Shopping in Ubud, Bali
Shopping is definitely one of my favorite hobbies and I embrace any unique shopping opportunity that comes my way. I knew Ubud was the artistic center for Bali but I had no clue to to expect until I arrived. The amount and quality of some of the artwork for the considerably low prices they were asking for was exciting while at the same time a bit overwhelming. Ok, a lot overwhelming. There was just so much…where do you even begin?
Ubud has a huge selection of all things artsy….paintings, statues made of stone and various metals, knives, elaborate wood carvings, beautiful jewelry, scarves, and handbags, and all kinds of other baubles and trinkets that you never knew you needed until you got there. Unfortunately there seems to be a bit of a market for wooden penis bottle openers there as well, but you just need to look past those little gems and you’ll find some truly beautiful stuff.
The hardest part of shopping in Ubud was restraining myself from buying every single thing I saw because it all seemed so unique. And it was unique…until I went into the shop next door and saw a very similar rendition of the exact same thing. Almost all of the items are still handmade and to someone back home they would definitely be unique, but the biggest suggestion I can offer is to do a little window shopping before making any big purchases. If you see something that you absolutely love then by all means go for it, just be aware that there is a LOT to choose from.
Also keep in mind that the first price is (almost) never the last price. You’ll get the best prices in the morning because the Balinese believe that their first customer will bring good luck for the rest of the day. Do a little bargaining but also keep in mind the exchange rate. 10,000 IDR is roughly equal to $1, so even though it may seem like a lot in the heat of the moment, trying to lower the price by 5,000 IDR is only 50 cents…and I’m pretty sure they need that 50 cents a lot more than you do.
I did happen to find 2 shops that are the exception to my shop around rule because they have quality products that you can’t find anywhere else: KOU and Confiture Michèle. Kou is a tiny little shop that is all about soaps. The soaps smell amazing and are beautifully packaged which makes them a great gift for loved ones back home and also a pretty little souvenir for yourself. They also have a sister store, Kou Cuisine on Monkey Forest Road, that sells homemade jams. Although I didn’t have the chance to stop in to Kou Cuisine, I can tell you that the shop looked equally as appealing. (**Kou does not have a website and specific addresses don’t really exist in Ubud, but if you type “Kou Ubud” into google maps it will show you Kou and Kou Cuisine)
Confiture Michele is a small shop that sells homemade French recipe jams made only from tropical fruits and unrefined local cane sugar. They offer plenty of samples and also some yummy treats like crepes to eat while you’re there. The perfect place to find a unique gift for any foodies back home!
In a nutshell, here’s my advice for shopping in Bali
1. Pick out a few places you know you want to visit ahead of time. Most shops in Bali don’t have websites so blog posts like this one will be your best source of information. Having a few shops in mind ahead of time will give you a little direction and help get you started. Besides Kou and Confiture Michele I found 2 other shops that I felt had higher quality products: Tanda Mata-the closest to Ubud Center, just a few shops west of the main road/monkey forest rd intersection, and Kunang Kunang which is west of Ubud Center on the main road as well but it’s a bit farther-you’ll see it just before you hit Murni’s Warung. There were more great shops but these were the only two that I remembered to take a business card from.
2. Don’t buy the very first painting or statue you see. There will be more just like it, lots more. You may end up coming back to that first shop but it never hurts to look around.
3. Shop in the morning for the best prices. In most shops, the price listed or the first price given is not the final price-you usually have a little bargaining room. Shops like Kou and Confiture Michele were the 2 exceptions I found to this-their prices are set. Just keep the exchange rate in mind when you’re bargaining so you’re not haggling over $0.50.
4. Venture out of the core of Ubud Center to find higher quality shops. I’m not talking miles out of town, just not at the main intersection of Monkey Forest Road near Ubud Palace. This area is tourist central so the shops there cater to the typical tourist. I’m sure you can probably find some great stuff here, but personally my favorite shops were the ones I had to work a bit to find.
5. After a long day of shopping, take a load off and stop for a massage. They are DIRT CHEAP here….I’m talking $10 for an hour. You can’t afford NOT to. And while you’re at it, dunk your feet in one of the glass fish tanks and let the little guys suck away…I chickened out but I wish I would’ve tried it. It’s definitely not something you’ll find back home!
6. Last one…wear comfortable shoes! You will be walking a TON and the sidewalks are not in the best of shape. There is so much to see in such a small area so exploring on foot is the way to go.