It’s been nearly three months since I arrived in Bali, and while I fully understand that amount of time doesn’t make me an expert on the place (very far from it, in fact), it’s much longer than the average traveler will be fortunate enough to spend here.
Like anywhere I’ve moved, there are positives and negatives about Bali. Some are obvious, while others become more apparent the longer I stay here. And while I certainly don’t speak for all travelers or expats, I hope this post gives you some insight on what to expect during your vacation, long-term travel, or move to the beautiful island of Bali.
Cost of Living
One of the most obvious reasons more and more people are choosing to pack up and move to Bali is its low cost of living. While notably higher than other popular Southeast Asian countries like Thailand, Vietnam and Cambodia, for life on a tropical island, it’s still pretty inexpensive.
As an American, the Caribbean, Hawaii, Mexico and Central America are obvious go-to’s for similar beach style living, especially considering their proximity to the U.S., but on Bali, at least from what I’ve experienced, your dollar will go further.
In 2015, the average cost of a 1 bedroom apartment in Dallas was around $750/month, New York $2,000/month, and Seattle $1,600/month, which does not include bills, furniture, or deposit money. Compare that to the cost of my cozy studio apartment in Bali at around $365/month, which includes all of the above, and it’s clear why Indonesia is an obvious choice for expats.
Convenience & Ease of Living
Do you want Thai curry delivered to your door at midnight? Massages on the beach for less than the cost of a sandwich? A taxi driver to expertly navigate through dense traffic while you read in the backseat?
These are just some of the perks of living in Bali, and all the more reason it’s easy to enjoy yourself here.
During a particularly brutal bout of sickness in Ubud, my homestay host was nice enough to wake her husband up at 1am to drive me to the clinic, and even came upstairs to check up and bring me medicine in the days that followed.
Take time to get to know the locals (in every place you travel, but especially in Bali), and you’ll likely be treated to some of the most genuine hospitality on earth.
Beauty & Change of Scenery
This is by far the most obvious point on the list, but Bali’s natural beauty is breathtaking. Ornate temples, volcanoes, waterfalls, white sand and black sand beaches, rice terraces, ideal surf conditions, scenic ocean cliffs and vibrant city life are all at your fingertips.
And if you really feel the need to get off of Bali, a number of other stunning islands, countries and cultures are only a quick flight or boat ride away.
While chatting with a Balinese business owner who previously lived in Australia for 15 years, I mentioned that I liked the simple things you could do here without consequence, such as walking down the street with a beer, driving your scooter on the sidewalk, and other little freedoms that blend into daily life here, seemingly unnoticed.
He agreed, but also noted that while “Bali has a lot of freedoms, it also has corruption.” Lesson being, maybe you can’t have the best of both worlds when it comes to freedom and justice.
Lack of Concern for the Environment
Having moved here directly from Hawaii, perhaps the most pristine beach environment I’ve ever been to, the amount of trash and pollution in Indonesia is truly frightening, both in and out of the ocean.
Since the quality of tap water is too poor to drink and there has yet to be a serious or effective push for alternatives to plastic, trash is literally everywhere. Trash fires are also common, creating toxic pollutants and even smaller bits of floating trash, which makes the thought of cleaning it up seem a nearly impossible task.
So what can you do about it, besides not contributing to it while you’re here? Well, that’s the struggle. Companies like EcoBali, Indonesia Organic, Yayasan IDEP and others have made efforts to create a recycling center, but until the importance of its damaging effects really catches on, namely from its more than 4.2 million residents, education seems to be the most effective tool.
Job Opportunities & Visa Regulations
Compared to other countries I’ve lived and traveled in, Indonesia has some of the most tedious Visa regulations I’ve experienced, especially when it comes to purposes of long-term and/or open-ended travel.
Also, while I very much agree that jobs should be left for local residents, Bali’s government has gone so far as to join popular Facebook groups specifically to find newcomers seeking (or abusing) work opportunities and arrest foreign photographers holding private photo shoots in villas. Generally, I think this creates an environment that not only discourages expats and travelers from staying here long-term, but also even perhaps results in them (knowingly or unknowingly) breaking laws and accepting illegal work opportunities.
Even when researching options to ensure you apply for the correct Visa, the answers are often inconsistent and depend entirely on who or what agency you ask.
Thank you for reading about life in Bali! What pros and cons would you add to the list?