A day in the life of a solo backpacker in Indonesia

Solo travel is very in vogue. Bloggers sing its praises, Instagram is crowded with shots of a lonesome backpacker standing before a vast and moody landscape. Solo travel is nothing new of course, but these days there’s huge gap between the glorified idea of travelling solo and the actuality of it.

So here is what a day of travel in Indonesia looks like, complete with all my silly blunders and the humdrum of life on the road.

It’s 4.45am and I’m having trouble keeping my eyes open.

I’m sitting in the garden of my guesthouse in the village of Munduk, in central Bali while I await the local shuttle bus to take me three hours south to Sanur for $7.50.

I drink sickly sweet tea, and consider my options once I get to the beach town, Sanur. Do I want to find accommodation for a night at Sanur, or head straight to the Island of Nusa Lembongan? Both have access to a beach, but with just a week left in Bali I don’t want to waste time in seedy towns. I choose to wing it, with no bookings made I can decide when I arrive.

I’ve spent the last week exploring Bali with a few travellers I met on my first morning in Indonesia. Today, I split off from the group alone in search of a quiet and pristine beach, a slice of clichéd paradise. Bali beaches are either beautiful but packed with people, or quiet and ugly, but I’m going to give it a go anyway.


As soon as we pull into Sanur, someone is at the door of the van trying to sell me a ferry ticket to Nusa Lembongan. A quick scout around reveals a port and some nice restaurants but no beaches so I buy a one-way ticket for $15 to Nusa Lembongan on the fast boat.

With thirty minutes to departure I look around the dock for the described red boat but see none. I tell myself not to worry, this is Indonesia, the boat will probably be late.

I order breakfast at the dock, simple scrambled eggs on toast and a papaya juice for $3.50. Halfway through I decide that eating before a boat ride is the worst idea I’ve ever had. I watch another backpacker arguing with a ticket seller about selling her the more expensive ticket, which is probably the one I have. I shrug it off.


Boat arrives, but there’s no dock and I quickly realise I’ll have to wade waste deep into sea water to board, plus I’m wearing cotton trousers and converses! I remove my shoes and attempt to hold my 15kg bag over my head to keep my laptop, camera and phone dry while the waves threaten to topple me.

(the sea much calmer on this beach)


The staff never asked to see anyone’s ticket and I spend the next few minutes debating whether to try and bag a free trip on the way back.

The boat stops at one of the beaches on Lembongan and half the passengers disembark. I decide the beach looks nice and get off too. When I get onto the beach I realise there are no guesthouses or hostels on this side of the island so I get back on the boat again feeling foolish, getting unnecessarily wet and holding up the boat.

(my face at the time)


On the other side of the island, I walk into the first guesthouse and ask if they have a room available. A woman shows me one for $35 a night but I umm and ahh at the price. After two weeks of hostels I’m tempted by the private room - a double bed, large bathroom and air con are just what I need right now. But after sitting pretty on $12 dorm beds for the last week, $35 just seems too much.

So I walk back along the beach to find a cheaper option but there are no dorms and only very basic private rooms for $20 a night anyway. I return to the first accommodation feeling embarrassed for wasting both our time. Sometimes the best value isn’t the cheapest.


I book a snorkel trip for $15 for the next day at the front desk and hand over my laundry ($2 per kilo – twice the price of the mainland, ouch), buy a 1.5L bottle of water ($1), and sit down to eat my first western meal since I touched down in Bali – a hamburger ($5).

Later that afternoon

I return to my room and flick on the air con to cool down only to end up snoozing away the afternoon. Sometimes those transportation days feel like a week long and after a couple weeks of non-stop tours, swimming and shopping with other backpackers, it’s really nice to have a day to myself. I unpack my bag to find my Nikon D3000 is covered in cookie crumbs from the rough and tumble journey. I spend 10 minutes delicately brushing crumbs out of the lens while the sparkling sea beckons.


Feeling slightly guilty, I spending the afternoon swimming in the hostel pool and rereading Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander. After all that effort of travelling to a white sand beach with crystalline waters, I’ve chosen to swim in chlorine.


During a solo dinner (Mi Goreng $3.50 and fresh pineapple juice $1), I find myself missing the company of other travellers. I wonder where they are now and whether I should have stuck with the group, but at the time I’d grown tired of surrounding myself with people I didn’t know too well. Forming those quick friendships with other backpackers can be exhausting.

Note: prices are in listed in New Zealand dollars, converted at 10,000 rupiah to the dollar.

This is also a very expensive day for a backpacker in Indonesia at nearly $70, especially compared to the day prior in Munduk when I had spent just $20. Backpacking budgets are like this and you shouldn’t stress about the days you overspend, so long as your week is averaging to within your budget. US$40 per day is a good budget for a backpacker in Bali.

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The Travel Natural

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Hey, I'm Emma

Fuelled by wanderlust, curiosity and a little restlessness, a natural at budget travel, so naturally, a travel blogger. An experienced chef, a proud kiwi, and a burgeoning photographer. And my old friends reading and writing? We go way back.

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