Bali Misconceptions

Bali misconceptions — there are a few. And a lot of them depend on where in the world you’re from and in which parts of the world you’ve travelled. The main one for Australians is that it’s a beachside destination full of bogans, chavs, trailer trash, etc. The main one for people coming from other parts of Asia is that public transport is going to be cheap and easy and therefore the best way to get around. The other that has been bandied about on twitter and the internets is that internet access in Bali is poor. So it’s time to clean some of this rubbish up.

Bali is a Bogan Haven

Bali: Kuta -- A great place for sun, sand and cheap booze -- It's not all like this
Bali: Kuta -- A great place for sun, sand and cheap booze -- It's not all like this

As with many myths, there’s an element of truth to this. And it’s usually confirmed by those that don’t extract themselves from the one bogan-centric place on the island — Kuta/Legian. Yes, there are plenty of bogans, chavs and trailer trash here, but they are having a great time drinking cheap beer, eating cheap meals and lounging by the beach or hotel. I say good on them. I actually enjoyed doing some of this for about 2 days as well. I saw hundreds of other backpackers partaking, despite claims of it being “unauthentic”. Of course, it’s not for everyone, but it is only one tiny spot on an island that takes 4hrs to cross so you do not have to be trapped by boganism for a minute longer than you can stand. Most people choose to go to Ubud to avoid bogans, but usually run into bus-loads of other foreign tourists and hordes of monkeys which they inevtiably whinge about too. Me, I love Ubud. But if this is still too touristy, head to other places like Amed, Pemuteran, Yeh Gangga, Munduk, the Bukit. Anywhere. In fact, Bali has so many places that are hardly touristed at all that calling Bali a bogan haven is rubbish.

Public Transport is ALWAYS the Best Way to Travel in Asia

Bali: Public transport is not always the best option
Bali: Public transport is not always the best option

Bzzt. Sorry filthy backpacker that did it tough in India for a year. The same doesn’t apply in Bali. Sure, it’s possible to get from the airport to Ubud by public transport, but it will probably take you 4 hours and about 4 or 5 buses. The price will be more than the price of hiring a motorbike for the day. If there are two of you, the price will be about the same as a rental car. Ubud to Amed? Sure, you can do it, but the costs are going to be running at about $5 each and will involve at least 3 buses, but probably more likely 4 or 5. Estimated time of travel, the better part of a day. Yes yes, it’s authentic, but it cost you more than me in my hire car, your luggage got wet on the roof, I’ve been snorkelling while you’ve been crammed in the bus and I don’t smell like you. So while public transport is definitely a viable option in Bali, it’s often quite inconvenient and you need to pick your battles. Forget the notion that it is always going to be cheaper than the alternatives. It only is for point-to-point travel or short journeys requiring few changes.

Internet in Bali is Crap

Bali: Trunyan -- 3G internet blazing along even in a tiny village across a lake inside a volcano crater -- GREAT internet!
Bali: Trunyan -- 3G internet blazing along even in a tiny village across a lake inside a volcano crater -- GREAT internet!

Oh dear. How this has been bandied about on the interwebs recently. Bali does not have poor internet access. Firstly, I’d like to put some context to the argument that internet in Bali is bad. Bali is located in a very poor country and local 6 day/wk wages are approximately $100 per month. This fact is indisputable as it is set by the Government, regency by regency as the minimum wage and most businesses in the tourist industry tend to stick to this. Some of the better resorts might increase this by 50% and provide free health insurance. Many of the cheaper joints will simply pay their staff what they can afford. Some as low as $30 per month. These people don’t need blazing fast internet, yet in larger towns, ADSL with speeds of 1mbit is readily available. This means that many cafes and guesthouses in tourist towns hook into an unlimited ADSL plan for about $90 per month in order to attact more business. Most of the time it is fast, but as with a lot of infrastructure in Bali, you have occasional blips. If you’re frequenting a place with lots of blips, find another place. I always found Roma Amor in Legian to have fast internet. Likewise Casa Luna in Ubud. Further afield where fewer tourists travel, this sort of free wifi situation dries up and I was left to rely on the mobile phone network. Well, I’m happy to report that in the vast majority of rural Bali — the places where many many poor people live — 3G broadband internet access works like a dream and is CHEAP. Occassionally I’d take a wrong turn and end up in a cloudy valley on a dirt road and my signal would drop to GPRS, but it was still internet and I could still make phone calls. In Yeh Gangga in the hotel I was in, internet was poor. No phone signal most of the time, but that could be rectified if I could be bothered to head up the road to the local mini mart. Plenty of free wifi in tourist towns and great 3G access everywhere else. So in the context of a 3rd world country, the statement that “internet in Bali is crap” is just…

As you can probably tell, I’m extremely sensitive to criticism — particularly of Bali. Happy to argue these points.  🙂

24 thoughts on “Bali Misconceptions

  1. You know more about Bali than anyone I currently know so I’m appreciating your posts — want to learn more as it’s now on my list of places to see after reading about it in several travel blogs over the last few months.

  2. Heather: Definitely Adam knows about Bali better than me, the Indonesian 🙂
    That’s a great news about the internet in Bali. So working travelers should not be worried about not getting the via-internet job when they are traveling in Bali.
    As for the transportation, I don’t know much about it since usually some family members offer taking us around. Some people are really after the most authentic experience (riding on local bus or cargo ships), but I’m with you in choosing things based on the best value. And surprisingly, some of more luxurious stuff is cheaper than the basic ones. (We got 4 great star hotels in Amsterdam and Copenhagen for the same price/cheaper than basic hostels. Via Priceline)

    1. The internet in Bali may not always be good enough for skype video calls, but it’s not in many places. For almost everything else, it’s fine. 🙂

  3. Lol, I actually had to look up the word ‘bogan’. I also agree that the public transport is no always the best way to get around… heh, a rental car with a driver who knows all of the shortcuts is the best way to get around. Whether or not it’s the cheapest, that’s a different matter altogether 🙂

    1. Yeah, getting around Bali is a funny one and I generally find the public transport to be non-direct meaning many connections and a higher all up cost than hiring a bike for the day or sometimes even a car!

  4. Cheers! I wholeheartedly agree. Traveling by motorbike is way more fun as well as cheap ($3/day) and to those naysayers who don’t think it’s “authentic,” I’ve seen more motorbikes than bemos. But, I would add that 3G doesn’t really apply too often to XL (anywhere in Indonesia), so go Telkomsel.

    1. HA! I tried XL, Telkomsel and Indosat. Telkomsel was not recommended by local people because it was the most expensive, but I found it to be cheap and the coverage to be great! It was my choice everywhere despite a few problems with internet packets running out prematurely. 🙂

      1. Well Telkomsel has the most areas covered in Bali, and they have the flat rate internet starting from 50K (~5 AUD) for pre-paid cards good to half a month; it’s quota related in manner that after you used certain amount of traffic, the speed will drop down but it’s still good for regular browsing.

        And if you stopped by free WiFi areas in Denpasar, like in KFC/Gelael near Simpang Siur in Denpsar, the speed could reaches 100kbps easily with spending only 5K (~0.5 AUD) on a drink, just like I sometimes do on weekends :D.

        There are cheaper options using CDMA network, but usually if you’re aftering the mobile 3G networks, 100K (~10 AUD) is what you will have to spend for a month use.

        1. Yeah, I was using the FLASH ON 100 paket. It gave me 300mb for one month, but it would often run out early. I tried the FLASH ON 200 once and it ran out VERY quickly. It was supposed to give me 800mb but it didn’t. I have heard there is an unlimited version as well, but it doesn’t allow iphone tethering. It would be nice if they had a table on their website that mentioned all the pre-paid internet paket options. I think next time in Indonesia I will try and get a contract of some sort to make it easier.

  5. I have to agree about good Internet speed and also the fact that public transport is not always the best or cheapest. We hired a taxi for our trip there (from a contact) and it was rather cheap (the hotel would charge us three times that). As a result we ended up saving quite a bit of money.

  6. Internet in Bali is crap! Sometimes you get a burst of speed and begin thinking things will change. Used to use the Wifi in Coffee Bean or something of that nature when I was there.

  7. Good to know this information.

    Last time I was in Bali I rented a small vehicle with a few friends and had a great time cruising around the island. I think we struck a deal for 15 USD / day divided amongst us, it was great…and the car dealer even threw in a free grilled fish for us!

    1. Yeah, you can get vehicles very cheap in Bali. Of course if you negotiate too hard, you can end up with a beat up car like I did. 🙂 It didn’t break down though and only got one flat tyre.

  8. Agree with you except on your remarks on Internet in Bali. The problem is not an inferior infrastructure – the opposite is rather true – but a very complicated Indonesian telecommunication law which inevitably leads to corruption. Off the record, most local Internet companies will admit they are frequently harassed by the police. Payments to keep them off, are very common. This results in a higher cost of their services which are charged to the customer. I give you one example: it would be perfectly possible to have your own satellite dish to get the signal directly from one of the satellites hovering over Indonesia. With a one time investment of approximately USD 500 (your personal antenna) and a monthly subsription of about USD 300/month, you would enjoy REAL high spead Internet at about 2MB/sec. Unfortunately this is illegal for unclear reasons, so therefore the Indonesian consumer has to rely on overly expensive providers, who are in many way a victim themselves. But you cannot be apologetic about this situation without mentioning the real background.

    1. Right! I’ve never heard about the telecoms companies being harassed by the police. I know that you can get ADSL in the more populated areas for less tha
      $100/mth and it’s quite reasonable and lots of cafes choose this option as a way to attract business.

      It’d be interesting to hear more about the extortion going on though…

      1. Extortion is a habit hard to kill, and though it has been greatly reduced than say, ten years ago, it’s still a common practice. Not in Bali but Indonesia in general.

  9. Regarding Bali being a bogan haven or whether its just a myth – I must say that is one of the reasons I have avoided Bali as a destination thus far. Truthfully though I guess am not really giving it a chance and like you said, there would be so many parts to Bali so it would depend on where you visit.

  10. Hi Adam,just starting to read your blog. Anyway, I’m not going to comment or argue much given that most of the time, I stay at villas with friends and their wifi’s are pretty good. Will find out when I do my extended Bali trip and venture out from the main area.

    I just want to say one thing – that Bali Trunyan picture..superb picture! You take awesome pictures!

    🙂

    1. Hey thanks Miss Lai Lai. I recommend that everyone tries to get out of the main areas of Bali to discover something completely different. It’s incredible… just like the main areas of Bali are. Welcome to my blog!

  11. I’ve just come back from Bali and have no intention of going back to the shithole. Do they really think people believe the myth that the average salary is $100 per month? Its absolute rubbish, I was ripped off by dodgy bike rentals – he kept my $100 bond claiming he’d spent it on insurance for the bike. Then it was the dodgy cops wanting to take bribes, the police would be living in absolute luxury over there and making much more than the average Aussie. The pissweak government that condones such a terrible track record of corruption should never be supported by tourists spending their hard earned. Do yourself a favour and go to Thailand where the smiles are genuine.

  12. Bali is an absolute shit hole and getting worse by the day. Never ever going back. It’s a vile rancid toxic waste dump. People giving advise about using a motorbike have absolutely no clue, in fact they have rocks in their heads. 250+ deaths by motorbike per month. 1 Australian dies every 12 days. Last time I was there I saw at least 3 accidents. Many people are tempted to hire a bike for 5 dollars a day but if you like living just put the idea out of your mind. I saw westerners on bikes who seemed to think it’s cool to take your whole family on one without helmets ie babies and toddlers. Yeah I know the locals do it but they don’t have a choice and most likely don’t know any better. They have also been doing it for a long time but when I see westerners doing it I pity them because they are just plain stupid and negligent of their own children. The beaches and waterways on all four corners of Bali are now polluted and clogged with plastic garbage. There are rats everywhere. The smell of open sewer is common. It really is quite literally hell on earth.

    1. I’ve gotta say that when I was there last month, things had deteriorated a lot. Two things stuck with me. The rubbish on the beach was inexcusable. Secondly, the traffic was horrendous and perhaps some of the worst I’ve ever encountered anywhere.

      I’ve been going to Bali for about 15 years now and things have changed for the worse, no doubt. I still do enjoy it, but not as much as I used to.

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