I think about Ubud as we ride through a silent back road that takes us through lush paddy fields. It’s just rained and the countryside is alight with neon greenery. Paddy fields stretch out as far as the eye can see. Cool breeze pushes against the fabric of my kimono as I think about this gorgeous, wonderful haven that we stumbled on last month. Ubud – she’s a li’l bit of heaven with a wild side! Fluidity is the word that best describes our month in Ubud – days flow into each other, hours swim into one another. We become one with curtains dancing around our room, languorous massages, the sound of rain and falling leaves against the windows, bike-rides along dusty alleys, and sumptuous organic meals. We swivel and feel like we’re drifting into our version of Utopia, with eyes-half closed. Ubud, it feels like homecoming.
A MINI GUIDE TO LIVING IN BALI
Accommodation in Bali
Ubud, with its labyrinth of smoothie bars, yoga studios, tie & dye boutiques, bohemian retreats, vegan eateries, and sun-hazed countryside is truly our ticket to the moon. I cannot wait to be back. We did venture out of the haven that is Ubud several times during our time in Bali. The bustling resort areas of Sanur, Nusa Dua, and Kuta are similar to other beach-side getaways in South-East Asia. But unlike Ubud, they don’t scream special at all. If you’re a beach bum, we suggest avoiding Nusa Dua or Seminyak and renting an AirBnB villa in Canggu or a scenic hotel in Uluwatu instead.
As for me, my heart belongs to Ubud, so here’s a couple of recommendations for those of you who are planning to visit Ubud soon (you lucky, lucky souls!). If you’re here for a shorter time, you can choose a hotel that suits your budget. There are plenty of affordable, mid-range, and luxury options to choose from. In each case, we’d suggest choosing a place with a view. It’s good to wake up to a gorgeous view! Two hotels we would recommend in Ubud are Maya Ubud and Desa Visesa.
If you’re there for longer, we suggest booking an apartment. We always stay in a little cottage overlooking paddy fields, 20 minutes from Ubud, that we found on Air B&B. As I’ve said many times before, we enjoy living in apartments that offer a kitchenette to cook the occasional meal and a li’l work space when we’re in a city for more than a week. It needs to feel a bit like home right?! Our cottage has a bit of both. But consider yourselves warned. Living amidst nature, in a cottage overlooking paddy fields, has its disadvantages – a swarm of mosquitoes follows thunderstorms, roosters wake one up at 6 am, and the surroundings can get squelchy in the rain. But waking up to this view, meeting locals and chatting with them on a daily basis, and living in the lap of Mama Nature is truly incomparable. We love villa rentals for long-term stays but would suggest a hotel for a shorter stay.
Cost of living in Ubud
It’s possible to get a visa on arrival that lasts for 30 days. If it wasn’t for the visa, we would’ve stuck around for much longer in Ubud. Expect to spend around $1200-$1400 in a month for accommodation, fuel, bike rental, activities, and all meals if you’re on a moderate budget. Here are some costs that you might find useful:
Bike rental: $3/day or $40/month. If you’re quoted a higher price, bargain. Don’t rent a car in Bali. Roads are narrow and navigating hard.
Petrol: Petrol is sold by the bottle in most parts of Ubud. 1 bottle should cost IDR 8000 (approx. USD 0.60/£0.40). If you’re quoted a higher price, bargain.
Meals: You can get a plate of scrumptious Nasi Goreng or Mie Goreng for as little as $0.50 at most streetside shacks. The cost of meals in restaurants varies according to the restaurant (see below) but it’s hard to spend over $15/£12 on a meal unless you’re dining at a high-end hotel.
Fruits: If you love your fruits and veggies, you’re in for a treat in Ubud. Bananas, mangoes, papayas, watermelons will seduce you as they did us. You can buy one of each for a cumulative sum of $4-5 (£3) – yep that’s true! Shop at the huge Coco-Market at the beginning of Ubud’s city centre if you want to save yourself the trouble of bargaining with local vendors. There are several other supermarkets (Delta Dewata, Bintang, Indo Mart) strewn all over town.
Accommodation in Ubud: If you’re in Ubud for a short time, you can find some amazing hotels for $150/night or apartments at $30/nights. If you’re in Ubud for a longer period, it is possible to rent private villas for anywhere between $500-$2500/month, depending on the amenities you want.
Spas in Ubud
For an indulgent luxurious spa experience like no other, we love the spa at Maya Ubud. In fact, we’d go so far as to say this is the most scenic spa we’ve ever seen. It’s won several Best Spa accolades, which is why we ended up there in the first place. We opted for their signature couples massage, which is a 90 minute massage in an open-air massage room followed by their pièce de résistance – a decadent Balinese flower bath overlooking a gushing river and the rainforest. We felt like new people after being slathered with delicately fragranced oils for a couple of hours and savouring a bath with an enviable view while munching on fruit skewers and a light yogurt parfait. A spa treatment at Maya Ubud is the perfect way to celebrate an occasion, be it a birthday or an anniversary, or just indulge yourself on holiday.
Mid Range Spas
- A mid-range spa offers great value for money is The Udaya’s Kaveri Spa. Udaya Resort and Spa puts together iconic flower baths and provides a relaxing experience. It is located close to Ubud centre and provides the perfect excuse to pamper yourself on your holiday in Ubud Opt for a couples massage, body scrub, and flower bath package if you have a couple of hours. You won’t regret it.
- If you’re looking for a complete wellness experience then Five Elements is a great option. The wellness retreat offers a range of body and soul-nourishing treatments including body massages, superfood facials where guests faces are massaged and pampered only with edible items (no chemicals here!), and flower baths with a range of revitalising and cleansing herbs like ginger and lemongrass. We suggest combining your visit to the Five Elements spa with a meal at their Sakti Dining Room. The restaurant is the epitome of vegan fine dining for us. Dishes are colourful, healthy, and vegan all at one. We love their jackfruit tacos, pesto barley risotto, and diary-free desserts. If you go during the day, you must ask for a table overlooking River Ayung.
- If you love organic and natural body treatments then Skin Spa offers a variety of treatments using pure oils and natural products. It’s perfect for a frequent pamper session because most treatments cost less than $10/£7.
- If you love getting your massages in rooms that open up to fields and have a spacious feel to them, then try Sedona Spa on Jalan Campuhan. The rooms are beautiful and the massages are relaxing.
For more frequent massages (bi-weekly or even daily if you like ;-)) there are dozens of spas and massage parlours in Ubud, especially on Jalan Monkey Forest – here 1 hour Balinese massages range between USD 5-15. Everything from pedicures and manicures to foot reflexology treatments and back massages is on the menu. As a thumb rule, we would suggest not opting for the cheapest $5 option as those often tend to translate to cramped and noisy rooms and dirty beds. Having said that, there are lots of good & affordable spas too, so do shop around and take your chances.
Spas to Avoid
- We’re yet to find a $5 spa we would highly recommend but one affordable spa you should avoid at all costs is Inggrith Spa – one of the worst massages of our lives.
- Another spa to avoid is the Clear Spa (housed inside the popular Clear Café) on Jalan Hanoman. While the café has a great vibe and tasty food, the spa is appalling to say the least. Noisy rooms, flimsy curtains dividing the massage cubicles, and bad masseuses are only the tip of the iceberg here. You can get much better massages for the same cost elsewhere in Ubud. Avoid it!
Restaurants in Ubud
There is no shortage of good restaurants in Ubud – you can get everything from Indonesian specialities like Nasi Goreng, Nasi Campur, and Babi Guling (roast suckling pig) to pizzas and hamburgers at Ubud’s eateries. But it’s the swarm of raw, healthy, and frequently vegan eateries that REALLY excited us in Ubud. Not finding enough healthy food on the go is one my pet peeves about travelling – in Ubud there is too much healthy food going around and that can never be a bad thing. Here are some of our favourites and a couple of hyped eateries that we didn’t really like:
Warung Abe Do
This tiny eatery tucked away in one of the by-lanes (Jalan Tirta Tawar) of Ubud is a right gem. It serves dozens of green smoothies (oh yes!), fruit smoothies, and cold-pressed juices at reasonable rates. It also serves some seriously scrummy food : we loved Gado Gado (Indonesian steamed vegetables topped with peanut sauce) and the grilled chicken breast served with a potato and garlic mash. The vegetables come from an organic farm around the corner, so the produce is as fresh as it gets. We went to Abe Do almost everyday for our green smoothies and loved exchanging tales with the owner, Nyoman, who is quite a character 🙂 A meal (main-course+smoothie) for 1 at Abe Do will set you back by USD 6-7 (£3-4)
Now if you like going off-the-beaten-path and really listening to locals’ recommendations, try visiting Warung Gurihan in Mas village. The shack is about a 20 minute drive from Ubud, so venture to Warung Gurihan only if you’ve rented a bike to get around in Ubud. The shack is usually jam-packed with locals. Try the chicken teriyaki or grilled fish. If you’re vegetarian try the BBQ’d tempeh, BBQ’d aubergines with some steamed rice and their signature sambhal (Indonesian sweet chilli paste). A meal for 1 at Warung Gurihan will set you back just by USD 3-4 (£2-3). We promise you you will go back for more.
One of my favourite new eateries in Ubud, Acai Queen is easily the most instagrammable place in town. It’s tucked in into a little lane in the centre of Ubud and is ideal for a light meal. Try their signature acai bowls (the tropical bowl is my personal favourite) or the avocado toast. The refreshing food and bright purple interiors, dotted with pineapples is bound to leave you feeling zingy. Try it out if you enjoy healthy desserts! Expect to pay around USD 8 (£6)/person.
The Seeds of Life
A tiny raw-food café on Jalan Gautama, just off Ubud’s busy centre, The Seeds of Life, is incredible for a healthy breakfast. Try their Acai bowl or chia pudding. If you’re a health nut, they also offer a sugar-free vegan ice-cream – nom! Expect to pay around USD 10 (£7)/person.
Soma Café, also located on Jalan Gautama, serves a selection of healthy food and (you guessed it) smoothies. They pride themselves on their range of organic high vibe meals in a typically Balinese alfresco environment. Eating at Soma’s can be an incredibly soothing experience – they have a gorgeous courtyard dotted with palm trees and fresh coconuts. We spent dozens of hours working there while sipping on a drink. Most smoothies and drinks cost around USD3 (£2)
Sari Organic is a bit of an institution in Ubud – you need to walk through lush paddy fields for 20-30 minutes to reach this eatery. The menu has a bit of everything – great salads, smoothies, and cocktails. The best thing is obviously the view – there’s nothing quite like sipping on coconut water and devouring tender coconut meat while looking out to miles upon miles of paddy fields 🙂 It can get very hot and humid in Bali. If you’re not up for the 20 minute walk, try driving to Warung Pulau Kelapa on Jalan Raya Sanggingan . You can drive right up to this restaurant, which overlooks paddy fields. There is an organic farm next door and you can pick and choose vegetables for your own meal. A meal here will set you back by USD 7-8 (£5-6)
If you want a calorie-laden meal or two, the unimaginatively titled Mamma Mia has authentic Italian pizzas, Warung Little India and Mumbai Station has decent Indian food, and Cinta Grill has some juicy and scrumptious burgers 🙂
THE ONES THAT DIDN’T QUITE MAKE THE CUT
Kafe is one of the pioneers of the raw food movement in Ubud. We went there with great expectactions but didn’t love it as much as we expected to. While the salads are amazing, the cooked food is a bit lack-lustre and overpriced.
Bebek Bengil – Dirty Duck Diner
Bebek Bengil (fried duck) is a local speciality and Dirty Duck Diner is THE place to sample it. We gave it a go but we didn’t really enjoy the artery-clogging meal. The deep fried duck reeked of oil and it was all too much. Give it a go if you enjoy deep-fried foods but avoid it if you’re a healthy eater. 1 portion of Bebek Bengil costs USD 10 (£6).
Cafés in Ubud
A couple of Bali’s cafés got a huge stamp of approval from our resident coffee geek. After examining the beans, smelling the coffee, talking to baristas, and rolling the final product (always an espresso shot in Vid’s case!) on his tongue, Vid’s decided he really enjoys the coffee at Anomali Coffee on the main high-street (Jalan Raya Ubud). Sewing machines are converted into tables and tin cans are used as chairs at Anomali Coffee. The industrial warehouse feel made us miss London!
The other café that boasts of great coffee is Seniman Coffee Studio. The coffee studio is located on Jalan Sri Wedari. Coffee at Seniman is an ornate affair and each cuppa comes with an entourage of flowers and nibbles. Coffee at both these cafés ranges between USD 3-5 (£2-3). If you want something cheaper, try a cup of local coffee or bubble coffee (cold coffee with condensed milk and gelatinous tapioca pearls) at any of the stalls lining Ubud’s alleys. A cup will set you back by USD 0.50
Things to see in Ubud & Excursions from Ubud
Saraswati Lotus Temple, Ubud Centre
This lotus temple, smack back in the middle of Ubud centre, has an unassuming exterior but is stunning on the inside. It also houses a couple of cafés – Starbucks and Lotus Restaurant – so you could contemplate it’s beauty over a cup of coffee or watch an Indonesian dance performance there. We suggest going to the temple at sunset because it’s specially intriguing at that hour. Entry is free.
If you’re craving some time at the beach, head to Sanur Beach, 45 minutes away from Ubud. The drive to Sanur isn’t great but the beach front offers a couple of great restaurants, shacks, and plenty of water sports opportunities. It is also quieter and more relaxed than the public beaches at Nusa Dua and Kuta.
Day Trips and Excursions from Ubud
There are so many excursions on offer in and around Ubud – everything from visiting waterfalls, hiking volcanoes, and exploring paddies is on the cards. Read our detailed article on our favourite excursions in Bali to decide which ones you would like to pick for yourself
Shopping in Ubud
We have a detailed video on shopping in Ubud – here you will find all information including our favourite shops in Ubud, how much to pay for items, where to bargain and where not to bargain, and what snacks to pick for friends and family back home. Here it is:
Highlights of a stay in Ubud
We came to Ubud for a month just to spend time in the lap of Mama Nature – we didn’t want to do too much, see too many sites, or tick things off a checklist. Ubud is the perfect place to resonate and we can’t wait to be back. Here’s what we loved the most:
- The food : I don’t think I could rave about Ubud’s organic and raw food scene more if I tried. It’s heaven if you have a soft spot for green smoothies, cold-pressed juices, and healthy food.
- The paddy fields : If you read the reverie at the beginning, you’d know that Ubud’s lush green paddy fields have a way of making us feel at home
- The people : Balinese people are just so warm and friendly. Our hosts, Wayan and Komang, had so many tales to share and invited us to be part of celebrations in their village on numerous occasions. We loved meeting their family and dining with them. So many restaurant owners we met would just join us for a meal and tell us amusing tales about Indonesian idiosyncrasies. We were welcomed with huge smiles wherever we went and that’s how we’ll remember the island.
- The pace of life : We wanted languor to be the defining characteristic of our career break and we can’t think of a better place to experience this. Ubud’s countryside and its villages are the perfect anti-dote to the rat race that is city life. Here life seems to unravel in slow motion, everyone is up for a chat, and no one is in a rush to be at ten places all at once. Food and drink is savoured as its meant to be, not gulped. Conversations are revelled in and tangled thoughts get time to unravel under magic sun beams. Nirvana or my ticket to the moon, those are the only descriptions I can think of 🙂
FYI (when not to choose Ubud for your holiday)
Ubud might be perfect for bohemian dreamers, nature lovers, yogis, and those who enjoy slow travel but it might not be for you if:
- you like to party late into the night. The ultra-bohemian and spiritual vibe ensures most people are asleep by 10.
- you want to spend time bumming by the beach (the nearest beach is over 1 hour away!)
- you want to shop at malls – you’ll get plenty of local handicrafts, trinkets, and tie-dye garments here but there is nothing by way of malls or hectic night markets.
Are you obsessed with South East Asia too? Read all our posts on Asia here