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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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