What is the (true) cost of living in Bali as a foreigner?

Alexis
Modified on January 23, 2024

The cost of living in Bali creates many fantasies. What is the reality for a foreigner living there year-round? Here are the detailed real costs of living in Bali.

Table of Contents

How to calculate the true cost of living in Bali for a foreigner?

Let's say it openly – if Bali is sometimes described as an island where nothing is expensive, it's mainly because of some expats who either can't count properly or are in situations that are so specific that they become not easily replicable or realistic for someone wanting to settle in Bali from scratch.

Here's how to anticipate the true cost of living in Bali as accurately as possible.

Do not expect your cost of living as a foreigner to be the same of locals

Many people think that if locals can live on €150 (or the equivalent in USD/AUD/SGD or your currency of preference) per month, then they can too. Unfortunately, this is (very) rarely the case and unrealistic if you want to legally settle here as a foreigner.

As a foreigner, you have mandatory or semi-mandatory needs that locals are simply not subjected to: the cost of your visa for starter, the cost of your health insurance (especially if you are not contributing to Indonesian social security), the cost of your ticket back home to visit your family (it does add up if you are European or American), and many more.

Moreover, if you come from a developed country, you probably don't have the same comfort expectations and lifestyle as the average Indonesian who grew up in rural areas.

Comparing the cost of living for a local to the cost of living for a tourist or expatriate is therefore hazardous at best, when it's not a guarantee to lead you into a wall.

Many foreigners make very poor calculations regarding the cost of living in Bali because they don't take everything into account. This is especially the case for those who live a few months a year in Bali without really establishing their legal and tax base here.

For example, if you are domiciled in say Australia, both legally and fiscally, but live in Bali a few months a year, what you spends monthly to live in Bali is only a fraction of your overall "life" budget, as part of it is still covered by Australian state institutions. You (or your employer) pay contributions in Australia to be part of the health system, for your retirement, for your children's school, and many more.

In the case that you decide to completely move to Bali and no longer maintain a connection with your home country, all these costs will likely come out of your pocket but will be spent according to your needs.

To budget well for an expatriation to Bali, it is therefore strongly recommended to calculate everything in gross rather than net and to have a very clear picture of what you really want to do. Especially if you come from a welfare country like most European countries.

Being legally settled in Bali and being able to work there does not have the same cost at all as spending a few months there spending your money. 

Always calculate the cost of living in Bali annually, not monthly

The other reason that often explains fanciful and optimistic, and therefore often wrong, calculations is counting the cost of living in Bali per month and not per year.

Adding up the monthly recurring costs of your life in Bali certainly gives an idea of the cost of living in Bali, but it does not take into account non-recurring expenses that can nevertheless be significant.

For example, if you are a European family of 4 living in Bali and want to come back every year in Europe to see your family, without going overboard, it will likely cost you at least (planes, trains, hotels, food, and some extras) €1500 x 4 people = €6000. This has already increased the household's cost of living in Bali by €500 per month!

Similarly, the costs of certain equipment that you have in your house or in your life in general (motorbike, electric appliances, tech...) are a yearly cost that you should always take into account. 

In short, no need to become a certified accountant, but if you want to really be as close as possible from a true total cost of living yearly in Bali, you'll have to include also what doesn't happen often.

What is cheaper in Bali than in most other countries?

Now that the calculation methods are clearer, let's take a detailed look at what can be more or less expensive compared to a most countries. Of course, it's hard to generalise for all countries. I'm French and I've been living in Western Europe most of my life before moving to Bali, so that's what I am going to compare it too.

If you are Australian, American, Singaporean or Korean, costs differences should be relatively similar.

On the cheaper side, there are several categories.

Service and transportation costs are much cheaper in Bali than in Europe

Salaries are much lower in Bali than in Europe. The minimum wage in Bali is around €150.

Therefore, everything related to services is much cheaper in Bali than in, say France. Here are some prices for local services to give you an idea:

  • One-hour massage: rarely more than 100K IDR, around €6;
  • Scooter maintenance: rarely more than 100K IDR, around €6;
  • Live-in housemaid: around 2 million rupiahs (or less), around €120 per month;
  • Gojek cars (similar to Uber): rarely more than 80K (€5) for a 30-minute ride;

Examples are numerous. Services are closely tied to salaries, so naturally, as salaries are much lower in Bali than in the Western world, the price of services is also lower.

It's also worth noting that the price of services is closely related to the informality level of the service provided. Not everything is declared in Indonesia, and in Bali in particular. Small informal services are often more likely to be much cheaper than others.

Restaurants are usually quite cheap in Bali

Another aspect often much cheaper in Bali is the cost of food. It should be noted that this is not always true and for everyone. In reality, it depends on what you like to eat.

If you like local food, you can eat very well for very little, without ever cooking. If you want to eat or cook Western food, prices may quickly rise. Even to become more expensive than in your home country.

Here are some restaurant prices to give you an idea.

  • Local dish in a local warung (non-touristic): 15 - 30k (€1 - €2);
  • Local dish in a touristy restaurant/warung: 30k - 80k (€2 - €5);
  • Western dish in a decent restaurant: 100k (€6);
  • Western dish in an upscale restaurant: 150 - 300K (€10 - €20);
  • Gourmet cuisine: from 700K - 800K (from €40 - €50 per menu/person).

If you eat 100% local, it is theoretically possible to eat and survive for €3 per day in Bali, which is less than €100 per month. But this is an extreme example that few people, especially westerners, actually follow. 

For many foreigners, €200 per month per person for food is in my opinion a good minimum. I don't know many that spend less than that.

Accommodations are (often) more comfortable for the same price in Bali than in the West

The price of accommodations in Bali is also often much cheaper than in the West for equivalent comfort. However, it is essential to emphasise "equivalent comfort" here. The concept of comfort is not the same for the average Indonesian as for the average Westerner.

Accommodations and their prices are logically indexed to their level of comfort, their size, and especially their location, like anywhere else.

It is worth noting that in Indonesia, rents are often paid annually and upfront. You can rent a house for 10 years, but you have to pay the 10 years' rent in advance. Monthly rental is also possible but often more expensive.

Here is an idea of monthly accommodation prices.

  • Renting a Kos (rarely rented to foreigners): from 700K (€40) / month
  • Renting a basic room in a guest house (not high demand area): between 2 - 3 million per month (€120 - €180)
  • Renting a comfortable room in a desirable area: from 4 million (€250) per month
  • Renting a local house per month: from 4 million (€250) per month
  • Renting a local house annually: from 15 million (€1,000) per year in less sought-after areas. Much more in high-demand areas.
  • Renting a small villa per month: from 6 million (€360)
  • Renting a spacious villa per month: from 10 million (€600)
  • Renting a small villa annually: from 60-70 million (€3,600 - €4,200)
  • Renting a beautiful villa annually in a desirable area: from €10,000 per year

Of course, these prices are indicative. You will always find foreigners who have managed to live in a Kos for €30 a month, others who have rented small houses or villas for decades in areas where rental prices have quadrupled in 10 years... and of course, some who live in exceptional properties that cost more monthly that what you could afford during your lifetime!

In my opinion, a good minimum for accommodation for a foreigner is around IDR 3 million per month (€180). At this price level, you have internet, air conditioning, and a fairly nice comfort that will allow you to live well.

What is more expensive in Bali than in many countries?

Now that you know where you will save money, let's discuss the other side of the coin. Here is what might cost you a lot in Bali.

Imported products are quickly very expensive in Bali

As long as you eat local, you won't spend much on food in Bali. Unfortunately, the opposite is also true, even if it seems to be easing in recent years.

Imported products are very expensive in Bali for several reasons. Firstly, because they are imported (yeah who would have guessed?), which means there is an intermediary who sourced and imported them (and marked them up), the transportation cost must be added, and of course, these products are taxed upon entering Indonesian territory.

For instance, cheeses (yes I have French priorities...), wines, and other products from say Europe, are sometimes available in Bali, but at prices that should quickly dissuade you. €7 for a mainstream camembert, €18 for imported bad wine, or even €10 for a pack of cereals... it may be okay for moments when you're homesick, but it can dramatically increase your daily expenses if it becomes a routine.

Luckily, there are more and more local artisans (both expats and locals) that are passionate about many aspects of foreign cuisine and that make them in Bali or the rest of Indonesia.

Which can save your sorry homesick *ss from time to time, on a budget.

Alcohol is very expensive in Bali (if you are European)

Indonesia is a predominantly Muslim country that discourages alcohol consumption by keeping relatively high taxes on it. And inflation hasn't improved things.

This will of course greatly vary depending on where you are from. As a French, I find that drinking alcohol in Bali is not cheap and can even be quite expensive. I guess most Europeans (especially the ones from the East or Sourth) would agree with me, but Australians likely not. For other Asians, it is also quite expensive. For Jakartans, Bali is very cheap...

The 33cl bottle of Bintang beer is between 15k (€1) in the supermarket and 50k (€3) in good bars and remains the only truly affordable alcohol. The taste of Bintang is very good in the first two weeks of your trip to Bali. As time goes by, you might consider drinking your own urine to check if there is any difference.

As soon as you go for real cocktails made with decent spirits, the bill can quickly climb to 120K (€8) or even 150K (€10) in reputable bars and clubs, which is ultimately not (much) cheaper than going out in a country like France.

Socialites, hedonists, and other euphemisms to avoid saying "drunks" are clearly at a disadvantage in Bali. Time to put these new years resolutions at test.

Health expenses are not free and sometimes expensive in Bali

What is probably the most expensive, and clearly not to be neglected in a place like Bali, is healthcare.

Getting injured or falling ill in Bali can quickly cost a lot of money. And an foreigner without money will not be treated, even in case of emergency.

We can't stress it enough, but health insurance is an absolute necessity in a place like Bali. What you pay per month for health insurance is nothing compared to what a motorcycle accident or a bad case of dengue could cost you. And let's not even talk about serious medical evacuations / repatriations, which are generally well beyond the reach of anyone (unless you're a millionaire) without insurance.

It is obviously difficult to create a table of healthcare costs in Bali, but here are some indicative prices that I have witnessed in my circle or have experienced myself:

  • Consultation with a general practitioner at the hospital: from 500k (€30)
  • Consultation with a specialist: from 700 - 800k (€40 - €50)
  • Dengue without hospitalization: test + consultation + medication: 1,500K (€100)
  • Treatment of a fractured toe with 2 days of hospitalization at the local rate: €5,200
  • Repatriation (serious) by medical plane to France: €500,000 (the person died before reaching France)

In short, health is a cost in Bali, and if you are not used to paying for your health, you will have to get used to it. And you will especially need to subscribe to an insurance policy that adequately covers you, unless you have (a lot of) money on the side that you don't know what to do with.

What are the mandatory expenses for a foreigner in Bali?

Now that you have a more comprehensive view of prices in Bali, here is a breakdown of costs that are mandatory from the moment you live in Bali, whether for a few months or the entire year.

Visa: a mandatory cost often underestimated

The visa is clearly not a cost to be taken lightly in Bali. 

Tourist visas and other visit visas are affordable (around forty euros per month with a sponsor), but they are limited to 6 months and prohibit you from working. Moreover, they do NOT make you an official Indonesian resident, which may not matter if you are officially established in your home country but can be a problem if you want to establish yourself or work here.

Residence visas (Kitas/Kitap) and associated work permits vary in cost depending on the need for a work permit, sponsor, etc.

In general, the cheapest ones are around 60 euros per month for spouses of married Indonesians and can go up to over 300 euros per month to be under a local payroll with a sponsor, including residence permits with work permits, accounting, and administrative management (contributions, taxes, etc.) all integrated.

If you only plan to spend a few months in Bali without working, the cost of the visa may not be very significant.

However, if you plan to work in Bali or at least legally settle, it will likely be a different story, and it's clearly an expense not to neglect in your budgeting.


The cost of accommodation in Bali: not as low as you might think

The cost of your accommodation is also a necessity for living in Bali and can quickly impact your budget.

The in-demand areas are not as cheap as you might think, and these are generally where newcomers want to live (Canggu, Seminyak, Sanur, Uluwatu, etc.).

As we mentioned, saving on accommodation often involves paying in advance for several months or years upfront, compromising on comfort, and/or moving away from expensive areas.

Insurance: absolutely essential in Bali

Insurance is not an option when you live in Bali. No one forces you, of course, but it is completely reckless not to have it, especially if you ride two-wheelers.

Travel insurance is not so expensive (from 30€-50€ per month), but it is not indefinitely renewable, especially when you become an official expatriate. Expatriate insurance costs at least 80€/month per person when you are young and low-risk. As you age, it quickly becomes increasingly more expensive.

You are, of course, free to choose your plan and only insure yourself for serious matters (operations, cancers, repatriation, etc.) and pay the rest out of your pocket, or take all-inclusive plans (with glasses, dentists, etc.) to have peace of mind despite a larger hole in your budget.

Regardless of your choice, trying to save on insurance when living in Bali is anything but a good idea. Assume that you and your family members will need it. You don't want your life to depend on a transfer from your grandmother or a gofundme campaign.

Food: the cheapest part of your expatriation

Obviously, in Bali as elsewhere, you need to eat to live. Incredible but true.

The food budget is not to be neglected, especially if you plan to eat Western food often.

If you plan to eat a lot of local food, you should be pleasantly surprised by your budget at the end of the month. You might also find yourself lacking a bit of protein or willing to sell a kidney for a baguette or a croissant after a few months, but that's another problem.

Transportation in Bali: inexpensive but cumulative

Transportation also needs to be budgeted for in Bali.

Getting around with Gojek is certainly possible and much cheaper than in France, but it will still add up to a certain amount at the end of the month.

Scooters can be rented for as low as 700K (42€) per month, and a full tank costs around 50K (3€). Transportation is not a huge expense in Bali, but it is something to consider if you are on a tight budget.

On the subject: How to Get Around in Bali?

What are the important expenses for a foreigner in Bali that aren't systematic?

Some expenses are certainly not mandatory to live in Bali but are very important, and you may find yourself in one of these situations quickly when living on the island throughout the year.

Children's (International) School: a cost that can become substantial

Not all expatriates in Bali have children.

But those who do often pay very high fees for their children's education, especially when they attend international schools from their home country.

An international school like the French high school in Bali can quickly cost 10K€ per year per person. Not exactly affordable for everyone. Scholarships are sometimes available, but let's not kid ourselves; many "forced repatriations" are due to the lack of funds to educate children in a decent international school.

If you are moving with your family, it is absolutely essential to have a very generous budget for your children's education. Or you can send them to a local school, but few Westerners do it, especially when the move to Bali is not "permanent." It is however much more frequent with mixed kids (half-Indo half-something else).

Your contribution to a retirement fund: the "detail" everyone forgets

If you are still employed or a worker in your home country, this issue does not concern you. But if you live in Bali officially, working or investing there, so without contributing to anything in your home country, you will have to think about your retirement contribution at some point.

There are many options for independently contributing to retirement funds for expatriates, but none of them are free.

Before finding yourself penniless at 65, it is important to calculate your monthly budget in Bali, including these few percentages of your salary that should secure your old age.

Returning to your home country: not mandatory but often welcome

Bali is great, but Bali is also small. Sooner or later, you will want to return to your home country: to say hello to family, take a vacation, eat something you miss, or even deal with some administrative matters (yes, it happens).

It's no surprise to anyone: a flight from Denpasar to Europe (Paris, for example) is not cheap. On average, around 900€ per person. And this price is not the total budget for your trip, of course. When you add the prices of the train/plane in your country, one or two nights in hotels, a taxi, a few meals with family or friends... it's hard to do all that for less than... 1,500€?

Of course, the price is more or less proportional to the number of people involved in the trip. Returning every year for a family of four is a significant budget. Or you can do like those expats who go alone to see their family and leave their wife and children in Bali! Cheaper, certainly, but a little less fun too...

But hey, budget is budget.

The cost of leisure in Bali: highly dependent on your lifestyle

The cost of leisure in Bali is extremely variable. If all you do is go to the beach, it will cost you almost nothing.

If your leisure activities involve spending a lot in luxurious bars/restaurants in Bali, it will quickly become quite expensive.

So, there's no range other than from 0 to infinite when it comes to leisure. It's up to you to decide based on what you plan to do.

What is the minimum monthly budget to live in Bali (year-round) as a foreigner?

Here is an idea of the minimum budgets to live in Bali year-round as a foreigner. There will always be people telling you it's possible with less, but take it with a grain of salt. 

It's likely that these people are cutting corners or taking reckless risks (wrong visa, no insurance, no retirement plan, etc.). So, consider these budgets as the minimums to live in Bali, the kind to ensure you don't die foolishly or end up in jail.

€800/month: the bare minimum to live in Bali legally as a foreigner

If you plan to settle legally in Bali, meaning with a valid residence visa and all, €800 is truly the minimum.

You'll roughly pay something like €200 for the visa, €100 for insurance, €200 for accommodation, €50 for transportation, and the rest (€250) for food, leisure, and trips back to your home country.

At this price, it's doable, but it's clearly not luxurious. It's more like living on a tight budget under the tropical sun, not the king life.

This leaves little room for retirement and leisure. But at least, you're a "real" resident, and you can work, which can provide some peace of mind.

It's possible to do with less if you're married to an Indonesian spouse, significantly reducing your visa costs, but that's a bit of a special case. If you're not in Bali year-round (and paying your taxes elsewhere), it's also possible to do with less since you might not need a work visa or keep money for your retirement and other obligations. However, you still need travel insurance for the months you're in Bali.

Nevertheless, €800 per month remains in my opinion a good minimum, even if you're not officially in Bali, especially if you don't speak Indonesian well and are unfamiliar with Bali.

€1,500/month: the minimum for a comfortable life in Bali

Starting from €1,500 per month (gross), interesting things begin to happen! It becomes easier and less restrictive to pay for a visa (and its taxes and contributions) to work, as well as a good insurance policy.

There's then enough left to cover accommodation, an annual trip back home, and even something left to save for retirement.

With what's left, you still have enough to treat yourself to restaurants, leisure, and other non-essential expenses. If we use the same budgets as before, that is, a modest and legal lifestyle, instead of €250, you have €950 left to spend as you please, which is more than enough to indulge yourself and save for unexpected expenses.

In short, when you exceed €1,500 per month, you can start living well and comfortably in Bali while still being legal, even if it's not a life of luxury.

€5-6K / month for the household: the minimum to live in Bali as a family of 4

Expatriate families are clearly not favoured in Bali. The cost of international school is very high, and expenses such as insurance, visas, and plane tickets are multiplied by the number of family members.

So, €5-6K per month for the household is the minimumto live in Bali as a foreign family legally and stress-free. Below that, you'll likely have to send your children to local schools, avoid returning to your home country too often, and significantly reduce your leisure activities.

The lack of means, especially for families, is by far the most common reason why expatriations to Bali fail.

Conclusion

The cost of living in Bali for a foreigner often has little to do with that of a local, mainly due to foreigner status.

To budget well for the cost of living in Bali, it's important to consider everything, meaning including the hidden lines on your paycheck that will be expenses like any other in Bali: health insurance, retirement savings, visa costs, in addition to other more typical expenses like housing, transportation, and food.

Count on at least €800 per month to settle (legally) in Bali, and if possible beyond €1,200 - €1,500 per month if you want to be reasonably comfortable. For foreign families, the floor is more like €5-6K per month for a family of four.

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