Bali is the most famous Indonesian island when it comes to tourism. It is full waterfalls, rice paddies, temples and affordable villas with private pools. While popular with backpackers and digital nomads, it is also a desired destination for families and honeymooners. But is Bali really worth the hype? Are there any bad things about Bali you should know before you book your “dream vacation”?
A quick Google search for Bali vacation packages shows thousands of photos, blogs and websites that make you want to visit Bali as soon as possible. But not many will tell you that this “dream destination” has its faults. In this post I’ll share 10 bad things about Bali vacation that just might be a deal-breaker for you.
However, before I start my “attack on Bali”, I need to say that in its essence, the island is still very beautiful. You can find a lot of hidden gems where you can enjoy the tranquility of nature and experience local vibes. Hence, I will also share positive things about Bali in a different post, coming up soon. Follow me on Instagram for updates! 😉
Disclaimer: I visited Bali in September 2022, and this was not my first visit to Indonesia. Hence, I knew what to expect in terms of traffic, climate, hygiene standards and environmental issues. On the other hand, we only stayed in Bali for 10 days (4 in Ubud, 2 in Nusa Penida and 4 in Kuta), so in this post I will mostly refer to these areas.
Finally, let me tell you step by step why I think Bali is overrated.
1. Hectic roads and traffic jams
I’ve visited many countries with chaotic traffic, and Bali is no exception. It might not be as hectic as driving in India; however, Bali traffic is not something to be taken lightly. First, Indonesians drive on the left, so take this into account before renting a car or scooter. Second, don’t rent a car in Bali. The roads are narrow and it can take forever to get out of town areas. You’ll save plenty of time and money by renting a scooter, just be extra careful and wear a helmet.
Pro tip: Once you get out of tourist hot spots of Kuta, Ubud and Seminyak, you should be fine. Just watch for dogs, roosters and chicken who think they own the roads. 🙂
2. Crowded tourist spots
Tourists also have a great share in contributing to jams – not only in traffic, but also in popular tourist places. I’ve seen photos with masses of people trying to reach the famous Kelingking beach in Nusa Penida or standing in line to take picture in front of Lempuyang temple. I came prepared and managed to avoid the crowds, but on the other hand I also missed some spots that would definitely be worth visiting in the “old Bali times”.
Pro tip: Do your homework and pick your battles. Make a list of places you want to visit and try to find alternatives. And pack some extra patience.
3. They charge you for everything
Let me be clear: I don’t have a problem with paying entrance fees to well-maintained parks and facilities. And to be honest, most of the admissions in Bali are ridiculously low. However, I just couldn’t get rid of the feeling they want to charge you for every damn waterfall, rice field, parking spot or beach access. What pissed me off the most was when we were forced to take a guide for Batur hiking and pay 14 € per person. The path is well marked, we are experienced hikers and it only took us 40 min’ to reach the top.
Pro tip: Just accept the fact that you’ll pay for every stop and prepare some change in IDR. The admissions usually cost less than 1 €. And keep in mind that Bali is the most expensive island in Indonesia.
4. Environmental issues and pollution
From what I’ve seen, Indonesia is still light years away from environmental awareness. Despite being one of the most desired vacation spots in the world, Bali is unfortunately no exception. You can see garbage, plastics and cans, everywhere. Not only in tourist spots, but also in urban places like Kuta. I hate the fact that tourists contribute to this situation as well. However, when you see 10 locals sitting all day in front of the beach entrance, charging you just to breath the air, you’d think they could at least clean up the place from time to time.
Pro tip: Don’t be an asshole, pick up your garbage. Say no to straws, plastics and single-dose packing. Not only in your home country, but everywhere you travel. It is our Earth, not someone else’s.
5. Rainy season means pouring rain
Due to covid-19 infection we had to postpone our trip to Bali for 14 days, which means we ended up with a couple of days in October. It started raining literally on October 1st and it rained a lot. I am used to tropical rain showers, however in Bali it was pouring rain, day and night. We still had some windows for short trips, and to be honest, the rain is warm, but it’s just not my cup of tea.
Pro tip: Try to avoid rainy season in Bali, from October to March. However, this period is usually cheaper, so do your math.
6. Oh, happy roosters
Unless you stay in urban areas, be prepared to be woken up by the sound of roosters as early as 5 AM. I already experienced this natural alarm clock in Lombok, and Bali (as well as Nusa Penida) was no exception. Roosters are literally everywhere, so if you are a light sleeper, take this into an account when picking up your place to stay in Bali.
Pro tip: Ask your host to give you a quiet room if possible. In our case, the host in Ubud was so considerate, they moved the rooster to the other side of the yard during our stay. I do feel a little ashamed for asking this, but it totally made my vacation. 😀
7. Fake stuff
I’m not talking fake Louis Vuitton here, although you can find lots of it in Bali as well. I’m talking about ladies in pretty dresses swinging amongst green rice fields. Those swings are there for a reason, and the reason is money. They became famous because of Instagram and now they are literally everywhere, especially in Ubud. The famous ones charge around 20 € for a swing, which I think is ridiculous. Oh, and those gorgeous dresses are also available for rent, I kid you not.
Speaking of fake – the Gate of Heaven (Lempuyang temple) “reflection lake” is also fake. It’s actually created by a man holding a mirror, while people pay and stand in lines for hours to take fake photos. The situation is similar with floating breakfasts. While they are real (you can actually eat them), they also come with an extra fee and they are not comfortable to eat at all. Oh, Instagram, what have you done to us?
Pro tip: Don’t fall for the most crowded places, Bali is crowded with temples. The situation is similar with swings – there are lots of restaurants in Ubud with rice fields view (like the one in the photo above), where you can just drink coffee and take a photo for free.
8. Stray dogs
Bali is full of stray dogs. The view of those poor animals, often starved and covered in fleas or infections is heart-breaking. Due to poverty and low standards, dog owners can’t afford sterilization, resulting in growing Bali dog population. I’m not saying Bali is the only place on Earth with this problem. I’m just saying that for one of the most popular tourist spots in the world, one would expect the authorities to take proper actions. Animals are our responsibility too!
Pro tip: I always try to save a piece of meat from my meal to feed a dog or two per day. I know it won’t save lives, but at least it will save one dog’s day.
9. Street harassment
I’m not saying streets of Bali are dangerous, I am talking about everyone trying to sell you something literally every minute of your day. It is beyond annoying that you cannot walk the streets of Ubud without being constantly harassed by someone. Forget about romantic stroll amongst restaurants because all you’ll hear is “hello sir, taxi, boss, hello, scooter, hello lady need massage?!” Even if they see you carying a helmet, they’ll offer transport. I am used to this kind of “sales” from Turkish and Egyptian bazaars, but this was another level.
Pro tip: Get a shirt with “I just ate, I had a massage and I don’t need transport” printed in front and back. Good luck though.
10. Insects and lizards
Living amongst rice fields or close to the jungle, insects and lizards are something you need to count on. While I don’t have a problem with any of them (gigantic hairy spiders excluded), lots of people do, so be warned. I’ve seen bad reviews of very nice places just because there were geckos in the bathroom. That is a shame because there’s literally nothing that the owners can do. This is nature and you can either accept it or stay away.
Pro tip: If you don’t like the idea of sharing your place with insects (mosquitos included), choose a high-end hotel in Kuta and chances of sleeping with gecko will be a bit smaller.
There, I believe this sums up my Bali negativity. I almost feel bad about it now because it’s not the island’s fault that it has come to the point of almost no return. However, Bali is a big island and it still has places very untouched by tourism. And what do you think? Is Bali overrated? Would you add anything to my list of bad things about Bali? Or will you tell me to shut up because I don’t have a clue after having spent only 10 days in Bali? 😉 Let me know in the comments below!