Where to live in Bali as a foreigner?

Alexis
Modified on January 21, 2024

Where to live in Bali as a foreigner can be a tricky question with many different possible answers. Here is where most foreigners live in Bali.

What are the essential factors for choosing a place to live in Bali as a foreigner?

Foreigners often have a very distorted image of Bali. They often imagine it:

  • Smaller than it really is
  • More homogeneous than it really is
  • Less touristy than it really is
  • Less congested than it really is
  • Less expensive than it really is

So, here are some factors to consider carefully before settling on a place to live in Bali or before committing to a long-term rental.

On the subject: What to consider before coming to live in Bali?

Your workplace in Bali: essential to avoid spending your time in Balinese traffic jams

You probably don't want to move to Bali to spend an hour or more in traffic jams every day.

Whether it's going to your workplace, your coworking space, or the gym after work, taking into account travel time between your workplace or leisure place and your residence is absolutely essential in Bali.

Bali can be very congested in certain areas, at certain times, and on certain days. And let's say it plainly, many popular places are particularly notorious for being traffic nightmares.

Don't rely on distances that may seem close! It's not uncommon to spend an hour driving 10 km. Count everything in minutes or hours, never in meters or kilometers.

On the subject: What are the jobs of expatriates in Bali?

Your children school: often a decisive point in picking where to live in Bali as a family

Foreigners who move to Bali with their families often have a big constraint that others don't: their children's school.

Not only is it expensive (it's not the subject, but it doesn't hurt to mention it), but above all, you have to drop them off and pick them up almost every day. Most likely, you don't want to live too far from your children's school, nor have the most congested road on your morning route.

If you also want your children to be able to go to school on their own, on foot or otherwise, this can seriously limit your options for places to live.

Real estate prices: prices are anything but homogeneous in Bali

Rental prices in Bali can vary from one to ten times for similar housing depending on where you live. Summarizing prices by city is very difficult and depends on many parameters, but there is no secret: prices follow the simple law of supply and demand.

Living in a highly demanded place in Bali, be it due to its media exposure, real quality of life, proximity to a school, geographical location, or community— comes at a cost.

Similarly, some neighborhoods in Bali are very exclusive, others rather poor, and many somewhere in between.

On the subject: What is the real cost of living in Bali?

Surrounding amenities and infrastructure: more decisive than you think in choosing where to live in Bali

The amenities and infrastructure found in certain tourist cities in Bali, which may seem obvious, can be much less so in other more remote or local places on the island.

Generally, Balinese infrastructure is very concentrated around tourist cities and around major cities, with Denpasar at the forefront. Outside these poles, many simple things can turn out to be more complicated.

So, if you like Western restaurants, vegan dishes, bars, nightclubs, nice supermarkets, or shopping, there are places where it will be easier than others.

The same goes for hospitals, administrative offices like immigration, or transport facilities.

Some hobbies like surfing, diving, or hiking are also naturally confined to certain places on the island, but you probably already know that if you are concerned.

Communities on site: something not to neglect

One aspect not to neglect when choosing where to live in Bali is the community currently living there. This can simply change your Balinese experience completely.

Some places in Bali are real expat hubs where you won't encounter many locals, others are almost exclusively local places where you won't see tourists or expats, and still, others are almost exclusively touristy places where you won't see locals or expats living. Most cities are somewhere in between. 

There is no right or wrong option, it all depends on what you are looking for and how you imagine your life in Bali.

While it's a bit unfortunate, in my opinion, to live abroad and not interact with the local population, I must say that I have also seen many expatriation candidates seriously disillusioned when they tried to put into practice their dream of living "100% local"!

Many seem far from imagining the cultural gap that exists between Western culture and most Asian cultures, what that implies in terms of integration or efforts to make, and the feeling of isolation that these lifestyle choices can generate.

But anyway, in Bali, everything is possible, from 100% local community to almost 100% expat, from hordes of surfers to city dwellers, from hippies to influencers or families to retirees. And fortunately, many things are in between!

The choice is yours!

The main cities and neighbourhoods where foreigners live in Bali

Now that the parameters have been clearly presented. Here are the cities that are quite popular among those who live in Bali or are worth considering. 

Umalas: the hub of the French speaking community in Bali

live in Umalas bali

Umalas is undoubtedly one of the most French and Francophone places in Bali. There is a logical reason for this: it is where the French School of Bali is, and where the consulate has also been for a long time.

The neighborhood is really well located in Bali and rather luxurious. It attracts many expatriates of all kinds: business owners, digital nomads, families, retirees, etc.

Umalas' Pros

  • Few traffic jams in Umalas
  • Green
  • Luxurious
  • Very central (5 min from both Seminyak and Canggu)
  • Many nice restaurants

Umalas' Cons

  • One of the most expensive places in Bali
  • Narrow roads
  • Does not particularly represent Indonesian culture
  • No beach

Main Communities in Umalas

  • Almost exclusively expatriates (all ages)
  • Many French people
  • Generally well off people
  • Few tourists

Examples of hotels and residences in Umalas

Booking.com

Canggu (and Pererenan): the trendiest place to live in Bali

Living in Canggu

Canggu (and its neighbor Pererenan) is one of the places in Bali that makes the most noise, for both good and bad reasons.

Like everywhere, there are advantages and disadvantages to living in Canggu, but its popularity is obviously not just by chance or due to hype alone. 

Canggu's Pros

  • A delicious cafe or restaurant every few meters (hard to beat in Bali, but also in the rest of the world)
  • Several interesting surf spots (Echo Beach, Batu Bolong, Berawa…)
  • Varied accommodation options (guest houses, villas, houses…)
  • Many coworking spaces
  • Many well-equipped gyms
  • Many places to party
  • A young and dynamic community

Canggu's Cons

  • Traffic jams can be monstrous at certain times
  • Canggu is out of the way. Combined with traffic, it can be difficult to get out of it.
  • The price of accommodation, amenities, or leisure can be very high in popular areas
  • Canggu is a world of its own that does not represent Balinese culture, let alone Indonesian culture
  • The Canggu community is often noticed for the wrong reasons

Main Communities in Canggu

  • Many long-term tourists (several weeks/months) from around the world
  • Increasing numbers of short-term tourists from Indonesia and elsewhere
  • Many digital nomads
  • Some long-time expat families (fewer than before)
  • Most of the short-term Canggu community is young, very young (< 35 years old)
  • Canggu is becoming more "party-centric" with the construction of beach clubs
  • Few locals live there year-round (many have moved inland)
  • Community ranging from very affluent to broke backpackers
  • Many eccentric profiles, to say the least, sometimes resembling an open-air asylum 

Examples of residences and hotels in Canggu and Pererenan

Booking.com

Kerobokan: a central neighborhood home to many expats

Live in Kerobokan Bali

Kerobokan, located halfway between Canggu, Seminyak, Denpasar, and Umalas, is a preferred option for many foreigners who find a compromise on many aspects of Balinese life.

Kerobokan's Pros

  • Very well located halfway to many places in South Bali
  • Close to many schools
  • Very varied housing options
  • Many restaurants nearby
  • Few traffic jams in Kerobokan itself
  • The neighborhood is relatively calm and mixed
  • It is possible to choose between a local or Western lifestyle

Kerobokan's Cons

  • It's a in-demand neighborhood, so prices remain quite high
  • There is no sea
  • The neighborhood is more practical than beautiful

Main Communities in Kerobokan

  • Mixed community of locals and expatriates, few tourists
  • Quite a few families
  • Many young couples
  • Generally affluent and calm

Hotels and Residences in Kerobokan

Booking.com

Seminyak: a pleasant seaside resort close to everything

Live in Seminyak Bali

Seminyak was once the preferred living place for Bali's expatriates. While many of them have moved, this very central seaside resort is far from being the worst place to live in Bali, especially if you like going out and being close to all amenities. In fact, what applies to Seminyak also applies to Kuta.

Seminyak's Pros

  • Very central and close to all amenities
  • Many bars, restaurants, and other commercial places
  • Beautiful beach for surfing, partying, or just sunbathing
  • Fairly varied housing options
  • Generally pleasant community

Seminyak's Cons

  • A place that is more touristy than a real living place
  • More short-term accommodations than long-term available
  • Quite expensive
  • Difficult to live like a local (but less so than Canggu)
  • Traffic jammed in the evening

Main Communities in Seminyak

  • Tourists from around the world, mostly upper-middle class and relatively older (30 years and older): couples, families, friends, etc.
  • Long-time expatriates
  • Retirees
  • Some locals

Examples of hotels and residences in Seminyak

Booking.com

Ubud: an extensive area that appeals to many expatriates

Live in Ubud Bali

Ubud is a symbol in itself, and many people want to live there for various reasons. 

After Canggu and its surroundings, Ubud is arguably one of the most popular regions where many expatriates choose to settle in for the short or long term.

Ubud's Pros

  • Very extensive town: you can live in the center, in the countryside, or in between
  • Touristic but not everywhere: convenient for a life between the West and local life
  • Many international schools for families
  • A good mix between tourist and longer-term residences
  • Many Balinese people live around: not the worst place to discover Balinese culture
  • Decent infrastructure
  • Green environment as soon as you leave the center
  • Many artists in the area
  • More zen atmosphere than on the coast

Ubud's Cons

  • The center is very touristic
  • The center can be very traffic-jammed (much less so as you move away a bit), especially during peak seasons and/or ceremonies
  • Rental prices remain high, but you can find reasonable ones if you move a bit away
  • Some clichés about the expatriate community, sometimes (very) eccentric in Ubud are true (there are some nutcases and borderline sectarian vegans/yogis)
  • No beach in Ubud; you have to drive at least 30-40 minutes

Main Communities in Ubud

  • Tourists from around the world who come to discover Balinese culture. Great variety of countries of origin and social classes
  • Expatriates of all types (families, digital nomads, yogis, hippies, etc.)
  • Locals, especially as you move away from the center

Some examples of places to live, more or less long term, in Ubud

Booking.com

Bukit area (Uluwatu, Bingin...): where all the surfers in the world want to live

Live in Uluwatu bali

The Bukit is the southern peninsula of Bali that was primarily known in the past for its world-class surf spots like Uluwatu, Padang Padang, Bingin, Impossible, or Balangan, to name just a few.

If there were few expats in the area a few years ago, apart from the most dedicated surfers, things are changing, and Bukit is undoubtedly among the top 3 most favored areas by expatriates after Canggu and Ubud.

Bukit's Pros

  • One of the world's surfing meccas without a doubt (it's almost hard to believe)
  • The most beautiful beaches in Bali are on the Bukit: white sand, reefs, cliffs, perfect waves... a real postcard
  • Many bars and restaurants have opened in recent years
  • Some areas of Bukit, especially inland, have remained very local, and it is possible to live like a local
  • As the area is vast, it is relatively easy to find long-term accommodation as long as you are not looking to live facing a high-demand beach...
  • The Bukit community is rather relaxed and friendly

Bukit's Cons

  • The Bukit remains remote from many places of interest/practices in Bali
  • Few entry points to the peninsula: roads leading to it can be very congested. Getting in/out of the Bukit can be difficult and cumbersome.
  • Inner roads in Bukit can be very narrow (it's better to be on a scooter)
  • Not necessarily the place with the most international schools for expatriate families
  • Few infrastructures and administration on the Bukit
  • Access to many beaches involves going down many stairs
  • The areas around Uluwatu are very touristy with everything that entails: traffic jams, crowds, shops, and restaurants that have little to do with local culture...

Main Communities in Bukit

  • Many tourists from around the world who come to visit the Uluwatu temple or the GWK statue
  • A lot of surfers from around the world
  • Expatriates increasingly numerous: many surfers, but not only
  • Still many locals on the Bukit as soon as you leave the beaches and go a bit inland

Hotels, guest houses, and residences to live in on the Bukit

Booking.com

Sanur: the city where most foreign retirees live

Live in Sanur Bali

Sanur was the first resort on the island and is now a city appreciated by many visitors, whether they are tourists, locals, or expatriates.

Sanur's Pros

  • Relatively central: close to Kuta, Denpasar, and even Ubud
  • Major roads that facilitate access from the West and North
  • Good tourist infrastructure, hospitals, and other administrative centers very close
  • Many good-quality restaurants and bars
  • Several international schools very close
  • Beautiful beach with a landscaped promenade
  • Mixed offer of tourist/long-term accommodations
  • Possible to live like a local, Western, or in between
  • Seaside resort calm and relatively mixed between locals and foreigners. Very popular with locals on weekends.

Sanur's Cons

  • Living in Sanur itself is expensive due to high demand
  • The majority of the waterfront is made up of luxury hotels
  • Surf spots are on offshore reefs that often require a boat
  • The beaches can be crowded on weekends at sunset
  • Sex tourism, although very minority and relatively discreet, exists

Main Communities in Sanur

Tourists in luxury beachfront hotels and smaller hotels/guesthouses in the center of Sanur
Many Western retirees in Sanur itself
Expatriates with families
Many locals in the cities and villages in the immediate vicinity of Sanur

Examples of guest houses and hotels to live in Sanur

Booking.com

Renon: a mixed community and the home of the Balinese elite

Live in Renon Bali

Renon is a neighborhood in Denpasar that is adjacent to Sanur and has many advantages, despite being almost unknown to many prospective expatriates.

Renon is not particularly known as a tourist destination and therefore has no international hype, but it remains an elite neighborhood where many wealthy Balinese and Indonesians reside. It is also in this neighborhood that a large part of Bali's administrative power is located.

Renon's Pros

  • A neighborhood close to Sanur and Denpasar
  • Not touristy, primarily residential
  • Plenty of local and Western restaurants
  • Some nice malls
  • All amenities and administration nearby
  • Main roads
  • Several international schools
  • Diverse housing options, especially for the long term
  • Possibility to live 100% locally

Renon's Cons

  • Urban and residential neighborhood: no sea, mountains, or rice fields
  • Very active and populated: not the quietest place in Bali
  • Not the place in Bali with the largest expatriate community
  • Not known for partying, but Sanur and Kuta are not far
  • Still quite expensive

Main Communities in Renon

  • Large majority of locals, often from the middle class or higher
  • Some expatriates, some of whom work in Sanur
  • Many Indonesian families
  • A number of mixed families from East Bali

Examples of Places to Stay or Live in Renon

Booking.com

Denpasar: the capital of Bali too often overlooked by foreigners

Live in Denpasar Bali

If there is one city that is regularly overlooked by foreigners living in Bali, it is Denpasar

It's simple, as soon as you leave the beach resorts to venture into Denpasar, you are very likely to be the only foreigner in sight.

Yet, living in Denpasar has many advantages, ranging from truly living with locals (and not just next to them in foreign enclaves) but also living much cheaper than in more touristy and trendy places.

Denpasar's Pros

  • Much cheaper to rent accommodation
  • You can live among locals and have the real experience of Indonesian life
  • Very central: it is the capital of Bali, so everything is close to Denpasar
  • Shopping, gyms, and other leisure activities are often much cheaper than in the beach resorts (but with fewer choices and less luxury)
  • Many international schools nearby
  • The outskirts of Denpasar still allow you to be close to trendy places (Canggu, Sanur, Seminyak, Kuta, Jimbaran, and even Ubud…) while having very reasonable rents

Denpasar's Cons

  • It is a city: urban environment, no sea, not many rice fields, noise, pollution...
  • Living the Indonesian way can have its drawbacks: religious practices, food choices, local lifestyle, house equipment...
  • Some places in Denpasar have narrow roads and are congested
  • Denpasar is a real maze if you don't know Bali
  • The cultural shock can be much more intense if you have never lived in Indonesia/Southeast Asia before
  • Difficult to find your way if you are totally new to Bali/Southeast Asia without an Indonesian (friend, spouse, colleague...) to show you the ropes
  • Fewer expatriates and few tourists, so it's necessary to speak at least some Bahasa for everyday life and/or integration

Main Communities in Denpasar

  • Some expatriates taking advantage of lower rents on the outskirts of Denpasar
  • Some mixed families
  • Mostly locals

Examples of medium-term accommodation offers in Denpasar

Booking.com

North Bali (Amed, Lovina, Singaraja): perfect for the ones that like to stay away from the crowds

Live in Pemuteran Bali

The North of Bali is a very vast area. To keep it simple, let's say it extends more or less from Menjangan/Pemuteran to Amed, including towns like Lovina, Singaraja, and everything around Buleleng.

Few expatriates live in these areas, but I don't think I'm wrong in saying that those who live there wouldn't change their places for anything in the world.

North Bali Pros

  • Relatively not very touristy (especially compared to South Bali)
  • Overall beautiful and fairly preserved
  • Some infrastructure, administration, and amenities, especially in Singaraja
  • The volcanoes and the mountains are close by
  • Traffic jams are almost a non-issue compared to the rest of the island
  • Possibility to rent cheaper than in the South
  • Balinese culture is very present
  • World-class diving spots

North Bali Cons

  • Very isolated from the rest of the island (this may change with the new airport or the LRT)
  • No easy access to international schools, hospitals, etc.... which are mostly down South
  • No nearby surfing spots
  • Not always very suitable places for a Western lifestyle
  • Limited expatriate community (dive instructors, restaurant / hotel owners...)
  • Fewer cafes, restaurants, and other clubs for Westerners than in the South (which can also be a positive point)
  • Roads passing through the mountains are dangerous

Main Communities in North Bali

  • Majority of Balinese locals (relatively few from other islands)
  • Tourists who are divers or looking for peace and a more authentic Bali
  • Some expatriates

Examples of accommodations in North Bali

Booking.com

Conclusion

Despite Bali being a relatively small island, living in Bali can mean everything and its opposite.

It's up to each person to choose the Bali that best suits them, depending on your constraints, budget, life change goals, and of course, your desire to integrate into local communities.

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