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How to Like Bali

What? What kind of headline is that? Are you insane? Who on Earth would not like Bali?

Contrary to the common belief, Bali is not only a paradise with pristine beaches and turquoise water. Be prepared to come across many street dogs, dirty streets, slight chaos on the road and cheeky locals.

Bali, and Kuta especially, is an example of excess tourism destroying a paradise. Bali is no. 1 abroad destination for Australians and Air Asia makes it easy to fly there cheaply. Locals have naturally adjusted to the constant influx of tourists and built their businesses on selling to them. As their livelihood depends on how much they sell, they’re often abusive. I must say I didn’t experience being forced to buy a souvenir, as I was on Bali during the rainy season and avoided the crowds (of both fellow tourists and vendors) of the peak season.

I was lucky to visit only the best of Bali as I had a good friend there. That’s the trick for almost any place on the Globe – if you know anybody based on the spot, you’re most likely to have fun wherever you are and it’s easy to fall in love with a place when you just see the best.

My only bad experience was when arriving at the Denpasar airport, an official-looking worker took my bag and helped me through the scanner with it. Afterwards, he demanded money and pulled me to the nearest exchange store.  In the end he made do with some Chinese money I gave him and let me go.

So what to do if you’re really longing to see Bali but would like to avoid disappointment? Well, do your homework before setting on the trip. Plan where to go, and bring an open mind. Understand the mindsets of locals and don’t let minor issues destroy your trip.

kuta beach bali
Entrance to Kuta beach

In my opinion, Kuta beach and surroundings are still worth visiting. Kuta is one of the best spots where you can try surfing! If you’re a beginner, they’ll lend you a heavy board that’s stable and you’ll have plenty of fun (kinda) surfing and falling into the waves.

For emptier and cleaner beaches, just head north of Kuta to Legian. It’s worth checking out at night as well. I went to La Plancha bar and loved it. You just sit on one of the bean bags scattered on the beach and enjoy your cocktail while listening to the sounds of the sea (or the musician performing, or loud guests).

Most places on Bali can be easily reached by motorbikes so just rent one and drive (carefully) to explore the inland areas. Ubud should not be missed. As a Balinese heart of culture, you’ll see the local crafts and the life further from the sea. I was amazed by the peacefulness of Ubud (on its outskirts) and the cool-looking houses we passed, with rice fields surrounding them.

Ubud belongs to one of the best foodie places in Bali. If you love Indonesian food, this is the place to go. We tried some local sausages with plenty of vegetables and condiments. It was a real treat!

art studio ubud
Little Art Studio in Ubud

Also Tanah Lot, the most famous sea temple on Bali, is a good tourist spot. Unfortunately you have to pay a fee just to enter the area and you’ll be under constant surveillance of local vendors. Head through all the crowds and get some good photos of the temple, it’s really unique and worth all the tourist hassle.

All in all, Bali is still a great place to visit. Just prior going there, study what tourist traps there are – e.g. TripAdvisor has many forums about how to avoid the common tourist traps on Bali, from exchanging money to booking tours with trustworthy agents. Plan where to go and have an open mind when it comes to dealing with locals. Tourism could both be an enjoyment and a source of income.

If you decide to visit Bali, get inspired by this 2-week Bali itinerary.

tanah lot
Beautiful Tanah Lot, the sea temple

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Sunday 7th of December 2014

I'm heading to Bali after Christmas and I'm hearing such negative things. Your post has made it sound a bit more positive, thank you. I'm going to go there with an open mind :)


Monday 8th of December 2014

Hello Sally, yes, that's the spirit! Have a great time! And thanks for stopping by :)

Derek Freal

Sunday 24th of August 2014

Couldn't resist reading this post after seeing the title...I've been to. Bali twice now and both times I hated it. Nothing but drunk backpackers and annoying hawkers in Kuta and hippies and yoga-lovers in Ubud. I'll take the latter any day but instead of eat Balinese or even Indonesia food the vast majority of what the expats and tourists there eat is western food.

Plus if you are white then all the locals (actually many are not even local Balinese but rather Javanese who came chasing that foreign dollar) just see dollar signs tattooed on your forehead. The second time was nearly a year after the first and I was semi-fluent in Bahasa yet it was still a disappointing experience -- although not nearly as bad as the first.

However nearby Nusa Penida island is amazing and definitely a peaceful retreat away from the crowds. Next time you go to Bali consider taking a fast boat there from Sanur, it's only a 40-minute ride.


Sunday 24th of August 2014

Sorry to hear you didn't like Bali even on the second visit! But the Nusa Penida sounds great. In fact, I've never heard of it, so it must be a well-hidden gem! Thanks for the tip, I'll make sure to take a ride there next time I'm on Bali.

Yassine Laaroussi

Saturday 2nd of August 2014

I was in Bali last June and I was so chocked at how different it was from what I had in mind, I was waiting for a deserted little island, Bali was huge, luckily I did couchsurfing so my hosts planned my trip for me.


Thursday 3rd of July 2014

Thanks! :) Amed sounds interesting, I'll make sure to see it when I'm there sometime again ;) Have a great day!


Wednesday 2nd of July 2014

Wonderful website!!! I really enjoyed reading about your experience in Bali. I had a similar one. My advice would be to leave Kuta as soon as possible and travel north. I had a lovely time in Amed :-)

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