Kuta with it’s large assortment of hotels and restaurants in all price layers is without doubt the largest tourist area on Bali. Originally Kuta was just a small fishing village, but since the 1970’s it has seen a huge growth in tourism.
The Kuta district today can be separated in four areas. Tuban is furthest south and just north of the airport, where there are some large hotels and shopping centers.
North of Tuban is Kuta with the majority of the hotels and shops and also the most popular beach. Further north is Legian and Seminyak, which is still much more quiet than Kuta. The main street in Kuta is Jl. Legian which runs parallel with the beach, most of the shops and bars are along this street, which is also within a short walk of the beach. If you need to be in touch with the folks back home there are many internet cafe’s here, as well as several ATM’s which accept Visa and MasterCard.
This is probably the area of Bali which many visitors will see as the most stressful, mainly because of the never-ending approach by overeager salesmen and hawkers. Luckily this has improved recently because of new laws that restrict souvenir sellers to do their business just about everywhere. The service, or lack of service, on many hotels and restaurants is also an indication that this is a tourist machine. Fortunately there are many exceptions to this, just find your favorite places as soon as possible and you can start having a great time.
Many visitors continue as soon as possible to more relaxed places on Bali, but if you can deal with the back draws of Kuta it has a lot to offer, after all it is a reason why so many people prefer to stay here. It is a great starting point to explore the rest of Bali, most of the southern part can be reached within a daytrip. It is very simple to find transport here, you can hire a car with driver or rent your own motorbike or car (car is much safer!) for a reasonable price, you are expected to bargain. You need an international drivers license to drive here, but many take their chances without, even if the fees are said to be high for this. The traffic and the road signs (or lack of road signs) is another story, just take it easy and you will get there in one piece.
Kuta has a varied nightlife, and a majority of the tourists here are of the younger kind, mainly from Australia and Japan, who consider Bali as a cheap and exotic destination. The variety of restaurants and hotels are impressive, the quality and prices are mixed but mostly reasonable, and the quality of the food is usually good. Out of season you can bargain for the room price, especially if you see that the hotel is only half full. The price in the low season can be only half of the price in the high season, which is August to October and Christmas and new year.
The beach is very long and popular for surfing and swimming. The popular beach bars were recently removed of religious reasons, but you can still buy beverages on the beach. The large waves guarantee a lot of fun in the water, just be careful with the strong currents that can occur at certain spots. These areas are normally marked with red flags, pay attention when you see them! Every year there are some tourists who drowns because of strong currents, both on Bali and in the rest of Indonesia.