest. Follow the motorbike path by the gate. It leads into Nyuh Kuning street.
Along the way, there are woodcarving workshops and souvenir shops. The street ends at the backyard of Monkey Forest. Behind a fence you can see parts of Monkey Forest. Some monkeys climb over the fence or sit on it. Observe the monkeys jumping around, stealing fruit from the locals or just playing with each other. Especially the youngest are very sweet and entertaining.
5. Eat cheap and healthy Vegetarian or Vegan at 9 Angels Warung
The 9 Angels Warung is not a traditional place to eat. Already when you pass the entrance, you’ll find yourself in a magical garden. The indoor area is open with a lot of space. Every day a buffet is served consisting of vegetarian and vegan food. It’s not cold and raw, as one might assume. Candles under the plates keep the meals warm. In the morning the food is warmer than in the late hours, but apart from that, everything is fresh and delicious.
There isn’t any staff to serve you. You can pick the food you want and help yourself. Afterwards, you’ll have to clean your own dishes and leave money in one of the jars placed on the tables. The prices for each dish, for example a plate of rice, vegetables, tofu or tempeh is indicated on a price list.
9 Angels Warung is a cheap place for vegans and vegetarians who are sick of eating in overpriced restaurants. Furthermore, you can find much more different dishes and it is a good opportunity to try different dishes as they’re much cheaper than anywhere else.
Feel free to feel at home but be responsible. Clean your used dishes. After the meal, you can relax in the outdoor area with a cup of kopi or a home-made tea.
6. Get inspired by the creative atmosphere at 9 Angels Warung and read books for free
9 Angels Warung is not only an alternative restaurant, it is much more than that. Cooking classes, dance courses and other activities take place here regularly.
If you just search for a quiet place where you can relax, read or write, the 9 Angels Warung is the place to be. Surrounded by plenty of colorful paintings, self-made sculptures and room decoration, there is no way to not get inspired.
In the back there are book shelves with a load of English and international books. Most of the books deal with spiritual and ethical topics. However you’ll also find cookbooks for vegan recipes or herbal teas. All books are donated and shared with the community. If you want to get rid of some books to make your luggage lighter, you can donate them too. Apart from books, every donation in any way is appreciated.
On a banner names of people are written down, who donated their artworks, dishes, books and clothes.
The 9 Angels Warung is the best example of how alternative culture and lifestyle is lived in Bali. The people you meet here are gentle and appreciate the effort of the volunteers, preparing a healthy and affordable meal every day.
7. Buy your own tea and get your daily load of herbs
Ginger, Lemon, Mangosteen, Turmeric. Tea is drunk by the locals and travelers alike all day long. Once you’re in Ubud, you’ll notice pretty quick that this place is surrounded by a special atmosphere that is different from any other city in Bali.
Ubud is the capital of culture, arts and also yoga. A lot of people come here to do yoga as if offers the best circumstances to do so. Apart from the physiological workout, food for the soul plays an important role. A lot of people swear on traditional Asian teas as a complement to their yoga retreat. Prices for tea in restaurants reach between 5,000 and 10,000 rupiah, depending on what kind of tea and in which place you want to take it.
A cheap alternative is to buy tea in local supermarkets. In Bintang supermarket you can find a choice of several Balinese teas. Try some Jahé Wangi, a traditional Indonesian health drink.
8. Visit the market and get a splash of color
There is no better way to approach a new culture than to explore their markets. If you support a local, you won’t only feel good, you’ll also have a great memory of your stay.
As expected haggling is the rule, as the vendors sometimes start with doubled prices. To meet halfway is the usual case.
A market is like a colorful splash in the midst of the city. Walk through the mass of stalls selling sarongs, paintings, souvenirs and decoration. How about a bracelet that reminds you of your stay in Ubud?
9. Explore Gunung Lembah temple, the birthplace of Ubud
Every city has kind of a birth story. So does Ubud.
In the 8th century, a Javanese priest came across a mountain valley, where two branches of a river met. The whole valley was surrounded by plants with healing herbs. The priest used the herbs to make medicine.
He was sure that this was a healing place and therefore named it “Ubad” which means medicine. He built a temple, Gunung Lebah in the mountain valley located in Campuhan and declared it a holy place. Until today pilgrims come to Ubud to seek for meditation and spirituality.
Take the stairs down from the bridge on the main road. Walk around the temple surroundings and enjoy the greenness of the river valley.
10. Take a swim in a hotel pool for free
Ubud Inn, a bungalow resort, has a garden that is open to visitors. You can enter it from the main road. The garden looks neatly wild, with a fountain and a nice swimming pool.
The pool was never in use when we visited. What a pity, we thought and decided to change that.
We took a dip in this empty pool surrounded by a beautiful nature. Even if you’re afraid to swim because staff is walking around, just to stroll through this quiet garden can be a relief from all the noise and traffic outside.
11. Read some inspiring quotes on Kajeng road
If you don’t feel good or need some inspiration, a walk on Kajeng road can be a good advice. Local restaurants, hotels, companies, as well as tourists immortalized their names on the stone floor. Some of them added some quotes or drawings.
It’s interesting to read what people have to tell. Sometimes you can pass some wise words. We also caught some thoughtful quotes by wandering around.
12. Walk through the lotus ponds of temple Pura Taman Saraswati
Saraswati temple is hidden in a side street between Starbucks and Cafe Lotus. Already from far away, you can see the purple lotus flowers floating on the surface of the big ponds. The ponds are arranged left and right of the path which leads to the temple.
Saraswati is the goddess of arts and learning.
In the evening Balinese dance performances are held in front of the temple. In the late afternoon you can maybe see a rehearsal for free.
13. Watch the return of the mysterious birds of Petulu
If you’re looking for an activity in the early evening, apart from gazing sunsets, then head to Petulu village, just North of Ubud.
Follow the road to Tegallalang and watch out for a billboard in a side street indicating the bird village.
Since 2015 you have to pay entrance (a hefty 20,000 rupiah per person). We accomplished to haggle the price down to the half.
Once you enter the village, you might wonder what exactly is going on here as nothing strange happens. Walk a few meters and you’ll be surprised. Trees full of white birds with yellow heads come your way. The overwhelming gobbling makes it hard to hear any other noise.
Welcome to the home of herons (Kokokan). Every evening, in the time of sunset, herons from all over the island head to Petulu to stay there over night.
You can see, hear and, in the worst case, feel bird shit falling everywhere. Put on a rain coat or take an umbrella for protection.
The legend of these herons, of which the locals believe they’re sacred, can be fascinating and spooky at the same time.
In the mid-60s members of the Communist party were mass murdered. Often bodies remained lost so that no cremation ceremony could be held for the dead Hindus. One little village hold a ceremony to cleanse the village from the evil energies deriving from the massacre.
One week later the incredible happened. Swarms of herons were seen in Petulu for the first time and since then the herons returned here every night. The villagers believe that the souls were taken by the herons and returned to the peaceful town. The birds are not seen as a plague, despite the dirt and noise they’re making, but rather as sacred animals.
Be in time for the heron spectacle. The show starts around 6 PM (sunset).
14. Drink a fresh juice every day and try fruits you never tried before
Fresh juices made out from fruits like avocado, mango, papaya, soursop, tamarind, coconut, guava or melon are sold in almost every restaurant and warung.
The prices vary between 10,000 and 15,000 rupiah. These energy juices go along well with a meal. Get your daily load of vitamins just by drinking a juice every day.
Try different kinds, especially those you only find in Indonesia like soursop (sirsak) or tamarind (asam).
15. Visit a free waterfall and swing on a natural swing
Although the majority of the waterfalls around Bali are turned into a profit machine – local supervisors charging entrance fees – there are still some that can be accessed for free.
One of them is Air Terjun Pengempu waterfall located close to Ubud, in the area of Tabanan. The falling water streams into a pool with some spots deep enough to swim in. The highlight of local and foreign visitors is a liana, hanging down from a tree, which is used as a natural swing. It’s great to watch Indonesian kids doing acrobatics on it.