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Travel Guide to Ubud, Bali

I'm currently in the front room of my villa in Ubud, Bali and can't help but smile as I type this and think, "wow, I can't believe this place was only $25 a night." There's a lion head fountain spitting water into a semi-private pool and there's two fantastic coworking spaces in town. It seems that everyone I know is living in Ubud and not Canggu and I'm here to find out why as it's over an hour's drive to the beach. Right away I can feel the energy of Ubud and the vibe of it's mostly western residents.

It really does feel like the Chiang Mai of Bali in more ways than one. Right away I can tell Ubud is less "cool kid crowd" than Canggu and the coworking spaces are a lot more welcoming. The yoga is better, there are more restaurants and cafes to both eat and work out of, and there's just something magical about the place that's hard to explain. It took me almost a week to figure out what that magic was, but I think it has to do with the vibe of people Ubud attracts. Without a beach close by, there's no real reason to come up to Ubud, similar to Chiang Mai in Thailand. That being said, the people that do end up coming really want to be here and have made the voyage by following their heart.






How to get to Ubud




Coming from Canggu, we were lucky enough to have gotten an Uber. I made sure to start ordering one an hour before I actually wanted to leave knowing that 2 or 3 would cancel on me before getting a successful pick up, and that's exactly how it played out. Luckily, with a bit of preplanning, I was able to get an amazing price of only 100,500 idr ($7.50US) for the 1 hour journey. I asked my driver is that rate was fair for him and if it was worth his time and gas and he assured me it was, making me feel that the taxi mafia really is screwing people over at charging 350,000 for the same ride. On the way back our hotel offered us a ride for 250,000 which is probably the maximum you should ever pay for the 18 mile drive (30km) even though it usually takes a bit over an hour.

If Uber doesn't work for you, try using other apps like Grab Taxi or even Go-Jek Car which are local versions. On the way back to Canggu our Grab driver asked us to cancel the order and pay him 170,000 in cash which we accepted as anything was better than supporting the local taxi mafia.

If you're flying straight Bali and headed straight to Ubud, you're in luck as even though on a map it looks like Canggu is on the way there, and distance wise it technically is, due to the terrible roads infrastructure and traffic of Indonesia, both places take around the same amount of time which is just over an hour. For more information about getting a taxi or an uber from the airport in Bali, read my Canggu Travel Post as the same rules apply to things like getting Visas, SIM cards or Ubers or Taxis.






Where to Stay in Ubud




Without planning too much ahead of time, I booked a hotel near the coworking space, Outpost where I was planning on working from and hanging out. What turns out to be the best value I've ever seen anywhere in the world, the Budhi Ayu Villas were amazing for only $25 a night! Sure the rooms were a bit dated, but the grounds and pool were amazing, and there was a ton of space, decent wifi, and it was set back off the road and super quite.

The problem however was aside from being close to Outpost and a handful of businesses, 99% of the places I wanted to actually eat at or do Yoga at were in the main center which meant I was driving back and forth everyday in the dark on somewhat dangerous roads. That being said, even though it was great to make this video tour below.

I ended up moving into the city center a few days later to make my life easier. I ended up staying at Aya's Room Hotel which was in an awesome location right in the center and was a great value at $25 a night, but the wifi was terrible and there was way too much chlorine in the pool for me to recomend it. I would have happily paid a bit extra if they would upgrade the wifi and maybe the showers at the hotel as everything else about it was great.






Long Term Housing in Ubud




My advice is to get a hotel for a few nights and stay anywhere in the green circle below while you explore the city and the neighborhoods for where you want to live long term. The Monkey Forest road is a bit too touristy so try to stay closer to the JL Hanoman road instead if you can. Most people I met who were staying more than a month lived in the expat area shown below as it's a lot cheaper and is still convenient to get everywhere. Also good news about Ubud is unlike Canggu, the infrastructure is a bit more developed meaning things like hot water showers were at every hotel I stayed at in Ubud and most places except for the most basic.

If you look hard enough and don't mind being in off the main road, you can get places for as little as $270US a month for a room, but most people are paying closer to $375 a month even for a basic room. A nicer place in the city center can be found for for $500 - $750. I've even had friends rent out baller 2 bedroom villas with private pools, a huge kitchen, all completely furnished for $1,400US a month in the expat area. The easiest place to find and sort where to stay in Ubud online by price or budget would be Snap Stays or AirBnB. For more on the costs of living in Bali check out this post that I found but in general expect to pay around $1,000 - $1,500 on average to live a normal life which is a bit more than Chiang Mai, but much less expensive than Canggu.

Obviously you can bootstrap and spend even less by following some of the same tricks like I did living off of $600 that I wrote about in my first book as Thailand is similar to Indonesia but in general it's not the nicest life trying to live off of $750 a month in Ubud.





Getting Around Ubud




You'll need a scooter. Even living in the city center within walking distance of most restaurants and cafes, we ended up needing to find taxi's everyday to meet up friends and it was a pain in the butt. Having a scooter in Ubud or Bali in general is a must. Just make sure you wear a helmet and try not to drive after you drink. Uber's won't pick you up, especially for short trips, and due to the mostly one way or tiny lane roads, cars and taxi's are a pain, expensive and inefficient in the city.

That being said, the one taxi app that actually works is Go-Jek Bike which summons a random Indonesian guy on a scooter to pick you up. Rides are cheap at between $1-$2 around town and they usually arrive within a few minutes even though the GPS may show they're still a mile away.

Just don't accidently put in the destination coordinates for a farm to table restaurant's actual farm instead of the main street location like I did. Here's a video of me getting lost in a rice field in Ubud after having my motorbike taxi driver drop me off in the middle of nowhere:






Where to Eat in Ubud




Probably my favorite thing about Ubud is the food. While Canggu has a bunch of great restaurants, because of it's small size, there's really only a total of 20 places which means you end up going to the same places over and over again. In Ubud, similar to Chiang Mai, Thailand there are almost unlimited new places to try, many of which are amazing.

Even at the coworking space Outpost, they had the most incredible green smoothie bowl I've ever tasted anywhere in the world.


Incredible smoothie bowl at Outpost Cafe, Ubud


My favorite dish overall was the Oxtail Stew at Waroeng Bernadette which was a nice change of pace from all of the vegetarian food I've been eating in Bali recently. Another fantastic place is Melting Wok which is an Indonesian restaurant owned by a French woman that is so good you need to make reservations a few days in advance to get a table. The surprising thing is meals there are just $4, making it one of the best values for excellent food and service anywhere. If you're looking to go somewhere a bit more upscale or want a nice romantic place for a date, check out Kismet.

But overall, there is so much good food in Ubud you can just walk around or search for places on Tripadvisor and go for an explore. Also as a pro tip, look for the locals selling little triangular packets which usually contain rice and a bit of egg and meat for less than $1.50. They are some of the tastiest things I've eaten anywhere and an amazing value.  I have no idea how to find her again but this random lady on the side of the road sold me one of the tastiest meals I've ever had in my life for a dollar and twelve cents.


Look for delicious local takeaway food like this


Where to Cowork in Ubud




Compared to Canggu the coworking scene and community in Ubud is much better in terms of options, vibe and sheer size. As I wrote in ny Canggu Guide it's a good up and coming place but is lacking. Ubud however has two giant coworking spaces that both feel extremely welcoming, and it also just has a ton more people in general. It's not quite Chiang Mai but kind of feels like what Chiang Mai was a few years ago when the scene there was just starting.

The first and most popular coworking space in Ubud is Hubud Coworking which I have to give a big thanks to because without them pioneering the trend, none of the other spaces would exist today. It's known as the more social of spaces which is great if you're just arriving and want to meet friends, but make sure you bring some noise canceling headphones if you actually want to get some work done. They offer a "soft landing package" that for a fee arranges things like airport pick up, accomidation, and even a sim card which definitely makes it easier but honestly, unless your time is worth more than $200 an hour, I'd just do it yourself even though it can be a pain in the ass.


Breakfast sandwiches and coworking at Outpost, Bali


The best thing about Ubud is that there is more than one coworking space to try out and see which is the best fit for you. I actually got invited to Outpost, Ubud as a speaker and visiting mentor for their new Success Incubator program called the Crew which is a month long mastermind type program that seems pretty cool. It also comes with airport pick up and other perks but the main benefit would be to be part of an accountability program to get shit done. If you're interested, you can check out the details of the The Crew here and if you decide to sign up, you can use coupon code #thecrewJFD to get $100 off.

Other than the two coworking spaces, there are plenty of cafes in Ubud. I ended up working out of Anomali Coffee which had power outlets and amazing wifi at 32mbps up/down which is super hard to find in Bali usually. Today I'm working out of Wamm Ubud which I like a lot. It's just up the street from Outpost so it's a bit out of town but it has an awesome upstairs with decent chairs, good tables a good view, fast internet, and power outlets. The good is good as well. Listen to episode 153 of the Travel Like a Boss Podcast for more info on coworking in Ubud vs. Chiang Mai and Canggu.

If you want to meet other digital nomads in Bali or ask questions, join the Bali Digital Nomads facebook group here.


Lunch with the Outpost Crew here in Ubud



Yoga in Ubud



Aside from the hundreds of restaurants and cafes in Ubud, the most popular things to do in Ubud would be to go to Yoga during the week and the either to a waterfall or the beach on weekends. The two main Yoga centers in Ubud are the Yoga Barn and Radiantly Alive. Both are incredible and destination worthy yoga centers that many people travel just to attend. My advice would be to check out both centers starting with Yoga Barn as that one gives you more of a feeling of Bali being situated overlooking a rice field.

Once you've gotten over the initial splendor of being in Bali, check out Radiant as I had my best yoga class ever there, a Vinyasa class by someone named Sanna Kokkonen which had a really good flow to it, verbal instruction and an amazing music track that was immersive. Overall the Yoga in Ubud is much better than Canggu, but then again it's more of a world destination for Yogis than Canggu which is more of a surf town that happens to have decent yoga. Even though The Practice in Canggu is really nice. I didn't think I would prefer such large classes, but something about the energy of the room and the space makes it a better experience than smaller practices.


A Vinyasa class by Bex at Yoga Barn


Speaking of energy, Ubud is truly full of it and in a sense it feels magical. The upside is almost everyone you meet is positive, spiritual, and extremely open minded to trying new things. The downside however is that most of it is delusions of grandeur and pseudoscience. I'm a huge believer of positive thinking but think it's insane when people believe in so much new age alternative medicine treatments that uses big fancy scientific sounding words like cranial sacral therapy, numerology, astrology, alkaline diets, water fasting, colonics cleansing, or other bullshit that doesn't work. Even worse is the fact that no one calls each other out on it as everyone wants positive vibes.

The biggest danger is the fact that since everyone is living with their heads in the sky, the think they are invincible and ride motorcycles without helmets on dangerous roads from Ubud to Canggu to party with no repercussion for it. Almost everyone I met in Bali has at least been in some type of accident or had gotten scammed or their ATM or credit cards robbed, but no one talks about it because it's not positive vibes. This video below pretty much sums up what people in Bali are like, love it or think it's ridiculous, that's up to you.






Scuba Diving from Ubud




On the weekend, Chris and I decided to go scuba diving again, this time at the liberty wreck, almost 2.5 hours from Bali on the coast. Even though Ubud is no where near the beach, the good news is as long as there are 2 or more of you, most places will pick you up for free as part of a day trip package. We ended up booking with Dive Concepts which at $90 for a day trip including pick up from Ubud, 3 dives, all equipment, lunch, and drop off back in Ubud was an incredible value.

If you don't sitting in a van for hours at a time, going scuba diving from Ubud is super affordable and allows you to be back in time for a great dinner instead of staying in boring dive towns like Tulamben where there's nothing to do. As a side bonus, our driver stopped by a gorgeous view point of the rice fields as well as a spot where wild monkeys come to get fed by tourists.

Watch this video of us scuba diving at an underwater temple at Coral Gardens:





This is the East Coast of Bali

Wild monkeys of Bali, Indonesia



Long Term Bali Visas




Taken from my Canggu post, the good news is as of a few years ago 30 day visa exemptions are now free for Americans, Canadians, the EU, and Australia plus most others countries.

However, even though we were planning on just staying for a week or two, we love having the option to stay longer without leaving the country to do a visa run and are happy to pay a bit extra for that. So if you think you might stay for more than 30 days or just want the option to be able to do so if you feel like it, pay the extra $35 at the airport to get a normal 30 day visa on arrival as that gives you the option to extend for an additional month without leaving the country.
It'll be a pain in the ass to extend as it involves up to three trips to the immigration office but it's still better than leaving the country. I plan on paying for an agent to streamline the process and will report back on how that goes. If you know for sure you're staying for less than a month, you can just show up and get 30 days for free. But trust me, there's a very good chance you might end up loving this country as much as we did and wish you would have paid for the option to extend so plan on getting that at a minimum.



The two longer term visas for Bali are the 6 Month Social Visa which still annoyingly has to be extended every 30 days while you're in Bali but you don't have to leave the country for an entire 6 months which is nice. But for those true digital nomads who travel a lot, you'll want to get the 12 Month Multiple Entry Business Visa which doesn't require or allow extensions but forces you to leave the country and make a visa run every 60 days. The best thing about making visa runs from Bali are the sheer number of non-stop flights leaving from DPS including destinations like Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, Bangkok, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Seoul, Amsterdam, Manila, Brisbane, Sydney, or even St. Petersburg in Russia. 



Weekend drinks in Ubud at Soulshine, Bali


Overall Thoughts on Ubud




What started as a 3-4 week stopover vacation to Bali before we headed to Europe for the summer, Bali has quickly grown on us as a possible change of place to Chiang Mai. While I can't see myself spending more than a few weeks at a time in Canggu up here in Ubud has a great community feeling that isn't "too cool" or cliquey like Canggu is. Even though it's still quite far from the beach, at least it's an driveable option unlike Chiang Mai where you'd have to fly.

The internet in Ubud has gotten decent enough to actually get work done and not be annoying. But the main reason why I would consider living in Ubud long term is for the community and overall welcoming energy and vibe I've gotten here so far. I'd be willing to bet money that Ubud is going to be the next Chiang Mai in terms of popularity within the nomad community. For years it had the potential with low costs of living, warm weather, friendly locals, great yoga, good food, and a good community but was just lacking proper infrastructure and stable internet. It seems that at least since 2017 the internet in Bali is no longer an issue, and that the country is slowly starting to become a potential base for digital nomads who work online. Listen to episode 153 of the podcast to hear more about the pros and cons of Ubud and Bali in general for digital nomads.







The Ubud Wrap Up



Bali is still nowhere as easy as Chiang Mai is when it comes to Ubers, ATMs, visa extensions, and no or as cheap when it comes to gym memberships, coworking spaces, food, housing or overall costs of living, but even so, I still I recomend coming for a visit and giving it a shot. The next time you need to make a visa run from Thailand, come to Bali. Spend a few weeks and see for yourself, who knows, you might just end up moving here like a lot of my friends already have.

For me personally, Ubud, Canggu and Bali in general would be a nice, comfortable place to live and I plan to for at least a month or so each year, but honestly, I'd be lying if I were to say it's better than Europe in the summer. Bali is a lot cheaper and has it's charm, but for anyone who has worked hard enough to afford it, Europe should still be on your bucket list of where to spend the warm months of each year. I hope everyone happiness and success wherever you may end up.

If you haven't yet, read my Travel Guide to Canggu as it covers a lot more about Bali when you first arrive.

Or if Thailand interests you more check out my Travel Guide to Chiang Mai instead.




Update: 


Here's a talk I did for Budapest Nomads on Bali as a potential Nomad Destination. Here's everything including the pros and cons of the place as well as alternatives. After leaving Bali and being back in a 1st world country and talking to numerous friends who also wanted to love Bali but ended up hating it, I realized how delusional most people living in Bali are.

To sum it up, Bali is a child's dream like place where anyone can become a life or alternative health coach and have safe spaces to cover your ears and ignore reality. I understand why Australian's go there for short 2 week vacations as it's the closest, and cheapest place for them to fly to, but for anyone else with alternatives, I would not recomend it.







Warm Regards,


Johnny FD


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Post a Comment

  1. Great post Johnny - tons of inspiration. Do you by any chance have a feel about how the scene for Martial Arts is in Ubud? When I google it seems like most gyms are not in Ubud but elsewhere, is that your experience as well?

    ReplyDelete
  2. Hi Johnny,

    Excellent read.

    Irony alert; I am reading from Chiang Mai ;) I met one of our neighbors last night who met you once. An Italian ex-pat named Marta, who lives right by Doi Suthep National Park.

    We love Ubud. Usually, we rent a villa in the rice fields on Air Bnb or via a Bali site. About a 15 minute motorbike ride outside of town. We cruise in to eat and stroll about town. Then off to the peace and quiet of the rice fields.

    We've yet to visit Canggu; always in Jimbaran, or once, Sanur. We just love the Bukit so much, from Pantai Pandawa on down....gorgeous beaches.

    Watch out for those cheeky monkeys in Monkey Forrest! Really tricky little buggers. Amazingly entertaining, naughty, and as an Indonesian friend once noted....they are "fatty funny".

    Thanks for sharing :)

    Ryan

    ReplyDelete
  3. Looks like you're having fun in Ubud! I'm going to be there from April 1st through the 23rd. Hope to catch you there man.

    ReplyDelete

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