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So many people hype Bali and consider it a super cheap paradise on earth. We heard this too often, so we went to Bali to experience exactly what people show and tell you every day on Instagram, travel blogs and other social networks. However, it turned out that Bali is not even slightly as nice as people make it out to be, at least not for us. We spent more than one month in Bali and decided to never return. Here are the reasons why:
- Outrageous Tourist Prices
If people have told you that Bali is a cheap paradise, they probably went there many years ago. Prices in 2020 have become unrealistically high for tourists to a point where many items are much more expensive than in Europe. Restaurants in tourist areas like Canggu or Ubud often want you to pay more than $5 for a meal that won’t fill you up when a normal price would actually be $1 or less. If you’re lucky, you can still find some hidden Warungs (Indonesian restaurants) that will have normal prices, but those are becoming rarer and rarer.
Example: While in Ubud, we found a cheap Warung in one of the side streets outside of the center that sold dishes for around $2. By the time we left Bali, they had already doubled their prices.
- Unbelievably Crowded
We went to Bali in the off season (rainy season) and we’re glad we did because even then, it was unbelievably crowded with tourists. Sidewalks are packed, trails are crowded and we don’t even want to talk about waterfalls in Bali. Instead of the paradise that is constantly getting hyped, the entire island has become a photo shooting set for Instagrammers. Instead of peace and tranquility, there are lines of people who sometimes wait and spend all day trying to get that perfect shot. It gets annoying really fast.
Example: We went to the famous Lempuyang Temple in the morning and were given a number (173). Soon enough, we found out that this number indicated our turn to take a picture. When we got there, they were only on number 32. So you can imagine how long we would have had to wait in order to take one single picture there. We guessed around 3-4 hours, so we didn’t bother sticking around for the iconic Bali photo.
- Very Few Cheap Accommodations with Kitchens
This was a huge disadvantage for us. We usually save tons of money by mostly cooking our own meals. However, it was almost impossible to find cheap accommodation (less than $25/night which was our daily budget for this trip) that included a kitchen. We found only one place in Canggu that we highly recommend. Therefore, we most often had to spend at least $2-3 per non-filling meal three times a day. That’s around $12-18 every day for food; that’s if you can even find one of the cheap restaurants. That is double what we would have spent in Europe.
- No Real Grocery Stores
This was another huge disadvantage for us because we thought if we can’t cook, we can certainly go buy groceries that we can eat without having to use a kitchen. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case. “Supermarkets” in Bali are mostly kiosks that sell items like chips, instant noodles, candy and water. If you’re lucky enough to find a bigger supermarket, don’t be surprised by the ridiculously high prices. Of course, they have to import a lot, but even locally grown foods are quite expensive. In order to buy any cheap food, you have to go to a traditional market in the early mornings. However, if you’re not Indonesian, they will most likely rip you off.
- Everyone Wants to Scam You
This goes hand in hand with our last point. If you do not look Indonesian or don’t speak their language, many of the Balinese will try to scam you. We totally understand why they’re doing it and that they’re just trying to provide for themselves and their families. However, they will not be understanding of your situation in case you really do have very little money to spend like us. We ended up in countless situations (especially when we actually did want to buy something) where they wanted way more money from us than was reasonable.
Example: We wanted to buy some fruit at an outdoor kiosk on Lembongan. The lady working there wanted us to pay $1 for three tiny baby bananas. We told her that we’re not going to buy them for such an unrealistic price. Only seconds later, the lady got a new customer (a Balinese woman) who bought 13 bananas for $2. We asked if we could have the same price, but she very rudely told us “no!”
- Low Safety Measures
We got to experience this issue on several boat rides between islands. Not only are most of the boats not made for the very rough waters around Bali, the boat companies often do not provide any life vests or other safety precautions. Here, it really doesn’t matter if you pay a lot or not—the boats from each company are basically the same. So spending more money will not guarantee higher safety or better boats. Just seriously make sure that you can swim if you take a boat ride because there have been many incidents of sinking boats and people drowning.
Example: One time we took a boat from Nusa Penida to Nusa Lembongan. During the ride, the boat started filling up with water because it turned out it had a leak (like wtf? :D). So the “captain” casually started bailing water out of the boat with a bucket. You have no idea how scared we were. We were already imagining ourselves needing to swim to shore and losing all of our luggage in the ocean. Luckily, we made it.
- Traffic Chaos
Bali is full of cars and mopeds, making constant traffic jams the daily standard. It is really hard to easily move around the island without taking forever to get anywhere. There is not much to say about this apart from the fact that it is absolutely annoying.
Example: One time we took a ride from the Denpasar harbor to Canggu and it took us 2 hours to cover a mere length of 15 km.
- Environmentally Unfriendly
Bali, like many other poor countries, is very environmentally unfriendly. There are many reasons for these (infrastructural problems included), but two avoidable causes are very clear: uneducated citizens and unsustainable tourism. People (both tourists and locals) throw their trash everywhere and take mopeds or cars everywhere instead of walking or taking a bike. We will discuss this issue a little further throughout the next three points below.
- Mopeds Crowding the Streets
This is probably a problem in many Asian countries, but what’s most irritating about this fact is that tourists and locals take mopeds everywhere, even if they only have to drive for 2 minutes. Locals seem to have gotten used to it and tourists love the fact that mopeds are “so cheap”, so they just take them everywhere.
- The Ocean is Totally Trashed
This was one of the worst experiences we’ve ever had when on a “beach vacation.” Many beaches that we went to were totally trashed. The surface of the water was equivalent to a garbage dump and so were some of the beaches. Surprisingly, the only people we ever saw cleaning up beaches were tourists while locals were just throwing trash in the ocean like it was a dumpster. This problem might have been so intense because it was the rainy season, meaning that trash was flushed down already trashed canals and rivers on the island right into the ocean.
- High Air Pollution
With the ridiculously high traffic comes air pollution. You will constantly breathe in exhaust and smog. This isn’t only bad for the environment, but also for your health. We really hope that things will change for the better in these countries to ensure higher quality of living for both the locals and the tourists.
- Bali Belly
Our last reason is probably the most common reason not to visit Bali: The Bali Belly. Bali Belly is a popular term used to describe stomachaches, diarrhea and nausea while on Bali. Almost every tourist experiences this issue and so did we. Due to the very low quality of food, water and hygiene standards, our stomachs start rebelling pretty quickly in the form of the above mentioned symptoms. The problem is that these symptoms can last for weeks and can really ruin your trip. The fact that it is almost impossible to cook your own food makes it just as unlikely to be able to find out whether the food served will agree with your stomach or not. So you can only hope for the best and maybe you’ll be one of the luckier ones.
We could have taken some more time to list out even more reasons why we do not recommend a visit to Bali and we have countless more examples as well, but we feel this list should suffice. We believe the island has tons of potential to be a really nice place, but the virtually non-existent local government still has lots of work to do in getting many of the issues under control (glaring issues in resource allocation) and helping the local businesses understand ethical and sustainable business practices. Again, we absolutely appreciate the fact that everyone is just doing their best to get by, but the outdated hype won’t sustain them forever. As annoying, frustrating and disappointing as our experiences there were, we ultimately felt more sad about the situation than anything.
If you still want to visit Bali, here are some pros that we experienced while on the island:
- Cheap prices for nice rooms (around $18 per night for 2 people) – we highly recommend Japa House in Ubud!
- Some cheap restaurants if you know where to look (far away from the tourist hotspots)
- Delicious and authentic Indonesian food
- Friendly locals (but don’t expect a casual conversation—everything dilutes to a sales pitch pretty quickly)
- Beautiful temples
- Traditional Balinese lifestyle (Hindu traditions, rice terraces etc.)
- Beautiful snorkeling spots on the North side of the island (e.g. Amed)
- Some remaining beautiful natural spots (Mt. Batur, east side of Nusa Penida etc.)
- Transportation is easily organized (use Gojek instead of Grab (Uber) or normal taxis)
- Awesome place to take some time to work on your business as the nomad and entrepreneur culture is very present in Bali
In the end, you need to make your own decision on whether or not to visit Bali. If you’ve heard more good than bad, then you should probably visit. You can only have your own experiences by actually going there. We would love to hear your thoughts and experiences in the comments! 🙂
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19 thoughts on “12 Reasons Not to Visit Bali”
Well we finally got back from our 2 1/2 weeks self drive tour around Bali after it was re-opened to Australia after the COVID pandemic.
So our thoughts on Bali? Well my wife didn’t like the place at all and was ready to come home after a week.
I can’t say my experience was as bad as hers, but it’s not a place I have a burning desire to go back to. Maybe we have been spoilt from other places we have visited and driven around in SE Asia before (Phuket, Phang-Nga, Krabi, Bangkok, Chiang Mai, KL, Singapore & Borneo), but Bali left us feeling very underwhelmed in comparison to other the other destinations we have been to.
For one, I think COVID has hurt Bali badly, as we just kept finding many places that any upkeep or cleanliness hasn’t been maintained. One place we stayed at when we opened our folded bath towels dust came flowing out of them. Many of the rooms we stayed in had soiled linen as well.
COVID also seems to have affected restaurants, where the food we were eating at some places tasted like it had come out of a freezer that had been stored for a couple of years (We were served multiple meals that were unpalatable which we havent ever had before on our travels through SE Asia). And each restaurant seemed to have the same menu. For the most part it was an offering of nasi goreng, mie goreng, chicken done 5 ways, burgers, and pizza/pasta. We just didnt find this “Foodie Heaven” we were expecting to find. We only found one place we ate at that we went back to multiple times as their food had layers of textures and flavours that the majority of other restaurants we visited sorely lacked.
Don’t get me wrong, there are a number of stunning locations around Bali that we saw, however on the most part, the places that we drove through all looked untidy and or derelict, and each town looked the same as we traveled from street to street to street. It all just felt so monotonous and boring after awhile.
The beaches we saw had layers of trash on them and really made us appreciate our beaches in Australia. In the north west of Bali my wife & I decided to go for a swim/snorkel along a beaches outside our resort. Not only was there a mountain of plastics and trash on the beach, as we walked further along it to get to a coral section of the beach, we stepped into the water and the first thing we see is a dirty nappy floating by. Nearly every pool we swam in was cloudy and felt unhygienic (In fact I ended up with an ear infection and bladder infection). The bad upkeep of the pools was probably another sign of COVID where they haven’t had the money to maintain the upkeep.
As for driving, I had no issue driving in the traffic, however there is no let up in it, so you never really get a chance to relax and enjoy the drive to your location. We also found that Bali hasn’t made any use of putting in stopping bays where tourists can safely pull over and enjoy beautiful vistas of the island. Maybe we should have hired a driver instead of self driving, and then we could have seen more of the popular tourist spots, but that’s not us as we like to explore and find those hidden gems away from all the hustle & bustle.
If you go away from the normal tourist locations, then services in those areas are really lacking, and if you do go to the tourist locations to experience “The Beauty of Bali” you can be waiting with 100’s of other people to get that “Instagram” shot which just takes away from any natural beauty of that location.
Also, when we were in the popular tourist locations, then we were hounded constantly by stall holders and taxi drivers every step we took. Yes we have seen this type of hounding in places like Patong & Bangkok, but this was next level. Once again I think this is a sign of the times with COVID for Bali, and these people seem desperate for your money, but the relentless nature of it became super annoying to a point we felt it was better to stay at our hotel all day so we didn’t have to put up with it, and we’ve never felt that with any other place we have visited before.
It’s sad that’s our feelings we have from Bali, as many of the people we spoke to have visited there countless times and rave about the place (And I’m talking about people saying this our 20th holiday in Bali). But we just don’t see what these people see in Bali, and I can’t see us ever wanting to go back anytime soon.
My last thoughts on Bali. I really do hope that the Bali government can offer incentives to the locals to keep the beaches and streets clean, so that it helps improve the image of Bali to tourists, and also helps protects the environment, Bali is sitting on a gold mine of natural beauty, but unfortunately all of these Instagram shots that we see that make Bali look like the perfect paradise really don’t show or tell the true story that there is so much more that needs to be done to really unlock the true beauty of Bali, making it then the perfect paradise to travel to.
Thanks for your post, I thought it was just us that felt Bali is not the great travel destination that it’s been made out to be.
Absolutely 100% spot on! My husband and I spent a month in Bali as well, in 2019, and it was truly disappointing. We think a lot of this is due to how high our expectations were (we call it our “balillusion”) Everything you listed, we experienced. It honestly seems like every ounce of tourism money has forever been funneled OFF of the island. Zero investment in infrastructure and the locals even have to pay for grade school education. It truly bummed us out to see, what I am sure was once lovely and magical place become ravaged by a very particular form of exploitive tourism.
I studied abroad last semester (January-March) and experienced all of these while on my trip! It was pretty devastating seeing the overcrowded and trashed beaches. I stayed in Jimbaran mainly, southern Bali, and found that my favorite beaches to go to was Bingin beach! Less tourists, not as many locals on the beach asking you to buy stuff and very well kept with cheap yet delicious restaurants!
So sorry to hear you had the same experience, but it’s also great you were able to find a spot that you also enjoyed! 🙂 We didn’t make it down there, but we probably enjoyed Amed the most and for the same reasons you mentioned. Less crowded and fewer sales pitches. 😉 Thanks for sharing!
Always great to read a bloggers personal opinion on a travel destination. No matter where you travel to in the world, there are always pros & cons that have to be accepted and is all a part of the overall travel experience. Many times, what you hear about and look at pictures of a destination, is not what the reality is when you arrive. Great Post! 🙂
That’s so true, Robert. We always expect some negative with positives and try to keep our expectations low so we don’t get disappointed by the hype factor. We love writing about all the great things about a destination, but aren’t willing to sacrifice the truth or distort the reality. Thanks! 🙂
I visited Bali for a short stay a few years back and remember being shocked at the prices! Thanks for sharing
Glad to hear it’s not just us! XD
You are just confirming my thoughts. I wanted to visit Bali quite a few years ago but decided to instead spend time with my boyfriend in Switzerland. I now kind of regret not going back then because I have a feeling as it becomes more and more commercially popular as a location, it will loose all that charm and uniqueness. Great article, I so appreciate honest views xx
It’s really too bad that you weren’t able to see it in it’s prime (we wish we could have too), but you are certainly right. While tourism has so many great aspects, it can cause otherwise nice places to diminish if not properly managed.
I love your blog and I too appreciate it when people step out and share their experiences good or bad 😊 Honestly is key and telling your truth is great even when we don’t all agree.
I spent eleven amazing nights in Bali last November. I loved it, and found it better than I thought. Here is my two cents – well maybe more than two.
1. I thought it was ridiculously cheap. Not as cheap as Thailand for example but still cheap.
2. It is crowded, unfortunately most places are becoming so pre-covid given how cheap it is to travel. I 100% agree it’s full of idiot want to be famous instagramers. This drove me insane. At Lempuyang Templewe had the same experience. We cheated the system, simply stood where the shot is taken but in front of the men as people switched out. Got the shot and no line. I video taped this as eventually I am going to write a post about this alone 😊
3. Kitchens – This depends , we stayed in our timeshare for 7 nights and had a kitchen😊
4. We found plenty of grocery stores all over.
5. I totally disagree with the scamming. We had the exact opposite. For example, we double paid at a swing park and 30 minutes later the lady chased us down to return to over payment. Bali is know for good Karma and almost all believe in Karma. I’m sad to hear you experienced otherwise.
6. It’s Asia…. Not been to anywhere in Asia or South American with decent safety standards yet.
7. Traffic, same as above consistent with most cosmopolitan area’s that are popular.
8. I agree it’s environmentally unfriendly and that the beaches are not pristine. This shocked me.
9. I accept moped’s it’s a part of Asian culture.
10. I did not think the air was that bad, at least not once out of the main area’s.
11. We never got Bail-Belly or experienced anything close. I have in places like India and Mexico but I’d consider Bali low low on this scale.
This all said, kudos and rock on for telling it how you experienced it vs. feeding people pie in the sky bull;
Hey Nikki, thanks for sharing your experience with us! We have always heard great things about Bali, which is why we were so shocked to not have the same experience. It’s really nice to get more details from another perspective!
I think perspective is really key here too and we’ve often wondered how our experience may have been different if we were only on a short getaway from work instead of an 8-month trip where we had to watch every cent. That being said, we still feel like many things are priced for well-to-do tourists and, therefore, not available to local or lower-income tourists who have barely scraped together enough to take a trip. We do admit to generalizing a bit on point number 5, but after enough blatantly obvious experiences, it gets hard to trust any price anyone quotes you. We were even fortunate enough to have a candid conversation with a couple of young ladies working in a convenience store and they confirmed that tourists will always be charged at least double. To an extent, we get it, but on the other hand, if I were a business owner, then I’d be happier making money at a normal price than not making anything at all because I’m trying to overcharge my customers. The only real problems we had with mopeds is that people were taking them to go very short distances (even 50 meters), which further contributed to traffic jams and pollution (why doesn’t anyone ride a bicycle?). Otherwise, they’re super practical for the small streets. 🙂
Where did you stay while you were there? The only places we found grocery stores were in the very densely populated areas, but even the locally sourced produce and products were even more expensive than in the west. It was cheaper for us to go out to eat than to buy groceries except in Canggu where it was just barely cheaper to buy from the grocery store and nearby fruit stand. XD
Thanks again for weighing in and sharing your own experience with our mentioned points! Your two cents (or three ;)) will certainly help other travelers make their decision on whether or not to go. 🙂
Thanks for the follow-up 🙂 I do agree that lower-budget may factor into how expensive it feels – you are 100% correct about that. I’m in my 40’s with a long-standing corporate career so my budget is likely higher:)
Here is where we stayed and cost:
Ubud Bali – Royal Villa Jepun – 5 Nights
19,170 United Miles. Yes, you can book hotels with airline points!
Uluwatu Bali – Karma Royal Jimbaran – 7 Nights
For this seven-night stay, we used my timeshare. And, before you roll your eyes, know that I bought my timeshare as a resale outright for $207. I’ve owned it for years and use it many times a year. Using my timeshare is a standard part of my travel strategy. I am not restricted to any specific location or resort; rather, I have pointed to use anywhere in any network!
Thank you for being open to other thoughts on the place and kudos again for be honest and telling your story without sugar-coating it. The world needs more of you two writing on the internet. I get so fed up reading how “wonderful” everyplace is.
Hello again! 😀
Thanks for adding that information in there. That’s a heck of a deal on a timeshare! :O I just found the article on your website where you break down how to find that type of a timeshare deal. Is it okay if we link to it sometime when updating our travel budgeting tips? 🙂
Thanks again for your input!
Well said Nikki, I have been to Bali a few times never once had Bali Belly I believe it’s a myth. As for all of the areas the author’s stayed , they are all the areas where western Tourists stay, so unfortunately they are a bit too Americanized for me. I always stay in a place that is cheap and has a kitchen, more where locals are than tourists , as I love the Balinese and have a few Balinese Friends whome I see regularly. There is heaps of Supermarkets , the portion sizes in Restaurants are fine with me, they are smaller cause Asian people eat smaller amounts more each day say 4 times a day a small meal. I love the Karma as you revered to it, I tell ppl Balinese people are the most beautiful I have experienced. Last time I was there , they had just first time ever started rubbish collection and band locals lights fires to burn the trash , due to this the air was surprisingly rather clean. I grew up surfing but have had friends get ill from surfing due to the rubbish in the sea so I have stayed away. Bali was absolutely Awesome my first trip 1984. If Bali could capture the 1980s and focus on there Hindu culture they would again have a culture that is captivating. I do see and understand the negative aspects but am well traveled around Asia and those aspects are the same throughout South East Asia. Cheers Dave
Hi David, thank you for your input! 🙂 I think we ultimately got sucked in to the hype before going. We never found any information online about where to go to have a real local experience, which meant we ended up in very touristy areas.
Like we mentioned in the last few paragraphs, we truly believe Bali is home to some amazingly lovely people and the island has tons of potential to be a great destination. That’s why we want everybody to form their own opinion, read multiple viewpoints and make a conscious effort to respect the locals and the environment when they go.
Could you share where you like to go in Bali that isn’t touristy? It felt to us like westerners were taking over and running the local Balinese out of business with their own restaurants, diving tours and anything else one could think of.
All the best!
Ah guys, loved your fresh perspective and honesty, this blog was so refreshing to read. And also love your writing style. 😍
Hey, thank you so much! We’re really glad to hear that you appreciated the article! We honestly expected some backlash since so many people refuse to say anything negative about Bali, but are finding that more people are agreeing with us than otherwise would have admitted it. Peer pressure, much? XD
P.S. fixed a little typo in your URL. 🙂