Thinking of living in Bali for a year or longer? If you’re hesitating over different destinations, or if you’re trying to gather more information about Bali, I’ll happily share my experience with you. I’ve created a list of the pros and cons of living in Bali.
I lived in Bali for nearly two years. Feel free to read my full guide on moving to Bali including lots of tips for first-timers.
While Bali was a fantastic home for me, there were also some downsides that most people don’t hear of unless they live there long enough. But, let’s start with the pros and the positives of living in Bali.
Living in Bali Pros
There are many benefits of living in Bali. In fact, I see more positives than negatives. That said, some of the cons might outweigh the positives, so keep reading to get all the nuances.
If you’re an expat, or a digital nomad in Bali, you’ll be pleased to know that there are big expat communities in Bali. Especially in popular spots like Ubud, Canggu, and Uluwatu. If you’re heading to Bali as a solo traveler, you will also have no problem making friends.
There are regular events organized by bars, restaurants, coworking spaces, and more that can help you network and make friends in Bali.
I’d also add that Balinese people are extremely friendly and most people I’ve met speak impeccable English which makes the communication easy and simple.
Cost of Living
The cost of living in Bali is affordable. You can learn more about the cost of living and inexpensive it can be here.
Comparable to other destinations in Southeast Asia, you can stick to your budget or splurge, there are options for everyone. For example, you can have a full meal from a local warung, and eat for just a few dollars. On the other hand, you can go to a “western-style restaurant” and have a meal for $20. There are options for every budget whatever your diet, including lots of vegetarian and vegan options, especially in Canggu, Ubud, and Uluwatu.
Depending on the season, the weather in Bali is usually great (hot and humid). Lots of expats leave during the rainy season, but I usually stayed because it wasn’t too bad.
The rainy season starts in October and lasts until March. You should know that while it might rain all day, more often than not it only rains for a couple of hours with the rest of the day being sunny. Bear in mind, the rain can be quite unpredictable. (Which is why you should always carry a poncho in your scooter compartment.)
The best time to be in Bali is between April and September, so if you’re thinking of living in Bali for 6 months, you should aim for these months.
Transportation in Bali is easy as long as you’re willing to drive a scooter. If you’re not feeling confident, then you may need to rely on drivers.
To find a driver, you can use mobile apps like Go-Jek or Grab. Although, there are “drop off zones only” which means you may not be able to get picked up everywhere. These zones were created by the taxi industry, so it can be problematic.
Walking in Bali isn’t easy and safe. Many places don’t have sidewalks, and I wouldn’t recommend walking alone at night. You’ll learn more about this in the safety section.
Indonesia has lots to offer in terms of travel adventures. Bali is a good base if you want to explore other areas. For example, you could easily head to the Gili Islands or Nusa Islands which are just a ferry ride away from Bali.
Remember, Bali is a big island too and there is lots to see. I’d recommend you head in the North of Bali at some point.
It’s easy to maintain a healthy lifestyle in Bali. There are many opportunities for fitness and sports whether you’re into surfing, gym, CrossFit, or yoga. You’ll find several fitness options in the popular expat spots like the ones I keep mentioning (Ubud, Canggu, and Uluwatu).
Alternatively, you can go hike or for a swim, but keep in mind that most Bali beaches are ideal for surfing. So, don’t expect calm water – instead, expect big waves.
Want to connect with fellow long-term travelers? Join our Facebook group and the conversation.
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It’s fairly easy to find great accommodation in Bali. Usually, you can find accommodation and move in on the same day. I lived in different types of accommodation in Bali. Depending on your budget, you could find coliving options, guest houses, or villas.
I’d recommend you join Facebook groups to find accommodation. Usually, you’ll be able to see photos, talk with the owner and arrange visits.
There are two things I always look for when booking stays in Bali.
- I look for a housing option that has security. Most buildings have their own security guards, so make sure you have one.
- I also look for a housing option that has a safe so I can put my money and passport there. (Unfortunately, I’ve heard stories of people who had money stolen from their apartment.)
If you’re planning on working during your stay in Bali, you’ll be happy to know that there are many options for coworking. You’ll find most options in Canggu and Ubud.
The most popular coworking spaces in Canggu are Tropical Nomad, Outpost, and Dojo.
The most popular coworking space in Ubud is Outpost.
Living in Bali Cons
As you read, there are lots of pros of living in Bali, but there are also some downsides that are worth mentioning. It’s the best way to be fully prepared for Bali so you can have a positive experience there.
The easiest way to stay long-term in Bali is to get a 6-month visa (social visa). You’ll need to report to Immigration frequently and then leave the country after 6 months before you can return.
Alternatively, you could get a tourist visa for one month and extend it for a second month. Then, you can do what we call a “visa run” and visit a different country for the weekend, before re-entering. Let’s just say that option is not ideal.
When I lived in Bali, I used an agent to arrange visas for me. I’d recommend you do as well, to avoid any unnecessary trips to the Immigration office.
Health and healthcare can be an issue in Bali. There’s the Bali belly situation that affects lots of travelers. There’s also dengue fever and scooter accidents.
My goal here is not to scare you, but sadly, lots of accidents happen in Bali and people die regularly for multiple reasons including – lack of experience driving a scooter, no helmet, or drunk driving.
Make sure to get travel insurance before you go and keep an eye on what is covered. You should know that Bali hospitals won’t treat you until they see your insurance (or money). Because of this, many people end up dying or creating Go-fund-me pages to raise the funds needed. So, it’s better to be safe than sorry.
The safety situation is a big issue in Bali. Again, my goal is not to scare you, but in order to remain as safe as possible, it’s better to be aware of these safety issues so you can decrease risks.
- Research before using an ATM or use a Revolut card you can block and unblock when you need. ATM and card skimming is a common thing in Bali. If you can, use a card that doesn’t have a lot of funds on it and transfer money when you need to withdraw money. Remember to take your card after your ATM transaction, lots of people are surprised by the order (you get the money, then the card) and forget their cards. It’s happened to my friends often.
- If you have a bag or a purse, always secure it in your scooter compartment whether you’re the driver or passenger. This is extremely important because bag snatching is unfortunately common and happens every day in Bali. The same applies to phones. It’s important because when a robber tries to snatch your bag, or phone, you could lose balance and crash while driving. Lots of scooter accidents are caused by bag snatching.
- If you don’t have a scooter, use apps such as Go-Jek or Grab instead of a driver on the side of the road. Drivers that have reviews are the safest option.
- Do not walk alone at night. Groping and bag snatching happens often in Bali. If you walk, you can’t secure your bag or phone anywhere, and you’re putting yourself at risk. That said, ladies, if you see a woman walking alone in the dark, be kind and offer them a ride if you feel comfortable.
- Be careful with robbers, especially in bars and parties. If you can, avoid bringing your phone with you. Lots of people have their mobile stolen in crowded places.
- As I mentioned above, put your valuables in a safe and lock your door. I’ve heard many stories from friends who had their villas robbed, or money stolen from their guest house rooms.
Finally, one of the things that can make your life complicated in Bali is the traffic situation. The traffic is insane, and the police can try to stop you and ask for a bribe. You can learn more about what it’s like to rent a scooter and drive in Bali here.
If you don’t feel comfortable driving in Bali because of the traffic, you could always opt for scooter lessons. Many locals offer scooter lessons to beginner drivers.
As you probably realized, living in Bali may sound like a dream because we think of the beaches and the beach bars, but safety can be an issue.
On the other hand, I lived in Bali for two years, and luckily, I managed to have a smooth ride, and nothing major happened to me apart from a few Bali belly stories. So, yes my experience in Bali was positive.
Although, it’s important to know all of this, because I’ve seen too many accidents, and heard too many horror stories, especially from women. I’d recommend you join Facebook groups for expats so you can be aware of the latest news in Bali. Groups such as Canggu Digital Nomad Girls are usually great and helpful if you’re a woman.
If you’re willing to follow my recommendations and safety measures, you’ll dramatically decrease the risks of having a negative experience in Bali.
And when the risks decrease, expect good food, great smiles, and happy vibes!
Psst. Bali is not all bad. I wouldn’t have lived in Bali for two years if the cons had outweighed the pros.