What comes to your mind when someone says “Bali”? Magical retreats, infinity pool, instagrammable swings and birds nests. Is Bali really like that? Is Bali really worth the hype? Read this post to find out more plus to find out whether it’s worth to go to Bali in December and what to do if you’re stuck with a week of rain and no intention to sit in the hotel!
I wrote this post in 2016, however, as I always do with my posts, I updated it in 2019 to make it more relevant for you!
I had too high expectations of Bali…
Imagine being one week in Bali in winter (our winter and their summer, as Bali is in the Southern Hemisphere)? What comes to your mind? White sandy beaches and honeymoon paradise? Then look up for some photos in Google… What do you see? Amazing jungle, paradise beaches, infinity pools, Instagram paraside! Yes, exactly, my expectations before the trip were very high.
But… when we actually got to Bali, I got slightly disappointed. Don’t get me wrong, I first went to Bali in 2013 and Instagram wasn’t so popular yet. Blogs weren’t popular. There wasn’t that much information about Bali at all and I thought Bali was all about swimming in the amazing ocean. I thought Bali was the same as the Maldives. While it’s definitely NOT the same and below I will tell you WHY. Read this post about my experience in the Maldives.
While I did enjoy many things in Bali, there were also quite a few things that I didn’t like and didn’t enjoy, so, ladies and gentlemen, here’s what to expect from Bali.
Pros and cons of Bali: what to expect from Bali? Is it worth the hype?
Let’s start with the cons first.
Problems of Bali: why I didn’t enjoy Bali to the fullest
Number 1. The weather in Bali in December
As I mentioned a couple of times, I went to Bali in December. It’s one of the highest seasons in Bali because of the Christmas holidays, school vacations and because of the fact that it’s cold in most parts of Europe and North America, so people tend to escape the cold and head South to enjoy the sunshine.
Chances are, you won’t enjoy sunshine in Bali in December. You won’t even see it. Of course, it’s never certain with the tropical destinations, but Bali is usually pretty rainy in winter (our winter) – December and January are the months with a lot of rainfall in Bali and it’s not just rain that lasts 15 minutes, no, it will be raining days and nights!
Well, to be completely honest with you, I did see the sun once or twice during a full week in Bali, but there was only one day without any rain whatsoever.
Though honestly, Bali, doesn’t lose much because of the rain, it still looked beautiful and unique because it’s not a white-sandy-beach paradise. Bali is all about visiting thousands of temples, coffee, and rice plantations and jungles, practicing yoga, visiting spas and retreats.
The problem is, I wanted a holiday on the beach: you know, a typical beautiful resort on the beach, but I picked a wrong destination.
Number 2. Bali doesn’t have really good beaches / or they are really hard to reach
Together with my friend, we rented a hotel in Sanur. Sanur is a popular place with many hotels and more or less okay beaches, though some people say it's boring. The water in the ocean didn’t look very clean - that’s why we didn’t swim much (not mentioning the rain and hours spent in traffic jams - later about that).
However, our hotel, Oasis Lagoon Sanur, was actually great! It's one of these beautiful Instagrammable hotels and we had a swimming pool right at our door (it was, for some reason, ice cold, but looked beautiful).
Our hotel had its private beach, which, however, was 15 minutes away. The breakfasts were okay but at the same time a little bit odd for the western taste. But I guess having fish soup, rice, and fried noodles for breakfast is a thing in Bali even though there were no locals at this hotel.
Problem Number 3 in Bali. Traffic jams, ugh
Since we had 7 days in Bali in December, we wanted to see as much as possible. Even though our budget wasn’t really very high (around 300-400$ for a week per person), we managed to do a lot of things. Well, we tried, but we spent at least 3 hours per day in the traffic jams and once we spent 7 hours stuck in a car in the traffic jam and it wasn't great, as you can imagine.
Traffic is a huge problem in Bali, it's even worse than in Mexico City, Moscow or Bogota. You might think that Bali is a small island, but a) it's not small, b) the population is 4.2 Million people! Plus a million influencers residing in Bali. Many people suggest renting a motorbike instead, but I'm terrible at driving, so this wasn't an option.
Number 4. People are pushy and often try to scam you
Saying no to a street vendor is often not respected and doesn't mean anything to him. I've been grabbed and touched so many times, that I stopped counting. I really don't like when people get touchy, especially some random vendors you don't know, so that's something you might not like either if you're same as me. Also, try to avoid scams (there are many) and always try to bargain, because tourists are often being severely overcharged. Nowhere as bad as in India though - read my posts about how to avoid scams in India.
Number 5. You NEED your own transport to see anything in Bali
As I mentioned above, Bali is a massive island and some landmarks are located in the "middle of nowhere". Your options are: buying a tour (check the prices and availability of the tours in Bali), hiring a taxi for a day or renting a motorbike. You choose.
Ta-dam, it's time for the pros. Why is Bali worth visiting?
Bali is unique
I've travelled to 77 countries and haven't seen anything like Bali just yet. That makes it pretty unique. Jungles, beaches, history, interesting food and amazing coffee - Bali is great.
Bali is super Instagrammable
To see the best photo locations and spots in Bali, head to this post (that I yet have to finish) - where you will find the most complete blogger's guide to Bali!
Bali is an amazing destination for surfers
There are also plenty of surf camps in Bali, where you can go even on your own and meat a lot of great people from all around the world
Bali is a party place
If you like partying - Bali is a place to go. Kuta really gets crazy at night.
Bali is a destination for retreats and relaxation
Where else can you rent an amazing villa in the middle of the jungle for less than $100 per night? Bali is also an amazing place for yoga retreats, girls retreats and relaxation in general.
Things to do in Bali when it rains aka in December and January
If you're wondering what to do in Bali when it rains, well, you can do all these things we've done, because it was raining all the time!
First of all, you can go rafting when it rains in Bali! That’s probably the coolest thing you can do in Bali in December. (Well, if you aren’t a surfer, of course). However, it might be a little bit too extreme for some people.
Visit the Safari Park
The safari park is mostly tailored for the families with little kids (this is nothing like an actual safari in Africa - read here about my experience), but we did enjoy a couple of attractions and, of course, the parrots!
Experience nightlife in Kuta
We hired a taxi to experience the nightlife in Kuta. The place was really crazy. Everybody on the street was offering us drugs and it was pretty annoying and unacceptable for me. That also means there is a huge market for drugs on Kuta, which is kind of sad. However, there are some really fun places to
Hire a driver for a day or two to see the most of Bali
For the rest of the days, we hired a driver to drive us around Bali and show us the most famous and interesting spots. It was really raining a lot and we had been stuck in traffic probably 30% of the time we had assigned for sightseeing but we still managed to see a lot.
We went to Ubud (rice terraces were pretty amazing) as well as the temple full of monkeys. Monkeys were quite aggressive but I still managed to snap a selfie with one of them.
I really liked the Luwak coffee and the plantation, though the production method is quite unethical, to be honest, so I can see how some of you might want to skip it.
When the sun comes out, head to Uluwatu
On one of the 1.5 sunny days, we went to Uluwatu, which was absolutely gorgeous. But Uluwatu is only great for a sunny day, but it's so beautiful that I had to share it in this post. Sorry.
Visit one of many waterfalls of Bali
I mean, who cares when it rains if you can swim in a waterfall! You can't swim in this particular one (unless you want to die), but there are plenty of smaller waterfalls to choose from.
Visit the most beautiful temples of Bali
Some of the other things to do in Bali when it rains is to visit one of many beautiful and unique temples of Bali. There are plenty of temples to choose from, but probably not the Tanah Lot, because when it rains, it's quite miserable there.
But this one was great!
Summary of Bali in December: things to do in Bali when it rains
To summarise, I must admit that Bali is unique and not similar to anything I’ve seen before.
However, I was really disappointed by the weather in Bali in December: when it rains, it rains heavily it might ruin your plans. If you're planning the trip to Bali as a beach vacation, it's better to go during another season. Also, Bali in December is very crowded and has terrible traffic problems: be ready to stay up to 2-3 hours in a traffic jam. But you already know all that because I told it in the pros and cons of Bali and there's no need to repeat it.