This magical paradise is ready for your 'Eat, Pray, Love' moment.
Solo woman travel is on the rise. Traveling alone is a paradox because we do it to connect— to ourselves, to nature, and to the loving and unseen forces of the universe. There’s no better place for that than the Island of the Gods, known by solo woman adventurers as Mama Bali. The Balinese believe that Bali is the center of the universe, and if you agree with the idea that the Earth is a healing planet, you might be inclined to agree with them. Here are ten of the reasons Bali is ideal for solo woman travel.
Hospitality Is Part of the Balinese Identity
The Balinese are known for their kindness, tolerance, and hospitality. Expect to feel welcomed to the island like you are an old friend returning home. Wherever you stay, the staff will learn your name, bringing another level of comfort to your adventure. Last fall, as Mount Agung was fixing to erupt, many young Balinese took to the street in traditional costume, singing and collecting money for those displaced by the evacuation. When asked if any of them had family in the affected area, they all answered yes, explaining that every Balinese person is family. Bali is a place where everyone is encouraged to be happy and free, where everyone is family.
Getting Around Is Easy
Ubud, Bali’s cultural and spiritual center, is also pretty much the actual center of the Island, and extremely walkable. It’s a great home base. You can haggle with a driver on the street for a ride on the back of his motorbike when your feet get tired. There are daily shuttles to many of the beaches, and reputable and inexpensive tour companies that can take you on a boat to the nearby Gilli Islands. Alternatively, you can boat to Nusa Lembongan, which is still part of Bali and Hindu, whereas the Gilli’s are more associated with neighboring Lombok.
INSIDER TIPThe Gilli Islands have no police force and are famous for being full of Psilocybin (magic) mushrooms.
To visit nearby sights from Ubud, simply hire a driver (I recommend a guide named Putu) for the day. Even a full day should be under $100. Your driver will not only drive you, he or she will help you navigate entry fees and remind you of customs (like covering your shoulders in temples or taking off shoes in other places) and share their love of Bali and Balinese culture with you.
Some areas, like Seminyak, a favorite among Australian tourists, have Uber. There is also an app called Go Jek, which is like Uber, but for riding on the back of a motorbike.
INSIDER TIPIf you take a taxi, never get in and ask how much, a mistake many tourists make. The taxis have meters. Make sure they put it on before you agree to ride with them.
There’s Yoga Everywhere
The real journey of solo travel is inward. Bali’s tropical environment, Hindu culture, and that je ne sais quoi of Mama Bali has resulted in yogis and healers from all over the world flocking to the Island. There are endless options for yoga classes and retreats. The biggest and brightest, however, is the Yoga Barn. Known as one of the largest retreat centers in Southeast Asia, the Yoga Barn is a veritable college campus of wellness. Dozens of classes happen every day in either open air or window-filled studios, from traditional Ashtanga, Vinyasa, and Hatha, to newer offerings like Thai Yoga Massage, Yin Yoga, and Acro Yoga (a combination of acrobatics and yoga). The Yoga Barn has a cafe, accommodations, holistic healers, and even a vegetarian buffet and movie night. They also host many trainings and retreats.
Get High on Life
Unlike the rest of Indonesia, which is predominantly Muslim, Bali is a Hindu island. Hinduism is a fascinating religion, and intoxicants are discouraged. A land without drunk men or drug dealers is exponentially safer, especially for solo ladies. In my personal experience, I never saw Balinese people drink alcohol. No one ever offered or tried to sell me drugs. I never experienced catcalling as I walked down the street after dark.
I stayed a month in Seminyak Beach and witnessed their version of Ultra, a music festival that originated in South Beach. The only reason I knew this is from a billboard and some strobe lights that could be seen from the sand. Most islands push booze on tourists—it’s easy money—but not in Bali. They have it, but you’ll have to seek it out.
INSIDER TIPIf you are looking to party, go to Kuta.
From the sunsets of Seminyak in the South to dolphins frolicking in the waters off the black sand beaches in Lovina up north, whatever problems Bali has, a beach ain’t one. Bingin Beach, at the southernmost tip of the Island, is a hidden gem for surfers. The surrounding limestone cliffs mean stairs to get to the beach and your villa, a lot of them, and you’ll have to lug all your stuff. However, it’s exactly the kind of place where a girl can just grab a taxi from the airport, show up, rent a super cheap villa, and then proceed to have a brief and lovely fling before heading on to her next adventure.
Retreat Yo Self
A weeklong retreat is a great way to kick off a longer solo adventure. Most of them include transportation from the airport, and there is nothing like arriving in a foreign land after 24 hours of flying to see a sign with your name on it, and a smiling face saying, “Welcome to Bali!”
There are so many options for organized retreats, such as the one that She Recovers hosted at the Floating Leaf Eco Luxury Resort last September. You don’t have to be a recovering alcoholic or addict to go, the She Recovers motto is that “everyone is recovering from something.” If you want to find out if surfing is your thing, head on over to Canggu, also known as the hipster capital of Bali, for one of their world-class surf camps, like Storm Rider.
It’s Raining Rupiah
A luxury retreat center with a pool and breakfast included, like the Ubud Aura, is $45 per night. An hour massage starts at $5. A meal in a Warung, which is a small family run cafe, costs around $7. Fine dining like vegetarian Kismet in Ubud will still only run you under $20. Entry fees are nominal—it’s currently $3.50 to get into the Monkey Forest. A ten pack of yoga classes at the Yoga Barn run about $60. These are tourist prices in tourist areas, and the further you get off the beaten path, the more inexpensive things are. The beaten path is pretty great in Bali, though. Actually, it’s not so much beaten as it is well-loved.
INSIDER TIPKismet has excellent Wi-Fi and is a great place to work during the day. There is also red light above every single table that you pull when you want service, eliminating many of the anxieties surrounding eating alone. You will get the exact amount of attention from your server that you want.
One of the best things about Bali is all the Australians. Wait, what? YES. Bali is only a three-hour plane ride from Perth and a six-hour plane ride from Sydney. It’s easier for most Aussies to get to Bali than the beaches on their own continent, and it is much, much, cheaper. Aussie tourists are a generally awesome and friendly people. We have them to thank for the fact that English is widely spoken—and used on all signs—all over the island. Their influence hasn’t taken away from the splendor of the island, but it has made it that much easier for a Western traveler.
Spa Day, Every Day
The Balinese take their beauty treatments very seriously. The number of spas and temples may be neck and neck. Try the Cream Bath, a deep conditioning hair treatment that involves a melt-away-the-USA scalp massage. Balinese Boreh is a mixture of local spices that are ground up and rubbed onto you as a mask, then scrubbed off. Boreh means to ready the blood, or bring your body to life, in Balinese. It was created by workers in the rice paddies—they would sleep with the mask on to soothe aches, then rub it off in the morning, revving up circulation for the day. The spices used also repel insects.
INSIDER TIPSome spas don’t have nail polish remover, which they will not tell you, so beware or speak up if you want new polish. Or, skip the pedicure and just get a foot massage if you have old polish on unless you check with them first about removal.
Little Altars Everywhere
One one hand, we intuitively know that everything we are looking for is already within us, but sometimes you have to go away from every external influence that shapes you to uncover the pearl within. There’s something special about the energy of Mama Bali, and the healers and yogis and artists that have flocked there from all over the world agree. It’s easier to book a shamanic breathwork session in Ubud than in NYC. Offerings are made to the gods several times a day and incense is always burning so it’s like you are constantly being cleansed. You can see a traditional Balinese healer, set up a purification ceremony with a high priest, and plunge with the locals into the holy waters of Tirta Empul. Activate your inner Saraswati. Call on the Kali Ma within. Bali is a catalyst for spiritual healing.