What is it like to move to and live in Bali?
Bali is the most popular tourist destination in Indonesia, attracting a wide range of travelers. But, it’s also a popular island to move to, both as a temporary base for digital nomads and a more permanent one for expats.
In this interview, David, who moved to Bali several years ago, shares his experiences, practical tips and the pros and cons of living in Bali.
This interview is part of the Ask an Expat series. In this series, I interview people living all over the world but outside of their home country. I try to help paint an honest picture of the ups and downs of life abroad, share tips about moving to the place the expat now calls home, and information about what to see and do here.
Living in Bali, Indonesia
Name: David Leiter
Hometown: Kirksville, MO (United States)
”I first fell in love with travel and the outdoors during a 2015 hiking trip to the rocky mountains in Colorado, USA.
The next year, I did my first major international trip — a solo road trip across Iceland. My budget was small, so I slept in the back of a rental car for 1 month while I drove 7,000 kilometers around the country, filming all of the scenic places in Iceland.
After Iceland, I continued to travel the world in search of new and interesting places, and eventually that led me to Bali! It’s always a popular destination on travel blogs, so I had to see what all the talk was about.”
Why Did You Move to Bali?
”On my first trip to Bali in 2017, I spent a full two months doing sightseeing, hiking, photography, and more.
At that time I never imagined I would end up moving to Bali, but I was very impressed with the affordability of it, and how comfortable the hotels and restaurants are.
Everything is very high value for what you pay.
I also met my future wife, Intan, during that time, so that sealed the deal! I came back to visit her several times over the next couple years, and then we got married in Bali in 2019. We had a beach wedding that I probably wouldn’t have been able to afford back home.
Nowadays, we travel everywhere as a couple, and we’ve visited most of the countries in Asia together, along with many nearby islands in Indonesia, such as Java and Lombok.
Bali is still our favorite place to call home between travels.”
What Do You Like About Living in Bali?
”I love the food, hotels, and friendly people of Bali. The locals are the best.
You have easy access to waterfalls, jungles, volcanoes, and more. Or, if you’re the laid-back type, Bali has beaches, temples, and rice terraces.
I really dislike winter and cold weather, so Bali is kind of my escape from that.
My home state is very cold and snowy in the winter, which was one of my first motivations to go somewhere tropical.”
Also Read: Things to Know Before Moving to Indonesia
What Do You Dislike About Living in Bali?
”Sometimes the heat and humidity in Bali are too much for me, especially in the rainy season. However, it still beats snow (in my opinion), and when the temps get really hot you can always jump in the pool to cool off.
A lot of the food in Bali is also fried food and/or spicy, so that may not be great for everyone. Balinese people like their food very spicy, and I can’t handle much spice. You can find non-spicy Indonesian dishes and Western food all over the place, though, so it’s not a very big problem.
Occasionally you’ll encounter pushy sellers and taxi drivers on the streets in Bali, too, so I find that a bit annoying. They’re just trying to make a living, but some of them can be a bit too pushy if you’re just wanting to take a walk.”
Is Bali Safe as a Place to Live?
”Yes, Bali is very safe.
Violent crime is rare, and murders are almost unheard of. I’ve traveled all over Asia, and I consider Bali to be one of the safest places on the continent overall.
Just take normal precautions. Some petty theft (like drive-by phone snatchings) can happen from time to time, so just remember to put away your phone and small handbags when you’re near a busy road with passing motorbikes.
I wouldn’t recommend riding a motorbike in Bali, by the way, unless you’re experienced with how the traffic works. Going with a private driver here is cheap and very safe. You can download the Grab and GoJek apps for short trips, which are usually very affordable.
There are several types of venomous snakes in Bali, but they’re not common to see in tourist areas, even if you go hiking. If you ever do see a snake in Bali, treat it with caution! However, snakes are generally not something to worry about here too much.
So yes, in short, it’s safe to live in Bali.”
What Is Your Favorite Thing to Do in Bali?
”Honestly, my favorite thing to do in Bali is just relax.
My wife and I live in Bali between our trips to other countries, so we’re already exhausted from that, and Bali is like our oasis. It’s the perfect place to relax, with pools, massages, and good food everywhere.
The locals are so relaxed and friendly. We’re always sad to leave.”
What Is Your Favorite Place to Hang Out in Bali?
”I like to bring my laptop to a nice beachside cafe or restaurant, and just spend the whole day by the beach. It’s a productive and stress-free way to get some work done.
There are lots of nice beach clubs in Bali too, with infinity pools where you can chill and watch the sunset.
One of our favorite beach clubs is Oneeighty, which has an amazing glass bottom pool on the edge of a cliff. It’s located in south Bali, near the Uluwatu area.”
What Is the Expat / International Community Like in Bali?
”Bali has a huge expat community, and it’s growing every day.
There’s even talk of a 5 year digital nomad visa for foreigners coming to Bali, but the details haven’t been finalized just yet.
The island is becoming a bit of a hub for digital nomads, and there are also lots of expat families with kids staying in places like Sanur.”
Also Read: A Digital Nomad Guide to Bali
Any Tips for Moving To / Living in Bali?
”There are many areas to live in Bali, and all of them are different, so you’ll want to do a bit of research to decide which area fits you best. I would spend a month or two exploring Bali before deciding where to live. That way you can see which area you like best.
For example, Ubud is the cultural center of Bali, known for its temples, markets, and museums. Canggu is the popular new hangout for young people and digital nomads, and it’s known for surfing and all kinds of hip cafes and beach bars.
Seminyak is one of the most expensive areas of Bali. It’s a west-facing beach area with nice sunsets, luxury hotels, villas, and spas, as well as high-end shopping and restaurants.
Sanur, on the other hand, is a more laidback beachside town, which is known for being one of the most quiet and family friendly areas of Bali.
Anywhere in Bali is fine for expats to live, but each area has a bit of its own personality, so it’s a good idea to spend some time there before you move!”
Any Resources You Found Useful During the Process of Moving to And/or Building a New Life in Bali?
”I like to browse some of the Bali Facebook groups, which can be very helpful for expats and tourists alike. Even if you never ask a question on there, you can learn a lot just by reading.
Here are some top recommendations:
You’ll find a wide range of things discussed here. From local events to information about how to find housing and how to live in Bali permanently.”
Is There Something You Just Have to See or Do When You Are in Bali?
”The sunrise hike at Mount Batur is a great experience. For me, this was my first time ever hiking an active volcano, and at the top you can see wild monkeys and a wonderful sunrise above the clouds.
There are tons of things to do in Bali, so the possibilities are endless. There are dozens of great waterfalls like the 80-meter tall Sekumpul Waterfall in north Bali, and you can do rafting, ATVs, jet skiing, hot air balloons, and scenic helicopter flights.
If you want to see fantastic beaches and scenery, check out the Uluwatu area in south Bali, which is famous for its sea cliffs and white sand beaches.
You probably won’t get bored in mainland Bali, but if you do, you can also head over to Nusa Penida island, which is reachable in 45 minutes by speedboat from Bali. Overall, there’s so much to see and do.”
About David – An Expat in Bali
David is an American world traveler, blogger, and photographer.
He’s solo traveled almost every country in Asia and the Middle East, including some bucket list places like Everest Base Camp and the Egyptian Pyramids.
Nowadays, David and his wife Intan travel the world as a couple, documenting the places they go and creating travel guides, photos, and videos.
For more information check out his website Theworldtravelguy.com.
About Bali, Indonesia
Bali is a province in Indonesia with a population of just over 4.3 million. The province includes the island of Bali and a few smaller islands such as Nusa Penida, Nusa Lembongan, and Nusa Ceningan.
The combination of friendly people, rich culture infused with spirituality, and beautiful beaches with great surfing and diving have made Bali Indonesia’s number one tourist destination.
Tourism-related business makes up around 80% of Bali’s economy.
And although you might think of Bali mainly as a beach destination, the island offers a very varied landscape. Hills and mountains, lush rice terraces, barren volcanic hillsides, rugged coastlines, and sandy beaches make up this beautiful island.
The island is renowned for its arts, including traditional and modern dance, sculpture, painting, leather, metalworking, and music. The town of Ubud, which is a popular place for expats and digital nomads, is considered to be Bali’s cultural center.
Bali is part of the Coral Triangle, which is the area with the highest biodiversity of marine species. In this area alone, over 500 reef-building coral species can be found. This is about seven times as many as in the entire Caribbean!
Bali is the only Hindu-majority province in Indonesia, with 86.9% of the population adhering to Balinese Hinduism.
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