Dreaming of staying in Bali? Follow these guides for expatriates who want to work, live, and do business in Bali.
Bali has attracted numerous expatriates dreaming about working and living on the tropical island. Its rich culture, delicious foods, friendly people, and a rich expat scene make this island a perfect permanent residence. However, expats from America and Europe may find challenges when trying to make a living in Bali, especially if they cannot adjust to a new lifestyle.
Having a plan to make Bali your home? Follow these guides for expatriates: working, living, and doing business in Bali.
Why Choosing Bali?
Bali offers a different atmosphere from similar tropical destinations such as Thailand and Vietnam. While it offers party scenes for backpackers (mainly Australians), Bali still has ideal environments to work, run a business, or form a family. It also has more basic infrastructures compared to, say, Thailand’s Chiang Mai.
Bali also has a rich and colorful culture, which stays vibrant despite the developments. Many people even live from this local culture, with professions such as sculptors, dancers, painters, and designers in high demands. Despite having lively business scenes (especially in the capital city), Bali still offers laidback scenes and lifestyle.
Living in Bali is also cheaper for foreigners, especially those from North America and Europe. If you adapt to local lifestyle and get out of the expat scenes, you can reduce living costs without sacrificing basic comforts. Bali is also child-friendly, with great numbers of international schools, childcare service providers, and family-friendly establishments.
Types of Works to Do in Bali
Many expats choose Bali as their permanent homes because of the more laidback lifestyle. There are several common jobs expats have during their stay in Bali, such as:
- Company representatives
Some international companies with Indonesian branches or markets may send their representatives to live in the country. This option depends on your company policy, so check if you can have opportunities to live in Bali while working under your company name.
- Culinary or hospitality businesses
Bali is a popular tourist destination, so culinary and hospitality businesses are abundant. Expats may live in Bali as workers or owners of businesses such as restaurants, coffee shops, beach clubs, boat operators, or hotels/motels.
- Art and culture
Balinese arts and culture are worldwide-famous, and many foreigners find a home in the island through these scenes. Expats may own galleries or art shops. Artists and designers will also find Bali an unending source of inspirations.
- Entertainment jobs
Bali has a lot of places for musicians, singers, DJs, and other professions that are related to the entertainment world. Bali has a lot of establishments that could use professional entertainers. It is also a regular venue for musical and art events.
- Volunteer works and special skill jobs
Many foreigners stay in Bali as volunteers or experts with special skills. These include certified teachers, translators, vets, yoga instructors, researchers, divers, photographers, and architects.
- Independent business owners
There are possibilities to find independent works/business opportunities in Bali. For example, you can export Balinese arts, jewelry, clothing, and traditional spa products to your home country. You can also become a reseller for local products (especially for American and European markets). Many local artists or small manufacturers look for opportunities to promote their products, and you can work with them.
Other possible careers include becoming a consultant or digital workers. Many digital nomads are even starting to look for a more laidback lifestyle in Bali. The growth of the IT industry in Indonesia means more opportunities and infrastructures for digital nomads to rely on.
Standard Living Costs in Bali
Depending on where you live in Bali, standard living costs may range from USD700 to USD1,200 per month. This does not include Kuta, which is more famous for its party and backpacker vibes, and not an expat’s favorite spot to stay permanently
To illustrate the type of lifestyle you will have in Bali, here are several calculations for standard living costs based on areas:
Ubud is a favorite place to stay permanently by most expats. It has a new age vibe with tons of interesting destinations, healthy lifestyle establishments, and beautiful views. Renting in Ubud may cost you around USD300 to 500 per month, but the true temptation usually comes from foods and lifestyle. You can live modestly here, but don’t expect to save if you cannot hold the urge to visit fancy organic restaurants all the time.
Seminyak does not have too much “tourist vibe” and is favored by expats with mid to upper range living budgets. You can rent a house with just USD500 to 600 per month. There are many fancy coffee shops, restaurants, and clubs here, so you must hold the temptations if you want to live modestly. Regardless, Seminyak is known as one of the most expensive areas to live in Bali. Depending on your lifestyle, you may spend between USD1,500 and 2,000 per month.
Canggu is also a popular area for expats with mid to upper range of budgets, but not as expensive as Seminyak. You can save money on the rents by living in a shared villa. This way, you only need to pay around USD400 to 500 per month. You also need around USD300 to 500 per month for groceries and typical monthly spending. If you bring a family or want to have entertainment, you will need to spend around USD1,200 per month.
If you can ride a motorcycle or scooter, you can spend just around USD60 to 90 per month for standard necessities such as gasoline. Unless you install a high-quality filtration system, you will also spend extra money on drinking water, since tap water in Indonesia is not potable.
Challenges in Working and Living in Bali
Working and living in Bali may sound like heaven, but it also presents challenges. Any expats or foreigners who want to live in Bali must prepare for challenges or common problems, such as:
- Seasonal pays
Several popular jobs in Bali only give you seasonal pays, which means you cannot rely on fixed income alone, especially during a dry spell. Diving or surfing instructors, yoga teachers, and artists are examples of popular careers that don’t always bring fixed income.
- Spotty internet connections
Internet connections in Indonesia used to be a big problem until 2010. While internet infrastructures and IT facilities are growing in numbers, some areas in Bali still have poor internet quality. Areas such as Denpasar, Ubud, and Kuta have pretty stable connections, but smaller towns and islands may offer unreliable services. Consider this if most of your works depend on online chats or video conferences.
- Unreliable public transportations
Bali has more unreliable public transportations than other provinces in Indonesia, such as Jakarta or West Java. Your alternatives are using your own vehicles, such as cars or motorcycles. Those who live in the lower range of income find motorcycles or scooters practical and cheap. However, if you are not used to riding them, the risks of falling are always present (especially on rough roads in small towns and villages).
- Tedious bureaucracy
The bureaucracy in Indonesian government offices may be a problem for expats, especially since many formal affairs require people to come directly to the offices. Expats must prepare to deal with bureaucracy for various things, from acquiring formal documents to registering for services.
- Possible limited development
While working in Bali sounds like a dream job, some professions here don’t have wide career development opportunities. English teachers are among such professions. While there are many upsides in this profession, especially since Balinese students are very inquisitive and interested in foreign culture, you probably won’t get wide opportunities for development. If you have career-oriented goals, you need to think about it before moving to Bali.
- High competition
The Indonesian government is aiming to reduce unemployment and increase human resource potentials by prioritizing locals. This means there are huge competitions for foreign workers to find jobs in Bali. Indonesia also applies restrictive regulations for foreigners to acquire work permits.
- Expensive fees to make work permits
Indonesian government requires foreigners to make work permits, such as VITAS and KITAS. While there are services that can help you to make them, they can cost up to USD2,000. You must also permit these permits regularly if you want to stay for a long time in Bali, until your eligible for permanent stay permit.
- Language barriers
Indonesian people in general use Indonesian language (Bahasa Indonesia) as lingua franca, and sometimes their native tongues as the second languages. Bali’s large expat scene means there are lots of people who can speak English, but this is not always the case.
- Limited healthcare facilities
Sanglah Hospital is the largest hospital in Bali, but it is located in Denpasar. If you live in Ubud, Canggu, or Seminyak, you cannot readily access this big hospital for a serious condition. Most of the health facilities outside Denpasar are clinics that are more suitable for non-serious or non-threatening afflictions.
Despite the challenges, many expats and foreigners have managed to live a comfortable life in Bali. Some choose to live cheaply or following local lifestyle, while others stay in the comfortable middle to upper range level. Whatever lifestyle you choose, make sure you know how to live well in Bali.
Documents to Work and Live in Bali
Foreigners need to have several important documents when they work and live in Indonesia. These documents need to be renewed periodically. They are:
VITAS is a temporary work visa owned by expats who want to work in Indonesia. This document is important to acquire a temporary stay permit.
- ITAS and KITAS
ITAS is a temporary stay permit that allows expats to stay in certain periods of time (usually 6 to 12 months). ITAS and KITAS must be renewed regularly until the owner manages to become a permanent resident (if that is your goal).
- The Blue Book
The Blue Book is an immigration control book that all foreigners who live with temporary permits in Indonesia must carry. This book is released with KITAS, and must be renewed regularly.
MERP is a multiple entry and re-entry permit. This document is only available for expats with KITAS. This permit helps you to go back and forth between Indonesia and your home country, which is great if you need to deal with some problems or businesses before staying permanently in Indonesia. MERP must be renewed every two years.
IMTA is a work permit that allows expats to work and gain salaries in Indonesia. This document is valid for one year and must be renewed regularly.
- ITAP and KITAP
ITAP refers to permanent stay permit, while KITAP is for the document. This permit is valid for five years. After the first renewal, you can decide whether you want to extend the stay or not.
NPWP is an Indonesian acronym for tax number document. This is important especially if you want to have your own business. If you are an employee, your company usually deals with it, such as calculating and cutting it directly from your salary. Check with your company about tax details before working in Bali.
When you finally acquire a permanent stay permit, you will get easier options, especially to support your work in Bali. You can apply for Indonesian bank accounts, credit cards, loans, and driver’s license.
Tips to Work and Live in Bali
Just because you have acquired job opportunity and permits, does not mean that everything is fine. If you come from countries with contrasting cultures to Bali (and Indonesia in general), you can get troubles in your daily life.
These are common tips and pointers for every foreigner who wants to live in Bali:
- Use tourist visa for research
You need meticulous research before deciding to move to Bali. If possible, have several low-budget trips with a tourist visa. Use those opportunities to do field research about Bali. Visit places that you consider as candidates for permanent residency, and check all the important lifestyle aspects, from transportations to grocery shopping.
- Look for specific career-related information
The popularity of Bali means you can find much information about working there easily. For example, if you plan to become a diving instructor, you can check SSI or PADI websites. If you want to become a yoga instructor, check page and website for events such as Bali Spirit Festival. Interested in becoming an English teacher? Check about ESL teaching career in leading English course service in Indonesia, such as English First.
- Develop your skills and certifications
The strong career competition in Bali means you must rely on skills and proper certifications. The Indonesian government is becoming more scrutinizing on foreigners without skills and certifications. Whether you are a yoga instructor, a diver, a language teacher, or an architect, make sure you show proofs about your qualifications to back you up.
- Learn Indonesian and Balinese languages
Some expats choose to live in their own “expat bubble” and refuse to learn local languages, resulting in higher living costs because of limited lifestyle range. If you want to live with more economical budgets, you need to learn local languages, at least Indonesian. Knowing little Balinese will be an advantage, especially if you rely on communications with locals in daily life.
- Schedule regular updates for your permits
The Indonesian government is tough toward foreigners who work without proper permits. The country will not hesitate to deport or even put you in its blacklist over permit violations. Make schedules to renew your permits and other related documents, ideally two months before your current ones expire.
- Adjust with local religious customs and culture
Bali’s population is dominated by Hindus, but there are enough numbers of Muslims and Christians from various areas in Indonesia. Respect local customs by wearing modest clothing when visiting temples or religious sites, and be careful not to step or disturb offerings on public places.
- Pay attention to religious holidays
Indonesia uses the international calendar, but their holidays are different from your home country. Balinese people follow Hindu and Islamic calendars, so pay attention to religious holidays aside from the common ones (New Year, Independence Day, Christmas). Indonesians usually take time to visit their relatives during holidays, and they even will take leave days before D-Day, so don’t arrange a meeting or event near these dates.
- Learn local customs
There are several unique customs followed by Indonesians in general that are probably very different from your home country. For example, in Indonesia, people usually address other people with titles such as “Pak” (Mister) or “Bu” (Ma’am), especially in formal occasions. Directly calling someone by their first name is considered rude, unless you are close to that person.
Permit and regulation are among the most complicated matters to deal with in Indonesia, especially for foreigners. You can use consulting services such as Elson, which deals in services such as work permits and company establishment.
Working and living in Bali are not always paradise, and there are several challenges foreigners must face. However, Bali still provides a nice place to live and work, especially with its rich culture, business opportunities, and wide expat scene. Using reliable consulting service will help you dealing with complicated things such as permits and company establishments.
Elson is a consulting service that helps foreigners who want to live or work in Indonesia. We provide high-quality services with competitive fees. Our professional staff members are ready to answer inquiries and provide services as needed. Visit Elson.co.id for inquiries about working and living in Bali for expatriates.
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