When Chris and I got home from Bali, everyone asked us how the trip was. And when we answered that it wasn’t really the best vacation we ever took, people looked at us like we said something impossible. People think of Bali as this paradise, maybe because bloggers, vloggers and influencers make it look like paradise. Truth is, Bali has it’s charms, but this was the first place i’ve ever been to where i actually hated some things about my travel destination. And it was not only the jungle or the insects of which i was terrified.
The thing is that Balinese people are depending on tourists. One of the people we met there said “If you can speak English, you have work”. Even though i think it’s good to support the locals by eating at Warungs, it gets annoying when everyone wants something from you when you come there to rest and escape from daily life drama. And on top of that, we booked a property that turned out to be everything we didn’t hope for: read about it here.
Of course not everything about Bali is bad and it’s a beautiful travel destination i believe everyone should visit at least once in their life. Despite that, i believe you should be prepared for the less pretty things, so here’s a list of 5 things that made our Bali trip less of a success than we hoped for.
1. The beggars
When you go out on the streets during the day, there are some people who want to sell you things. Mostly locals trying to sell little things like bracelets, and drivers who want to earn money by driving you around, nothing wrong with that. Local women in Ubud are stepping up their game though. As soon as it got dark, women came out to the streets to beg for money. And they didn’t come alone, they had children with them! These women with little children / babies on their arms were everywhere. And as you walked by them, they automatically put their hand up, begging for money. I can be an extremely emotional person, but when it comes to people begging me for money i just don’t want to give them anything. I believe giving money to a stranger should be an act of kindness that should not be asked for.
Anyway; as if the begging isn’t bad enough, i have heard stories of women “borrowing” children to beg for money. Say what?! There are also a lot of children out on the streets to beg for money. And even though i know the Balinese have less money than we do, i still think it isn’t right to give these beggars money. Especially because you will stimulate this industry where children are involved.
I know begging isn’t exclusive to Bali, but i haven’t been to a place with so many beggars as i’ve seen in Bali. Ubud was the worst: There were beggars holding their hands up everywhere and it got so irritating that it affected my mood. I got tired of the fact that everyone wanted something from us. One guy even followed us a pretty long time in Kuta. Just leave Britney alone!
In Bali we weren’t independent at all. I had a bone fracture in my foot, so i couldn’t walk long distances. And i didn’t have a driver’s license, so i couldn’t ride a scooter/motorbike. The roads in Bali are very bad and bumpy and my husband didn’t have experience driving a motorbike, so he didn’t want to take the risk of taking me on the back of his motorbike – especially since my foot was already hurting. So we had to do everything by taxi or hire a private driver, since there was no public transportation on the island. This is what made us very dependent. We didn’t have the freedom to go wherever we wanted at whatever time we wanted. And doing everything by taxi was the most expensive option to get around the island. Bali wasn’t so cheap for us because of it. I think we’ve spent around €45 a day (not everyday), only to get around the island. This was our own choice and it would’ve been cheaper if we could both rent a motorbike.
3. Scams everywhere you go
The internet is my friend when i travel. I look up everything before i go somewhere. And in Bali, that came in extra handy. Because Balinese try to scam you every day! I’ve seen scams before and Chris’s wallet was even stolen once. It wasn’t news that there would be scams in Bali, like people who try to sell overpriced tickets for touristic places. But in Bali i’ve seen some next-level scams, and these scammers are not going to give in. I can give you several examples of scams i’ve seen in Bali, but I’ll share our most remarkable scam experience with you.
We were going to see the Sekumpul waterfall. I heard that locals would try to scare you by saying people had died, so you would pay for a guide. And that’s kind of fine. I didn’t want a guide and that’s what i told the first guy who tried to scam me. As we came closer to the waterfall, there was a small group of locals, also holding us back and saying we needed a guide. I told them that we didn’t want a guide and wanted to take the risk of going there on our own. Then they said it was a new rule from this month that every tourist had to pay for a guide. But the travellers posts i’ve read were from a few day ago, so i told them that. Suddenly they were from the government and they had to stick to the rules, so we had to pay. Oh well, i wasn’t going to win this fight, so i was ready to pay. But the price he showed me… €20,- per person!! That’s incredibly much for Balinese standards (this is like 1/6 of a Balinese monthly salary – based on minimum wage. If we would ask the same, we would ask for €260,- per person to see a waterfall.), and honestly it was a lot of money for us as well. We were only able to get a certain amount of cash everyday, and we wouldn’t be able to pay our driver if we’d pay this amount of money to see this waterfall. I explained that we could only spend a certain amount of money and asked if we could go see the waterfall for half the price (which was still a lot of money for these Balinese scammers), but they were not going to give in. In the end i got mad, but i didn’t want to walk past them and just go see the waterfall. This wasn’t my home, i was a guest, so i behaved like a guest and i told them i knew it was a scam and i left. I didn’t get to see the waterfall, but i was not going to set aside my principles. Our driver took us to another waterfall, one that was less touristy! So it ended up to be a good thing.
4. Shopping & prices
When i want to buy something, i just want to pay and take off. In Bali this wasn’t possible most of the time, because we had to negotiate about a price first. I got so tired of negotiating all the time and knowing to pay way too much money for the value of items, that i just didn’t buy so many things. Of course there are “regular stores”, but in my opinion there weren’t so many; not in comparison to other places i’ve been at least. So i actually didn’t like shopping in Bali.
Another thing is that tourists pay more than locals. I think it’s ridiculous to pay more for something (even fruit!) because you’re from somewhere else or based on your skin colour, even though this happens almost everywhere.
5. The dirty environment
Bali isn’t a clean island. In fact, it’s filthy. There’s trash or dirt everywhere. The pavements aren’t exactly safe to walk on when it’s dark outside: there’s huge gaps/holes in them (don’t have a picture of it, but Google “Bali pavement” and you’ll see)! It’s a good thing i had my shots, because i fell one day and scraped my leg. And the Balinese definitely aren’t as clean in the kitchen as westerners are. I got undercooked chicken for a meal twice in different restaurants! I didn’t eat the raw chicken, but i still got Bali Belly. I even had to go to the hospital for it twice. They said it was very common to get Bali Belly, now why would that be?
I hated that i got sick. It was a waste of my time in Bali, because i wanted to spend my time seeing the island and doing fun things like snorkeling. We didn’t get to see the Uluwatu area because i got sick and i spent a whole week lying in bed, watching tv. Would’ve been a lot cheaper to get sick at home, but shit happens.