Bali is a beautiful place and has become a very popular holiday destination in the past few years. I mean, why wouldn't it be. With so many Instagrammers posting epic photos of themselves on pristine beaches, jaw-dropping clifftops, in front of massive waterfalls or swinging through the treetops on the infamous man-made Bali swing. It seems Bali is on everyone's travel wish list right now.
Much like all foreign countries, there are many good things about this beautiful island in the Indonesian archipelago. But there are also some bad things about Bali that you should be aware of before you go!
Whilst Bali is a relatively safe place to visit, there are many common Bali tourist traps and things to avoid. I decided to put together this list of what not to do in Bali, because year after year I see many travellers make the same mistakes and find themselves in situations that they've seriously regretted afterward. To ensure your holiday in Bali remains safe, enjoyable and hassle-free, I would recommend reading these things to avoid in Bali before you visit!
Read on for our list of what not to do in Bali that every visitor should know about!
Riding A Scooter in Bali
There are scooters absolutely everywhere in Bali. In fact, there are probably more scooters than there are people. It's not uncommon to see scores of motorbikes lined up along the road near cafes and restaurants as far as the eye can see (just like the photo above). While it is a really fun and easy way to get around and explore the island, there is a reason why this has made the number one position on our list of what not to do in Bali.
Driving in Bali is notoriously tedious. The roads are narrow and windy and it can take what seems like forever to drive short distances. To give you an idea, the town of Ubud is only 37 km from Ngurah Rai International Airport, but it takes at least 1.5 hours to drive there. Often up to 2 hours in heavy traffic. As a result, many tourists opt for scooter rental in Bali, over a car rental.
However, Bali roads are also in poor condition and can be very dangerous. Unless you are an experienced rider and have good defensive riding skills, I wouldn't recommend it. The Balinese concept of road safety and riding a safe distance from your neighbour is vastly different from the standards we may be familiar with in western countries. Many tourists come off motorbikes and end up with devastating injuries. If you've rarely ridden a bike, let alone in dense traffic – think 20 other bikes surrounding you and cars zooming past with less than half a foot between you and them – then avoid trying this in Bali.
Riding a scooter in Bali without a licence is also a big no-no. Most travel insurance policies covering Bali strictly forbid the riding of scooters. Others may require that you hold an International Motorbike Licence. If you don't have one, then your travel insurance probably won't cover you if you take a tumble. Ouch!
If you're looking for travel insurance for your trip to Bali, we recommend Cover-More as they offer one of the most comprehensive worldwide travel insurance policies on the market. Click here to get a quote and be sure to confirm their policy relating to motorbike rental if you're planning to ride one in Bali.
There is more than one reason why I would recommend the Bali Swing as one of the things to avoid in Bali. The first being the safety aspect (or lack thereof). There are tourist swings popping up everywhere in the mountains of Bali. Most of which do not have adequate safety harnesses and swing over valleys with high drop-offs, some higher than 20-metres. Some swings in Bali don't actually have any harnesses at all.
You may have heard of the unfortunate Bali swing accident in 2018, where a French tourist plunged 15-metres to his death. If you choose to go on a swing in Bali, just remember that you are doing so at your own risk. Their safety standards are not as high as in most western countries.
The second reason the Bali swing is a perfect example of what not to do in Bali is the over-tourism factor. There are so many photographs getting around the ‘gram showing whimsical scenes of women in floaty dresses swinging through the jungle over a lake. So, it's no wondering that just about everyone out there wants to recreate the moment when visiting Bali.
But the reality behind the Bali swing is far different from what you see on Instagram. Firstly, it's a long drive from Ubud (around 30 minutes) to get to the swing. Once you get there, you'll have to pay for parking as well as an entrance fee of around $5 USD to get into the area where the swing is (prices may have changed since writing this article). And that only gets you in, it doesn't cover the cost of the swing.
Once you're in, they'll try to sting you around $30 USD per person and make you sign an indemnity waiver (which basically says they are not responsible if you die). And after few minutes swinging over the valley, you're done. If you didn't get the perfect Instagram-worthy shot during that time, too bad. You'll have to rejoin the line-up and wait another half hour or so to get another go.
In my opinion, the whole experience was extremely over-rated and underwhelming. But if you have your heart set on swinging through the Balinese jungle, I would recommend checking out Wanagiri Hidden Hills instead (pictured above). It's far less frequented by tourists, probably due to its proximity from Ubud. Being a little further away, you may want to consider doing a North Bali day trip and adding a visit to some of Bali's beautiful waterfalls, such as Git Git or Munduk waterfalls.
Luxe Travel Tip: Check out this North Bali day tour that includes a visit to Wanigiri, as well as a number of Bali's iconic Instagram-worthy spots.
Jimbaran Seafood Markets
The first time we visited the Jimbaran Beach Seafood Markets we were really looking forward to it. Many people had highly recommended it as a ‘must do’ experience. So why has this experience made it onto our list of what not to do in Bali?
Firstly, the quality of the seafood was questionable. Of course, the waiters will assure you that the seafood was caught fresh that day. But I have eaten plenty of fresh seafood in my life and what they served up did not look, smell or taste very fresh at all. When the meal arrived at our table it was overdone and tough.
They also have a band walking around, serenading tables with romantic songs. This was a nice touch, but of course, at the end of the song, you'd clap and they would hold out their hands waiting for a tip before moving onto the next table.
Perhaps it's my Australian cultural background that made this feel somewhat wrong, but I personally dislike being made to tip for a service that I didn't want or ask for in the first place.
Then came the bill.
A whole snapper, 8 prawns and some calamari with rice, salad and coconut water came to around US$40 each. By Balinese standards, this is extortion!
To top it all off, the next morning we took a walk down the same beach and were extremely disappointed to find rubbish from the markets littered all over the sand and washing into the ocean. Another good reason to avoid this experience!
Kuta Nightclub Area
The Kuta nightclub district is notorious for drugs, violence and crime. Unfortunately, many tourists are drawn to the hype of the Kuta nightlife and are considered easy targets. Many innocent tourists have unsuspectingly found themselves in bad situations or have become the subject of an elaborate scam.
Unprovoked attacks and drink spiking are common and sometimes law enforcement officers can be more of a hindrance than a help if you get into trouble. My advice – avoid this area like the plague or at least do some research on the common the dangers and annoyances before you go!
Unlicensed Money Exchanges
One of the most common scams in Bali may occur when you're exchanging money. Unlicenced moneychangers are found everywhere in Bali. The attractive exchange rates they offer are pretty enticing, but many tourists end up walking away with less money than promised.
To avoid this scam on your next trip to Bali, stick to the official money exchange offices. Keep a close eye on your money at all times. They can be pretty quick with their hands so always recount your money in front of the moneychanger.
Another one of the very common scams in Bali. This one can be hard to pick and sometimes, as you probably won't realise you've been sucked in until its too late. But being aware of how this scam works may help you to avoid the situation next time you're in Bali.
The scam works something like this – a very friendly person riding a motorbike stops you in the street and asks where you're from. They seem friendly enough so you oblige. “Would you like to come back to Bali for another holiday?” they ask… Of course, you would!
They then offer you scratch cards and you will almost certainly win a holiday to come back to Bali – lucky you! To claim your prize you must accompany them to a very expensive hotel, where a free buffet breakfast awaits you. Sounds too good to be true, right?
It is! I almost got sucked into this scam in Thailand.
By now, you are probably getting skeptical and start backing out. At this point, they will pull all stops to convince you to come along for a free breakfast. Even going so far as to tell you that they won’t get paid and won’t be able to buy food for their family unless you go to the hotel with them.
If you do agree to go with them, you will be asked to give out all your personal details (address, name, phone number, passport etc). They'll spend the next two hours convincing you to invest in a timeshare scheme. And that free breakfast they offered might never be seen. My advice – forget the holiday – it’s not worth it!
Lonely Planet has some good info on timeshares and other scams you may come across in Bali.
Our Top Places to Stay in Bali
- COMO Uma Ubud in Ubud
- Maya Ubud Resort and Spa in Ubud
- The W Hotel in Seminyak
- Alila Villas in Uluwatu
- Alila Manggis in Candidasa
- Ametis Villas in Canggu
Additional Travel Tips for Bali
Currency – The main form of currency accepted in Bali is the Indonesian Rupiah IDR. At the time of writing, 1 USD was worth 14,100 IDR and 1 AUD was worth 9,570 IDR, according to XE.com. If you wish to avoid the possibility of money scams altogether, exchange some cash before you arrive. Most hotels accept credit cards.
Tipping – Tipping is not expected in Bali but is commonly practiced at your discretion.
Visas – Apply for a Visa for Indonesia (or check if you need one) using iVisa.com.
Airport Transfer – Metered taxis can be hard to find at the airport in Bali. Instead, we recommend you pre-book a private airport transfer.
Language – The native language in Bali is Indonesian, but most locals also speak English very well.
Power – Indonesia uses type C/F power outlets. We use and recommend the Dandelion worldwide travel adapter.
Don’t forget to Bring – reef-safe sunscreen because the sun is strong in Bali, a stylish foldable sun hat for lazy days by the pool and pocket-sized hand sanitizer for when you can't wash your hands (trust me, you'll need this!).
All thoughts and opinions in this post are, as always, my own. My experiences in Bali have not all been bad. During my recent trip, I had a wonderful time visiting the Karma Beach Club. I really love Bali but I make a point to avoid these situations anytime I travel there.
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