Moving To Bali

By on January 10, 2015

Moving to Bali is easy enough. Making expat life work is harder. Here’s a few things you really should know before you move to Bali.


1: “How Much Does It Cost to Live in Bali?” Well, That Depends.
The million dollar question for anyone moving to Bali is: “How much does it cost to live in Bali?”, a query roughly equivalent in value and focus to “How long is a piece of string?”
A couple could rent a kos, the bedsit-type apartments the majority of Balinese live in, outside the touris hub for 800,000 rupiah (under $50) a month, very vasic with just cold water and usually no furniture, plus a motorbike for another 600,000; or they could spend millions on an ocean-view megavilla, and run multiple cars and drivers. A solo chap could spend hundreds on fine dining, imported wines and expensive women or eat from local warungs for under a dollar. Families can shop at local markets for rice and veggies and put their kids in the local Indonesian primary, or head to delis for imported charcuterie and cheese and drop tens of thousands of dollars on a top-end international school.
Bottom line? There is no fixed answer, and anyone who tells you otherwise is lying, but you’re pretty much guaranteed to spend more money than you thought you would. A round figure for a simple 2 bedroom villa with pool within 20 mins of the schools and main tourist hub will cost you around USD$12,000 furnished – add approximately an extra $3000 for additional bedooms. The days of renting villas with pools for less than that are well and truly over as demand exceeds supply for long term rentals because the majority of villas earn well in the holiday rental market. Of course if you consider to be away from the tourist areas, there are still good value villas to be found but expect 1+ hour driving time to expat facilities. Local style houses can also be a good option. Usually in need of minor changes to suit expats but if your prepared to spend a few hundred dollars on hot water, aircon and elbow grease cleaning, you can still get a small house around $2000 – $4000 a year unfurnished. Rough size 45 square meter – Not for princesses and always amongst other local houses.

2: Rentals are usually paid upfront
Whether you’re renting for one year, three years, 20 years, or 50 years, the money is almost always paid upfront. All of it ! You might be able to finagle X amount upfront followed by Y in three months, or, for longer leases, taper a 30-year payment over three years, but if you take a property for a year, you pay for the year upfront. If you take land for 20 years, you pay two decades cash down.
There are some monthly rentals – apart from kos, usually small tourist cottages or expat-operated villas – but you typically pay over the yearly market price for the privilege, or more in high season. Not sure where to live? have good deals on guesthouses to stay in while you’re checking out areas and they often have good deals for long term. About the only company that do offer rentals payable monthly is

3: Alcohol Is Really Expensive
Bintang beer is cheap, at around IDR25,000 (US$2) for 300ml in a store. Import taxes mean that wines, spirits and liqueurs cost 2 – 3 times what they would back home: Wine produced on Bali from Australian grapes start at around IDR160,000 (US$13) in a shop, while imported South African, Chilean or Australian wines cost tripple that.

4: Visas Are Tiresome
One plus side of Bali? There is no official limit to the number of times you can enter Bali on a tourist visa. The standard tourist visa on arrival at the airport costs US$35, lasts 30 days, and can be extended for another 30 days for IDR355,000 (US$33) independently, or from IDR600,000 (US$50) using an agent. You need to leave the country at the end of those 60 days, which costs 200,000IDR (US$17) departure tax each time.
Other options, for which you need to apply overseas, include the longer tourist visa, which lasts for 60 days, and can be extended twice, for 30 days each, and the social-cultural (sosial-budaya) visa, which provides an initial 60-day stay plus up to four 30-day extensions. You need a local sponsor for the social-cultural visa.
For multiple entry visas, options are the KITAS, an expensive and hard-to-obtain residence visa which requires that you are employed, retired, in education or running a business in Bali, or the business visa. Despite the name, you can’t work on a business visa – it’s designed for people researching business opportunities. You can come and go at will, but still need to leave Indonesia at regular intervals.

5: All Those Zeroes Can Get Really Confusing
A revaluation of the rupiah is on the cards over the next few years. For the moment, there are around 100 rupiah to every US cent, with the smallest coin worth 50 rupiah (sweets are given as a substitute in change) and the largest note a princely 100,000. A trip to the ATM makes one an instant millionaire – but it’s easy to slip up with a zero: if something looks super-cheap, recount. Or otherwise you’ll end up spending $40 on imported sausages which looked an absolute bloody steal at $4.

6: Your Banjar Matters
The banjar is one of the oldest social units in Bali, essentially a type of Hindu parish council: the guys in ceremonial gear you’ll see directing traffic from time to time are representatives of the banjar. Every resident in Bali pays monthly banjar fees, and may well be asked to contribute to the cost of the biggest ceremonies; the banjar police (pecalang) also administer justice (sometimes extremely rough justice) and are the first point of call in the event of burglaries etc. Needless to say, it pays to stay on good terms with your neighbours.

7: Most Balinese Have the Same Names
Bali has a caste system, and most Balinese belong to the rice-worker caste. People from that caste are given names that match their position in the family, most of which can be used by either sex: Wayan, Putu, Gede (male) or Iluh (female) for the first-born, Made, Kadek or Nengah for the second, Nyoman or Komang for third-born, and Ketut for the fourth. Once you get to number five, the circle goes round again, so a family with eight kids is guaranteed two Ketuts. Unless they’re posh, of course.
8: Sales Tax Is Fiddly
High-end businesses will typically charge 21% – 11% tax plus 10% service – on top of their baseline prices; smaller businesses will charge less tax and no service; tiny businesses will charge no tax at all. So expect to pay at least 20% more than the headline price for any high-end meal, hotel or spa.

9: Pricing Is Random
Pricing in Bali, on everything from houses to petrol to food in the market, is driven less by Keynesian economics than by gossip and perception. If someone builds a fancy-schmancy gigantic 3-bedroom villa with an ocean view in A.N. Other village and rents it for 250 million, that becomes the rate for the myriad mini 3-bedroom villas that will pop up in its wake in A.N. Other village. If the petrol price goes up, prices of food in the market will go up, usually by the same amount. Food gets more expensive around Idul Fitri, not only because of the enormous evening feasts (iftar) but because Muslims are saving up money to return home. Oh, yeah, and neighbouring shops will sell identical items at wildly varying prices.
10: Right of Way Is Not Really a Thing
The Balinese driving style is fluid, instinctual and initially quite alarming, and the roads are way too small to fit everything in. That means you’re expected to move over when something comes towards you, regardless of whose lane it is; evasive action is a regular part of driving, rather than some special event; oh, and folk routinely pull out without looking.
11: There Are Loads of International Schools on Bali
There is a large expat community on Bali, and so there are tonnes of international schools, spanning the gamut from Asian academic to Euro-hippie. A few to get started with? Montessori, Pelangi, Green School, Dyatmika, Gandhi, CHIS, Canggu Community School, Bali International School, the Australian International School… Which one you pick will depend on your (and your kids’) educational philosophy and goals, where you want to live, what you want to pay, and more. Prices range from $3000 per year for a littlie in a cheap school to over $20k per year for a 17 or 18 year old in an expensive school.

12: Traffic and polution are the 2 biggest things that shock new expats
There is a huge traffic problem in Bali and also discarded rubbish is shocking. Most expats do try to do their bit to help with the polution but the problem is far greater and needs to be addresses from the inside of the island out as the rubbish filters through teh waterways to the sea. When considering where youw ant to live, you really need to consider your day to day lifestyle. You would not want to eb driving 20km from canggu to legian each day in peak hour which could take as long as 2 hours. Most clued up expats with children will choose their school 1st and then find a home with easy access to the school. Remember there are NOT school busses. All kids must be dropped off and picked up which is a major contributor to the traffic kaos.

About J