Skyscanner – I love that I can choose “to” destination “flexible”. It helps me to find the cheapest destination from Europe to Asia (no matter Thailand, Malaysia or other, from there to go to Indonesia simpler).
Momondo – If my travel dates are flexible it’s great to see all the prices in the chart by dates and choose the cheapest date to fly.
Nusatrip– here I find sometimes the cheapest flights inside Asia.
Tiket – one of the websites that you can find well cheapest flight tickets inside Asia. As well you can buy train tickets, rent a car, book a hotel in Indonesia.
Traveloka – here you can find flights, hotels, train tickets, and much more.
Thorn Tree – many travel advice from local travelers and not only. I like that people most of the time give exhaustive answers to questions.
Couchsurfing – people not only host you but share their experiences, advice. Often organize meetings with travelers and local people.
FB groups – you can find many travel groups by different regions, traveling types and etc.
Darmasiswa scholarship – possibility to study Indonesian culture, live here for 6-12 months. I was selected for this program.
Internship in Indonesia– another possibility to stay in Indonesia and share your academic and cultural knowledge with Indonesian students.
Work away – voluntary program around the world and many possibilities for Asia as well. I already have several projects in my mind that would like to attend.
GoAbroad– providing the most comprehensive international education and alternative travel resource. You can find a study, internship, volunteering programs, and more.
Easy book – largest booking website in SE Asia: bus, train, car, ferry, and local tours in Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, and more. Often suggest discounts for online tickets.
Klook – car with a driver’s rental, pick up/drop off from the airport, and much more. All around Southeast Asia and other countries. The prices are really good.
12goAsia – boat and other transportations tickets around Southeast Asia.
Tiket – train tickets, car rentals in Indonesia. Easier to buy Indonesian train tickets here.
Onwardticket – when you don’t know yet your travel plans but you need to present an onward ticket for entering certain countries. This page is a solution – you can get verified flight reservation.
Go-jek – works like Uber in Indonesia. You can book not only a ride but as well as food delivery and much more.
Grab– similar to Go-jek but works not only in Indonesia but as well in other Southeast countries.
Blue Bird taxi– official taxi in Indonesia that you can order in Jakarta, Bali, Bandung, Banten, Batam, Lombok, Manado, Medan, Padang, Pekanbaru, Palembang, Semarang, Solo, Surabaya, and Yogyakarta. Very easy to use their app “MyBlueBird”.
Travel insurance – I use Heymondo or WorldNomads. I love Heymondo because it covers as well COVID and WorldNomads because of the wide coverage of activities. If you are interested in Heymondo insurance you even can get a 5% discount on your travel insurance.
I believe you have seen how picturesque Bali island is? But only through Bali beaches, landscapes, nature spots you won’t see all the beauty of this island. A little knowledge and participation in Bali ceremonies, festivals (cultural or religious) can give more ineffable memories for your holidays in Bali. Like Indian writer, Siddharth Katragadda said, “The greatness of a culture can be found in its festivals”.
The best if you could attend any of Balinese family celebrations like Gedong-gedongan (ceremony in the 8th month of pregnancy), Menek kelih (puberty), teenagers transition to the adult’s world (tooth filling), wedding and etc. But if you will be in Bali island only for short period – I believe it’s not so easy to become close friends with local people and be invited to such sacred family ceremonies.
But in Bali, there are many public celebrations that you can attend. Almost every month you can enter different Bali ceremonies, festivals. For example, well-known monsters parade Ogoh-Ogoh, Nyepi (silent day – Bali’s Lunar New Year), Galungan (Balinese Hindus commemorate the legendary battle of good versus evil), art or villages festivals, temples anniversaries and etc.
During my 1st year of living in Bali I have participated in the above-mentioned (and others) Bali ceremonies, rituals, so this year I’m more interested to attend unique, unusual, less known among travelers Bali ceremonies. Maybe you will be interested to take a part in any of these Bali ceremonies, during your trip to Bali?
Bali ceremonies, festivals, rituals – my bucketlist
Kissing ceremony that helps to find beloved – “Omed-Omedan”
I don’t know whether believe the legend, but around 100 years ago king Puri Oka was sick. Outside his place, the youngsters were playing the game Omed Omed (boys pulled the random boy to the side, girls pulled the random girl to the side too). When pulled boy and girl were close to each other, by accident – they kissed. And this event caused a lot of noise from youngsters. King was angry and get outside to stop this noisy game. But after he gets out he didn’t feel ill anymore. After such “magic” the King announced that this Omed Omed (that literally means “pull-pull”) should be held each year after Nyepi celebration (Balinese New Year).
Nowadays in this ceremony can participate only unmarried Sesetan village youth (17-30 years old). People say, that through this ceremony many couples met and build families. As well such ritual brings good luck and prosperity to those who are taking part in it. Not enough that participants may not know each other and will kiss strangers, village priests throw water over participants to douse the flames of passion. Maybe this ceremony not so special but for sure can give good vibes. More about this Bali festival.
Place: Banjar Kaja Sesetan in Denpasar, Bali
The best place to stay near Denpasar would be the Sanur area (I doubt you would really enjoy staying in the capital of Bali, during your holidays). I have stayed in Sanur in these places:
Sudamala Suites & Villas – I love this place. It’s like a small oasis near the main Sanur area. So many unique details inside. Inspiring, peaceful, spacious surroundings, delicious food, and very friendly staff.
Puri Santrian – quite a big hotel but has straight access to the beach. You can choose from many different types of rooms. I enjoy their buffet type breakfast with a big assortment, live Gamelan music, green surrounding, and helpful staff.
As well can be an option to stay in Kuta (from ceremony place the distance almost the same to go to Sanur or Kuta). You can check options in Airbnb too: Kuta or Sanur. And if you are new to Airbnb you can get FREE credits for first your booking.
Full moon ceremony to ask God’s grace
“Purnama” the day of the full moon is a special day for Balinese people. Every month on the full moon extra offerings “sesajen” are made in family temples. As well such offerings are taken to the village temple. Depending on the full moon time usually, many temples will have special events for villagers, like dancing, shadow puppet theater wayang, other performances. Such full moon ceremony takes all day long activities from preparation offering, cooking, going to the temples and etc. Every 10th full moon (called “Purnama Kadas”) even more special. Unique rituals you can see not only in the main island temples but as well in smaller ones. For example on this special day, the mother temple, Besakih, holds a special ceremony known as “Betara Turun Kabeh”, inviting the gods and deified ancestors for their blessings. More about this ceremony from fellow travel blogger you can find here.
Place: island-wide in major temples.
Note: during such ceremonies, the temples are crowded with prayers.
The best place to stay in Bali during this ceremony is the Ubud area. Because you can easily reach main temples like Besakih, Tirta Empul, Pura Goa Lawah, and others. You can check an Airbnb listing. I have stayed in Ubud in these places:
Tjampuhan Ubud & Spa – cozy, beautiful place with a view to a temple and just a couple minute walk from Campuhan Ridge Walk, not far from the center. Breakfast was very delicious.
Manyi Village Ubud – a place surrounded by rice paddies but further from the Ubud center (they have a shuttle bus). It’s not a big place, quiet, intimate. From the balcony, you can see the sunrise, from bathroom window paddies. Breakfast buffet type with several options.
Ubud Wana Resort – city type hotel, not too big, with spacious rooms, couple swimming pools, not far from Ubud Monkey forest. Stuff very flexible and helpful. Breakfast buffet type with several options.
Sanggingan Villa and Permana Cottages – Ubud – both places are not too far from Ubud center. Rooms are spacious but the interior of Bali in 80’s (some rooms only with fan, some rooms needs improvement). Very simple served breakfast.
Self-stabbing ritual that brings people closer to God – “Ngerebong”
This ritual, more than 100 years old, for sure not for everyone. I have seen some trance rituals on Java island, so I’m a bit curious to see it in Bali too. Balinese believe that stabbing themselves in the neck and chest with a dagger called “keris” without drawing a drop of blood (can you imagine that it’s possible?) helps to achieve harmony between humans, nature, and God. The ritual not only brings villagers closer to God, it also helps give them a sense of community. All preparation, ceremonies, and ritual itself take all day long. Find out more about this Balinese ritual or take a look at this video.
Place: Petilan Pengerebongan temple, Kesiman, Denpasar, Bali
Time: Every 210 days (on the eight-day after Kuningan)
The best place to stay near Denpasar would be the Sanur area (to stay in the capital of the island, not the best choice). I have stayed in a couple of hotels in Sanur – you can check above my experience there.
Kid’s transition to the adult’s world sacred ceremony – “Usaba Dangsil”
When I saw girl’s pictures from Bungaya village (one of the oldest villages in Bali) during the Usaba Dangsil ceremony – I understood that it is something that I haven’t seen yet in Bali. It’s not only about different local people’s ritual clothing but as well about activities they do for this ceremony. Boys and girls (hundreds of them) have to follow many rituals, which shows that they became grownups. Beside all rituals are built 7 giant pillars (which symbolize welfare and protection) and with all villagers help transported to a certain place. This unique main ritual held only every 12-14 years! The last time it was in August 2016. You can read more about this ceremony here and watch a short video from the event in 2016.
Place: Bungaya village in Karangasem, Bali
Time: Every 12-14 years, every full and dark moon from 10 am you can see special performances.
Best hotels in Bali, Karangasem area you can find here or check Airbnb places. I have stayed in Rama Candidasa Resort & Spa. Honestly, it is one of my favorite places to stay in Bali – the hotel is in front of the sea (even if it’s not possible to swim there), interior nicely mixed between Balinese and modern style, spacious and green surrounding, breakfast is buffet type with big assortment and staff very helpful.
Sacred ceremony to neutralize 288 evil spirits – “Ngerebeg”
Locals believe that at least 288 different kind of demons lives along Tegelalang’s river. To neutralize these spirits Balinese from Tegalalang village every 6 months organize a parade that is in conjunction with Duur Bingin temple anniversary. It requires villagers to dress up like a demon. This traditional ceremony, sacred Grebeg ritual, in Tegalalang village known from the 13th century.
There is no gender restriction but mainly in such a parade participate hundreds of 3-15 years old boys (as well as teenagers). As well they prepare 288 meal offerings at any major religious festival to appease these spirits. This ritual purifies the village through the noisy parade of scary-looking kids (reminds a bit Ogoh Ogoh before Nyepy day). People believe that supernatural beings will be pacified so they won’t disturb temple ceremonies. In the morning kids deliver offerings and in the evening – they participate in a parade. I think it’s quite fun to watch this parade, see kids’ creativity. More about this Bali ceremony here.
Place: Duur Bingin temple, Tegalalang village, Gyanair, Bali
Best Bali hotels to stay in around Tegalalang. Or you can stay in Ubud. My experiences staying in Ubud you can check above.
Blood offering ritual to the Gods to appease the spirits – “Mekare-kare”
In ancient Balinese village Tenganan (where people still follow prie-Hindu culture and traditions) once a year, men participate in a theatrical fight “Mekare kare” (as well known as “Perang Pandan”, “Pandan war” or “Megeret Pandan”). The aim of such battle is to draw blood, to spill a few drops on the bare earth to appease the spirits and keep them at peace. Other people say that this ceremony nowadays is about to impress the village’s unmarried women. In any case, this ritual quite interesting because man’s fights with sharp pandanus leaves, bamboo shield and accompanied by native gamelan music “Selonding” (playing only in this village). Each fight lasts only a couple of minutes. Even if you won’t see a battle, during this event you will enjoy this Balinese ceremony because women will be dressed in traditional, only for this village common clothes, you will see traditional performances and hear Selonding music. It’s a time when you can be a witness to the most beautiful village. More about this ritual you can read here and watch the video.
Place: Tenganan Pegringsingan and Tenganan Dauh Tukad villages in Karangasem, Bali
Best Bali accommodation in Karangasem area you can find here. I have stayed in Rama Candidasa Resort & Spa. Honestly, it is one of my favorite places to stay in Bali – the hotel is in front of the sea (even if it’s not possible to swim there), interior nicely mixed between Balinese and modern style, spacious and green surrounding, breakfast is buffet type with big assortment and staff very helpful.
Harvest celebration – “Makepung” water buffalo’s races
Agrarian scenes are part of Balinese daily life. And to uphold agriculture traditions each year in some parts of the island is an organized unique festival – buffaloes race. It‘s a colorful agriculture spectacle-race (known from ~1930) which symbolizes the mutual help of farmers carrying their harvest using a carriage that pulls by two buffaloes. Balinese participate in such a race for honor, pride, and trophy. Race tradition originally came from Madura island in Indonesia. Such an event was so inspiring that in 1984 was created special traditional dance “Makepung”. This dance is performed by 7 to 9 males, females and depicts riders, the buffaloes themselves. One of the unique features of the dance is that it is accompanied by the Jegog bamboo orchestra, which is also typical of the regency. Find out more about this race and you can check this video.
Place: Kaliakah village, Perancak (close to Negara) in Jembrana, Bali
Best hotels in Bali Jembrana area you can see here or Negara here. But maybe you can find something suitable on Airbnb?
ALL YEAR LONG
Temple ceremonies – temple “birthday”
Every temple and shrine in Bali (there are more than ~4539 temples) has an annual ceremony called “Odalan”. The word “Odalan” is believed to have come from the root word “Wedal” which means “birth”. This is usually the day when the temple buildings are blessed for the first time or the day where Balinese Hindus commence to bring offerings and pray in the temple. Temple festival may come once in 210 days following the “Wuku” Balinese calendar (twice in a Gregorian calendar), thus a semi-annual celebration, or maybe an annual ceremony, if villagers follow the lunar calendar. Bali ceremonies for temples are very colorful, people are making special decorations, offerings as well you can see exclusive performances.
Since every village has at least three major temples (and often many more than that), there is always some kind of community religious activity going on. So I believe you could join any such event during your holidays in Bali.
Notice that during temple ceremony, not allow:
Enter such festival if you have an open wound, bring food inside, if you are mentally or physically ill, being in a state of mourning (for the Balinese this lasts 42 days or one month + 7 days of Balinese calendar), and having given birth within the past 42 days.
Time: every 210 days. Temple ceremony usually lasts for 1-3 days, but larger ones (which occur every 5, 10, 30 or 100 years) can last for 7-11 days or longer.
As well maybe you can be interested to see cockfights? Legal fights you can see usually during temple ceremonies almost all around the island but many people organize it illegally too. I have seen such fights in the Karangasem area, it’s quite common there but it’s hard to know from before when it will be held.
Furthermore, I participated in a Balinese sacred purification ritual which aimed to purify a human body and soul in order to prevent havoc, bad luck, and sickness (also achieve self-purification). If you would be interested to experience it too, before going to any water temple talk with local people who will explain the meaning, sequence and etc. The main thing – do it not for entertainment but with understanding why you do it and how to do it right.
I believe you don’t want to become an annoying tourist. Some tips for visiting Bali ceremonies, festivals, rituals (especially religious):
Always wear sarong and sash (you can bring your own or rent in the temple).
Don’t wear a bikini, too transparent clothes.
Never sit higher than the priest, on the offerings.
Don’t walk in front of people when they are praying or further than the prayers are.
Women are not allowed to enter temples during menstruations.
Don’t use flash or point camera at the priest’s face.
Be polite if making pictures of people – don’t disturb them if they are preparing for a ceremony, praying. Would be nice if you ask their permission to take photos of them.
Moreover, you should know that during the main religious, national celebrations can be a bit difficult to travel in Bali or another Indonesian island like people will have holidays. You can check the Indonesian holiday calendar of yearly events to plan your trip at the right time.
It’s only Bali celebrations that I want to visit this year (those that I didn’t mention here I already visited or will leave for next year too). Indonesia has more than 17 000 islands, each of them has different own celebrations. So you can imagine that in Indonesia you can feel like in never-ending celebration place.
SHARE YOUR THOUGHTS
Which Bali ceremonies, festivals, or rituals you would like to attend?
In which of these or other Bali ceremonies you already participated?
Do you have any similar to Bali ceremonies celebrations in your country?
In general traveling in Indonesia or other Asian countries is quite cheap. Just one “small” detail – you need to have time. Like some destinations are quite far from each other (even if in the map looks closer) and the cheapest way of traveling is by land.
One of the most popular destinations in Indonesia – Bali island. But people try to travel around and not stay only in Bali. Most common that travelers fly to Jakarta, then through Java island (visiting Yogyakarta, Mount Bromo and Ijen) reach Bali. There people stay longer or go to other islands (Lombok, Komodo, Gilis and etc.).
The economical way to go from Yogyakarta to Bali is take “economi” train (yes, they have other train types as well – Executive (Eksecutif), Business (Bisnis)). The cheapest way would be hitch-hiking, but not all people likes it and most of travelers have limited time for holidays.
Technically you can’t get from Yogyakarta to Bali only by train because it’s 2 separate islands (Yogyakarta is in Java island). With train from Java you can reach only Java island port. From there you still need to use ferry to get to Bali harbor and use other transport (bus, taxi, car, motorbike) to get to any city in Bali island.
So, how to travel from Yogyakarta to Bali in economical way?
Take “economi” train from Yogyakarta Lempuyangan railway station. It leaves every day in early morning. Journey takes 13-15 hours. Cost 1 way/per person 100 000 Rp (~7,5 USD).
From Banyuwangi Baru railway station go straight to Ketapang port (it’s ~10 min. by foot from train station).
Take a ferry from Ketapang port to Bali Gilimanuk harbor. Ferries goes 24 hours. It takes ~40 min. (can be less or more, depends on the “traffic” in the sea). Cost 1 way/per person 7 500 Rp (~0,55 USD).
From Bali Gilimanuk harbor catch other transportation to go to needed Bali city. For that you have couple options:
In the ferry look around if there are any cars with 1-2 people or motorbikes with 1 person. Go to ask those people if they could bring you to any city in Bali (depends on their own destinations, but most probably they will go to Denpasar, Ubud or Kuta). As well you can see buses – go to talk with a driver if there are any free seat for you (but for this they will ask extra money. Amount depends on the driver, so you can try to negotiate with him).
If you feel too shy/uncomfortable to speak with local people – you can try to catch a bus in Bali harbor, just nobody knows exact night bus timings. Maybe you will need to wait 1 hour maybe till the morning. The bus stop is on the right side after you will exit harbor (but most of the time drivers already try to catch travelers in harbor and invite them to follow). But it’s not so nice to stay in empty harbor. There are few “warungs” (“street cafes”) which works all night long but sometimes people there a bit strange and you can feel uncomfortable there. Usually bus takes to Denpasar 3-5 hours (depends on bus type, one stopping in each corner to collect people, other – go straight to Denpasar). Price from Bali Gilimanuk harbor to Denpasar cost 1 way/per person 30 000-50 000 Rp (~2,16-3,60 USD) depends how good you are in bargain :) But at night price can be a bit higher.
Pros for traveling from Yogyakarta to Bali by train
It’s the cheapest way (not counting hitchhiking) to get to Bali.
You can see beautiful nature and local people daily life views through the window on the way from Yogyakarta to Bali.
You don’t need to worry about oversize backpack, there are no limitations for stuff that you take with you.
If you are friendly, curious person, during the trip you can speak with local people and know them better. They will spend all 13 hours with you, so would love to chat as well.
There are power sockets, so if you have laptop with you – can “kill” your time with watching movies or do other things.
On the way to Bali, you can stop in Probolinggo and visit Bromo, Ijen. Later can continue your trip to Bali by bus.
Cons for traveling from Yogyakarta to Bali by train
“Economi” train stops in almost every train station. As well they called “polite trains” – “economi” train stops and always allow the “faster” trains to pass by. Also there are stops, where train stop for longer time (for example in Surabaya stop for 30 min.). So, this train not the best for those whose stay in Indonesia short.
If you want to buy cheapest economic train ticket (especially during local holidays, weekends) you should do it at least 1 week in advance. Before/during/after Ramadhan even couple weeks before. Like many Indonesians will go back to visit their families and it’s the cheapest way for them to do that. Yes, you can try your luck by buying ticket in the train station day before or couple hours before departure, but it’s very rare be so lucky :).
If you don’t like to get a lot of attention – traveling by economic train – not for you. Most of the local people who is traveling by train rare see foreigners, so they are very curious. They can stare at you all the time, try to talk with you. And if you will be “lucky” – kids will stuck around you and will make pictures of you. In other hand it can be pros as well – you have possibility 13 hours to know Indonesian people better, “kill” your time.
Most of the seats are made for 2 or 3 people, but there is no separation. So if you can’t stand that all journey somebody will touch you – don’t choose travel by such train.
If you are too sensitive for kids scream, noises, different food smells – as well don‘t choose this train. Mostly people in the train feels and behave like at home.
The train will delay all the time. So even if official trip duration is 13 hours. It can delay till ~2 hours.
Tips for traveling from Yogyakarta to Bali by train (ferry and bus)
In economic train is working air-condition (or can be fans), so even if outside will be hot, inside will be colder. Take something to cover yourself.
There are simple squat toilets but no toilet paper so have it with you.
In the train there is café and time to time guys are coming with some snacks, food, hot drinks – but don’t expect anything luxury :D. Better to buy water, snacks before the trip – will be cheaper and can eat when you want without waiting for the sellers.
There are power sockets, so during the trip you can charge your equipment, but don’t forget that other will do the same. Don’t leave your charger all trip long :).
Come to the train at least 40 min. before departure. Then you will have chance to put your bags above your head. Later all places will be fully complete with local people stuffs (ant they will have a lot off them :)).
Have small bag with you, where you will have all needed things for journey. Like every time go up and take something from big bag will be not comfortable.
Keep eye on your stuff during the stops. Even if people not allowed to enter train station are without showing the ticket, still some sellers from outside get inside the train.
In Banyuwangi train station, many taxi drivers will suggest to take you to the port. But it’s no need – it’s so near. Except if you have a lot of stuff and don’t want take them by yourself.
Before getting inside the bus be sure to which bus station they will arrive. Sometimes different buses goes to different stations in Denpasar.
If you have chance, don’t sit in the end of the bus, it’s a place for people who is going short distances. Of course you can sit there, just won’t be comfortable when around you will put many boxes, other travelers stuffs, people will ask you to move and etc.
How to by train ticketfrom Yogyakarta to Bali
You can buy straight in Yogyakarta Lempuyangan railway station (need to have your ID).
You can buy in “Indomaret” supermarket. You just need to have your ID, tell for the cashier where, when you want to go. She/he will print the check with your trip details. Usually for this service they charge extra 7 5000 Rp but as well most of the time they make some advertising, like “buy ticket – get free drink” or no charge fee and etc. (every time it’s different offer). But this check is only reservation – at least 1 hour before departure you should come to train station and change this check to the real ticket.
You can buy ticket online in Indonesian railway website (only in Indonesian language, but navigation quite easy and main words you can find in google translator :)). Here, after reservation, you should buy ticket during 24 hours (you can do it “Indomaret”, “Alfamart” and other supermarkets (it the end of reservation will be shown the the list) or show reservation letter in train station, you will get it to your email).
You can buy ticket online in private agency Tiket. There is everything written in English so much easier to buy. But they can charge small fee for service. As well in this website you can book hotel, rent a car. Sometimes I find there cheap flights inside Indonesia.
If you will decide to travel to other places in Indonesia by train, here is more information about other train routes.
How I traveled from Yogyakarta to Bali by train?
I traveled by train twice. First time, we decided not to go straight to the ferry but stay overnight in the hostel that we found in the train station area. We went to Bali next morning. Second time – I went straight to Bali harbor where my friend pick me up with motorbike. But believe me it was very tiring and long journey. We reach Sanur only at 6 am (took ~5 hours go by motorbike).
If you will decide to stay overnight in Banyuwangi as well. We stayed in simple place. Nothing fancy, rooms are small, without proper windows. One type rooms have shared bathroom (cost 75 000 Rp), others – private (price 100 000 Rp) per night. In this place they don’t make any reservation. Who comes first get a bed. It’s clean place but made just for overnight stay. In the morning you can order coffee, breakfast for additional money.
I met one traveler who told that he stays in other place for 45 000 Rp but I don’t know exactly where that place is, as well at night I didn’t want to search for it :). But here you can see other places to stay.
Hostel in Ketapang port, where we stayed.
If you want to make your trip more memorable and you have extra time, I suggest on the way to Bali stop in Bromo and Ijien volcanoes. It will be things that for sure you won’t forget. Just check Lili’s practical guide to Kawah Ijen and enjoy your journey!
What is your experience traveling by trains in Asia? Would you recommend it for other travelers?