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Living In Bali As An Expat – All You Need To Know

Every year Bali’s low living costs, idyllic beaches and the inebriating scents of the east attract thousands of visitors. Many visitors fall in love with Bali and look into the process of permanently settling down on the island.

Do you love the idea of living on a tropical island? In that case, Bali is perfect whether you are retiring, looking for a part-time holiday home, a fancy location to manage your online business or a couple of years spent in the sun as a digital nomad.

Let’s talk about the details and practicalities of becoming a Bali resident: the visas and paperwork, how much money you will need to live in Bali comfortably and what areas of the island are worth considering.

Bali tourist visa

The preferable way for digital nomads to stay in the country while working remotely as freelancers or for online companies has been through tourist visas.

The reason is simple: it’s easy to obtain and cheap.

The biggest downside for foreigners that want to stay long-term is that this visa lasts only 30 days. There is the possibility to extend it for up to 60 days, but unfortunately, this can only be done once at a time, meaning that after 60 days, you need to leave the country.

What is the best visa option for digital nomads in Bali?

Throughout this year, the Balinese government has worked on releasing a new Digital Nomad Visa.

This visa would have an astounding duration of 5 years and allow nomads to live in Bali tax-free. 

It sounds incredible. Unfortunately, even if its release seems close to completion, this visa has yet to be available!

So, remote workers’ current best option remains the Visit Visa B211A.

Bali’s Visit Visa B211A

This visa has an initial validity of 60 days, and digital nomads can request up to two extensions, both of the same duration, for a total stay of 180 days (6 months).

There are two subcategories to the B211A: Tourism (similar to Visa on Arrival) and Business.

It is best to get help from good travel agents when you apply for a Business Visit Visa. Visa facilitators (travel companies) can provide the sponsorship letter requested by the government when applying for this specific permit.

Under these visas, you cannot work legally for an Indonesian employer or company. 

Suppose you are interested in moving your business to Indonesia and earning legally in the country (for example, as a photographer, DJ, or international commerce). In that case, you will need to apply for a KiTAS visa.

The six months maximum stay period offered by this visa might not be as appealing as five years, but let’s be honest: who wouldn’t put a signature on it straight away?

In addition, please note that the B211A is a single entry visa, so you will not be able to leave the country once you enter Indonesia, as this will mean the termination of your permit.

What are the requirements?

Requirements for the B211A visa:

  • Passport valid for at least one year if you intend to stay for six months. (6 months validity for 60 days term)
  •  Proof of funds of at least $2000, but if you apply with a travel agent, you won’t need one.
  •  COVID-19 vaccination certificate
  •  You might also need to provide an onward plane ticket to another destination after six months. (also required for Visa on Arrival, even though immigration doesn’t always ask for it)

You can apply directly on the Balinese immigration website or hire a travel agent/company to complete the application.

The cost for this visa is Rp1,500,000 for the Tourism B211A (60 days) and Rp2,000,000 for Business B211A (60 days)

Bali’s retirement visa

All golden agers out there, hear us out! This visa is an excellent opportunity to spend the best years of your lives, free from worries, while sipping fresh coconut water on your favourite tropical beach.

The temporary residence permit for retirees has an initial duration of 1 year, but do not stress out; you can extend your visa up to 4 times more.

Bali’s retirement visa requirements

These are all the factors you need to keep in check if you want to have a flawless application for the Retirement visa:

  • Age: you need to be 55 years old or more
  •  Passport: valid for at least 18 months
  •  Funds: you will have to provide proof of money available to sustain your stay: 18,000 USD per year or monthly pension funds/bank deposits of at least 1,500 USD
  •  Application letter and warranty: your travel agent will have to provide the Balinese government with a letter stating they sponsor your stay.

What other documents do I need for a retirement visa?

The documentation requested when applying for this permit is very similar to other Indonesian visas, including copies of your passport, health insurance to cover the medical expenses of the applicant/s and the possession of a rental agreement.

Plus, you will have to employ two local workers, such as assistants or cleaners. Not a big deal considering the availability and cheerfulness of Indonesian people; they will do everything possible to make you feel at home.

Finally, it is essential to understand that with a retirement visa, you cannot undertake any local work that can bring you income – after all, this is already the whole point of your stay.

How much does it cost to live in Bali?

The island of the gods is renowned as a generally cheap country to live in. How much it costs to live in Bali depends significantly on which kind of lifestyle you want, the accommodation you choose and how you move around the island.

Housing costs

The rental costs in Bali differ from what we are used to in other parts of the world. As a common rule, settling down in the center of the main tourist areas, such as Canggu, Ubud, Kuta or Uluwatu, will cost you more.

Renting properties just a 15-20 mins ride from the center can save you money. Moving further away, you might get a private villa at the same price as a small one-bedroom flat in the main center.

The average rental cost of a private room in a guest house is $300-$450 a month, while a villa can cost up to $1000-$1200.

Food and eating out

Only some people like to cook their meals at home all the time; often, we need more time!

Getting in the zone to run our business or start a new project can take time and effort. We don’t like to get distracted by other tasks, like cooking! Digital nomads can relate.

The cuisine is another reason why Bali is considered a paradise. Getting a table at a local restaurant (called ‘warung‘) and enjoying a complete meal can be as cheap as $5!

No wonder many people eat out regularly rather than go grocery shopping to prepare the meals themselves. 

Another benefit of eating out in Bali is that many coffee shops have quite good internet wifi that you can jump onto.

However, if you don’t mind buying your groceries and cooking your meals, there is good news for you too. In Bali, you can expect to spend up to 50% less on your groceries than in Europe or North America, especially if you buy fresh local products (fruit and veggies) rather than imported ones.

Note: Ensure your accommodation has a kitchen if you plan to cook at home. Lots of the lodges frequently rented to tourists don’t include a kitchen.

Transport & moving around Bali

Many options are available for expats who want to move around the island during their long-term stay. In this section, you can learn some simple tricks that will save you money and time on your travels.

Scooter and car rentals

In Bali, you can easily rent a motorbike for as cheap as 70k IDR per day (around $5), while cars are slightly pricier, ranging from $15 to $30 daily, depending on which car you choose.

Rental shops are located in the main cities, but not all offer good quality vehicles.

So, before popping into the first one you see, check the shop’s reviews online or, even better, find some expats who can recommend a reliable business.

Once you pick the right shop, you can cut down on rental costs by paying monthly rates. You will likely be able to save at least 30% on the total amount.

Grab and Gojek, the Indonesian Uber

Downloading these two mobile apps is a must when travelling to Bali, especially if you are not a confident driver and want to avoid putting yourself behind the wheel on the chaotic Balinese roads.

Yes, driving here isn’t a thing for everybody, but Grab/Gojek’s drivers will quickly and easily shuffle you around the most populated areas, which will be cheap.

As we just mentioned, these apps work best within the main cities’ areas, where you can find a driver in a matter of seconds.

When you travel to more remote locations, you may struggle to find a Grab or Gojek driver on the way back. In this case, consider hiring a private driver or taking a bus.

Healthcare in Bali

Getting international medical insurance is an essential step for your journey to Bali.

International health insurance can be pretty expensive. To ensure you get the best value for money, compare international health insurance options from various providers to find the best deal. 

Private healthcare services are the best option for expats here. Private clinics are better facilitated to meet your needs than public infrastructure. You will also get what you need faster, and the service will be top-quality.

If your medical condition requires special attention, ensure that your international health insurance can cover you fully in an emergency.

The best places to live in Bali

The southern and central areas of Bali are indeed the most suitable for people that want to live here long term. 

The expat community here has been firmly consolidating through the years since Bali became one of the most famous centers of international tourism in south-east Asia. 

Here are the top spots where you can settle to get the best out of your Balinese experience.

Canggu

Thousands of digital nomads worldwide have travelled to this destination at least once during their pilgrimage in the digital world.

Through the years, many decide to stay, attracted by all the lifestyle benefits this town offers.

With wellness, fitness, and creative working spaces backed up by a strong community of expats and plenty of opportunities to relax and have fun, Canggu is the digital nomads’ playground.

The transport par excellence is the motorbike. 

The cost of living in Canggu is a little above the average for Bali’s standards: you can enjoy a pleasurable lifestyle for around $1200 per month (all-inclusive).

If you want to save some money on rental costs, we recommend looking into the surrounding areas, such as Kerobokan or Berawa.

Ubud

If you wish to feel the traditional Balinese atmosphere, this is the place for you. Ubud is a bit less touristy and more bohemian than Canggu.

Ubud can still get busy with tourists at times but is generally a quieter place to live in than southern cities.

Thanks to lower rental costs and many more opportunities to eat out and shop locally, you can comfortably live in Ubud for $800-$1000 a month.

Unlike in Canggu, where you can walk everywhere, you will have to rent a vehicle or hire a driver.

Ubud is a very spiritual place to live, and if that’s what you’re looking for, you’ll undoubtedly be able to find it here. You can take part in regular yoga and meditation classes or learn about the healing properties of food and sound.

The relaxing beaches of the south merge into lush green forests surrounding the whole town, giving the idea that nature is the true keeper of this part of the island.

Sanur

Let’s move a bit further to the south. Families and retirees love Sanur, the ocean-side village with its relaxed vibe and soothing atmosphere.

Being located far from the busy Kuta-Seminyak area, Sanur is the perfect place to linger in relaxing evening walks, romantic seafront dinners and weekly visits to the night markets.

The laid-back lifestyle of this village means extra time to dedicate to yourself and your loved ones while enjoying warm days at the beach or exploring other parts of the island.

You can catch a ferry from Sanur harbour for day trips to Nusa Penida and Nusa Lembongan.

Tips and tricks on settling down in Bali

Respect the locals

Tourism has considerably changed the face of Bali throughout the years, but you can still observe its deep cultural traditions and feel their magic everywhere you travel.

Balinese people won’t miss a chance to make you feel at home in their country if you respect their customs and show appreciation for their welcoming spirit.

Learn from the locals

Most things in Bali have no fixed price. Instead, there’s the ‘bule’ (Indonesian for ‘foreigner’) price and the locals’ price.

For occasional tourists, there is little way around this, but as you spend more time in the country, you can observe and learn what the locals pay for specific things and then save some money the next time. 

Hangout with the locals

Bali’s spirit resides in its people. There is no better way to discover Bali than to hang out with the locals. Just watch out; their joy and happiness are very contagious!

Final thoughts on living in Bali

Bali can be a perfect place to live if you are an enthusiastic freelancer building your career online, an online business owner, a retiree or a regular tourist eager to explore a new tropical destination.

To make the process easier, ensure you have professional help with your visa application, research the locations you think might be suitable for your lifestyle and be open-minded, curious and accepting of local people and their culture.

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