Is It Possible To Actually Enjoy Bali? (Here’s How)

Tuesday, July 30, 2013


Full disclosure: I’ve never been to Bali. It’s not that I haven’t been in the general vicinity, or have had the chance to go there over other destinations that are roughly the same distance from New York, but I’ve got to admit, it’s quickly become one of the few places in the world where my self-pronounced (though often vocally suppressed) travel snobbery has kicked in and made me want to avoid like the plague.

How can it not, what with a cursory Google search of the search phrase, “Bali sucks,” resulting in three articles from travel bloggers I respect essentially telling the world: don’t go there? For a few examples: (“Is Bali Worth It?”), (“Kuta: The Worst Place In Bali”), or (“When Tourism Goes Terribly Wrong”).

But to be fair, one common thread throughout all of these articles — other than the ever-presence of drunk Australians, blatant commercialization and a general desire to take a shower after visiting — was the fact that Bali itself should not be judged by Kuta (the main city in Bali where most travelers begin their trip). Reasonable enough, as it would be equally unfair to judge the entire Yucatan by Cancun, or Jamaica by Negril. The fact is, like anywhere you visit, it helps to know where to go, and perhaps even more importantly, to get as far away as possible from where all the tourists are.

Lonely Planet recently wrote about some suggestions of places to experience around Bali that won’t make you want to hop back on the plane minutes after you disembark. For example, Lovina, in the northern part of the island, is a great place where you can enjoy the black sand beaches and seafood warungs away from the crowded masses. Or you can head to the highlands of the island and visit Gunung Batur, Bali’s second highest volcano and home to two small villages, Kedisan and Toya Bungkah (look, no body shots happening here!).

And if you’ve really had enough of the island but need to stick around the vicinity due to time restrictions, hop a boat and visit the nearby Gili Islands, where cars are not allowed and numerous dive operators offer excursions to the many reefs and diving spots around the three islands.

So, yes, there are probably plenty of reasons to avoid Bali if you’re one of those travelers that tends to avoid tourist traps, but you do have options, just be prepared before you go.

By Matt Stabile


About the Author

Matt Stabile Bio PictureMatt Stabile is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of The Expeditioner. The Expeditioner began in 2008 and is headquartered in New York City. You can read his writings, watch his travel videos or contact him at any time at (@TheExpeditioner)

  • wade

    Just got back. Got all my money taken from police twice, got staff from the filthy ocean, got stopped by random road blocks for a fee, and kept up all night by the hoards of Australian and European tourists (very nice people, but definitely use it as a place to party and shit on, and then leave). Never going back.

  • Tom

    Nice post!

    I’ve made a couple of trips to Bali, the first time with a lot of trepidation, and had had a great time on both occasions. I think the island as a whole is beautiful. Kuta is definitely an interesting one, and errr, here’s a shameless plug….

  • Pami

    how right you are ! It is absolutely wrong to judge Bali because of Kuta . I have traveled to over 50 countries and Bali’s top 5 for me – as a beautiful and mysterious destination in the world. Go there and convince yourself. Avoid Kuta but stay more days in Ubud, Candidasa or even Nusa Dua. I loved it and would go back again any time.

    • mattstabile

      Great tips, thanks Pami.

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