Bali is no stranger to traffic; whether in Kuta, Ubud, Denpasar, or Canggu, the island is getting busier and busier, and traffic is seemingly forever mounting up.
This is nothing new; however, the sheer volume of traffic on Bali’s roads has been increasing for well over two decades, with a short, sharp drop during the pandemic.
Yet, as locals and tourists have come to accept the reality of the conditions on the roads, are there implications to the economy that are overlooked?
In Bali’s current hottest tourist destination, Canggu, both the main roads and shortcuts get into a state of gridlock multiple times a day. Some tourism stakeholders have started to fear that the ever-increasing volume of traffic in the seaside resort will eventually cause a mass exodus of visitors from the area. In light of the pandemic, this is something that tourism stakeholders simply can’t afford to happen.
@hannamcgrory_ I <3 canggu traffic #fyp #bali #viral #canggu #canggubali ♬ Under the influence sped up – user89000719923
The key issue with the traffic situation in Canggu is that the road infrastructure was never constructed to support the volume of traffic that now flows in, out, and through the area. Canggu has undergone a rapid-fire tourism development in the last five to seven years. Less than fifteen years ago, areas like Pererenan were quaint local villages, offering simple guesthouses primarily to surfers and backpackers.
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@wanderwithivana I’ve never seen anything like this in my life 😂😱 #bali #canggu #balitraffic #balitravel #travel #traveltok #fyp #pov ♬ pass the dutchie sped up – vevonix
The area has undergone rapid development in terms of building new hotels, resorts, cafes, villas, and beach clubs. Yet, the supporting infrastructure has, by and large, not been upgraded to match. This is creating other issues too.
As rice paddies and agricultural land has been converted to buildings, the area has lost a huge amount of its water-carrying capacity. What’s more, water and waste management systems have yet to undergo a complete overhaul to match the new demand on the system.
This leads to frequently localized flooding, and according to local climate groups, over time, this will only get worse.
@its_lana_rose #fakebody#traffic#trafficjam#bali#balitraffic#busybali#tourist#local#comedy #fyp#canggu#shortcut#balishortcut#thingstodoinbali #thingsnittodoinbali ♬ Gyal You a Party Animal – Sped Up – Charly Black
So, are tourists starting to see the reality of the situation on the ground? It only takes a quick search and scroll of Canggu social media to see tens of thousands of videos, reels, and images of a picture-perfect, highly manicured tourist destination.
Stunning sunsets, pristine villas, and flower baths aplenty are accompanied by visuals of life-changing dance parties and live events. But, scroll a little further, and observers will find videos tagged ‘Expectation vs. Reality’, and lo and behold, the videos of gridlock traffic start to emerge.
@hernamewaslauren Expectation vs reality 😅 #bali #balitraffic #canggushortcut #travel ♬ Monkeys Spinning Monkeys – Kevin MacLeod & Kevin The Monkey
The trend has taken off, but there doesn’t seem to be much malice or disappointment in the tone of the videos. There seems to be a humorous acceptance of the stark contrasts of the ‘Bali dream’ vs. the logistics of both daily lives for residents and holidaymakers.
Despite these kinds of videos going viral, there seems to be little damage done. Travelers seem to be accepting, however reluctantly, that waiting in traffic jams is the price to pay to experience all the wonderful aspects of a trip to Bali.
But what do local taxi drivers and residents think about the ever-increasing traffic jams in Canggu? We spoke to one local driver, who wishes to remain anonymous, about his experience of driving tourists in Canggu. He said that, in truth, he “avoids Canggu unless he has something important [or work related] to do.”
He, too, noted that the main issue is the road infrastructure and the sheer volume of traffic. The driver said, “I usually avoid taking shortcuts at all costs as I always drive a car. So I always take the main road (Jl Raya Canggu) and just let myself get into that madness in there. I usually start at least one hour in advance, so I have more time”.
He continued, “the problem is the infrastructure that can’t handle the number of vehicles. Narrow road [and] thousands of vehicles. The only solution is either widen the road or develop another road, so people have more options”.
The issue is being addressed by the local government, and local residents are even taking matters into their own hands and paving shortcuts through farmland. Badung Regency officials have confirmed that funds have been assigned to upgrading road and utility infrastructure in the Canggu area in 2023. Though some fear it is too little too late.
Perhaps the reality is that every cloud has a silver lining. The presence of traffic on the roads is a sign of demand, and tourism stakeholders should take that as a positive; their marketing is incredibly effective. From a tourist’s perspective, the traffic also poses an opportunity.
If tourists are willing to exercise patience, they experience all the incredible venues, restaurants, and iconic sunsets that Canggu has become famous for. If they’re not on board, they can explore further afield, and traveling off the beaten track is often where the magic happens.
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Saturday 18th of March 2023
Mea culpa - I'm guilty. Focussing on bikes is hiding our heads. The problem is street width and design. This needs to be fixed, but the problem is now. In the short term major road widening or rerouting will be delayed or not happen. Road straightening at the major choke points such as Tibubeneng, Canggu...would ease congestion. Next time you're in jam have a look in front and behind - it's cars. They take up far more road (and parking) space. How many are single occupant? Perhaps a programme encouraging people where possible to use the bike instead of the car? Bikes take up less room, can weave around traffic and use many of the narrow shortcuts/gangs.
Wednesday 15th of March 2023
There's a contributing factor which seems be overlooked. The tourist development in this area has caused an explosion in staff numbers. Most cannot afford to buy/rent in the area adding to the road congestion. Could this be mitigated by staggered work hours - avoiding the peak and school pickup times? Employers providing pickup and return from a dedicated parking area, or if they have the ability including accomodation for the staff? What about police blitzes in the peak to catch illegal riders? There'd be a secondary effect, they'd avoid the peak.
Friday 17th of March 2023
@Shorty, Agree, numerous large parking areas with bus service to all the areas of business. Business can all pay a transport fee to maintain the busses. But wait, this makes sense.?! /???
Wednesday 15th of March 2023
Exactly: As I pointed out above: It is the locals on their motorbikes constantly going in and out that are clogging up the roads! The gig economy (motorbike taxis and transport) is a big drag on the environment!
Tuesday 14th of March 2023
Esthetic police is needed, because there is a invasion of ugly people on the island.
Tuesday 14th of March 2023
Quite a few tourists, but I suspect the large volume is locals on their motorbikes.
A lot of the traffic is caused by the ineffective way goods is transported. 1 noisy and polluting motorbike to transport a few carrots. A more organized and efficient system to transport goods is required.
Traffic is not moving smoothly as people run their business half way onto the road, slowing down traffic and adding risk for accidents. Why not enforce building setback regulations.
New and large clubs are attracting traffic without having paid a cent into new infrastructure.
Building new roads is expensive as land costs are skyrocketing. Even in a rice field it will cost 50 Juta per meter new road just to buy land. The Gov. do not have any money. All the tourist income is already allocated to "other things".
Just let it be. Appears that quite a few enjoy the racket, non moving traffic and pollution over at Canggu and main street Seminyak.
Tuesday 14th of March 2023
A place to see and be seen.
Anyone in the right mind would stay clear of Canggu like the plague. Not other access roads leading in and out of Canggu. More younger tourists, younger highly skilled Indonesians from elsewhere in Indonesia and younger expats living the high life away from mommy and daddy. Doing god knows what but hopefully legit, fruitful and meaningful with their sheltered and entitled life. Sighs.
But sooner or later as they grow older they would have enough and move further down South of the airport to Uluwatu area where it's more laid back. But please don't move away and stay where you are in Canggu.