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The Truth About Bali: Brutal Honest Review…

Hello and welcome back! I am glad that you found your way to my little blog. Today I want to talk about the time I spent in Bali and the things that I observed. Many of them were things I wasn’t happy to see, that brought me to write this post. And I think in order to pursue sustainable travel as much as I possibly can, I need to give an honest review of Bali.

To be clear about our trip: I visited Bali in 2018 together with my parents and boyfriend. We stayed in the Breezy Point Villas in Nusa Dua for a week. From Nusa Dua, we had day trips to Ubud, Seminyak and Changgu. We saw rice fields, ate seafood, sat next to the ocean…Long story short, we had nothing but an awesome time! What I want to discuss is at what cost did our lovely time come for the island?

What Is the Fuzz About Bali?

I can’t remember how it started but suddenly Bali was everywhere. Everyone wanted to go to Bali. Instagram was full of pictures of girls in flowy dresses on the famous Bali swing. Every digital nomad seemed to live in Bali and everyone who is traveling for one year spends at least one month there.

When we were planning our trip around Asia I didn’t want to go to Bali, as I usually try to avoid regions that suffer from overtourism but my boyfriend convinced me, that if that many people would like it, it has to be good. So we planned a vacation and were even lucky enough that my parents wanted to join so we would spend our time together.

Recommended: Mass Tourism all over the world. A collaboration with travel bloggers from all corners of our planet.

What Did I Expect?

Looking at all those beautiful social media postings about Bali, I expected wonderful sites, beautiful beaches with fine sand, and a place that sends out this peaceful vibe that I felt through social media and the tales of my fellow travel mates. So you might argue, that I had high expectations in advance but if you think it through, isn’t a clean & peaceful environment normal?

The Truth About Bali

But What Did Actually Happen?

When we arrived we first got our expectations smashed as soon as we got in touch with Balinese traffic. It was simply horrible. When we found a cab and hit the road, we were welcomed by a symphony of people slamming their honks as if there is no tomorrow. Furthermore, the streets are just overcrowded so that moving further only happens very slow. Not so quiet and peaceful, hm?

Vromm vromm, motherf****r

The traffic problem haunted us the following days as well. For a route of 44km (from Nusa Dua to Ubud, to visit the rice terraces) we drove solid three hours. One Way. The next day was kinda the same, so after spending almost half of our days in a car, we decided to skip the day trips and simply focus on Nusa Dua and the areas close by.

This traffic is a sign, that the island is currently struggling with the huge mass of tourists it has to deal with. Bali’s infrastructure is just not meant for the number of cars and bikes and I was very sad, that I was contributing to it.

A Plastic World?

The second, even bigger thing that shocked me, was the incredible amount of litter that was just lying around on the streets. And on top of that, it was also more than shocking to see the contrast between these littered streets and those beautiful, well taken care of, and breathtaking hotels that line the coastal streets. If this isn’t picturing humans at its finest, I don’t know. Cleans up their own space but dumps their waste outside of their area for others to clean up. Nice.

The same thing was shown at the beaches. Areas for tourists or the hotel’s private beaches were beautiful and clean, but guess what happens when you put one foot outside of the property of those hotels. Exactly, you would find yourself in a nasty mixture of sand, algae, and plastics.

Seeing this, really broke my heart. And again: I felt bad because I was contributing to it. The litter that I created would be there on the street or the beach sooner or later.

Planning a Trip to Bali?

So let’s come to the point: Is Bali still worth being your next destination? The answer is yes. The island is beautiful and even a bucket list destination. Yet we must understand that by traveling a place like Bali we also contribute to a problematic process that might tear this place apart. One option would be to skip Bali for now and visit a less crowded place instead. Traveling off the beaten path can be a lot of fun and you won’t regret not going, I promise!

If you still want to go to Bali I want to beg you, to do it in a very thoughtful way. Make sure to book an Eco-Stay, don’t make any road trips & follow my tips on how to travel more sustainably.

I hope you enjoyed this little bit of truth about Bali and that it helped you out. How do you think about this problematic situation? Do you care about it? Would you skip a Bali vacation and look for another alternative? Let me know in the comments!

This topic is a bit off the usual content I write about on this page but nevertheless, I want to raise awareness and sensitivity towards sustainable travel. It is important that we evaluate the way we travel and be aware of the effects it has on the places we visit. That’s why I want to ask you for the small favor of sharing this post and helping to raise awareness!

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  • Steve

    It’s a developing nation so not sure what you expect really? Comparing it to Australia and the Daintree is like comparing apples with oranges. Australia is a rich country and although there is corruption it’s nowhere near as bad as Indonesia. Bali isnt as cheap as it used to be but it’s changed a lot. Social media has changed travel and now Bali is an insta-crowd attraction. The beautiful people (wannabes) flock here to stand around posing and be seen in lavish day clubs in their roped off VIP area sipping cocktails.

    • paula

      Hi Steve,

      thank you for your comment! To be quite fair, I think my expectations were stained by the picture that Social Media paints of Bali. The most shocking part of that was the contrast between the resorts and nicely kept places and everything else behind the fence that surrounds the property.

  • Steve

    I’m here right now in Feb 2024. I’ve been about 5 times mostly because it’s close to Australia and cheap. I see Bali as just a week away to enjoy some nice food and have some spa treatments but that’s about it. The beaches are average at best here and polluted. It’s very sad that the environment is being wrecked all for $$$. I visited the first time in 1985 and although it was very different the signs were all there about where it was heading.

  • Diane

    We visited Bali for 3 weeks in March 2023. We were gobsmacked by the experience. The motorbike traffic is horrendous, we saw a family of 4 on a motorbike without helmets, many locals don’t wear helmets. South Kuta Beach was disgraceful, full of decaying rubbish, old trees, and thousands of unpaired flip flops/thongs. There are dogs everywhere, and in the countryside there are bags of rubbish and trash on the roadside. On one taxi tour I had to wait 4 hours to go to the toilet as there were no public toilets in that area, that is disgraceful. The worst part of Bali was the BEGGING, the market stall holders don’t leave you alone, they touched me for good luck, and kept nagging/begging me to buy things, nothing has a price, I got so sick of this, that I decided, no more markets. A big rip off is the VISA, we first arrived by cruise ship and had to pay for the visa, we decided to stay on the ship as we were coming back after visiting Singapore, we still had to pay for another VISA a few weeks later, just a big rip off. The roads around Sanur and South Bali are nice, the rest of the roads can be really bad. Its such a shame, as it is a beautiful place if you can put up with the filth. One expensive hotel had sewerage coming up in the bathroom floor. I got severe food poisoning at Movenpick which spoiled the holiday. The good part is the cheap taxi’s and noon check out. If you have mobility issues, you will find it extremely difficult due to lots of steps, and no kerb cut outs, just walking on undulating sidewalks is difficult, and a lot of shops have steep steps. I suggest Singapore, as it has a great system to get around the city, and the airport is really good, or Far North Queensland, Australia, beats Bali hands down, around Cairns and Port Douglas, the Great Barrier Reef, and the Daintree Rainforest. Bali isn’t as cheap as it used to be.

  • Anonymous

    I have been to Bali sixteen times and sadly this will be my last. I have never felt so unsafe , I am travel smart travelled all over the world. Never wear lots of jewelry and keep my money safe. Sadly I was robbed in Seminyak my friend wanted to buy a batik serong the woman at the stall thanked us and gave us both an hug and strangely she wanted to hug me twice on doing so robbed me $150 AUD . Also clothes are now overpriced tops I would buy in Myers for $35 AUD are selling for equivalent to $70 AUD in Seminyak.
    A lot of the hotels are very tired need renovations but Sadly Covid has caused this.
    Last time to Bali

  • Kanna

    i have back from bali a week ago which is 16th march 2023, staying at seminyak. i have witnessed 2 incidents which is very popular phone snatching from a white couple, its happened very fast while the lady hold the fon follow google map. the couple was blurred just happened in a second. another incident next day a north indian couple on bike, and there are 2 person followed them behind and snatch her chain, i think they are newly married and shout at panicking. also cant do much they have flew. sincere advice dont wear your jewellery on the road in bali. just use grab car.

  • Tekwa

    I do agree with this blog and would like to add some more.
    We just visited bali this holiday season for 12 days.
    Since we came from a country with similar setting, we are not as shock as others might be, but what we discovered in bali we wanted to share so anyone who wanted to visit this place should be aware.
    Traffic was not at its worst when we went to bali except for some areas. But what we experienced are the following:

    – We were referred by a friend to a driver that he knew and we thought will assist us, but unfortunately gave us someone else whom he said was his team mate in a group. The one who pick us up in the airport speaks good english and very friendly.
    – Through our conversations, he found out that we booked activities with a person in the bali tourism site.
    The activities we booked consists of 5 activities amounting to 180 usd, when he heard this, he persistently told us that he can give us a better price with the same activities. Trusting him was a big mistake, only one activity did we enjoy and the rest are just dodgy places. The water tubing where he brought us was a sham, we are the only one there, it is like a big canal. The coffee plantation we went and buy products that amounted to a 150 aud were fake items.
    We are generous with him and yet he continously take advantage of us as tourist.
    Every place he brought us in, he always have a cut and later we realized that we have to get away from him and be on our own or else we will be broke before finishing our stay in bali.
    Some market shops will always overpriced items when they know you are a tourist. We asked a bali souvenir t-shirts price from a lady market vendor and she replied 250,000 we immediately left the store. We bought 2 Giordano polo shirts at 229,000 each, better buy Giordano than a bali souvenir shirt.
    Everytime you will buy from the market,they will overprice it.
    Also, don’t just ride a taxi that waves at you, you might get the surprise of your life with the price.
    As we are in a hurry to getaway from the crowded mall, we booked a grab taxi and the price was 12aud but since it was too far where its coming from we decided to ask a taxi and the asking price was 40aud, is it not obvious how they prey on tourist?
    We can very well understand that people in third world countries really needed money to survive but considering that tourism is the main source of their livelihood they should think about how to treat tourist going to bali.
    On the other hand, we would commend one customer in a mall who found the sunnies of my husband in the fitting room and surrender it to the salesperson who when asked gave it back to my husband. There is still some honest person.
    Lesson learned do not give too much trust. Be smartwise when going to bali.
    It is also true that you can see rubbish everywhere and beaches are not impressive.
    Anyway, we make it a point to still have fun and enjoy our first time in 4 years going overseas.

  • Mike

    I entered Bali on the 26/12/22 at 00:55 and booked a flight to leave less than 16 hours later for the 27th. I was strip searched at the airport. A humiliating and degrading experience. They released me because I was not smuggling drugs. they had no good reason to suspect me of this anyway.

    I found the locals o be pushy in Kuta and when I downright ignored touts and hasslers I started getting called a cockroach…sorry that I didn’t feel like being polite less than 24 hours after such a horrific experience at DPS.

    Apparently, these strip searches have become more common now and happen often. Mostly to solo travelers.

    I tried to overlook it and not let it tarnish my trip to bali but after ealing around Kuta I decided I no longer wanted to be here.

    My trip had been ruined due to being treated like a dog by customs agents at DPS. The worst airport in the world from my experience.

    I wouldn’t recommend Bali to anyone. It’s a hole. the roads are congested to f**k. the beaches I saw were disgusting.

    I ended up back in Thailand where I find the people friendlier and more hospitable.

    I will never return to Indonesia after such a degrading experience.

  • Jane Lane

    I am kind of interested in the fact that this is now 2022, almost 2023 and if the problems still exist. Some places I’ve been to, ie Playa del Carmen Mexico, have become more aware in the last few years of the concerns for the oceans and have become more eco friendly. They stop giving plastic water bottles and straws, etc.
    Also, I’d like to know is the traffic and trash you experienced was because you were there at high season or is it always like that? I strongly feel that tourist are the biggest problem when it comes to not disposing of trash properly. Anyway, I really want to visit but would like to travel out of Bali. Maybe outside of ali would be nicer, cleaner, quieter?

  • Karma Experience

    It’s great reading your post about BALI. Good thing you’ve shared your experienced on this place. At least many of us could get an idea.

  • Anonymous

    – Traffic was something else!
    – Shitty air quality from half the neighbors burning their trash.
    – The honking was super stressful, it’s so loud even when you’re at home or at a restaurant.
    – Many of the roads are really narrow which would’ve been fine if it wasn’t for the congestion; crazy number of people on the roads.
    – Beaches = dog shit on your shoes, every time.
    – Villas get robbed super often, you read about it happening all the time on the canggu fb page, but also saw it happen in the daytime.
    – Overpriced restaurants and supermarkets.
    – Staying in the overpopulated areas of Bali is necessary if you require good internet for work.

    – Surf is obviously great, the line ups can get very busy though.
    – The locals are much friendlier than in Thailand (unless you plan on seeing a volcano, lol)
    – Cheap grocery deliveries from market vendors!

    My initial reaction wasn’t great, but after a year I couldn’t wait to escape Bali.

    • Steve

      Yes my mother’s villa at canguu was robbed. they walked out with the entire safe!

  • Simon

    I visited Bali many years ago, and it was already a sought-after destination. From your story, it looks like the traffic got worse, and the number of tourists likely further increased. Having said that, while I fully agree that we should all be more responsible travelers, I also think that things are a little more complicated than that. Garbage is an issue not only in Bali, but in many other countries in Asia, Latin America, and Africa. Tourism certainly contributes, but littering is sadly a cultural and economical problem (including a lack of infrastructures to take care of litter) in those countries. I don’t believe that the solution is to simply stop visiting Bali or similar countries. Instead, while we’re there we could do our best to spread awareness about the environment. Also, instead of visiting the most popular spots, why not venture off the beaten path?
    Just my two cents on two important issues like overtourism and littering, which are often much more complex than what we think at first.

  • You are so right. I was so disappointed with the traffic congestion and plastic pollution. That’s why I headed to the East of Bali. The beaches there aren’t as pretty as in the Western part. Actually, they are black from volcanic sand. However, that side is beautiful from rice terraces and green mountains. There are still tourists of course, but much less and as a whole that side is more subdued. Traffic was light and (almost) no plastic, loved it! I would not stay on the Western part anymore, for my sake and for the sake of Bali.

  • Naomi

    I love posts like this! It’s so important to think about the impact we all have on our Earth.

    Eat Love Explore

    • paula

      Thank you for your comment!

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