For those planning to live in Bali for longer than 60 days, one of the most popular visa options is the Social-Cultural Visa, or Sosial Budaya. While you can typically plan ahead and obtain this type of Visa from your home country, you can also make arrangements for it once you arrive in Bali, so long as you leave the country for the application process and return within 3 months.
Having recently gone through this process ourselves, I can tell you that while the requirements may seem somewhat vague and tedious, the process is not really all that difficult. Below is the most recent information about how to get your Social-Cultural Visa after you’re already in Bali, but as always, we recommend checking around for the latest updates or changes.
Bali: How to Get a Social-Cultural Visa
Keep the following information in mind before applying:
- You cannot receive a Social-Cultural Visa from within Indonesia! You must either apply in your home country, or from a country outside of Indonesia.
- If you’re already in Bali (on a 30 Day or 60 Day Visa On Arrival, for example), we recommend flying to Singapore, as the turn-around time is quick, the process is simple, and the flights from Bali are short and fairly inexpensive.
- A Social-Cultural Visa grants you an initial stay of 60 days in Bali, followed by 4 possible extensions, each for an additional 30 days, bringing your total stay to a maximum of 180 days.
- The Social-Cultural Visa is Single Entry, meaning that if you need to leave Indonesia for any reason (not just Bali, as travel within the country is permitted), you will need to start the process all over again before returning on the same type of Visa. If you know you’ll need to leave the country any time in the following 6 months, this is probably not the Visa for you.
- You are not permitted to conduct any type of business activity or take up employment on the Social-Cultural Visa. This also includes volunteer work.
Hiring a Visa Agent
While it is entirely possible to do everything yourself, in our opinion, it is worth the extra money to hire an agent to handle the paperwork, multiple trips to the immigration office, Singapore agent referrals, etc.
We chose Visa4Bali to handle our Social-Cultural Visas, which cost approximately $200 USD each and included the following:
- Sponsor Letter & I.D. – A Social-Cultural Visa requires an Indonesian resident to act as your sponsor. They are technically responsible for you, so make sure to be on your best behavior!
- 4 Regular Extensions – Instead of handling all of the extensions ourselves, we were only required to go to the immigration office one time for the very first extension (sometime before day 60) in order to get our photo taken and fingerprints scanned. A Visa4Bali courier picked up and held our passports for the remaining 3 extensions, though communication has been lacking and disorganized on their end. Make sure you contact them at least 7 business days before the deadline for your extensions as a reminder, and keep your receipts and emails for proof of payment!
- Recommended Agent in Singapore – One of the best perks of using an agent service was their referral for a Visa Agent in Singapore, Mike Kassim. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or +65 9816.2189 the day before you are set to arrive (or earlier), and will meet you at the Indonesian Embassy in Singapore with all of your required paperwork, outlined below. We met him at around 8am in the morning and picked up our Visas that same afternoon around 4pm, allowing us to catch an evening flight back to Bali. His service cost an additional $130 USD each, though the alternative (doing it yourself) requires a 2-3 day turnaround in Singapore, which is much more costly in the long run.
You will need to prepare the following documents for your agent in Singapore:
- Visa Application Form – The agent filled this out for us
- Sponsor Letter & I.D.
- Passport – Must have more than 6 months validity from reentry date
- Copy of ID page in Passport – Can be done anywhere in Bali, but we like SupaPrint in Legian
- Copy of Singapore Stamp page in Passport – You’ll need to do this once you arrive
- 2 Passport-Sized Photos Per Person – We got these done at Kodak Express in Kuta, Bali, located at the intersection of Jalan Raya Kuta and Jalan Kauripan
*Note: We were told we’d need to show copies of our plane ticket out of Singapore, but were never required to show them; therefore, this item is being left off the list.
Cost Breakdown, as of 2016:
$200 USD Bali agent fees +
$140 USD Singapore agent fees +
$170 USD round-trip flight to Singapore +
$65 USD for overnight accommodation, transportation and meals in Singapore =
$575 USD each for Social-Cultural Visa in Bali
Tips for Success:
Inevitably there are a lot of questions that come up during this process. Feel free to comment and ask about anything we may not have covered, and we’ll do our best to help!
- If you want to cut down on costs, you could choose the early morning flight from Bali to Singapore (6:20am on AirAsia), and technically get your Visa processed in time to fly back to Bali the same night, avoiding any accommodation and additional meal/transportation costs in Singapore.
- Check the Indonesia Embassy website for any upcoming holidays before you book your ticket to Singapore, as the embassy will likely be closed, causing delays in your stay.
- You will need to show an exit ticket out of Singapore before leaving Bali, but will not be required (at least in our case, flying with AirAsia) to show an exit ticket out of Indonesia within 180 days of your return. Simply tell the customs agent at Bali’s Ngurah Rai Airport that you will extend your Social-Cultural Visa after the initial 60 day stay, and plan to leave within 180 days (best to look at a calendar and come up with a date, just in case).
- Since our agent in Singapore handled everything for us, we did not have to dress up because we never entered the Embassy at all. Skip the dress pants – Singapore sits one degree north of the equator, and is very hot and humid! This will not be the case when applying yourself, however, and pants are supposedly a must.
- Once in Singapore, buy the Unlimited Tourist Pass (STP) for transportation within the city, which includes busses, the MRT and LRT ($10 SGD for 1 Day, $16 SGD for 2 Days).
- If staying in Singapore overnight, try to choose accommodation close the Indonesia Embassy, which is located at No. 7 Chatsworth Road. We found a nearby Airbnb rental on River Valley Rd. and simply walked to meet our agent at the Embassy the next morning. The nearest bus is the #75 with a stop on Grange Rd.
In the meantime, enjoy your time in Singapore – delicious chili crab, Singapore Slings, Little India, Chinatown and more await!
Very useful information!!
Very useful information!
Thank you! This is the most clear direct information I’ve found! I have a few questions. Would I have to show a plane ticket out of Bali in order to be granted the 30 day VOA? Right now i only have a one way and plan to play it by ear as far as when I want to leave. Also, you said the agent in Bali would handle the sponsor and their letter to apply for the social-cultural visa, does that mean they find you that person willing to sponsor you? Or would I have to find them and the agent would then handle getting a letter and copy of their id from them. Finally I’m wondering about what qualifies as volunteering. I plan to participate in multiple workaway’s where I would unofficially “volunteer” for a family or business (not getting paid of course) every day in exchange for a free place to stay. Would that automatically disqualify me from being able to obtain a social-cultural visa? Any advice with those questions would be really appreciated or any resouces I can turn to would be super helpful!!!
Hey Kelly! Yes, you will initially need a plane ticket out of Bali booked within 60 days if planning on arriving on a 30 day VOA and extending it. When you return (or arrive) on a Social Cultural Visa, however, you will not need to show a ticket out of the country (or at least in our case, but I’ve heard it depends on the airline) within your allotted 180 day stay. The visa agent in Bali finds the sponsor for you and includes their ID and all necessary information you’ll need for to get your Social Cultural visa. I’d say you’re fine with that type of volunteering, so long as it’s not an organized exchange that they advertise online for tons of people. And if anyone asks, you’re friends with them. Hope that helps!
Thanks Kelsey! So since the agent will find me the sponsor and all that what I’m hoping to do is get a social visa through an agent. BUT i also wanted to get it before I leave the US so I don’t have to do a run to Singapore. Looking up agents, they’re all.. naturally… based in Bali. Do you know if I can get a social visa while still in the US but by using an agent? Or can I only use the services of an Agent while physically in Bali?
You can go through the Indonesian Embassy nearest to you in the States to get a Social Cultural Visa. That way you avoid having to leave Bali after 30-60 days and save yourself a trip to Singapore. I haven’t done it that way (as I didn’t have the necessary paperwork or time to get it done before traveling to Bali), but that’s for sure the easiest way of doing it if you’re already in the States. Cheers!
Your site is wonderful – I’ve been looking everywhere for this info. Thank you! In response to the above comment, it sounds like if I apply here in the US at the Embassy before I go that they don’t find me a sponsor – is that correct? If I don’t already have a sponsor, it sounds like I’ll need to do the Singapore run once I’m already in Bali after getting a VOA… does that sound correct to you?
I know many travelers from the States have gotten the Social Cultural Visa through their nearest Embassy, so I would assume there has to be a way to get/find an Indonesian sponsor from there, but honestly I’m not sure since I didn’t do it that way. If you can find someone who’s done this process in the States, I’d start there. Maybe even write the ‘Ubud Community’ Facebook group and see what they say. But yes, if you don’t work this out in time, the Singapore run once you’re already in Bali on your VOA (either the free 30 day or inexpensive 60 day extension) is the way to go. Let us know what you find out!
Its not technically true that you need to show a airline ticket out of Indonesian. You can also prepurchase a ferry ticket from batam (top of Indonesia) to Singapore to show your exit plans.
Oh cool, didn’t know about that option. But then you’d technically have to buy a plane ticket to Batam to actually use that ferry ticket, right? Is that any less expensive than buying a flight to Singapore or Kuala Lumpur?
US citizen need visa?? Best airline & airport to come??? how about hotel resorts for 10 to 15 night stay.Food ???
and Massage fun???Where is best??? beach life??? Etc.
That’s a lot of questions in one comment, Nick. My quick answers are: Yes; Whichever one has the best 1st class section, and Ngurah Rai Airport; Check out the Accommodations section of the website for our recommendations; There are great restaurants everywhere; Yes, massages can be fun; I like Jari Menari in Seminyak; Beach life is great in Canggu, Seminyak, Uluwatu, and Amed! Enjoy your trip.
[…] For more information on Bali visas, check out these two informative articles from Wage Freedom and Bali Information Guide. […]
Thank you so much for writing this post as it has proved very useful! I am now in touch with the same Visa agents who have been a great help. I plan on getting my single entry social visa while I am at home (Auckland, NZ) and entering Bali with that. If this is the case do you think I will be okay to book a flight 180 days from my arrival into Bali or will I need to book one within the initial 60 days?
Hi Tahlia! Thanks for reading. I would say you’d be fine booking a flight for 180 days out. We weren’t even asked to prove that we had a ticket out after 180 days, but I think it largely depends on the airline and airport agent you get. Probably safest to go ahead and book an exit out for before your visa expires, and you should be totally fine with that. Cheers!
Hey Kelsey, we live in Adelaide and do not have an Indonesian Consultate here anymore. I have tried unsuccessfully to contact the consulates in Melbourne etc by phone (which usually rings out) or by email with no response. Do you have any suggestions here, I am thinking that I may have to fly to Melbourne to physically go into the consulate and apply in person.
Hey Steve, I would keep trying to call and email and ask an employee if you can do it through the mail. Most likely the answer will be no (as most consulates require you to be there in person in order to grant a visa), but you never know. You may have to make the trip over if you aren’t having any luck, or alternately, get the 30 day VOA on arrival in Bali, extend for another 30 days, and then fly to Singapore to get it done there. Best of luck!
Hi Kelsey, thanks so much for your reply. We ended up managing to track down a very helpful fellow in the SA Consulate Branch who said that all SA applicants need to apply in at the Sydney branch. Don’t bother to phone or email them, but they have clear instructions on their website on exactly what you need to supply for a 60 day Social Visa. We have followed these exactly, sent off the passports etc in Registered Mail with return Register Mail envelopes and hopefully should see something back next. Fingers crossed from here.
Awesome, Steve! Thanks for keeping us updated, and best of luck. I’m sure it’ll work out swimmingly for ya! 🙂
Hi Kelsey, just an update for you. We sent off our passports via Registered Mail and received them back via Registered Mail to us in approx. 7 working days which we were very happy with. I would recommend the Sydney Indonesian Consulate for sure. The trick is to make sure all of your paperwork requirements as per their website is double checked thoroughly, that the form supplied online is completed accurately and invest in Registered Mail so you can track it online. Packing our bags now to head over next week, you beauty!!
Hi Kelsey, A few questions: are you or this guide on FaceBook so I can follow? If I have already overstayed, there is strong chance I will not get any type of visa renewed yes — Immigration will make me leave right away even if I pay penalty fees? What kind of visa shall I apply for if I plan to make trips to Thailand during my stay in Bali (I was initially going to get Social Visa)? Can my hotel be my sponsor if I do apply for Social Visa as I don’t know anyone in Bali? Finally, which hotel do you recommend for Canggu & Berawa for Sept. 2017 visit? Apologies for the very many questions but your responses above have been most clear and helpful. Much Appreciation.
Hey Jade, no worries. Yes, we are on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/baliguide.
I’m pretty sure if you have overstayed, they will make you pay and then yes, you are supposed to leave ASAP. Since you want to make multiple trips out of the country, the Social Cultural Visa will not work for you, as it’s single entry. I would recommend paying for the 30 Day VOA, then extending it to the 60 Day VOA so long as they will let you. I know they were discussing limiting the amount of 60 day extensions allowed for foreigners, but I’m not sure anything is officially set in place for that yet. Really your best option is that basic VOA and extending it as many times as they’ll let you.
For Canggu and Berawa, we really loved the Desa Seni, though it’s quite pricey for Bali standards. If you are looking for a budget option, the easiest thing to do is book an Airbnb, hotel or homestay for a few nights while you go browse around in person. Cheers, and best of luck!
Hi Kelsey, Thank you so much for these precious informations… I would like to know if I can go to the airport to do my extension visa and if yes do you know if it is more quickly or I need to go back 3 times as the immigration office to Denpasar ? Thanks for your quick answer (I already paid when I’ arrived and I have extend my visa today last limit to stay in the 7 business days) . Have a great day ! deborah
Hi Kelsey. We were in bali march/April this year and paid VOA and then extended another 30 days. We are now in Sri Lanka until beginning of November and wondering if you have any ideas on getting social visa from over here in Colombo. We usually go through KL to Bali so that could also be another option. Any thoughts would be appreciated.
Hi Lynne, my advice is to contact the Indonesian Embassy in Sri Lanka, or a visa agency in Bali for a reference of who you could contact for help in Sri Lanka. The process would most likely be easier in Kuala Lumpur, as I know that’s a fairly popular hub to get this type of visa, but let us know what you find out either way. Cheers and best of luck!
Thanks will let you know how I go – is there any agent in bali you would recommend ?
hi kelsey i travel to bali on social visa a lot. the last two times i have had trouble at the airport with jet star as they are the only direct flight from adelaide. because at the airport they only recognize the sixty days even though i have all paper work sponser ect.last time they were not going to let me on the pla e until i bought a ticket to singapore out of bali in sixty days.i will have the same problem again which i do not want.what do i need to do..? yes the other people are right we haveno consulate melb. canberra sydney do not answer the phones i would like help on this matter as i will be leaving again from adelaide in the next few weeks.
Hey Yvonne, I’d love to help but unfortunately I have no idea what to tell you, as I did not have that problem when returning to Bali from Singapore. I flew AirAsia, so perhaps they have different regulations? As long as you have all your necessary paperwork for the 180 day stay, I don’t see how they can require you to have a plane ticket out within 60 days. My advice would be to contact the airline instead of the embassy, since this did not seem to be an issue with AirAsia. Alternately, you could always fly to Sydney and then book a direct flight to Bali on AirAsia (or a different airline). Best of luck.
Thank you Kelsey for your help ,i have been in touch with Jetstar ,but have had not any satisfaction as I am in Adelaide we only have jet star direct from here . I think my solution will be leave after 2 months and get a visa from Singapore in the same day. I really hope that not any one else has had the frustration that I have had
Hi Kelsey and thanx for very vast and professional information! Still I need to check a couple of things with you.
I’m to leave Kuala Lumpur 3th Oct for Bali and plan to stay more than 60 days, so the best thing for me to do seems to apply for a social cultural visa whence on Bali, using and agent and going to Singapore as in your information. That’s my plan.
1. Some forums say that for doing that (applying for extension) I would need to do a payed, not free, 30-day VOA on arrival at Denpasar airport. entering Bali for the first time Correct?
2. Do I need to, already on arrival Denpasar, show that I have a ticket leaving Bali for Singapore just before the first 30 days expire? Meaning I should book that one at once.
3. Did your Singapore visa agent also arrange for your sponsor letter & ID in his fee? How long time in advance would you recommend to begin the process with visa agent and better to book Singapore like 5 days before expire of first 30 days?
Thanks, a lot for your advice/Bo
Hi Bo, you could have applied for your Social Cultural Visa from Malaysia, but since you’ve already left for Bali, here’s my advice:
1. Yes, you will need to pay for the 30 day VOA to ensure you can extend it to the 60 day option (and after that, re-enter Indoneisa on your Social Cultural Visa). Look at this post for reference on that initial extension process – https://baliinformationguide.com/extending-30-day-visa-bali/.
2. We booked tickets out of Indonesia (to Singapore, but Kuala Lumpur is a good option as well) within 60 days of our initial visit to Bali, and that didn’t seem to raise any flags. I would assume you’d be fine doing the same. 30 days would work as well.
3. It’s better to book your Singapore ticket within 28-29/58-59 days of your Bali entrance date at the latest, just in case something goes wrong (especially considering the Mt. Agung situation at the moment). Our visa agents on Bali handled the sponsor letter and ID; the Singapore agent had very little to do except show up and present our list of documents at the embassy. My advice is to start the process as soon as you can, that way you have plenty of time to get everything sorted and avoid any last minute hassle.
Hope that helps!
I just wanted to check my understanding of a comment in the first part of your post which says:
You are not permitted to conduct any type of business activity or take up employment on the Social-Cultural Visa. This also includes volunteer work.
Are you saying you can not volunteer on a Social/ Cultural visa?
According to posts on other websites (eg. Trip Advisor) this is the only visa that allows volunteering on Bali.
I am trying to clear up some confusion I have before I proceed with my next trip which I was hoping to include some volunteering.
From what I remember, if you are volunteering in exchange for something – accommodation, food, free classes, expenses of any kind, etc. – it is illegal to do so on the Social Cultural Visa. My advice is to talk with whichever company you’re intending on volunteering with (or even better, a few travelers who have actually volunteered themselves), and get some clarification before you begin. You don’t want to be caught by immigration volunteering with a company in exchange for free lodging, as you might face a fine and/or in the worst case scenario, deported. In any case, my other advice would also be to post very little about your volunteer efforts on social media, as authorities have been known to scout sites for this type of violation.
Thanks Kelsey for the informative article! I have already gotten two Social Visas on my passport, (one from my home country, and one from Singapore) – I have been here in Indonesia for a year now. I was wondering if going back to Singapore and getting a new social visa would be a problem. How many times can you apply for a Social Visa outside of Indonesia? I am looking to stay here for another year as I am expecting a baby this April 2018. Any insights would be highly appreciated, thank you!
Hey there! This is an excellent question, and one I’ve had myself but unfortunately still can’t answer. When I lived there (2015 – 2016), I heard that they were beginning to cut down on the number of Social Visas you were allowed (over what time frame I also don’t know), whether from your home country or not, but I never received any particularly useful information that would be of help to someone in your position. I would suggest first contacting your current agent in Bali and asking them to double check with the immigration office on any current limitations on this, and second, call the Indonesian embassy you originally applied with in your home country (hopefully they’ll still have your info on file so you have some reference to provide), and ask them if they’re aware of any limitations as well. Maybe even go so far as to contact your previous agent in Singapore, if you can. Never hurts to cast a wide net when it comes to specifics about visa questions. From my knowledge, I am not aware that there is a ruling against the number of Social Visas you’re allowed to have… yet. But then again I could be completely wrong. Please come back and update us if you learn anything, and congrats on the baby!
Did the 200$ 4x extension included the visa extention fee paid in the bali office (i think its around 30$x4) or did you have to pay it on top of the 200$? Did the 140$ in Singapore included the visa office fee (i think thats arpund 50$)? And why there is overnight stay included in total since u said u paid extra 140$ for the fast 1 day service in Singapore please? Thanks so much for answers! This article is really helpful!!
Hey Fila, those fees, as far as I can remember, were all-inclusive. I did not pay $140 extra for the Singapore service; that was just the standard fee at the time. Our extra overnight stay was our choice, since we weren’t sure how long the process would take and didn’t want to make the trip back to Bali the same day. Hope that helps, cheers!
Hi Kelsey your info was really helpful, I will be over 55 when we move so I will look at the retirement visa, but my partner will be under 55, can you just keep renewing your cultural visa, as we plan to be there for the long term.
Hi Kirsty, glad you found it helpful! I’m honestly not sure what the limit is, as we only did this type of visa the one time. Your best bet is to search for Facebook groups with people currently living there (Ubud Community is a decent start), and ask around for the best visa advice for your particular situation. The regulations change often enough that I’d hate to give you incorrect (or outdated) information. Best of luck, and keep us posted if you find out anything interesting!
I’m an a predicament where I will have a sosial bundaya for a language course and then will have to get another one to go and do volunteer work (all for uni). I was wondering about how I could go about getting an agent (this seems easiest)? Is the one you recommended still your recommendation or do you have different suggestions, since you wrote this in 2016?
Hey Kirstie, there are tons of visa agents all over the place who are willing to help, so you may want to do some research online and see which agency in your area has the best reviews. I haven’t lived in Bali since 2016, so unfortunately I can’t offer any new information. Good luck!
Very good article! Very helpful and informative. I am a Filipina and currently working here in Phuket Thailand for almost 2 years. I plan to visit Bali this year for 2 months. As i am not included in the countries that are allowed to get an VOA , can i instead apply for social visa here in Phuket or do i need to be in the Philippines to apply?
Thank you so much for posting this information, its been very helpful! I’m in the process of applying for a social visa at the moment, my only confusion is that the Indonesian Embassy in London (where I’m applying) ask for plane tickets. Do the tickets out of Bali need to be within the 60 days for the Visa to be approved (because the initial Visa is for 60 days)? Or is it ok that my returns flights are within the 6 months, on the assumption that the visa will be extended?
Thank you for any help!
Hey, Sophie! I would advise you to either a) go ahead and buy a ticket out within the 180 day timeframe, as you’re going to have to do this anyway, or b) try to create an e-ticket (which can usually be cancelled and refunded within 24 hours) for 180 days out, and see what happens. You could ask them directly what exactly they require, but by doing that you may be more likely to call yourself out for not having a ticket out within the initial 60 day timeframe. From everything I’ve seen and read, it mostly depends on the airline and their discretion, but if the embassy is asking for it, I would assume a ticket out within 180 days would be okay. Let us know what happens!
how much does the social visa cost and how much is the cancellation i want to check that i’m not being scammed
Hey there is something that came up that could be of much help for visa hopping. A fellow surfer from Spain said that when he went to Singapore for the visa run he booked his flight under two different companies and in Sing they made him buy a ticket with the same company back to Bali. ( after being denied entry to Singapore, which baffles me. apprently Sing is trying to cut down on visa hoppers which makes no sense since they have the fancy airport). In any case it dosnt matter that they wont let you in, as Bali doesnt actually check entry stamps into other countries ( would be harmful to tourisim)
The second picture in this article. Is that Bali? I’ve been to Bali several times, I’ve never seen a high rise like that.