With a long, broad beach on the Indian Ocean, Kuta was originally discovered by tourists as a surfing mecca. Alas, today's Kuta is a showcase of excessive development gone wrong - a chaotic, tightly packed mass of concrete and congestion, the beach is overrun with touts and most serious surfers have headed elsewhere.
The 5-km-long arcing white sand stretch of Kuta is still arguably the best beach front on Bali. The beach is safe, clean, well-maintained, although the vendors remain annoying. Kuta is far from the fishing village it once was: it is now a Pacific resort and its streets are clogged with traffic, particularly during the peak seasons of July and August. The northern beach resorts of Petitinget and Kerobokan are in many ways more laidback versions of Kuta, less crowded and more suitable for longer stays. Further north still, Canggu and Dalung offer even more tranquility.
The misnamed Denpasar Airport is in fact directly south of Kuta, just 10 minutes away by taxi. The fare from the airport to Kuta should be around Rp50,000. If you don't have too much luggage you can save a lot of money by walking 200 meters to the right out of the airport area and take a taxi from a company that does not pay the commission to the airport mafia (and therefore is not allowed to enter the airport for picking up customers. They are however allowed to deliver you to the terminal at your departure). For example, the metered Taxi from Bali Taksi (Tel. +62-361-701111) charges just around Rp20,000 for the same trip.
The airport taxi counter is immediately to the left as you emerge from customs outside in the International Arrival Terminal and the Domestic Arrival Terminal. And tourists can buy a ticket from the counter for the sedan taxis, prices are clearly marked on the notice board behind. Metered taxis operate outside the airport just beyond the entrance. Make sure they start the meter before you take off, or agree on a fare before you get in. If you want to take a bemo, just walk out to the intersection past the entrance and flag one down making the turn north (left) down Jl. Kartika Plaza through Tuban and beyond to Kuta.
Bemos (public minibuses) still ply the streets of Kuta but they can be hard to recognise. Ask a local how much the fare should be.
Taxis are ubiquitous on the streets of Kuta and the best way of getting around, especially at night.
Some taxi-drivers charge you more than you should pay, especially when the meter is off. Be sure to bargain before you get in if it is not a metered taxi.
The 'Bali Taksi' from the 'Bluebird group' always uses a meter and will not overcharge you. There is a bit of envy from other taxi-companies because of the good service from Bluebird. You don't see Bluebird taxis parked at night near the discos in Legian, Seminyak etc, as other companies have exclusive contracts with these business. However they can be found by walking up the street. The taxis outside the clubs do not use meters at night, offering a fixed price, although this is negotiable. There are plenty of others if one won't play ball.
WARNING: Traffic jams occur some days around lunch and dinner. It can be better to park your car just before you reach Kuta area and walk. Kuta area is only about 1,5 kilometer length by half kilometer wide. But when stuck in traffic, you might spend 30 minutes to travel the 1,5 kilometer. However there are car parking areas in the middle of Kuta (usually Rp5000 for an unlimited stay) including a large one on JL Legian near the top of Poppies II. Kuta Beach has plenty of parking most days.
Surf, shopping, party
3-day surfing course in an accredited school costs approximately 100 USD. Bali learn to surf is one of good schools, that offers equipment in good condition and premises for surfing introduction in calm water (swimming-pool). The lesson lasts 2.5 hour, the students are offered transfer from/back to hotel and fresh water. 5-day course includes also "surfari" to some other surfing spot. It is also possible to rent the equipment from locals on the beach for anywhere between Rp20,000 and 80,000 per half day. If you rent from the same guys for a few consecutive days you will almost certainly get a better price. The equipment quality is worse than in surfing-schools. These guys can also give you some basic lessons and look after your stuff while you are in the water.
Beach-stall food is delicious, filling and very cheap. These are dotted along Kuta and Legian beach beneath trees or awnings near the road.
Every possible drink is available in Kuta - for a price. After the bomb blasts security has been very tight at nightspots though.
Most tourists drink bottled water ( about Rp 2,000 per 1500 ml bottle in the supermarket). Larger bottles ( about 11 litres) are available at a much cheaper rate.
It's also possible, and even cheaper, to buy "sterilised" water at dedicated shops. These shops claim to use modern and effective filtration/purification methods. Compared to the waste caused by many plastic bottles, they are environemntally friendly as well as much cheaper.
There are a lot of cheap guesthouses (10-20.000RP PPPN) on Poppies 2, but you can find nicer places on the lanes between Poppies 1 and 2.
In the ocean it is prohibited to swim near the special flags, that are put by beach staff near the places where the currents are very strong. You are allowed to swim in the area between yellow-red flags