A good friend asked us this lately, and I wrote up a whole Google Doc to answer his question. I tried to keep it brief, I swear! Then I thought this might help someone else, so here it is below. The context is that our friend […]
This is something I think about a lot. Sometimes buying something cheap means you’re spending less money, which overall is a good thing. You can’t buy “expensive” everything- with no limits, unless you’re Jay Z you’d eventually run out of money. Other times, investing in […]
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!