An Honest Digital Nomads Review of Bali
We have never been that excited boarding on our plane. Bali was always a dream destination for us, and we wanted to go there very much. We've heard about the beautiful nature and spiritual vibe.
This might be a controversial post about Bali, but I'll try to be honest as much as possible. Actually, it's a little bit hard to write about Bali just from one side, positive or negative. We found both. Honestly, I've been putting off writing this post until I have a certain mood and I can check my notes and put everything in place, organize it and write a balanced post that will give you an idea about this island. So you just be prepared for reality as it is.
Arriving In Bali
We've arrived in Bali almost at midnight. Our flight was just a couple of hours. Since we've been flying from Kuala Lumpur.
It was unclear what we should do with visas at the beginning. We've heard that some foreigners can apply for a tourist visa at a counter before going to passport control and that it can be prolonged for one more month without flying out of Bali. So we've tried this, and this didn't work for us, but anyway we have got our visa on arrival stamps that are valid for one month. So if we want to stay longer, we just need to go to Kuala Lumpur or Singapore and then back to Bali for one more month. Also, you can apply for a social visa if you are sure that you want to stay there for 6 months without leaving the island.
I've read several topics about some issues with taxi and transportation in Bali, but you don't think about it seriously until you face it yourself. That's a really big issue for some reason.
When we landed, passed passport control, baggage claim and went out to arrivals, we were literally hiding from taxi drivers. That was intense. I'll explain it a little bit later.
First thing first, I needed to get some local cash and buy a sim card. It wasn't so easy as in Thailand. Everything seemed not so obvious at all. As a result, they sold me a sim card in a place that doesn't look like an official cellular selling spot. They just took it from their table, and it wasn't like new, but I've checked everything, and it worked well and seemed legit. The only thing that was weird is the price. As a matter of fact, it was 3-4 times more expensive than we found it in a local spot on the island in a couple of weeks. After buying a sim-card we saw one more spot where they sell sim-cards, and this one has Telkomsel logo that I have on my sim-card, but prices were even higher.
After dealing with exchange and sim-cards, we needed to get to our hotel somehow. So we decided to try Uber.
Transport In Bali
There are many stories about Uber. First of all, it's banned in many places, and their taxi drivers have a conflict with Uber drivers. So Uber drivers are hiding all the time and even don't go to some areas of the island where it's not possible to pick up tourists as well as dropping them off. Luckily our hotel was located in Canggu and Uber worked there. I don't know about Ubud, but I've heard it's completely banned there and I even didn't see cars on the map in the Uber app. I saw several banners on the main road and near hotels about this ban.
One life hack that is important when use Uber is to change payment from credit card to cash to make it work here in Bali. I made a mistake to pay via credit card once. The driver messaged me that he's washing his car and wanted us to wait for half an hour and who knows how much more. So we cancelled and paid a fee. After I changed to cash, there were no problems, and additional questions like... Where are you going? Can you pay extra?, etc. After questions like this, you don't know what to expect more from these people.
Continuing our story of ordering Uber and going to our hotel...
Everyone is literally watching your phone when you're going out of the airport, and you can even meet drivers with fake sign Uber written with a marker. Kind a sketchy, but anyway we managed to go to the second floor, to departures. So it's not crowded with taxi drivers that want to rip off you with their prices even on an official stand with transfer to different areas of the island.
Our Uber driver was hiding far away from the airport entrance on the parking lot, but we found him and eventually reached our hotel late at night.
We didn't see the beauty of Bali yet, but we've already experienced some of the cultures just commuting from the airport to our hotel.
Accommodation In Bali
Our hotel was in a good area, not far away from the Echo beach. We had a lovely breakfast that was included in the price of our stay. They actually pretended to be as Airbnb, but I realized we overpaid for extra square meters that we didn't use at all. For some reason, they had only these big rooms and the second floor wasn't available. So we had to find something less pricey and more comfortable for longer stay. Prolonging our hotel wasn't an option for us.
I've heard about spacious villas with pools and private gardens, and we were expecting to find something like this even if we need to go a little bit over our budget. We planned to explore nearby areas right after the breakfast. We didn't have a bike first day and went exploring neighborhoods by foot.
After some time searching for accommodation to stay long term we realized it wasn't that easy as we were thinking about it. First of all, it's hard to find villas, guesthouses and everything related on your own by just walking around and trying to understand if there is something for rent. A lot of deals happening in facebook groups. Most of the time you'll find villas that can be rented for a period of 6 months to 2 years. It was almost impossible to find anything available for a month or 2 for a couple like we. Some of the villas could be rented for 1 or 2 months but shared with others, or it's like someone rented out a place long-term and to split rent costs they're looking somebody single to share a room in the villa.
Hotels didn't work for us because it wasn't that popular in Canggu area where we wanted to stay, and most of the options aren't actually hotels. It's more like guesthouses, or surf camps which in most of the cases are simple rooms or even dorms. Which is fine if you're alone and came to Bali to learn surfing, but it's not an option for a digital nomads couple.
Another option is Airbnb, but prices there are high. At least we thought they are high after comparing them with Thailand. Anyway, we found several options there, and some of them used their name right in Airbnb listings. So it was possible to check these places by searching them in Google Maps before making a final decision.
So I pinned every place I found, we rented a scooter to speed up the process and went to explore places.
After the exhausting search, we found the place. Why exhausting? The thing with Bali is that you can't find a logic there in almost everything you're trying to do there. Like for example, commute from point A to point B. Basically, all roads lead from the main ring road to the beach, and these parallel streets are not connected with each other unless you find one or two shortcuts, but most of the time you need to go up and down to reach a parallel street.
Beauty Of Bali
The lack of logic makes it beautiful in some way. I believe it's somehow connected with the nature of the island. Nature there is so rich. I had never seen it before in any place we visited. Different trees, flowers, light sand beaches, dark sand beaches, mountains, waterfalls, volcanos, cliffs, lakes, forests, jungles, rice paddies. It has everything, and it's the first thing that comes to mind when I think about Bali.
Being a Digital Nomad In Bali
I believe every place has a vibe. We felt Bali as a noisy and hectic place. We felt drained all the time. It's hard to be energetic here. Most of the people come here to spend money during their 1-2 week vacations, and if you're a long-time traveler or a digital nomad, you can sense it everywhere. Basically, it's the main point of Bali. It's all about money. Fancy cafes, restaurants, resorts, etc.
Best Time To Travel Bali
We went there in September, and the weather was perfect. Like fresh air all the time, not hot at all. Very soft and warming sun.
Things To Do In Bali
Most of the things that you can do in Bali is actually exploring the island. It has a lot of exciting and unique places worth to go there.
We stayed in Canggu and went to explore some other areas on a scouter. In general, it's an amazing experience. You can go whenever you want and when you want. You just need to be confident with Asian roads and hectic traffic, use maps on your phone, pay attention to the level of petrol in your tank, and that's pretty much it.
Tegalalang Rice Terrace
The first time trip was to Ubud. We stopped near rice fields to make photos and enjoy views.
The tip number one is to go there early. After 8 am it starts filling with groups of tourists. This is place beautiful, and it would be a utopia if not commerce part of it. I wouldn't say that we were ripped off and at the of the day, this place cost us roughly a couple of dollars. However, the way they're doing it is so scammy.
The next place we would recommend is the Mount Batur. Views on the Batur and lake are gorgeous. We were scammed there on the entrance to the road that goes around mount Batur.
The guy on the road before the entrance to the village around volcano asked us to pay the entrance fee to the area, and we paid. He said that we should have these tickets with us because someone can check, but it's a scam, and you can just ignore him. No one asked us to show our tickets and, again, you shouldn't pay for looking at nature, not something that was built by human hands. The village there is not pretty at all.
It's a beach with light yellow sand and without waves. Which is a quite rarer case for Bali.
Beaches in Bali may be beautiful, but this is not a beach destination for sure. There are waves pretty much all the time. Sometimes really big, sometimes small, but even with smaller ones, it's impossible to swim and enjoy doing it. All these 2 months we were looking for a beach to swim and we found only this one.
The funny thing is that I found a lot of images on the Internet of beautiful beaches around the island and it seemed that they are all swimmable, but in reality there are waves, and even if you don't feel afraid of it you can't swim in it.
Located in the very southern part of the island.
We found there an interesting hotel that is the only thing that exists on that beach, and it's very basic but has a style.
The conclusion for the southern part is that you can explore beaches, cliffs, and excellent views, but it's still touristy. I believe it's widespread in all the places where you can find beaches.
We found Northern part much more interesting for us. It's not that touristy as the southern part, and it has a more authentic vibe.
The beach with dark sand. A nice sunset place with unusual atmosphere due to sand mashed with ash, dark temples, ocean and warm color of sunset. This is the color palette you'll never forget.
That's a place for parties, hustle, and bustle and whatever dirty thing come to your mind. We've passed it through a couple of times, and this is opposite to the beautiful side of Bali. I'd say it's the most touristy place you can ever find on the island. Many hotels and resorts are concentrated in this area, and actually, that's where everything started in Bali, I mean tourism.
Pura Ulun Danu Bratan
It's a major water temple on Bali. We've been during some ceremony with well dressed Balinese people and mystic sounds of the music that they played during this ceremony. Views in this spot are amazing. You can see a lake, mountains, and temple. It looks very unusual.
Git Git Waterfall
Aling Aling Waterfall
Lake inside Catur volcano
Banyumala Twin Waterfall
The most picturesque and beautiful waterfall I've ever seen.
Beachwalk Shopping Center
There are different activities you can do here, like surfing, yoga, running along the beach, trying delicious and healthy western and local food, seeing different places like beaches, rice fields, volcanos, jungles with monkeys, forests, lakes, mountains etc. I even found a cross-fit here.
Food In Bali
Good news that coffee is good in Bali. You can easily find a decent cup of coffee.
All the places I mentioned and more you can check on the map below:
People in Bali
I don't want to be very harsh on this, but in most of the cases, we didn't like Balinese people. They see foreigners as the way they can make money, and they're trying to do it in every possible way.
Everyone wants your money, and the more you give, the better. I've heard that Balinese people think that people who arrive in Bali are rich and that's why they behave like this. And I know why it's happening. That's not the problem of Bali locals at first side, that's actually foreigners fault.
I saw many times how people not carefully behave with their money and basically just throwing them out on the left and on the right. They use the word “cheap” everywhere and just giving money everywhere. That's the cue of this behavior of Balinese people that we have right now. They have a logic that if you are a foreigner, then you should pay for every your move on their land. Since you're rich and it means that everything is cheap for you here. So please “share your wealth.”
I believe that this is not the way how the things should be. It's obvious that a lot of people are poor here, but I saw really wealthy Balinese families and lots of people build these gorgeous villas with pools that they rent out for years to foreigners. So they know how to make money and they can do it if they want to. And I don't see the reason to support this giveaway movement and paying for nothing like entering a specific road or a beach.
However, there are places that are good and not spoiled by tourists.
The guesthouse we stayed in is a very good place. People here very kind and helpful. I believe it's because the owner is not from Bali and she spent around 15 years living in Singapore. Which is differentiate her mentality from Balinese people.
The place is called Tehila House and located in Canggu area. You can find it on Airbnb, or just find it in Google maps and go there directly, but make sure it has free rooms. Best ones on the first floor if you're not on a budget. I do not have any percentage of advertising this place. Just sharing it because we liked to stay there for almost 2 months. We literally were escaping noisy streets of Bali in this place.
We did our visa run to Singapore, and I'll write about this in a separate post. After that, we came back for one more month.
As a conclusion, I have mixed feelings about Bali. I don't think it's a digital nomads destination and staying there for a long period of time is difficult regarding productivity, people, partially Internet connection (it's still not that good as let's say in Thailand). We're not fans of coworking spaces, but maybe you can fix the productivity and Internet issues doing your stuff there. From the other side, it's really beautiful and worth it to go there at least as a vacation for a couple of weeks to check all the beauty on the island and smaller islands nearby.
So the next post will be about Nusa islands.