Is Ubud a Tourist Trap? How to Enjoy Bali’s Cultural Center

Is Ubud a Tourist Trap? was written by fellow travel blogger Maria Alexandra, who now speaks Bahasa Indonesia after living among locals in-country for one year. 

Following the release of Julia Roberts’ Eat, Pray, Love movie, scores dream of visiting the town that’s known as Bali‘s cultural center.

Unfortunately, as with many destinations glorified by Hollywood, now several travelers bash Ubud–calling it a cultural fraud.

Is this true? Is Ubud a tourist trap now?

No, it is not.

Just as if you were to visit Paris or London, there are certain attractions that do not live up to the hype.

Here’s how to enjoy Ubud, Bali authentically!

Is Ubud a Tourist Trap? 5 Tips

is Ubud a tourist trap

Is Ubud a tourist trap? No, but stay in the outskirts

Stay in the Outskirts of Ubud Town

The outskirts of Ubud and villages that surround it is one of my favorite areas in the entire island.

Here, I stayed at Villa Ubud Corner 88 to take part of a 4-day Bali yoga retreat and was completely transformed.

My retreat in the outskirts of Ubud Town included accommodation at a contemporary villa surrounded by the rain forest; all breakfasts and lunches (except for lunch on arrival and departure dates); meditation and yoga sessions twice a day; cultural performance/religious ritual at Ubud temple; and daily shuttles to Ubud proper so you can explore and sample different dinner options in town.

Staying in an Indonesian village by the border of town was the perfect blend of solitude and local interaction.

Ubud Bali tourist trap

Not an Ubud Bali tourist trap: Kecak Performance at Local Temple

Ubud Is Still Bali’s Cultural Center

To those who say Ubud is fake and no longer Bali’s cultural center: I have something to say to them.

How do you explain the dozens of quirky local museums, art galleries, artistic community events, weekly dance performances, and even the annual Ubud Writers Festival?

Whether you think Ubud is a tourist trap or not, you can’t deny it is a magnet to many Balinese to display their culture proudly.

And they do–because they know Ubud is the right stage and we are watching.

Ubud tourist trap

Ubud Tourist Trap: The Monkey Forest

Avoid Monkey Forest Road

Am I really telling you to avoid one of the most popular Ubud attractions?

Yes I am.

Avoid the aggressive monkeys in that infamous “sanctuary” and shops in that area altogether.

Okay, some may like it a bit. But all I advise you to do here is just go on a walk, window shop, and eat at a unique restaurant or two.

Everything sold here is ridiculously expensive by local standards–and most likely profiting foreigners instead of Balinese communities.

Most travelers that feel Ubud is a tourist trap very likely gravitated around Monkey Forest Road–and that’s why they dislike this otherwise beautiful town.

Ubud attraction

Ubud Attraction: Fresh, Organic Food

DO Go on a Foodie Tour

If there is one thing I love about foreigners in Ubud, is the recent sprout of outstanding organic and vegetarian restaurants.

Does that make Ubud a tourist trap? Not necessarily.

The way I see it: moderation is key.

During my stay, I alternated between eating at local warungs (Indonesian-owned hole-in-the-wall eateries) and top-rated restaurants.

Some of my favorite restaurants in Ubud include:

  • Nomadic Restaurant (local & European)
  • Indonesian fusion at Villa Ubud Corner 88 (pictured above)
  • Earth Café & Market (vegetarian & gluten-free options)
  • Element Restaurant & Bar
why Ubud Bali is not a tourist trap

Why Ubud Bali Is Not a Tourist Trap: Stunning Rice Terraces

Make Ubud Your Base to Explore Central Bali

Don’t get stuck in Ubud! Rather, make it your base to explore the surrounding area.

Rent a cheap scooter and take in the absolutely breathtaking landscapes that make up Central Bali.

Throw yourself to local villages such as Penestanan and Pengoseken–where the “real Bali” is open and thriving.


    1. Like the author says, stay away from Ubud center. Ubud once was the cultural center of Bali with skilled woodcarfing artists and painters. Now they sell factory made African masks, Budah statues, wooden Phallic symbols and other woodcarvings, most likely all made in outside Indonesia.
      The shops are rediculoys expensive and the clothes can be bougt cheaper in Europe.
      Locals fiercely ban Grab and Huber taxis but every 20 meters the locals offer overpriced taxi service, go figure.
      Around noon the mainroad is one large traffc jam from city center until far out of town.
      Enjoy Ubud outskirts but stay away from the “city” center

  1. Ubud sucks. The entire place is a giant tourist trap. It’s just an extension of when you leave the airport with the taxi drivers hounding you.
    Taxi, taxi, taxi.
    No uber or grab, they will beat up your driver.
    If you’re a tourist they think it’s okay to not give you your complete change.
    People are entitled, rude, and nasty.

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