This blog is a “how-to” based on my actual spending and experiences which I will share with you in full!
There are so many cities that you can stay in while traveling to Bali. It really depends on your budget, and what you’re looking for. If you’re here to get completely smashed every night, stay in a pricy hotel, and eat Western style food then Kuta, Seminyak and Legion are the places for you. If you’re looking for solitude, shopping, yoga and spiritualism, then its off to the mountains for some time in Ubud. If you’re like me, and you want a solid expat community, great places to eat on the beach and fantastic prices, head over to Canggu (pronounced Changu).
Accommodations - $350 for the month
There are so many awesome places to stay but it really comes down to four types of lifestyles and budgets. Villas, home-stays, hotels and hostels. Other than hostels, which are by far the cheapest and usually mean sharing a room, all the other can cost a little or a lot depending on which ones you choose. I stayed with friends in a villa for the fist month and my room cost $350USD. We found it on AirBnb, and once here it was clear that EVERYTHING is marked up for online bookings and totally negotiable on the ground. So if you are planning to stay for a month, it might pay to get a place for a week, and then shop around. My second month, I’m sharing a hotel room with a friend (2 beds), and we’re each paying $225USD a month. Great places to find housing once you’re here include the Canggu Housing Group and Bali Canggu Housing Page on Facebook. You WILL need to go check these places out in person and negotiate - sometimes the pictures are old, and sometimes places are a lot farther away then they seem on a map.
Facebook Groups and Pages to Check Out -
Travel - $55 for the month
There are a few ways to get around Bali. Most people here rent a scooter and call it a day. However, relying on the scooter for adventures out drinking is a bad idea. The roads here are a mess and rules are purely suggestions. Your other options are Gojek, Uber, and BlueBird Taxi. Ignore everything else. Gojek offers on demand (Uber style) pickups and drop-offs on motor-bikes. It’s convenient and cheap, but they won’t pick you up in Canggu or other small beach communities. The same goes for Uber. However you can use BlueBird’s app to call a ride. Avoid the taxi stands - they’re a scam targeted at tourists.
Day Trips - Ubud - $38, Gilly - $40, Lembongan - $68
For day trips it pays to hire a driver for the whole time. We got a driver for 10 hours to and from Ubud (he also took us to all the good local spots) for $38 and tipped him another $8. There are so many places to visit on the island, and while you can spend a few days, weeks or even months there, most are pretty great as day trips also. My first month I did three. Ubud, The Gilly Islands, and Lembongan one of the Nusa Islands. You’ll need to arrange transportation (pretty easy at any transport stand out located around Bali). I spent $58 for a speedboat to and from Lembongan, snorkeling equipment, and lunch on the island. It’s additional $10 for a motorbike rental for the day, and then of course there were drinks on the beach for about $2 each.
Ubud Spots -
- Tegalalang Rice Terrace - $2 suggested donation
- The Satri Coffee Plantation - $4 for 8 small cups of all the various coffees
- Tirta Empul Water Temple - $5 suggested donation and sari rental
- Sacred Monkey Forest - $4 entrance fee
- Pura Dalem Agung Padangtegal (The Balinese Palace) - Free!
Tourist Spots - Tana Lot - $7.50, WaterBom - $20.00
There are SOOOO many tourist spots all over the island. Besides Ubud and the day trips, I also went to Tana Lot. It’s pretty, but not really all that thrilling (for me at least). The entrance fee was $7.50. I’m also going to mention WaterBom here even though I didn’t go in my first month. It’s the world’s 3rd largest water park and totally worth checking out. I went with a large group from Dojo Bali (my co-working space) and spent $20 to get in (online discount tickets at https://bemyguest.com.sg/indonesia/bali)
Food - Every meal for the month $322
One of the BEST parts of living in Bali is the food. You might think that you have to settle for the same local food over and over again like some other South East Asian countries. You would be wrong. They have EVERYTHING here. From sushi to pizza and all things in between. I DID tend to eat mostly at local warungs (Indonesian restaurants) that featured nasi campur (point at food in a case) menus. You can fill a plate with amazing items (No I don’t know what I’m eating), for about $3. For breakfast though, I’ve been eating on the beach. A classic American breakfast of eggs, bacon, toast or hash browns and an iced coffee will set you back about $4. A burrito and an iced tea at Taco Casa will run you about $8. An genuine Italian pizza (from an Italian family) at La Bacarra will cost about $6. My most expensive meals were at Tugu Hotel for Cultural Night (it also included a traditional Balinese dance performance) for $27, and Japanese at Take Sushi in Seminyak for $22. Take is the best sushi I’ve had so far on the island, and it was worth every penny.
Drinking and Partying - $235 for the month
Bali has plenty of BOTH. You can drink anywhere on the island, and there are no open-carry laws here, so grab a beer and a bench and some friends, and you’re good to go. Some of the most fun I’ve had so far is just beers in the pool with cool people. On that note, it’s also fun to just buy some drinks in front of the mini-mart and chill with the super friendly locals. They can out-drink you any day of the week. Aside from that, there are shacks on the beach to grab a cold one, couches and bean bags at Old Mans, and even super clubs in Kuta that go till 2pm the next day. So far, my local watering holes have been Deus, Pretty Poison, Old Mans, and the various shacks on Echo Beach. Beers are cheap and plentiful. Everything else is crazy expensive (for the island), because of heavy import taxes. Don’t drink the cheap liquor, it’s not real, and will probably make you blind. Beers range from $0.50 to $2. Hard liquor shots/drinks range from $8-14 depending on where you are. If you’re at one of the super expensive hotels or beach clubs, expect to pay double that. The best way to find out things to do is to consult The Gu Guide on Facebook - It’s Canggu’s premier spot to know what’s going on. I also spent a few nights in Seminyak partying on Gay Street. It’s just four gay bars next to each other pumping out disco hits and drag shows. Drinks will run you $8-$14 each (expensive for Bali, cheap for Europe, and average for The US).
- The Gu Guide -http://www.cangguguide.com/
- Deus ex Machina - http://deuscustoms.com/
- Pretty Poison - https://www.facebook.com/Pretty-Poison-407326266122996/
- Old Mans on The Beach - https://www.facebook.com/oldmansbali
Mobile Phone and Internet - $157 for Co-Working, Local SIM, and Number Parking
Internet on Bali can be spotty. Depending on where you are, sometimes you can get online, sometimes you can’t. It really depends on how many people are around sucking bandwidth off that wireless router. That said, almost ever restaurant and bar does has some form of wireless access. Since I work online, I knew I needed real and reliable speed. Dojo Bali Co-working space on Echo Beach was the obvious solution. They have four fiber lines, load balanced, and a backup generator for those times when the neighborhood looses power (it happens). It’s the second most expensive thing I spend money on every month besides rent at $137. Of course, it’s more than just internet I’m paying for, it’s a community of like-minded and hard working expats, travelers, and tourists who also earn a living off the interwebs. They host events every few days, from BBQs to group trips and it’s been the number one source of cool people that I’ve found so far. I would be bored off my ass and most likely a bit lonely if I was working from home every day.
For phone service, its easy to buy a local SIM card. I got one from a shop on the main road for about $10. Telcomcell provides fast access to 4G and you can download their app to easily top up your phone and data pulsa (what they call packages here). You can also just walk into almost ANY mini-mart and ask for some. They have the ability to transfer plusa to you from their phone for a small fee. It costs about $10 for 4 Gigs of data, and $5 for a few hours of calls. I usually leave my cellular coverage off, and rely on the wifi at the villa or dojo.
Some helpful hits if you’re coming from The US or Europe… Call your local provider first and ask them to unlock your phone. They have to do it, it’s the law. Then use a service like NumberBarn to park or forward your number. I pay $6 per month to park my number. This allows people to send me text messages, or leave me voicemails which are then forwarded to my email without having to give up the number I’ve had since I was 17. You can also use WhatsApp to make calls to everyone you meet here (everyone has a WhatsApp number). The best service I’ve found so far to call home is Google Hangouts. It’s TOTALLY FREE to call anywhere in the USA with their app on my phone. It’s SUPER cheap to call pretty much anywhere else. Indonesian numbers are 2 cents a minute.
Visas - Los Angeles Consulate Visa - $55, Sponsor Letter and First Extension - $94, Future Extensions - $58
This part of the living in Bali experience can be confusing as hell. If you’re just planning on coming for a month, get the free visa on arrival and call it a day, you’re good to go. If you plan on staying longer than one month, things start to get complicated. If you live in a city with an Indonesian consulate, go in advance, and get a tourist visa. It can be extended up to 6 months once you arrive. DO NOT get the free visa on arrival, you’ll have to leave after the first 30 days or pay a hefty fee. If you can’t get one in advance, get the tourist visa on arrival, and pay the full fee at the airport. Once you’re here, you’ll want to consult a visa agent within your first two weeks. They will provide you with a sponsor letter and turn your tourist visa into a social visa. It’s basically the same thing. It needs to be extended every 30 days (for a fee) for a maximum of 6 months. After that you have to start doing visa runs every 60 days. This means leaving the country for an hour. Most people take a super cheap flight to Singapore for the weekend. Flights run about $84RT when booked in advance. I plan on visiting and exploring Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia and Kuala Lumpur for my visa runs. It’s a really great excuse to travel, and all those locations (with the exception of Singapore and KL) are super cheap. Even Hong Kong (my favorite city in the world) is only a $200RT flight away.
Random Stuff - $106
There’s plenty of random stuff in Bali that you could go nuts spending on. From massages to clothes, yoga workshops to banking fees. For me, I manages to keep it pretty tame. I spent $7 on a massage, so good, I don’t know why I didn’t get 10 more. $31 on banking fees, which includes getting screwed on transferring money from the US, and taking out money from a local provider. I’ll write a whole blog post on how to do this properly (now that I’ve figured it out) at a later date. The short of it is, don’t use wire transfers, or Paypal to locals. I also spent $47 hosting a Bali Dinner Club which amounted to buying dinner for 30 expats and hosting a party. Best money I spent on the island. If you know me, you know I love dinner clubs, and this will be a regular expense on the mostly budget from now on. It’s the best way I know of to build community and fast track long lasting friendships. I also spent $20 bribing a local gang to get my phone back when it was stolen from a club, but that’s a whole other story. (link to blog post with that story).
If you’re like me, your first month in Bali will probably be the most expensive. Things like your visa sponsor letter, and trips to the must see tourist spots won't be on the budget in month two. The following month, my spending dropped to $1,011 total. Everything included. I’m now twenty-one days into month three and on track to keep spending at about $1000.