Ubud: A Town with a Different Vibe
The last time I was in Ubud was maybe 6 or 7 years ago. It was, at least for me back then, a very nice place to stay.
After having just stayed in Ubud for a month in 2023, I can no longer say the same.
It’s become exceptionally congested, people ride aggressively on their scooters (I almost got hit on a pedestrian sidewalk by a scooter), it’s generally overcrowded and become much more touristic.
After seeing the road conditions, I immediately got travel insurance with SafetyWing which is used by a lot of digital nomads (you can read more in my SafetyWing Review). Things to watch out for include scooters swooping in at the last minute, large potholes, people crossing the road, dogs running on the road, etc. There’s no restriction with SafetyWing about whether you’re already traveling or not which is great because if you forget, you can just buy it once you remember. I think I paid maybe $40 for a month of coverage or something like that which is a small price to pay for peace of mind. Keep in mind that you need to get a local temporary driver’s license which you can do at the police station (or an international driver’s license if you’re still in your home country) and wearing a helmet to be considered to be eligible for SafetyWing’s insurance in case you get into an accident.
This situation has mainly been the result of infrastructure that’s been unable to keep up with the surge in tourism. There’s only one major road in Ubud and expanding it would mean demolishing lots of existing buildings and houses, most of which have temples. The situation outside of Ubud though is much better and if you’re looking for more calm, then this is where I would look. There are also pockets of overcrowdedness outside the city centre but overall much better.
I heard that Uluwatu is the “new Ubud” but it was a bit of a trek to get there and the beaches in Bali generally aren’t very nice. In case you go, here are some beach recommendations on Reddit in Uluwatu. I also saw a few mentions of the Renaissance hotel on Reddit in Uluwatu so I’d probably check that one out next time around.
If you’re going to be in Ubud, you should definitely stay out of the center, ideally in a villa close to the rice fields.
Saunas in Ubud
I didn’t find any good saunas in Ubud. I heard that the Istana in Uluwatu is pretty good but 4 hours there and back by scooter was too much for me to be worth it. I went to the Spa at Hotel Tjampuhan. While the surrounding was nice, the sauna itself was old, there’s no shower in the changing room and the changing room itself was small and dirty. But given the price of 100,000 IDR, I guess you can’t expect too much. The other sauna is Sauna Parq.
For massages, I’ve generally had a great experience no matter where in Ubud. I just make sure that they have at least a 4+ star average rating on Google. One of the ones I particularly enjoyed was the Ubud Traditional Spa.
Touristy Things in Ubud
I did a few of the touristy things again like visit Monkey Forest (nice jungle in the middle of the city but can feel a little but like a zoo), went on the Campuhan Ridge Walk and had some food at Karsa Kafe which has a nice view of the rice fields. They also have a nice spot for massage. I checked out some coffee plantations which I recommend. I went to a few but I think just going to one is fine because they offer pretty much the same thing which is a range of coffees and teas to try. There’s Bali Pulina which charges 100k IDR for entrance which gives you a coupon of I think equivalent value for the cafe. There’s also Kumulilir a bit further up the road which has no entrance fee and the coffee is just as good. The only thing is that they add a ton of sugar (it seems Balinese people generally prefer to add lots of sugar to their drinks) and when I asked for no sugar, there’s still sugar for some reason.
I also happen to be a coffee addict. I also walked along the Tegallalang Rice Terrace which feels over-commercialized but still quite pretty. There’s someone there that collects money until 6 pm and then it seems to be free to go in after that.
Restaurants and Cafes in Ubud
For cafes to work in, one of my favourite one is Huma Cafe by Goldmine which has a view of the rice fields. It’s outside the city center. If you’re looking for good cafes in the city center, I like Usada.
It’s usually got some tables free but tends to get full around lunch time and dinner time so I’d try to time my arrival accordingly. They have nice products by the counter and a nice vibe generally for working in. The food there is pretty average — I generally just stick with the coffee, teas, juices and smoothies.
Outside of the city center is a nice restaurant called Akasha.
In the city center itself, my favourite restaurants are Twist (get the caramel pulled pork), Soul Bites (great breakfast menu), and Pica South (nice seafood).
I wouldn’t trust the ratings too much in Ubud — I noticed they were a bit hit and miss.
After reading this post on Reddit about the best places to stay in Bali, I decided to check out Sanur. The beaches in general there were very dirty and I also got harassed a lot by local vendors for massage, food, etc. The built up area a few lines back from the beach was a bit better — some nice restaurants, calmer roads, and so on. But given the choice between central Ubud and Sanur, I’d still go with Ubud.