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.
@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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