Living the last 2 years in Bali were surprisingly smooth sailing. Originally we wanted to stay here 6 months only – now I almost can’t believe, how quickly time passed on this lovely island.
Coming from Phuket, the first impressions were quite mixed. What stroke me most initially, was the chaotic traffic and the colder ocean temperatures.
Now it’s time to move on again to new shores. Time for a Wrap-up of good and annoying things you can experience, when you live here as a long-term traveler, Nomad or Expat.
Here we go; the Best, the Good, the Ugly of Bali:
The best thing about Bali is the rich variety of food and international cuisines for very affordable prices. I don’t think there is another place like this anywhere in Asia, where you can eat out so deliciously – so cheap!
Don’t get me wrong – Singapore or Hong Kong offer excellent cuisines of all countries possible, but you will pay with an arm or a leg for it. Everything except food courts will cost you dearly and you will think twice, if you can dine out again at that special Italian Restaurant or that Greek Taverna. Sure, places like Phuket or Boracay offer international cuisine as well, but they mainly cater to the backpacker crowd and classy restaurants are either rare or bloody expensive.
Not so in Bali!
Although it offers an abundance of Indonesian and Balinese Warungs, Restaurants, Food Carts and Food Places – it’s the international food options where Bali really shines and offers the best of all worlds for long-term travelers, Nomads and Expats alike.
You can find classy restaurants of all styles here; Greek, Italian, Spanish, Indian, Belgian, Dutch, German, Moroccan, Brazilian, Mexican, Chinese, Thai, Japanese, Middle Eastern – and all of them in close proximity to each other. Rarely a meal costs more than USD 10-20 for a great dish. A dinner for 2 in your home country could easily set you back 5-10 times the amount you pay here for comparable quality.
I can’t imagine anyone being bored easily with the sheer selection of foods you have here – a problem I faced already 8 months after staying in Thailand.
Besides the quality and value of great food – the overall Costs of Living are the best thing about Bali.
I’m yet to run into a place, where you can have a similar comfort, quality of life and low cost of living in one place in Asia. Wikipedia compared the Purchasing Power Parity of countries around the globe; Indonesia (and Bali) are in the 20-25% area – that means, you can live here on a comparable standard to the US or Europe with only 20-25% of the expenses.
From Food, Drinks, to Housing or Transportation – Bali will give you plenty of bang for your buck. Your Dollar or Euro will go a long way here – if you want to calculate that in more detail, check out my Cost of Living Chart for Bali.
Scenery, sightseeing and activity options will keep you busy and never being bored during your time in Bali. Bali is definitely a unique island of magic – a special paradise for many, an island of plenty.
Are you sporty? Do sports here: dive, snorkel, surf, kite, trek, bike, hike, play beach games. Ride a bike or car around the island and explore its hidden gems. Check out its neighboring islands like Lombok, Nusa Penida or Nusa Lembongan. Having driven myself about 25.000 km in the last 2 years on my trusted Kymco Scooter – I can tell you that you will discover some new interesting spots almost every day!
Are you lazy? Relax at the beach, watch birds, the rice fields, read that novel you always wanted to read, pamper yourself with massages, spa, cream baths or wellness programs. Drink a ice-cold Bintang beer or that colorful cocktail, while surfing the internet to get into the right mood. Swim with dolphins or visit sunken wrecks on the bottom of the ocean. Ride a horse on a beach during sunset or sunrise. You name it, Bali has it!
You want nature? Chose between white beaches, yellow beaches, black beaches, grey beaches, stony beaches, sandy beaches, pebble beaches. Deep lakes, mountains, volcanoes, water falls, hot springs, jungles, national parks, rice fields or terraces are here for you. You can simply get lost in nature!
Culture is your thing? Explore the only Hindu enclave in a sea of 17.000 Muslim islands. Visit temples by the sea, in jungles, on mountains, on cliffs, at the slope of volcanoes or near sandy beaches. Indulge yourself in exotic dances, traditional music, mystic plays, listen to drums and watch fire dances, watch the diverse ethnic cultures, creatures, dresses and ceremonies. Free your body, minds and spirit – completely!
No place on earth is perfect. Bali is no difference. The most annoying things for long-term travelers, Nomads or Expats I found the following:
The Visa System: Honestly – the Visa System for Indonesia is seriously f…..fflawed. I mean, how can you visit a country with 17.000 islands, 220 Million people and with the size of a regular continent in 30 days with the VOA, Visa on Arrival System? That’s truly impossible!
Yes, they have Working Visas (KITAS) or Retirement Visas, but those exclude everyone below 60, who doesn’t work. The Social Visit Visa is a joke in itself! Anyway, here are some more details on how it works.
You will either spend a lot of money or a lot of time, to get your Visa renewed every month within the country. While I initially thought that this will only be a minor problem – it turns out that for me it was now the most annoying thing – the main factor or deal breaker to move on to another country. The current system is bureaucrazy and corruption combined.
Last month they let me come 6 times (!) to the Immigration Office in Denpasar for one simple stamp in my passport. That means every time about 2 hours drive, fighting through the horrible traffic and pollution of Denpasar. A minimum waiting time of 30-60 minutes every time you are in the Immigration Office in Jalan Panjaitan in the Renon area of Denpasar, legions of paperwork, you will pay exuberant fees for their own forms, copies and the whole procedure is different again every month.
Usually you will see the Immigration Office about 20 times in just 6 months! Unbelievable and my major annoyance for long-term stay here. The alternative? Paying a Visa Agency triple the price then what the Visa Extension costs.
I’m sorry, but I can’t subscribe to that idea anymore!
Other minor annoyances are the Corrupt Traffic Cops, which will stop you every other day to extort money from you for no reason or the beach hawkers, who won’t give you a quiet minute, when you are lazing at the beach.
Over time you will learn to fend off the cops and get away without paying anything, although it remains a hassle, being stopped and questioned every second day. The hawkers on the beach you can simply ignore and you’ll even get used to the dual price system, meaning that as a foreigner you are naturally overcharged at almost every day-2-day situation. Cheating Money Changers are best avoided by withdrawing money solely from ATM’s or exchanging notes directly in banks.
Dirt and filth are something you have to cope with in most 3rd world countries and Bali is unfortunately a very dirty place at least in the main tourist areas. The environmental conscience of the average Indonesian is poorly developed – you will see plastic bags, empty bottles or anything else they want to dispose themselves off landing in the road sides or anywhere else.
Luckily things are slowly improving and the Balinese learn that it will destroy their paradise in the long run, if natural resources are exploited and the mountains of trash in the road sides are growing by the day. So there are efforts on the way for recycling, to separate trash and clean up the mess around, but it will take a bit time to see the fruits of this development in a more substantial way.
That sums it basically up, the experiences of our last 2 years here in Bali. Over time we truly learned to appreciate the many advantages Bali has to offer, compared to living on a smaller island like Phuket or living the City Life in Singapore or elsewhere. Coping with the disadvantages is another thing.
So, the judgment can sometimes sound hard and probably someone else will surely see things differently.
Please share your thoughts by using the comment form below!
Next week will see us leaving Bali for now. Next destination is …… ahem….nahhh……later……
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