Google “Kuta Bali” and the first few posts that come up will tell you why you shouldn’t visit. To put it nicely, Kuta has a pretty terrible rep. Even the wikitravel page describes it as “chaotic, overcrowded and congested” .
But why? Kuta is the best known tourist area in Bali . Kuta beach is a very popular surfing spot and informal bars line the lively beachfront. There are several malls in the vicinity and the famous Poppies Lanes which are known for markets, backpack lodges, massage parlours and bars. Kuta is also very close to Denpasar Airport which makes it a convenient stop (remember that the traffic congestion in Bali can be a nightmare). Kuta is basically completely geared up towards tourists.
In the end, I wanted to stay in Kuta for the action, convenience and shopping. I knew we’d be beached out from Gili T so the quality of the beach didn’t concern me too much, plus I happen to like ‘city breaks’ type of holidays. I found some cheap accommodation with a killer-looking pool, close to Kuta Beach and the Beach Walk Shopping Mall. We took the cheapest type of room at the Citadines Hotel. Their more expensive rooms are apart-hotels and are apparently self-catering.
I signed up for the Ascott Reward programmes and booked using their website. Usually you pay on arrival but I enquired whether I could pay upfront for budgeting purposes (I don’t own a credit card!!). They responded quickly and payment was made.
Arrival at the Citadines Hotel
After a hell of a boat ride and long taxi ride, we finally arrived at the Citadines. I was hungry and soaked from the crazy boat ride. The foyer area looked new, vibrant and inviting. Luckily check in was quick and our room was on the ground floor. On the way to our rooms we passed by the laundry room (free to use) and a gym (which we used once).
It was a basic standard hotel room – decent, but with no bells or whistles. The room led out to a small seated area.
Since I was soaked from the boat ride, my first thing (after taking photos!) was to jump in the shower. Sadly for me, I couldn’t figure out how to make the water warm. I called reception and they sent someone to have a look. That person called the engineer. The poor engineer came down and showed us that we needed to turn some knob. It wasn’t that obvious but embarrassingly simple. I wondered why when they showed us our room, they didn’t show us how to work the shower. My cousins who were in the room next door also didn’t know what to do. This poor engineer must get called out all the time I imagine!
Staff, Breakfast, Pool and Facilities
The staff were really friendly and accommodating. They allowed us to have a late check out and organised a taxi to the airport at a very affordable rate.
I really enjoyed the breakfast at the Citadines. The breakfast area looked a bit dingy and was super busy but I cannot complain – the food on offer was plentiful. They had local dishes, the normal stuff you’d expect (omelettes), pancakes etc, sushi and lots of fruit.
We made use of the washing machines. They were clearly quite popular as it was difficult to find an open one. We bought washing powder at the large convenience store next door.
The pool was a bit disappointing to be honest. We really loved the pics of the infinity pool but it was only an “infinity pool” from very specific angles! I enjoyed lazing around the pool though. Also, when we checked out, our flight was much later and we were allowed to freshen up in the bathrooms next to the pool (and store our luggage at reception).
Kuta and surrounds
We were at the end of our holiday and I guess we were just tired at that point. We had plans to do a few things such as go to Waterbom Park but never ended up going. We spent a lot of time chilling in the area around the hotel.
Kuta Beach was a 2-minute walk from the Citadines Hotel. Despite what I’ve read, the beach was clean when I was there. Don’t expect a white sand beach though or you’ll be disappointed.
The water was good and the waves were magnificent. There were surfers everywhere! I was even tempted to do a surfing lesson but in the end, laziness won out.
If Kuta Beach was the only beach I had access to in my holiday, I might have been disappointed. Anyway, in the Dec / Jan period, people have reported that it’s quite dirty .
I spent more time that I’d care to admit at the Beach Walk Mall. The shops stayed open quite late which was great. They had all the big shops (H&M, Zara, Mango, Bershka) and eating places. The shops are cheaper than at home. I wished that there were more local shops at the mall (stuff equivalent to Woolies or YDE – but there wasn’t much). I got myself a cheap(ish) pair of prescription glasses made there as well. The mall leads out into one of the Poppies Lanes.
I didn’t really enjoy shopping in the very touristy market areas of Bali… I found the stall owners to be quite aggressive. I have a feeling that they are used to having Australians buy low quality t-shirts for high prices (that would be cheap in Australian dollars but more expensive that something you’d find at home).
Although tourists always mention the “friendly Balinese” – that’s a stereotype like it is everywhere. You get assholes all over the world. This one stall owner in Seminyak called me a “bad Indian” when I fit on a pair of sunnies and then decided I didn’t want them as they didn’t suit me. Yep, I’m a bad-ass Indian-Cape Malay-Coloured -South African-whatever you wanna call me & I’m not going to let anyone bully me into buying something I don’t want….
Another thing I experienced was being intentionally short-changed (always count your money out). Stall owners also try to get you interested in items by saying ridiculously low prices and then when you show interest, they say they meant it in US dollars. At one place, this woman put the wrong dress (a cheaper one) into a plastic bag and I only realised when I got back to the hotel. I’ll put that down to the extreme poverty in Bali, though…
If you want a nice market area to shop in then check out the market by the Tanah Lot temple. The items have prices on it so no need to bargain.
Thumbs up for the Balinese massage though! Absolute heaven! I wonder if I can find a Balinese massage in Cape Town? Let me know if you know of a place.
Since a lot of the food places in that area of Kuta are either an international chain or linked to a hotel, the food isn’t a lot cheaper than what you’d find at home. KFC was super cheap though.
There are a lot of halaal eateries in this area which is a bonus.
There is so much to do in and around Kuta – I feel like we merely skimmed the surface. It’s very easy to catch a taxi. We took taxis to Seminyak and checked out the W Hotel.
Another thing we got up to was to take a taxi to Tanah Lot. It’s an hour away. That one is a long story but all I can say is to double check that you are really in a Blue Bird taxi!!!
…..I enjoyed being in Kuta. Yes, it’s very commercial and all that but it’s a lot of fun too. Kuta is a complete tourist enclave which in my opinion, comes with more benefits than down sides. It depends on the type of person you are and the way you like to travel.
If you had a very limited amount of time in Bali and could only stay in one place, maybe I wouldn’t recommend Kuta (for a lot of the tours it can be quite far out). If you’re going for the surfing, go right ahead. If you’re going to laze on the beach, maybe stop and book a trip to Phuket instead (jokes). My advice would be to research what you want to see in Bali and try to stay in a nearby area.