Where To Stay in Bali, Indonesia
This post is part of the massive resource: Ultimate Guide To Living In Bali
There are a few places in Bali to settle but none compares to the unique bubble that is Ubud.
In this article, I talk about the good and the bad so you can make the most informative decision.
Curious about taking the jump? I’m going to tell you about the best place to live in Bali
This is the place from ‘Eat Pray Love’ that everyone raves about.
Most expats that live in Bali long-term settle here. There’s a great mix of entrepreneurs and spirituals which mean you’re bound to find people you connect with.
Top that with amazing views of the mountain-tops and that it being a reasonably safe area to walk around as a woman (or man), there’s not much reason not to come.
Ubud, Bali is my favourite place in the world so far.
As I’m travelling around the world right now, I’m often reminded of how magical this place really is.
To make sure that you have all the information to make the jump to live here, here’s 7 things I loved and hated about the place.
7 Reasons To Live In Bali (Ubud)
#1 – I could walk around to most places.
I learnt quickly that Ubud is a very small area. The whole main area is mostly in a horseshoe shape and you can walk around in about an hour.
This was great for me because I could walk everywhere and attend events.
I chose not to ride a scooter so this was perfect for me.
I thought I would need it for my independence but I found an app called Gojek to hire a driver on a scooter to take me anywhere around Ubud for $1.50 AUD.
I didn’t have to worry about battling traffic everyday and I felt much safer.
Every few days I also heard of someone coming off a scooter and hurting themselves. Sometimes it’s just a small accident – a ‘Bali kiss’ as a locals call it and sometimes it’s more serious.
This scared me immensely and another reason I stayed away from it.
Don’t get me wrong – I have come off as a passenger 3 times.
The worst was when I was on the back of someone I barely knew driving about 1.5 hours away to Mount Batur.
I could tell quickly he was pretty reckless on the road but since I had no control of my own safety, I chose to practice letting go and enjoy the ride.
Pretty soon the driver turned into a sharp corner and dropped me flat on my left side. I was scratched all over my left arm and leg and he managed to save himself on the bike and was unharmed.
I was in shock at first and irritated he jumped off the bike and saved himself but I got back on the bike with him soon after mostly because I didn’t want to be rude and also because I had no other choice.
So we start riding again and soon after the driver starts making jokes about what happened. I decided there’s nothing for me to do but laugh right now so I start laughing.
Soon enough he gets to another corner and drops me again. This time the bike falls on my leg after I fall to the ground and I start bleeding all down my left leg.
At this stage I was done, there was no way I was getting back on this bike again with this guy. I was seething mad because again, he was mostly unharmed.
He managed to flag down a Balinese man who was happy to drive me to Mount Batur, for a fee of course.
We caught up with the rest of the gang, I sat behind a safe driver who had a scoopy with really great shocks and managed to get home unharmed after a miserably long day at the hot springs.
After that incident, I became very careful about who I got on the bike with. I still think that knowing my driving aptitude,
I would still have been in more accidents driving myself as opposed to trusting a more experienced driver.
#2 – There’s a strong and welcoming community.
Everyone knows everyone and you run into the same people at events wherever you go. Friendships are easy to maintain as everyone lives closeby.
I saw my close friends nearly everyday.
This is a beautiful element of Ubud because as adults, we often drift apart from friends after high school so it’s nice to have a close group of friends again without the teenage hormones and the bitchiness.
I met hundreds of expats who have been living here for years and since it’s cheaper to eat out than cook, you can meet at a great restaurant as often as you want.
A typical day might be where I would enjoy some alone time in the mornings, then meet my friends for lunch at Padang (indonesian fast food) and then we’ll probably go for ice cream.
Then we will hide out somewhere with air conditioning to hang out and just laugh about stuff. We’d often run into people who’ll join us randomly and we can decide what we do after that.
Sometimes we’ll go to an event, sometimes hang out by ourselves and drink, sometimes we do an impromptu party. Everything is in the moment and it’s incredibly beautiful.
Also in my home, because we had a housekeeper cleaning my house regularly and the house was more of a separated villa , things like having housemates became the preferred choice. I got to have built-in friends when you want and privacy as well.
I haven’t had housemates since I was 16 and have loved it because I can lie by the pool, share some drinks, laugh and get to know everyone – all in the comfort of my own home.
We also play a lot of board games like dice and werewolf so this made this dynamic extra awesome.
#3 – Food is Amazing.
Because a lot of westerners own restaurants here, you can get most types of food.
Amazing JAPANESE, ITALIAN, FRENCH, INDIAN, GERMAN – anything you need will most likely be here.
The community has a lot of vegans in the mix so you can also get great healthy food.
This is the place I learnt to love a good salad. I have previously HATED the cold, sloppy tasteless barely-food-item I have known to be salad.
Since I’ve been here, I’ve realised that a salad can be incredibly tasty (and a salad being healthy is just the icing on the cake). If you want to try eating healthier, this is the place to be.
#4 – You can be social as often you want to.
Events are on most nights and because the place is small, you can duck into an event and run home to get work done easily. Most events are unlikely to be more than a 10 minutes drive from home.
There’s all kinds of events on offer. Some very practical and some WTF:
– entrepreneurial ‘real world’ events from cryptocurrency meetups where we discuss how it’s changing the world to events where we share expertise
I’ve been an networker for a long time now so my level of expectation for an event is high.
I have been pleasantly surprised by the quality of events here. There are some super smart people in Ubud.
The event I was most impressed by was the startup weekend at coworking space Hubud – a weekend hackathon where my team got the bronze medal with our ‘Bitcoin for Wifi’ idea – an app that allows people to be able to sell their wifi and make money.
There were around 200 awesome people that weekend and some good ideas floating around.
– ‘party’ events like ecstatic dance which is a sober rave and non-sober pool parties done in people’s homes
My favourite is ecstatic dance, a sober music rave. The first 20 minutes are super awkward because you feel weird about dancing in broad daylight and you feel you’re being watched.
Pretty soon though you realise everyone’s doing their thing and it’s best for you to let go and enjoy it.
Funnily enough this place reminds me of a rapper video where women are partying by the pool in their bikinis and having an awesome time.
Sometimes people let it all hang out naked, dancing like no one’s watching – it’s beautiful. I always walk away from these events rejuvenated.
– social events like salsa dancing (there’s a big salsa scene here), comedy improv, frisbee tournament and lip sync battles
I was a participant in the first Ubud lip sync battle. 8 contestants battled it out in front of 100 people, lip syncing songs for one minute each. The host, a friend of mine called me and asked me to join.
My first question was ‘Why?’, I don’t have any performance experience and he’d have no reason to this I’d be any entertainment.
He responded by saying. “I know you’ll be good because you don’t worry about what other people think and honestly, I need someone brown to represent.”
I laughed at the honesty and said “why not?”.
As the day rolled around I started freaking out – this was WAY outside of my comfort zone and I had no idea how to pull it off.
Some of the other contestants were born performers, what the hell was i thinking?
I reverted to the only strategy I could to try to win, dressing half-naked.
In one of the performances I
wore what I would correctly describe as ‘porno schoolgirl outfit’ and in another, I wore just a business shirt.
I felt amazing to have put myself out there. I came 4th overall in the competition but I know I came first in many people spank banks which I still think is hilarious.
I became a minor Ubud celebrity after that.
So much so that it was the day after I had my big accident I describe earlier in the post.
The driver was infatuated and fought for me to be his passenger.
Imagine his disappointment when I wanted nothing to do with him after he dropped me twice.
– alternative events like tantra, tarot reading, soul-cleansing, people channeling old spirits and telling you the meaning of life, people telling you the colour of your aura
I had a tarot reading at a dance party when Damien and I were not together.
I was drunk and thought it was a good idea. Anyway so the lady asked me ask a question and I asked about us.
Then the lady shuffled some cards and declared that the card said that we would not make it and that there were other girls in the mix.
I remember thinking ‘of course there are other girls in the mix, we’re not together!’.
I was confused as to what she actually meant to which she responded I could find out for another $10 for a full reading.
I laughed and politely said ‘no thanks’.
Anyway Damien and I did get back together and we’re stronger than ever.
– healing events like breathwork (breathing to release trauma), ahuasca, mushroom, yoga retreats and silent meditation
My favourite was a joygasm event – learning to have orgasms without contact.
I had heard about this a while back but was exciting to finally try it.
The facilitation was lovely and I could feel a lot of sexual energy welling up inside during the event.
It’s difficult to describe the phenomenon except that it feels like the ultimate self love.
– Volunteer/sustainable events like picking up trash, talks about saving the world, living alternatively or helping out at orphanages/schools
My best friend and I went to teach English every Tuesday to 18 year olds.
Because they were a bit older, we got to talk about things like culture, romance and boyfriends.
We had a great time.
We were serenaded beautifully and we got to bridge the culture gap through the music of Bruno Mars.
– Everyday events such as movie nights at the cinema and trivia nights
There’s trivia on every Friday where the owner with a thick Italian accent asks questions.
Huge groups of young and old attend to win beer and wine.
Part of the fun is deciphering the questions themselves.
For example, he asks ‘Is a martini shaken not stirred or stirred not shaken’ except with his accent it comes out ‘Is a marrtini sheken noth steered to steered noth sheken’.
We all as a group have a great time.
Anything you want to do will generally be on offer somewhere. Most of these are free or inexpensive.
All of these will give you a new story to tell.
#5 – There’s a huge diversity of people.
From tightly wound entrepreneurs to in-the-cloud hyper spirituals and everything in between.
This to me is the thing that’s most beautiful about Ubud.
You never know who you’re going to meet and you never hear the same thing. I always walk away with a story.
A young gay man once told me how his bisexual boyfriend is having a relationship with his business partner’s mum and he was the last to know.
Jerry Springer couldn’t come up with that story!
An ex mid-level drug dealer once told me about how he made drugs and how Australia is HARD to smuggle anything into.
Also about how he was sure the authorities were investigating him in his home country and how happy he is to be here.
An entrepreneur once told me about his breakup with a woman in an open marriage and we discussed all the factors that make this dynamic difficult.
Someone talked to me in detail about how men wearing tight yoga pants are the new ‘sexy’.
I once heard of a woman who channels a wise man in a past life give all the answers to life’s questions.
A man once told me my aura was purple with small hints if pink and green.
I have hundreds of these stories. And they’re all worth a listen.
Diversity means that there are so many ‘opposite’ types of people:
-There are those that drink A LOT and those that don’t drink at all (and secretly judge those that do)
-Those that look enlightened but are really just overhyped hipsters and those truly relaxed and happy with the world
Sometimes I smile and humour the person and sometimes I walk away seriously pondering about things that have been said.
#6 – Everyone’s finding themselves and it pushes you to find yourself.
Most show their human damage but nearly all are good people trying to find their place in the world.
They all have the best of intentions even if the outcome is flawed.
Once you understand that, no one is that weird anymore and everyone is beautiful in their own way.
Most people learn not to be afraid to be themselves. I’ve watched people cry crocodile tears at events with 40 other people watching.
It gives you permission to show who you really are.
Right before I left Ubud, I myself surprisingly sobbed after an medical circle ceremony to 40 strangers. I would never in a million years have done that before and it was clear how much I had changed since coming here.
There’s also a saying here here that ‘Bali rejects you’ as in Bali kicks some people out.
Initially I thought this was silly but I have seen some people with a ridiculous number of things happen to them consecutively – scooter accidents, dengue fever, problems with landlords, theft, physical assault, getting ripped off and everything in between.
It’s pretty surprising for all of it to happen to a select few people.
I have noticed it happens to those resistant to change.
Misfortunes like these force self development like nothing else.
#7 – It’s a place to learn not to judge.
Everyone you meet will show you their own version of ‘weird’ and it’s ok because you’re weird too in your own way.
I once instantly judged someone I thought was a weirdo.
He sang at the top of his lungs at events, making it difficult for people to talk.
He imposed himself on others when it wasn’t welcome and I found myself getting irritated with him fairly often.
Over time I learnt that he is someone that can switch from ‘entrepreneur mode’ into ‘spiritual mode’ and back like no one I’ve ever met.
He has a successful business and his ‘spiritual mumbo jumbo’ is strong also.
I previously thought they were opposing ideologies but this guy makes it work seamlessly and gives me hope I can work and switch off into play mode instantly like he can.
7 Reasons I Hate Bali (Ubud)
#1 – There isn’t much of a nightlife.
There’s 2 bars open late and the place is generally a ghost town after 10pm.
This disappointed me at first but I found that it works well with being a digital nomad – there’s very little late nights and hangovers that last a week.
I have on occasion done the 4am party nights and if you’re motivated, it’s possible to do it every night.
The good news is that all the tourists go to these 2 places and there’s always a flurry of new people to meet.
#2 – No beach.
Ubud is in the mountains so there’s no beach. Super disappointed but I realised I didn’t have to deal with drunk tourists and party-goers on the streets late at night. Everyone is very respectful and I started to appreciate that.
#3 – You’re saying goodbye to friends all the time.
Everyone is super transient so you’re going to farewell parties all the time.
It’s a constant reminder that nothing is permanent but also a reminder that you have close friends all around the world.
People who come to Ubud always come back so it’s never a forever goodbye – always an appreciation of each person that comes in and out.
It really hurts when a close friend leaves and you find yourself missing them terribly.
#4 – Dating is Hard.
Communities are a great source of support and camaraderie but they’re also a place where people talk.
About you. To you about other people.
I’ve historically been very private and this blog is my first step into trying to be more transparent but I think this will always be weird to me.
I’ll hear stories about other people and every time someone is seeing someone, stories come out.
It can get annoying because you don’t get to announce that you’re dating when it’s the right time; everyone already knows and has gossiped about it.
When Damien and I broke up, I was only interested in casual dating so I looked for the trifecta in order to avoid awkward situations
– Date tourists exclusively – If they were leaving in a week, perfect. You get to have a perfect holiday romance.
– Newly out of a relationship – even better. I don’t have to worry about attachment and them changing plans on me.
– Are they interesting – if so amazing! There was no point if I didn’t enjoy hanging out with them.
This was great because it gave me privacy from the expat community.
A lot of expats here choose not to date seriously because they’re in a transition period, they’re trying to find themselves.
It’s doesn’t make sense to create attachment.
What I didn’t count on was that if the community doesn’t know what you’re doing, they’re going to assume things and that’s just irritating.
My best friends and I were often referred to as ‘players’.
We found out through other people what everyone else was assuming.
This was funny to me because I wasn’t interested in dating but for my friend who was ready to be serious with someone, this reputation became problematic.
He has to defend himself constantly.
We were nowhere near as debaucherous as others thought and the stories coming out were pretty hilarious.
Seemed like we had slept with every second person in Ubud!
#5 – There’s more women than men.
Because this is a well-known spiritual and yoga community, there’s more women around trying to find themselves.
You would assume that this would make it easier to date as a man but again, people talk.
If you have a bad reputation, chances are people already know.
It’s a hard balance to date multiple people here without people finding out.
And because everyone’s transient and no one wants to find long-term partners does not mean they want to see someone that’s dating multiple people.
It’s a hard balance to make and why dating is difficult.
When I first moved in with my housemate, I heard stories about him from other people completely unprovoked.
It was weird to me and a reminder of the annoying side of a tight-knit community.
#6 – Most people get overwhelmed by Ubud and need a break.
There’s only so much ‘spiritual bullS*#t one can handle’, a lot of people say.
My motto with everything here has always been that I’ll try anything but I won’t buy anything.
This has meant that I’ll check out anything but you won’t see me commit to anything.
This has allowed me to not get too involved with anything but to observe closer to how things really are.
The more you go down the spiritual rabbit hole, the more you need to escape after a while.
#7 – Restaurants are inconsistent.
This is probably the things that irks me most about Ubud, especially because a lot of restaurants are owned by westerners so they should know better.
I have been to restaurants where the same meal is amazing one time and really disappointing the next.
Sometime they just don’t have ingredients available which is acceptable if it happens rarely but if you have to order something else every time, it gets to you.
Sometimes if you’re deciding to leave instead of ordering anything, the original menu item is suddenly available!
Food also comes out one by one often so one person can have finished a meal whilst the other is starving and waiting for theirs.
My favourite dessert in the world is a good brownie. It’s the only food item I cook myself and it reminds me of being home.
I had resigned myself to the fact that the Balinese cannot do brownies properly – they call a spongey chocolate cake-style dessert a brownie and trust me it’s not a brownie.
Anyway so one day, I went into an italian restaurant and ordered a brownie in the faint hope I might be surprised.
And oh my god was I was pleasantly shocked that it was everything a brownie was supposed to be.
Moist, a little chewy, soft – I was so happy eating that thins that it became known with my friends as the ‘brownie that changed my life’.
I couldn’t wait to go back.
Imagine my disappointment a few days later when I went back and received the ‘cake-style’ bullis#*t that other places call a brownie.
I was so upset I never went back there again. I can still feel the disappointment thinking back to it now.