Is Kuta, Bali, the worst place in Indonesia? I think so, and here’s why.
There are so many amazing and tranquil places in Indonesia: the jungles of Sumatra and Kalimantan; the ancient ruins and stupas of Java; the Hindu temples of Ubud; Komodo Dragons and Orangutans; not to mention countless active volcanoes! However, Bali – which is supposed to be some kind of Asian beach paradise – ruins it all by now marketing itself as something of a “party island”. Now don’t get me wrong, we all like to let our hair down at regular intervals, and backpacking would be pretty boring if you didn’t do that at some point, but an influx of foreign tourists to Kuta that are having no respect for Balinese tradition? Surely this must stop?! And it seems a lot of people agree with me. Check out this piece from Adventurous Kate.
Kuta in the south west of Bali has a very bad reputation. I didn’t find anything particularly unsafe about it (although I’m sure trouble does exist, especially in the night time), but it’s just a tawdry holiday destination for thrill-seeking youngsters, most of whom come from Australia. I hope that’s not too much of a generalisation, but it seems to be true from my own experiences. I stayed once at a cheap hotel in Kuta (Ibis Bali Kuta), on Jalan Raya Kuta, the main road linking the likes of Legian district to the airport. I stayed there because the rates were very good, only around £12 per night. It isn’t a hostel, it’s a proper hotel, albeit 3 star. But I got my own room, air conditioning, free water, free wifi (but it was quite slow), so it was value for money. However, the hotel was almost empty. It seems people really are avoiding Kuta like the plague. If I returned to Bali on a budget, I would seek cheap accommodation in rural Ubud, which is the spiritual heart of the island. I wouldn’t stay anywhere on the beach, as quite frankly I don’t like Bali’s beaches anyway.
Whenever and wherever you’re travelling, you sometimes to adapt to a different culture and a different pace of life. Certainly you will find that in Bali, as the locals are very laid-back and it must be said do not have the same levels of safety and hygiene as perhaps we have in the West. However, this lack of hygiene can be said of most of South East Asia, so it’s not just Bali. However, in the Kuta district of the island (and not so much anywhere else) things are taken to a whole new level now, as the $$ signs are appearing in the locals’ eyes. They now cater to the young Australians who come here looking for a jeroboam of Bali Hai and cheap accommodation to match – with plenty of night time entertainment along the way! It was once said that Bali is a true paradise for the traveller, if they wanted to sit back, relax, and enjoy the Balinese religion, culture, and cuisine. In fact, many 5 star hotel resorts operate on the island, so clearly tourists do still arrive in their thousands each week (not just backpackers), but do any of these expensive hotel resorts operate in Kuta? No way! If you have standards, and are trying to promote your brand, you don’t build a hotel resort anywhere near Kuta. Move slightly further north to the more boutique and artsy Seminyak enclave, or further south to the designated resort areas of Nusa Dua and Tanjong Benoa (the home of the luxurious Conrad Bali Resort – a true paradise if ever there could be one here nowadays), but just avoid Kuta, as it has become so far from Bali’s tradition that it is hardly worth calling it “Bali” anymore.
Coming from the UK’s south east, I have access to quite a few bad beaches, such as Brighton, which is very pebbly. However, even in the UK there is still better quality sand than what you would find along Kuta’s beaches in Bali. Not all of Bali’s beaches are bad, in fact some of them further south at Nusa Dua are quite good (even if most of those are private and belonging to the 5 star resorts). The waters around southern Bali are notoriously rough, and this is great for surfing and water sports, but not really for swimming. Plus the water is filthy (not surprising with the amount of rubbish and sewage that washes up on the beach).
If laying on the beach is your main aim to soak up the rays, then please avoid Bali altogether. I would recommend finding a cheap hotel in a less touristy location, perhaps Langkawi or Penang, where you will find infinitely better beaches than on the “island of paradise” known as Bali.