Ubud in Bali is a destination for travelers that interested in yoga, healthy food, and fresh air. But now, it has grown into one of the busiest and most popular destinations in Bali.
In Ubud, you can find the green rice terraces still cling to the edges of town. Vegetarian eateries and hipster cafes serving excellent coffee abound. Boutique shops showcase Bali’s famous craftsmanship and work from local assists. Hindu architecture and peaceful temples compensate for increased consumerism with an air of ancient authority.
Bali’s coasts are great for sand and sunsets, but Ubud is arguably the cultural, artistic, and holistic heart of Bali. You could spend weeks taking advantage of the many health-improving options before starting on all the sights and activities.
The premier of all things to do in Ubud is to visit — and possibly get robbed in — the Monkey Forest. The green sanctuary occupies the southwest corner of Ubud, but the resident macaques roam freely, sometimes bullying passerby and making raids on nearby shops.
Along with visiting the Monkey Forest, seeing a traditional Balinese dance performance is almost compulsory. The nightly shows are easy to find and feature talented performers in colorful costumes.
Ubud’s central location makes it the perfect base for visiting nearby attractions. The green cascades of the Tegalalang rice terraces are just 25-minute drive north. Goa Ganjah, the Elephant Cave temple, is only 15 minutes to the east.
If the Tegalalang terraces are too busy, continue 20 more minutes to the lesser-known Pura Gunung Kawi for a very unique experience at the 11th-century temples.
Walking Around Ubud
Despite the tranquil reputation of Ubud, simply walking around town is often frustrating. The sidewalks around Ubud are notoriously uneven and damaged; broken drainage holes with jagged metal bars pose hazards that injure travelers every year. Drivers often congregate on sidewalks to offer transportation. Sidewalk vendors and shop displays take up the rest of the space. The twice-daily Hindu offerings in small baskets collect in front of businesses and have to be stepped around.
Eating in Ubud
Ubud is blessed with an abundance of good eateries, vegetarian cafes, juice shops, and European-style restaurants. You won’t have any trouble finding healthy food, although menus are a little pricey compared to the rest of Indonesia.
For a cheap, authentic Indonesian meal, consider eating in the local warungs or find a Padang rumah makan (eating house). You can enjoy a plate of rice, piece of fish or chicken, vegetables, boiled egg, and fried tempeh for around 25,000 rupiahs (US $2) or less!
Padang Food: Warung Masakan Minang Halal is a simple-but-excellent Padang eatery on the north end of Jalan Hanoman (left side when facing Jalan Raya Ubud, the main road).
Traditional Roast Pig: To sample babi guling (roast pig) prepared deliciously the Balinese way, get to Warung Ibu Oka. It’s only open four hours a day; pigs are stuffed with herbs and roasted off-site. Don’t expect to eat anything else there other than babi guling and the sides that accompany!
Balinese Food: For a healthy, very affordable meal of local tempeh and nasi campur (mixed vegetables on rice), check out Warung Biah Biah on Jalan Goutama.
Vegan Food: For the healthiest vegan options and medicinal teas in town, Seeds of Life (also on Jalan Goutama) is the most unique of Ubud’s many places to eat healing food.
Western Food: The Italian-run Buonasera just down the street from Seeds of Life serves the best brick-oven pizza in town with a glass of red wine.
Enjoying the Nightlife in Ubud
Unlike Gili Trawangan in nearby Lombok’s Gili Islands, Ubud isn’t exactly a “party” place.
Regardless, you’ll find a handful of fun options for socializing. Restaurants throughout town advertise evening happy hours with a setlist of cocktails on offer. Bands and guitarists entertain at some places in the early evenings during happy hour.
After dinner, things get a little more interesting, particularly at the string of bars around the soccer field located at the north end (closest to Jalan Raya Ubud) of Jalan Monkey Forest, at the intersection with Jalan Dewista.
CP Lounge is a large, popular, late-night place with hookah pipes, live entertainment, pool tables, open-air hangouts, and an enclosed dance floor with DJ. Prices for drinks are about what you would expect at home.
For a more sophisticated setting, check out Cafe du Monyet for wine and cocktails in a comfy atmosphere.
Shopping in Ubud
Haggle, negotiate, and haggle some more! Ubud is overflowing with boutique shops and galleries, however, asking prices start several times the value of the actual item. Don’t stress: negotiating prices is a part of the culture and can be a fun interaction when done correctly.
The Ubud Market is a chaotic tourist market of real, fake, cheap, expensive, and everything between. You’ll definitely need to negotiate to score good deals.
Begin by following these tips:
– Arrive early; merchants are sometimes more inclined to meet your price if it’s the first sale of the day.
– Shop around; you’ll often find the same items for less deep inside the market.
– Negotiate hard but always give a little on the final price to help vendors save face.
– Buy as many of your souvenirs as possible in the same place for more bargaining leverage.
Other Tips for Saving Money
Unlike in other parts of Southeast Asia, minimarts along Jalan Monkey Forest don’t have consistent pricing. A Coke or bottle of water in “tourist” minimarts may cost as much as three times more than the regular price at a shop literally two doors down.
If yoga is going to be a big part of your visit to Ubud, ask upfront about booking a package or bundle of lessons rather than paying each time. You’ll often receive a discount for committing to several classes; sometimes accommodation is discounted with yoga bundles at places such as Yoga Barn.
Many homestays and guesthouses in Ubud offer free breakfast — choose a place that does and take advantage!