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.
You may not experience it while walking the hectic streets of Kuta or Seminyak, but Balinese people are extremely kind, good-natured and friendly.
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?
How about the increase in crime? That should’ve been first. Lack of safe, reasonably priced transport from clubs which forces both locals and expats to drive home drunk. ATM card skimming, bag/purse snatchings, home robberies, etc. I lived there for two years, but will only go back for a short visit. I hope the banjar and polisi will work harder or the island’s reputation will be tarnished forever.
Hey Becca, I lived in the south so cheap taxis were never an issue. I’ve definitely heard of items being stolen from homes, as well as stolen purses and card skimming and such, but honestly what I experienced wasn’t any worse than any other place I’ve lived, like Costa Rica and Thailand. Hope you run across some better luck on your next travels!
Really? There’s a taxi mafia in the south. The Blue Birds stopped running at a certain time as well as most of the ride sharing services. You’re only left with the lookalike Blue Birds and motorbike taxi drivers who want to charge you 200.000 rp for a five minute journey at 4:00 a.m. Most expats and locals chose to ride home drunk.
Has the transportation at night changed?
Thanks for your advice and insights.
My wife and I are THINKING of putting our Melbourne house up for rent and living in Bali for 12 months.
Where do you recommend we start looking for accommodation.
Hope you can help.
Steve + Jo.
Hey, Steve & Jo! A year in Bali sounds like a lovely plan. My recommendation is to reach out to local residents and property owners via the Ubud Community Facebook page to see what’s out there and the costs associated with what you’re looking for, and then hire an agent to show you around to a few other properties when you arrive in case they know of other availabilities. Don’t sign anything long term before arriving just in case it isn’t what you had in mind. Best wishes!
I’m planning a 1-2 month stay in Bali, this Spring. Where would you recommend staying for a relaxing, nature-filled getaway with great interest access?
Hey there! I would personally recommend Canggu, Uluwatu or Amed, but it really just depends on your interests and how far you’re willing to be from the ocean. This guide might help you make a more informed decision: https://travelinfools.com/where-you-should-live-bali/ Hope it helps! Bye, Felicia. (Sorry, couldn’t resist.)
how can having private photoshoot be illegal can you tell me about this. also is it hard to get things that we are use to in the usa over in bali
Hello! I was curious about critters you might find in your home or how often you come across them. I’m a little anxious about what I might find inside a house/apartment.
I’m interested in moving to Bali but I’m confused about home ownership there. How can you own a house and it’s title so you can leave it to your heirs?
Do you still live in Bali ? Any update on what you published here in 2015 ?