Kuta, Bali. Affectionately known as the Ibiza of Australia. There is no denying it, Kuta is crazy. If you’re not careful it can suck you in, chew you up and spit you back out minus all your valuables and plus one unforgettable hang over. However, there is a way to survive. You just have to know what you’re doing. All you need is my handy guide to Kuta Bali.
Where to Stay
If you are on a budget, like I was, I recommend Ayu Beach Inn on Poppies 1. The price is 300,000 IDR (£15) per night for a double room with ensuite and the all important aircon. There is a communal pool for those hot days…. which is every day. They also provide free breakfast which isn’t bad at all and will definitely help with any hang over.
They have free wifi . I know, sadly that is a massive selling point nowadays. Quick tip, don’t stay in the rooms by the pool. Try get ones in the corridor or in the courtyard area. They are much nicer and are more sheltered from the torrential rain that can occur in the blink of an eye.
If you are into luxury accommodation I highly recommend the Hard Rock Hotel. The rooms are incredible as is the service. Despite the luxury it is not over priced. You can read more about it in my review.
If you fancy finding your own accommodation, the main streets are Poppies 1 and Poppies 2. If you stay on or near them then you are in the centre of Kuta.
What to Buy
Shopping. My Gosh, Bali is a haven for shoppers. I’ve gotten so many compliments on the bags and jewellery that I bought in Kuta. There are markets everywhere and a bargain is not hard to find.
*WARNING* The merchants often make shopping quite off putting. They will try to catch your attention by saying anything. Best idea is just to ignore them. You can’t browse without having someone approach you. It is incredibly irritating. I don’t recommend it when hung over.
Silver is incredibly cheap. Just make sure you buy from a shop as opposed to a stall. They are more reliable and often cheaper than the outside merchants that just want to rip you off.
Kuta has all the same terrible sorts of souvenirs on sale as Thailand or any other part of Asia. Wooden penises EVERYWHERE. Bintang (the local beer) shirts are popular.
In fact, lots of lovely summery clothes are available for incredibly cheap. Just make sure you check them for holes before you buy them.
If you are in need of cheap footwear there is a great selection of counterfeit shoes. Vans, converse and Nike being the most prevalent. They’ll want to charge you 450000 IDR (about £22). Don’t pay more than 300000 IDR (£15). I got mine for 250000(£12.50).
Haggle, always haggle. Use the phrase “special good luck price”. NEVER pay full price. At LEAST half it. This plays a major part in my guide to Kuta Bali.
A taxi from Denpasar airport will take you about 20-30 minutes depending on traffic and cost you between 100,000 (£5) and 200,000 (£10), depending on your haggling skills and the drivers mood.
If you are coming from Ubud it takes about 2.5hrs and you can get a shared mini van for about 80,000 IDR (£4) per person
What to Eat
Let’s go through the basics of Indonesian food.
1) Nasi goreng. Basically fried rice with vegetables, often with egg. Can be served vegetarian or with meat or seafood.
2) Mei goreng. Same as Nasi but with noodles instead of rice.
3) Gado Gado. Essentially a vegetable platter with a thick, rich peanuty sauce, almost like satay. There is often some fried tofu, potatoes and a lot of green veg.
4) Cap Cay. Basically vegetables boiled in stock with rice and prawn crackers. Sometimes comes with fried tofu.
All of the above are good cheap meals. Indonesia food is always cheaper than western. Nasi goreng will become your benchmark for prices. You will be able to tell by looking at the price of the nasi goreng what price range the restaurant is in. It should not be more than 20,000 IDR (£1), unless it’s got a lobster on top of it or something.
Eating out can be insanely cheap or it can be average prices. Either way its cheaper than Oz or Europe by a long shot.
For a good cheap meal try the Buffet at Warung Indonesia. You go in and they ask if you want rice, yes is of course the answer, you then pick everything else you want from a buffet.
They pile it all on and weigh it to give you a price tag. Careful with the Tempe though, they put tiny fish in it which you can barely see. It is not vegetarian as they may say. Mine has never been more than 20,000 IDR (£1). If you have a big appetite maybe 25,000 IDR (£1.25). Once you’re finished you bring the price tag up to the register and pay. Simple!
Also on the cheaper side is Warung Pama. It’s on the corner before the buffet. Great service. Clean. The food is cheap and amazing. Nasi goreng is 13, 000 IDR (70p) . They also have very good free wifi. Oh and I’d recommend the chicken cordon bleu (£1.75) and the lemon shakes.
Then there are some more expensive but very nice restaurants. Good for date night 😉
The Italian, Bella Italia is on the same road as the above restaurants. The pesto bruschetta here is amazing. I can also recommend the virgin mojitos. You can normally keep the cost of this meal down by just splitting a starter and a pizza. It’s plenty of food. They also do a meal deal at lunch time, a pizza and a soft drink for 39000 IDR (£2)
TJS is a firm favourite of mine on Poppies 1. It is a Mexican restaurant. It’s not cheap but it’s worth it. If you want to have a nice cocktail with dinner the frozen tequila based cocktails there are huge and taste amazing. They do cost 80,000 IDR (£4), but it’s nice to splurge a bit sometimes. Pretty much all food here is wonderful.
One thing to remember is that some places will add on 10% service charge and 5% tax to your final bill. So now, with my handy guide to Kuta Bali, you won’t get a nasty shock.
What to Drink
Arak. This is what everyone will warn you about when you say you’re going to Bali. Arak is a local spirit, often made by locals and not always regulated. You can of course get good Arak which apparently tastes quite nice. I’m too cautious to have tried any, so i can’t vouch for taste.
The stories say that arak will leave you blind or dead. Sometimes it can, if it’s made by the wrong people and sold in dodgy establishments under the guise of being a legit spirit. However, the majority of the time this is not the case.
Personally, there’s plenty of other, less sketchy, things for me to drink. Sooooo I stay away from arak. But remember, do not drink spirits in a questionable bar. Best to stick to beers. However, if you’re in a nice and well known bar or restaurant, the alcohol will be fine, so don’t worry.
Speaking of beer, the local beer is Bintang. You can get a small Bintang for 20,000 IDR (£1) in your local Circle K ( convenience store). It’s normally about 30-35000 IDR (£1.50ish) in a restaurant. I drank the Bintang Radler which is about the same price. It tastes nicer but is only 2%…….so you won’t get smashed….. unless you’re a light weight.
Water. In case you weren’t sure, you cannot drink the tap water in Bali. You have to buy bottled water. Circle K own brand is the cheapest. 4500 IDR (25p) for a 2L bottle.
Alley Cats is a dive bar down a lane off Poppies 2. It’s packed full of surfers. They are famous for their double doubles costing £1. It’s their version of a double vodka red bull. Don’t have too many of them or you’ll pray for death the next morning. While you’re there the food is also excellent. The meatballs come highly recommended.
This is the mecca. It is the best deal I have ever seen in my life. You pay 50,000 IDR (£2.50) to enter.
Once you pay you get a wrist band and a receipt and off you go upstairs ( there’s a lot of stairs) to find a table. From 5pm to 6pm it is free flow beer. Bring the receipt to the bar to receive your beers.
For the next hour guys go around with jugs and top up everyone’s glass. Common practise is to skull your drink when you see them coming.
From 5 to 8pm there is a buffet. The buffet always has a BBQ but they also theme each night. Taco Tuesdays is awesome. Pizza and pasta is Monday. Sunday is roast dinner. This is all included in your 50000. Also, the food is amazing! Seriously, the mashed potatoes brought tears of joy to my eyes.
Then, once you’re finished your beer and your food, I recommend heading to Alley Cats for a double double. Make sure you take the leaflets that the girl is handing out as you leave skygarden. This is your ticket for one free premium drink from 9pm to 11pm.
Keep your wristband on from the buffet because you are entitled to 2 more hours of free cocktails from 9 to 11pm. I know, it’s insane.
So once you’ve had your double double, head back to skygarden with your flyer, go halfway upstairs and they will give you a premium drink of your choice (the options are on the flyer). Then it’s back up to the roof again for the free cocktails ( there’s a choice of 5). As if that wasn’t enough, they also provide nibbles for those 2 hours. Springrolls and mozzarella sticks.
BEST. DEAL. EVER.
What to do?
Relax! There is a massage parlour opposite TJs on Poppies 1. They offer a full body massage, for one hour, for 48,000 IDR (£2.50) . A manicure or pedicure costs 39,000 IDR (£2).
Beauty parlours are everywhere. You can even get most beauty treatments and massages done on the beach while you sit and soak up the sun.
Speaking of beaches. Make sure you check out some of the amazing beaches in Bali. Here’s a list of some beautiful beaches in and around Kuta that are worth visiting, as told by the lovely Ria from “The Life in Big Tent”.
Make sure you get your picture taken on the surfboard wall. This is just off Poppies 2. I was terrified hauling myself up onto this artificial board stuck to a wall. But it’s free, hilarious and makes for a great picture.
OR go for an actual surf. If you’re lucky it won’t be flat or full of plastic. You can get lessons easily or just hire a board and paddle out. Just make sure you wear plenty of sun block. The last thing you want is sun stroke and a hang over. Not a good option. Also, be prepared for locals ruling the waves.
Try something unique and book yourself a VW Safari Tour of Bali!Prices start at $55 per person. Choose one of the brightly coloured jeeps and see a different side to Bali.
If you do make it out of the vortex of Kuta to take a breath, there are several day trip options.
Ubud is a 2.5hr mini van trip away as previously mentioned. Here you can visit the monkey forest, take a yoga class or just have your own personal Eat Pray Love moment.
Take a short taxi ride to Seminyak, the slightly more upmarket side of town. There are some wonderful boutiques and restaurants here.
There are plenty of day trips available to rice terraces, the night safari, the bird zoo and many others.
You won’t be bored!
Obviously there is a lot more to Indonesia than just Kuta and Bali, so if you want to get out and see a bit more of the place make sure to check out this list of 16 must-visit beaches in Indonesia.
The last message I will leave you with is to be SENSIBLE. Muggings do occasionally occur in Kuta. Normally it’s more of a bag snatch from a passing moped that’s the issue.
The best way to avoid this is to only bring what you absolutely NEED out with you. You won’t get asked for ID. Do NOT bring your passport.
If you absolutely have to bring valuables with you, keep your bag on your front if it’s a backpack or on the side of you that is furthest from passing traffic if it’s a satchel/purse.
So there you have it, my tips to survive the notorious Kuta. Hopefully I haven’t scared you too much. Kuta is amazing fun. I had a wonderful time there and was sad to leave!
Now, go enjoy beautiful Bali, safe in the knowledge that you can survive it’s craziest city after reading my wonderful guide to Kuta Bali!