This post was most recently updated on October 26th, 2023
[A collaboration post with Day Translations – all thoughts are my own.]
The biggest reason Bali might feel like home is the warm welcome you will receive from the Balinese people. The Balinese are warm and friendly, even in the tourist areas. Many feel it is their duty to make everyone who visits Bali feel at home. As Balinese Hindus, we believe “I am you” and act accordingly.
If you’re an ex-pat, you will know the pros and cons of living in Bali for years. However, for some of you who read this and have a dream to live in Bali one day, here are things you should know before living in Bali.
There are two main seasons in Bali
Bali only has two seasons: the wet season (November–March) and the dry season (April–October). The best time to travel to Bali is during the dry season, which runs from April to October.
Getting around Bali isn’t hard
Getting around Bali isn’t that hard because there are many taxis and transport drivers. If you’re going to drive a scooter or car here, ensure you have a current international license. Make sure you’re familiar with the roads and follow the road rules. Expect heavy traffic most days in the tourist areas, such as Kuta, Legian, and Seminyak.
If you are living in Bali, you have the advantage of bartering for a better price when renting a scooter. For example, renting scooters in Canggu or Ubud is a bit more expensive than in Kuta. If you are renting from Kuta, you’ll have to barter a bit for a good price, but generally, the price is no more than $45 per month for one scooter. The helmets are included as well, so make sure to get a good one! You can ask them to exchange it if you don’t like the one given to you originally; they don’t mind.
The current currency exchange rate is $1 = IDR 15,200 at the time of writing. Only use a money changer who has a PT-registered number on their sign. A foreigner is not able to open an Indonesian bank account unless they hold a KITAS.
Cost of living in Bali
The cost of living in Bali depends on your lifestyle. Bali is cheap in general; you can even buy local food like Nasi Goreng or Nasi Ayam (fried rice or rice and chicken) for under $1. I like to explore and find a coffee shop around the Denpasar area, where you can get a cappuccino, french fries, or spaghetti for $5–$10.
But if you want to eat steak or drink wine, obviously your budget will need to be higher. And for sure, there are different prices for different areas. I live in Denpasar, where most locals live, so anything is cheaper if you compare it to tourist areas like Kuta, Ubud, Seminyak, and Legian.
If you rent villas, they’re mostly always required to be paid upfront and in cash. If you’re able to pay upfront for a year or more, you’re able to negotiate a better price and save your money in the long run. You cannot own a property in Bali; some expats do it with the help of local people, but it’s not a fast process and requires a lot of research and time.
Additionally, when you’re living in Bali, little animals can become your new family. Little geckos, big geckos, ants, and mosquitoes can be found in some areas. You need to learn to live alongside them. Geckos don’t do any harm; they help keep the mossies and ants at bay. The Balinese believe if you have a gecko inside your house, it means good luck because it’s considered to ward off evil spirits!
Culture and Tradition in Bali
Culture and tradition are very much a part of Balinese daily life. If you come across a ceremony, don’t stand too close unless you are dressed appropriately. Find out here what things you shouldn’t do in Bali.
From what I know, there are a lot of places where ex-pats live in Bali. The majority of expats in Bali are welcoming and willing to help you settle into your new life. Include local friends in the mix too; the Balinese love to share their lives, and you will find yourself invited to weddings and family gatherings in no time.
Try the local food
Try the local food. There is a small local shop called warung. Sometimes you will also see ‘rumah makan’ which means eating at home. In both, you’ll be served traditional Indonesian or Balinese foods in simple surroundings. The food is cheap, delicious, and worth trying. If you’re new, street food is also a good and comfortable place.
Learn the local language
Learn the local language. Of course, you will be fine in English in the tourist areas, but even there, you will find Balinese who cannot speak English well. Take time to learn Indonesian; even just knowing the basic words will help you understand Balinese when they speak to you. Even if they laugh at your pronunciation, you have to know that they love the fact that you’re trying.
Live in the moment
You need to be patient and slow down when living in Bali. You will soon learn this after living in Bali for a short time. Waiting for a meal in a restaurant can take up to 30 minutes. If you need maintenance done, 10 a.m can turn into 3 p.m. Learn to relax and live in the moment.
Easy to live healthily
Fruits and vegetables are super affordable in Bali. You can learn to love tempeh (fermented soy), which can be used to replace meat in a lot of meals. Plus, Bali is super famous for its vegan restaurants. Especially in Ubud, you can find cheap eats and tons of restaurants catering to vegans and vegetarians. It’s definitely one of the easiest countries for that lifestyle.
But even if you’re not vegan, Bali itself just encourages a healthier lifestyle. Since there’s so much to do, you’ll naturally become more active. There are tons of yoga studios, gyms, beaches to run on, etc.!
So many places are untouched in Bali
There’s so much to do in Bali! You could spend every weekend searching for waterfalls, beach hopping in completely isolated areas, bartering for cheap goods at the local markets, climbing volcanoes, free diving for shipwrecks, swimming with dolphins, etc.
The wifi is weak
This doesn’t matter as much if you are just on vacation, but if you plan to live in Bali, you need to keep this in mind.
Most people who move to Bali are digital nomads or people who already have jobs online and can work anywhere. Since I work from home, I need to have nearly perfect wifi so that I don’t get behind on my blogging and translation projects. However, some places in Bali just don’t have the capability to get fast Wi-Fi speeds.
If you get around to working, there are some great co-working spaces around Kuta, Seminyak, or Legian. For those whose online business, work as a phone interpreter or freelance work pays in dollars or euros, small income streams make a big difference in Bali.
For your own internet, 3G and often 4G SIM connections are cheap and have pretty good coverage. Cards with 4GB of data loaded cost less than $10. You can generally expect 1 Mbps to 15 Mbps of download speed. Not terrific, but better than it was just a few years ago. Faster home connections are more common, but they are far from universal and take a long time to install.
So if you plan to live and work in Bali, make sure to test the Wi-Fi speeds or have the owner send you them before agreeing to anything.
Lots of stray dogs
If you love dogs as I do, this might be something difficult for you to see since it doesn’t really happen in the USA. There are no dog-catchers in Bali; only a few good people (who received donations from Balinese people, not the government) volunteer to take these stray dogs and put them in shelters, or others who feed them on the street.
It’s also painful to think about what happens to dogs that are caught and put down when nobody wants to adopt them. However, I find it even sadder to see dogs starving on the streets, getting hit by motorbikes, losing their hair, and becoming diseased. It’s heartbreaking, and there are so many of them in Bali.
Living in Bali is different from holidaying in Bali. Just because you’ve visited Bali 10 times doesn’t mean you know the ins and outs. No matter how many people you speak to, your own experience will always differ. Living in Bali is a wonderful experience that can be even better if you’re prepared. But sometimes, not knowing what to expect makes things easier because you adapt as you live.
So, if you have visited Bali, do you consider living here or maybe staying here for 6 months?