What I Love (and Hate) About Bali

With beautiful beaches, friendly locals, and a fascinating culture, it’s easy to see why people love Bali. But this paradise has its downsides, too. Bali resident Will Hatton shares the pros and cons.

Shares

Pura Bratan, an important Hindu-Buddhist water temple on Bali, Indonesia. Photo © Getty Images / Sirintra Pumsopa

Let’s start off with a simple fact – Bali is one of the best places to explore, work, and live. Hands down. There is truly something special about the Island of the Gods.

After a decade of traveling the world, I moved to Bali in 2018 and have called the island home ever since. I’ve also lived in India, Thailand, and Colombia, but I believe Bali will be my forever-home, for it’s here that I’ve found the perfect mixture of healthy lifestyle, friendly locals, and reliable Wi-Fi. Bali is also perfectly set up for digital nomads (DNs) looking for a place to call home.

However, it ain’t all sunshine and rainbows so today I’m going to run you through the things I love, and the things I hate, about Bali.

5 things I love about Bali

There are a multitude of reasons why Bali is such an excellent place to live, especially if you’re a digital nomad or an aspiring online entrepreneur. Let’s break down all the things that make it a paradise.

1. Fantastic temples, food, and history

While many visitors to Bali may be coming for the cheap fun, plentiful surf, and beautiful beaches, Bali has so much more to offer than just heady parties and perfect sunsets. The island has a rich and vibrant history, complete with stunning and unique temples (more than 10,000 of them, mostly Hindu), steaming jungles, a welcoming and friendly culture, and a unique culinary scene – trust me, you haven’t lived till you’ve tasted nasi goreng (Indonesian fried rice).

2. Bali is a digital nomad paradise

If you’re new to the digital nomad lifestyle or looking to make your first moves as an online entrepreneur, Bali is one of the best places in the world to get started, live comfortably on a tighter budget, and find your tribe. The island is packed with inspiring folks with whom you can bounce ideas around and being around other DNs is the best way to get started on your journey.

Endless options for co-working spaces, laptop-friendly cafés serving never-ending smoothie bowls, and (mostly) impeccable Wi-fi ensure that the technical conditions for digital nomads are well in place. No DN paradise would be complete without the other building blocks which Bali more than delivers: a huge and diverse nomad community, excellent work-life balance, cheap lifestyle, and year-round sunshine.

Since I got my first taste of backpacking in the wildlands of India, I’ve dreamed of starting a hostel. Many backpackers seem to have the same dream and it’s easy to understand why. If you’re visiting Bali and looking for a space to start your journey, be sure to check out Tribal Bali – the island’s first-custom designed coworking hostel.

A digital nomad uses a laptop computer at a coworking hostel in Bali.
A digital nomad at Tribal Bali coworking hostel. Image credit: Will Hatton

3. Sense of community amid an ancient culture

The nomad community in Bali is truly like nowhere else. All sorts of adventurers from hardened globetrotters to first-time travelers find their way here and many choose to stick around.

And of course, it’s easy to meet friendly local folks in Bali who can help you learn about its fascinating and ancient history. There’s a modern side, too – the island is a hub of art studios and graffiti works, so checking out the bustling art scene is a fun way to explore the many different artistic undercurrents. Ruko 3 holds frequent art events and these are always packed, so it’s a great place to meet new people. Joining a gym or a boardgame club is another good way to make local friends. Be friendly, be curious.

The island is filled to bursting with blessed holy trees, towering temple complexes, and ancient paths snaking their way through the jungle to hidden shrines. To learn more about the island’s history, I recommend A Brief History of Bali – it’s an intoxicating read.

4. It’s easy to be fit and healthy in Bali

If you want to go anywhere in Southeast Asia to get fit, Bali is the place. Especially the digital nomad mecca of Canggu – this is the place to be for all things sporty. While you do, of course, have to put in the work to get the gains, it’s comparatively easier in Bali than, say, South America or even Thailand, as the island really is set up to cater to a fitness-conscious crowd, with many different fitness options (Crossfit, spinning, Pilates, yoga, and many more) and lots of restaurants and cafes specifically aimed at putting out nutritious and delicious meals with plenty of fresh produce and locally caught seafood. Plus, since it’s Bali, there are lots of hiking options, and you can always swim or surf in the sea or run along the beach.

Shoppers at the organic market in Canggu, Bali.
The organic market in Canggu, Bali. Image credit: Will Hatton

5. The friendliest people

The Balinese are known for their hospitable and kind nature and are some of the friendliest people I’ve ever met on my travels. The culture on the island makes sure that guests feel valued and welcome, and in general the island is safer, and less rife with scams, than other popular backpacker hangouts in Southeast Asia.

4 reasons why Bali is the worst

No place is perfect, and Bali is no exception. There are a few annoying things about living in Bali that make living here somewhat less enjoyable.

1. Traffic from hell

Traffic in Bali is complete chaos. Careless and inexperienced drivers (many of them drunk gap-year kids) fill the busy roads and accidents are common. Many newbie scooter drivers don’t wear helmets and seem unaware that bikes have indicators to give other riders and drivers some idea of where they’re going. Always get travel insurance before coming to Bali, especially if you plan on riding a scooter, and don’t drink and drive; it isn’t worth the risk.

2. Party people

The two-week party crowd is the necessary evil that keeps some of Bali’s wheels running. If you’re living in the island long-term, it’s annoying to have to deal with a younger crowd of loud and often obnoxious travelers. Don’t get me wrong – I get that they’re on vacation and having fun, but it’s also important to remember to be respectful of the local culture and avoid alienating the locals.

3. Hustlers, quacks, and fake nomads

Hey bro, do you even crypto? Bali’s extensive digital nomad community draws in all sorts of nomads, including many a broke 20-year-old life coach who believes they can solve all your problems with an astrology course. While I’m sure some fates are indeed written in the stars, Bali’s start-up entrepreneurial scene does indeed have a few, let’s say, less-experienced individuals who are very vocal about their talents, intuitions, and skills. In the crypto space there are plenty of ‘gurus’ who seem to have very little idea how finance works, so be careful when taking advice.

Bali nomads get a bit of a bad reputation with its surplus of start-up hustlers whose efforts are not actually making any money. There’s no bad start to an entrepreneurial journey and you have to begin somewhere, but it’s important to remain humble and don’t pretend you know about something if you don’t.

4. Sad Bali street dogs

Unfortunately, not all is well with the animals in Bali. With a surplus of abandoned and sick animals on the streets, your heart will break multiple times a day. Animals are not treated well here in general and there are so many puppies dumped daily that the few organizations tackling this really struggle to keep up. So, when you start feeling sorry for the puppy that lives by your guesthouse and start feeding it, then you take it to the vet, then it starts sleeping in your room – congratulations, you have just accidentally adopted a pet. There is a reason why most of the long-term crew on the island have ended up adopting a puppy or three.

Of course, if you’re not staying, do not adopt a puppy. There’s nothing worse than keeping a puppy while it’s small and and then dumping it once it’s bigger and harder to find a home for. Instead, make a donation to Bawa, Bali’s largest animal rescue organization.

A young man holds his rescue dog in his lap.
The author with one of his five rescue doggos. Image credit: Will Hatton

Related articles

Travel Insurance

Simple and flexible travel insurance

You can buy at home or while traveling, and claim online from anywhere in the world. With 150+ adventure activities covered and 24/7 emergency assistance.

Get a quote

4 Comments

  • Steve Kyne said

    Thanks for your awesome article Will. You encapsulated the pros and cons of Bali well. I’ve never lived there (it came second when I decided to find my forever home), but I visit as often as possible, most recently in June this year.

    If I can add to the list of things to love about Bali, it’s pampering. If you’ve ever enjoyed a massage or a facial, or just someone else taking care of you, this island is the goods. I have my go-to day spa in Ubud that cannot be beaten, but always try out another half dozen spas each trip, and am rarely disappointed. And even when I am disappointed, there’s normally a dinner table story to be gained!

    Finally, a big shout-out to you and your mates who have adopted street dogs. Outstanding job folks.

  • Jaybird said

    This article jibes with my experience in Bali and Lombok in April and May 2022. The one glaring omission is the prevalence of trash in the rivers, beaches and reefs. As mentioned by "LoveGiant" three years ago, the waterways are full of trash that makes it's way into the surrounding ocean. But my observation coming on the heels of travel lockdowns and a period of almost zero tourism is that most of that trash was discarded by the local population, not tourists as suggested by "LoveGiant". There is no formalized regular trash collection or recycling that I could find on either island and the locals had to deal with their own refuse. Many burn or bury but especially those in cities and villages without land use the rivers, canals and gutters as a trash can. I did see some efforts at beach cleanup but the source of the problem remains. I love Bali and Lombok but this aspect was disturbing and disappointing.

  • rick be said

    The lack of public transportation is appalling,
    getting around that rock is expensive and can
    be somewhat dangerous.

  • rick be said

    I came across piles of trash in pretty little forests.

Add a Comment

Latest articles