Guide to Living in Bali
When I first came to Bali, Indonesia it was a year ago and I went in not knowing much at all. Every ounce of knowledge came from Eat Pray Love and a stack of lonely planet books. Fresh off the plane, I was going to volunteer for a month teaching English and explore the sights on the weekends. What I never expected, was just how captivating this indescribable utopia would be. The culture, the spirituality, the kindness from everyone I met, and the absolutely stunning surroundings. A year later, here I am living in Bali once again.
Even if you are traveling short term to Bali, I suggest getting the full, in-depth view of what Bali is truly like. It's much more than an Eat Pray Love movie. It's an oasis of beauty and generosity.
Ultimately, a short term stay won't be enough for you.
You'll want to come back every time, it's what Bali does to you.
First things first... get that visa life down pat. You have a few options depending on how long you plan to stay and what you plan on doing. Make note if you are staying 30 days or less, and you are from a country on this list then you automatically get the 30 day tourist visa on arrival for free. But you cannot extend this, you also cannot leave and come back during this period. Here are some of the other options to consider:
1. Visa on-arrival: the easiest and cheapest option. This is usually what most will choose to go with. Basically you arrive to the airport, and stand in a short line, pay $35 USD for 30 days in Bali. And if you choose to stay longer, you can extend this for another 30 days. Extending through an agency, which you might decide to do if you don't want to make several trips to the immigration office in Denpasar (we only went once for the questions and picture portion and had our passports delivered to us), this will be about $50-60 USD ( about 800,000 IDR per person). If it's more expensive than this price, walk out the door to another agency, they are ripping you off. If you decide to do it all yourself, it'll be about $26 USD not including ride fees or gas pricing to make the 3 trips out there, although it will still be the cheaper option.
** Reminder: overstaying your visa is a steep 300,000 IDR per day (about $21 USD) so make sure to know how long you want to stay and plan accordingly.
*** Also with this visa it is SINGLE ENTRY, you cannot leave and come back during this period.
2. Social-Cultural Visa: allows you to stay in Indonesia for up to 6 months, the first two months are free. You have to get this settled at an Indonesian Embassy beforehand however, or book it through an agency who handles the details for you. You will also require sponsorship from an Indonesian citizen, school/university, or volunteer program. This is also another single entry visa, meaning you cannot leave and come back, and this doesn't allow you to work professionally in Bali, if you do end up getting a job within Bali you'll have to leave, get a work visa sponsored and come back (frustrating, I know).
3. Work Permit: a little more difficult to get since Indonesia prefers to give locals the jobs first and foremost, but if you do get work in Bali (lucky duck), note that there are steps to make sure the work permit gets taken care of before you land. Sponsorship is required from the company/organization, and for this specific visa (IKTA) it usually is approx. $1200 USD, valid up to one year. To gain multiple entries in and out of Indonesia they might have you pay more.There is also the KITAS option, but this is a little more limited in where you can go, and how long you can stay.
**The company/organization that hires you might pay this for you, make sure you note this when taking the position.
If there's anything I've learned and perfected most it's being able to find the most affordable ways to get around Bali to make the most of your time.
1. Moped: this is going to be your cheapest way to get around. 1 liter of gas (or petrol as they say) is about 8,000 IDR (that's almost 60 cents in USD). My warnings for you however, are first, they drive crazy so don't just assume that because you can drive in the USA or Europe you can drive here. It's incredibly tough to get used to and honestly, there are no rules or laws. Chaos is the best word to describe it. Second, make sure you have an international drivers license.Yes, that is a thing. If you don't have it, and you are pulled over (which foreigners usually are at some point) a large ticket might set you back and that just isn't worth the risk. Third, wear that helmet for the same reason (they can pull you over for not wearing one, even though locals don't really wear them..). This is because foreigners are the most likely to get into accidents in Bali. When I asked a local about this he replied about 90% of accidents are from foreigners winging it out there. Driving there is like walking around in Times Square, New York on New Years Eve. Everyone's in a rush to get somewhere, the roads are incredibly crowded, constantly moving and you might just get pummeled if you're not following the crowd.
Pro tip: In order to get some practice driving, I recommend trying out the moped life on the islands: Nusa Penida or Gili. There aren't as many people so its easier to get the hang of things, although road conditions are a little rougher in some areas. Make sure to get a hefty bike that can handle bumps, don't let them give you a wimpy one.
2. Ride-share Apps: Back when I first visited I thought that Grab was the best deal in town. Silly me. Turns out Go-jek is even cheaper. I HIGHLY recommend downloading Gojek before heading to Bali. They have options for whether you would want to get picked up by a moped (even cheaper ride) or a car and they have an added food delivery option (Warungs will give you full on meals with 3-4 options for just under $5 USD... Crazy).
Favorite share apps in order of affordability:
- Blue Bird Taxi
**WARNING: Some areas might have sensitivity to using a ride share app, this is because of the "taxi mafia" basically meaning that the government has a regulated price they agreed upon to get around Bali, the taxi fulfills that price table. It's a rip if you're trying to save as much as possible. Areas that might be harder for you:
Ubud center (lots of taxi people around and they will yell and gather around the ride share driver if necessary) so stick to getting picked up from secluded areas.
Touristy spots: I recommend setting up a ride with a driver beforehand, agreeing on a fair price so that you can have a ride out of the place rather than taking a Gojek there and getting stuck with a taxi ride back.
Where to Stay
Long term stay can go several ways here in paradise, it all depends on your length of stay and what you plan on doing, where you want to go, etc.
Airbnb is what I usually end up going with because they have discounts for those who stay in a location longer. Plus, I like to have the reputability and ease of booking something before I get to a place. For a month in Ubud it was about $300 USD in rent which worked out for my boyfriend and I, compared to living our lives in Seattle, where a similar looking place would go for $1,200 USD a month. If you are looking to go lower than that however, I would recommend one of the two options below OR booking for a night or two with someone and inquiring if they'll take a lower price if you book long-term with them. Bargaining is a popular thing to do in the Balinese culture so I've known this to be a popular option especially if you plan to stay longer than a month or two.
Agoda is a site used to find cheap homestays, hostels, hotels and more in Asia. It's a great option to find cheap places, sometimes it is difficult to find long term places so again, it would depend on how long you are staying. It's a great way to compare prices and get connected with more home owners however, so you can always bargain your way to a longer stay.
3. Facebook Groups
There are a ton of options to finding a nice place long-term and this was one option that made things simple and easy. It could take a bit to negotiate everything out though so just be sure if you choose to do this, do it in advance. I joined a bunch of expat groups living in Bali and got some great advice. You can also post directly to these pages asking what you are looking for.
Whether you like cooking or not, there is an affordable option for you. Grocery hauls are going to be under $100 USD every time. Depending on where you go, and what you get. Starting with grocery stores, here are some options for you:
**Note that fresh fruit (that you can peel) are going to be cheapest from fruit stands, they can be found pretty much everywhere. HIGHLY recommend doing this but again, only get things you can peel to be safe.
Large selection of fresh options, tempeh and tofu for my vegans out there. Extremely cheap. If you're also looking for cheap wine (which is extremely hard to do in Bali) this is one place that had a large selection. Best to go to in: Ubud
Our favorite market in Canggu, extremely cheap prices compared to Pepito but either is going to be pretty affordable when you get down to it. Great fresh options.
A little larger than frestive, but a little pricier on certain items. They have pretty much every fruit and veggie we wanted though. Best to go to in: Canggu
Located in the center of Ubud and many other areas but its great to go to if you're looking for last minute items since they are usually located within walking distance of main areas of the city centers.
Typical groceries for us would be:
Vermicelli Noodles (gluten free, made from rice, cheap, and easy to make!)
Cereal (Corn Flakes)
Soy Milk (Aussie brand is the best)
Coffee (Bali local coffee, or ginseng is my favorite)
Usually under $85 USD total, and even less if we got some from fruit stands, etc.
To keep things organic, eco friendly and within our dietary restrictions we also got some things from the Bali Buda Market:
- Eggs (organic)
- Gluten Free Bread
- Pastries when they had vegan/gluten free options available
- Jamu (the best drink ever)
- Coconut yogurt
Warungs are always going to be the cheapest option, each dish being less than $1 USD at times. Usually these consist of: satay (chicken, or tofu/tempeh with veggies), fried rice (nasi goreng) with egg on top (with tofu for us vegans), fried noodles (mie goreng), mixed veggies, or fried foods. Some places might have "western" options like pizza, burgers and/or fries. Most places will follow the Hindu culture however, meaning more chicken than beef (cows are sacred).
Here are just a couple of our favorites, I will post again on cafes to check out, with in depth pricing and menu details!
Probably my favorite cafe. Ever. Healthy options, both for vegan and non (the boyfriend loved it too). Incredible options and all local, organic and eco-friendly. If you are vegan I recommend dishes like the Buda Toast, or the Oatmeal (with coconut milk, dates, cashews and coconut added) for breakfast or the Bibimbap bowl for lunch/dinner is incredible. If you are not vegan try out their egg scramble sandwich for a breakfast item (get a side of chicken sausage and its cheaper than if you were to get something with meat directly in it). For lunch try out the pizza, or club sandwiches (highly recommended by the boyfriend).
Typical meal for two usually would cost us: 185,000 IDR so about $13 USD (I would get a coffee so that is included as well).
Wifi: there is no wifi. They believe in face to face interactions, which I have to admit I loved. They have a few outlets to charge.
Locations: Canggu, Ubud, Nusa Dua, Gianyar
A simple cafe that is located pretty much everywhere. A Parisian cafe where you will most likely find expats hanging around. The atmosphere is a little more business-y but even the simple salad is impeccable. A great place to start your day off if you're trying to write or get some morning work done. I highly recommend the coffee here and the pastries are a great go-to. For lunch, sandwiches and salads are quick, easy and delicious. Gluten free and/or vegan peeps there isn't too much for you however I made due while we spent our mornings here.
Typical coffee & pastry: approx. 60,000 IDR (about $4 USD)
Wifi: Excellent wifi, and trustworthy.
Locations: Canggu, Ubud, Seminyak, Petitenget. Umulas, & Pererenan
For more on food and nightlife in Bali, check out my next post coming next week!
Thanks for reading an