Here’s a list of some stupid things people buy in Bali, often found at markets and even pushed in your face by peddlers on the beach. You might wonder 'who buys that crap?’, but these cheesy keepsakes can make a good souvenir to collect dust in your friend’s cupboard and they’re often pretty cheap.
The popular southern resort areas of Kuta and Legian are good places to find many of these items, with its seemingly endless rows of street-side art shops. Same goes for the beaches. No need to feel annoyed by the hard touting – observing can simply be fun and part of your Bali holiday experience. A brightly colourful beach sarong can come in handy if you didn’t bring your own. But, a weapon? Here’s the roundup in no particular order...
If you’ve spent some time around art markets, you’ll come across these tacky items for sure – stacked in trays or in your face, hanging (or dangling!) from shopfront displays beside footpaths. They come in various sizes, just like the real thing. Some are even brightly coloured and painted in motifs of all sorts. Most Balinese aren’t sure about the backstory, but they’re said to bring good luck. They come as keychains, bottle openers and fridge magnets. We can’t comment on their other uses...
- Price Range: from IDR 30,000 (USD 2) for a bottle opener.
Nasty bumper stickers
We’re unsure if anybody really buys these cringe-worthy bumper stickers. They’re most probably just a joke (like some of the things you see listed here), inspired by slang brought in by travellers themselves. Definitely not appropriate for your Great Auntie Nelly.
- Price Range: from IDR 10,000 (USD 0.75) per piece.
A cold Bintang on the beach is a renowned sunset activity. But then came the Bintang singlets, and the coasters, the can holders, and shorts… and the boxers.
- Price Range: from IDR 50,000 (USD 3.75) for an L size singlet.
Counterfeit designer gear
It’s quite common to be tempted by a counterfeit watch or ‘designer’ bag, but you should know they’re often poorly made and may break in a few weeks. Don’t pay over the odds or you’ll be feeling very sorry for yourself. It’s worth noting that once you show interest in one, get ready to be swarmed by other peddlers who suddenly show up from nowhere!
- Price Range: IDR 100,000 (USD 7.80) to exorbitant.
String or bead bracelets
These bracelets can be seen on the wrists of many a backpacker in Bali. They're cheap and cheerful, but make sure you take them off before you leave. They don't look as good when matched with a shirt and tie.
- Price Range: around IDR 10,000 (USD 0.75) for a piece.
Airbrushed surf paintings and decorative mini surfboards
Surfing is a dominant theme throughout art shops in Kuta, Legian and Sanur, and these paintings often depict glorious blue waves with streaks of white foam against orange sunset backgrounds. They’re mostly airbrushed to create that sinuous effect. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, but in Bali, these art pieces get imitated too frequent to an unflattering degree that you eventually see the same designs again and again (not in a cool Andy Warhol kind of way).
- Price Range: IDR 250,000 – 1 million (USD 18 – 75).
Luwak or civet cat-poop coffee
There’s a whole lot of hype about the unusual ‘kopi luwak’, aka civet-cat poop coffee. These are expensive coffee beans that have passed through the digestive tract of wild civet cats. It’s expensive, gross and you can’t really tell between normal coffee and the real deal anyway.
- Price Range: IDR 50,000 - 150,000 (USD 12) a cup; luwak coffee powder around IDR 4 million (USD 300) per kilogram.
Bornean blowpipes and bow and arrows
Yes, peddlers do sell these on Kuta Beach, and kids usually want them more than a Maccy D’s for dinner. Question is, does anybody actually buy them? Even if you do, these are clearly weapons, so you just might get them confiscated at customs - even if you claim they're only ornamental and for the living room back home.
- Price Range: lucky bargains start at IDR 150,000 (USD 12) for a set of bow and arrows
Flying fox or sailing ship kites
These handmade kites come in unique designs, with the ubiquitous ones being the colourful flying fox or the rainbow-colored sailing ship. Intricately crafted, with masts from bamboo and wings or sails painted on nylon, they fly pretty well and look good against a blue sky - which is perhaps what made you buy one. Back home, chances are you won't have the time to fly them at all.
- Price Range: IDR 50,000 - 200,000 (USD 3.75 - 15) depending on model, size and negotiation
A session with a Balian or spiritual healer
After the book by Elizabeth Gilbert was adapted into a not-so-positively-reviewed feature film starring Julia Roberts, young women searching for their ‘balance’ in life followed part of the character’s footsteps to Ubud, where suddenly-famous Balinese healer, Ketut Liyer practised his art. The smiling man passed away in 2016, but traditional healers remain a thing, and are still being sought after. The thing is, some 'celebrity' healers can get a lot of visits in a day and the ‘advices’ you get can be too repetitive or plainly obvious - along the lines of, “You are a world traveller. You will live a long time, have many friends, many expenses.” Our advice: asking for a refund can cause an even sillier scene.
- Price Range: varies, sometimes based on ‘donation’, and depending on negotiations