The word ‘Bali’ conjures images of an island paradise for most. But for those who have been, it’s that and then some. From pristine beaches and crystal-clear waters with surf-worthy waves, to fascinating temples, local foodie culture and thriving nightlife — it’s no wonder ‘the island of the Gods’ is where so many come to find themselves.
Yet with all this on offer, is one trip to Bali ever enough? For many, being in Bali is an eye opener to the experiences that for some, are lived out every single day. Whether it’s mornings surfing in Uluwatu, weekends scuba diving in the Islands, or the overall laidback lifestyle, you may now be wondering how to move to Bali permanently. We wouldn’t blame you — this, combined with the warm and welcoming nature of its native people, is why there is such a strong community of expats in Bali today.
Here, we’ll explain the ways to explore living in Bali ‘permanently’ (which for many of us, is 6 months or more). We’ll give you a breakdown of the common visa options for moving to Bali, from a 180-day visa all the way to retiring in Bali indefinitely. We’ll also cover the things you’ll want to be clued up on, like how much money you’ll need to move, and whether you can buy property once you’re there.
How can I live permanently in Bali?
Whether you can live in Bali long-term depends on your definition of ‘long term’. There are many visas available, such as the Free Visa, Visa on Arrival (VoA), or the Social, Tourist or Cultural Visa (particularly popular with fellow digital nomads) — but these only last between 30 and 180 days. If you’re considering moving to Bali for six months or more, you’ll need to turn to something called a KITAS. Some of the ways you can get this type of temporary permit include owning a business in Bali, being sponsored by an Indonesian company, married to a native, or ready to retire! It’s not the simplest of processes, and the criteria can be tricky to meet, so here we’ll take you through some of the most common ways to live in Bali.
The visa lowdown for moving to Bali
By now you’re probably ready to jet off without a care in the world. But steady on, before you start choosing between Ubud and Canggu, or Kuta and Seminyak, you’ll need to sort your visa. There are plenty of possibilities to pick from when moving to Bali, but it’ll all depend on your home country, how long you want to be here, and what you plan on doing during your time on the island. We’ll break it down into working and non-working visas for Bali.
Whichever visa you choose, we’d always recommend using an agency for any stays over 30 days. They will charge you a fee, but it’s 100% worth it for the way they walk you through the process, help you with the documentation, and save you tons of time traveling to and from the embassy. Just make sure you take your time to go with a trusted source in Bali.
The VISA on Arrival (up to 60 days)
If you know you’re jetting off to Bali for nothing more than a 30-day holiday, then it couldn’t be easier (just look up the free tourist VISA). If 30 days doesn’t cut it however, you may want to settle on the Visa on Arrival (VoA), which lasts 60 days…
This one is used often by digital nomads, and many people move to Bali on this visa before applying for something more permanent. Before you fly, simply check you’re in one of the 160 countries that have this option, and make sure your passport is valid for at least six months. When you land at Denpasar airport, look for the Visa on Arrival counter: you’ll pay $35 (in cash) for a tourist visa that’s valid for 30 days. Keep the receipt and you’ll be able to extend it for a further 30 days in Bali — making it 60 days in total.
Many people use this visa extension then go on what’s called a ‘visa run’. This means leaving Bali (usually to nearby places like Kuala Lumpur, Singapore and Bangkok) for a day or so, before coming back to get a renewed 60 days on their passport. That being said, there can be legal implications to this that could land you in a lot of trouble, and the Indonesians are cracking down on it big time — so this isn’t something we’d recommend.
Social and Cultural Visa B-211 or D212 (up to 180 days)
Another popular choice for digital nomads in Bali is the Sosial Budaya Visa. It’s traditionally for those who are either visiting Indonesian family or friends or on a cultural exchange, and will require a sponsor letter (an invitation from a local citizen). This one is valid for an initial 60 days and can be extended by 30 days four times — bringing the total to 180 days.
For this one, you’ll need 12 months on your passport and have to apply either at an embassy outside of Indonesia i.e. before you move to Bali, or leave while it’s processing and then come back. An agency will be able to help you with all of this, including sorting you a sponsorship letter, which according to Bali.com is still well within the law. Overall, the visa itself will cost you around $50 (single entry) or $110 (multiple entry), plus the agency fees and any visa extensions thereafter. You’ll have to enter Indonesia within 90 days of receiving the visa.
Finally, you’ll notice there is B-211 and D212. B-211 refers to a single-entry visa, meaning you can only use it if you don’t plan to leave Indonesia (or you’d have to reapply). D212 grants you multiple access for 60 days at a time.
Multiple Entry Business Visa (up to 12 months)
Another option is the Multiple Entry Business Visa. There are two obvious differences between the Social Visa and the Business Visa. Firstly, the Social Visa doesn’t permit you to do any business in Bali, whereas the Business Visa does. Secondly, the Business Visa is valid for 12 whole months, although you can only stay in Bali for a maximum of 60 days each time. Bear in mind, this isn’t the same as a work permit for employment; it simply means business travelers can have meetings, attend seminars and workshops etc.
You can apply for this while you’re already in Bali (though collection will be elsewhere). You’ll need a passport that’s valid for 18 months and a sponsorship letter from an Indonesian citizen or organization (speak to an agency about your options). The visa will cost around $110, plus any sponsorship fees and extra costs of extension. Again, you’ll have to enter Indonesia within 90 days of receiving the visa.
Working Visa KITAS (up to 5 years)
If you’re going to work and earn an income from an Indonesian company in Bali, you can get a KITAS (Temporary Work Permit). They can be very hard to obtain because the company that wants to hire you will have to argue that they need someone outside of Indonesia to take on the job. You’ll therefore have to be a highly skilled worker, and your company will apply on your behalf to the Indonesian Ministry of Manpower.
The application will take place outside of Indonesia, and the process takes around 2-3 months. One thing to be aware of is that you mustn’t work in Indonesia during this time. It’s also possible to get spousal or family visas through your employer if you plan on bringing people to Bali with you.
Can you retire in Bali?
Here’s the good news: if you’re looking to retire, then it’s possible to move to Bali to make your pension-funded dreams come true. You’ll first need to apply for a Retirement KITAS (Temporary Residence Permit) which is valid for one year and can be extended up to five years. You can then apply for full residency. To qualify, you just have to be over 55, have more than 18 months on your passport, and $1500 per month in pension funds at a total of $18,000 per year — all with a declaration that you won’t work while here.
Bali is known for its slow and steady lifestyle, and it’s clear to see why this change of pace would be so perfect for those looking to unwind after a working life. Yet while the process is relatively straightforward in terms of requirements, it involves a lot of paperwork — so we’d strongly recommend finding a trusted agency to help you get everything sorted. Most people go to Bali on the 60-day tourist visa, then set about working with the agency to apply for the Retirement KITAS. The visa itself will cost around $600 prior to paying your agency fees, but they’ll help you with your application, sponsorship and the rest. It’s worth noting you may be expected to have proof of paid-for health insurance as well as accommodation, and you’ll be expected to employ a local Indonesian for housekeeping at approximately $140 per month.
This is so that the Bali government can ensure you’ll be putting money back into their economy. They’re letting you share a slice of paradise, after all… and you’ll be able to live like a true Balinese with a bank account, driver’s license, and opportunity to own a car on this visa!
Can a foreigner buy a house in Bali?
In Indonesia, there are strict laws around foreigners purchasing, or building, properties. The only way foreigners can invest in property in Bali safely is by setting up a Foreign Owned Company (known as a PT PMA), therefore gaining access to the Right to Build and Right to Use licenses. For those foreigners that don’t own a business in Bali, many simply choose a long leasehold contract (Right to Use or Lease). This means the house, or land, can be rented for an initial period of 25 years, with extension to 70 years — and can also be sub-leased for lucrative purposes.
However, there are many rumors that Bali have plans to change these regulations to make it easier for foreigners in the future. Let’s break the situation down as it stands in detail below:
What are the types of housing licenses in Bali?
Right to Own (Hak Milik):
This is a freehold title and is only available to Indonesians. Many foreign investors mistakenly think the best way to purchase property is by using a Bali citizen (a nominee) to acquire the Hak Milik certificate for them. However, no matter how trusted your potential nominee is, this is not a good idea. Local nominees in Bali can, and have, overtaken properties before. You will have little to no argument against it, particularly because you plotted the scheme in the first place.
Right to Build (Hak Guna Bangunan):
A foreign national can only acquire this if they are a legitimate Indonesian business owner with ownership of PT PMA. If so, Hak Guna Bangunan gives you both the Right to Build, and the Right to Use in Bali. It’s valid for 25 years, and can be extended up to 80 years in total, but you’ll never be an owner and will eventually have to give it back.
Right to Use (Hak Pakai):
This is a long lease contract and is usually the chosen option for those living permanently in Bali, given that not all foreigners can own a business. The benefit of this is that the land can be rented for an initial period of around 25 years and can be extended up to 70 years. Once the lease starts, the owner’s Right to Own will be transferred to your Right to Use. The benefit of this is that if you’re looking to have property for lucrative purposes in Bali, you can still sublease it out to others.
Right to Lease (Hak Sewa)
This is another popular choice with foreigners for leasing property which goes under the title Hak Sewa. The lease period can be anything up to 50 years, and is usually decided upon well in advance with the person who owns the property.
So, what are the best property options in Bali overall?
Bali has become a thriving business opportunity where start-ups can keep running costs to a minimum and maximize profits, all while working from a tropical paradise. Yet the reality is that for many of us living out there, we’re not running an Indonesian business, and therefore can’t be granted a Hak Guna Bangunan. If that’s the case, there are three other viable options (though none include ownership):
· Short-term renting like you would on any holiday.
· Long-term rental, which offers leases up to around 5 years (KITAS only).
· Long-term lease agreement, which offers more control over the property. Though you own neither the villa nor the land, you can still lease it out for lucrative purposes (KITAS only).
How much money do I need to move to Bali?
How much money you’ll need to move to Bali depends on the lifestyle you want to lead. If you’re a 20-year-old digital nomad who’s happy to hop from apartment to apartment for a year, that’s one thing. If you’re a family of four trying to gain long leasehold of a villa with a swimming pool, that’s quite another. However, thanks to Numbeo, we can provide you with a rough idea.
The cost of living in Bali
Numbeo suggests the following cost of living per month (minus property rental):
- A single person’s estimated monthly cost would be $597.94
- A family of four’s estimated monthly cost would be $2,110.14
They then suggest the following rental or property costs:
- One bedroom apartment in the city center = $362.57 per month
- One bedroom apartment outside the city center = $203.39 per month
- Three-bedroom apartment in the city center = $864.10 per month
- Three-bedroom apartment outside of the city center = $530.58 per month
- Price per square meter to buy an apartment in the city center = $872.51
- Price per square meter to buy an apartment outside of the city center = $394.65
According to our calculations, this means the following could apply for these scenarios (monthly living costs plus monthly rent):
- A single person renting a one-bedroom apartment in the city center could expect to pay $960.51 living in Bali.
- A single person renting a one-bedroom apartment in the city center could expect to pay $801.33 living in Bali.
- A family of four renting a three-bedroom apartment in the city center could expect to pay $2,974.24 living in Bali.
- A family of four renting a three-bedroom apartment in the city center could expect to pay $2,640.72 living in Bali.
Final tips for living in Bali for a long time
So, we’ve discussed the immediate things to think about when moving to Bali, from the visas you’ll need, to the property options you can pick from, as well as the monthly cost of living; but what else is there to know? We could write a whole book about each of these, but for now, here are some basic pointers on things expats in Bali may want to explore when enjoying this new life.
Learn (a little of) the language
If you plan to be living in Bali for a while, you’ll want to soak up the culture and live like a local. There are over 300 native languages in Indonesia, but Bahasa Indonesia is the one that everyone speaks in Bali (and serves as the main language for business, education and media). All the natives can speak English, but in a place that prides itself on kindness and community, it makes all the difference if you can engage in a little conversation. Taking the time to learn some basic Balinese phrases will show you care for the culture and it will open up your friendship circle like never before.
Get a scooter if you want to see Bali
There’s only one real way to get around the island of Bali if you’re living here for the long run, and that’s a scooter. Make sure you pay a small fee in your home country first to get an International Driving Permit so that you can get a local one in Bali. Foreigners are notorious for getting pulled over on their scooters by the police, and it’s mandatory that you have a license. For a budget/standard bike, you can pay anything between $60-100 per month to rent it. Needless to say, the longer you rent it for, the cheaper the deals usually are, so try to strike up a deal with your scooter company for the duration of your stay. Obviously, ownership is likely the cheapest option in the long run; look to buy a new bike if you have a KITAS, or consider second-hand if not.
Don’t skip out on medical insurance
Expats aren’t covered under the Indonesian universal healthcare system. This means that while you can be treated in the local hospitals, you’ll most likely have to pay upfront. As well as this, Indonesian hospitals can be busy, so having your own health insurance will guarantee you always get seen. Many expats suggest choosing international health insurance instead of Indonesian. This is because it likely won’t cover you if you leave the country for a holiday, or any other travels. And, the likes of Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand are thought to have better treatment facilities for major illnesses, so you may be better going there if and when this is (which a lot of expats do).
If you’re on a Working KITAS, your company will have likely found medical insurance for you (but make sure you check this). If you’re on a Retirement KITAS, proof of health insurance will be required by law before moving to Bali anyway. Regardless, whether you’re on a tourist visa, social or other, we would highly recommend you get some.
Consider a co-working space for Wi-Fi heaven
Many people dream of living the digital nomad life from the freedom of their laptop, then find that the Wi-Fi is unwilling to cooperate. A lot of this is down to the fact that Bali’s stormy season tends to interfere with the signals. With that in mind, if you’re someone that works from a screen, we’d recommend splashing out on one of the many co-working spaces available. Prices aren’t too costly, and are worth it if you’re looking to meet like-minded people, lifelong friends and potential business opportunities.
There are countless spaces for co-working, and it’ll really depend on where you stay, but here are three of the most popular choices to get you going with your search.
Whether you’ve been to Bali or not, there’s a chance you’ll have heard of Hubud — the first of its kind in Bali and featured on Forbes top 10 list of best co-working spaces in the world. Think bamboo structures, reclaimed ironwood and swaying green leaves, with all the workspace you could need and fuel stations for those all-important snack and coffee breaks. Hubud is in the beating heart of central Ubud: you can stay cool indoors, or work outside and swap landscape screensavers for the real thing, and be blessed with Bali sunsets before your very own eyes.
Pricing: Enjoy 30 hours from $57, all the way up to unlimited access to both Hubud and Dojo for only $208.
Dojo is a co-working space that has high-speed internet, is open 24/7 and is located just one minute from the ever-popular Echo Beach. From head in a laptop to toes in the sand within moments, they are truly redefining the meaning of work-life balance. And with a vibrant communal atmosphere, they offer more than just a workspace. Its facilities include 6 business grade fiberoptic lines, conference rooms, Skype pods, individual tables, collaborative zones, a pool, tropical gardens and much more. They also host regular events including workshops, skill sharing sessions and networking events.
The best bit? Dojo and Hubud are now partnered, meaning membership at one equals membership at both!
Pricing: Take 30 hours from $78, all the way up to unlimited access to both Dojo and Hubud for $208.
Outpost (Canggu, Ubud, Penetonan)
Outpost is designed to give people the power to create their best life in Bali, from idyllic and culturally rich destinations across Canggu, Ubud and Penetonan. Known for being one of the coolest places to co-work, each destination offers facilities for your every need. This includes standing desks, offices, collaboration spaces, Skype rooms, outdoor gardens and loungers.
Outpost Canggu is known for its fun and collaborative community, where you’ll find plenty of people to work with, or chill with. Outpost Ubud brings you the same uplifting atmosphere perfect for any project, with a self-professed ‘modern jungle chic’ theme. Enjoy stunning views of Bali while you work, with all the amenities you could wish for and a packed schedule full of fun events.
Pricing: At both Ubud and Canggu, you can work at a daily rate of $16. Alternatively, get monthly access for anything between $49-208.
Though living in Bali permanently is a dream for many of us, it’s only a reality for few. But that doesn’t mean it’s not possible to enjoy a piece of paradise for a significant amount of time in your life! No matter your circumstances when coming to this wondrous ‘Asri’ (the Bali term for a special kind of beautiful that calms the senses), we promise it’s worth it — just make sure you prepare properly. Remember, the rules relating to Bali change all the time, so make sure you seek out the most recent and up-to-date information.
You’ll notice we didn’t cover all the wondrous destinations of Bali, Indonesia this time. But, we’ve got plenty of useful posts to help you pick the best place to live when setting up your very own version of Bali paradise. Enjoy!