You’ve come to the wrong spot if you’re searching for the standard, rehashed information on Bali, Indonesia that can be found on any travel website.
This Bali travel guide is packed with helpful tips, but please note that there may be travel restrictions during the duration of COVID-19. Be sure to check the most recent information before leaving, and always follow local health advice.
Look, vacationing in Bali is amazing, and being a tourist is okay. But what if you want to go deeper? What if you want to escape the constraints of retail tourism and experience a place as the locals do? How do you travel in Bali and immerse yourself as much as possible in the culture while remaining polite and respectful? I’ve spent the last five years in Bali and the rest of my life traveling the world: five continents, 50 countries, and countless cities. I don’t always fit in, but I try. You can, too. Here’s how.
If you are itching to visit Bali, go for it. The tips I’ve suggested in this Bali travel guide will help you live like a local anywhere in Bali. But there are places where it’s way easier to live like a local than others.
Let’s start with a definition of “living like a local.” Even though I’ve lived on this island for five years, I still don’t feel like a local. In legal terms, I am still considered a foreigner in Indonesia. In fact, I have to renew my Visa (KITAP) every five years. But I’ve started putting down some serious roots by marrying a Balinese woman and being a big part of her family here.
It would be nice to say that I get up every morning to a breathtaking view of the sunrise over the tropic ocean, cows grazing in the rice paddies outside my window, or traditional Balinese dancers at my door, but the reality is that I actually go to work. The only difference is that I do most of my work from home.
My daily routine is the same as it was in the States; I wash clothes, scrub the pool, remove weeds, and prepare meals. The only real change is that I occasionally come home to a 10-foot python or a giant lizard, as well as an increase in the number of tropical insects in my backyard.
Think settling down in Bali is going to be expensive? It doesn’t have to be. Whatever you’ve budgeted for, your adventure is going to go a lot further in Bali than Tokyo, Singapore or even Bangkok. And often, traveling like a local makes a trip less expensive, since you’ll be avoiding all those pricey tourist-traps and gift shops.
To top it all off, the locals are friendly, it’s easy to get around the island, there are plenty of supermarkets, cheap food, and reasonably priced accommodations throughout, and it’s not difficult to put down roots in Bali.
In a nutshell: life on Bali
Some places in Bali are more expensive than others. Canggu and and the surrounding neighborhoods of Umalas, Petitenget or “Billionaires Row” in Uluwatu come to mind. This isn’t to say you can’t do these places on a budget, it just means either you can’t go for as long, or you’ll have to be extra careful when you’re there. Don’t worry, I’ll cover how to do that below.
Picking your destination to match your budget is an option, presuming you don’t already have a specific adventure in mind. For example, it may be a challenge, though not impossible, to live on $50 a day in Canggu, including accommodation. In Lovina, it’d be hard to spend $50 a day. Yet both areas offer incredible sights and good-tasting food.
A lot depends on the location you choose and how close you are to the heart of a city or a beach. No matter where you decide to live, negotiate your rent. The longer the rental, the lower the rate will be; but as with anything in Bali, drive a hard bargain and you’ll reap the rewards.
If you’re relocating to Bali, you may choose from a number of different areas. The majority of foreign residents in Bali are found in the center region, where Ubud is located. However, the beach towns are rather popular as well, so where exactly in Bali you decide to plant your roots will depend on your own tastes, as well as your financial and social habits.
Bali’s ‘comms’, hoods and urban centers
There isn’t much allure to be found in crowded Denpasar. Only those employed by the government or foreign organizations with offices in Denpasar are likely to be found among the city’s expat population.
Hippies and those looking to expand their minds go to Ubud. There is no shortage of cafes, both regular and health-oriented, in this city. Even though it’s a small community, there are really quite a few yoga studios to choose from. Some of the best restaurants and farms on the island can be found in Ubud, so you won’t be short of alternatives.
Beaches in Seminyak and Canggu are frequented because of the unique blend of local flavor, surf vibes, and upscale lodgings that can be found there. In general, Seminyak’s beaches are more sedate and less conducive to wild parties, but this may vary widely amongst different establishments.
Couples and families alike visit the area every year for a memorable vacation. Depending on where you go in Seminyak, the vibe tends to be a little bit classier. What was once the epicenter of tourist on Kuta’s beaches is still easily accessible, but the beaches are now cleaner and the atmosphere is more relaxed. Many bloggers, YouTubers, and other types of online celebrities call Canggu home.
The traditional cuisine of Bali are delicious and healthful (especially for vegetarians). You may get good food at a good price in the local eateries (called warungs) in the area. A lot of the meals include rice, chicken, or even tempeh in them. If you stick to the local warungs, you may have a nice date night without breaking the bank.
Freshly picked seasonal food makes it simple to stock up on goods for home cooking. The inhabitants in Bali are acquainted with vegetarianism and gluten-free diets due to the large population of new age hippie types. In general, it’s an excellent alternative for those who must adhere to certain diets.
An important problem for many foreigners is the high cost of booze. A lot of money goes into taxing alcohol, therefore it’s not cheap to drink in Bali. If your goal is to drink every day, you may want to consider relocating to another Southeast Asian nation like Thailand or Vietnam.
Some potential expats have reservations about relocating to Bali due to the quality of the medical facilities available there. The city of Denpasar is home to the country’s primary medical facility, Sanglah Hospital. This is the place to go if you’ve suffered a serious sickness or injury. Though there are medical facilities elsewhere on the island, only the hospital in Denpasar is equipped to handle serious emergencies. In addition, many international residents state that they go to either Bangkok or Singapore to have prearranged medical treatments.
Among the digital nomad set, some single expats have costs that are more than the bare minimum. Some digital nomads, as opposed to expats or families, tend to choose hipper neighborhoods and are willing to shell out more money for upscale amenities. The location of your flat, the degree to which it has been westernized, and the amount of air conditioning you use are all worthy expenditures.
The rent in different parts of Bali, such as the outskirts of Lovina or Ubud, or in comparison to Canggu, might vary widely, thus it’s impossible to generalize about the cost of living in Bali as a whole. With the cheapest rent, you may live in a room in a family compound, and with a little more money, you can live in a beautiful house among the rice terraces. Apartments with central air conditioning and kitchens, or spacious private villas, are more common in the upper-end rent bracket (which will require a full year paid upfront when renting). As organic health food is all the rage in Bali right now, it may add hundreds of dollars a month to your grocery bill if you eat just that.