I’m lumping Seminyak and Canggu in with Kuta because despite their differences, they’re relatively small and very close to Kuta. Chances are, Kuta is the first place you’ll head once landing in Bali so I suggest making your way north through all three before continuing on to Ubud. I see these three as the same place due to their location, but they’re very different (well Canggu is at least).
- Kuta isn’t Bali. Everyone seems to hate on Kuta because it’s just a cluster of fast food chains and shops that are constantly full of Australians getting their fill of cheap beer. I like to look at Kuta slightly differently; it’s actually kinda fun and has some lovely moments, but it’s not Bali at all. There’s no culture and EVERYTHING has been developed for tourists, but there’s plenty of other towns you can find authentic Balinese life, so approach Kuta as a cheap tourist destination and enjoy it for what it is rather than complaining about how it’s not what it used to be.
- Release a baby sea turtle. Pop over to the Bali Sea Turtle Society Facebook page and give them a “like” so you can see their morning status updates. Every few days they post a baby turtle release where you are given your own baby turtle and venture down to the beach with them just before sunset to ensure they make it safely to the sea. It’s totally free (donations appreciated) and a really enjoyable experience because turtles are cool.
- Surf. The water in this area of Bali is pretty tame so it’s perfect for beginners as well as being really, REALLY cheap to rent equipment. It’s a good place to learn or just practice and then follow it up with a Bintang on the beach to maximise your tourist status. As you head further north to Seminyak and then Canggu the waves can get a bit bigger (and the sea a lot murkier), although it’s nothing compared to down in the Bukit.
- There’s fake stuff EVERYWHERE. Due to the crowds of holdaymakers that make their way to Kuta there are endless shops selling fake clothes and sunglasses on the cheap. None of this stuff is high quality, but if you’re travelling for a long time it’s ideal to replace some of your more ragged essentials.
- Haggling is key. Absolutely everywhere will hike the price up because you’re a rich foreigner. I hear endless advice on what price you should aim for and most people think 50% of the original asking price is a great deal, but a strong haggle should get you as low as 20% of the original asking price from my experience.
- Food is costly. Due to Asian hostels usually lacking kitchens, you’ll likely be eating out for every meal. Again, the tourism factor comes into play and finding cheap food is almost impossible. A major inconvenience is also the lack of street food, making every meal a restaurant or fast food occasion.
- Seminyak sucks. It’s just as horribly overcrowded as Kuta, but with none of the things to do or see. Visit Seminyak on day trips from Kuta but don’t bother staying there as it’s really not worth it.
- Canggu is nice-ish. Again the central areas are just shops and tourist traps, but if you head towards the beach you’ll find some really cool bars to watch the sunset and proceed to party as well as some up-market restaurants for when you feel like treating yourself. I totally understand why expats would want to live here, but as a travel destination it’s another place worth staying for a very short period or just going to visit for the evening.
- Scooters rock, police suck. Balinese people won’t try to scam you with “damages” when you return your scooter like in Thailand and they’re a great way to explore the island. If you’re willing to ride with your backpack it’s worth hiring a scooter long-term and using it to get to new towns on your trip. The biggest issue is corrupt police that will take you for everything you’ve got, as often as possible.
I feel like these areas get far too much hate. Sure they’re not the natural havens they were fifteen years ago, but there’s still stuff to do and see. The beaches get a lot of stick for being “filthy” but were absolutely lovely when I visited. There are plenty of better places in Bali, however a mandatory trip to Kuta/Seminyak/Canggu can still be easily enjoyed.