moving to bali: a view of rice terrace with palm trees
Bali,  Bali Expat Chronicles

Moving to Bali? Get the Best Tips on Everything You Need to Know!

Are you thinking about, or dreaming of moving to Bali, Indonesia?  Then this post is for you!

Bali has always been a sought-after paradise vacation destination, but in recent years, the island has been exploding with expat population.

With fast developing infrastructures (paved roads, high-speed internet, medical facilities, etc.), affordable cost of living, endless outdoor activities, a plethora of healthy cafes and fitness centers, and expansion of co-working spaces, foreigners from all stages and walks of life – whether digital nomads, retirees, or families with children – are flocking to the island year after year to make Bali their new home.

In the 5 short years that I have lived in Bali, I have seen a considerable change in landscape and population, and the living standards and conditions have been rapidly changing as well.   I have seen some outdated and inaccurate information floating on the internet about what it’s like living in or moving to Bali, and I knew it was time for me to share updated information.

If you ever wanted to know what it’s like moving to Bali, I will share with you everything I know about making a home on the island and things to expect when living as an expat on this island.

moving to Bali: local Hindu ceremony

Weather & Climate in Bali

Bali has subtropical climate year round, averaging about 30C (86F) throughout the year.  Temperature can drop to 20s (60s in Fahrenheit) in the highlands of Bali.

There are 2 distinct seasons in Bali, the wet and dry season.   The wet season is generally from December to March, although this can fluctuate from year to year.  In 2017, for example, the heavy rains started at the end of October and continued for months! 

Unlike other parts of SE Asia where the rainy season can bring torrential rain day after day, in Bali the rain is sporadic and intermittent.  The rain will come and go, and it is rare to see downpour throughout the entire day in Bali.  We may even go days without rain at all.  The weather forecast is usually unreliable during this time of the year, so don’t let the rainy season discourage you from traveling to Bali. 

Due to the rainy season also being the slow season, you can usually find accommodations and vacation packages for discount prices!

The only downside to the rainy season in Bali is all the trash and rubbish that get washed up ashore.  Although this is not only applicable to Bali island, if you walk on ANY beach in Indonesia during the rainy season, your heart will break by the evidence of human footprint on our beautiful nature.

The dry season is from June to September, which is said to be the best time to visit the island but is also known as the high season.  Although the daytime temperature can still go up to 30C, the mornings and evenings can feel cool, and the air is much dryer compared to the rest of the year. 

Honestly though, I don’t think there is ever a bad time to visit or live in Bali!

 

Where to Stay in Bali

Best area to stay in Bali depends on your priorities – are you looking to primarily work? Relax? Meet people? Stay active?

The majority of the expat communities lie in three main areas of Bali: Canggu, Sanur/Denpasar, and Ubud.

Canggu

Located about an hour north of the Ngurah Rai International airport along the west coast, Canggu is most known for the hipster, surfer vibes that has exploded with the young millennial crowd in the last few years.  With ample selection of yummy cafes, beautiful sunset spots, beach clubs and bars, coworking spaces and yoga centers, Canggu is the hottest place to be right now in Bali.

Although Canggu was a quaint surf town just 3 years ago, it is now rapidly expanding with never-ending construction of new villas, restaurants, and shops on just about every street corner.  Canggu is called the next Seminyak, with trendy cafes and boutique shops popping up everywhere.

If you are a foodie who enjoys the beach scene, definitely check out Canggu!

I have visited Canggu and loved staying there for a short beach trip, but did not personally find it appealing to live there long-term.

The Lawn beach club in Canggu

Sanur/Denpasar

I lived in Sanur for about 4 years, and there is a quite a large long-term expat community there.  Unlike Canggu where digital nomads flock for a few months at a time, Sanur and Denpasar have a stable population of retirees, business owners, and families, who have settled into Indonesia to start a new life abroad.

Denpasar is the central “capital” of the island where you can find everything from shopping malls, hospitals, movie theatres, electronic stores, to government offices.  It is also the most populated area on the island – getting around Denpasar can be quite painful with the traffic.  I have not personally looked for a home in Denpasar but heard that the market is cheaper there.

Sanur is called a “sleepy” beach town located on the east coast about a 30-minute drive from the airport.  Sanur is much less touristy than the west coast.  Since it was never crowded in Sanur, I could never tell the difference between the high season and the low season while living there – it was relatively quiet year-round.  

If you asked me, the beach in Sanur is SO MUCH better than the west coast with powdery golden sand.  In contrast, the west coast has brown to grey sand, and I never characterized the west coast beaches to be beautiful.  

I also found Sanur to be conveniently located close to just about everything!  Airport, shopping malls, movie theatres, hospitals, Ace Hardware, and offices in Denpasar are all within 30-minutes!

Related Post: The Ultimate Sanur Guide

moving to bali: mo walking on a pier in Sanur beach

 

Ubud

Ubud is known as the spiritual, healing center of Bali and is the mecca for yoga studios, ancient healing practices, meditation centers, and vegan cafes. 

Due to the proximity to nearby rice terraces, temples, waterfalls and other outdoor activities such as hiking the Mount Batur, white water rafting, jungle swings and ATV adventures, Ubud attracts a diverse mix of solo, couple, group, and family travelers from all over the world.

Having lived in Ubud for a few months now, I have enjoyed the serene, inland landscape with greenery and cool breezes.  And as a foodie, Ubud’s food scene is heaven!  

In Ubud, countless cafes offer beautiful, nutritious, and delicious smoothie bowls, salad bowls, poke bowls and anything you can think of.  There is no cuisine that you cannot find in Ubud.

So if you decide to head to Ubud, be ready to spend your money!

What I also love about Ubud as a solo traveler is that there are so many events, meetups, circles, and seminars going on all the time.  You can find something to attend almost every day.  I have met wonderful, mature, powerful, like-minded women here and if you are in search of a real community, Ubud is your home.

Related Post: 13 Best Things to Do in Ubud

Moving to Ubud: Campuhan Ridge Walk in Ubud

Crime & Safety

I lived in Sanur between 2014 and 2018 without any incidents.  But within 2 months of moving to Ubud in 2019, I was sexually harassed twice and got into a minor motorbike accident (thankfully no one was hurt).  Coincidence?  Perhaps.

I realize that crime and accidents can occur no matter where you go.  Anything can happen to us anywhere at any time.  But from my experience of living in Bali, it seems to me that wherever tourism is flourishing, so is the crime.  

I am a member of several community boards on Facebook groups, and there seem to be more reported criminal activities (theft, burglary, sexual harassment/assault, etc.) and accidents in places like Canggu where tourism and expat community is exponentially on the rise.

While I wouldn’t discourage anyone from visiting Bali, there are basic tips you should keep in mind.

Tips:

  • Keep your purse/wallet under the seat while driving your scooter. 
  • If you are on a bike, wear a helmet at all times!
  • Lock your doors at home– I’ve heard of break-ins even while the residents were inside the home.

moving to Bali: motorcyclists driving in street

Cost of Living in Bali

One of the most frequently asked questions is, “how much does it cost to live in Bali?”

When moving to Bali, your expenses can significantly vary on your preference of amenities (hot water, air conditioning, Wi-Fi, etc.), the neighborhood, the duration of your rental term, your lifestyle, and so many other factors such as the type of your visa, any medical bills, etc.

To help you better understand the living expenses, I decided to breakdown the categories by Housing, Food & Alcohol, Wi-Fi/Internet, Transportation, Medical Care, and Visa.  At the end of the section, I will share with you my average cost of living in Bali.

1.    Housing in Bali

There are various types of accommodations available in Bali.  I have always stayed in a local, Balinese homestay where rooms are built on a Balinese family’s compound for rent.  There can be a shared garden, kitchen, or a pool where the residents can mingle and socialize.

When I lived in Sanur, I rented a room from a lovely local family for nearly 4 years.  Homestays are the most budget-friendly option, and since you deal directly with an owner, you have more negotiation room.

Then there are villas, which are standalone buildings with more privacy.  The villas are generally enclosed with a fence, with a private garden or a pool depending on the property.  Most of the online property listings are villa-style accommodations, which are the most popular among expats and visitors.

So how much do these accommodations cost?

Average Rent

For a basic but comfortable studio room with a desk, double bed, an ensuite bathroom with hot water, and wifi included, you can expect to pay on average IDR 3,500,000 to IDR 4,500,000 per month (USD 250 to 320).   If you want air conditioning, you can expect to pay an additional IDR 1,000,000/month (USD 70) for electricity. 

For rooms with air conditioning, some owners will include the additional charge in the total rent, or charge you separately based on your usage.

As you add amenities such as a kitchen or a pool, the rent will rise accordingly. Keep in mind that this is a rough estimate based on my experience of living in Bali.

Budget Option

It is possible to go lower at some homestays if you are willing to go without hot water or Wi-Fi.  There may be a shared kitchen, but it is a basic room with a mattress on the floor and not much else.   I have local friends in Sanur who were paying about IDR 2,000,000/month for their basic rooms with a bucket shower.

Luxury Living

If you want to rent a private villa with one or more bedrooms, kitchen, living room, dining room, and a pool (I mean, who doesn’t!?), you can find one starting around IDR 6,000,000 to (USDD 420) with the sky as the limit depending on how luxury you want to go.  

I have seen private villas that come with a butler and a maid, for a couple of thousand dollars a month – talk about luxury!

 

Tips on Finding Housing: 

  • Many online real estate agencies list villas all over Bali.  But these villa listings tend to be on a high end of the price range.  If your budget for rent is USD 600/month or more, you may be able to find the online resource useful.
  • For budget-friendly accommodations, I recommend that when you first arrive in Bali, rent a room for a few nights in your desired neighborhood.   Drive or walk around and talk to residents, check out flyers or local newspapers, and post in Facebook groups.

    I have found both homes in Sanur and Ubud by scoping out the neighborhood, knocking on doors and negotiating rent in person. 

    Generally speaking, you have more negotiating room if you agree to long-term rentals (such as per year) and paying rent upfront.

  • Many accommodations in Bali have outside kitchen and bathrooms, which are absolutely dreamy – until you start living with one.  Unless you have daily maid service or love cleaning your home every day, I don’t recommend outdoor-style living.  You are prone to mice, roaches, spiders, geckos, and other unwanted bugs and animals entering your home, leaving poop, webs, and carcasses behind.  Believe me, I lived with an outdoor kitchen and bathroom for 4 years and loved them only for the first week!

 

moving to bali: a street decorated for ceremony

2.    Food & Alcohol

This is where I spend most of my monthly expense.   Although many people assume that cost of living in Bali is cheap, food supply in Bali can be quite expensive depending on where you shop and what you buy.

Groceries

There are things I routine buy in Bali that I pay more for here than I would in the US

For example, I use almond butter for my daily smoothies, which costs me about USD 9/jar.  Almond milk costs USD 4 for 1 Liter (a quarter of a Gallon), and my granola cereal is USD 5 for 200g (.44 LBS) for a local brand.  There are international brand granolas that go for USD 10 or more for a bag!

Speaking of international brand, all imported products are nearly double the price in Bali due to the customs tax placed on them.  So if you ever crave a vegemite (if you are from NZ) or a Skippy peanut butter, be prepared to pay the price for it.

If you stick to local food in a warung, you can grab a hearty meal for about USD 1.5 with small portions of meat and vegetables with rice.  If you can find local markets, you can generally find basic produce, chicken, and eggs for cheaper than a supermarket. But in my experience, supply and selection are limited at local markets, so I usually end up having to head to a supermarket to finish my grocery list.

I spend about USD 500 per month on groceries (including occasional wine which is discussed more below), and I rarely eat out.  I love to cook, so I make most of my meals at home, which consists of protein shake and bulletproof coffee for breakfast, fruit salad with granola for lunch, and salad or some cooked meal for dinner. 

Alcohol

Alcohol is expensive in Bali!  Inflated prices on imported beer, wine, or spirits are given, but even local alcohol is pricey.

I’m a huge fan of wine, but the cheapest wine I have been able to find are local brands such as Hatten or Plaga (which is not great wine but will do) that go for about IDR 200,000 per bottle (USD 14).  And that’s the cheapest you will ever find on the island.  You can buy these brands in a box which includes an equivalent of 2-3 bottles.

There is a US brand wine that is sold for about $8/bottle back home but $20 here in Bali.   

I’m not much of a beer drinker, but you can find local Bintang beer for about IDR 30,000 (USD 2.11 for a small bottle) at a restaurant and slightly cheaper in a grocery store. 

While these Bali prices may not seem too steep if you are on vacation, believe me, they add up when you start including them in your monthly grocery budget!

moving to bali: local Bintang beer bottle

Where to Shop for Groceries in Bali

There are nice supermarkets in popular expat communities like Canggu, Ubud, and Sanur.  You can find a chain of Pepito/Popular market throughout Bali, and there is an enormous supermarket/department store called Carrefour in Kuta.  In these stores, you can find everything you need from toiletries, groceries (bakery, meat, dairy, etc.) appliances, pet products to alcohol.

In Ubud, there are Delta Dewata, Bintang, and Coco supermarkets in addition to Pepito, and in Sanur head to Pande Putri for a “local supermarket” that sells most of your groceries for less compared to nearby Pepito!

Online grocery shopping is also popping up in Bali.  You can check out Bali Direct and Compass Fresh for a general grocery store, and Bali Jiwa for organic produce and products!

moving to Bali: supermarket scene

3.    Wi-Fi & Internet in Bali

Internet connection in Bali has come a long way since I first moved here in 2014.  You will notice that nearly every establishment from homestays to cafes throughout the island now offer free wi-fi.  But don’t get too excited, as the speed is still nowhere close to what you may experience in your home country. 

Most wi-fi connection is decent for basic things like checking your email and browsing the internet.  But if you rely on the internet for your business, you may want to invest in your own router or a membership to a coworking space to access decent connection.

Now that I live in Ubud, I have been to a few cafes with my laptop, but the internet has been either intermittent or poor –  luckily I have rented a studio villa that comes with excellent wi-fi connection included in my rent.  I get about 25 Mbps at home on my laptop, which is the best I have gotten anywhere on the island!

On average, you can expect 5 to 10 Mbps at a given location.  I used to get 5 Mbps in my previous homestay in Sanur, which was shared among all the tenants.  As you can imagine, the connection was frustratingly slow, and I decided to get my own service.  

I purchased a package that gave me 10 Mbps for myself for IDR 315,000/month.   This package also came with 80+ cable channels, and I believe it had some basic western channels such as BBC, CNN, History channel, etc.   But to be honest, I didn’t watch TV, so I can’t be specific as to what channels came with it.

If you don’t want to be a hermit in your home and enjoy getting out to a coworking space, it is a hot thing in Bali right now with the expansion of the digital nomad community.  You can find several coworking spaces in popular locations such as Canggu, Ubud, Sanur, and Denpasar, with an unlimited monthly membership fee averaging about IDR 2,800,000 (USD 190).

Most places offer “light” membership packages for less, which will limit your access to a certain number of hours in a month.

If you are someone who enjoys heading to coffee shops and cafes, the internet connection can be a hit or miss.

SIM card for your Mobile

Before moving to Bali, make sure you have an unlocked phone.  

There are various SIM card companies for Indonesia, but the best option for Bali is Telkomsel.  

Don’t bother with other brands if you want the best connection.

The SIM card itself is cheap – you can buy one for about USD 2.

Once you have your SIM card, buy some credits and download the Telkomsel app.  You can directly buy packages from the app.  

There are various internet/phone service packages so you would need to browse to find what suits you best.   Since I primarily use the internet for all my communications – email, Whatsapp, Skype, FB – I buy a monthly internet package for IDR 85,000 (USD 6) that comes with 12 GB/month.

a stretch of long white sand beach and clear waters at Nyang Nyang beach in Bali Indonesia

 

4.    Getting Around in Bali

If you are comfortable driving a motorbike, it is the most convenient option, although safety can be questionable.  In the 5 years that I have been riding a motorbike in Bali, I have only been in one small accident where no one was injured – but I have witnessed a fatal accident, and also knew a couple of people who died from a collision.

With the rise in population in Bali (with both Indonesians and foreigners), the rate of accidents has gone up but so has the amount of traffic.  Scooters are convenient as you can weave through traffic, but I think the risk of injury or death is higher than being in a car.  But due to the congestion in most of the island, being in a car requires more time and patience. 

Whether to go with a motorbike or a car is a tough choice, as both options have pros and cons. 

If you are not comfortable with driving a motorbike yourself, you can use GoJek or Grab apps to order a driver (both bike and car).  

For a detailed guide on transportation options in Bali, check out this post.

5.    Medical Care in Bali

Here’s my honest truth.  I do not trust the medical care in Bali.  Luckily I have not required any significant medical treatment while living in Bali, but if I ever do, my personal preference will be to fly to Singapore or Japan.

If you need immediate minor medical care, there are a few Bali hospitals that offer international standard facilities such as BIMC or Siloam Hospitals in Kuta.  All the doctors I interacted with spoke great English.  

For a basic, routine checkup for a doctor’s visit, I paid about USD 100 including an ultrasound and a blood test (without health insurance).

Sanglah Hospital in Denpasar is known to treat more serious illnesses and health conditions, but I have not been there myself.

For dental care, I recommend Bali International Dental Clinic in Denpasar.  I had an emergency root canal with Dr. Sucipto (the top technician at BIDC), and he was great. But Dr. Sucipto is always booked months in advance, as he has international clients who visit him for major oral surgeries.  I also saw Dr. Wayan at the same clinic, but he was just ok in my opinion. 

Although BIDC is located in a back “alley” of busy Denpasar, once you go inside the facility is clean and modern.  All the equipment used were western standards, and I felt very well cared for there.

To give you an idea for the cost of the root canal, I paid less than USD 200 for the entire procedure out of pocket.

I DO NOT recommend Bali 911 at Galleria Mall in Kuta.  I visited this dental clinic after reading positive reviews online, but the place was a sh*thole.  When I sat in the patient chair waiting for the dentist to come in for assessment, I noticed small specs of blood on the machine and I was immediately out the door.

Unsanitary, disgusting and unacceptable!

moving to bali: photo of rupiah currency

6.    Visa for Moving to Bali

If you are thinking of moving to Bali and staying long term, you may wonder what visa you may need. 

For the basic TOURIST visa, there are 30-day, 60-day, and 6-month Social Cultural (B-211) visas.

The 30-day passport stamp is free for most visitors holding a passport to 169 countries.  If staying for up to 60-days, you can purchase Visa On Arrival (VOA) for USD 35 at any international airport in Indonesia, which is extendable for 60-days.   To extend your initial free 30-day stay to 60 days, you will need to head to an immigration office before the initial 30 days to get your photo and fingerprints taken.  

Using an agent to extend the visa is the fastest and easiest method, and I highly recommend Visa4Bali (#notsponsored).  I have been using them for years, and they are timely, efficient and even go as far as sending you reminders when you are due for your extension!  Each extension costs IDR 650,000 (USD 45).

If you are staying between 60 days to six months, you can obtain a single-entry B-211 visa before entering Indonesia.  This visa cannot be obtained once you are in Indonesia, so you will need to plan ahead for this.  The majority of the time I have spent in Indonesia has been with this 6-month visa.  There is no official limit about the number of times you can obtain and enter the country with B-211 visa.  To date, I have about 8 in my passport.

Want to learn more about Indonesia visas?  Sign up below to receive more details! 

 

In case you’re wondering what to do when your 6-month visa expires – you must leave the country for visa runs.

You can fly to Singapore or Kuala Lumpur to renew the B-211 visa with the Indonesia embassy there.

My process for renewal is to fly to Singapore on the first flight out of Denpasar Airport, head straight to my visa agent in Singapore by 10 am, pay SGD 165 (USD 120) fee, pick up my passport by 5 pm, then catch the last flight returning to Bali that night.   The visa run takes a full day, but I am good for the next 6 months!

Note that you cannot work in Bali (or anywhere in Indonesia) with any of the visas discussed above. 

If you need a Business Visa (D-212) or Working Visa (C-312), please consult your employer, a lawyer or the visa agent.  I have previously worked in Indonesia with C-312, and the employing company handled all the paperwork, fees, and processing for the work permit. 

Real Life Example of Bali Cost of Living

To give you a sense of the cost of living, I have compiled my monthly Bali expenses.  Note that I am a single person living in Ubud in 2019.

My Monthly Living Cost:

cost of living chart for moving to bali

 

Other things to Know

Laundry

If you are anything like me and find laundry to be your least favorite chore, you will love Bali!  The laundry service in Bali is so cheap!

There are laundry places that charge you for each item you drop off. Do not go there – you will end up paying more per item, rather than paying for the total weight of your laundry bag.

Instead, find a laundromat that will weigh your bag.  You can expect to pay IDR 6,000 to 10,000 per kilo.  To put it in perspective, my laundry cost per month is about USD 10.

Online Shopping

I’ve been asked if I’ve have had anything shipped to Bali via Amazon.  I tried to order something once on Amazon, but from what I could understand about their international shipping charges, they estimate the import/customs charges but the charges are not final until the product is delivered. 

I had heard from other Bali expats that Indonesia customs is notorious for holding your packages hostage and charging astronomical tax to foreigners.  So I have been afraid of being a victim of extortion and never tried.

But, Indonesia has an Amazon-equivalent called Tokopedia.  This online shopping center sells anything from electronics, clothing to kitchenware.   I have ordered protein powder, a camera tripod, and a French coffee press on Tokopedia all without a hitch.

So if you need something and cannot find it in Bali, you can try Tokopedia where many stores are based in Jakarta, the capital of Indonesia.

Vaccinations

I had a series of vaccinations before traveling to Southeast Asia.  Although Bali is considerably “developed” compared to the rest of the country, you should consult an immunization clinic especially if you are considering traveling to other islands while in Indonesia.

In addition to the basic immunizations which you should already have such as measles-mumps-rubella (MMR), polio, chicken pox, and tetanus, you will likely be recommended several additional shots.

I opted for Hepatitis A, Rabies, Typhoid and Malaria.

I realize that some shots are not cheap – but I prefer to pay for prevention than treatment, which will cost me more in the end!

International Schools

I am not a parent, and have not interacted with many parents while living in Bali.  So I am not equipped to provide you with any reliable information myself, but I found this site that offers a listing of international schools in Bali along with detailed descriptions. 

Pets

I do not have a personal experience bringing a pet into the country or getting one out – but from what I have heard from others, the process is lengthy and very expensive.  My understanding is that due to the prevalence of rabies, Indonesia is strict about placing the pet in quarantine for months to observe the health conditions, conduct medical tests, complete paperwork, etc. BEFORE you can take your furbaby out of the country.   I have heard that it can take thousands of dollars for this process.

I hope you have found this post helpful for planning your move to Bali.  If there is any information you need that I did not cover here, please feel free to leave me a comment below, and I will do my best to provide you with the info!

If you have ever wanted to know what it's like to move to Bali Indonesia, check out this comprehensive guide on where to stay in Bali, how much it costs to live in Bali, and much more! Get all the insider's tips on what it's like to become a Bali expat in popular communities like Canggu, Ubud and Sanur. Bali Guide | #bali #indonesia #expat #liveinbali
Ever dreamed about moving to the paradise island of Bali Indonesia? Check out this full guide and insider's tips on where to stay in Bali, how much it costs to live in Bali, and what it's like to become a Bali expat in popular communities like Canggu, Ubud and Sanur. Bali Guide | #bali #indonesia #expat #liveinbali

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