Ubud vs. Canggu. Two wildly popular Bali destinations with almost opposite characteristics. Let’s be clear on one thing first though, the purpose of this blog post is not to convince you to stay in either Canggu or Ubud and skip the other one. Ideally, you’ll visit both and love your time in both for different reasons.
However, most people's time in Bali is very limited. They have a month if they’re lucky, and a week if they’re slightly less lucky (a week is better than nothing)! So if that’s the case for you and you’re wondering where you should spend more of your time - Ubud or Canggu - this post should help you decide.
Here you’ll find information on Canggu and Ubud in each of the following areas:
Things to do
Proximity to other locations in Bali
When you think of Canggu, think hipster, beach hangout. With the beach right at their doorstep, everyone in Canggu is either surfing, laying on the beach, or enjoying a smoothie bowl and planning to go to the beach later. When people aren’t at the beach, they’re getting work done in a trendy cafe, taking a yoga class, and deciding which bar to meet up with friends at later.
Even if cafes, yoga, and bars aren’t your thing at home, chances are they’re going to become your thing in Canggu. All of these things are somehow a million times better in Canggu. I don’t know if it’s the design appeal of literally every building you walk into, or how social and engaging people are here, but something about Canggu feels like stepping into an alternate universe.
Ubud is all about jungle vibes and local traditions. What it lacks in coastline it makes up for in rice terraces, nature walks, and temples. It feels like the heart of Bali in a way, and will teach you a lot about the Balinese people if you take the time to dig deep and explore. I think the reason for this is because tourism and local life have found a way to intertwine in Ubud.
You’ll visit places like the Tegalalong Rice Terraces and Goa Gajah, and while there will be lots of tourists, there will also be locals going about their daily tasks and rituals. For a traveler fascinated by local culture, this feels so much richer than beaches studded with tourists. Like Canggu though, Ubud also has its fair share of fancy cafes and hipster shops. They’re simply more clustered together in a sort of tourist center, instead of spread out.
Things to do
Beach-related activities (surfing, learning to surf, laying on the beach, etc.)
Watching the sunset at Tanah Lot
Going out at night to one of the many beach bars
Getting work done in a cafe
Brunching (the sport of constantly going out for brunch - it’s real in Canggu)
Shopping, yoga, getting a massage, etc.
Visiting the Tegalalang Rice Terraces
Touring one of the many temples in the area
Attending a coffee tasting
Going to the Monkey Forest
Walking the Campuhan Ridge Walk
Eating at Room 4 Dessert (a restaurant featured on Chef’s Table)
Shopping, yoga, getting a massage, etc.
Canggu is a breeze when it comes to riding around on a scooter. Due to being slightly farther away from the airport than other tourist hot spots, there’s not as much daily commuter traffic. This makes the roads easier and safer to ride on, and really adds to the whole relaxed, surf town vibe.
You’ll almost always be able to find a parking spot for your scooter too. Even down by the beach at some of the most popular restaurants in Canggu, I never had problems finding space for my scooter.
Ubud is a bit of a pain when it comes to getting around the city. For one, the traffic is terrible. Often times the main streets would get completely backed up with both cars and scooters. To make matters worse, whoever designed the street system in Ubud put in a bunch of one-way streets. This would be fine, if it weren’t for all the traffic. Missing your turn in Ubud can result in a serious delay when trying to get back where you started.
There’s also a bit of a police scam in Ubud. On one of the main streets, the road turns into a one-way street partway through. Since most newcomers don’t recognize this at first (me included), the police in Ubud have a station set up right at that point so they can fine tourists. It happened to me and and a friend while we were in Ubud, and each of us got fined 200,000 IDR. Had I not had my international driving permit on me, the fine could’ve been gone up to 1,000,000 IDR!
Both Ubud and Canggu have similar options accommodation wise. You’ll find lots of hostels on Hostelworld, plenty of nice villas on Airbnb, and a mix of both on Booking.com. If you can splurge for a villa with a pool on Airbnb, do that for at least one night in either Canggu or Ubud. The villa life is amazing.
New to Airbnb? Use this link to create an account and get $40 free credit.
However, if you’re looking to save money and meet other travelers, stay in a hostel. Below, I’ve included details about my favorite hostel in both Canggu and Ubud. Between you and me though, my favorite hostel award goes to the Ubud Rice Field House in Ubud.
I stayed in two different hostels during my time in Canggu - Canggu Surf Hostel and Bali Beats Guesthouse. Of the two, I recommend Bali Beats Guesthouse. The rooms here were clean and comfortable, and staff was always present. What really blew my mind though, was Bali Beats offers free dinner every night to guests who sign up for it each day. I was not able to make it to one of the dinners myself, but I heard it’s a great opportunity to meet and hangout with other travelers.
I stayed at the Ubud Rice Field House while I was in Ubud, and absolutely loved it! Of all the hostels I’ve ever stayed in (up to the time of me writing this post), this hostel has been my favorite. I realize that’s a big statement to make, but picture this: walking down a winding footpath, peaceful rice fields on either side of you, and mother hens running by with their little chicks in tow. That’s just in the daytime too...At night, there are fireflies.
While the hostel itself wasn’t overly fancy or anything (besides the lovely indoor/outdoor shower in my dorm), it was clean and had all the amenities of a good hostel. What really impressed me, was the free breakfast they served. Each morning, we got fresh fruit and a choice from four, freshly prepared breakfast entrees. Oh, and a view overlooking the rice fields of course.
I really liked the food in Canggu. I tried warungs (local Indonesian restaurants), a bunch of different cafes and brunch spots, and a few night time hangout spots. All served up delicious food. What makes dining in Canggu really enjoyable though, is the wide open space everywhere. Canggu restaurants don’t feel crowded the way they do in Ubud.
Want specifics on where to eat? Check out my post on Canggu cafes I’ve tried and love.
For some reason it felt a little tougher to find good, cheap food in Ubud. I don’t know if it’s the busy layout of the tourist center, or if the prices really are hiked up compared to Canggu, but I had more, ‘meh’ meals than delicious ones.
One food experience in Ubud I do recommend, is dining at Room 4 Dessert. Room 4 Dessert was featured on season 4 of Chef’s Table, a popular show on Netflix. As a fan of the show myself, I couldn’t pass up the chance to try their 9-course, dessert tasting menu (that’s right, I ate 9 courses of dessert for dinner one night). Read more about my experience here.
What I didn’t like about Canggu is it sometimes felt like there were only foreigners around. Sometimes I’d be riding down the street on my scooter, and only pass tourists and digital nomads, one after the other. It felt a little like being in a Bali bubble, which I later confirmed after checking out the lesser know regions of the island.
Ubud is a different kind of touristy than Canggu. Digital nomads and hipsters flock to Canggu, while more organized tour groups head to Ubud. There’s nothing wrong with that, except you’ll notice a lot more cheap, souvenir stands and feel a little like a sardine sometimes when walking down the street (This is why I loved staying at the Ubud Rice Field House so much - it was my little oasis).
The number one thing I felt uneasy about in Canggu were the stray dogs. Before I rented a scooter, I walked around on foot in Canggu. Within 20 minutes of leaving my hostel, I had had to turn around twice and switch streets due to over-aggressive dogs barking at me. While none of them bit me, I never want to test my luck in a foreign country where rabies could be present. The good news - once I got a scooter none of the dogs bothered me. It was only when I was walking past them that some followed me and got aggressive.
Riding a scooter definitely felt a little more sketchy in Ubud as I mentioned earlier in this post. As long as you wear your helmet though, and know your limits, you should be fine. What I told myself in Ubud was that if I could ride there, I could ride anywhere in Bali.
Proximity to other places in Bali
Canggu is a bit out of the way in relation to other main tourist spots in Bali. If you want to visit the North and see places like Lovina or Mt. Batur, you’re going to first have to pass through Ubud. Canggu’s upper hand is it’s a little closer to the airport than Ubud, and closer to the ferries which go between Bali and Java.
Ubud is a little more centrally located. If you’re looking to hike Mt. Batur, explore North Bali, or catch a ferry to Nusa Penida, Ubud is a better launching off point than Canggu.
You made it to the end of the post! Hopefully you’re not more conflicted than you were when you started reading…I know I didn’t explicitly tell you where to spend more time in Bali, but hopefully I gave you the right information to help you make that decision for yourself.
Also, know that whichever you decide, Ubud or Canggu, you’re going to have the time of your life. :)
Plus, who said you can’t plan another trip back to Bali?? Whichever town you don’t spend enough time in will still be waiting for you when you return.
planning a trip to bali?
Let me know in the comments below!