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Bali has a thriving expat community and is becoming an increasingly popular destination for digital nomads and remote workers. Compared to places like the US and the UK it’s a much more affordable place to live and the abundance of co-working spaces make it an attractive place for anyone who’s able to work from just a laptop.
Of course, moving to a new country is a big decision and not something to be taken lightly. You may dream of living island life sipping on coconuts by the beach, but the reality might not be what you expect. Visiting any place as a tourist is usually quite different to living somewhere long term as an expat.
So always make sure you do your research thoroughly so that you know what you’re getting yourself into. This guide covers some of the most important things to know before moving to Bali and features tips on things like visas, accommodation, transportation and prices.
My Top Tips for Moving to Bali
You’ll Probably Need to Do a Visa Run
People visiting Bali usually enter on a tourist visa, which is valid for 30 days and can be extended once for another 30 days. The extension needs to be done at the local immigration office but the best way to do it is with the help of a visa agency in Bali. The current fee is about USD70 (IDR 1,000,000).
When I was moving to Bali I didn’t want the hassle of having to extend after just 30 days, so I actually applied for a 60-day visa in advance.
If you plan on staying more than a month I’d recommend applying for the B211 single Entry e-Visa, which is valid for 60 days and allows for two 60-day extensions. In total, that means you get 180 days (nearly 6 months) without having to leave the country. There’s a “business” version of the visa and a “tourism” version so you’ll have to state the purpose for which you’re applying.
The B211 visa application can be submitted online with the help of a visa agent, so there’s no need to visit the embassy in your home country or in Bali. You need a sponsor for the visa but the visa agent will arrange all the paperwork for you.
Once your visa expires you’ll need to leave the country to apply for a new visa. Singapore is usually the most popular choice and this is where I went. You could also go somewhere like Australia providing you can find a cheap flight.
All the steps above are assuming you’re a digital nomad/remote worker and not being employed by an Indonesian company.
Make Sure You Have Insurance
When I lived in Bali I didn’t have any travel insurance. What a fool I was. I had a scooter accident and then of course had to pay for medical bills out of pocket. Don’t make the mistake I did. If you’re planning on being in Bali for just a few months then you can get a travel insurance policy that will.
If you’re a digital nomad and traveling there longer then I’d recommend signing up for Safetywing before moving to Bali. They offer travel medical insurance designed specifically for nomads and you just pay a monthly fee on an ongoing basis. Prices start at around $42 per month and while it’s more expensive than say a typical travel insurance policy, you’re covered wherever you go for as long as you want.
Be Prepared for Wet Season
Bali has a tropical climate and is warm year-round, however, there are two distinct seasons – wet season (November-March) and dry season (April to October). During the wet season you’ll experience some heavy downpours and the roads can often get flooded, which can be hazardous if you’re driving around on a scooter.
If you visit Bali during the rainy season be prepared for humid, wet weather with intervals of sunshine. Make sure you purchase a plastic poncho because an umbrella just won’t cut it when there’s a heavy downfall. You definitely won’t be able to hold an umbrella in one hand while you’re riding around on a scooter.
Dry season usually sees plenty of sunshine and hot days but it’s much less humid. The weather is a lot more predictable and it’s a good time to hit the beach. Since Bali sits very close to the equator, make sure to slather on sunscreen to protect your skin.
You’ll Need to Rent a Car or Scooter
Since public transportation in Bali is virtually non-existent, you’ll need to get around by car or by scooter. Tourists visiting Bali often make do with taxis or hiring a driver for the day but if you’re moving to Bali long term then you’ll need to rent your own vehicle by the month. There are tons of car and bike rental places in Bali, so it’s best to shop around to find the most affordable rate.
Expect to pay around $300 per month for a car rental and about $50-80 USD for a scooter rental depending on the model and condition. If hiring a scooter, make sure that it’s well maintained and don’t pick a beat-up one. The rental shop will usually give you two helmets but these are usually shitty and well worn. If you’re planning on living in Bali long term, it’s better to buy your own helmet as safety is very important!
While renting a scooter is cheaper, I’d advise against it just because the roads are so chaotic and scooter accidents happen all the time.
Unless you’re a pro at driving motorbikes/scooters, It’s not worth risking your health and safety just to save money each month. When I was living in Bali I rented a Suzuki Karimun for the majority of the year, but then I decided to switch to a scooter to save money. One day I wiped out on the bike and ended up with nasty road rash/burns on my legs.
Choose Where You Want to Live
The most popular places to live in Bali are Seminyak, Ubud and Canggu. These places all have thriving expat communities as well as tons of shops, restaurants, bars and grocery stores.
If you prefer to be by the beach then you’ll want to go with either Seminyak or Canggu. Seminyak is more built-up and has tons of cafes and restaurants, but it’s also a bit overcrowded. If you’d prefer somewhere a bit more peaceful with more space, go with Canggu. There are still cafes and restaurants but the vibe is much more relaxed.
When I lived in Bali I started out in Seminyak and then eventually ended up sharing a villa in Canggu with a Canadian girl who advertised on a noticeboard. I loved waking up to the sound of roosters and having a view of rice fields from the outdoor rain shower!
If you love yoga and you’d prefer a view of pretty rice terraces, then Ubud might be more your style. The town is really picturesque and has some great cafes for working.
Find Long Term Accommodation
Whichever place you choose, I’d suggest booking an Airbnb or a short term place on Booking.com before moving to Bali. This way you have a place to stay when you arrive but then you can spend some time looking for something a bit more long term.
Don’t just pay up-front for long term accommodation without seeing it. Make sure you visit the place, check the Internet speed and see if it’s in good shape.
If you want to find long term accommodation in Bali, there are a few places you can look:
On Facebook groupsOn AirbnbGo door to doorOn notice boards
Facebook groups you can find housing on include:
Bali House Apartment Villa for Rent
Ubud House and Villa for Rent
Bali Seminyak & Canggu Housing and Accommodation
Alternatively you’ll find lots of people renting villas on Airbnb – just check the “I’m flexible” option instead of entering dates. You’ll then be able to check the “stay for a month” option and you can see what comes up. Bear in mind that properties on Airbnb are likely to be more expensive because of the fees involved to advertise on the platform. Villa owners also know that they can get away with charging more because Airbnb is often used by more affluent travelers who are looking for short stays.
You can also search for housing when you arrive on the ground in Bali. One way to find a villa or a room is by driving around the neighborhood where you’d like to live. You’ll often see “for rent” signs outside vacant properties, so you can either call the number on the sign or knock on doors.
Some cafes also have notice boards with ads for rooms to rent. I found my long term accommodation in Bali on a noticeboard at Cafe Moka in Seminyak and Grocer and Grind (both now closed). The best thing to do is start frequenting the local coffee shops and asking if they have a noticeboard. You can also start chatting to other expats at coworking spaces to see if they have any leads.
Figure Out Your Accommodation Budget
When I lived in Bali I paid around $500 per month in rent, sharing an enormous villa with one other girl. So in total the villa cost $1000 per month, but it was huge.
Prices vary according to the location, the size and the luxuriousness of the property. If it has a pool and is located close to town, it’s probably going to cost more.
Expect to pay anywhere between $300 and $1000 per month for accommodation, depending on those factors. Utilities are usually included in the price but make sure you ask when you’re negotiating the price.
Considering a one-bedroom apartment in New York city costs upwards of $3,000 per month, Bali is clearly much cheaper when it comes to living costs.
Discover the Coworking Spaces
Bali is an incredibly popular destination for digital nomads because many cafes have strong Internet and there are lots of co-working spaces. Here are some of the best coworking spaces in Bali:
Outpost, Ubud and CangguBeLuna, UbudDojo, CangguKinship Studio, CangguTribal Bali, CangguGenesis Creative Center, Canggu[email protected], CangguHub Bali, LegianFinns Rec Club, CangguTropical Nomad Coworking Space, CangguG88 Coworking, KerobokanBiliq Coworking Space, SeminyakBali Bustle, LegianUluwatu Hub, UluwatuLivit Hub Bali, SanurCo.op Coworking, Uluwatu
Know the Road Rules
In Bali they drive on the left, just like in Australia and the UK. If you come from the US or any country where they drive on the right hand side, make sure you get some practice driving on the other side of the road.
Practice driving on quiet country roads or even sign up for a quick driving lesson to get you familiar with the roads.
Be Wary of Money Scams
One popular scam to watch out for in Bali is skimming. This is where scammers attach a device to the ATM to capture your credit card info as well as a hidden camera to record you entering your pin. To avoid this, make sure you only take money out at proper banks that have 24-hour security. You can also take some cash out when you land at the airport.
When it comes to using money changers, only use the ones that have a PT registered number on the sign. If the exchange rate seems too good to be true, it probably is. Make sure you always check the exchange rate online and count your money before you leave.
Get Familiar with the Culture
Bali has a very distinct culture that’s different from the rest of Indonesia. While most of Indonesia is Muslim, the main religion in Bali is Balinese Hinduism.
Wherever you go you’ll see the streets littered with Canang Sari – these are little palm leaf baskets filled with things like flowers, rice, cigarettes, incense and food. These very pretty baskets are handmade and offered to the gods each day.
There are lots of religious festivals throughout the year in Bali, with the most popular ones being Galungan, Kuningan, Nyepi, Saraswati and Pagerwesi.
Nyepi takes place over the Balinese New Year celebrations and is a day of complete silence. Make sure you don’t plan to do anything on this day because everything is closed and there are no flights scheduled in and out of Ngurah Rai airport in Denpasar.
When visiting temples both men and women are required to wear sarongs – often they’ll supply you with one as part of your entry ticket. It’s also important to keep your shoulders covered, so take a scarf, cardigan or light jacket with you. Take your shoes off and make sure your feet don’t face any holy objects or shrines, as feet are considered dirty. You’ll need to sit cross-legged or kneel instead.
Learn Some Indonesian Phrases
While many Balinese people have learnt at least some basic English, learning some Indonesian words and phrases before moving to Bali will go a long way. Not only is it helpful to be able to communicate in the country’s official language, it also helps you fit in with the locals and show that you’re making an effort.
Some popular words and phrases you can use:
Good Morning – Selamat PagiGood Afternoon – Selamat SoreGood Night – Selamat MalamThank You – Terima KasihYou’re welcome – Sama samaHow are you – Apa kabar?
Tap Water Isn’t Safe for Drinking
Don’t drink the tap water in Bali. Homes usually have a water machine that you can fill with distilled water. Don’t wash your groceries with tap water and avoid brushing your teeth with it if you can. Always stick to bottled water and if you get any wounds, avoid exposing them to water in the shower.
A Final Word…
If moving to Bali is your dream, following these tips should make your life a lot easier once you land in the country. The best thing to do would be to visit Bali so you can get a taste of it before you decide to make it long term.
I lived in Bali for a year and while I enjoyed my time there, island life is just not for me. Growing up in the UK I’d often dreamed of living in tropical country by the beach, but as it turns out, I prefer cosmopolitan cities and proper seasons. If you want to know more about Bali, check out my Bali travel guide, which is packed with info on things to do and places to visit.