One of the controversial places to visit, there are some who can’t stop talking about it and how awesome it is, and others who would never go back.
Last year had the chance to see it for myself in a short 3 days stop over.
First of all, I need to tell you that I love Asia, I love crowded places and people. I love travelling and discovering authentic places. My impression of Bali wasn’t that good, I think is a little bit overrated. It became super touristic and that’s the only explanation I can find to justify the not so pleasant feeling I’ve got when visiting. I always travel light, no expensive clothes, handbags and jewels, but in Bali I had the impression I have a $ sign all over me.
Locals are intrusive: from the shop vendors who were pushing us into their shops (even though we did not show any interest and were just strolling on the beachfront), to the masseuses on the beach in front of our resort that were keep asking if we are ready to have a massage. That made laying on the beach very uncomfortable and ended up leaving earlier than planned, just to have some quite tranquillity.
Airport porters: there are no porters, just aggressive people who grab your luggage and carry it for you to the taxi to earn some money. Be aware! We insisted we don’t need help, because our tiny bags were on wheels and we barely had 30 metres to walk, but it transformed into a tiny fight over our bags, which ended up quite unpleasant when I had to explain I have no cash on me and I am not intending to go back to the terminal to queue up for a tip, as it has been suggested by the overly helpful ‘’porters’’.
Taxi cost: I done my homework previously and been very careful on arranging a taxi through our hotel to sort out our 2 am airport arrival. Unfortunately for me I forgot to print out the confirmation email and been charged 4 times the previously agreed amount, at the driver’s justification that is night tariff, special airport taxes, etc. You can’t argue too much at 3 am, after 14 hours of flight and with no proof of your pre-booking.
Attraction tours: I have organised a Turtle Island visit, with explicit cost for the activity itself and the car who drove us to the location and back. Luckily this time I had a screenshot with the confirmation email, because when we got there, we’ve been told that the transport was separate and we had to pay extra, almost double amount. After the first taxi experience, I already had my screenshot ready and insisted that all was included, as agreed. It took 10 good minutes of arguing and when I have asked to talk with the manager and went to his office, my version was confirmed, thanks to my printed email.
Slow service: in the end it is an island and like all other islands, is ISLAND TIME, which translates with super slow services. I don’t really have a problem with that, I have been to tropical islands before and experienced the ‘’island time’’. The surprise in Bali was that they were super intrusive and aggressive to get you in their shops, but once inside, you almost got neglected and let waiting for a long time, including restaurants, shops and tour operators. Street vendors were efficient though, that was a plus.
GST is not included in the price, apart from street vendors. When you eat in a nice restaurant, be ready to add some extra as GST, don’t let yourself confused by the price in the menu. No local dish stands out, majority offer international dishes with local ingredients and adds on, and the cocktails are missing the tropical flavours.
Lots of rubbish everywhere: because Bali is presented as a dream destination, it is confusing to see lots of rubbish everywhere, not just on the street’s sides. Including the beach, which are nice, but not the most beautiful ones on earth. Not even close. Some are partly dirty, crowded and definitely nothing special. Because the island is over populated, you can’t get that secluded beach feeling, with palms and turquoise water.
There are no traffic rules and the linemarkings are a mere suggestion. The amount of scooter is unbelievable (2.5 million registered in 2014 according to Statistics Indonesia) making the traffic insane. Allow plenty of time to get to places in case you need to use taxis, traffic jams are common any time of the day.
If you go with an open mind and aware that you are an income source for locals, I am sure everything is going to be ok. It was warm, Frangipani everywhere. Not in your stereotypical bright, white sandy beaches kind of way, but beautiful in a rice fields, temples, kind of way. You could choose Ubud and the Gili Islands over the Seminyak/Sanur beaches, mainly because the latter are so congested and the others are truly places you can get away from it all. The accommodation in Bali is super good, don’t think I heard anyone complaining, doesn’t matter where you’re staying.