Insta-famous Ubud’s Charm Did Not Work On Us – 5 Reasons Why

Lush green paddy fields, rows and rows of healthy meal outlets, gorgeous rice terraces, blistering waterfalls, intricate temples, home of “wellness” – sounds fabulous, doesn’t it? On paper (and Instagram), Ubud may be the most romantic & special of all places in Bali, but we were thoroughly surprised by how over-hyped it truly is. We spent a week in Ubud in May 2017 and much to our chagrin, we weren’t amused at all by what we saw and experienced.

Needless to say, this is our personal opinion driven by our experiences but as bloggers, we feel it is imperative that we write about places we don’t recommend, about the ‘real’ experiences during our travels. There’s plenty of romanticism out there but life (and the world) isn’t all that rosy. Here are 5 reasons why WE WOULDN’T go back to Ubud.


Reading numerous blogs about Ubud online left an impression of a place of zen-like beauty. We expected a village with vast paddy fields and temple-going locals at every corner. Instead, we were treated to markets overflowing with tourists, congested roads without space for even a needle to pass, shops that are nothing beyond tourist traps, restaurants that have been ‘westernised’, and crowds that got to our nerves in spite of being from an overpopulated country ourselves.

Honestly, we aren’t usually frazzled by places being taken over by tourism. We found Petra to be magical in spite of the haggling vendors and scammy shops strewn around the site. We found Santorini to be utterly romantic even though we had to struggle for hours to find a spot to catch sunset. But, Ubud left us feeling differently. The zen-like, yoga-driven, temple-going culture is now hard to spot amidst the tourist frenzy, unless you live far off from the centre.

The crazy and chaotic centre of Ubud – Charming one day, annoying the next


When one ventures into SE Asia, it is natural to encounter crawlies all around. House lizards, mosquitoes, all sorts of flies are in abundance everywhere. We were extremely aware of this fact even before we booked our tickets but yet, the creepy crawlies in Ubud had us covering for our lives at many points.

We were enjoying a wonderful Balinese spa at Cantika, one of the most reputed outlets in Ubud. Towards the end, as we dipped our warm bodies into the floral tub holding a glass of cocktail, out came a giant monitor lizard (double the size of a chameleon!) that had Divya squirming for her life. It was a closed space and we felt there could be a lot more lurking around. We didn’t bother washing off the oil or taking a shower, we put our clothes back on and escaped as fast as we could turning our intimate spa experience into a horror story. That wasn’t all – a horde of lizards were on the ceiling at many places we dined making us wonder how hygienic the food really is. The story wasn’t much different even in our luxury apartment.

Don’t let the lanes & fields fool you, the crawlies are everywhere


When we did our research for Ubud, it seemed like we’ll swing by with very limited budgets. Accommodation was dirt cheap as we’d gotten a huge private villa for as less 38$ (2500 INR) per night. Bike rental and petrol was extremely cheap as well. But, services in Ubud are much costlier than we estimated, especially food. The street food wasn’t delectable or clean and that forced us to eat at mid-range restaurants most of the time. Meals were easily in excess of 10$ every time. While this is extremely cheap by Western standards, countries like Laos/ Thailand are much cheaper to eat in.

The airport taxis were expensive, the ‘decent’ air-conditioned spas were expensive, the fruit bowls were ridiculously overpriced, and good food came at a heavy price. For eg, a meal of the famous Duck @ The Dirty Duck Diner is priced at 1000 INR (15 USD) a plate. While you won’t spend more than 20K-25K INR per person (300-320 USD) for a week excluding flights, it isn’t exactly backpacker prices for Indians at least.

An oily fried duck, a much celebrated dish in Ubud, wasn’t worth the splurge


Instagram and blogs paints a very ‘fruity’ picture of Ubud. We’d read blogs about how fruit bowls, fruit smoothies are at every corner in Ubud. But hey, we couldn’t find them all that easily and they don’t exactly line up along the streets. Outside of the “Coco super market”, it was hard to even locate fruit vendors anywhere. We lived in the Tegallalang area and locals told us that they get fruits from far away or from the “local supermarket”. For all the expectations of stocking up on fresh fruits we went with, we were bummed out.

This does not mean there are NO smoothie bars or fruit bowl cafes, there are a good few of them. But, it takes a ton of online research or Google Map help to locate the good ones. Even some of the popular organic cafes barely had any fruit/ smoothie options. One of the most celebrated cafes, Cafe Pomegranate, had just one smoothie option for example. This may also well be a result of the over tourism that is plaguing the town.

Perfect for an Instagram picture but hey, a lot went into spotting this one!


We are both suckers for Asian food. Last year, we went on a food trip to Thailand and ate till our stomachs couldn’t take any further. Our favourite restaurant back home is a Vietnamese pho-place. Yet, the food in Ubud failed to excite us. We ate at almost every single place mentioned in guide books/ blogs and came out feeling under-whelmed. Whether it is the organic food it is famed for or the local food like duck delicacies, it was drab to the point we were driven to try ‘western’ food in an Asian village.

There are only a handful of local delicacies that are available, the likes of Nasi Campur, Nasi Goreng, Mie Goreng, Babi Guling (Suckling Pig), Bebek Bengil (Fried Duck). That’s a very small list for any destination. No matter which restaurant you go to, you’re sure to be served some variety of these dishes. Barring a few restaurants whose Nasi Campur was outstanding, the overall food experience was average at best.

Nothing wrong with this plate of Nasi Campur but it didn’t invite us for a Round 2

Additionally, it did not help that there was an overbearing sense of ‘Hinduism’ with each local we met asking us whether we were “Hindu”. We did not find the cafes very conducive to working, unlike the “digital nomad haven” image it carries.

While these are all valid reasons not to like a place much, we do think Ubud may work for certain type of travellers: yoga lovers, vegan travellers, large group retreats, Hindu pilgrims are some that come immediately to mind. It is also an excellent place to find an affordable ‘luxe’ accommodation to rest and rejuvenate, provided you’re ok with creepy crawlies. Find a quiet corner for yourself and stick to it.

All in all, we were personally unimpressed with Ubud. We doubt whether we’d ever head back there unlike a lot of fellow travellers we know who have gone there over and over again. Somehow, we failed to catch on to the charm of the place. If you’re planning a trip to Bali and one of the five reasons we mentioned above strike a chord with you, do yourself a favour and skip Ubud. There’s not much you’ll miss, in our opinion.


4 thoughts on “Insta-famous Ubud’s Charm Did Not Work On Us – 5 Reasons Why

  1. I completely agree! I was in Ubud for a month towards the end of last year and found it was nothing like I’d expected. For me it was the traffic jams and the insane level of tourism that was there that surprised me. There were some good parts, and I actually found some good food eventually, but it was way too busy for me. I’m now in Lombok and finding it to be everything that I thought Bali would be.

    1. Oh, thank god others share the opinion! It was starting to feel like we’re the odd ones out. Yeah, the crazy amount of tourists even in the off season is a major turn off. Maybe we’ll make it to Lombok sometime 🙂

  2. Damn those western tourists who have practically ruined everything that Bali once stood for. Those overpriced vegan juice bars and cafes and boutiques you see in Ubud are all foreigner owned-locally employed and it annoyed the hell out of me when I saw that trend in 90% of the businesses. And don’t even think of scuba diving in Bali, what with it’s plastic garbage laden coasts and lagoons, this poor island which was once culturally so rich and beautiful is practically on it’s way to a fast death, because, pardon me but, western tourists.

    That being said, the islands of Java, Gilis, Lombok, Flores are all such a relief once you leave Bali. Java and it’s city traffic may seem nothing out of ordinary but atleast it is real. The Gilis and Lombok for their quite island life and Flores for its incredible scuba diving, are so much more “Indonesia” than what Bali can ever get back to be.

    1. I know that anger you are referring to. I was amazed to find Ubud flooded with way more tourists than locals. It’s time that people give the place some rest.

      I would love to go to Java for the volcano trek. It sounds quite an adventure. Maybe next time.

      Will definitely keep the remaining places in mind to explore when in Indonesia next. Besides, hoping to scuba dive in those waters soon. Need some practice on that front.

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