Dreaming of a life where the sunsets are as warm as the smiles of the locals? That’s what I found when I moved to Bali, and it’s a decision that’s transformed my life. This enchanting island isn’t just a tropical paradise; it’s a hub for expats seeking a lifestyle more in line with who they are, or who they’d like to become.
In this article, I’ll dive into at least some of the essentials of making the big move to Bali. From navigating the visa process to getting expat health insurance to finding the perfect villa, apartment or kost, I’ve got the insider tips you need. Whether you’re chasing a digital nomad dream or looking for a peaceful retirement, you’ll find out just how to make Bali your new home.
I’ll also share my personal experiences and the lessons I’ve learned along the way. So if you’re ready to swap your daily grind for sandy beaches and vibrant culture, at a price that’s still an enormous discount compared to Australia, the United States, or Europe, keep reading. Bali might just be the life-changing adventure you’re looking for.
Ever since I made the decision to make a base in Bali via a long-term lease, I knew my life was about to take a serious detour. World-class beaches, swaying palm trees, endless green rice terraces, and the warm, welcoming community were a siren’s call that I heard. Bali’s allure isn’t just in its physical beauty; it’s a melting pot of cultures, spirituality, and most of the comforts of the modern world that promises a unique blend of tranquility and adventure.
And it must be said, it all–still–comes at a serious discount to wherever you’re coming from in the Western world.
For most people, resettling here is more than a mere relocation; it is a transformative experience. The island’s charm lies in its ability to offer a peaceful retreat while still buzzing with activity. Every morning, I’m greeted by the ethereal sunrises that paint the sky with hues of orange and purple, and the days are filled with explorations of hidden beaches and vibrant local markets. It’s important to note that if beaches aren’t your thing, you have endless rice paddy views and lush jungle hideaways as options inland, or up in the hills. Start by taking a look at Ubud and its surrounding environs.
Remember, navigating the transition will be a journey in itself, even before you get on the airplane. Understanding the visa process is critical. There are various types of visas available, each with its own set of requirements and benefits. Being well-informed and proactive about the latest visas offered is crucial in ensuring a smooth transition to Bali’s laid-back lifestyle. There have been changes since Covid; the Social Visa is no more…
Finding the perfect villa will be another adventure. With so many options nestled between lush jungles and overlooking cerulean seas, it’s vital to consider not just the aesthetic appeal but also practical aspects such as proximity to amenities and community hubs. It’s not just about finding a place to stay in Bali; it’s about discovering a space that resonates with your lifestyle preferences. Luckily, whatever you favor–from eco-friendly villas in the hills around Ubud or a small condo in a more urban area, or anything in between–there is a very good chance that you’ll find it in Bali. As evidence, I can tell you that of the dozens or maybe hundreds of Bali expats we know, no two have even remotely the same lifestyle.
In the heart of it all, there’s a vibrant culture to immerse yourself in. The Balinese way of life, steeped in tradition and spirituality, offers countless opportunities to grow and embrace a new perspective on life. From the enchanting temple ceremonies to the simple joy of a shared meal with locals, each moment is a step further into what feels like an entirely different world.
As much as any of the reasons you now have for considering a move to Bali, it’s likely that you’ll find the life lessons you encounter just as valuable. Coming to Bali to live (as inexpensive as Bali can be) permanently is a huge undertaking not to be taken lightly. Resilience and patience are crucial. In return though, will be the joy of simplicity and the profound impact of a life change more in line with a person in you who might’ve never found expression in your former life. Life in Bali is not just about the scenic vistas; it’s a continuous journey of self-discovery and enrichment that’s unfolded in ways I never expected.
Most expats I know would say the same.
Why Choose Bali?
When deciding to uproot your life and embark on an overseas adventure, the decision of where to go can be overwhelming. But let me tell you why Bali stood out to me among a sea of options. The Island of Gods has a magnetic pull that goes beyond its postcard-perfect beaches and lush jungles; Bali is a lifestyle that many find hard to resist.
As a digital nomad, or probably more accurately a digital expat, the aspect of connectivity is crucial. In 2024 I’m talking about more than Bali offering reliable and sufficiently fast internet connection speeds, easy of connecting to your home-country bank and opening a bank account in Bali. I’m referring to a huge community of like-minded individuals from across the globe. After my move, it was so easy to enter the expat community here, which made settling in smoother than I’d ever imagined. No awkward explanations as to why I made the transition to living in Bali either: even though we’re from every corner of the globe we all made similar decisions to make the leap, for similar reasons. I didn’t expect to hit it off so easily with so many people so quickly, but maybe I shouldn’t have been surprised.
Cost of living is another factor that can’t be ignored. As I alluded to earlier, In Bali your dollar stretches further, allowing for a comfortable lifestyle that many only dream of. A different way to say this is that if you’re thinking Bali expat-ism is only for the well-to-do, it isn’t. You could come here without much money, or with a pension that maybe doesn’t stretch too far in the Western world, and enjoy a material lifestyle that will be completely out of your reach back home. The math works in your favor. There’s no denying it.
You can choose your budget, rather than feeling perpetually stretched by the minimum baseline budget necessary to live back home.
Here’s a quick glance at average monthly expenses in Bali compared to the US:
|$300 – $700
|$1,000 – $3,000+
|$200 – $400
|$500 – $800
|$50 – $150
|$500 – $800
Note: These prices are approximations and will vary depending on lifestyle and location within Bali.
Then there’s the cultural immersion. Balinese culture isn’t just observed; you become a part of it. From the daily offerings that locals make to the ceremonies that sweep you up in the communal spirit, there’s a profound sense of cultural richness here.
Lastly, don’t get me started on the natural beauty of Bali. Whether it’s the serene rice terraces of Ubud or the unforgettable sunsets of Uluwatu, Bali’s diverse landscapes are an endless source of inspiration and rejuvenation. Even if this isn’t a big part of your experience here, or reasons for coming, you might be surprised at what an enormous positive effect living in such a beautiful place has upon your outlook, even your spirit if you prefer.
All in all, the allure of Bali isn’t just the tangible perks. It’s the intangible essence of the island that seeps into your bones. It’s about the way of life here that calls to those seeking something more, something different. So if you’re wondering why to choose Bali, it’s the transformation waiting for you that’s the real draw.
Preparing for the Move
As I delved deeper into my plans to relocate to Bali, I quickly realized that thorough preparation was key to making the transition as smooth as possible. Downsizing became a central theme as I sifted through belongings, deciding what would journey with me and what would find new homes. When it came to essentials, I found it best to pack light—Bali has almost everything one might need, often at better prices.
Research played a vital role in this stage. Figuring out which neighborhood aligned with my lifestyle preferences took time, but resources like expat forums and local blogs were an immense help. These platforms gave me a peek into the daily rhythms of different areas, from the laid-back coasts of Canggu to the bustling streets of Seminyak. I made a checklist:
- Identify desired neighborhood
- Understand cost of living
- Learn basic Bahasa Indonesia. Not necessary in 2024, but enhances your interactions with local.
- Sort out healthcare options
- Plan for pet relocation, if necessary. (Full disclosure: this can be difficult)
Budgeting for the move was another critical step. It’s worth noting that while Bali is affordable, certain expenses like visa fees, health insurance, and import taxes can add up. Here’s a snapshot of my initial financial considerations:
|Varies widely based on visa type. ~US$170 for B211 visa
|Many landlords will want 6+ months upfront. In 2024 this can be negotiated.
Logistics also requires attention, if you’re planning to bring a lot of your household items or even furniture to Bali. Hire a reliable moving company experienced with relocations to Indonesia. Get recommendations from other expats.
And here’s a suggestion: unless you are very attached to your furniture, I’d recommend either selling it or storing it rather than shipping it to Bali. You might wait months for it to arrive, during which time you’ll need something to sit and sleep on! Also, virtually all apartments and most villas for rent, even for a long time, will be partially or fully furnished.
Building a support network before landing in Bali will be especially handy if you plan to look for a job once you get to Bali. By connecting with expats who had already made the move, I gained valuable insights and forged friendships that would ease my eventual integration into this new and vibrant culture. Facebook Groups are invaluable here: Canggu Community, Seminyak Community, etc. are extremely busy with endless local tips and lots of properties for rent too. If you put in the time you’ll have a very good foundation as to local rental prices by the time you get here. This will be extremely valuable as you negotiate with landlords and property managers who might not always have your best interests as a priority.
In the months leading up to my departure, I made sure to keep on top of the latest visa regulations and travel advisories. Bali’s policies can change rapidly, and staying informed ensured I wouldn’t face any unwelcome surprises.
With each checked item on my list, I could feel the island’s embrace drawing nearer. The beauty of Bali wasn’t just in its palm-fringed horizons; it was also in the clarity and confidence that came with methodical planning for the adventure ahead.
Finding a Place to Live
When I set about finding my new home in Bali, the experience was both exhilarating and challenging. The island offers a variety of living options, from traditional Balinese-style homes to apartments to modern villas with infinity pools.
I started my search online, using various websites and forums to connect with real estate agents and homeowners. It’s important to look for reliable sources and to check for testimonials from other expats. Word of mouth is also a great way to find hidden gems that might not be listed online.
And remember, while you can’t own property as a foreign individual, you can still invest in a long-term lease, or create a corporate structure that can in turn own property.
Location is key in Bali. The area you choose will affect your lifestyle drastically. For instance, if you’re doing your research or if you’ve visited Bali before, you’ll know that Ubud is known for its serene and artistic atmosphere, perfect for those looking for peace and inspiration. On the other hand, Seminyak offers a more cosmopolitan experience with its trendy shops and eateries. But here’s what you might not know:
Even in the busiest parts of Bali, living down a gang, or small alley, at least 30 or 40 meters/yards away from the main road, will put you in a much quieter situation, and can have the feel of your own private sanctuary. Especially since Bali villas and houses will virtually always have walls enclosing the property, at least in the busier areas of Bali. So I’d advise not rejecting Seminyak or even Canggu as ‘too busy’. After all, if you enjoy good restaurants, cafés and meeting people, there’s a lot to be said for both places, despite their detractors. Finding a property that fits you in a busy area, but far enough away from busy streets, is a good way to “have it both ways” i.e. quiet but with lots of amenities nearby.
Do the work and pick your spots, and you’ll be rewarded. Often spectacularly so!
Here’s what I would advise paying particular attention to, in your search:
- Proximity to amenities like markets, health care, and entertainment
- Distance to the ocean or rice fields, depending on preference
- Community and security features
I also learned that negotiation is a big part of the process. Prices are flexible, always, especially if you’re looking at longer lease terms. Here are some average rental prices to give you an idea. Generally, apartments are very good value on the low end of prices by the way, and if you don’t mind being a distance from the beach you can find even lower prices than what I’ve listed here:
|Monthly Rental Cost (USD)
|300 – 900
|500 – 2,000
|600 – 1,200
After making a shortlist of properties, I planned visits to each one. Photos can be deceiving, so seeing a place in person is a must. I checked for the functionality of appliances, water pressure, internet speed, and any signs of damage.
Take your time. If you’re going to stay for six months or more, I would stay for a few days in the general area you’re considering to get a feel for it. Also, an argument for being in a busier area is that you’re less likely to be on a rice padi that might well have surprisingly loud roosters in the very early morning hours. This is no joke. I’ve known people who have moved because of noise from animals and construction near them of which they were not aware when they moved in.
Remember to ask about maintenance—who’s responsible for upkeep and repairs—and understand your rights and obligations as a tenant. Each agreement might have different terms, so it’s crucial to read the fine print and ask questions. Know that agreed-upon upgrades are not always carried out after you move in. This helps to make an argument for renting a newer place, rather than a cheaper, but slightly run-down place that comes with a lot of promises of air conditioners or kitchen appliances, etc. to be replaced.
The process of finding a place to live in Bali is an adventure in itself. Armed with the right information and a clear list of what’s important to me, I navigated through the abundance of choices to find my perfect Balinese home.
After settling into my new home, I quickly realized that cultural adaptation would be my next important journey. In Bali, local customs and manners play a significant role in day-to-day interactions. It’s essential for expats to not only respect these traditions but also to actively learn and embrace them.
Language is a cornerstone of cultural immersion. I made it a point to learn basic Indonesian phrases – mastering greetings, thank-you’s, and transactional dialogue proved invaluable. It not only smoothed out daily activities like shopping and ordering food but also showed my respect, which Balinese people greatly appreciate.
However, it wasn’t just about the language. Understanding Balinese culture meant learning about their ceremonies and festivals. Observing local events afforded me insights into their intricate rituals and community life. For instance, attending a Galungan, a Balinese holiday celebrating the victory of good over evil, was an enlightening experience – the streets lined with ‘penjor’, bamboo poles with offerings, really brought to life the island’s spiritual character.
Adapting also involved becoming accustomed to the pace of life in Bali. Known as ‘jam karet’ or ‘rubber time’, the concept of time here is flexible. Meetings start when everyone has arrived, and plans are often made last minute or subject to change. This initially frustrated me, a product of punctual Western culture, but I learned to embrace it as a part of the laid-back lifestyle that drew me here in the first place. When in Rome…
As for food, Balinese cuisine is a flavorful adventure. I explored markets and warungs (local eateries) to sample traditional dishes like ‘babi guling’ (suckling pig) and ‘nasi campur’ (mixed rice). Not only did it expand my palate, but it also afforded me opportunities to connect with locals, discussing ingredients and cooking techniques. You realize quickly once you’re here that there’s an incredible variety of food from different regions of Indonesia here too. Don’t hold back! From Padang food to mie Aceh to martabak, there’s an endless variety of cuisines to try in Indonesia.
Creating a network of both expats and locals has been a pillar of my “cultural adaptation strategy”. Naturally, it’s been a pleasure! Local friends have been indispensable in navigating unwritten social rules, while fellow expats provided support systems as we shared experiences and adaptation strategies. Here are some of the steps I took to integrate into Balinese society:
- Attended Indonesian language classes
- Participated in local ceremonies
- Adjusted to ‘jam karet’, or flexible timekeeping
- Explored Balinese cuisine at local markets
Building a Social Network
When I made the move to Bali, I quickly understood that learning Bahasa Indonesia and building a social network was critical for my adaptation and well-being. Interestingly, the social scene here isn’t just about making friends; it’s about creating a community that supports each other through thick and thin.
Engaging with locals was my first step. I took advantage of language exchange meetups, which not only helped me with Bahasa Indonesia but also led to lasting friendships. Through these connections, I gained insights into the true essence of Balinese culture that no guidebook could offer. Additionally, joining community groups or clubs based on your interests, like yoga or surfing, connects you with like-minded individuals.
For expat networking, social media platforms were invaluable. As I mentioned already, Facebook groups, specifically for Bali expats, offer a wealth of information and became a platform for meeting people and asking for advice. Often, there are events and gatherings advertised on these groups, making it easy to meet others in person.
Cafes and coworking spaces are a hotspot for encounters. Not only do they offer the perfect ambiance for productivity, but they’re also the playground for entrepreneurs, digital nomads, and expats. Regularly visiting my favorite spots had me forming casual acquaintances that sometimes evolved into partnerships or collaborative opportunities.
It’s a wonderful dynamic aided by the fact that no one has to be to work for a job tomorrow or later today! People have time to pursue random conversations, and the number of three-hour random interactions in restaurants and cafés that I’ve had over the years is huge. Lots of these people have become good friends. You can count on it. People are approachable and you’ll find that they tend to be “on the same page” as you are, probably more than a lot of people you currently meet back home. Maybe not a surprise is it?
Volunteering is another powerful way to build connections while giving back to the community. There are numerous environmental, educational, and humanitarian projects in Bali that welcome participation. Through these efforts, you’ll bond with people who shared similar values and dedication.
Lastly, I can’t stress enough the importance of being open and approachable. Smiling, being genuine, and showing respect goes a long way in Bali. Trust is built over time, but warmth and kindness are recognized immediately and often reciprocated with incredible hospitality.
Working in Bali
If you’ve visited Bali through the decades you’ll remember it before everyone traveled with their laptop and managing online enterprises was something hardly anyone was doing. Remember the days of a few low-quality computers at the local wartel, with filthy keyboards and often barely working?
Well, as we’d expect, those days are gone forever. It’s another aspect of coming to Bali that has frankly been transformational to the lives of many people.
Digital nomads and remote workers often regard Bali as a hub, thanks to its thriving coworking community and vibrant startup scene. For those looking to be gainfully employed locally, sectors like tourism, hospitality, and education tend to have some opportunities if you have some experience, though it’s paramount to secure a proper work permit.
Get acquainted with Indonesia’s regulations, to ensure your work efforts are legally compliant. It’s crucial to understand that working without a formal work visa can lead to significant penalties. Networking played an indispensable role; the contacts you create at coworking spaces and local seminars can become a catalyst for your professional pursuits. The key is to blend into the expat-dominated professional setup while abiding by local laws.
When it comes to remote working, Bali offers a wealth of resources. The island’s infrastructure for digital nomads has evolved with a plethora of options including high-speed internet, collaborative spaces, and an environment that fuels creativity. Here’s what you need to know:
- Major Coworking Spaces:
- Tribal Bali, Canggu
- B Work, Canggu
- Outpost, various locations
- Internet Speed: Up to 50 Mbps for standard connections, with faster speeds available at premium rates.
- Cost-efficient Living: Compared to Western countries, you get a much better work-life balance for your dollar, making it financially feasible to pursue entrepreneurial ventures.
For offline entrepreneurs, Bali’s unique cultural landscape offers an edge, with an untapped market potentially brimming with opportunities. While starting a business here, it’s essential to research thoroughly, respect local business customs, and invest in building solid relationships with local partners.
Balinese work culture embodies a community-centric approach. Joining local business groups, participating in community-driven events, and interacting with the Balinese not only enriches your work experience but also ingrains your endeavors into the fabric of local society. Embracing the Balinese concept of “Tri Hita Karana”, which emphasizes the harmony between humans, nature, and the divine, can lead to a sustainable and fulfilling business practice.
Setting up shop in Bali or plugging into a remote work lifestyle requires diligence, respect for local customs, and a readiness to adapt to an entirely different pace of life.
Healthcare and Safety
When considering a move to Bali, it’s vital to think about healthcare and safety. Bali’s healthcare system is a mix of public clinics, hospitals, and private international medical centers. For minor ailments, local clinics, known as ‘Puskesmas’, are widespread and economical. However, for more serious conditions or emergencies, I’d recommend seeking treatment at private hospitals in Bali, such as BIMC or Siloam, which offer higher standards of care and have English-speaking staff.
Health insurance is a critical aspect to consider before moving. Many expats opt for international health insurance plans–ask for “expat insurance”–that provide coverage both in Indonesia and often the rest of the world. I and several of my expat friends have policies with high deductibles that are good anywhere in the world except our home countries. You can add an air evacuation rider so you can get to first-rate hospitals in Singapore or Bangkok. This allows my wife and I peace of mind knowing that we’re covered for more significant medical concerns.
Aside from healthcare, staying safe in Bali is about being aware of your surroundings. Natural conditions such as strong ocean currents and active volcanoes are hazards that I’ve learned to respect. For daily living, it’s essential to:
- Be vigilant. Violent crime is uncommon in Bali, but petty theft does happen. Don’t sling purses or backpacks over one shoulder when you are on a bike, or have them on the street-side shoulder when you walk down busy streets like Jalan Legian.
- Follow local advice on swimming and outdoor activities.
- Stay informed about any active travel advisories from your home country.
Road safety is another point of concern. The traffic in Bali can be chaotic, and road conditions vary greatly. It’s common for expats and tourists to rent scooters, but I advise getting comfortable with Indonesian driving customs, getting a driver’s license, and always wearing a helmet. Riding a motorbike and simply crossing the street will be two of the most dangerous things you do, in all likelihood.
Dengue fever, transmitted by mosquitoes, is prevalent in Bali. To protect myself, I take preventive measures like using mosquito repellent and having mosquito nets or screens on windows and doors. Staying hydrated and being cautious about food and water consumption is also a wise approach to avoid Bali belly, a common term for traveler’s diarrhea. Generally hygiene is very good at Bali eating establishments, local warungs included, but stick to busy establishments and as an expat for recommendations. Three of our favorites in the Kuta/Legian Seminyak area are easily found on Google Maps:
- Warung Melati
- Warung Kolegia
- Dapur Prasmanan Rosa
In terms of personal security, Bali is relatively safe. However, it’s still important to exercise the same caution you would anywhere else in the world. I ensure to keep doors locked, avoid walking alone late at night in poorly-lit areas, and be cautious whenever exchanging cash for local currency or using credit cards. Using only ATMs attached to banks will save you headaches.
By staying informed and prepared, the transition to living in Bali can be a smooth and secure experience.
Education and Family Life
For those relocating with children, the quality of education is paramount. Bali is home to an array of international schools offering diverse curricula such as the International Baccalaureate, Cambridge, and the Australian system. Schools like the Green School have garnered international attention for their sustainability-focused education and innovative teaching methods.
Start researching schools before you come. I would ask to video chat with school administrators and teachers to get a feeling for each school. When you explore options for your kids, three key points will likely guide your decision:
- Curriculum: Matching the educational framework to my children’s future academic goals was essential.
- Community: I sought a school with a welcoming atmosphere that embraced cultural diversity.
- Location: Proximity to our home minimizes commute time and maximizes family time.
The move will no doubt impact your family dynamics in profound ways. The Balinese will generously invite you to observe an array of ceremonies. You’ll probably find that participating in local community events not only helps you understand Balinese culture better but also dispels the isolation that can come from moving to a new country. By frequently visiting temples and celebrating local festivals, your family will grow closer to the heart of Bali’s rich cultural tapestry.
Balinese family values resonate deeply with the importance they place on kinship and community support; it might reshape your own family narrative.
Safety in the community has never been a concern, as the Balinese are renowned for their friendliness and respect towards families. The emphasis on societal harmony and mutual respect here grants a sense of serenity and security that you might never have felt before.
From a lifestyle standpoint, the expat community in Bali is indeed a lifeline, offering parenting resources and advice from families who’ve navigated similar transitions. Social media groups and expat forums are as I say invaluable for tips on everything from pediatrician recommendations to family-friendly weekend excursions.
All in all, integrating education and family life into your Balinese adventure will be a journey in itself, molding your family dynamic into something more globally oriented and deeply connected to nature and community values.
My journey to Bali has been a transformative adventure that’s reshaped not just my surroundings but my entire way of life. I’ve learned that moving to this island means more than just finding a new home; it’s about immersing yourself in a vibrant culture, connecting with a supportive community, and embracing a lifestyle that blends tradition with modernity. Whether you’re a digital nomad, an online or offline entrepreneur, or part of a family seeking a global education, Bali offers a unique experience that demands openness, respect, and adaptability. As I continue to explore and grow within this enchanting environment, I’m reminded every day that the beauty of Bali isn’t just in its landscapes—it’s in the journey of becoming a part of its tapestry. If you’re considering a move here, prepare for a life-changing experience that will challenge and delight you in ways you never imagined.
Frequently Asked Questions
What makes Bali an attractive destination for expats?
Bali’s enchanting blend of stunning landscapes, rich culture and spirituality, together with a vibrant expat community, makes it a highly attractive destination for those seeking a transformative living experience.
Can you summarize the visa process for moving to Bali?
Securing a visa for Bali involves thorough research on current regulations, determining the appropriate visa type for your stay, preparing necessary documentation, and very probably consulting with a visa agent for a smooth application process.
What should be considered when finding accommodation in Bali?
When looking for a villa in Bali, consider factors like location, budget, amenities, proximity to community hubs, and local infrastructure. Prioritize safety, comfort, and accessibility to services.
How can one adapt to Balinese culture more easily?
Adapting to Balinese culture involves learning the local language, respecting customs and traditions, participating in local events, and building relationships with both the expat and local communities.
What opportunities exist for remote workers and digital nomads in Bali?
Bali offers a relatively supportive, though informal, environment for remote workers and digital nomads, including coworking spaces, a robust expat network, and opportunities for collaboration. It’s essential to secure the correct work permit to be employed on the island.
What are the key considerations for entrepreneurs looking to set up a business in Bali?
Entrepreneurs should perform in-depth market research, understand local business etiquette, and establish trustworthy partnerships. They must also navigate the legalities of setting up a business respecting local laws and customs.
How does moving to Bali impact family and education?
Relocating to Bali with a family can be enriching, offering access to international schools and fostering a globally-minded, nature-connected upbringing. Families should engage in community activities to integrate into the local society.
What is the importance of community engagement in Bali?
Engagement with both local and expat communities is vital for a well-rounded adaptation to Bali. It helps in understanding cultural nuances and provides a support network for social and professional endeavors.
Is Bali considered safe for expats and their families?
Yes, Bali is generally considered a safe place for expats and their families, recognized for the friendliness of its people and the supportive expat community, which helps ease the transition to a new life.