Imagine vast green paddy fields all around, stagnant water in the grasses, a series of monozygotic Hindu temples, and neighbourhoods so traditional that you feel the needles on your clock running backwards. Imagine yourself sipping on artisan coffee or drinking cold-pressed juices, nibbling on crispy fried duck or gobbling up a plate of Nasi Goreng. Put all of this together and that’s how one can begin to describe the beauty that Ubud is. There are a number of things that we loved about Ubud and a matching number of things that we despised. We may not want to go back to Ubud soon but there are many who would love it for the reasons we disliked it. Here’s our pocket guide to Ubud for those who are planning a visit.
Ubud is one of those places that is less about ‘visiting’ but more about ‘staying for long and experiencing’. You can either love it or hate it and it takes some time to do either. Ubud owes its fame to the traditional, organic way of life interspersed with modern hip cafes, indulgent spas, and trendy lifestyle – all at an affordable cost. We spent a week in this town and explored many facets of it – we loved the massages, the organic cafes, the coffee, and the endless paddy fields. We hated the ..well..there’s another post for it here.
The best accommodations in Ubud are either located near or overlooking the paddy fields. Instead of hotels or resorts that may not be possible to stay in for long, look for apartment rentals that are in plenty and available at a reasonable cost – a tree house, a homestay, a private villa, and more. Of course, there are several unique luxury accommodations too.
We stayed at Villa Rimba, a beautiful 3-room boutique villa in the middle of the forest. The rooms were spacious with stunning views and we had our own personal verandah with an open-air bathtub. The communal kitchen was well stocked and the infinity pool was well maintained. However, it was 13 km from the Ubud centre which made life a bit difficult as we’d to drive 40 minutes one way to get to most places. One of our personal suggestions is Lasan Mas Guest House which is more centrally located and we’ve heard great reviews about the place.
The average cost of an independent villa in central Ubud – 2000 INR (31 USD)
*Gecko Alert* – Be it luxury or budget, properties in Ubud are swamped with house lizards and wild geckos. It’s a must to do your research beforehand if you’d like to avoid sleeping with the crawlies. For those who are fans, you are in for a treat. After hours of research, we found an accommodation that promised none inside the room even though it is located within a forested area. Unfortunately, the room still had a few. Sigh! A couple of ways to avoid geckos in your rooms is to visit Ubud in winter months, opt for classic hotels/resorts or accommodations that aren’t too traditionally constructed.
Beyond The Wall Tip:
- Distances in Ubud take longer than they seem, especially so because your mode of transport is a rented 130 cc bike. Best is to stay close to the centre to avoid riding long for basics.
THINGS TO DO
Like many other travellers, we went to Ubud to relax, surround ourselves with nature, and catch up on work. As a deliberate decision, we avoided the famous tourist spots in and around Ubud and fixated ourselves to experiencing the centre fully. Here’s a list of our favourite things to do on a slow Ubud holiday:
1. Visit The Tegalalang Rice Terrace
Hop on your rented scooter and ride to the famous rice terrace early in the mornings to avoid crowds. We went to the terrace to catch a sunset and the fields still looked pretty amazing in spite of the crowd. Carry small currency notes to the rice terrace as you might be stopped by the locals who ask for maintenance fee. Mind it, oldies here don’t settle for coins.
2. Indulge In Multiple Spas
The spas in Ubud are professional, comfortable, relaxing, and worth every penny. We could not get enough of the massages, flower baths, and the natural aromas. Given the history of medicine in Bali, spas here are an integral part of the local culture. As the town of Ubud became trendy, so did the spas creating perfect options that combine modern facilities with traditional methods. Our well-researched spa experience at Cantika turned out to be just amazing (except for a ginormous gecko that popped out in the end). Opt for a 90-minute treatment that starts with an oil massage followed by a body scrub, a flower bath and ginger tea that is served in the shower itself. We heard similar appreciation for Bali Reflexology too. Make sure you book appointments in advance with each of these spa centres as they stay busy throughout the day.
Average cost of a good quality 90-minute spa treatment in Ubud – 1800 INR (28 USD)
3. Catch Early Morning Sun @ Tegenungan Waterfalls
Wake up as early as you can in the morning and probably be the first one to reach the waterfall. No doubt it’s a gorgeous waterfall but the crowds bathing and swimming in the waters make it appear like a public swimming pool. To have a moment alone with the lovely waterfall, it’s best to come very early in the morning.
4. Spend A Day In The Paddy Fields
This is our personal favourite way of spending a day in Ubud. Drive into the area called Subak Sok Wayah and spend a full day hopping from one cafe to another, all located in gorgeous paddy fields. Go to Cafe Pomegranate for its food, Sari Organik for its organic salads/juices, or maybe get a spa at one of the centres in this area. If you like to walk, take a long walk into the Campuhan Ridge (back on the main road) and end the day with the view of the sun setting into the fields at Subak Sok Wayah. You wouldn’t find a better spot to watch the sun go down in Ubud. Please note that this road is very narrow and one misstep can land you in the fields, so it is important that you’re an experienced rider.
5. Shop Your Heart Out!
If I were you, I would carry an empty bag to Ubud and bring it full. There are many options for cheap clothing, trinkets, jewellery, souvenirs, arts, crafts, and household stuff to shop for. Shopping options range from street side vendors, pop-up stalls, regular brands to upscale boutiques. Although our bags did come back quite empty, the sheer joy of walking around the Ubud market, chatting up with kind vendors, and absorbing the buzz was an experience in itself.
If you are good at bargaining, a dress in the Ubud market would cost you around 500 INR (8 USD) and may go up to 5000 INR (80 USD) at a boutique. Remember to quote any price you want while bargaining, it might just work!
Beyond The Wall Tip:
- There are several places to visit around Ubud, some are quite touristy and some are overhyped. Here are a few that you won’t regret skipping:
- You can easily skip Mt. Batur unless you want to wait in queues to hike up. It’s an arduous process to arrange for a commute that picks you up at 3 am in the morning and the hike itself is very crowded even though the view from mountaintop is supposedly gorgeous
- Cafe Lotus is kind of an institution in Ubud. It has a beautiful night setting of the Lotus temple that is worth a picture but the food itself is quite expensive and not worth the hype.
- One can also skip the monkey forest if there’s a shortage of time or if monkeys don’t really excite you. The monkeys are also known to be quite wild!
You can’t go wrong with food in Ubud. It’s mostly farm fresh, made with mild spices and locally sourced ingredients, lending it a unique Balinese flavour. Here’s our list of favourites:
Best For Local & Int’l Dishes:
1) Dirty Duck Diner– For meat lovers, Bebek Bengil (crispy fried duck) at Dirty Duck Diner is a must-try. The restaurant is a fine dining place and you can either go there to taste the crispy duck or have a full-fledged lavish meal. The cost of one plate of Bebek Bengil: 550 INR (8.5 USD); Of course, not the healthiest option by any means.
2) Ayam Betutu Pak Sanur – A local joint, operated out of a family home, that serves a delicious portion of Betutu Ayam that includes rice, fried chicken, betutu (spice mix), peanuts, fried egg, and sambal. It’s as cheap as 2 dollars for a meal here.
3) Sari Organik – If you spend enough time in Ubud, Nasi Campur and Nasi/Mie Goreng will become your favourite words. The former is a spread of rice with several vegetarian and (or) meat side dishes to go with. We had the best Nasi Campur at Sari Organik, an organic cafe situated in one of the most spectacular locations in Ubud. Visit this cafe for food, juices, views or some quality work or leisure time. Nasi Goreng (fried rice) and Mie Goreng (Fried Noodles) are very commonly found dishes in most warungs (small restaurants) in Ubud – order these anywhere and you won’t go wrong.
4) Taco Casa – Trust us and go there for some out of the world tacos.
Best For Organic Food, Smoothies, & Working Space:
1) Warung Abe Do – A labour of love, this uncomplicated cafe was started by a local who runs it with kindness and diligence. You can select your favourite available fruits to create a smoothie or have one from their menu. They also serve delicious food to go with your fruits.
2) Cafe Pomegranate – Located inside the paddy fields, this is the most sought after and a highly photographed cafe. With the view of the paddy fields, cosy seating and outstanding food, it’s a ‘must spend your day here’ place. Order their papaya turmeric smoothie for a sip of heaven.
3) Clear Cafe – One of the most trendy cafes in Ubud, this is the perfect spot to gulp down on smoothies, eat their vegan melted ice cream choco coffee cake and use their awesome wifi to get some work done.
4) Juice Ja – As the name suggests, a perfect spot to work, read and juice up <pun intended>
*Expect to spend 200 INR (3 USD) for a regular smoothie
Best For Coffee
1) Anomali Coffee – Located right in the middle of the main market, this roastery serves excellent manual brews along with espresso drinks. I had the famous Luwak coffee (made in a Chemex) here which is so amazing that you’d want to hug the Luwak for ‘processing’ it. A cup of Luwak coffee is 500 INR (8 USD) here.
2) Seniman Coffee – Hands down, this became our favourite spot for coffee – minimum food, brilliant coffee, super fast wifi, separate working area, and excellent small eats to go with the cuppa.
3) Kahiyang Coffee – Go here for an innocent cappuccino and be amazed at the simplicity with which locals run this place from scratch.
Expect to spend 200 INR (3 USD) for a cup of coffee at any artisan cafe in Ubud.
Beyond The Wall Tip:
- It’s very easy to overspend on food and drinks in Ubud. You can stock up on groceries and fruits from the local supermarket to avoid the extra expense on food. We used the large Coco supermarket in Ubud centre to stock up.
Popularly, Ubud is a very affordable destination for any traveller and can be modified for backpacking, budget or luxury quite easily. Here’s what you can expect to spend on a week-long holiday in Ubud.
- We flew from Kochi, India (cheapest destination to fly to Indonesia). Flight rates may vary significantly if travelling from elsewhere in India. We suggest flying from Kochi / Chennai / Bangalore.
- Initially, we booked a lovely independent villa in the centre of Ubud that was half the original price but it was swamped with house lizards (which is considered auspicious in Ubud). Finding a gecko free villa cost us quite an extra amount.
- It is entirely possible to get a stunning villa near the Ubud centre for as low as INR 1500-1600 per night (USD 25)
- Even though Ubud is highly affordable, restaurants aren’t as cheap as one may think. You can reduce on this by eating at local joints quite often but honestly, you don’t want to miss the cafes in Ubud. Also, there aren’t as many local eating joints in Ubud as you would find in say, Bangkok or India.
- Renting a bike is the best option and costs much lesser than taking a cab (which isn’t available easily). If you don’t prefer riding a bike yourself, there are bike taxis that take people from one place to another for as low as a dollar. However, the shuttle free from airport to the villa (and back) is unavoidable and costs more than a week’s bike rental!
- Experiences – Entry tickets to the sites are quite cheap. The main experience we spent money on was the spas.
We spent INR 69,500 in total as a couple in 7 days, including flights
Average living cost/ day: 6000 INR/ couple (90 USD)
Admittedly, we splurged. We could have done this for as low as INR 60000 if I didn’t have a serious gecko phobia
VISA FOR INDIANS
Visa for Indians is on arrival in Bali and completely hassle-free. Carry a copy of your stay along with your return tickets, just in case. There are a few countries that need a visa to Bali prior to arrival – make sure to look it up here.
- Ubud is at least 90 minutes away from the airport or any beach. Taxi services in Ubud take a minimum of 1500 INR (24 USD) one-way fee for such a distance. Best is to stay close to the beach if you intend to explore it.
- There are enough ATMs in Ubud Centre to withdraw money and most of the places, except a few smaller establishments, accept cards.
- There is no nightlife in Ubud and other than the centre, the surrounding areas do not have restaurants or cafes.
- There are a couple of well-stocked supermarkets in and around Ubud centre, Coco Supermarket being the biggest one.
- Even though Ubud is traditional and religious in many aspects, people are accustomed to tourists and western style of dressing. More importantly, people in Ubud are very friendly and kind.
- Ubud is extremely friendly for vegans and vegetarians. You will find plenty of options and exclusive vegan cafes to eat at.
That’s pretty much it! We did love our short escape to Ubud and if it weren’t for the abundance of giant creepy-crawlies, we might have made it a regular destination to visit.
Would you like us to add anything else to this guide to Ubud? Let us know in comments. If are you looking for a guide to the entire island of Bali, read this blog by Rachel of ‘Hippie in Heels’.