Living in Bali: The Pros and Cons - #5 in the "Living in Bali" Series
Even after two years of living in Bali, there are still days I’ve been known to pull my hair, stamp my feet and shout, “take me home!” Then there are the days I pinch myself, grateful for the experience. There are far more of those days but there’s still no denying that expat living can be a rollercoaster ride, so to help you decide if this might be the overseas spot for your retirement, here are what I deem as the pros and cons of living in Bali.
• The People
The Balinese people have always held a special place in my heart. I love how they always greet me with a smile, with hands pressed together at their chest in prayer position, they’re humble and love when you take an interest in their life. The Balinese culture is fascinating, I’ve really enjoyed learning more about the Hindu way of life, slowly learn the language and making many local friends. We’ve also been lucky enough to attend three weddings whilst we’ve been here, each one different.
The Hindu culture is diverse, there’s black magic and white magic, different ceremonies and rituals at a new child’s birth and all of the different moon ceremonies each month. The history of the island dates back to the 12th century and every day I learn something new.
• The Food
If you were to plan your meals a year ahead, you could quite easily eat out at a different venue each night. The variety is amazing, whether its local food you crave or a Western-style roast, you’ll have no trouble finding it. With so many chefs from overseas now calling Bali home, new cafes and restaurants are popping up everywhere.
There’s a real buzz to the restaurant scene in Bali, with eateries just as trendy as the laneways of Melbourne. The newer Indonesian places have a certain edge too. And for those times when you want an easy night, just download the Go-Jek app and have your meal delivered to your home. So convenient!
Indonesia is an archipelago of some 17,000 islands and travelling from Denpasar Airport is inexpensive and easy. Scenery… beaches… temples, there’s always somewhere new to discover around us. Since my husband and I have been living here we’ve travelled around Bali and to Lombok, the Gili Islands and Singapore. Our bucket list grows everyday day but high on the list are the pink beaches of Flores and the Komodo Dragons, the temples of Yogyakarta and the crystal-clear waters of Raja Ampat.
What makes it even better is we’re so close to a host of Southeast Asian hotspots—Vietnam, Malaysia and Laos are on our radar.
• The Cost
Life in Bali is relatively cheap, but of course it does depend on the lifestyle you choose. I’ve found the most economical way to shop is the local markets. They’re great for fresh fruit and vegetables and fresh produce and once you hone in on your bargaining skills and the locals get to know you, prices are cheap.
Supermarkets are wide-spread and still offer value for money. It’s when you want to purchase imported goods like Australian meat or Vegemite that things become expensive.
For fresh fish, lobsters and prawns head out early to the Jimbaran Fish Markets, always a fun experience.
Petrol is around 80 cents a litre, so a full tank can last quite a long time in a car, and much longer in a scooter.
• The Weather
Bali is located only eight degrees south of the equator and I have to say, I do not miss the Australian winter. We basically only have two seasons here in Bali, wet season and dry season.
From late October until early March it rains, to begin with its intermittent, but by January to March we get heavy downpours. From late March to October, the weather is lovely, we do get trade winds from June to August, but it keeps everything fresh and cool for a change.
The best part for me is being able to swim in the ocean any time of the year.
• Visa Requirements
To remain in Bali any longer than 60 days you’ll need to secure the correct visa. If you’re over the age of 55, the Retirement visa will set you back around $900 a year.
My husband and I are under retirement age and as such we currently hold a Social–Cultural Visa (Sosial Budaya). This means every six months we have to leave the country to renew, at the time we receive a 60-day visa which is renewable four times, giving us 180 days. Initially the cost is $190 and every month there’s another fee of $65. Add on flight costs and time in Singapore and that’s when the budget can become a little tight.
Bali is no deserted island. With a population of 4.2 million people and an influx of tourists every month, it’s no wonder the roads in Bali do not cope well. Some days it’s a breeze, other days a half-hour drive will take three times that. When we have to travel to the other side of the island, we try to plan no more than three errands in a day to allow for traffic delays, but the whole just drop-down-the road-to-grab-something isn’t as easy.
Unlike destinations like Malaysia and Thailand, Bali isn’t known for its healthcare. Treatment for minor injuries and common traveller’s health problems is easily accessed in Bali, but for serious conditions, you may need to leave the island.
There are chemists (Apotek) and medical clinics easily available for most medications and prescriptions, however you need to check your own requirements before moving here.