Moving To Bali As An Expat [Essential Guide]

This image shows surfers on the Beach in Bali, representing the lifestyle that expats can enjoy when living in Bali.

Bali, dubbed the “Island of Gods,” is more than just a hub for global tourism, vacationing and world class surfing – it’s a lifestyle, a mindset, and a dream turned reality for many. With its incredible culture, historic temples, rice paddy vistas, volcanic landscapes and expansive beaches, Bali’s appeal to visit is pretty straightforward and puts it on the map as a global tourism hotspot, however it’s a place that people from all over the world end up calling home for life, and for good reason.

Whether you’re a digital nomad, a retiree, or simply seeking a sea change, Bali promises experiences that go beyond the ordinary. In this guide on how to move to Bali as an expat, we’ll go through the ins and outs of everything you’ll need to consider to settle in and make Bali home, or at the least an international home base!

Why move to Bali?

Bali is established to be something beyond a vacation or 1-off visit. With its tapestry of culture, incredible sights and landscapes, affordable tropical island lifestyle, quick access to other islands and Asian countries, and vast mix of traditional and modern comforts, Bali is a place where all too many visit with intentions of temporary adventure, but then root themselves in for the long run crafting their existence around how to live in Bali longer. 

Cost of Living

Delving into the cost of living in Bali, it’s easy to see why the island beckons expats and travelers alike, but it all isn’t just for pennies on the dollar.

The island offers a broad spectrum of choices to suit different budgets. For instance, accommodation ranges from affordable local guest houses for about $200-$300 a month to more upscale villas at $1500 – $3000+ per month, depending on location and amenities. If you’re looking for that villa to show your influence on Instagram – expect to be paying a premium!

Food can be incredibly affordable. Local *warungs* (small eateries) can serve delicious meals for as low as $1-$3, while more upscale restaurants might charge $10-$20 for a main dish. The devil is in the details, and you can end up paying $100 or $25 for a decent sushi spread, depending on how hard you look.

Clothing is budget-friendly if you’re buying local brands or shopping in traditional markets, however, expect to pay standard prices for premium name-brand imports (this goes for electronics as well). If you’re not an authentic brand stickler, there are plenty of knock-off shops that keep you stylish at a huge discount. The thing to keep in mind is that life’s a bit more laid back in Bali, and it’s more about self-expression than flexing your Gucci garb.

Education, however, can be a different ballgame. International schools offer world-class standards, but it’s vital to research and compare tuition fees, as they can range widely.

So, if you’re living modestly, blending local experiences with some occasional indulgences, the monthly cost of living in Bali can hover around $800-$1200. But remember, it’s always about choices: where you live, eat, shop, and how you navigate this tropical paradise.

Incredible Culture and Friendly Faces: Bali’s Heart and Soul

When you step foot in Bali, it’s not just the beaches or landscapes that captivate your heart; it’s the incredible culture and the overwhelmingly friendly people. Balinese hospitality is legendary; from the vendor on the street to the elder in a temple, warm smiles and genuine kindness seem to be the default setting here.

But remember, this warm hospitality goes hand in hand with a deep-rooted reverence for their traditions and land. As visitors, it’s imperative to approach their customs with respect and an open heart. Whether it’s dressing modestly when visiting temples or participating in local ceremonies, showing regard for Balinese norms is the key to enriching interactions.

To truly immerse yourself in Bali’s essence, don’t just stay cocooned in your villa or resort. Venture out, hang out with the locals, dine in their eateries, or simply strike up a conversation at the market. It’s in these unscripted moments, enveloped in the island’s warm hospitality and rich culture, that the true magic of Bali unfolds.

Tropical Island Living

A major reason Bali is a destination is because it’s a way of life, in a tropical environment with beachfront everywhere. Here you get onto ‘island time’ where the vibe makes time move a little slower (traffic can also be part of the reason.. 😅). Depending on where you’re living, the beach is either a reasonable drive away or a quick walk. Jungle and rice paddies surround the outskirts of developed areas. There’s a peace of mind that comes with knowing that you’re so close to expansive beaches, world class surf, jungles, and some of the best sunsets you can imagine.

But Bali’s magic isn’t confined to its main island alone. Its strategic location offers a golden ticket to island hopping. Explore neighboring islands, each with its own character and secrets, turning your stay into an extended adventure that makes it hard to even scratch the surface.

The Food in Bali

Bali has a surprising variety of incredible food. Whether you’re seeking sushi, Italian, Indian food, a hearty burger or steak, vegan fish burger, fresh salad or absolutely anything else, Bali is a melting pot of flavors, offering everything from traditional Balinese dishes to contemporary global cuisine. Vegetarian? Bali has you covered. The island is wonderfully vegetarian and vegan-friendly. Plus, for those with specific dietary needs, many restaurants offer gluten-free and other specialized options. And let’s not forget the local warungs! These small eateries serve up a storm of flavors at unbeatable affordability, making it easy to feast without burning a hole in your pocket.

However, if you’re looking to enjoy alcoholic beverages, it’s worth noting that Bali has a relatively high tax on alcohol, especially imported liquor. If affordable drinks are high on your list, other Southeast Asian destinations might offer better value. But, in terms of flavor and variety, Bali’s culinary landscape is truly unparalleled.

There’s a large expat community living in Bali

Bali is not just an island; it’s a global village. One of its most enriching aspects is its thriving expat community of diverse nationalities.

Walk around any corner in popular areas like Canggu or Ubud, and you’ll witness a kaleidoscope of cultures, languages, and backgrounds. It’s a place where, despite being away from your homeland, you’re never truly alone, and there’s always opportunity to connect, share, and grow. Bali is a place where you never really know who you’re talking to until you make the effort, and are often surprised to hear fantastic entrepreneurial and adventure stories of all sorts.

From retirees seeking a serene tropical haven, entrepreneurs building startups from picturesque beachside co-working spaces, to artists and creative individuals drawing inspiration from Bali’s unparalleled beauty. It’s also often the case that those you meet out here share a same outlook on life with a lot of positivity, energy and creativity which makes it a location for endless inspiration.

Riding Bali’s Waves: A Surfer’s Paradise

Bali is known for having some of the best surfing on the planet, boasting some of the best areas with ideal conditions that draw both novices and pros to its shores.

The popularity of surfing in Bali isn’t a new fad. Expats and digital nomads have long embraced the sport, intertwining work-life with surf sessions. Whether you’re a seasoned surfer chasing the big waves or a beginner looking for a gentle ride, Bali has something for everyone.

If the sets are a little too crowded for your liking, fortunately Bali is close to any number of other islands where you’ll not be fighting the crowds.

Top on the list of iconic surfing spots are Uluwatu, with its powerful waves and dramatic cliffs, and Seminyak, perfect for those seeking a blend of beach life and vibrant nightlife. However, as enchanting as the waves are, safety is paramount. It’s essential to keep an eye on the tides and be aware of the reef conditions to ensure a safe and memorable surfing experience.

Access to western amenities: Gyms, Grocery Stores, Coworking & More

It may get daunting when you realize you’re thousands of miles away from your homeland, but the island also offers a comprehensive range of western amenities that make it feel more like home than ever – perhaps even better than home.

  • For fitness enthusiasts, well-equipped facilities dot the island, many even boasting health spas with saunas and ice baths for that post-workout relaxation. There’s multiple options for whatever your style: weight gyms, yoga studios; crossfit centers, you name it.  
  • There’s no shortage of fresh flavorful food. Grocery stores like Pepito, Bintang, and Carrefour stock up on quality meat, fresh vegetables, and all your favorite snacks.
  • Online shopping is here! While it may require a bit of a learning curve, you can order anything online from stores like Tokopedia and Shopee and have it shipped about as fast as Amazon right to where you’re living. This can be a lifesaver for seeking electronics, supplements, accessories or anything else you either can’t find in stores or don’t want to make the drive to shop.
  • Work remotely? There’s a plethora of co-working spaces with fast internet. These aren’t just places to get work done — they’re vibrant communities. Some even offer the luxury of pools and host weekly parties, ensuring work and play harmoniously blend together.

In Bali, you get the best of both worlds: the enchanting mystique of the East and the cherished comforts of the West.

Why might Bali not be for you?

While Bali’s picturesque landscapes, vibrant culture, and warm hospitality entice many, it’s essential to acknowledge the flip side. Life on this tropical island comes with challenges that aren’t suited for everyone. Whether it’s adapting to the local healthcare system, navigating limited transportation, enduring the quirks of rural living, or combating persistent mosquitoes, it’s crucial to weigh the pros and cons. Dive deep into these realities to see if Bali truly aligns with your idea of paradise.

Healthcare in Bali

Navigating Bali’s healthcare landscape can be daunting for newcomers. Expats have a mix of public and private hospitals to choose from, with the added benefit of specialized clinics catering to a range of medical needs. The International SOS Clinic and BIMC Hospital stand out for those seeking an international environment with English-speaking doctors. While these options offer top-notch care, they can be pricier than local institutions. Conversely, group-practice medical clinics provide affordable healthcare, often without sacrificing the quality expats are accustomed to. As always, it’s essential to do thorough research and select the facility that best meets your individual health and budgetary requirements.

Limited Transportation Options & (Very) Heavy Traffic

Bali’s transportation landscape is characterized by its limited options and often bustling streets. Roads are often narrow, and the lack of infrastructure such as traffic lights and stop signs means it’s more of a go-with-the-flow concept that can get rather congested in popular areas; short car rides can unexpectedly transform into prolonged journeys.

While taxis are available, they often come at a premium price, especially in touristy areas. For expats and tourists wanting speedier commutes, services like Gojek scooters or personally rented scooters become attractive. However, it’s crucial to approach scooter driving with caution; it requires a learning curve to navigate safely and an international drivers license to do it legally.

However, even though car and bus travel may add extra travel time, it’s important to note that minibus rentals are common and can be very affordable for larger tours around the island. Think fractions less than your average Uber ride from A-B!

Realities of Living Away from Urban Areas

Living away from Bali’s urban centers has its unique challenges and perks. One of the primary realities is the limited options for buying groceries and daily necessities if living in an area that’s a little quieter and remote vs. the primary developed areas.

Residents often need to buy in bulk or make frequent trips to the city center to stock up, a journey that’s complicated by Bali’s notorious traffic situation. While the serene ambiance away from the city is unparalleled, it can sometimes feel isolating. Hence, joining expat societies, participating in online forums, and connecting with like-minded individuals through Bali expat groups on Facebook can help foster community.

While these areas offer authentic experiences, it’s essential to form boundaries with locals, especially given the prevalence of scams in areas frequented by tourists. Being informed and cautious, while also seeking community connection, can strike a balance between enjoying the rural charms and staying plugged into necessary resources.

Mosquitoes

Thinking of making Bali your new home? Among the tropical paradises, there’s a small hitch – mosquito infestations. These pesky insects are not just a nuisance; they bring potential health hazards with them. Diseases like dengue fever and malaria can be a concern, especially if you’re living in more rural parts of Bali.

So, how can you protect yourself from these buzzing troublemakers? Prevention methods are your first line of defense. Opt for mosquito repellants, especially at dusk and dawn, when they’re most active. Slather on mosquito cream to keep them at bay. It’s not just about comfort; it’s about staying healthy! Most local shops and grocery stores offer these products, and you can always make your way to a pharmacy (otherwise known as an ‘apotek’) and they’ll get you sorted.

What are the visa requirements & options?

Embarking on your Bali adventure? Your stay in this paradise hinges largely on the visa you choose. Whether you’re here for business, leisure, or seeking a fresh start in retirement, Bali offers a spectrum of visa options to cater to your needs. From Business Visas and Retiree Visas to provisions for Digital Nomads and Tourists, understanding these requirements can make your transition smoother. And if the conventional paths don’t align with your plans? There are other options available. Dive into each visa type below to find the perfect fit for your Bali journey.

NOTE: It’s up to you to do your own research and discuss your options with an approved Visa Agent to understand current laws, regulations and requirements.

Business Visa

Navigating Bali’s business world? The first step is securing the right business visa. Broadly, there are two main types: single-entry and multiple-entry.

The single-entry business visa, as the name suggests, allows you a one-time entry, typically valid for up to 60 days. On the flip side, the multiple-entry visa grants the freedom to hop in and out of Bali over a year, with each stay capped at 60 days.

Regardless of your choice, here’s a catch: visa sponsorship. To obtain either of these business visas or work permits, you’ll need sponsorship from an Indonesian company. This isn’t just a formality; it’s a testament to your legitimate reasons for being in Bali. 

Retiree Visa

Dreaming of spending your retirement under Bali’s sun? The retiree visa, or retirement visa, is tailor-made for those golden moments. However, there’s a process and certain requirements to meet.

For starters, age is more than just a number here. You need to be at least 55 years old. Couple that with a passport that’s valid for at least another 18 months, and you’re on the right track. But there’s more: you’ll need to show proof of funds, indicating your financial stability to support your stay. An application letter from a travel agent sponsor is also paramount.

Diving deeper into paperwork, prepare copies of your passport, health insurance, and a lease agreement (indicating where you’ll reside). Now, here’s a unique twist: to support the local economy, retirees are also required to employ two local workers.

Social Visa

The allure of Bali isn’t just for vacationers or retirees; digital nomads find their solace here too. Enter the Social Visa, often referred to as the Bali digital nomad visa or B211 visa. Designed for those who wish to linger a bit longer, this visa is your ticket to stay in Bali for up to 6 months.

While it’s a haven for those wanting to engage in remote work, be wary of its limits. The Social Visa permits remote work, but if you’re eyeing volunteering gigs or stage performances, you’ll need to look elsewhere.

It’s important to navigate this path through a visa agency, simplifying the process and ensuring all details are ironed out.

Digital Nomad Visa

Bali, with its serene beaches and vibrant culture, has always been an enticing spot for digital nomads. Recognizing this influx, the Indonesian government is setting the stage to roll out a special gift: the Digital Nomad Visa. If the regular visas didn’t excite you enough, imagine a visa that promises up to a five-year duration and offers tax-free living in Bali. Sounds like a dream, right?

While this is on the horizon, what’s the current go-to for nomads? Enter the Visit Visa B211A. Though not as extensive as the awaited Digital Nomad Visa, it’s the present-day favorite for many remote workers setting up their workstations amidst Bali’s charm.

Tourist Visa (VOA)

The Tourist Visa (or VOA – Visa on Arrival) makes the dream of visiting Bali achievable for wanderlusters. It’s a straightforward visa that gives you an initial 30-day ticket to explore the island’s wonders.

But what if a month isn’t enough? You’re in luck! There’s a possibility to extend your VOA for another 30 days, granting you a full 60-day escapade in Bali. But, here’s the catch in the fairy tale: after relishing those two months, you’ll need to bid Bali adieu and leave the country. Even if you’re eyeing further extensions, each one comes with the caveat of having to exit Bali.

While the Tourist Visa provides a quick embrace of Bali’s allure, it does have its limitations. It’s essential to be aware of the duration and extension options to plan your Bali journey seamlessly.

Work Permit, visa, and residence

Stepping into Bali’s professional realm? It’s not just about finding the right job; it’s about securing the right work permit, visa, and residence. Bali, with its appeal to international professionals, offers varied options to facilitate your stay and work.

High on the list is the Working Visa KITAS. Designed for longer stays, this visa needs a bit of preparation. Ensure your passport has substantial validity left, and be ready to show proof of funds. Given our current global landscape, a COVID-19 vaccination certificate is also a must-have.

On the other hand, if you’re leaning towards the B211A visa, similar requirements apply, but it’s often viewed as more flexible and easier to acquire.

Feeling a tad overwhelmed with the intricacies? You have options! While the Balinese immigration website is a direct portal to begin your application, many choose the more hassle-free route of hiring a travel agent or company. They can guide you, ensuring every ‘i’ is dotted and ‘t’ is crossed.

Best Areas To Stay In Bali

Whether you’re seeking the serene embrace of the ocean, a younger vibe of hipster locales, the spiritual aura of the jungle, or the quiet charm of quaint villages, Bali has you covered. Let’s unpack each, helping you find that perfect Balinese nook to call home!

Uluwatu: Surf, Serenity, and Sumptuous Living

For those chasing the thrill of the waves, endless cliff top views, or a beach-town lifestyle where time moves a little slower, Uluwatu is right up your alley. Recognized as a premier surf destination in Bali, Uluwatu is more than just its azure waters; it’s a magnet for the expat community looking for a slice of paradise. Imagine waking up to cliff-top views that take your breath away, all while being steeped in luxury living that caters to your every whim. Yet, what truly sets Uluwatu apart is its untouched charm. Away from the hustle and the ever-growing developments of places like Canggu, here, you’re embraced by a tranquil haven. The roads are free from incessant traffic, and the ambiance captures a perfect blend of surf culture and opulence. 

Canggu & Umalas: From Global Spotlight to Neighboring Retreats

Canggu, once a tranquil hideaway, quickly rose to global acclaim with its eclectic blend of cafes, restaurants, and a vibrant beach scene. But as fame often goes, with its rising stardom came an increase in prices and, for some, a touch of disappointment. This shift prompted many, especially the nomadic souls, to look beyond Canggu’s borders. They found solace in the neighboring areas like Umalas, Pererenan, Cemagi, Seseh, Babakan, and Munggu. These locales offer a more affordable living experience, reminiscent of Canggu’s earlier, quieter days, while still providing that enticing blend of eateries and culture.

That being said, Canggu still acts as a crux for a high concentration of cafes, bars, nightlife, and beach proximity, offering the perfect mix of everything. Despite substantially higher prices after the initial post-pandemic, Canggu is still one of the main go-tos for everything expat.

Ubud: Where Spirituality Meets Modernity

Ah, Ubud! A name that often evokes images of a new age, spiritual town nestled amidst Bali’s lush heartland. With its charming coffee shops, health-focused cafes, incredible jungle landscapes and rice paddies, it’s a haven for those seeking inner peace or a perfect latte. Yet, it’s not just about introspection and wellness. Ubud boasts some of the island’s best restaurants, tantalizing taste buds from all corners of the globe.

This magnetic pull has fostered a diverse expat community: from retirees seeking serene sunsets, yogis finding their Zen, to digital nomads plugged into the world from their tropical paradise. Speaking of nomads, mention must be made of Hubud, a renowned co-working space in central Ubud, often hailed as the nucleus for the town’s digital community. Considering a move? In Ubud, modernity and tradition find their harmonious blend, offering a slice of Bali that’s uniquely its own.

Pererenan: Canggu’s Up And Coming Outskirt

Tucked away just a stone’s throw from the more famed Canggu, Pererenan is making waves of its own. This location beautifully balances the modern with the traditional, without quite as much buzz as Bali’s more densely populated areas. Cafes with innovative brews, restaurants dishing out global flavors, all enveloped in a rustic charm that’s unmistakably Balinese. For digital nomads, Pererenan has emerged as the ideal retreat. It offers an affordable and equally vibrant alternative to the buzz of Canggu, without compromising on the essential amenities.

What’s more, its strategic location places it in close proximity to serene neighboring cities. Munggu, Babakan, and Sesseh are just minutes away and offer an undeniable escape with vast fields of rice paddies and access to unpopulated beaches. So, if Canggu’s pace feels a tad too much and you’re seeking that perfect blend of affordability, vibrancy, and rusticity to disconnect, Pererenan might just be the hidden gem you’re searching for.

Kerobokan: An Expat’s Perfect Fit Between Seminyak & Canggu

If you’re an expat seeking that perfect blend of convenience, community, and culture in Bali, Kerobokan might be calling your name. Strategically nestled between the lively beats of Seminyak and the surfer’s haven of Canggu, Kerobokan offers an expat-friendly area that doesn’t compromise on amenities or charm.

Its close proximity to these buzzing neighbors means you’re never too far from the action. Yet, it’s not all about location. Kerobokan stands tall with its offerings. Affordable housing options dot the landscape, ensuring there’s a cozy corner for every budget. Hungry after house-hunting? The array of restaurants will satiate every palate, from traditional Indonesian fare to global delicacies. For those with families, the presence of international schools further cements Kerobokan’s appeal.

If you’re looking for a place that offers the amenities of the big cities, with a touch of local essence, and doesn’t break the bank, Kerobokan is your go-to.

Sanur & Nusa Dua: Serenity, Sophistication, and All Things Family-Friendly

When picturing Bali, if pristine beaches, a relaxed vibe, and a soothing atmosphere come to mind, you’re probably envisioning places like Sanur and Nusa Dua. Sanur, with its gentle waves and tree-lined beaches, exudes a family-friendly environment where every sunrise feels like a painting come alive.

Nusa Dua, on the other hand, is a masterclass in meticulous planning. With its well-developed infrastructure and planned housing developments, it showcases the finer, more structured side of Bali. But what truly binds these two areas is their commitment to a high-quality, affordable lifestyle. Both Sanur and Nusa Dua boast access to Bali’s best hospital, ensuring that care is just around the corner. Craving some western culinary delights? A plethora of restaurants and cafes stand ready to indulge your taste buds. And for those whose work follows them everywhere, the promise of great internet is a cherry on top.

Accommodations: Understanding Bali’s Housing Market & Options

Bali’s accommodation prices can be more affordable compared to some other countries. However, it’s crucial to recognize that there’s been a surge in the real estate market in recent times, changing the earlier price dynamics. Moreover, Bali’s property landscape has its unique set of rules for renting or purchasing, so it’s vital to be well-informed about the various living arrangements and pricing factors such as locality, dimensions, and standards. Here are some avenues to consider:

Rentals

Daily Rentals

Bali’s Airbnb scene offers a diverse range of options catering to different budgets. The price you pay per night can significantly vary based on where you’re living and what you’re living in. A cozy single bedroom guest house might only set you back about $30 for a night, or an upscale luxury villa could easily cost a few hundred dollars per day.

For those considering an extended stay, Airbnb provides options to rent villas for more extended periods, like a month. Although the monthly cost on Airbnb might exceed what you’d spend on an annual villa lease, it may be worth the freedom to explore different parts of Bali one month at a time.

Private Villa Rentals (monthly or annually)

Usually, when opting to rent a villa, you’d be expected to pay for at least a year in advance. With the increasing popularity of regions like Canggu, Umalas, Pererenan, Seminyak, and Uluwatu, the rental rates have shot up. Furthermore, there’s now a reduced availability of long-term rentals, leading to a restricted choice and slightly steeper prices.

For a clearer picture based on 2023’s high-demand zones, here are some pricing brackets and property characteristics. Remember, these are merely indicative as prices and availability are always in flux:

  • $10,000 – $20,000 USD annually: At this range, you might get a modest 2-bedroom villa, generally in older establishments.
  • $20,000 – $30,000 USD annually: This offers a broader spectrum, allowing for more spacious, stylish villas. Some might still be from older constructions, though.
  • $30,000 – $40,000 USD annually: Here, you’ll come across sizeable villas featuring top-tier design, blending both older and newer structures.
  • Above $40,000 USD annually: This is the pinnacle of opulence in Bali! It’s where you can discover a once-in-a-lifetime dream abode 🌟.

Buying Bali Real Estate

Buying real estate in Bali comes with its own unique terms of ownership. It’s not your typical ‘buy and own’ system familiar in many other parts of the world. Essentially, there are two main concepts: Leasehold and Freehold.

  • Leasehold: This is like getting a long-term lease and is the main option for foreigners looking to invest in Bali real estate. You ‘own’ the property for a set duration, often between 20-30 years, with potential for renewal.
  • Freehold: This is more about lifetime ownership. Typically reserved for Indonesian citizens, it grants perpetual ownership. There are routes for foreigners to access this, but they involve navigating a maze of intricate business and legal procedures.

Price Tags in Popular Spots

Remember, prices can swing a lot based on where you’re looking and how the market’s moving. But here’s a ballpark:

  • $150k USD: Entry-level budget. In hot spots, think newer small apartments or perhaps a slightly older bigger space. But be quick! Low-cost gems fly off the shelves. Some might be ‘off-plan’, meaning you pay now, but wait for the build which could be a year or more.
  • $200k-$300k USD: In the middle zone. Here, you’ll spot 2 or 3-bedroom units in buzzing areas. Plenty of variety in design. There’s also lots of off-plan projects since properties in this bracket get snapped up fast.
  • $300k-$500k USD: Stepping it up. Expect bigger, swankier villas with cooler designs and views. This is where you start to enter the proper luxury lifestyle in Bali.
  • $500k-$1MM+: Top-tier. This range is wide, but it’s where Bali really shines in properties that represent your wildest fantasies! Think luxury, top-notch designs, and the best of what Bali has to offer.

Tips & Practical Advice for Bali Newcomers

Navigating a new place can be both thrilling and challenging, and Bali is no exception. Navigating the airport, getting from point A to B, making phone calls, housing, food, whatever it may be, understanding the essentials of daily life in Bali are half of what it takes to get here. Dive into these tips to ensure your Balinese adventure is as smooth and enjoyable as possible!

Things to keep in mind when packing for your trip to Bali

If you’re relocating or planning an extended stay, remember to pack light, keeping Bali’s tropical climate in mind. It can be a relief to realize that less is more, and that simplifying your wardrobe and accessories can be a great part of the island lifestyle:

  • The weather is warm and humid year-round, so pack light clothing made from breathable fabrics.
  • Fashion in Bali is whatever you want it to be. You can enjoy a night out dressed casually and nobody will mind, or dress to the nines and set the place on fire!
  • Be sure to pack sunscreen, sunglasses, and a hat to protect yourself from the sun.
  • If you’re planning on doing any hiking or water activities, pack appropriate footwear.
  • Don’t forget to pack your camera! Bali is iconic for photo opps no matter where you go.

Arriving In Bali At Denpasar Airport

Setting foot in Bali begins at Denpasar Airport, officially known as Ngurah Rai International Airport, the island’s sole gateway. Conveniently located near the famous Kuta beach area, this airport serves as the primary entry point for millions of visitors each year.

For those wanting a smooth transition from the airport to their accommodation it’s important to know what awaits outside the doors. You’ll find crowds of private drivers soliciting rides which can be overwhelming. Understand that drivers can typically be trusted to get you to your destination with integrity, but will be charging a premium rate, usually around $20-$30 for a one way trip to even closer areas like Seminyak.

If you download apps like Gojek or Grab you can get a much cheaper car or scooter ride, however you must be comfortable with how the apps work first, so your first time here it may be worth it to bit the bullet and spend an extra $15-$20 just to get to your place quickly to rest and settle in. 

Getting around Bali & Transportation

As mentioned, there are a variety of transportation options available from the airport to other parts of Bali. Taxis are a popular choice, but it is important to be aware of the potential for overcharging.

Forget Uber – use a ride-hailing app like Gojek or Grab! These apps offer fixed fares and are often cheaper than taxis, plus they’ll pick you up right on the spot for ultimate convenience.

You can also hire private cars and vans for extremely affordable daily rates. This is by far one of the best ways to travel further to the most popular destinations and landmarks on the island, and may be ideal for any occasion when you’ll need multiple rides throughout the day.

Additional Advice:

  • If you’re renting a car or driving a scooter, be sure to have your driver’s license and an international driving permit.
  • You’ll also want to make sure you get phone data services via your international phone plan or by purchasing a local SIM card so that you can use your phone for navigation.
  • Be aware of the traffic conditions. Balinese traffic can be chaotic, so it’s important to be patient and cautious when driving. Go with the flow, breathe deep, and pay attention!

Renting Or Owning A Scooter In Bali

Scooters are the predominant method of travel in Bali. They’re low cost to rent, purchase and operate, and are the best option for fast travel. Scooters can pass other vehicles as they please as Bali traffic is more of a go-with-the-flow concept vs what you might be used to at home with stricter infrastructure & laws regarding traffic lights and stop signs.

Bali traffic is heavy, hectic, and may seem like complete chaos, but with some practice anyone can navigate the streets like a pro, and driving a scooter means the beach is usually a quick drive away. Here’s some considerations if you’re looking to drive your own scooter in Bali:

  • Buying vs. Renting: Buying may appeal to those with long-term plans, with numerous scooters available for sale in various Facebook groups. However, for short-term stays or those not keen on the responsibilities of ownership, renting becomes the preferred choice. The average monthly cost of scooter rentals can vary, but it’s typically affordable, especially when compared to the costs and commitments of purchasing.
  • Legal Requirements: Before zooming off into the Balinese sunset, one must ensure they have the necessary documentation. An International Driving Permit (IDP) is essential for foreigners, but having a local license is also recommended. Law enforcement checks can be frequent, and these documents can save one from potential fines or complications.
  • Negotiating a Deal: Securing a scooter rental in Bali offers room for negotiation, especially if you’re eyeing a long-term rental deal. Vendors often provide discounts or added benefits for extended rental periods, which can save you some cash in the long run.
  • Be careful and practice first!: Learning how to ride a scooter takes some practice, and you should get comfortable on one before driving Bali’s busy roads. 

Food Delivery & More Using Grab & Gojek Apps

Grab & Gojek aren’t just good for catching a ride. These apps truly shine when it comes to getting food delivery and more directly to your doorstep with just a couple taps on your smartphone.

Grab and Gojek aren’t just great for transportation, they offer the ultimate convenience by allowing you to order food and have it delivered for incredibly cheap fees. You can also find food at heavy discounts! It’s one of the best parts about living here. 

The advantages of these food delivery apps extend beyond just food. They’re available in all major cities across Bali. Gojek, in particular, has diversified its offerings. Within the Gojek app, there’s an option called GOBOX, which allows users to move belongings from one place to another. Whether you’re shifting apartments or sending a package, GOBOX offers a convenient solution.

How To Get A Bali SIM Card

When it comes to staying connected in Bali, acquiring a local SIM card is a savvy move. This will give you the best possible signal strength and coverage, and can be more affordable than using an international plan.

There are a few different places where you can buy a SIM card in Bali. The most convenient option is to buy one at the airport when you arrive. However, the prices at the airport are usually higher than you’ll find elsewhere.

A cheaper option is to buy a SIM card from a local store. You’ll find small phone service and accessory stores everywhere around populated areas. One company you can look up is “Happy Cell” stores which are reliable and affordable.

The most popular SIM card providers in Bali are Telkomsel, XL Axiata, and Indosat Ooredoo. Telkomsel has the best signal strength, but XL is the most affordable.

If you’re looking for a more convenient option, you can also buy an eSIM before you travel. This is a digital SIM card that you can activate on your phone without having to physically insert a SIM card.

Here are some examples of SIM card deals in Bali (prices subject to change):

  • Telkomsel Tourist SIM Card: Rp150,000 (~$10) for 25GB of data and 25 minutes of talk time.
  • XL Axiata Freedom Combo 70: Rp70,000 (~$5) for 7GB of data and 70 minutes of talk time.
  • Indosat Ooredoo Freedom Internet 10GB: Rp50,000 (~$3) for 10GB of data.

Good resources:

Mobile Phone IMEI Registration for Long-term Travelers in Indonesia

If you’re planning to stay in Indonesia for an extended period and wish to use a local SIM card in your foreign mobile device, it’s essential to be aware of the IMEI (International Mobile Equipment Identity) registration requirement. The Indonesian government requires that all mobile devices connected to their networks be registered to combat illegal phone imports. Failure to register your device’s IMEI could result in it being blocked from local networks.

How To Register IMEI (For a comprehensive guide and step-by-step registration process, refer to this resource: IMEI Registration Guide.)

  • Check IMEI: Before you travel, check your phone’s IMEI number by dialing *#06#.
  • Visit Registration Site: Once in Indonesia and after purchasing a local SIM card, you’ll need to register your device. Registration usually involves linking your device’s IMEI number with your SIM card and providing personal identification details.
  • Complete Registration: Ensure you complete the registration within a specific period after activating your local SIM card. Delays might result in network disconnection.
  • Stay Updated: Remember, regulations might change, and it’s always a good idea to check current guidelines before your visit.

Laundry In Bali

When living or vacationing in Bali, there’s no need to fret over piles of dirty clothes. Laundry shops are scattered around everywhere so it makes getting laundry done easy, and usually reasonable to hike a pile of dirty clothes a short ways down the road to get it done.

The pricing system is straightforward; customers can choose to be charged either per kilo or per individual piece. Turnaround time is also typically very good. In most cases, customers can expect their laundry to be ready for pickup by the next afternoon.

Bali Cultural Norms & Etiquette

Respecting local customs and etiquette will help you fit naturally into the Bali ecosystem, and get along well with the locals. Here are some practical etiquette points to be aware of:

  • Visiting Temples: Always wear a sarong (with a sash around your waist) when entering temples. Women who are menstruating should avoid entering temple grounds.
  • Gestures: Use your right hand when giving or receiving items, including money. The left hand is considered impure as traditionally Indonesians use their left hand after using the toilet, meaning the right hand is used for everything else. Also, never point with your foot, and avoid touching the head of an adult, as it’s considered the most sacred part of the body.
  • Offerings: Small offerings called ‘canang sari’ are placed everywhere, often on the ground. These are spiritual gifts to appease spirits. Avoid stepping on or disturbing them.
  • Greetings: The traditional greeting, or “salim”, is placing one’s hands together at chest level and bowing slightly. It’s polite and appreciated when foreigners use this gesture.
  • Public Displays of Affection: While Bali is more relaxed compared to other parts of Indonesia, excessive public displays of affection are frowned upon, especially in rural areas.
  • Negotiation: Bargaining is common in markets. Approach with a smile and remember that it’s a cultural interaction, not just a transaction. Once a price is agreed upon, it’s considered rude to then decline.
  • Dress Modestly: While beachwear is accepted on the beaches, it’s best to dress more conservatively when inland or in villages. Shorts and sleeveless tops can be perceived as disrespectful.
  • Local Language: While many Balinese speak English, especially in tourist areas, learning a few basic phrases in Bahasa Indonesia or Balinese can go a long way and is appreciated.
  • Environment: Bali faces environmental challenges. Be an eco-conscious traveler by reducing plastic use, not littering, and respecting nature.

BEWARE THE FOLLOWING: Essential things to keep you safe and avoid legal trouble or deportation!

Last but certainly not least we want to cover a list of items that you should avoid at all costs so that you don’t risk getting into legal trouble, or even deported! Always do your own research and stay up to date on the latest Indonesian laws and regulations – the following list is to highlight some of the known pitfalls:

  • Drug Possession and Trafficking: Bali has very strict anti-drug laws, with heavy penalties including long jail sentences and the death penalty for trafficking.
  • Overstaying Visa: Overstaying one’s visa can result in hefty daily fines and potential deportation.
  • Working Without a Permit: Engaging in employment without a valid work permit is illegal and can result in deportation.
  • Disrespecting Religious Customs: Always behave respectfully in temples, during ceremonies, and in sacred locations. Wear appropriate attire (covering shoulders and knees), and always follow local guidelines. There have been instances where tourists took photos for Instagram while nude at sacred locations, and ended up getting deported – don’t go viral or you may go home!
  • Public Indecency: Acts of public indecency, including nudity on beaches or amorous displays in public, can result in arrest.
  • Illegal Alcohol: Homemade local spirits like ‘arak’ can sometimes be tainted and deadly. Consuming or selling such spirits can be both dangerous and illegal.
  • Driving Without a License: If you drive, ensure you have an appropriate international driving license or a local license.
  • Traffic Violations: Helmet laws for motorbikes and seat belts for cars are enforced, and you can be fined for violations.
  • Trespassing: Avoid entering private property or restricted areas without

Taking The Plunge

Whether you’ve already visited Bali or are just now looking into it for the first time, there’s a lot to consider as it’s a true journey – both in distance as well as style of life that you may be used to at home. It may be daunting, exciting, and make you a little nervous considering the possibility, but the more you learn and understand the easier it gets, and you don’t have to dive in all at once.

Plan a trip for a couple weeks your first time around and get to know what the island feels like. Experience the different areas firsthand as they all have something different to offer. Eat the food, take in the sun, and see how Bali shifts your perspective. For many, a vacation is all they need to see the sights and get a life experience like no other, but for adventurers and global travelers, Bali is all too often a place where people come to check it out and then end up making it home for years. As we tend to say when meeting other expats: “It happens!”

Join The Discussion

FEATURED ARTICLES

Compare listings

Compare