The Good and the Bad Sides of Living in Bali

Kuta Beach

I’m in England at the moment, taking frequent trips to Europe to ‘spice’ things up a bit. Quite enjoying it, although I’ll be off and away soon to explore more of the globe. I recently got to thinking about when I lived in Bali, was it worth leaving a tropical, hot, sunny island? For many people who email me, it’s their dream life…an island lifestyle living as a beach bum in a hot, tropical country.

So why did I leave? For me I think deep down I was always aware that I needed to move on, there was far more I wanted to achieve career-wise that I didn’t have the energy to get done in Bali, plus there are just so many more countries and places that I want to explore. You can sometimes have too much of a good thing…paradise islands are amazing, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the perfect place to have a balanced lifestyle. I had a scooter accident too, which meant I was really sick, thin and feeling a bit fed up.

The good sides

Hot, sunny weather and tropical beaches- Unless you’re one of those pale people who hate the sun and get a rash when they’re exposed to the heat, then you probably appreciate a nice sandy beach with a few palm trees. Bali, being an island, has a hot tropical climate- in the ‘summer’ it’s hot but not too humid and it’s generally sunny every day. In winter it’s really hot, sticky and humid but there’s also quite a lot of rainfall. There are beaches everywhere- long, flat, sandy beaches with rolling waves in Kuta and Seminyak, black sand beaches with unruly waves in Canggu, sheltered coves with cliffs and rocks in Uluwatu, Bingin and Balangan or white paradise beaches in Padangbai.

It’s a great place to surf- If you love to surf then Bali is a dream come true. With some of the best waves in the world, the main dilemma for a surfer every day is, which break shall I surf? For a beginner it’s a great place to start without the need for a wetsuit.

The people are really helpful and friendly- The Balinese people are some of the friendliest and most helpful people I have ever met. I covered in my blog before why Indonesia is so efifcient and the fact that if there’s anything you want- whether it’s renting an apartment, or getting your bike fixed- someone will be there to do it for you.

It’s a cheap place to live- Rent for a nice villa- $500 USD per month. Bike- $50 USD per month, three course meal- $10. If you’re travelling and trying to make your money stretch further, then Bali is definitely a place you can do that. Whilst it’s not as cheap as places in Thailand and other Aisan countries, Bali is still cheap as chips.

The food is great- Standard food in Bali is stuff like Nasi Goreng, Mie Goreng, Chicken Satay, Babi Guling and Bakso Soup. If you get sick or rice and noodles though, there’s great seafood in Jimbaran, and every kind of international food in Seminyak. On Jalan Oberoi you could eat Moroccan, Greek, Japanese, Mexican and Italian food all in one night. The breakfast cafes such as Tuck Shop and Zucchini do great smoothies, salads, yoghurt, fruit, paninis and omelettes.

You’re exposed to new cultures and sights- This is the main thing that you definitely can’t get at home. In England I don’t look out on ride fields or wake up to the sound of geckos and cockerels. I can’t visit a monkey temple or a Balinese medicine man. I don’t see Canang Sari flower baskets covering the streets or get offered a massage, transport or DVD whilst I’m eating my breakfast.  I don’t see people carrying a family of four on a motorbike whilst trying to negotiate the chaotic mess of traffic on the roads. I can’t go snorkelling, or surfing, bask in the sun or hike a volcano over in England.

There’s opportunity and a positive attitude- When I was looking for work in Bali, I found the people living there, whether expats or Indonesians, were really friendly, helpful and had a positive attitude. People don’t focus on the negative in Bali, everyone smiles and tries to make conversation with you and tries to help you out. Maybe it’s all that Vitamin D from the sunshine, but if I walk through a street in London, I don’t get a hello from anyone. If you want to start a business in Bali, there’s plenty of opportunity to be creative.

The bad sides

Food in the supermarket in Bali is not cheap because most of the stuff is imported. Yep if you want to buy a year’s worth of rice in a bag it’s ridiculously cheap, but if you want to buy something as simple as a tin of baked beans you’re looking at twice what you would pay in the UK. If you want to cook at home, there are generally no ovens either…just portable gas stoves.

There’s no public transport in Bali. Over here I take it for granted, my car is currently sat on the drive because it costs around £1,200 to insure it and I can’t really justify the expense at the moment, especially when I’ll be travelling come Easter. But I’ve got so many options- if my wonderful friends and family don’t offer me a ride somewhere, I’ve got the tram here in Manchester, the bus, the megabus, the national express, the train…it just took me two hours to get to London. In Bali, however, there is no public transport, so you’re stuck with the scooters (which after my accident I’ll never be riding again), or taxis, or renting a car.

Living by the beach is a distraction- yep we all love being a beach bum…who wouldn’t want to sit on a nice tropical beach? But when you’ve got work to do and you have to fund your living, there’s one dilemma….do i sit in an air conditioned room all day working, where essentially I could be anywhere? Or do I go to the beach, get a tan and play in the waves? When I returned to England after a stint in Portugal, I couldn’t help but feel a bit of relief at not having to choose between the beach and working on my laptop.

Some things are more difficult. It’s an obvious thing to say, and I know most people travel around the world because they don’t want to be in a country where everything is made easy for them. But when I lived in Bali I had to think about my visa renewal every couple of months, if I needed something in particular like computer equipment, a book, or a particular food I had to make a big expedition to Denpasar or Carrefour to go and get it. The traffic was chaotic and stressful, and sometimes sitting in the heat in a pile of traffic on the way back from the beach somehow made the memories of my relaxing sunbathing session fade away. I couldn’t just drink the tap water without thinking, and my ex-boyfriend was driven insane by the mosquitoes, resulting in a nightly ritual massacre of mozzies (I funnily have never been bitten by a mosquito, but he got bitten constantly).  There wasn’t always hot water in my house so I would often have to take a lightning fast shower, and finding a house with internet was the most difficult task of all. I regularly lost electricity, internet, or both and had to make trips to Seminyak to find someone with wireless.

I missed the cosmopolitan city vibe- I’m not trying to say there aren’t loads of things to do in Bali, because there are, particularly outdoor activities such as hiking, snorkelling and surfing. But I guess I got a little bored of island life…I missed the bright lights of a big city…getting dressed up and going to the theatre or stopping by a busy bar full of city workers.

The healthcare isn’t so great- Yes the medicines are cheap in Bali and I was thankful for that…antibiotics were readily available and cost cents. But when I returned to the UK after my bike accident, I was told if I had just had my wounds cleaned and scrubbed properly under anaesthetic, I wouldn’t have the scars I have today and all the hospital appointments that come with it. In the beginning I went to the local hospital, where they dabbed my wounds with iodine and put dressings on. Then I got frustrated that they weren’t healing properly, so I paid for the private BIMC hospital, who basically did exactly the same thing but put a price tag on it.

Everyday, someone is trying to sell you something- The people in Bali don’t hassle very much compared to some of the other countries I’ve been to. A simple ‘no thank you’ and they’ll go away. However, when you live somewhere and every day of the year you are asked if you would like to buy a DVD or a sarong, it can get a bit overbearing.

There are tourists, but not a huge number of young expats- I realised when I was living and working in Bali that I missed young people. Whilst there is a large community of English-speaking expats with businesses in Bali, I missed the company of young people. There are lots of Aussie tourists and people there for a few weeks, but trying to meet people of my age group wasn’t that easy. I did have some friends, but I missed talking to people who have known me for more than 5 minutes.

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38 Responses to The Good and the Bad Sides of Living in Bali

  1. Monica January 29, 2011 at 12:22 am #

    I’m leaving Bali today after spending 6 weeks here. I love it so much and I know you can’t call 6 weeks ‘living here’, but I definitely got a feel for it and agree that it must be a hard place to live. I have a young friend who lives in Ubud and she said the exact same thing about missing young people. all her friends are 35+ and while she makes friends with tourists, they leave after a few weeks and shes on her own again.
    Best of luck with the saving for your next trip!

    • victoria January 31, 2011 at 7:31 pm #

      Glad you had a good time in Bali Monica! I love Bali too but living there was just a different experience. Finding somewhere that you would like to live indefinitely is quite a tricky business! Thanks for dropping by.

      • Brock May 16, 2012 at 11:55 am #

        So liveing next to the Beach causes you stress so its the Beaches fault? only a pom would come out with something like that. You deserve to live in a cold and miserable place, By the way im Australian and i live on Christmas Island, and a Beach has never caused me stress, stress is paying $18.80 for a lettuce as we do on Christmas Island

        • Victoria May 17, 2012 at 1:52 am #

          Hi Brock, this post was written quite a while ago, perhaps I didn’t phrase that point quite correctly. I guess I just found that I was always working on my laptop indoors. So although the beach was there, I never had the time to go to it, which was frustrating. Also, when I don’t see the beach for a long time, I can’t wait to get on the sand and go for a swim. But when the beach is there all the time, I find I start to take it for granted.

          • fanta September 4, 2013 at 9:54 am #

            Why you simply didn’t work in the evenings? This is what I do – enjoy the day and then work on my laptop in the evening.

    • Fazalur Rahim May 1, 2012 at 2:54 am #

      Good day and good mood

      Thanks Monica.
      Where do you live now and when you plan your next trip to Bali so that I may join you and spent some time together.

      Fazalur Rahim

  2. Bob Stolk May 30, 2011 at 8:19 am #

    Do you know where those $500 villa are located? Have tried to find them but all of them are more expensive.

    Kind regards,
    Bob Stolk

    • victoria May 30, 2011 at 12:22 pm #

      Try looking in the Bali Advertiser or on the board in Cafe Mocha on Jalan Raya Seminyak.

  3. Bob Stolk June 4, 2011 at 10:43 am #

    Have found something in Jimbaran, nice post by the way!

  4. John April 26, 2012 at 9:13 pm #

    Hi Victoria,

    Great post. Where was it you recommended living in Bali? Somewhere where there is electricity and internet, nice beaches and not too many tourists.
    I read it somewhere and can’t find it.

    Thanks,

    John

    • victoria April 26, 2012 at 9:42 pm #

      Hi John, I lived in Seminyak for a while which is the ‘expat’ area, and then I moved to Canggu which is a little more rural. If you’re looking for a place to rent a bit more long term, I recommend starting with the Bali Advertiser, but there is also a board where everyone advertises at Cafe Mocha on Jalan Raya Seminyak.

  5. John April 26, 2012 at 10:53 pm #

    Thanks Victoria!

    Happy travels.

  6. Milan May 16, 2012 at 11:50 pm #

    Hi Victoria! Thank for your post, it helps :)) Im planning to go to Bali/Indonesia for 3 months. Where would you recommend staying? Hostels/bungalows? Im travelling solo and I would like to meet young people on the way. And what about money – would you withdraw and carry around cash (i would like to hang out on the beach and surf, not sure if bungalows are safe enough), or just use credit card or something else?

    Thanks :))

    • Victoria May 17, 2012 at 2:05 am #

      Hi Milan, there aren’t really ‘hostels’ like you would find in other parts of the world but there is plenty of budget accommodation and guest houses. People sometimes complain about Kuta being too touristy, but I would start by staying in Kuta/Legian if you want to meet people. You could look on somewhere like Hostelworld or Hostelbookers for accommodation, but it is also easy to just find accommodation when you arrive. If you like surfing then I really enjoy the south of the island around Uluwatu/Bingin/Balangan and you can get very cheap bungalow accommodation on the beach. They won’t accept credit cards in a lot of places so you really need to carry cash. I always drew money out of the ATMs and never had any money stolen- you should be fine on the beach. Hope that helps.

      • Yvette January 7, 2013 at 4:40 am #

        Hi Victoria I am a single mum I’m 37 and my little girl is 4 years of age.. Certainly our limit for a rental per month would be no more than $500 Australian dollars but with these cheap rentals do they have pools as well as a pool in Bali is crucial. Now would BIMc be the best for any sort of hospital visits like for ear infections, stomach aches etc etc and what is the costing for say 6 months if I want to purchase health insurance for myself and my daughter from the BIMC

        Yvette

  7. Hannah May 24, 2012 at 10:57 am #

    I really enjoyed your blog about Bali and the Gilli Isles

    I’m from Preston, Lancs. myself and I currently live in S.Korea. I have a 3 week break from work in August and wanted I wanted to visit Indonesia as it is so close and the weather should be good. I will be travelling solo for the first time and I’m keen to meet other young people to hang out with.

    I was considering going to the Gilli Isles, but other than this Island and Bali, I really don’t know where else is good to go.

    I’m not a surfer, but would try it, I love swimming, shopping, relaxing, good food and sight seeing. I wouldn’t say I’m much of a hiker to be honest.

    I don’t mind if I go somewhere else it Asia, it just has to be relatively cheap.

    Seen as you have travelling experience I was wondering if you could help me decide where to go? Or at the very least make some suggestions…..

    Thanks :)

    • sarah April 14, 2013 at 7:47 pm #

      Im off to the Gili Isles in July until September I would definitely recommend visiting them there amazing.

  8. godfolks November 4, 2012 at 1:37 am #

    Is there an African American presence in Bali?

    • Victoria November 20, 2012 at 9:00 pm #

      Not very many African Americans in Bali, maybe a few tourists.

      • mari January 4, 2013 at 5:55 pm #

        i am a black women,thinking to go to bali for 10 days.you think i will have racist problem.

        • hendro February 27, 2013 at 3:28 am #

          Dear mari,
          I don’t think so. Indonesia is a multi ethnic and multi cultural country. Beside most of the eastern Indonesian have dark skin, especially those from Papua, who were black. So, I believe you’re not going to be a victim of racism as you may possibly experience in some western countries.
          However, actually Indonesian were quite friendly and tolerant, although it’s been somewhat reduced due to the hedonism lifestyle.

        • Christopher Burns December 21, 2013 at 1:53 pm #

          The Indonesians will stare at you but not at all in a nasty way. More just out of curiosity. I know a few black people here who are expats and no one cares if you’re black/white/green purple or if you’re gay/straight or whatever.
          There’s a good mix here with the expat community so I’m sure you’ll feel welcome.

  9. craig November 22, 2012 at 8:07 am #

    what (tourist) visas can you get for say 3-6 month stays??
    have been in thiland past 9 months and time for a change!
    :)

    • Chris January 3, 2013 at 1:35 am #

      Craig. Did you have a visa for the 9 months in thailand or just do visa runs?

    • sandrine April 2, 2013 at 12:08 am #

      you cannot have tourist visa for more than 2 months (need to be asked from your country of origin before leaving)
      or you get visa on arrival for one month, you can renew one time.

      In any case you need to leave after 2 months (but you can still come back in the same day and start again)

  10. Tom January 13, 2013 at 12:26 pm #

    Cool post. I am from Manc and about to go teach in South Korea. Was thinking about visiting Bali for the surf. This blog seems to give the impression that it’s a cool place to visit or come for an extended stay but maybe not to live forever? Thanks for posting!

  11. thisgoodink February 14, 2013 at 7:00 am #

    Interesting read. Puts things into perspective. My partner and I live in Mumbai, India, and we are thrilled to be moving to Bali in a few months (I have a 2-year contract to teach at the international school, and he is a diving instructor); but it’s important for us to be reminded that no place is perfect and that Indonesia is still a very poor country.

    • hendro February 27, 2013 at 4:02 am #

      Excuse me, if I may correct, Indonesia is a developing country, not a “very” poor country.
      Well, it can not be denied that there are still many Indonesian who live in poverty, (mostly caused by corruption) but it also happens in other countries, poverty is something that is always exist in every country except maybe paradise. So, I think Indonesia is not that poor, plus it rich with various cultures and beautiful islands. Try places in Indonesia other than Bali.

  12. DAVE March 4, 2013 at 5:40 pm #

    THIALAND SOUNDS A LOT BETTER

  13. peter March 23, 2013 at 3:28 am #

    Victoria – I just discovered your blog while researching Bali. Sounds like an awesome place to live. I am planning on doing some travelling soon and want to live there for a few months. Thanks for the great blog – keep it up!

  14. okie dokie April 8, 2013 at 7:42 pm #

    It is the big question where can I live safely on a budget ? Pros and cons weigh heavy on a decision. I am from America and am afraid to retire here, never thought I’d say that. But the truth hurts and this countries leaders have plundered our wealth and will make slaves of us all, it is happening right now and getting worst. I Don’t want to be stuck here when the bottom falls all the way out. Thailand at least some parts sounds good but I hear horror stories as well. Mexico, well not sure about this place. Bali, islands can have many disadvantages in a global crisis situation. And if someone knew where the real Jens are would they share them?

  15. Mustapha May 4, 2013 at 5:00 pm #

    hey I am thinking seriously about living in bali, or moving there by middle June, the thing is im a poor traveler, dont have a lot of cash to start with

    any ideas how i can survive or get a job to live on there
    I am an Egyptian backpacker

  16. Anete July 11, 2013 at 2:26 pm #

    Hey there! I was currious to read your blog post. My boyfriend is a chef and he just got an amazing job offer for a new Italian company in Bali. For me living apart for a year is out of the question so I am trying to see and understand how I could stay there with him and find a job.

    I have a bachelors in gastronomic science, so mostly food and beverage, hospitality etc. So I suppose with all the tourist business there is, I might be able to find something. My big worry is the visa. How did you get to Bali? Did you go on tourist visa with a return ticket and get a renewal or a work visa there?

    I will appreciate tour answer very much because this living in Bali thing has been pretty stressful lately having very little idea about the whole thing.

    Thank you!

    • Jame July 28, 2013 at 10:12 am #

      Hi Anete,

      I ´ll be happy to explain to you all things living in Bali like (work-tourist-business visa) & the most stressful thing is to find place where to live. this my email info@balilocalproperties.com I´m look forward to hearing you. thanks

  17. Rob September 16, 2013 at 4:26 am #

    Nice post, Victoria! I have been living with my wife and children in Bali for 3 years now, in Seminyak. You have wonderfully summed up the experience of Bali and those of us that do more than just surf (eg. have work to do, make a living, etc)

    I am guessing from the date on your post, you left in 2011… Things have been slowly improving (or maybe just changing), our electricity does not cut out quite as often as it did in 2011, the internet service available is not too bad (if you pay enough for it), the cost of land and villas continues to become more expensive, and more and more budget hotels are being built for the backpacker / budget traveler. I have a friend that has been searching for one of those nice $500/mo Villas, and they are very few and far between now.

    So as some things improve, other costs will naturally rise I suppose, traffic has only gotten worse, though some new road projects are helping in a few select areas, particularly to get folks to/from the airport.

    For Medical attention, we now have a nice new Siloam Hospital on Sunset Road, across from Carrefour. It is a full service hospital with multi-lingual staff, and my few visits to it thus far have been very good. They even have dental care there now as well. I have found the price to be about half of what I would pay at BIMC, and for better care. However, I must say that I have been thankful for BIMC on the several occasions in the past.

    Thankfully, the most important aspect about Bali, it’s people, have not changed much… they are still the smiling and helpful, gentlest group of people you’ll meet anywhere.

    Not a bad place to be after traveling around the world and looking for a place to chill out for a few years, or twenty ;)

    Thanks for your post!

    • Robert White October 17, 2013 at 9:54 am #

      I am moving to Bali in December for 3-6 months. I am a bit nervous about the internet situation. Our villa has Wi-Fi and I have heard that mobile 3G dongles are OK in Bali. Any info on good internet would be great.

    • Robert White October 17, 2013 at 9:54 am #

      I am moving to Bali in December for 3-6 months. I am a bit nervous about the internet situation. Our villa has Wi-Fi and I have heard that mobile 3G dongles are OK in Bali. Any info on good internet would be great.

  18. Juliette September 16, 2013 at 4:56 pm #

    Hi Ive been reading posts, sounds like half the planet moving to Bali! I would like to myself, I have 2 young children, i would like to know how easy it is to get a Job in teaching English? And if It would be enough to support myself and my family? Thanks

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