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Managing Travel Budgets when Traveling as a Group

Managing Travel Budgets when Traveling as a Group

Managing your budget when you’re traveling alone or as a couple isn’t easy, but when you meet up with friends things can get waaay more complicated. B and I know from experience that when we meet up with friends on the road, we spend much more […]

Decluttering… in your head

Decluttering… in your head

Today feels a bit different than a usual workday. Yes, I have things to do. Yes, I’m procrastinating a little bit. But… for the first time in a long while, I feel entitled to a little bit of a mental vacation. This isn’t to say […]

How Much do Restaurants Cost in Bali?

How Much do Restaurants Cost in Bali?

Normally there would be no straight answer to this question: it depends on the restaurant, what you order,etc. Of course it does. But, surprisingly, I found that there were 2 (ok, 3) distinct types of restaurants in Bali, with 2 fairly consistent price ranges.

Type 1: Local cafeterias

How to recognize them: these are the restaurants (Warungs) at the side of the road everywhere, where locals actually eat. Most of them are cafeteria style: they will have 3-10 dishes prepared, plus rice. You point at what you want (or occasionally serve yourself) and they make up a price for you.

The price can vary, but usually should be $1-2USD per plate. A soft drink or water bottle will add another $1 or so. At the lower end of the spectrum you’re getting a price closer to what the locals pay, while at the higher end you’re getting more of a tourist price. Still a good deal.

The food at these cafeterias is almost always delicious, often painfully spicy. Worried about getting sick? Don’t be. We went to the same warung near home almost every day for weeks, and our price progressively decreased from about $1.5 per plate to as little as $.50 per plate. It helps to be seen as less of a foreign tourist and more of a regular!

Type 2: “Foreigner” restaurants

How to recognize them: they’re full of surfers and blonde Aussies on laptops, probably near the beach. Anything with the word Vegan in the name is in this category. This is not bad, there are actually tons of great restaurants in Bali that serve western-style food with beautiful presentation, nice décor, and lots of local/organic/vegan options. They will definitely have coconut, soy, or almond milk for your coffee. Service is usually great too.

Expect to pay $4-7USD for a main dish, $2-4 for coconut water or a fancy smoothie. For most meals like this we would end up paying about $15-18USD for dinner for two. Much more expensive than the local warung, but still a great deal by Western standards. It’s also a merciful break from the intense spice of Indonesian food!

Type 3: A la carte local restaurants

There are also some Indonesian style sit-down BBQ restaurants, usually with low tables where you sit on the raised grass floor. You order a few dishes to share family-style: whole grilled fish or duck, vegetables, etc. Best to visit with at least 2 people, otherwise you’ll have leftovers!

Prices are a bit lower than the Western restaurants, depending what you order of course. Delicious food and wonderful service, as usual.

What about groceries?

Did you notice how normally I’m a fanatic about cooking your own food, but so far I’ve only mentioned restaurants? There is a good reason for this. Groceries are very cheap in Bali… but so are the local cafeteria-style warungs. We loved the food at our local warung and they had a great selection of vegetarian dishes. At $1 or so per plate for a meal, it really wasn’t worth grocery shopping and cooking our own food. After the first few days, we just gave up! (also, the gas stove in our villa was a nightmare to light… no wonder no one fixed it, there isn’t much reason to cook!)

We still made occasional snacks at home: coffee, fruit for breakfast, bottles of beer, some instant noodles… but for our main meals we mostly ate at restaurants and were perfectly happy.

See? I can be flexible 😉

So, what are the supermarkets like?

Well, we never really saw a big supermarket except in the tourist areas. Our closest local store carried just a few dry staples.Lots of fruit stands nearby with a good selection. There was a slightly bigger store about 10 minutes away that had a decent selection of groceries, including fresh foods. A giant block of tempeh (2-4 servings?) was $0.60 or so, there was a good assortment of fresh vegetables and spices. Not many imported foods, so if you do want a taste of home I would recommend bringing some spices or seasonings from home.

It’s also hard to find hard alcohol, so if you want some I would recommend getting a bottle from duty-free. Wine, when you can find it, is expensive and probably not worth it. Beer is widely available in convenience stores, but don’t be surprised if it’s room temperature! Repairing the coolers isn’t a top priority.

I hope this will help you plan your trip to Bali! The food there is wonderful with lots of vegetarian options, but if you don’t like spice you’ll want to avoid the local Indonesian restaurants. Enjoy!

The Unexpected Impact of Having Less

The Unexpected Impact of Having Less

The less you have, the less you want. Having less stuff, having an uncluttered space, leads to a less cluttered mind. And once you’ve done the work to get there, it’s easier and easier to stay there- to not acquire more things you don’t need. […]

Packing (less) Light: 5 handy electronics that you really don’t need… but might want to pack anyway

Packing (less) Light: 5 handy electronics that you really don’t need… but might want to pack anyway

Most of my friends would say that I pack insanely light. I disagree: no matter how small my bag, there is SO much in it that I don’t need! Here are five electronic items that I really don’t need at all… but I pack them anyway […]

How can I fly for free?

How can I fly for free?

Trick question: you probably can’t fly for free. Here are your three next-best options:

1- Points

You can accumulate points (especially easy if you’re American… harder if you’re not) and redeem them in the most advantageous way possible.

However, contrary to popular belief, I think that this is NOT the best way for most people to save money on travel.

No matter how good you are, you’ll still spend some money either on the cards, on booking fees, on fuel surcharges, etc, but if you handle it right you can still save money this way.

However, most people will justify extra spending in the name of getting points, or misunderstand the redemption conditions, or end up not using their points or will use them at a loss.

Some people win at this game, but most end up with a false sensation of value that doesn’t quite pay off- which is exactly the point of loyalty programs in the first place (get it? The POINT?)

2- Work for an airline!

Yup, everyone forgets to talk about this, but airline employees get either free or heavily subsidized flights. You might even get to sit in first class.

You don’t need to work as a flight attendant or baggage handler to do it- airlines have thousands of staff at the head office: HR, accounting, pricing, legal, etc.

Cheap or free flights are a great perk, but of course it comes at a price: you need to show up for work. No, airlines don’t give unlimited vacation… if they did there would never be anyone in the office!

There is also the trade-off of flying standby (remember that time we almost got stranded in Bogota??) But being able to plan last-minute trips with an extra jolt of wondering whether you’ll get a seat is pretty exciting; so we’ll call that a moot point.

So, if you need to work somewhere and want to take weekend trips to Tokyo, working for an airline is great. If you want to travel around the world for a year, this is probably not the right “hack” for you.

3- Just pay for your damn flights.

Be flexible, use a tool like Skyscanner or Kayak to find the cheapest rates, and only fly when you need to.

Consider all transit options (bus, train, plane, boat, car, rideshare, etc) and only travel when it’s worth it for you.

…and the winner is?

I’ve done all 3 of these options, and while standby is great and sometimes points can save you some money, I believe that door #3 is by far the best (and possibly cheapest) option for me right now.

No commitments, no purchases, no constraints except the price and whether I’m willing to pay it. That freedom is worth it!

How can I save money on restaurants?

How can I save money on restaurants?

My new maxim is: “restaurants are not for eating”. Yes, you read that right. From now on, restaurants are a place to meet with your friends. If you want to eat, go to the grocery store. Crazy, right? I learned it from Mr Money Mustache. […]

How can I find a notary in France to certify a signature? How much does it cost?

How can I find a notary in France to certify a signature? How much does it cost?

Last week I needed to have a signature certified by a notary. I’ve had this done before, but I’m in France and wasn’t sure how it would work here or how much it would cost. When I asked the internet what to do, it told […]

How can I find a notary in Indonesia?

How can I find a notary in Indonesia?

While we were in Bali last fall, we needed certified copies of our passports. We wondered whether this would be complicated.

Turns out, finding a notary and getting a certified copy in Indonesia is surprisingly simple.

Step 1: Find the nearest notary on Google Maps. Call them (optional).

Step 2: spend 20 minutes playing with the rude cat at the copy shop while you make your photocopies.

Step 3: show up at notary’s office, show them the originals + copies, wait 5 minutes, pay roughly $8USD. This was for one copy of each of our 2 passports. This seemed like a fancy notary’s office, I’m not sure if they would have even charged an Indonesian. But we were happy to pay, it was a bargain for us.

Step 4: Go drink a coconut. You’re done.

Yup, it was exactly as straightforward as in Canada, maybe more so.

So, in case you’re wondering how to find a notary or get a certified copy in Bali, rest assured: it’s surprisingly simple.

PS: I’m 99% sure that getting a signature certified would have been just as straightforward.

Welcome Aboard! / What is this about?

Welcome Aboard! / What is this about?

Good morning, Nice to hear from you. Thanks for reaching out about… This is how I start A LOT of my emails. It’s a bit trite, but it works for me. I feel pretty awkward about writing a blog, but I can write a decent […]