Living in Bali: what you need to succeed

Alexis
Modified on January 23, 2024

What you need to live in Bali isn't necessary what you think. Here are the keys you'll need to relocate successfully in Bali.

Most common limiting factors while living in Bali

Moving to live in Bali is not always straightforward for several reasons, but expatriation failures are almost always explained by one of the following 4 points. If you have these 4 points in your favor, there is already much less chance that your attempt to live in Bali will end in a resounding failure.

Money: the key to sustain yourself in Bali

money live bali

Unfortunately, there is no other way to say it; you will need money if you want to live in Bali in the long term. Or at least a means of making money locally.

Most expatriations to Bali fail because they are poorly funded:

  • The cost of living in Bali has been underestimated
  • The difficulty of generating money locally has been underestimated
  • The initial savings were too low
  • The main source of income disappeared (hello, covid!)

There is no secret; those who have lived in Bali for several years know how to generate money locally (business, qualified employment, online freelancing, etc.) and/or have financial means that allow them to weather crises.

If you want to get a precise idea of the cost of living in Bali, I invite you to read this article: What is the true cost of living in Bali?

Remember: there are virtually no jobs for foreigners in Bali. Coming with nothing and hoping to find a job is suicidal, and completely impossible if you are not qualified.

Visa: an essential matter to resolve quickly

The visa is another thorny issue for living in Bali, especially if you want to settle legally in the long term.

Many expatriates do not live legally in Bali due to their visa, and are therefore constantly at the mercy of changes in immigration policy, which happens quite often.

Unfortunately, Indonesia is not a country that rolls out the red carpet for you if you want to live there. Residence visas (KITAS / KITAP) are not easily obtained, and their duration is still limited.

In short, there comes a time when living in Bali involves choosing a visa based on your situation, and the trade-offs between cost, legal advantages, and other practical aspects need to be carefully considered.

On the subject: What are the possible visas for Bali?


Health: a point not to underestimate if you want to live in Bali full time

Health is another point that is very often neglected by those who move to live in Bali, especially those who are used to having free and/or universal healthcare in their home country, as is often the case in Europe.

However, the situation is quite different here, and health is a business like any other. Therefore, not only do you need to have good health insurance for yourself and your family, but you also need to seriously reconsider your expatriation if you already have major health problems that require care that is unlikely to be covered.

To learn more: How does the Indonesian health system work?

School (international) for children: a tricky issue when relocating to Bali as a family

Living in Bali with a family is not the same as expatriating alone or as a couple.

Aside from the fact that many expenses increase with more people (housing, plane tickets, insurance, etc.), the cost of international school may also dampen the enthusiasm of many.

However, there are many international schools in Bali, and some are of good quality. But if you want to send your child to the French high school in Bali, there is only one, and you will have no choice but to live around Umalas if you have to commute every day.

In short, resolving the issue of children's education is not always easy. Many expatriations end due to the sometimes high costs of international schools.

Distance from the homeland and its culture: a factor to take into account

One factor not to neglect is the distance from your country of origin, especially if your circle lives in Western Europe or a similar time zone.

Not only will you live in Bali in a cultural bubble that has little to do with what is happening in your home country, but you will also have 7 or 6 hours of time difference, which leaves little room for improvisation.

Some people do not handle this cultural and physical distance from their loved ones very well.

The question of sick relatives also puts an end to many expatriations. It is always challenging to have a seriously ill relative in a country like France when you live in Bali and cannot do anything about it. However, this is not a unique problem in Bali; everyone who lives far from their loved ones would eventually be faced with difficult choices.

Secondary questions to resolve to live in Bali

The following points are by no means limiting factors for living in Bali, unlike the previous ones. However, it is better to prepare them properly to avoid being caught off guard.

The Bali area you want to live in: not all Balinese regions are the same

uluwatu

There is not just one place where you can live in Bali. And the experience you have will not be the same depending on whether you live in Canggu, Uluwatu, Sanur, or Ubud, to name a few.

As they say, each to his own. To live in Bali, it's the same. It is possible that you have fallen in love with a particular area or that you want to explore several places before choosing the best city to live in Bali.

There is no right or wrong answer unless your living area is limited by other factors: children's school, workplace, surf spots nearby (yes, it's a factor)...

The house/villa you will rent or buy

villa live in bali

Following the choice of the area where you want to live in Bali comes the choice of the house or villa.

Again, there is no better option than others. Choose based on your budget and cash flow.

You can rent by monthly or yearly, or even pay several years in advance if you wish.

Before choosing a house or villa to live in for the year, I strongly advise you to visit it before signing anything. And ideally, visit on a rainy day to test the waterproofing of the dwelling or its vulnerability to floods... friendly advice.

Your modes of transportation: quite important if you have children

Getting around Bali can be quite sporty. If you want to live in Bali, it is probably best to learn to drive a scooter. As a family, it is obviously more complicated, and the car remains a safe option, whether you want to drive it yourself or with the help of a driver.

Learning bahasa indonesia: definitely do not sleep on it too long

The question of learning Bahasa Indonesia will also arise at some point to live in Bali in the long term. While Bahasa may not be strictly indispensable for living in Bali, it can still be very useful in everyday life.

You live in a country; it's the bare minimum to make an effort to learn the common language of the entire archipelago. It is therefore better to plan it in your Bali expatriation roadmap.

Without Bahasa Indonesia, you can generally only socialize with Indonesians working in tourism (and foreigners), which deprives you of a significant part of the Indonesian life experience.

The social circle you will have when you live in Bali

Like living areas, and inevitably very linked to your mastery of Bahasa Indonesia, your social circle can be very different depending on your way of living in Bali.

Some foreigners only stay among those who speak their native language. Others are more multicultural and have a circle made up of a bit of every nationality found in Bali, and others are truly immersed in local culture.

Again, there is no better way to do it, even if personally, I find it a bit unfortunate to live abroad and not open up to others.

Depending on the social circle you want, choosing a suitable place to live will help you socialize more easily.

Your administrative status with your home country

The administrative status goes both ways: on the Indonesian side to live legally in Bali, but also on the side of your home country depending on your situation.

Many expatriates move to live in Bali later in life and therefore have assets in their home country: a house, vehicles, financial investments, etc., but also certain rights (retirement, social security, health insurance, etc.).

In some cases, it's okay to drop everything in your home country and settle fully in Bali to simplify your life by minimizing paperwork and the risks of double taxation. In other cases, you will absolutely have to juggle between the two, which can be tiring.

If it is undoubtedly not a problem in the first months or the first few years, don't forget that without any sign of life from your end, some institutions like healthcare will eventually take you out.

Also keep in mind, the longer you live in Bali, the less you will have any proof of residence in your home country for a lot of things: official documents, banks accounts and so on.

A little planning can go a long way.

Conclusion

Living in Bali is certainly an exhilarating experience, but expatriation to Bali should not be taken lightly if you really want it to succeed on the long term.

Among the limiting factors that lead to the most failures, money remains the main obstacle for living in Bali in the long term for many aspirants. But questions about visa, health, and children's international school are not far behind.

Cultural isolation and distance from your home country should not be neglected either and are often disregarded by new comers. Beware of the honeymoon phase!

There are thousands of ways to live in Bali, and the experience will not be the same depending on the area you live in, whether you speak Bahasa or not, and your circle of friends.

But in any case, few seem to regret having tried the adventure.

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