Moving to Bali: A complete guide


Considering a move to Bali? Maybe you’re looking for an exciting new place to work for a while as a digital nomad, a relaxed location to live the good life in retirement, or you’ve found your dream job working in one of Bali’s many upscale hotels.

Whatever is drawing you to Bali, you’ll need to make some practical arrangements in advance to make sure your stay there gets off to a good start. You’ll need to consider arranging vaccinations and visas, finding accommodation and a new job if you want one. You’ll also need some local money to make sure you can pay your way while you’re settling in.

A great option to get your Indonesian rupiah, is to use Wise. If you’re headed to Bali to visit friends or family, you can make a transfer to a local account there, and take the cash out from fee-free ATMs when you arrive. Or choose a Wise multi-currency borderless account to make direct bank payments in rupiah for your accommodation and other essentials. Because all transfers made with Wise use the real, mid-market exchange rate, with just a low fee, you dodge the high fees that banks often charge for international payments, and keep more in your pocket to spend on yourself. More on that later.

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Now, back to what you came here to read.

To get you started, here’s a beginner's guide to life in Bali.

Living in Bali: What is it like to live there?

Bali is a province of Indonesia, and consists of both the island of Bali itself, and a few other outlying islands. It’s a massive tourist draw, with fabulous natural scenery, rich biodiversity for snorkeling and diving, as well as historical and religious centres to explore. There are also thriving expat communities in various places on the island, including an estimated 20,000 Australians.

If you’re considering living and working in Bali, you’ll want to learn a bit more about the practicalities of life there. One of the great attractions of Bali is that it’s possible to achieve a very high standard of life on a relatively low budget - perfect for digital nomads, travellers and people on a fixed income. Read more about banks and money in Indonesia, and check out the costs of living in Bali, below.

Cost of living in Bali

Naturally the cost of living in Bali can vary enormously according to your lifestyle. If you’re planning on moving to Bali with your family, you might also want to learn more about education in Indonesia, so you can decide the type of school that’ll suit your family.

This are some of the average prices you can expect to pay in Bali, so you can roughly estimate what your cost of living will be¹:

Goods and services Cost in Bali (Australian dollars)
Monthly rent - 1 bedroom, city centre apartment $345
Monthly rent - 3 bedroom, city centre apartment $663
3 course meal for 2, mid-range restaurant $23
Domestic beer, 500ml draught $3
Water, 330ml bottle $1
Loaf of white bread $2
1 way local transport ticket $0.34
Taxi per kilometer $0.63

Bali visa: Do you need a visa to live in Bali?

If you arrive in Bali as a tourist, Australian citizens can apply for a 30 day visa on arrival - but this does not cover people coming to Bali to work. If you’re coming to Bali for a business visit - but not for permanent employment, a better option might be a business visa, which is typically offered as a multi-entry visa, valid for a year².

If you’re hoping to stay in Bali for the long term, a Temporary Residency Permit (KITAS) is the most common choice³. This can be issued for a year initially and then extended for up to 5 years in total. You’ll need an Indonesian sponsor - your employer - but this visa type can usually also be extended to the spouse and children of the person it’s issued to.

It’s helpful to know that, in Indonesia, there are some restrictions on the roles a foreigner can work in. These are mainly intended to ensure foreigners don’t take employment other local people need. Your employer will need to show that you’re the best fit for the job, as part of the residence permit application, and also demonstrate that you’re not taking up a position a local could fill.

The laws regarding visas and residency permits are complex, and do change over time. Making a mistake can cause you big problems as you might be subject to a fine, or even face deportation - it’s worth getting expert advice to help you choose the right visa type for your specific needs.

Working in Bali: Are there many jobs in Bali for expats?

Most expats who come to Bali to work arrive with jobs already secured. Often they plan to work in management roles in tourism - and as some 80% of the island’s economy is driven by the tourist sector, there are plenty of jobs available. It’s unusual for foreigners to work in entry level jobs, though, as these roles usually aren’t eligible for visas.

Although it’s possible to start a business in Bali as a foreigner, there are barriers to doing so, including high minimum capital requirements, and rules which force foreign entrepreneurs to work with local partners⁴.

Bali has long been an attractive spot for digital nomads, too, who work for a few months before moving on. Canggu is the current hotspot, if you’re looking for a place with decent wifi, cool coworking spaces and a range of affordable short term accommodation options⁵.

Organising your life in Bali: What other things should you think of?

If you’re considering moving to Bali, you’ll need to check out the vaccines needed before you travel. Vaccination programmes typically take 4-8 weeks so you should start as soon as possible. The exact vaccinations you'll need depend on what you have already had as part of your regular immunisation schedule, but most travellers need to sort out boosters for tetanus, diphtheria, and the MMR vaccine. Typhoid and Hepatitis A vaccines are also recommended, and you might choose to have a rabies vaccine if you’ll be travelling off the beaten track, too. Take personal medical advice to make sure you’re covered before you head to Bali⁶.

You might also choose to arrange a visa before you get to Bali - although as an Australian, you can get a 30 day tourist visa on arrival if you’re not sure which visa type will suit you, or you don’t yet have an employer to sponsor a long term visa and residency permit.

It’s usually worth booking accommodation for your first night or two in Bali, so you’re not worrying about sleeping arrangements, when you should be enjoying your first day on the beach.

Longer term accommodation can be arranged once you arrive in Bali, if you want to spend a bit of time acclimatising and choosing the exact location that’ll suit you. Check out local Facebook groups for house share options, or head over to a global provider like AirBnB.

Once you’re in Bali, you might choose to open an Indonesian bank account, or use your Wise multi-currency borderless account to make your day to day finances more straight forward. A borderless account is a great option for people who live and work abroad, travel frequently, or for freelancers who get paid by clients based overseas.

With a borderless account you can hold funds in over 40 different currencies all in the same place, and switch between them whenever suits you. That means, for example, you could buy your Indonesian rupiah when the exchange rate is favourable, and hold the currency until you need it. You can then make rupiah payments directly from your borderless account when you need to, for your accommodation, for example.

All currency exchange is done using the real exchange rate - that’s the one you’ll find on Google - with no markup, and just a small upfront fee.

However you choose to arrange your new life in Bali - and whether you’re there to work, rest or play - you’ll have a fantastic time. Making some advance plans can help you settle in smoothly, and make sure you don’t pay more than you ought to for your Indonesian adventure. Enjoy.

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*All sources checked on October 16, 2018

This publication is provided for general information purposes only and is not intended to cover every aspect of the topics with which it deals. It is not intended to amount to advice on which you should rely. You must obtain professional or specialist advice before taking, or refraining from, any action on the basis of the content in this publication. The information in this publication does not constitute legal, tax or other professional advice from TransferWise Limited or its affiliates. Prior results do not guarantee a similar outcome. We make no representations, warranties or guarantees, whether express or implied, that the content in the publication is accurate, complete or up to date.

*Please see terms of use and product availability for your region or visit Wise fees and pricing for the most up to date pricing and fee information.

This publication is provided for general information purposes and does not constitute legal, tax or other professional advice from Wise Payments Limited or its subsidiaries and its affiliates, and it is not intended as a substitute for obtaining advice from a financial advisor or any other professional.

We make no representations, warranties or guarantees, whether expressed or implied, that the content in the publication is accurate, complete or up to date.

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