The Tegallalang Rice Terraces are the most famous and pictured rice paddies in Ubud (and all of Bali for that matter). Tourists flock to these rice fields by the numbers to get the instagram-worthy photo of the luscious green landscapes featuring rows upon rows of rice terraces lined with coconut trees.
If you know someone who has visited Bali, chances are you’ve also seen them post a photo of the tropical rice terraces. Perhaps this has served as your travel inspo and you are now on your way to Bali and have this place marked high on your to-do list.
Below are our best tips based on experience so you can get the most out of your visit to the world famous Tegallalang Rice Terraces of Ubud, Bali. Follow our complete guide to experience this place the RIGHT way. Take our advice below and don’t miss a beat!
1. Get there early (I’m talking 7am early)
Before you moan and groan, lets start off with some basic trivia.
How many tourists do you think are in Ubud every day?
A lot, yeah?
How many tour guides, operators, and buses do you think bring tourists to these world famous rice terraces every day?
A lot, right?
Okay so how many of these hundreds of tour buses and groups do you think arrive at the Tegallalang Rice Terraces at the same time, around 11am, every day?
Don’t panic, I’ll give you a second to think about it.
Rice terraces, fields, and paddies aren’t meant for tourists. Yes, this location is now a tourist attraction but regular business occurs everyday. The foothpaths are stomped out by the workers that harvest and pick the rice, so don’t expect wide and nicely paved walkways. You enter the same way you exit. Can you imagine what its like to have a thousand tourists all trying to go in, while there are another thousand trying to get out on the same path? And then the few hundred with selfie sticks, the groups that take extremely long to get the perfect photo before you can walk past them, and the family that won’t move out of the friggen way so you can get a shot of the entire landscape without people in it?
Trust me, go early.
However if you enjoy battling with crowds of slow walkers and want more reasons to wake up early and get there as soon as they open, here they are:
i) If you get in right at 7am, you get to catch early light. This means your photos will come out looking soft and airy instead of harsh and bright. And if you’re not hugely into photography then forget what I said, you probably have no idea what I’m talking about. Unfortunately since they close at 5pm, its too early to catch Golden Hour (the sun sets around 630pm year-round in Bali). So the best you can do is get there right before sunrise (630am) or as suggested, right at opening which is 7am.
ii) It gets reeeaal hot, real quick. The ride to Tegallalang was pleasant and breezy, however the second you start walking up and down the terraces you will work up a bucket of sweat. Tourists that come here during the tourist time between 11am and 3pm will tell you to not ever come between these times. The sun is strong and the air is humid. We felt like death leaving right at 11am, I don’t even want to think what it would be like trekking that place during the sun’s hottest hours, no matter how beautiful the place may be.
Upon hiking back up to the exit at 11am, I had a huge smile on my face seeing how busy the location got and how many buses and cars were still unloading with tourists. Victory was ours!!!
2. Ditch the driver and rent a bike
There really is absolutely no reason why you need a driver to take you there, whether it be a taxi or a hired driver. You cannot get lost going there yourself as it is one road straight up to the rice fields from central Ubud (Sri Wedari Street). You will know exactly when you have arrived because all the sudden you will see magnificent terraces of green and rows of coconut trees to your right. A sight for sore eyes! A bike should cost you no more than 50,000rp a day ($5 CAD/$5 AUD/$4 USD) and takes approx. 30 minutes on a motor bike from central Ubud.
Transporting yourself on a motorbike to the rice terraces is an experience in itself as you pass by local villages that reveal the true side of Indonesia. The entire ride up is green and was actually much cooler and breezier than we expected for a scorching hot day. Better than the AC in a car!
3. Bring lots of small bills or coin change
A simple read-through of the location’s reviews on Google or TripAdvisor will teach you that there are “donation” checkpoints all throughout the terraces. The only real donation is the first one when you enter, consider this an entrance fee. It is to maintain and upkeep the terraces for visitors. There is no set price and you give what you feel is fair. We put $10,000rp in the jar to cover the both of us ($1 CAD/$1 AUD/$0.77 USD). However, as you walk up, down, and around Tegallalang you will be forced to ‘donate’ more or else they physically will not let you through. These aren’t the farmers asking for money, they are just gougers. The local Balinese call them “mafia”, they are just there for their own gain. The money they collect go straight into their pockets and the farmers don’t see it. However you will come across some older farmers (they look and are really sweet) who offer you their baskets and rice hats to wear for a photo op. If you take photos with their props, a donation is expected.
For these reasons, I suggest you bring lots of small bills or coin change to pay off all the forced donation checkpoints and photo props. A minimum of $5,000rp is expected at each checkpoint ($0.50 CAD/$0.50 AUD/$0.40 USD). We went through 2 forced donation checkpoints after the first one which we considered the entrance fee. We then paid one man to use his basket prop and one lady that helped show us the way out (we got really deep into the terraces, read below to know how far!) So 5 payments in total. If you don’t bring small bills or coin change don’t think that you can get change for your larger bills, its a closed donation box.
Some tourists don’t research beforehand and think the first donation request box is the only one they’ll see, so they give them $5 per head. Then they get stopped again at the next checkpoint, until they realize there are a ton of these set up and they leave with a sour taste in their mouth feeling they got “ripped off”. Be prepared. Bring small bills!
4. Wear proper shoes
So for the first time, “wear proper shoes” does not mean wear runners! The best type of shoes to wear here would be swim shoes or crocs with a backing. Tung and I both wore our crocs flip flops which got a bit tricky when we got to the muddier and wetter parts of the field. People lose their flip flops and sandals here often so if you don’t trust yourself, wear shoes with a backing like flats or sneakers you don’t mind getting dirty. I would not suggest runners as they will soak up all the water and mud and you’ll be walking around with wet feet in wet socks (ew!).
There are parts of the field that are much better traversed barefoot. Well actually the entire place is better bare foot, as that’s how the rice workers walk around. One area in the back was so wet and muddy that a lady farmer told us to hold our flip flops in our hand and walk through barefoot because we kept slipping. It was much easier!
5. Pace yourself
This is a HUGE place. The sun is STRONG. The air is HUMID. There are tons of steps! Take your time and look around you as you walk up, down, and around. The views could look much different just one terrace up and you might miss the perfect photo op if you rush through. As mentioned, it gets really hot really quickly and you don’t want to get a heat stroke. Additionally, rushing on these narrow and wet footpaths could result in you falling right into the rice puddles!
6. Don’t be afraid to explore and get “lost”
I saved the best for last. Even if you managed to totally disregard the previous 5 tips, DO NOT DISMISS THIS ONE.
We saw so many families and couples stop at the famous lookout point you see all over Instagram which was only about 10 minutes in. We watched them pose, snap their photos, and turn back towards the exit. If we did what they did we would have been in and out in 30 minutes, and that includes the 10 minutes we stopped to take photos! I wanted to walk around to the back of that lookout point. I saw a hill on a trail that one would call “sketchy” – it just didn’t look like it was walked upon a lot (thinking back – probably because it wasn’t!), the footpath was really dark and narrow and there were branches, leaves, and garbage along it. Tung was reluctant, saying we went the wrong way and should go back to where the other couple we passed was. But thank goodness I had a curious mind because continuing to go behind the hill brought us to the back of the rice fields and such clean cut terraces!
For the first 5 – 10 minutes it felt like we were going the wrong way and headed to a dead end of endless grass. The path got more narrow, and more “unbeaten” – it really looked like no one walked here. We ended up at the topmost rice terrace facing the entrance, but I wasn’t too thrilled with what it looked like from the very top. That was my cue to turn back but I didn’t want to take the same route back down, so I continued to follow the faintest footpath trailing behind the terrace. This lead us towards an abandoned hut….and all the sudden there was a break in the trees that opened up into more levels of paddies!
We ended up spending a total of 2.5 hours here! I strongly believe the reason why Google shows people typically spend 30mins-1.5 hours here is because they stop walking when the path gets dark and narrow, or like the people we saw they stopped completely after the famous lookout point. Don’t do this! There is SO much more to see and the further back terraces are untouched and so clean! We didn’t bump into any other people while on our little adventure in the back. There also weren’t any signs saying “do not enter”, and the farmers that saw us didn’t yell at us, so where we went was definitely meant to be explored.
There is absolutely no reason to be scared. Its just rice fields! What is the worst that could happen, you get lost?? BUT HOW? You can’t possibly get lost here as the rice paddies obviously all lead to somewhere because SOMEONE has to come around to all the terraces and pick the rice. You’re not just going to end up in another city with no reception just because you ventured to the back of the fields. Don’t be like cattle – definitely take your time to walk around. This place is SO HUGE (that’s why its the most popular rice terrace in Bali!) so it would be a shame to only see 20% of it. There is no such thing as a wrong turn here… because no matter what you’ll still be somewhere within the rice fields and coconut trees of Tegallalang.
A sweet old lady who we thought only chased after us for money ended up walking us part way out because we didn’t know which terrace level would lead to the exit! She didn’t speak English other than “hello”, “money”, and “thank you”, so our entire conversation was her speaking Bahasa and pointing in different directions and us replying with “okay, thank you!”
So again to reiterate, do follow the dark and narrow trail, do stomp across the faint footpaths, do take the “wrong turn”, and you will be pleasantly surprised with gorgeous views. If you’re about to head to the exit after only being here for 30 minutes, you’re going the wrong way! Go deeper!
BONUS TIP: Wear something dashing and wear something green
As written, this is just a bonus and doing or not doing this will not affect your experience in any way. I brought along my red dress that I take around to every “monumental” location to pop out from the greens, and I brought a green Bali sarong I bought in Kuta to blend with the greens of the rice fields. Neither were a bad choice, hey? Definitely makes for some beautiful photos that I won’t be afraid to repost months and even years down the road.
Are you planning to visit the Tegallalang Rice Terraces soon?
Or have you visited and totally missed seeing the entire back of the fields?
Have you visited and taken our advice? If so, what are your thoughts? Let us know!