Hey there travelers and welcome to my post where we will look into a question asked by many on a Balinese beach or in a Balinese café – Can you live in Bali? And as a global tourist hotspot, it’s not surprising that many have wondered about the possibility of making this tropical paradise their home. Of course for most of us, it is a whimsical thought after a few cocktails that after a few minutes, we giggle to ourselves, pack our bags and go home.

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But for others, a small thought cascades into a plan to migrate and whilst living in Bali can be an enriching experience, there are of course many things to consider that come with living in the different country. There are a number various factors to consider such as visa requirements, cost of living, cultural nuances, healthcare and safety to name a few.

Can you live in Bali?

Ok, so if the thought of living in Bali has become more than just a poolside dream, then the following information can make a good starting point for your planning. Before we begin however, let’s make one thing very clear. The information below is designed to be just that – helpful information. It is in no way intended to construe legal advice on immigration into Indonesia or any of its relevant laws. If you are going to that level, then start here.

For the rest of us just looking to see what it is all about, let’s continue with below…

1. Visa Requirements

As with immigration to any country, one of the first hurdles of living in Bali as a foreigner is navigating Indonesia’s visa requirements. There are several types of visas available for foreigners, each with its own set of rules and regulations. This can include:

  • Social-cultural or single entry visas – valid for 60 days and extendable up to 180 days, are perfect for those intending to stay for a relatively short period. However, these visas prohibit the visa holder from any form of employment.
  • Business or multiple entry visas – these allow foreigners to participate in business meetings, seminars or exhibitions but don’t permit formal employment.
  • Retirement visa – available for individuals aged 55 and above. This visa type allows for a longer stay, given that certain conditions like proof of pension and health insurance are met.
  • The working stay permit – also known as the temporary stay permit card, allows foreigners to work and stay in Indonesia where they obtain both a work permit (and a stay permit (ITAS / KITAS) from immigration.
  • The investor stay permit – applies to foreigners who own shares in an Indonesian limited liability company (PMA).
  • The family stay permit – requires an Indonesian spouse as sponsor of the foreigner. In order to be able to work however, the foreigner requires a work permit from he or she company it works for.

It’s essential to keep in mind that as of 2021, Indonesia doesn’t offer a permanent residency visa for foreigners unless they’re married to an Indonesian citizen or qualify for a retirement visa. This necessitates periodic visa renewals, which can be a complex process.

Again, this list is for information purposes only and is subject to change.

2. Cost of Living

One of the main reasons that many think living in Bali might be a good idea is the cost of living. Compared to many Western countries, the cost of living in Bali can be quite affordable however as always, there’s considerable variation depending on lifestyle choices.

Local goods and services tend to be relatively cheap and street food, local restaurants, and Indonesian groceries are reasonably priced. However, if you prefer Western-style dining and imported goods, be prepared for higher expenses.

Housing costs can also vary. Renting a modest local house can be economical, while luxurious villas with pools in popular areas like Seminyak or Ubud can cost substantially more. Keep in mind that while everyday living might be cheap, big-ticket items such as cars or houses and services like international schooling or medical care, can be pricey.

Can You Live in Bali - woman in house

3. Working and Business

As a foreigner, working legally in Bali can be challenging due to the restrictions placed by the Indonesian government to protect local jobs. However, it’s not impossible, and many foreigners have found ways to live and work successfully on this paradise island. Some options here include:

Employment – For those wishing to seek employment in Bali, the most common route is to be sponsored by an Indonesian company that will provide a KITAS (Temporary Stay Permit Card). This is a type of work visa that allows foreigners to legally work in the country however, getting one of these is not easy. The company must justify hiring a foreigner instead of a local citizen which usually means the position requires skills that are in short supply locally.

Another common route here is teaching English. Many foreigners live and work in Bali as English teachers, though this usually requires qualifications such as a bachelor’s degree and a TEFL certificate.

Digital Nomads – In recent years, Bali has become a hotspot for digital nomads – people who work remotely via the internet. The island’s beautiful scenery, warm climate and affordable cost of living make it an attractive place for those whose work allows for geographical flexibility.

Popular fields for digital nomads include writing, programming, graphic design and digital marketing. Working remotely for a foreign company or freelancing for multiple clients allows digital nomads to live in Bali without navigating the complex Indonesian work permit process.

However, it’s essential to note that working in Indonesia on a tourist visa is technically illegal, even if you’re working for a foreign company or freelancing. The Indonesian government has occasionally discussed introducing a digital nomad visa, but as of tie of writing, no such visa existed.

Starting a Business – Starting a business in Bali as a foreigner is another possibility, but it comes with its own set of challenges. The Indonesian government requires that foreign-owned businesses are in partnership with an Indonesian citizen meaning that if you want to start a business, you’ll need to find a trustworthy local partner.

Additionally, the bureaucratic process can be complex and time-consuming and there are restrictions on the types of businesses that foreigners can own so obtaining the necessary permits and licenses can take several months.

Despite these challenges however, many foreigners have successfully started businesses in Bali. These range from restaurants and bars to yoga studios, clothing boutiques and digital agencies. If you’re considering this route, it’s strongly recommended to hire a reliable lawyer or consultant who can guide you through the process.

4. Property

At time of writing (and for as far back as I could see) foreign ownership of land is not permitted under Indonesian law. However, there are some legal structures which foreigners can use to acquire property in Indonesia, including in Bali. These include:

  1. Leasehold: This is the most straightforward way for foreigners to acquire property. In this arrangement, the foreigner essentially rents the property for an extended period of time, typically 25-30 years.
  2. Hak Pakai (Right to Use): Foreigners who reside in Indonesia, or PT PMA (foreign investment companies) can acquire a Hak Pakai certificate. This certificate allows the holder to hold the property for up to 80 years. The Hak Pakai can be sold to another eligible foreigner.
  3. Establishing a Foreign-Owned Company (PT PMA): A foreigner can establish a PT PMA, which is a foreign investment company, and the company can purchase the property.
  4. Nominee Agreement: Some foreigners also use an Indonesian nominee to purchase the property on their behalf. This method is risky and not recommended as it’s not fully compliant with Indonesian law.
Can You Live in Bali - digital nomad

5. Culture and Language

Bali offers a rich and diverse cultural tapestry, deeply rooted in traditional Hindu practices which significantly influence the daily life and customs of the Balinese people. The island is renowned for its traditional arts, including dance, sculpture, painting, leather, metalworking and music.

While English is widely spoken in tourist areas, knowledge of Indonesian or the local Balinese language can be beneficial and if you plan to be there for a while, Balinese people appreciate when foreigners make an effort to learn their language. Furthermore, understanding local customs and traditions, like dressing modestly during temple visits, can help ensure harmonious interactions with the locals.

6. Healthcare

The healthcare system in Bali has been improving, with several international standard hospitals and clinics in place. However, compared to Western standards, it might still lack in terms of comprehensive care or advanced treatments.

For minor ailments or routine healthcare, Bali is sufficiently equipped. But for major health concerns, medical evacuation to Singapore or Australia is common therefore, securing robust health insurance is a must when living in Bali.

7. Safety

Like any place, Bali has its safety concerns. Petty crimes such as bag snatching or pickpocketing are not uncommon, especially in tourist-heavy areas. Regular precautions to safeguard personal and property safety are advisable – especially if you work in these areas.

Furthermore, Bali’s location in the Pacific Ring of Fire makes it prone to natural disasters like earthquakes, tsunamis and volcanic eruptions. It’s essential to be aware of these risks and prepare accordingly. Familiarize yourself with evacuation procedures and emergency contact numbers.

Can You Live in Bali - girl surfing

8. Lifestyle and Activities

Bali is a paradise for outdoor and wellness activities (this is probably part of what made you want to live there) and its world-class surf breaks attract surfers from around the globe, while its tranquil beaches provide the perfect backdrop for yoga and meditation. The island’s interior, with lush rice fields and mystical temples, offers ample opportunities for hiking and cultural exploration.

Moreover, Bali has a thriving expat community, especially in areas like Ubud, Seminyak and Canggu making it easier to socialize and network. This community organizes various events and gatherings providing ample opportunities to meet new people and make friends.

9. Education

And last, but definitely not least, if you’re planning to move with your family, then education if obviously another major consideration. Bali has several international schools that follow British, American or Australian curriculum meaning there should be no gap between when they leave their home country and when they return.

These schools cater to the diverse expat community and ensure that children get a quality education. However, international schooling in Bali can be expensive so it’s an important factor to consider while planning your budget. Some options here include:

Local Schools – The local Indonesian schooling system is divided into several levels: kindergarten (TK or Taman Kanak-kanak), elementary school (SD or Sekolah Dasar), junior high school (SMP or Sekolah Menengah Pertama) and senior high school (SMA or Sekolah Menengah Atas). The language of instruction in most local schools is Bahasa Indonesia, with English usually taught as a second language.

While local schools in Bali provide an immersive cultural and language experience, they may not meet the educational standards expatriate families are used to or desire for their children. This is primarily due to differences in teaching methods, curriculum, and facilities.

International Schools – As a response to the growing expatriate community and the need for global education standards, several international schools have been established in Bali. These schools offer high-quality education and as above, follow internationally recognized curriculums such as the British, American or Australian options. The language of instruction in these schools is usually English.

Here are some noteworthy international schools in Bali:

  1. Green School Bali: Known for its innovative approach and a unique campus built almost entirely from bamboo, Green School offers an internationally recognized holistic education focusing on sustainability and creativity.
  2. Bali Island School: Formerly known as Bali International School, this is the oldest international school on the island. It offers an American-based curriculum and is fully accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC).
  3. Australian Independent School (AIS) Indonesia – Bali Campus: This school provides an Australian-standard education and offers an Early Learning Centre, Primary School and a Secondary School.
  4. Dyatmika School: This school offers a bilingual program (English and Indonesian) and caters to both Indonesian and expatriate students. Dyatmika follows the national curriculum enriched with international elements.

Homeschooling and Learning Centers – Another option that some expat families choose is homeschooling, which offers flexibility and personalized learning. Bali has several learning centers and community hubs that support homeschooling families, providing part-time classes, resources, and opportunities for social interaction.

Can You Live in Bali - school kids

Conclusion

In conclusion, living in Bali can be a dream come true but it requires careful planning and consideration. While the island offers an affordable lifestyle, stunning landscapes, and a warm, welcoming culture, there are challenges like visa limitations, health care standards, and education to consider.

I would be pleased to know how this article helped you, and as usual,  let me know of your experiences here.

Also, please do not hesitate to comment below if you have any questions, concerns, or corrections or would like me to check anything else out for you.

Until next time.

Have fun

Paul

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