After four months of living in Bali I would like to say I’m quite “clued up” about how island life works and will share with you 5 handy bits of information if you’re thinking of living here for a long period or coming for an extended holiday – locations, transport, activities, food/drinks and visas.
Where to live or stay?
There are many areas to stay in Bali such as, Uluwatu, Ubud, Kuta and the list goes on. Each area has its own character, you just have to figure out what you want from your environment. For us it was good bars and restaurants, close to the beach and high speed internet access. So we found ourselves in Seminyak.
We stayed in this little coastal area the first time we arrived and loved the atmosphere. It’s a little bit of a tourist trap making dining out and drinking more expensive but once you get to know the place you do find the more affordable places. I especially love all the boutique shops that line the streets and how it feels a lot classier than its neighbour – Kuta. We stayed in mid-budget hotels Fave Hotel and Max One Hotel and had no complaints.
Next, we tried out Canggu which is apparently the new “hip” place to be attracting young surfer types who flock to Echo Beach and Old Man’s Beach. The big plus side to Canggu is it’s a lot cheaper to dine out and the price of a hotel/rent is considerably lower than the busier tourist areas. However, as nice as it was we felt we were a little too far away from the buzz of the island and there were too many wild dogs (which scared me to death). Here, we stayed in a large villa and had a room that overlooked the “jungle”.
We headed back to Seminyak and found ourselves a villa-like apartment complex in a good location called Utopic Seminyak. It offered studio style accommodation which was spacious, modern and each had their own little kitchen and lounge area. They have fiber optic internet so it was perfect for what we wanted. However, you do pay a slight premium but, still it is a lot cheaper than renting back home or more so, Dubai.
Unfortunately the whole experience at Utopic Seminyak was ruined when the management allowed a security guard and his wife into our room for “cleaning” the weekend before we were due to fly to Thailand whilst we were out at the beach. They stole the majority of my boyfriend’s foreign currency that was hidden in our wardrobe which he brought with him from Dubai and it amounted to £500/$700. The owner denied all liability and said that we had no proof that money was stolen,then tried to make out we were lying and just wanted a “free stay”.
We felt very cheated and disrespected by everyone who worked there and left Bali feeling really disappointed. I cannot recommend this apartment complex to any one who reads this as the same staff still work there and the owner can not be trusted. The staff told us this had happen before and we were just their latest victim. What they are doing can ruin your whole travel plans and even send people home so please be aware of staff or whoever has access to your room.
Fave Hotel & Max One Hotel – 300,000IDR/£14/€20 per night
White Dove Villas – 250,000IDR/£12/€17 per night OR 4.5mil/£218/€305 per month
Utopic Seminyak –3.5mil/£169/€237 per week OR 8.5mil/£411/€576 per month * Please note theft takes place at this complex and I do not recommend it.
How to get about?
You will have the option of either taxis or scooters, both of which are very affordable but one is more agile than the other and also a little dangerous. The roads here are small and the traffic is heavy so your best option and the one we chose was to rent a scooter. It’s really the only way around the island of you’re staying for a long period. You can hire taxis and private drivers which I’ve heard you can get for a fair price but I never inquired. It is definitely a better option for comfort, safety and if you’re not confident on a scooter.
You shouldn’t really be paying more than 600,000IDR per month for a bike. I remember us being quoted by a number of dodgy bike men about 900,000IDR per month until we found a decent bike guy to rent from. Also to fill up the tank it should never cost you more than 15,000 -20,000IDR.
Once we were charged 36,000IDR and the guy had ripped us off so just watch what they do! They may leave the meter running from the last customer and make you think it’s what you should be paying but really they just pocket the extra you give them.
TIP: When you arrive at the airport (if you have light luggage) walk away from the airport towards the main road which is fenced and flag a metered taxi. We paid 180,000IDR from the airport to Seminyak in one of those “airport taxis” who promise you you’re getting a cheap price and the next time we managed to flag a Blue Bird taxi off the main road and it cost us only 60,000IDR to Seminyak!
Scooter Hire – 330,000IDR/£15/€22 per week OR 600,000IDR/£29/40 per month from Indra’s Bali Car and Motor Bike Rental, Kerobokan-Kuta, +62361735144
What to do?
Bali is famous for its surf breaks and beaches so catch some waves and rent a surf board or as I prefer – a body board. I never used to body board and chose to chill out under an umbrella and hire a lounge chair for the day but now I’m always out there. However, if you’re not a confident swimmer- like me then know your limits and when the waves are getting far too big (and they get really big) call it day.
There are also dangerous rip currents which will be pointed out by red flags along the shore. My boyfriend once had to help a group of young local boys who had accidentally swam out into the rip current and couldn’t get back to shore. It was an awkward situation to be in. The panic seemed to take over and they couldn’t stay afloat by themselves without clinging on to him and his body board whilst waiting for help. But, luckily the life guards are fast and super vigilant.
Another thing you MUST indulge in when you’re out here is a traditional Balinese massage. I had one amazing massage whilst I was in Ubud at Ubud Traditional Spa and there is one place I’d recommend in Seminyak called Spa Bali Seminyak. They are both highly rated on good old Trip Advisor and I have to agree.
Surf board or body board rental- 25-30,000IDR/£1.50/€2 per day
Sun Lounges (Double 6 Beach) – 25,000IDR/£1.50/€2 per day
Traditional 60 min massage – 150,000IDR/£7/€10
What to eat and drink?
I won’t go into detail about all the restaurants and bars I’d recommend – they will be covered in another blog! But normally I eat local cuisine such as Nasi or Mie Goreng Ayam – meaning fried rice or noodles with chicken which is dirt cheap and actually really good.
Nasi Goreng- 15,000IDR/70p/95cents
Mie Goreng: 12,000IDR/55p/75cents
However I do cook a lot as I’m not too keen on eating out all the time. After a year of being an air hostess and going on a “room-service food binge” after every flight I wanted to start eating healthily again and control what types of food I let in my system! Here are a few of my basic shopping items I get from Bintang Supermarket:
Litre of Milk – 17,000IDR
Half a loaf of bread – 9,000IDR
10 Eggs – 17,000IDR
Minced Beef 200g – 40,000IDR
Chicken Breast – 30,000IDR
Packet of bacon – 40,000IDR
Muesli – 75,000IDR
5-6 bananas – 20,000IDR
Pasta 500g – 14,000IDR
Beer 500ml – 24,000IDR
I would say my basic grocery shop each week costs on average a total of – 400,000IDR/£20/€27
The visa situation
One thing I wish there was more information about is visas – how to get a long term visa to stay in Bali for longer than the normal 30 days. There is an array of different blogs/articles that cover this but I could never get any straight answers from them. So I have noted down my view of things here and hope it helps.
When we arrived got stamped with our free 30 day tourist visa (UK Citizens). However, we wanted to stay for an extra 90 days after this so what we did was apply for a Social/Cultural visa or as the locals call it a “Sosial Budaya”. This entitles you to stay in Bali for 60 days so long as you have sponsorship from a local, but do not stress. We applied for sponsorship through an agent – there are lots of agencies in Bali that will assist you with this and in fact it is a thriving business here.
Once you have your sponsorship set and you’ve printed off all your paperwork (the agency will tell you what is what) you must exit the country about a week before your tourist visa is up and fly off to Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia for a couple of days.
You don’t have to go here but we heard that it’s the easiest and most hassle-free place to get your 60 day visa approved. We went to the Indonesian embassy the day after we arrived, paid our money to them (you have to go to their bank to pay around the corner, not at the embassy’s desk) and the following day everything was done and dusted.
We headed back to Bali and were allowed to stay for an extra 60 days. However, should you want to stay for longer after that like we did just give your agency a call and they will sort out a visa extension for you. You can extend the Social/Cultural visa 4 times allowing you stay for a maximum 6 months after this you must apply for a new one. Simple.
Sponsorship – $20
Social/Cultural Visa in Malaysia – $35 (this could be wrong as I can barely remember the trip but I think it’s this amount. We paid in Malaysian currency so it’s all a bit of a blur, however your agent will let you know).
Social/Cultural Visa Extension -$50
So how much does island life cost monthly?
All in all, taking into consideration my rent, bike rental, grocery shopping and activities at the weekends my monthly cost of living is around £360/€500. If you wanted to live a really nice life here I would say you could spend double what I spend and even that is still amazingly cheap.