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Living in Bali: The Pros and Cons You Need to Know

Living in Bali can seem like a completely unachievable dream to some, but it is actually quite easy to do! If it’s what you want, then you can definitely achieve it. But first, let’s figure out if you even want to move to Bali or not! So I’ve made a list of the pros and cons of living in Bali to help you make your decision.

My husband and I had never been to Bali before but decided we wanted to live there (yes, we were super-fans of Eat, Pray, Love, don’t judge us!!).

So we got our visa, a one-way ticket to Bali, and lived there for 6 months! There was so much we absolutely LOVED about Bali, so let’s go over those first!

The Pros of Living in Bali

Easy Visa Process

A visa to live in Indonesia is actually not that difficult to get! But if you haven’t traveled much, then it might seem a lot at first. You might think that you can just show up in Bali and stay there until you want to leave, but that’s not possible.

Girl sitting on a ledge over a beach in Bali
Just picture yourself in Bali already to get through this visa crap

There are two ways to stay for 6 months. The first is to apply for a Social Visa (B-211) at your nearest Indonesian Consulate.

The second way (which would be easier if you are already living in Asia) is to fly to Singapore and apply for a visa there. You can’t apply for a visa from within Indonesia itself.

With both of these options, I would recommend hiring Visa4Bali. I was totally lost on what to do and which visa to apply for, but after contacting them it was a lot more clear.

visa4bali visa agency

They help you with your application, then once you are in Indonesia they help you with your visa extensions.

Normally in order to stay in Bali on the Social Visa, you would need to go in and extend in person every 30 days. However, if you pay Visa4Bali, you only have to come once and then they will do the rest of the extensions for you.

I seriously HATE applying for visas/extending visas, etc. so that was a no-brainer for me. Especially since it only costs $239 USD per passport for everything.

The visa itself has separate costs that you pay directly to the consulate.

Also, be aware that you will need to choose between a multiple-entry visa and a single-entry visa.

The multiple-entry means that you can leave Indonesia and come back without needing to apply for another visa, while the single-entry requires a new visa.

We chose the single-entry visa and decided to just travel around Bali and Indonesia as much as possible within those 6 months.

Cheap Rent

Rent in Bali is CHEAP! In 6 months, we only spent $2,000 in rent! We only rented through Airbnb (you can read here how we find the cheapest Airbnbs) and lived mostly in Kuta, Bali.

Cheap Local Food

Don’t feel like cooking every day? You can find cheap, local food like Nasi Goreng, Nasi Ayam (fried rice or rice & chicken), or Mie Goreng (fried noodles) for under $1!

And if you’re a fan of spicy food, you’ll love adding a little bit of the local Sambal sauce that usually comes with your Nasi Goreng.

Scooter Rental is Cheap

It’s super easy to get around Bali. You can choose to either rent a scooter each month or if you plan to stay for longer than 6 months, you can even buy one!

Two boys on motorbikes in Bali Indonesia

If you are staying long-term, you have the advantage of bartering for a better price. You have to gauge how much it costs in your area as well before deciding on the price you want to go for.

For example, renting scooters in Canggu or Ubud is a bit more expensive than in Kuta.

If you are renting from Kuta (where we lived) we recommend Edy’s Motorbike Rentals.

You’ll have to barter a bit for a good price, but we never paid more than $45 per month for our scooter in Bali (just one though, we shared!).

The helmets are included as well, so make sure to get a good one! You can ask them to exchange it if you don’t like the one given to you originally, they don’t mind.

Easy & Cheap to Travel Around Asia (Use Bali as a Base)

Bali is a great location to use as a base to travel Asia or even the world! Flights around Indonesia itself are pretty cheap and there is SO much to see!

Komodo Island, Bali
Komodo Island is one of the best trips you can take from Bali!

However, to find those cheap flights within Asia itself, you would use different flight search engines than you’re used to. I put together a list of cheap flight sites that will help travel around Asia for SUPER cheap!

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Live Close to the Beach for a Great Price

Have you ever wanted to live so close to the beach that you could get there in under 5 minutes? Before Southeast Asia, I really thought that you had to have tons of money to get anywhere near living that close to a beach.

Girl sitting on a beach in Bali

Especially some of the most beautiful beaches in the world, which are in Bali! But for a ridiculously good price, we were able to live close to a beach for the WHOLE 6 MONTHS!

So now I’m a bit addicted and have decided it’s the only way I want to live.

Western Amenities & Grocery Stores

You don’t have to completely say goodbye to all the things you love from the USA! Head over to the Carrefour in Kuta (there’s also a Wendy’s there, but the frosty’s just don’t taste the same!).

This is the perfect place to get both your local fruits & vegetables as well as see what American/expat foods they have in stock that week.

If you’re a fan of Mac’n’Cheese like me and you see it in stock, you better buy it all!

Besides the grocery store, there are also a lot of Western restaurants in Kuta. You can find Domino’s Pizza, McDonald’s, Johnny Rockets, Tony Roma’s, Hard Rock Cafe, Bubba Gump Shrimp, Burger King, etc.

I recommend checking out my Bali guides to find the best pizza and the cheapest meals on the island as well!

Easy to Live Healthily

Fruits and vegetables are super affordable in Bali. You can learn to love tempeh (fermented soy) which can be used to replace meat in a lot of meals! It is a bit of an acquired taste, but you can use teriyaki sauce to make it a bit sweeter.

Plus, one thing Bali is super famous for is vegan restaurants! Especially in Ubud, you can find buffets, cheap eats, and tons of restaurants catering to vegans and vegetarians. It’s definitely one of the easiest countries for that lifestyle.

Smoothie Bowl in Bali

But even if you’re not into that, Bali itself just encourages a healthier lifestyle. Since there’s so much to do, you’ll naturally become more active (climbing volcanoes is not easy!).

There are tons of yoga studios, gyms, beaches to run on, etc.!

So Much Untouched Bali & Indonesia Left to Explore

There is so much adventure in Bali! Waking up every day and just hopping on a scooter to go to just the grocery store is more adventure already than a month at home could give you.

But there’s so much to do in Bali!

Rice fields in Bali

You could spend every weekend (or week!) searching for waterfalls, beach hopping completely isolated areas, bartering for cheap goods at the local markets, climbing volcanoes, free diving for shipwrecks, swimming with dolphins…

OR you could ditch Bali and head to Komodo Dragon Island to visit the only islands in the world where they live naturally, island hop the Gili Islands, snorkel with giant Manta Rays, swim in a lake with thousands of non-poisonous jellyfish…

If shaking things up is what you’re looking for, Bali is the PERFECT new home for you.

Cons of Living in Bali

Below are a few of the negatives of living in Bali that you should keep in mind if you’re planning to move there. Although there are quite a few problems with living in Bali, I still think the pros outweigh the cons.

The Cheap Local Food isn’t Great

Although Nasi Goreng and Nasi Ayam can be delicious, it isn’t always. It’s usually cooked in the morning and sits out for most of the day. I also have found a hair in almost every single one that I’ve ever had.

Nasi Ayam in Bali
Nasi Ayam

Of course, I’m sure some will say “Indonesian food is amazing!” which I’m sure it is, but what I want to compare here is what locals eat daily, not what you can get at a fancier local restaurant.

For me, I lose my appetite quickly when eating Nasi Goreng, although the price point makes it worth it sometimes.

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However, if you compare what you can get in Thailand or Vietnam for about the same price, Indonesia is definitely not as good.

If you are looking for $5 Western meals though, Bali has some amazing cheap eats and some amazing pizza that will make sure you aren’t missing any foods from home!

The Wifi is Weak

The internet connection in Bali just isn’t good enough for most online jobs.

This doesn’t matter as much if you are just on vacation, but if you plan to live in Bali, you need to keep this in mind.

Most people who move to Bali are “digital nomads”, or people who already have jobs online and can work anywhere. (We do this! Check out our jobs here and how we long-term travel here.)

Since we work online teaching English, we need to have nearly perfect wifi so that we don’t lose students.

However, some places in Bali just don’t have the capability (EVEN IF THEY TELL YOU THEY DO!) to get fast wifi speeds.

For example, we lived in Kuta, Bali, and wanted to move to the beach just under us, which was Jimbaran.

Jimbaran beach, bali
Jimbaran Beach, Bali in 2017! Found a boat with my name (almost!)

However, we learned the hard way that just because a place only a few miles or so above us on the coast had great wifi, doesn’t mean that we would get it in Jimbaran.

We ended up having to move back to Kuta in order to keep our jobs! So if you plan to work in Bali, make sure to test the wifi speeds or have the host send you them before agreeing to anything.

In general, the only places in Bali with wifi fast enough for working are Kuta, Canggu, and Ubud.

Lots of Stray, Sick Dogs (& rumors of dog meat)

If you love dogs like my husband and I do, this might be something difficult for you to see since it doesn’t really happen in America. There are no “dog-catchers” in Bali, or anywhere in Southeast Asia.

It’s also painful to think about what happens to dogs that are caught in America and put down when nobody wants to adopt them.

However, I find it even sadder to see dogs starving on the streets, getting hit by motorbikes, losing their hair, and being diseased.

It’s heartbreaking, and there are SO MANY of them.

Another sad thing is that there have been rumors that some locals have been rounding up stray pups and using them for meat.

Certain Places are Overrun by Expats/Tourists

Although I said earlier that there is a lot of Bali left to explore, some of the places that have become “Insta-famous” just aren’t as fun to visit as they used to be.

However, I’m a firm believer that you can visit ANYTHING, ANYWHERE at sunrise, and still make it a magical experience.

Nyang Nyang Beach, Bali
Or if you choose the right place, there won’t be a single soul in sight. Check out this Uluwatu Itinerary to find the best sandy beaches in Bali.

Certain waterfalls, temples, and beaches are busier than others. A good rule of thumb is that if you’ve seen the place on Instagram, you should make sure it’s worth visiting or get there SUPER early in order to enjoy it.

Apartments are Low Quality for the Price Compared to Elsewhere in Asia

Although the apartments CAN be cheap, you will be looking at studios if you want to stay below $400 a month. If you’re looking for something bigger or more modern, it is going to cost more.

However, as far as I’ve seen, this is true for Bali but not for other places in Southeast Asia.

If you want to spend a little more than $400 per month (closer to $700-$1000), you can get some pretty amazing villas with a pool in Bali if you’re renting monthly!

We’ve lived in Vietnam and Thailand many times and all over those countries, and in my opinion the apartments there are better quality and a better deal for your money.

In Hanoi, Vietnam we had a two-bedroom apartment with tons of room for only $450 a month.

hanoi outdoor market
Hanoi was a crazy & awesome place to live, I highly recommend it!

Of course, we are always booking through Airbnb since that is easy to plan ahead of time (check out this post for help knowing what to look for in an Airbnb and this post to learn how we use Airbnb to travel long-term).

You might be able to find a cheaper place if you book an Airbnb for a week or so and then search for an apartment once you get there. But be aware that in Bali they want you to pay the full rent upfront.

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That means that if you want to stay for a year, you should have a year’s worth of rent ready to pay upfront.

This opens opportunities to be scammed and end up with nothing, or maybe you just don’t have that much ready at first.

Airbnb can be more expensive, but a safer bet since your money is protected.

Big & Scary Waves

I’m from California originally and my husband is pure Californian. So we definitely are used to swimming in the ocean and handling ourselves in waves. However, Bali waves are NOT California waves.

Dreamland Beach in Bali
The white sand at Dreamland Beach.

If you are a weak swimmer, I recommend not swimming out to where the waves are at all. They are much stronger than you’d expect and they can get dangerous very quickly.

I used to really enjoy swimming out and diving under big waves, but my first week in Bali, Jake and I went out at Double Six beach and got caught in two big sets (waves come in sets, anywhere from 3-6 waves and in between the sets it’s much calmer).

Thankfully I had experience with waves before, but with each wave, we would dive under and it would tumble us around for about 30 seconds.

That doesn’t sound long, but you have to surface as quickly as possible so that you can get a breath of air before the next wave hits.

I’m a lot more cautious now, especially in a new country since you can’t always gauge properly how strong a wave will be.

In general, the closer you get to Double Six beach, the bigger and more dangerous the waves are.

If you stick closer to the airport, the waves are generally less aggressive and you’ll see more beginner swimmers and surfers there.

However, if you like to surf, Bali has some of the best waves in Asia

You’ll Get Spoiled (Returning to the USA Will Never be the Same)

This last one may seem like a “fake-con” since it can actually be a good thing. But for some people, it really isn’t! The life that you can live in Bali is absolutely different than what is available to you at home.

Rice fields on the way to Amed.

Experiences that could cost you thousands at home are actually accessible to just normal people in Bali.

You CAN live just a few minutes away from the beach, you can travel as much as you want, you can eat out more often, or spend more time cooking since the cost of living is so low that you don’t need to spend all your hours working.

To some, the quality of life in Bali is much higher than what they can expect at home. Of course, you could have a nicer house in America, a nice car, and all the conveniences of living in your home country.

a monkey and two people in Ubud, Bali
Adventures in Bali!

However, after living abroad, you might start to feel a bit more alive, more involved in your everyday decisions, not so tied to a routine, and maybe unwilling to return to a job that sucks all of your time.

If you want to move to Bali, be prepared to either keep living abroad or maybe get used to always missing that crazy, adventurous spirit that you had when you lived there.

So, are you going to move to Bali? Imagine living in Bali, weigh these pros and cons, and follow your gut! A lot of people won’t understand, but who cares? Just think, will you regret not doing this?

Ready to Head to Bali now? Here are a few more posts that will help you plan your trip (or move!)

Life in Bali: Pros and Cons | Should you move to Bali?
Life in Bali: Pros and Cons