** Update: now that I’ve traveled around Asia. Looking back I can hardly believe I spent $29 on a hotel for a single night. Eventually I’d be finding places of similar caliber for $12 in Vietnam.
Saving money on my first hotel in Bali
My first hotel was adequate and at ~$29 USD. It cost less than any hotel I’ve ever stayed in. It’s clean, safe, centrally located, had a pool, and came with free breakfast (choice of banana pancakes, eggs, or an Indonesian rice and noodle mix).
From there I headed to Semynak (the town on the island of Bali), where I had a reservation. Apparently that doesn’t mean much.
Despite my reservation and confirmation, they said they were full (picture Seinfeld saying “anyone can TAKE a reservation. but the key is HOLDING it…”) but suggested I “come back in a few days to see if it opens up.”
In a few days?? Yeah sure, look out for me.
I had checked out of my other hotel already, and had plans to meet up with some new friends in a town called Kuta, where I found my new hotel.
From Semynak to Kuta
Kuta’s a beach town but nobody goes there to just lay in the sun. I don’t think I’ve seen more than a dozen people reading on the beach. People go to Kuta for the surfing and the Bali party scene with other travelers (half of which are Aussies).
The new hotel I went to was just built. It has a pool and free breakfast like the other place, plus a/c, hot showers with water pressure, and wifi in the room, and features brand new rooms that look like this:
It’s located on a side alley, which they call “gangs” in Bali, and “Poppies Gang 2” is a bit closer to the beach. As a solo traveler, less than a week from starting my trip, I certainly wasn’t comfortable yet, but this is where all the hotels are, besides luxury ones on the beach (which are nice, but pricey and more importantly private. I wanted social).
The “Obama discount”
I should mention, the price listed at the desk was much higher, around the equivalent of $48 USD, but everything’s negotiable. We agree on the equivalent of $29 USD (I’m of course paying in IDR), and he announced to the team behind the desk that he was giving me what he called an “Obama discount.”
Negotiating cheap taxis
When I mention which hotel I’m staying in, the guy I’m talking with refers to it as a “fancy” hotel. This is surprising to me. I provide directions and an address to my cab driver. After a brief pause – “oh, the fancy hotel.”
Is it really that fancy? It won’t take long to realize that’s how they’re sizing you up, determining how much you can afford to pay. This certainly impacts negotiations for goods.
Soon you realize telling them the exact hotel means it’ll be more expensive. It means they think there’s a good chance you’ll pay way more than other people.
You can often still get the price you want, because there’s a gluttony of supply compared with the demand for nearly everything. However, it’ll just take a little longer to negotiate.
If you’re Indonesian, or apparently look like you could be, the negotiation is much different. One of my new friends is from Singapore, and this seemed to be an advantage here. The negotiation starts at a fraction of where it would if I asked the price. They’re more likely to provide a higher price before you say you’re interested, as compared with someone that looks more local.
Dinner – English with English subtitles –
We had dinner at the Swell Cafe in Bali. My dinner cost about $4 total. Besides great food for cheap prices, people come here for free wifi and movies on their big screen projector. It’s funny watching Hollywood movies in english but with english subtitles. They’re translated to the broken english the way the local Balinese that are still learning English often speak.