Waking up at 7am on a cold winter’s morning when it’s dark outside. Forcing a Nescafe down your neck and dragging yourself into a lukewarm shower before rushing to catch a packed out bus filled with tired, unhappy faces on their way towards that day’s grind…
Is this really all that the sum total of all of your ancestors’ hard work, innovation and sacrifice is worth? I played along with this pantomime of mediocrity for nearly 30 years, but then I decided it was time for more, time for a change of scenery and time for a bit of daily sunshine.
And so I moved to Bali. Now my daily routine consists of a morning chorus of bird song, a competitive motorbike sprint to my favourite cafe for a bullet coffee and the exchange of smiles with healthy, happy, tanned faces.
I’m not writing this to gloat or rub your face in the mud. Rather, today I am writing this epic Moving To Bali guide to help you follow in my footsteps. In this post, we will take a deep dive at the costs of living in Bali, visa issues, and day to day practicalities to help you upgrade your life.
Why Move To Bali?
Bali is now a very popular travel destination (maybe too popular) and you have probably all seen the images of the gorgeous ancient temples, lush rice fields and smiley locals.
Backpacking around Bali is right of passage of sorts for some youngsters. And whilst the reality isn’t all infinity pools and Instagram models, there is no denying the truth that Bali offers an amazing standard of living.
Moving to Bali offers the chance to experience a decent standard of life at a fraction of the cost of an average western life. Living in Bali means pleasant weather (usually), abundant nature and fresh air, delicious healthy food and a laid back pace of existence.
Of course, Bali isn’t exactly an economic powerhouse and isn’t mineral-rich. Therefore, people don’t generally move here to make big money and Bali generally attracts people with their own means, innovative business owners, and Digital Nomads who come here to make money online. Because the costs of living in Bali are relatively low, it can be a great option.
Cost of Living in Bali Summary
Before we delve into the nuts and bolts of moving to Bali, I think it’s imperative that we take a close look at the costs of living in Bali. I mean, you need to know if you can afford to base yourself here before you spend time planning your move.
Of course, it goes without saying that the costs of living in Bali can and will vary depending on an endless set of variables. I know some people who can live here for $500 per month whereas others manage to spend $3000.
The data we are presenting here has been compiled by a considerable survey of expats and travellers who spent time residing in Bali.
|Rent (Private Room Vs Luxury Villa)||$300 – $1,200|
|Eating Out||$120 – $250|
|Housekeeper (less than 10 hours)||$100|
|Car or Scooter Rental||$50 – $250|
What Does it Cost To Live in Bali – The Nitty Gritty
The above figures were a rough, general guide. Whilst they are useful as a starting point, the next task is to take a closer look at these costs, what they involve and how they might vary.
Rent in Bali
Your biggest cost in Bali is going to be rent and housing costs (unless you develop a severe gambling, drug or faberge egg habit). Just like anywhere in the world, your rental costs will vary depending on the property type, and on where exactly you want to live or stay in Bali.
For example, a room in a shared house will work out a lot cheaper than hiring out an entire villa. Also, areas like Ubud and Canggu are now very popular with expats, which means rental prices have soared.
First, you need to work out if you want to share a property or if you want your privacy. If you are moving with family or a partner, a place of your own is probably the best; solo travellers may welcome the company that comes with living in a shared house.
A top cost-saving tip is to cast your net a little bit wider. Many popular areas have suburbs or satellite villages that are a lot cheaper and often can be reached by way of a 5-minute bike ride.
Note that most Bali property rental websites tend to focus on short term holiday lets and are not necessarily the best place to look for a long term prospect. The best way to find a rental property is to get on the ground and start looking.
Alternatively, there are a few Facebook groups such as Ubud rental or Kuta Villas to rent which can be a useful starting place. However, in many cases these groups are used by Westerners who are effectively sub-letting properties that they do not own – therefore, you often get a better deal if you go straight to the source.
Room in a shared Villa in Canggu – $350 – $550
Luxury Villa in Canggu – $700 – $1000
Standard Villa in Canggu – $550 – $830
Note that in most cases, when you rent a villa or home, bills are included in the price. However, this is not always the case.
Rice Paddy Hideaway in Ubud
Forget your worries and retreat with your loved ones to this idyllic exquisite villa on the outskirts of central Ubud. Ideal for a quiet weekend away you can spend your day overlooking the endless lush rice paddies.
Transport in Bali
In order to get around, you’ll need a scooter or a car – public transport in Bali is almost non-existent. There are plenty of scooter and bike taxis operating which you can find on the street, or via apps such as GoJek. Note that in some areas GoJek is not available owing to the direct interference of the local drivers who jealously guard their monopoly.
Most Bali long-termers elect to rent a bike as this invariably proves to be the most convenient and cost effective way to get around. Bike rental costs vary depending on what model you elect for, how long you agree to take it for, and how hard you negotiate.
You also need to factor in petrol which is quite cheap and available on many street sides. Oh, and bear in mind that if you damage the bike whilst it is in your possession you will most probably have to pay for the damages.
Taxi Ride (Canggu to Ubud) – $13
50cc Scooter Rental – $50
Ride on a Dragon – Priceless
Food in Bali
Food in Bali is delicious, varied and ubiquitous. You can barely walk down the street without being tempted by tantalising aromas teasing your nostrils.
A huge variable in your Bali living costs will be whether you decide to generally eat out or eat in. I know several Bali residents who never cook their own food and either eat out (or order in) for every single meal. This can, of course, get pricey as hell.
Restaurant costs in Bali fluctuate as widely as they do anywhere else. You can find cheap “Warungs” that do platefuls of local food for a few $, you can find expensive “Western” style places that charge $10 for a pizza and everything in between.
Grocery and supermarket prices also tend to vary depending on where exactly you are – areas inhabited by foreigners tend to be more costly so it always pays to get your bike and seek out the cheapest supermarket. Also note that local produce is generally affordable but imported goods (pasta, cheese) can be far more expensive than in Europe and the US.
Rice (1Kg) – $2.50
Bag of Veg – $9 (from local market)
Chicken (double breast) – $3.50
Vegetable Oil – $1.80
Bread (Loaf) – $1.50
Eggs – $1.50
Milk – $3.5o
Drinking in Bali
The tap water in Bali is not good to drink. Whilst you can probably get used to it, the done thing is to buy bottled water. You can pick up 1l bottles for $0.50 each or big 20L for $1.80. How many you go through in a week is obviously up to you, but personally, I recommend staying hydrated – carry a water bottle and fill it up whenever you see a water cooler.
Drinking alcohol can become quite expensive as well. The local beer Bintang is the cheapest bet and costs $1.50 in a supermarket and $2 – $3 in a bar or restaurant. Imported beer or cider may cost twice as much and wine is very expensive too – the unsatisfying local stuff is around $15 and an imported bottle of average Australian wine will start at $20.
Why Should You Travel to Bali with a Water Bottle?
Whilst there’s a lot that we can do when it comes to travelling responsibly, reducing your plastic consumption is one of the easiest and most impactful things you can do. Don’t buy one-use water bottles, don’t take plastic shopping bags, and forget straws. All of this just ends up in landfill or in the ocean.
If you’d like some more tips on how to save the world, be sure to watch the video below.
Keeping Busy and Active in Bali
Presumably, you are not planning on Moving to Bali just to sit home and watch Netflix and will probably intend on engaging in some manner of activity once you arrive, right?
The good news is that there is a lot of stuff in Bali to keep you occupied. Popular activities include Surfing, Yoga, Hiking, Ecstatic Dance, CrossFit, Axe Throwing, Seal Clubbing and there seems to be a massage parlour on just about every corner.
How much you spend on these activities will vary. If you want to surf, you will need some gear. Will you be bringing it with you? Renting it in Bali or buying it in Bali? Will you be needing lessons or are you already a pro?
There are also various yoga retreats in Bali which are more costly and intense than simply attending drop-in sessions but may be good for serious yoga devotees.
With all of these variables in mind, it’s quite difficult for me to advise what your activity budget should be, but still, here are some example prices to get you started:
Surf Lesson (1 hr) – $7 – $18
Surfboard Rental (1 day) – $7
Mt Batur Guided Hike – $10 – $30 (depends on package)
Balinese Massage – $7 – $35
Yoga Class – $11
Gym Membership – From $35
School in Bali
If you are moving to Bali with school-age kids, then you will need to think about their education. The regular schools in Bali are probably not a suitable option even if they agree to accept your kids. You should find a private or international school to send your brood to.
Private schools are never cheap and Bali is not an exception here. Fees range from $8k – $20k USD per pupil per term.
Medical Costs in Bali
Healthcare standards in Bali are not world class and if you ever find yourself needing serious treatment, your best bet is to go elsewhere. Still, if you are fit and healthy and not planning to fall into bad health, then the medical care on offer in Bali will probably prove to be fit for purpose.
If you do need healthcare in Bali, then you will need to pay for it. The cost will vary depending on what exactly it is you need but as a rule, it may work out cost effective to have some kind of private health insurance policy in place.
SafetyWing offers a monthly healthcare plan which covers Digital Nomads, expats, and long term travellers. We have been using it ourselves for a while now and find them to provide great value.
Visas in Bali
If you plan on staying for a while or even moving to Bali, then you are going to need an appropriate visa.
If you intend to live in Bali for 2 months or less, you can stay on a 2-month Indonesian tourist visa (however, you need to register for it as soon as you arrive at the airport so don’t be fooled into accepting the free easy-come 28 day visa on arrival!). The 2-month tourist visa costs $35 at the airport, and then you will need to formally register the extension at a later date.
A tourist visa will allow you to remain in Bali for 60 days, but strictly speaking, you will not be permitted to work. If you make your living as a Digital Nomad, you need to bear in mind that working online will technically be violating the terms of your visa.
For longer stays in Bali, you should look at the Social and Business Single Entry Visa option. This allows you to remain in Bali for up to 180 days (half a year) and costs $300. You will need to apply via an agent and find a sponsor before you try to enter Bali. In the application, you will need to specify why exactly you wish to stay in Bali, and how you intend on supporting yourself. We are not qualified to provide any advice on this process and strongly recommend finding a reputable visa agent.
In order to stay longer, you need to look into a KITA visa but these can be seriously expensive.
Banking in Bali
Opening a Balinese bank account is possible and may be something you wish to do if you are going to stay in Indonesia for the long run.
Bali remains primarily a cash society. Bigger, westernised business will accept card payment but local-flavoured establishments will almost certainly not.
There are plenty of ATMs in the cities and tourist hubs of Bali, but they’re less frequent out in the sticks, rural areas, and local neighbourhoods.
Using your bank card from your home country (whether to make a payment or withdraw cash) will end up costing you a little fortune in transaction fees and is best avoided. Instead, we recommended getting a few different travel banking cards as they all offer a certain level of fee-free ATM withdrawals. If you get yourself a Transferwise, Revolut and Monzo card, you’ll be able to withdraw around $600/month and have unlimited card payment allowance.
For making and receiving international bank transfers with our incurring any fees, we recommend using Payoneer.
Taxes in Bali
People used to say the only 2 certainties in life were death and taxes but between them, Jesus, Dracula, Google and Starbucks have since then proved otherwise. Still, plebs like us are nevertheless born to die and legally obligated to pay our taxes.
If you are working or operating a business in Bali, you will need to pay taxes. If you are taking a job in Bali, your employer will deal with this. But if you intend to open a business, then get an accountant who will tell you what you need to do.
If you are planning on living in Bali via independent means or by working as a Digital Nomad, then you will probably remain obligated to pay taxes in your native country. However, if you intend to become a full time resident in Bali then you probably should be paying your taxes there as you will ultimately be benefiting from the island’s clean air, policing and societal stability.
Hidden Costs of Living in Bali
Moving to another country almost always carries hidden, unexpected costs that you never really budgeted for. Of course, by its very definition, something that is hidden is not easy to see and it really is kind of a stretch to anticipate the unexpected.
Still, in this section I will try my best to list a few Bali living costs that you may not have thought about – I can’t really give exact amounts and I can’t list every possibility, but I can hopefully get you thinking.
Firstly, you need to consider what does it cost to get “home”? What if you need to abruptly fly back to your home country to attend a funeral or take care of some important matter? Note that flights booked at short notice tend to be quite expensive and flying from Bali to Europe in a hurry can easily set you back $500 – $1000. Ouch.
Other hidden costs are less dramatic: Western toiletry products can work out quite costly as can little bits of electronic equipment. My Sony headphones died when I was in Bali and I was shocked to discover that I had to pay twice what I’ve paid for them back in the UK.
It would be wise of you to make sure you have a few thousand bucks in savings before making the move to Bali, just in case.
Insurance For Living in Bali
Bali isn’t dangerous – it is, for the most part, a safe and happy place to live. Things can still go wrong, though. Crime is not common but does happen.
Likewise, scooter crashes, surfing accidents and bouts of tropical illness do happen to both tourists and expats alike.
I already recommended checking out SafetyWings’ Health Insurance but in case you missed it, click on the button below to take a closer look at their page.
As well as that, I also have gadget insurance on my Mac that covers theft, accidental damage AND water damage (the rainy season can get very humid).
We have a kick-ass Bali insurance guide that provides more intel if you have the time.
Moving To Bali – What You Need To Know
Now that the costs are out of the way, you should have a clearer vision of whether life in Bali is for you or not. Presuming that you think it is, let’s take a closer look at the ins and outs of moving to Bali.
Where To Live in Bali
Bali is a fairly small island, but don’t go thinking it’s pretty much like a city. There are some serious distances and the various towns, cities and villages of interest are quite spread out. You do need to think long and hard about which part of Bali you want to live in.
We suggest holding this decision until you’ve had the chance to look around and get a feel for the areas. In the short term, you can get always get an Airbnb and get a flavour of what life is like in the area.
Let’s take a close look at some of the most popular areas;
Denpasar is the concrete-flavoured, gritty and grimy capital city of Bali. The airport is situated here, as well as most governmental offices. Denpasar is a good place to do your shopping, banking and administrative stuff but isn’t exactly the Bali you were dreaming of. There is no beach to speak of, not much greenery and the pace of life is a bit frantic.
Most visitors pass through Denpasar and that’s as far as it goes.
Over the last decade Canggu has mushroomed into a hub for Surfers, hipsters and Digital Nomads. There are loads of boutique shops, restaurants and hostels and the streets are perpetually jiving with the insta gorgeous.
Canggu’s popularity does mean that property prices have spiked and you won’t find any bargains. Most Digital Nomads in the area are in house-share situations as villa’s veer onto the expensive side. That said, you can save a few bucks by casting your net a bit wider and looking for digs in the wider Canggu area.
Happening, hip and cosmopolitan Canggu is the Digital Nomad hub of Bali. The coastal village is now a mini modern mecca that also offers relative peace and sanity!
Imagine a thousand Australians all belching at once and you have pretty much imagined Kuta. Kuta is Bali’s answer to Benidorm where weekenders come to drink, burn and misbehave. It can be a fun place to spend a few nights, but is a bit raucous for those looking to settle down unless you’re really fond of finding fresh beer flavoured puddles of vomit each morning.
Kuta isn’t really a good place to live.
Set inland away from the glorious beaches, peaceful Ubud is green, hilly and kind of spiritual with temples and monuments at every turn. The general vibe up in Ubud is one of yuppy hippies with iPads instead of guitars – imagine Goa but with Starbucks instead of Psytrance. There are lots of different neighbourhoods in Ubud to suit all desires!
That aside, I love Ubud and can recommend it as a decent Bali base. There is lots going on ranging from meditation workshops to cocktail bars. It’s an ideal place for those who want to get their heads down to work by day, and relax by night. You can generally find a decent rental here a lot cheaper than you can at the beaches.
Endless rice paddies, incredible yoga classes and retreats, breathwork and amazing coffee – that’s what you can expect to find in laid-back, hippie centre Ubud.
Southerly Uluwatu rivals Ubud as the spiritual heart of Bali but, unlike Ubud, has some lovely, dramatic classic Balinese beaches offering first rate surfing. Uluwatu is popular with surfers and with travellers on short term visits but is not yet quite as established for long term stayers. The Uluwatu Sea temple is one Bali’s holiest spots.
Note that the internet in Uluwatu is notoriously patchy and Digital Nomads will need some serious patience.
As a quiet yet popular spot, you can enjoy Bali at its most organic and rustic. Enjoy amazing waves, white beaches, breath-taking scenery and fascinating culture.
Tabanan is the area just north of the famous Tanah Lot temple that is looking to become the “new Canggu” in just a couple of years. More and more families and expats are moving towards Tabanan to escape the busy streets of Batu Bolong and Berawa.
It’s a rural area with beautiful rice paddies, a calm and safe atmosphere and offers an almost empty black-sand beach. Tabanan can be reached by scooter within 20-30min from Canggu (depending on where you’re staying), but since the area is quite remote, driving there is actually quite pleasant.
The only thing that Tabanan is missing is Western Cafes, like the ones you can find in Canggu. However, they’re expected to pop up soon enough.
An up and coming area. Relatively quiet and peaceful but with enough hustle and bustle to keep an ex-pat in Bali amused.
Located in the South of Bali, Sanur is known for lots of family-friendly activities, great schools and a beautiful white-sand beach. Unlike Uluwatu, Sanur is less digital nomad and surfing focused. You can find lots of expats here that are planning on staying for a very long time.
Sanur is not as cheap as other parts of Bali, but it’s generally very safe and the infrastructure is a bit better than in other cities.
Sanur is also where you can find the harbour that connects Bali to the other Indonesian Islands. If you want to snorkel, scuba dive, or have a day trip to Nusa Penida or Nusa Lembongan, staying in Sanur is the ideal base. You can also find plenty of great accommodation options here.
Sanur in the South of Bali is a great place for families and long-termers. It is more expensive than other areas but offers a high-standard of living.
The Balinese are very polite and welcoming of foreigners. You will find the Balinese very hospitable whenever you interact with them. However, many expats in Bali tend to mix in expat circles and don’t really have local “friends” as such.
This is partially down to a language barrier. If you are serious about settling in Bali, then it is definitely worth making an effort to learn a bit of Balinese or Indonesian.
Pros and Cons of Moving To Bali
Alas, every silver lining has its rain clouds and nothing in life is perfect. If you are moving to Bali then there are both serious pros and cons that you really need to consider. Let’s take a closer look at them:
Pros of Living in Bali
Weather – The weather in Bali is sunny and pleasant most of the time. It can very hot during some parts of the year and then there are the rainy seasons to be bear in mind.
Pace of Life – The pace of life in Bali is a lot slower and more leisurely than in the West.
Nature – In Bali, you are never far from green fields and tropical jungles. Regular hikes and fresh air will add years to your life.
Cost of Living – You can rent a luxury villa with a pool in Bali for less than the cost of a flat in London.
Cons of Living in Bali
Rainy Season – The rainy seasons (between October to April) can get pretty annoying. It is wet and humid all day long. Still, it beats a British winter.
Limited Job Opportunities – If you have a business or a private income, then life in Bali can be great. If you need to find a regular job, it is not a good place for a foreigner to be.
Health and Social Services – If you get ill, or fall on hard times, there isn’t much help nor a support network for you. Make sure you have insurance, savings and somebody local to help you out if you ever get into trouble.
Schooling – If you have kids, then schooling is seriously expensive.
Living as a Digital Nomad in Bali
The Island of the Gods that is Bali is well established as a true hub for Digital Nomads. In fact, no fewer than 4 people in our team are currently based here. Bali isn’t the cheapest place for Digital Nomads to live and doesn’t have quite the same pulse as say Bangkok or Chiang Mai, but is a great option for those seeking a blend between serenity and modernity.
Most Digital Nomads in Bali come out under their own steam with pre-established business, hustles and income streams. It isn’t an ideal place to come if you are looking for Digital Nomad work as there are much more networking opportunities in other places such as Thailand. Also, note that there are no big Blogger or Online Marketing conferences in Bali.
That said, if you are determined enough, you can probably make some contacts who may be able to offer you some help and get you started.
Internet in Bali
Despite being a bonafide Digital Nomad mini-mecca, the wifi in Bali can be pretty patchy. There are plenty of cafes and co-working spaces that offer reliable internet and these will often be the best option if you need to get shit done.
The wifi at hostels and villas is generally sufficient to run a blog, but does struggle with anything that requires greater bandwidth – say video calling or crypto-trading.
If work is a priority, I recommend considering staying in Ubud, Canggu, Kuta or Denpasar – moving into a more rural part of town may mean you are constantly battling to get online and forever losing your work; trust me I have been there.
Digital Nomad Visas in Bali
At the time of writing, Bali does not issue visas for Digital Nomads and most of them enter on tourist visas. Technically, working as a Digital Nomad is a breach of the Visa terms but on the other hand, Digital Nomads are not eligible for business visas either.
Hopefully this grey area will be clarified at some point in the future.
Co-Working Spaces in Bali
A great option for Digital Nomads is to consider co-working spaces. Whilst you can simply work from your bed and not even bother getting dressed, co-working spaces offer a number of benefits. They offer superior wifi, the chance to meet like-minded people and the psychological effect of “going to work” can work wonders against the old nemesis that is procrastination.
Of course, most of these do require a payment, whether by the hour, day or month. Remember to factor this overhead into your Bali costs of living budget.
Our personal favourite for Co-Working AND co-living is Tribal Bali. Looking for the perfect place to live, work, play and stay in beautiful Bali? Tribal Bali is Bali’s first custom-designed, purpose-built co-working hostel and the epic brainchild of Will Hatton, the OG Broke Backpacker. This is the place where backpacker babes, aspiring entrepreneurs, adventurous explorers and vagabond hustlers alike come together to work, eat, play and fall in love… well, at least with the absolutely fantastic coffee and beautiful views!
Mingle, share inspiration and find your tribe whilst working in the TREMENDOUSLY FUCKING HUGE co-working space and shooting a game of pool on Tribal’s electric pink billiards table. There’s a gigantic pool as well so it’s always time for a refreshing dip to break up the day’s hustle, brainstorming, work, and games…
With epic food, legendary coffee, awesome cocktails (Tribal Tonics are the best signature cocktails you’ve ever had in a hostel – I guarantee you that!) and a dedicated co-working space, this is the place where you want to be when visiting Bali. If you love the site and want to support Will, swing on by next time you’re in Bali 😉
Living in Bali – FAQ
Let’s take a quick look at some of the most commonly asked questions about life in Bali.
Final Thoughts on Bali Living Costs
To move or not to move? I hope this Bali living costs guide helped you out and that you have now decided what to do with your life! Bali is an awesome place to live and you will be very happy out there. If you run into any of us, do come and say hi 🙂
See you on the next one!
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