Wednesday, July 30th, 2014

Kuta: The Worst Place In Bali

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Don’t let these pretty pictures fool you –

Kuta may be the most vile place on Earth.

If you’ve researched Bali tourism, you may have heard that – but for me, I found that guidebooks mostly glossed over this fact.  However, many travel bloggers wrote eloquently about this, none of them better than Wandering Earl.

Kuta is Bali’s primary resort town and it’s particularly popular with Australians. But don’t come here expecting culture, temples and quiet beaches.  Kuta is a mess, a lost paradise, a great opportunity twisted into a burned-out shell.

It’s the bumper stickers and t-shirts sold on every block that read “UP THE BUM NO BABYS” and “WHAT PART OF DEEP THROAT DON’T YOU UNDERSTAND?

It’s the fact that come nightfall, the streets are filled with vomiting holidaymakers who wouldn’t think twice about pouring beer on nearby onlookers.

It’s the trash-filled beach, making swimming in Kuta akin to wading through a watery landfill.

If it weren’t for the spiritual offerings placed on the ground in front of each business, the streets of Kuta might as well be part of Cancun or the sleazier areas of Las Vegas.


Now, I have no problem with a debaucherous weekend in Vegas or Cancun.  God knows I’ve done my share of them.  So why did Kuta bother me so much?

The Balinese people.

The Balinese people are the nicest and friendliest people that I’ve met in Southeast Asia. They’re inquisitive, helpful and incredibly polite.  They’re gentle.  They’re intensely family-oriented.  Their spiritual beliefs shape their lives, and many aspects of their lifestyle haven’t changed in centuries.

So to see the home of such wonderful people turned into a disgusting tourist ghetto really saddened me. I do know that this environment brings in jobs and revenue to many Balinese people, but it upsets me nonetheless.   Why here?  Why Bali?

Who knows?

I honestly believe that Kuta is past the point of no return.  As long as they continue catering toward these kinds of tourists (and as long as Kuta remains right next to the airport), I genuinely believe that nothing is going to change.

So if I knew that Kuta was this bad, why did I even go in the first place?

Surfing.

Kuta is an ideal place for a beginner to learn to surf, and Rip Curl School of Surf generously offered me a surfing lesson to take place a few days after my arrival.  I’d have a few days to kill, but I can usually figure out how to enjoy places I hate.

And I did.

I stayed in the Kuta region for four days.  During that time, I learned to surf in the nicer, cleaner beach of northern Legian.  I enjoyed cocktails in ritzy Seminyak with Theodora of Travels With a Nine Year Old.  I made more Indonesian girlfriends that I ever imagined and hit the clubs with them.

These were all great experiences – and they are proof that if you look beyond the obvious vile aspects of Kuta, you can still enjoy yourself here. Go to fancy Seminyak or low-key northern Legian.  Just don’t expect much from Kuta itself.

Comments

64 Responses to “Kuta: The Worst Place In Bali”
  1. Chinamatt says:

    I remember being taken to Kuta on my tour of Bali. They took us to an enormous mall and we walked on the dirty beach. I did find a decent restaurant nearby though. I was much happier in other parts of Bali. The nicest beaches I saw were in Nusa Dua. But, since I like mountains and trees and such, my favorite place was Tegalalang.

  2. vira says:

    the only time I can enjoy Kuta beach is in the morning, really early morning, like around 7 AM, where only a few people jogging or simply sitting on the sand..

  3. gourmetpigs says:

    I’m Indonesian and lived 30-min flight away from Bali, so I’ve seen how Kuta had changed over the years. Most of us don’t go there anymore. The sunset from the beach is still nice to watch but the beach is too crowded, most of the good food is in Ubud, and Seminyak//Nusa Dua are nicer to stay in and the latter has a nicer beach. If you ask Indonesians what one can find in Kuta, I think they’d just say it’s the clubs.

  4. Earl says:

    As you know, I obviously agree with your points and we’re not the only ones. I recently came upon a time.com article about the situation in Kuta that offers some further insight. The title alone – Holidays in Hell – speaks for itself!

    http://www.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,2062604,00.html

    I appreciate the link as well :)

  5. Adam @ SitDownDisco says:

    Once upon a time I hated Kuta and the people that stayed there. But over the years I’ve learned that it serves a purpose. I’ve never heard of anyone having beer poured over them or seen people
    vomit in the streets so I’d say that if that stuff does happen, it’s uncommon.

    I stayed in kuta and Legian for three weeks last year and Legian & Kuta are just about the same in terms of ‘class’. Similar activities go on in seminyak as kuta, such as drinking, eating and shopping. It’s just the people look more like Paris Hilton in seminyak – a mask to cover the desire for hedonism.

    • I had beer poured on me while on the back of a motorbike — the guy was standing on the sidewalk and pretending to jack off with his beer bottle. It was one of the most blatantly disrespectful things I’ve ever experienced.

      I should add that I only saw one person vomiting in the street.

      I know this is extreme stuff, and I can’t say how often it happens right in the street — but it was low season. I can only imagine what high season is like.

  6. Jenna says:

    In my experience, the streets of Kuta do offer some pretty fun shopping, including a shop full of instruments handmade by the sweet owner and his brother. Last time I was in Bali, I stayed 2 weeks but spent only a couple hours in Kuta. As you said, Seminyak is so nice, but I worry that the same thing will happen there since it’s catered to foreigners and wealthy Indonesians, and it’s so close to Kuta.

    I can relate to your experience making tons of Indonesian girlfriends. I found the people so eager to chat and smile, and it’s easy to make friends with them. They’re lovely.

  7. Tom says:

    Kuta looks like a dump! Bleargh.

    Unfortunately though, there are plenty of other places on earth that have suffered the same fate. As a Brit, I can say that a lot of my kinsmen are responsible for turning pockets of Spain and Greece into sunnier versions of our crappier seaside towns.

    I think the mass tourism concept is fine – hell, when I go anywhere, I always want to take a day out and do everything touristy, take a photo in front of x-statue or y-building, and my mother always commands me to buy a fridge magnet, meaning a trek around the shops that sell the “I <3 this place" t-shirts.

    But it's when the drunken frat-boys with no interest in the local culture come in AND the local industry starts catering to their every whim instead of saying "piss off" and sticking their middle finger up after it becomes such a problem that the local culture is diluted into something entirely foreign….that's when the problems start.

    When I was in Turkey and stayed in Fethiye (lovely place), I took a bus 30 minutes to the neighbouring town of Oludeniz. If it wasn't for the weather you couldn't tell you were in Turkey – it was over-run with pubs serving up burgers and fries and – you guessed it – overweight, lobster red British tourists splayed out like walruses on the crappy pebble beach.

    I'm glad you enjoyed the rest of Bali that you experienced and got some positives out of your time there, though ^^

  8. Nomadic Matt says:

    I was disgusted by Kuta and I didn’t go to the beach. The water is FILTHY there! Gross…

  9. Peter Dundas says:

    Good article, but your headlines are too sensational. ” Bali worse than Las Vegas” hardly, Bali including its tourist population is twice the size of Las Vegas. LV has 3 of the worst crime areas in the US, Bali in comparison has negligible crime rates, but on the increase. “Kuta maybe the most vile place on Earth” hardly !
    I understand that you want to draw attention to you article, which is very good, far more realistic and a truer picture of small parts of Kuta, than Blog/Tweet headlines. But you don’t mention the vast numbers of Asian tourists who go to Kuta & Tuban, possibly in the same volumes as the louder, wilder, crazier Australians. Are they also vile too you.
    To be honest, what you see in Kuta is exactly the same as in Khao San, Bangkok, only it is not dominated by one nation. Koh Phangnan at Full Moon tops the most terrible scenes in Kuta by a long way.
    Is it the place or the antics of a few people that is vile?

    • I’m not comparing any crime rates, Peter. Just sharing my opinion about a place that I did not like.

      For me, it was the place more than the people. And I’m saying this as a girl who got beer poured on here while riding a motorbike by a guy who was pretending to jack off with his Bintang bottle. So that says a lot.

      • Peter Dundas says:

        kate, your experience says a lot and obviously has a massive impact on your feelings about kuta.

        but, that experience or similar is easily witnessed in every backpacker hot spot or even most major cities in south east asia.

        in singapore now, and witnessed just similar, but that doesn’t make singapore or sihanoukville or koh tao or bangkok or … the most vile place on Earth.

        there are many good things in kuta / tuban as well as elsewhere in Bali, as i am sure you experienced.

        safe flight home, and keep the blogs and adventures coming..

        • csd says:

          I’d be interested to know what you were wearing Kate? Maybe your clothes encouraged the beer guy?

          • cadeler says:

            Not trying to troll or get into any kind of argument here, csd, but I couldn’t help responding to what you wrote:

            What a woman wears has nothing to do with how she should be treated. Kate could have been wearing an outfit that showed skin or she could have been un-showered in a baggy T and sweatpants. No matter what, disrespect is disrespect and a woman (who is also a PERSON, let me remind you) never, ever, deserves to be treated in a disrespectful manner.

            Looking to her outfit is victim blaming and perpetrates rape culture. Everyone (drunken men included) should be held responsible for their actions and be held to higher standards of behavior.

      • Sam says:

        Kate, I agree that Kuta is beyond saving but if you ever come to Perth Western Australia you will see in Northbridge far worse behaviour

        Drunks/Druggo’s, fights, arrests and assaults are everyday occurrences. And just as run down and shitty as Kuta.

    • elisabeth mcleod says:

      I agree with you Peter…I live here now and have been here many times…i have all around Bali, a bit of Lombok, Sumatera, Java, Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore etc….my comment is this…if you don’t take the time to get know the local people (who of course all from all over Indo), then, no, Kuta is not the place for you…you have to earn their respect and you will a fabulous experience in return! ‘Fresh meat’ will always get ripped off, no matter where you are all over the globe. if you don’t like the locals-stay home in you flash villa and swim in your pool. i have fabulous friends here…from all over Indonesia and i get back what i put in (time and respect). Mum and dad always told us, ‘if you haven’t got anything nice to say, then don’t say anything at all’!.

  10. Jo says:

    I agree with Peter Dundas – your articles are becoming completely over-dramatized. When you say stuff like “Kuta may be the most vile place on Earth” you come across as quite ignorant.

    I enjoy your blog, but try not to be so melodramatic all the time.

    • Jo, I’m just stating my opinion. As a blogger, that’s what I offer! I’m sure most readers know that I’m being hyperbolic here.

      • st123 says:

        Thankyou Adv. Kate for your blogs here, I think you are definitely correct here. For someone to call you ignorant about this topic i feel is not fair at all and very ignorant on there behalf. I have travelled around the world to many place and I find Kuta to be one of the worst holiday destinations on “Earth” the whole place is completely corrupt and the clubs in Kuta just spike tourist drinks left right and centre. Thankyou for your blogs!!!

  11. Wow that place does sound vile. Glad you got to try surfing! It’s one of my favorite sports!!!

  12. Theodora says:

    Yep, it’s hell. I think you hit the nail on the head with Cancun, because Kuta is to a certain type of young Australians as Cancun is to a certain type of young American. With the added sex tourism element. Always a bonus.

    We’re in Kuta, Lombok, right now — also learning to surf! And it’s the perfect contrast. Though part of me wonders whether this, too, will go the way of Kuta Bali in 10-20 years.

    Enjoy the Royal Wedding. And drink lots of cocktails… Need any recommendations in London, I might be your woman. And, thanks for the link.

  13. Meg says:

    Yikes!!! Tony and I will not be going here. It is amazing how off tour guides can be. Glad we got the heads up Kate!

  14. Sarah says:

    I absolutely hated Kuta – Ubud was a breath of fresh air after the boozy, commercial, tat show I experienced in the Aussie’s answer to Ibiza. I fly to South East Asia in two weeks and plans to enjoy my fair share of partying that the region has to offer.

    So I’m curious, what is it that makes Kuta so much more intolerable that other touristy party towns such as sihanoukville and Vang Vieng?

    • I actually thought Vang Vieng was worse than Kuta. I just couldn’t believe lots of people were sitting around watching “Friends” and “Family Guy” on the TV in the countless cafes that show the shows.

      Really think Sihanoukville is awful as well. But both of these serve purposes as evidenced by the types of people that love to visit them. It’s the same as Kuta in many ways. A cheap place for people that love to drink, party and have sex to let off steam.

  15. Ben says:

    You are spot on Kate. My wife is from Tabanan. On my first visit to Bali my wife and I stayed in Kuta on Poppies 2 for the first week. We left to go to Lembongan for a few days and while on Lembongan we called every hotel in Seminyak, Nusa Dua, and Sanur attempting to find a room to no avail. We dreaded going back to the same hotel in Kuta. Don’t get me wrong, we loved the hotel and staff and some of the other guests we met. It was just Kuta that got under our skin. I told my wife if I see another drunk sleeve tatted Aussie in a trashy Bintang tank top I would just drown myself in the pool. Anyway we stuck it out. We just took day trips on the scooter to other places to hang out. We have a home there now in Padangsambian (west side of Denpasar), closer to Seminyak and Canggu. We are moving there in January. I will be avoiding Kuta like the plague. I would also suggest staying further up the coast near Balian. It is very beautiful and unspoiled and there are great waves there for any for surfers of all skill levels.

  16. Angela says:

    i completely agree! We came here for a wedding and we stayed in a private villa in Semarapura – absolutely breathtaking. But after the wedding, we stayed at J Boutique Hotel in Kuta and it was not so great. The rooms with no outside views felt claustrophobic, the lighting was really dim – it felt dingy.

    Kuta is super touristy and the beach is dirty. My first thought was, “Where’s the turquoise waters?!”

    The local people, yes, are very nice.

    I want to go back…to a different island in Indonesia that still has kept its beauty intact.

  17. Betti says:

    I agree completely. I didn’t understand why you stuck around (apart from looking after me!), but now I see it’s surfing. next time, Uluwatu on your itinerary? :-)
    unfortunately I had a morning flight home and had to go back to Kuta for one night before leaving Bali.
    first shuttle bus from Ubud to airport is 8:30 – don’t know about the other places. it takes 2 hours to get there. so, afternoon flights mean no overnight stay in Kuta. just in case this helps someone….
    the receptionist at (another) guesthouse was very rude and I asked him why were all Kuta people so miserable, he told me “big bomb”. when was that, 2002? lame excuse for all the rudeness.
    only one thing saved it: after having lost all my clothes in the shipwreck, no better place to replace a long-sleeve swimming shirt than Kuta. that is something I had been chasing in Thailand for 2 years.
    when people tell me they like Phuket (Thailand), I always say something like “oh, good, keep it all for yourselves, just don’t spoil the rest of the country for the rest of us”.
    I read in Lonely Planet that most of the Kuta Lombok beachfront had been sold to big hotel developers and is clearly headed even worse than Kuta Bali – more like Nusa Dua with its luxury resorts.

  18. Jeremy B says:

    Sorry it was such a bad experience! But hey, at least you are in England now right? :)

  19. We hated Kuta as well. Luckily we found ourselves a nice little place in Sanur which suited us perfectly. We didn’t quite experience all the things that you talk about but we had our own horrific experiences as well. I do have to agree with the reader above who mentioned Vang Vieng though. As far as “whored out” tourism goes, Kuta obviously wins the grand prize, but Vang Vieng will be right up there sooner than later. If I could list the two worst places I’ve visited in Southeast Asia it would be Kuta Bali and Vang Vieng, Laos hands down.

    P.S. — On another note… I’m boggled that people actually get angry when reading your blog. It’s strictly opinion and it’s basically an online journal of YOUR travels, yet these people get mad and leave nasty comments. Quite interesting to say the least…

  20. SolOrp says:

    Hmmm, so, I will spend Christmas in Bali and then head over to Gili T for NYE…

    Reading the above makes me a bit worried since everything is booked (planes, and most places to stay, since it will be very high season). I found an apparently decent hostel (The Island) in Legian which seems quite ok, and not in the middle of tourist-hell. As much as I enjoy meeting new people (I’m travelling solo) and partying, I will certainly keep an eye out for the Bintang-wanking type. I thought I would mostly have to avoid ladyboys (diving trip in Thailand before travelling to Bali). Actually I’m a bit surprised, as Ausies have a good reputation in central Europe… however, thinking twice, once you remember their origin you start connecting the dots… and if they are anything like flocks of Brits in summer, well, I can picture it.

    So, to do list in Bali:
    -Avoid drunken Aussie frat boys (what about the female-tourists? I’m not really into asians, specially the paying kind…)
    -Avoid Kuta (hope day trips will help, all guidebooks tell you to avoid getting a scooter, is it that bad?)
    -Explore the rest of the island
    -Try surfing!!

    Looking at the bright side it will be freezing here while I’m there, so eating good, hitting the waves and travelling around the island doesn’t sound as bad.

    Really enjoyed the blog and all the comments. Will let you know how bad it is in high season.

  21. Christine says:

    I skipped Kuta completely and stayed in Seminyak for my fill of Australian cafes, pretty beaches and yoga classes–and am now in Ubud, and more than OK with deciding not to check Kuta out! Such a shame that Bali has catered to such a low end of tourist–the Balinese people really are incredibly lovely.

  22. Sam says:

    Hi Kate,

    I’ve quoted you on your experience in Kuta (and linked!) on my latest article (http://samsplayground.com/getting-the-most-from-a-travel-destination/). Please check it out, I’d love to hear your comments.

  23. Richard says:

    been traveling for 5 months … or in total more like 3 years .. and Kuta is unquestionably the worst place I have been to … get me out of here … please god save Myanmar for KFC, McDonalds and all that other s**t ….

  24. Miles Dodd says:

    Well were do I start I’m an older male in my 50s. My wife and I went to Bali 2 years ago and are returning in June for another holiday with the entire family all young adults. We stayed in legion and traveled to kuta many times for eating and shopping. I found it exciting and fun you find drunken idiots everywhere so what. we also went up to ubud for silver and wood carvings and adventures. The tourists up there were snobby and rude like they were doing you a favour by talking to you how boring .sanur is over rated water sports what a joke semi yak same as ubud stuck up snobs who act like millionaires treat the locals like dirt and these are older people not the young ones .get out of your air conditioned taxis and walk around and have a good time

  25. Richard says:

    Have spent 8 months travelling (now in Thailand) around India and Asia .. India is the most challenging and Kuta IS the worst place I visit … and a side point is pricing – in nearly all of Indonesia what you see i not what you pay . with their ‘++’ pricing. Even the hotel was 300,000 then it was plus 10% service charge .. and that was with rats running around the pool !! A pizza priced at 50,000 is really 60,000 etc.

    Kuta .. over developed, over run, over priced, noisy, price misleading – need to start with the small print at the bottom and work up the menu .. certainly not friendly .. save me from such a place …

    Ubud .. OK for 48 hours .. Amed .. OK but poor beaches

  26. Steve says:

    Thank you Peter , I don’t want to repeat your blogs , but anyone who has been around , even just a little , knows every country in the world has a kuta . You can’t judge Thailand on pattaya , or , you want to see vomiting in the street , spend a few days in Dublin … I know kuta is not the cleanest place , I’ve lived here for six years now , at least I can walk my kids down the street without tripping over skanky , filthy , stinking junkies and their needles , like in sydney , new York , London , any western city….. Sorry , but I’m sick of hearing people bagging Bali , when they come here for one week and never leave kuta , legian , seminyak, etc…. Bali is a big island , open your eyes , spend 20 dollars and get out of kuta ……..

  27. came to Lombok Indonesia. island paradise. very amazing ..

  28. Alan says:

    I am in Kuta right now, just arrived last night, and I do agree that it does have a “spring break gone to hell” vibe to the area. In all fairness, trashy Asian and white Westerners abound, sleaze does not discriminate. But by far the worst aspect of Kuta is the Balinese themselves! I just spent a month in Thailand, and you could gather up all the toutes and hawkers in the entire kingdom, and they are not 1/10 as annoying as the ones in Kuta. You can not walk five feet (literally) without some one trying to sell you something, massage you, or transport you. Not even my worst day in Bangkok was half as bad as one afternoon in Kuta. I just pray that the rest of the island is not as bad. I am surprised that you do not mention this in your otherwise well written blog entry.

    • Rav says:

      I agree. I don’t get why people state how great the Balinese people are. The amount of rip offs, hustling, deceit and rudeness when not wanting to be forced to buy stuff is inane. This is nearly as bad as some parts in India but its only the beggars that do this. In kuta, it’s nearly everyone trying to rip you off. Call it culture, or call it sly it makes no difference. In terms of kuta itself, it’s pretty much the same as hot beach areas in all parts of the world. I dislike it a lot so I’m moving somewhere nicer.

      • You should open your eyes, Rav. Parts of Bali can be difficult, but I found the people incredibly kind.

      • GT says:

        I agree, I don’t like Indonesians, who are generally rude and untrustworthy. You can tell they hate you and just want your money. Times this big 10000 if they are Muslims from Java and not Hindus from Bali

  29. Totally agree on Bali. We were there during the “trash season” when the beaches were filthy. Though the people were the friendliest we have met anywhere. Here’s out tale of a trashy beach in Bali: http://www.changesinlongitude.com/kuta-beach-bali-trash/

  30. jan Hazell says:

    I first went to Bali in 1980, it was beautiful back then so I went every year or the 5. I went again 30yrs later in 2010 & was shocked at what the place had turned into. Progress & more jobs are great for the Balinese, but at what cost? The beaches are filthy & the nightlife is dangerous with all the dealers selling their gear in the streets.The expensive shops that you’d find in the High Streets aren’t needed in Indonesia & they’re not even cheap. And, bloody shopping malls, who really needs them when you’re off to an island paradise? God knows what the Balinese really think of tha Aussie yobbos that go there just to get wasted.

  31. Rubyroo says:

    Hi Kate I read your blog and agree to some extent I’m in kuta at the moment staying in Poppy’s 2 it’s my first time travelling in south east Asia I find the balinese people to be the most friendliest and polite people ever, kuta is a bit of dump in terms of all the young over excited tourist but I haven’t had any bad experience so far I did travel to Lambok, ubud and Gili islands which I think Gili T to be slightly worst I found the tourist to be more vile. I unfortunately witnessed a full fest sex show in the middle of the restaurant one evening between 2 girls and a guy completely disrespectful and no regards to the guests dining!!! Apart from that the island was beautiful and I dreaded coming back to the mess of kuta with Bentag troopers and Benchongs of kuta night life however for anyone coming to bali do stay a least one night in Kuta each to their own You may actually be amused by all the drama of drunken idiot it has to offer. Having said that I met some really cool people on my flight back from Lambok and we had a great evening so, you can meet some really cool narrow minded people. I suggest you check out seminyak as it is beautiful they have really nice restaurants Potato head Being my favourite über cool and sleek nice in the day time for lunch and great for drinks and dinner in the evening with nice music slightly more expensive than most places but you get what you pay. I’m heading to Singapore nxt week but I will start a blog post of my experiences once I return to London.

  32. I don’t like places like this. It depresses me that we, westerners, go to Bali, Thailand, Laos etc. and turn these beautiful places into touristy hell.
    Nevertheless, I’m going to Bali this year and I will be in Kuta. I will try to make the best of it, as you did.

  33. Sam says:

    Northbridge in Perth is far worse than Bali. People drunk, fighting, throwing up, getting arrested every Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights.

    I’ve been all over the world and drunken idiots are everywhere.

    But, yes. I agree that Kuta is beyond saving. I fear for the rest of Bali. People are now going to Lombok to recapture the feel of lost Bali.

  34. Markus Lex says:

    Hey Guys,

    I really have to agree on what Kate is saying!!!
    Kuta is only recommended if you prefer a heavy nightlife!

    In case you are looking for the original Bali and you have an apple device, go for your FREE interactive Bali Travel Guide and find plenty of better places and learn more about this wonderful island!

    https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/travelling-bali-balis-interactive/id737627431?ls=1&mt=8

  35. Luke says:

    As some of the other people commenting said, Kuta is to Australia what Cancun is to the USA. I have been to Kuta 5 times (I’m an Aussie) and loved every minute of it. It is a party town, that is all. I went there knowing it was a party town and got what I was expecting. In regards to the beach, I didn’t find the beach dirty at all.

  36. ZakHutson says:

    Well, if you absolutely have to visit Kuta and would prefer a decent stay, I think the Sheraton Bali Kuta resort is the best place. You’d not feel that you were in this over touristy place while in the hotel!

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