Bali for Americans–Why It Looks So Good In 2017

bali for americans

You can’t elect the change, you have to make the change.

The stakes–your stakes–are too high to wait and hope for some politician to make you great again.

Well, that line of thinking isn’t for everyone.

And I don’t say it in reference to a move to Bali.

But recently I’ve had a spike in inquiries from Americans asking about living in Bali.

All I can do is tell them I’ve always felt at least as safe in Bali as I do in the US.

As the years go by infrastructure gets better, Indonesian living standards are clearly rising, and it feels like great things are coming for Indonesia. It’s not for everyone either.

Here are a few ways Bali looks particularly good for Americans (and other humans) in 2017.

Nice Bali Apartments, Now By The Month

Traditionally a long-term property lease in Bali involves paying the entire lease amount in advance. Even today, many signs you see as you drive around state that the property owner is looking for a 25- or 30-year commitment.

It used to make some sense, as foreigners–including more Americans in Bali than you might think–often did stay for years or decades, supporting themselves as owners of local businesses, exporting goods from Indonesia, etc.

Today though, there’s a large segment of foreigners visiting Bali who aren’t tourists and who have neither businesses nor jobs in Indonesia. Three to 12 months in Bali for them is part of a larger plan of longer-term, often slower-paced international travel. Their location independence is funded by online income tied to customers or clients usually in the West, but who could be anywhere in the world, and very rarely in the country these travelers happen to be temporarily based, (e.g. Bali, or elsewhere in Indonesia). These people are called digital nomads or digital expats, and their numbers are increasing quickly, worldwide.

Digital nomads in Bali (American or otherwise) have no intention of renting for years, at least initially. Bali property owners were slow to catch on to this new source of demand, and until a few years ago there was a real shortage of properties suitable for digital nomads, who are often alone and often favor serviced apartments.

In 2003 I was an American in Bali looking to to rent an apartment for several months but found nothing I liked between 3 million to 10 million per month, and ended up in renting whole houses, for more money.

In 2017 the situation has completely changed, as I found out when I researched and updated my book “How To Live In Bali” in mid-2016.

Today you’ll find very good availability of nice, well-located apartments in the 3.5 million to 14 million rupiah/month range, at every price point. I mean an extensive selection from Legian/Seminyak (even near the beach) all the way up to Ubud, and many of them are recently remodeled. (Note: as I’m writing this 3.5 million rupiah is US$262/month)

This benefits everyone looking to rent by the month in Bali of course, but especially with the US dollar relative strength (see below), Americans can get Western-standard furnished apartments for a fraction of what they’d pay for similar units in the US.

Cheap Airfares Especially From US/Australia/UK

I’ve only been following super-low airfare finders on Twitter for the last year or so, but I’m still stunned at the deals I see. For flights to Bali, you often see airfares under US$500 from both the US West and East coasts, round trip!  americans-in-bali

I’ve seen sub-£350 round-trip fares from London to Bali, and r/t fares from Sydney and Melbourne, Australia for AU$169. To put all this into perspective, when I was coming to Bali in 2003/2004 from the US West Coast on Eva Air, I paid US$840 on three different trips.

Here are four accounts I follow to find these fares, and if you don’t have a Twitter account it is a great reason to sign up.

Apps For Getting Around And Other Things

Make sure you install apps like Grab and Go-jek in Bali; they’re cheaper ways to get around than taxis. How cheap? A Bluebird taxi ride from my place to the airport costs about 70,000 rupiah in 2016; the other night I took a Grab taxi and it was 34,000 rupiah. You read that right. As with Uber (which is also here; I favor Grab and Go-Jek) the price does vary depending on traffic and the time of day, but you will know the fare before you book, so even if there’s traffic the price is fixed.

The Go-jek app especially offers a lot of extra services, like food deliveries, “Go-Glam” (makeup, hair etc. services) and even “Go-Massage”!

US Dollar Exchange Rate: Very Favorable For Americans In Bali

The US dollar exchange rate against the rupiah is down around 10% from its Sept 2015 high, when you could buy nearly 15,000 rupiah for a dollar, but historically it’s still strong. There has been inflation in Indonesia but the USD strength has outpaced it for most things.

It’s never clear what will happen with currency valuations obviously but here at the end of 2016 most things still feel pretty ‘cheap’ if you’re exchanging US dollars into rupiah.

Better Internet

All aspects of Internet access is improving. Home access is getting faster and the price for good access has really dropped. Connection speeds are up to 25 Mbps for 240k rupiah/month (US$17 at the time of writing) at the previous Biznet link. As in the US cable TV is often bundled with internet packages too, by the way.

Mobile 3G coverage is cheaper and seems to me to be getting better if you’re outside populated areas. Also in Seminyak for example LTE coverage is now available, through both Telkomsel and XL.

The cheapest 3G pre-pay plan costs 180,000 rupiah for your SIM card and just 50,000 rupiah/month to top up with 1.5 GB of data. Phone credit is very reasonable too.

Maybe Not Easy To Make Money Online, But…

If you hope to support yourself in Bali or elsewhere in SE Asia with online income I’ll share a slightly controversial claim I’ve been making lately to anyone who will listen.

I wouldn’t say making money online in 2017 is necessarily easier than it used to be.

But you can make good money online (certainly enough to support yourself in Bali) with far less technical knowledge than you used to need.

Many people come to Bali with hopes of getting a job, but–

  • It’s very difficult to get one as a foreigner.
  • It would pay very little.
  • Your VOA or Social Visa doesn’t allow it.

I encourage Wage Freedom readers to instead create online income streams using their talents, experience and interests as part of a new life you can make for yourself on an extended trip to an faraway place.

(Earning online is a great way for anyone to supplement their income–whether you want to move to Bali or not–and it can grow into a full-time income. Read about that here and here.)

In Bali, life is inexpensive enough that you’ll have more time for this digital redefinition of your professional self than you would back home, with much higher expenses there.

The problem? Often readers tell me earning online just isn’t right for them. And they’re sure.

Why? The biggest doubt I hear from people is that they aren’t technical enough.

But here’s the thing: you really never had to be a tech whiz to make online income–you could outsource tasks that were over your head, and you still should–but I can name dozens of methods to earn online that have either evolved to become simpler or are completely new, as a result of rapid tech change.

This is true for just about any aspect of making money online to which you can point:

  • Building websites.
  • Easier payment processing methods.
  • Better mobile hardware to create video content.
  • Easier ways to distribute your content, in any medium.
  • Better analytical tools to measure and improve everything you’re doing.
  • Simpler, streamlined tools and methods for creating email lists of interested fans and potential customers.
  • Breathtakingly good targeting for running paid ads, especially on Facebook (proper targeting is the difference between losing and making money for ad campaigns today).
  • More productivity tools.
  • Huge numbers of specialist service providers on sites like Fiverr and Upwork. This works for you if you’re freelancer too, of course.
  • A more extensive collection of free tutorials on YouTube than ever.

What does all this have to do with joining the expanding ranks of Americans in Bali–and seemingly every other nationality too!– for an extended stay here?

If money is a showstopper, everything.

Even if you tried to start a blog or an online store years ago, give it another try. Brilliant programmers and developers are incentivized to make it easier for you to create infrastructure for earning online.

Why not dive back in and see what they’ve come up with.


We sometimes reach a tipping point where the benefits of making a move start to outweigh to benefits of staying.

That’s applicable to much more in life than relocating, of course.

If you’ve made it to the end of this article, chances are you’ve thought about taking some time out on a tropical island before.

I’d never, ever make it my job to convince anyone to come to Bali or SE Asia, but I’d love to know if there’s a specific question you have about doing so, that I haven’t covered.

Please email me at tom (at) wagefreedom.com, or leave it in the comments.

And, would you like two free chapters of my new book “How To Live In Bali” (2016 edition)? It’s almost 30,000 words of detail aimed at helping you stay longer in Bali than tourists do. Sign up to my newsletter below and you’ll receive your chapters immediately.

4 comments… add one
  • So, my 2 teenagers and I, are moving to Bali in January of 2018. If not before. I am a published author, and plan to make my living via the internet (duh)… Writing is my first love, cooking is my second, design is my third. I have an outgoing and dynamic personality (no! I really do), and will be attempting to convey these attributes through my computer.
    BUT, I don’t know the first thing about making money this way. I have downloaded your first 2 chapters, and cannot wait to dig in.
    HELP?
    Thank you in advance!
    Amy Cross Hile

  • Tom Mullaly

    I emailed you Amy.

  • Duane

    I would like very much to come and live in Bali with my wife. However my world consists of working offline jobs. I have no idea about how to earn money online. I read your ”How to start a blog” post but I still cant connect the dots. Its the chicken or the egg question all over again.
    Any advise? Thanks

  • Tom Mullaly

    Hi Duane and thanks for your comment. Before you put tactics like starting a blog into action you should look for methods to earn that make sense for you, based on your abilities, talents, hobbies, your work experience, and even your vision of your future.

    My best answer on how to do that is contained in this long post at the link below. In it I assume no prior knowledge at all. Please start there and let me know if there is anything I can add to make it more helpful, because I do update it based on Wage Freedom readers’ input. Thanks very much Duane and good luck, I hope it helps.

    How to make money online, from the very beginning.

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