The 19 Best Things About Being A Bali Expat

by Tom Mullaly

in Early Retirement,Featured Posts,Rewards and Consequences

If you are laboring in the context of unrequited ambition or some pent-up dream, Bali can be the perfect place to address The Project, however you define it.

A tropical vacation is fun and rejuvenating, but stay in a place like Bali long enough and it just might trigger a larger sense of perspective in you. Be warned: removing much of the pressing need for income and heavy clothing under which you have been been straining for a lifetime can have ontological ramifications.

Glimpsing a less-constrained you in very different circumstances, even if only for a moment, hints at a larger, fuller life that you might otherwise have lived. It suggests a life that you might–being still alive–still live.

For me years ago, the word ‘expat’ meant being Arthur C. Clarke in Sri Lanka, Graham Greene or Hemingway in Cuba, or even Bogart in a Casablanca nightclub. I have my moments but I never feel as distinguished or well-dressed as any of those guys.

But when an old friend came to visit us in Bali recently and mentioned with just a hint of fraternal sarcasm, “Hey you’re an expat now”, it got me thinking. I bought my little base here in 2005 and have been in Bali nearly continuously since mid-2008. Had I passed some arbitrary time requirement? What does ‘expat’ mean in 2013?

A 21st century expat in Bali or elsewhere in Southeast Asia can enjoy the exoticism of his chosen location without many of the attendant inconveniences, deprivations or even dangers endured by those iconic figures from another time. OK, so call me soft. Still, talking to friends via free Google video chat or flying inexpensively to Singapore for a visa run and authentic masala dosa is something I wouldn’t swap for doing it the way they did 50+ years ago.

Being a Bali expat is an exercise in having it both ways, sometimes almost embarrassingly so. Having said that, the frustrations and negative aspects built into expatriate life in Bali keep me from getting too smug. Today I’ll just tell you about the good stuff, the 19 best things about being a Bali expat, according to me. In no particular order:

1) Getting laundry done by a friendly Balinese family, three minutes’ walk away. They charge 15 or 20 US cents per piece, folded and neatly bundled for next-day pickup.

2) Enjoying the melting pot that is Bali. Not only do people come from all of the world for everything from short visits to making a long-term base, people come from every corner of the Indonesian archipelago for the opportunity that exists in Bali, or simply to vacation. It’s hard not to feel stimulated by the sheer variety of people here–everyone seems to show up eventually!–there’s nowhere better to see it than on the beach at sunset time.

3) Balinese umbrellas and flags.

Balinese Women Balinese Umbrellas4)At night in the rainy season, sitting at the computer surfing the planet with my cat on my lap, or just sitting in warm humidity on the balcony, listening to the late-night torrents.

5) Having time to read every single book on the “must read” list.

6) Having time for my sunset walk on the beach every day. Funny how I never have to force myself to get a nice hour and a half worth of low-intensity exercise here. I know it’s good for me but I do it because I love it.

Bali Sunset-Seminyak

7)Having time to reconnect with family and friends. It’s ironic that being so far away from home without a work schedule means that you have more time to spend with people than when you are geographically closer to them.

It goes without saying that you have the technology in Bali. You’ll have a connection at home and there is free Wi-Fi in most of the restaurants, which means among other things that your VoIP telephone solutions work great internationally without ever having to involve a ‘service provider’.

Also, when friends and family come to Bali to visit–a surprising amount do–we get to spend hours and hours talking as we rarely seemed to back in the realm of the busy. People are more interested and interesting without a schedule and so, most likely, are you.

8) Magnificent luscious fruit. I wouldn’t want the stellar vegetables to feel left out either, and one certainly will find both elsewhere in Southeast Asia, but I’m amazed still at the variety and freshness of mangosteen, papaya, pineapple, honeydew and watermelon, several varieties of bananas and mangoes, rambutan, snake fruit, dragon fruit, durian, etc. I always have fruit at home and indulge in a half-papaya every day.

Bali Fruit

9)Taking spur-of-the-moment flights to interesting places. I start every day in Bali knowing that if I got the urge I could wake up the following morning in any one of a hundred interesting cities, watching the world come alive in Chiang Mai, Kovalam Beach in Kerala, Ho Chi Minh City, Penang, etc. etc.

If you’re coming to Asia from Europe or the United States it would be difficult to see too many of the places you’ve “always wanted to visit” without taking a six-month sabbatical and aggressively connecting all the dots. Lots of people buy a backpack and do this at some point, but having a base in this region means spontaneous explorations won’t break the bank, nor even require much planning. Led by Air Asia, the availability of cheap flights has increased dramatically over the past 10 years; more competition has meant that one is no more than US $100 or $200 from destinations worthy of checking out. Most days, I do not jump on that airplane. But I can, and that has made all the difference.

10) One-hour massages priced from US$5.

11) Seeing at every turn the amazing, usually functioning blend of Balinese tradition combined with all the modern world has to offer.

Balinese Ramones Fan12) Good quality DVDs and CDs of recent film/music releases on every corner for US$1. I know that no one is getting paid but the people from whom I buy them, most of whom make less in a month than Johnny Depp slips the valet.

13) Having time for leisurely two- or three-hour meals in restaurants, depending on the conversation and who might show up. Never will there be an insinuation that you should order more or perhaps free up the table. This is not unique to Bali of course; budget travelers in the region know the Asian informality that blurs the line between eating and socializing.

I’ll admit that I have sat for so long after a meal that I get hungry again and order another meal. Well, I’m not the only one. Since Internet access is a given at Bali restaurants, it’s easy to combine the additional dimension of working, alone or together with friends on the Project. Or not.

14) Not spending time trying to convince myself that to defer life is to live. Get ready, here’s a heavy idea that I didn’t invent: in dreams begin responsibilities. Execute and come to a place where you are (finally) without reasons why you can’t act , today, and you will find if you are worthy of this dream of yours, and all the effort that it took to get you here in the first place.

You can fall into a deserved retirement when some arbitrary timetable finally allows you to, but if you decide that it is time to live today, making an equally arbitrary decision that’s fundamentally different because it is of you, that you deserve to pursue living as you define it, the onus will be on you to act. I think of it as having time to pursue my projects, and simply to breathe. Of course you can do it anywhere; being in Bali was a catalyst for me, a freedom metaphor.

15) Losing weight with no effort. Yep, you read that right. Don’t call me if it doesn’t work for you, but the warm climate in Bali makes me less focused on food. Portion sizes at restaurants reflect a culture not obliged or intending to feed the insatiable. I tend to eat to live in Bali rather than the other way around. It sounds pretentious so let me elaborate: I have no fixed schedule in Bali, so I’m without the scheduled mealtimes on which I fixated back in the salt mines, for lack of other immediate satisfactions. Engagement in activities that interest me has added up to shedding at least 40 lbs. I’m sure the walking doesn’t hurt either; out of 24 hours in the day it’s easy to make time for it.

16) Bluebird brand taxis cost no more than $1-$2 for just about everywhere I want to go. Air-conditioned, pleasant drivers who turn the meter on every single time without having to be asked.

17) No problem getting around with English, though if you’re a Bali expat you’ll pick up at least basic Bahasa Indonesia, as it’s one of the easiest languages to learn: no verb tenses, a Roman alphabet with no difficult pronunciations, etc.

18) Arriving back at my condo in the afternoon hours on a steaming hot sunny day to the pleasure of the cool air in our little place. Add the right beverage and you can go from wilted to refreshed in about 10 seconds. If I feel like getting especially decadent I can pop a DVD in and watch it during the midday heat, until 5 PM or so when it becomes much cooler and time to hit the beach for sunset.

19) Meeting interesting long-term expats, most of whom seem to have biographies worthy of a movie. Think you’ve been around? In the market last night I run across an acquaintance in the produce section. He’s a charming fellow with a US accent in his early 60s (I guess) who has been in Bali and elsewhere in Asia for most of the last 40 years, and always looks as though he’s heading to an afterparty in the Hollywood hills. My understanding is that he has been a collector of Dayak art since he was a hippy, and that he’s made countless trips up rivers in Borneo in his day.

He tells me he has nearly 5,000 Facebook friends now, and very little time for anything other than keeping his active online and off-line social life organized. He allowed someone to place an ad to sell a house on his Facebook wall and to his surprise it sold very quickly; he sees this as an enormous business opportunity-not that he particularly that needs the money-and feels like the future is wide open, full of possibilities. I’m not sure if he has ever had a “real job” back in the United States, but no mention is made of impending retirement and Social Security compensation. He is clearly not waiting for anything. I imagine he never has.


Being a Bali expat has been an adventure in living for today without sabotaging tomorrow. We are taught that there is a natural dichotomy between enjoying oneself and doing what it takes to pay for or even deserve that enjoyment.

At the risk of sounding like a simpleton or making anyone uncomfortable who spends time employed in a job he or she doesn’t like, let me speak plainly. This distinction is a delusion, played out on a mass scale by good people who too often don’t even question their participation in it. Life doesn’t have to be win lotto/nose to grindstone, holiday/work, or retired/not yet retired. If one embraces today there are other ways to live!

I know too many people whose lives are evidence of this not to believe it.

What about you?

Have you always wanted to be a person who writes, paints, sculpts, makes furniture, designs clothes or leather goods, designs shoes, jewelry, or toys? Are you interested in being an Internet entrepreneur, making a real difference at an orphanage, being a freelance travel consultant, a wedding planner, a documentary filmmaker, or building your own home? Do you just want some time to study something new, for all the right reasons?

Redirection may be too expensive for you to consider ‘back home’, but It’s cheap enough in Bali to pursue even a vague interest, and I will bet you that it results sooner or later, directly or indirectly, into a means of paying the bills.

It won’t take much.

If you have an idea for a better purpose that won’t let you go, living in Bali (or many other places in Asia) will give you time to work on your project. This means you’ll have time to step back from your life and a schedule that has turned somehow from being a comfort and an acceptable price to be paid to being a soul-killing drag, short and simple.

You can step toward a better plan of your own devising.

If you look your dream in the face, even if it’s just a vague desire for more, and tell yourself that only people with trust funds, or those somehow ‘chosen’ can escape, you’re half right. None of my friends in Bali have trust funds as far as I know, but we were in fact all chosen for something different. But here’s the secret: it was we ourselves who did the choosing.

Hey, remember the quote about the devil finding work for idle hands to do? It was handy for people who wanted you to keep your nose to the grindstone, toward an end they’d supply, that would in turn profit them.

Those devils found work for you to do in return for concepts like security, and the satisfaction of small desires. Shed this ah…arrangement.

Having time to be self-directed, possibly for the first time in one’s life, is the basis for a profound transformation for many people.

Not everyone has a hole that can be filled only by taking action in their own life that might seem imprudent to observers. But if you do, don’t kid yourself in an effort to placate those ‘observers’. Your friends will cheer you on, and the other folks don’t really care that much anyway.

By the way, you don’t become a Bali expat and ‘never go back’, unless you really don’t want to. Chances are that the same flexibility that made Bali a possibility in the first place will take you back to where you’re ‘from’, though you’ll probably return without the person you are now.

I said that being a Bali expat can be an exercise in having it both ways. Come see how you can create a life in a new place without cutting ties or jeopardizing existing connections to what is important to you.

What is the one question I can answer for you regarding being an expat in Bali or Southeast Aisa? Just leave it in the comments and I’ll give you the best answer I can. I’m putting together another quide to Bali, one that will answer some of the best questions I’ve been asked about creating the means to move to Bali, and what life is like for a Western expat here. Ask a question and you’ll be on my list to receive a free copy when it’s finished! Thanks— Tom.


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{ 161 comments… read them below or add one }

Homemade Rules 01.13.11 at 2:02 am


Your blog makes me feel like I’m hearing things from deep within the bunny hole I’m about to jump down into. Maybe your writing resonates because you were once here, where I am, on the lip of that plunge. Maybe you’d enjoy following my similar journey to a New Truth, but probably you’re looking forward not back.

Whatever the case, I thank you immensely for your perspective. It underlines my certainty that I’m heading to the right place, just as I begin my big sell-off and need to remind myself of what the hell I’m doing. Having determined deep down that this is the ‘right’ move for me, I am having to listen long and deep to keep remembering, as everyone here seems content to simply go about their business. The following sentence *really* struck a chord with me.

> Execute and come to a place where you are (finally) without
> reasons why you can’t act , today, and you will find if you are
> worthy of this dream of yours, and all the effort that it took to
> get you here in the first place.


I am just hitting that spot in the dream business I’ve jumped off the deep end to start. If you feel like following my trajectory (towards Bali), you might enjoy my blog about it… ( Otherwise, perhaps we’ll meet in paradise? I’d enjoy that. Thanks again for being an inspiration!


Tom 01.14.11 at 12:41 am

Hey thanks a lot for the kind words, and if anything I wrote helped you at all to keep your eye on the ball I’m honored to have lent a hand.

You mentioned that wherever you are “everyone here seems content to simply go about their business”. Life back “where we’re from” will rarely encourage or even accommodate an individual intent upon making something more of his life. You don’t have to be selling everything and leaving with a backpack to feel this low-intensity alienation either. I think most people who attempt to start a business in their hometown are met with skepticism, even from good friends. The price of looking toward the horizon can be feeling like a loose cannon or morally inferior on some level, if you aren’t careful. Until you go, of course.

From your blog it sounds like you might not have really hit the road seriously yet in your life (I mean with the road itself as your destination as opposed to a grocery list of places to be scratched off the inside cover of your new Lonely Planet) but the way you are selling things aggressively it’s clear that is about to happen for you. I just want to assure you that to the extent that you might be fortified by a support group, that all the loose canons and freethinkers, the dreamers, the drunks, the shysters, the geniuses, the enthusiastic, the confused and the enlightened are out here! I’m sure you suspect that; it’s true.

It’s ironic that you need a certain inner strength to take action and exercise your human desire for More, but that once you make the leap into the unknown, showing yourself that you were strong enough to take a chance on yourself, you will be met by endless affirmation in 10,000 places around the world that this sacred leap was the most enriching way to live–but you won’t need the encouragement any longer! Trust your perspective, get on the airplane. You don’t need me to tell you that of course. Keep going and we’ll have meal when you get here.

(Also, it’s been my experience that we’re all looking forward, not back, and that regardless of where we’re sitting in the world our situations don’t change as much as we thought they might. It’s no excuse not to leave though…)

And I really loved your idea of having an estate sale before you die-or was it an estate sale before you live?–anyway, that’s great!—T

Tony 06.21.11 at 2:11 am


You’re an inspiration.

After recently returning from my tenth visit to Bali I just can’t wait to get back! What I’d give to live the dream like you are… However a second marriage and young kids have sort of stymied that…

But I’m full of envy.

Tom 06.25.11 at 12:06 pm

Tony thank you so much for the kind words–that really makes my day!

Hey maybe the marriage and young kids is a better use of your freedom than the ‘Bali expat’ idea at this time anyway. And it’s nice to have ‘a Bali’ at arm’s length in our lives.

On the other hand you know how many families have moved here and set the kids up in the good schools they have here in Bali. Good luck to you, I hope trip #11 comes soon! –Tom

Douglas 11.17.11 at 2:31 pm

Hi Tom,

I am glad you are living your dream!!!

Alessandra 11.22.11 at 1:40 pm

I want to change my life with you!! :) Fantastic, had a lot of pleasure reading. My dream is to live in Bali! All the best, Alessandra.

Tom 11.27.11 at 1:30 am

HI Alessandra– glad you enjoyed this list! If you want to live in Bali you can. Believe it. We are all here waiting for you!

Vlad 12.21.11 at 7:20 pm


This information is fantastic. Love it. I just moved to Bali and all tips above are very useful. Thanks.

Tom 12.22.11 at 6:15 am

Hey Vlad—Selamat datang! Give me a shout when you’re coming over to Seminyak, we’ll have a meal if you’d like. think_tom (at) Very nice website you have, I signed up! —T

Justin 12.22.11 at 7:29 am


Awesome article! I can’t describe it, but a different feeling has settled over me after reading this. It has put me at ease. Thanks!

Tom 12.24.11 at 7:23 am

Hey Justin, nice to hear! I look forward to hearing your impressions of this part of the world.

Mike From Maine 01.15.12 at 3:37 pm

I’m also an expat living in Istanbul, Turkey. I was wondering how often you need to go for a visa run there? It sounds like you have a great life going on there.

Tom 01.23.12 at 8:13 am

Hi Mike, thanks for visiting. Istanbul, what an interesting place to be an expat! I was there in my 20 a long time ago(!), and I want to go back to show my wife the Turks’ incredible friendliness. Also because it’s not far from the best view in the world (Santorini!).

Oh yes, Bali: well with no advance planning at all you’ll get off the airplane and get a 1-month ‘visa on arrival’. As of Jan 2012 you can extend that one more month; the extension is about US$27 then you have to leave.

With a little planning beforehand you can get a social visa (‘sosial budaya’), about US$60, which lets you stay for two months and then extend each month until you’ve been here six months, then you must go. The invite letter you need is quite easy/cheap, my friend here has been helping me for years and has helped other friends of mine with it also. You get the social visa before you come to Indonesia, simply go to an Indonesian Embassy anywhere with the invite letter.

Good luck there Mike, maybe we’ll see you in Bali sometime, lots going on no matter what you’re looking for. –Tom from Seminyak

Jean 02.18.12 at 7:55 pm

Dear Tom
I am in the early stages of planning to move to Bali and reading your blog could not have come at a better time as I juggle with decisions about selling here and buying there or renting out my place here etc etc. I didn’t need much convincing but reading your words has given me the impetus I needed to just get going!

Thank you very much

Tom 02.18.12 at 8:10 pm

Hi Jean– thanks for the kind words, if I helped at all then it was worth writing the post!

Sometimes specifics are helpful, before we leap. If you’d like info on getting set up as well as recent prices you can take a look at my free 19-page E-guide on saving money in Bali for expats. I’m still getting the auto-responder set up but if you leave your email in the signup box in the right sidebar I will make sure ‘Bali on the Cheap’ gets to you. If you need help with practicalities (or the psychological hurdles) of your move let me know how I can help. Good luck Jean! —Tom

Michele 03.03.12 at 2:02 pm

Hi Tom,

Wow! My husband and I have been planning for a move to Bali for a few months now. Your blog post was extremely well-written and spoke to our hearts. We’re looking specifically at the Lovina area because we read it is one of the more secluded areas. I’ve signed up for your newsletter and anxiously await the e-delivery of Bali on the Cheap!

Thank you so very much! Maybe when we arrive, we can meet in person and enjoy one of those extra-long lunch-dinner afternoon-evenings :)


Tom 03.05.12 at 9:26 am

Hi Michele– why thanks and nice to hear you’ll be coming to Bali! Let me know if I can answer any questions and please do let me know when you will be in Seminyak/Legian and I’d love to have a fruit juice or a meal with you two.

Also let me know if there are any hiccups with the delivery of ‘Bali on the Cheap’; it should be included in your confirmation email. I hope you find it helpful. Thanks again and all the best.

Georgia 04.05.12 at 11:26 am

I would love to live in Bali, i’m from Singapore. Bu finding a job in Bali is tough i guess? I just graduate from a theatre school in Singapore and it’s my dream to settle in this island. :)

Desley Thomas 05.15.12 at 6:59 pm

Hi Tom,

It was great to read your comments. My husband and i both want a more relaxed lifestyle and one in which we can actively help people. We are researching the highs and lows of living in Bali at the moment.

Susanna 06.18.12 at 8:16 am

Hi Tom,
Thank you for the well written article. I’m at the crossroads (again) and can feel the flutter of excitement each time I visualise the life you have described, as this is just as I would have it, simple, down to earth and rich in just the appreciation of life and the time to become whole again.
I just need to know if it is going to be possible (remotely possible to achieve). I plan to make an ‘investigative’ trip in Aug perhaps (disguised as a well needed time-out). Would I be able to look you up as I have so many questions?
ps it was the fruit pic that really hit the spot.

Amy 07.09.12 at 9:00 am

Hi Tom,

I’d be interested in reading Bali on the Cheap if you are able to send it my way. I’m currently in graduate school and have a few more years to go – but I’d like to start planning now for a possible move to Bali in the future.

Adrian 08.13.12 at 9:00 am

Hi Tom, that was an extremely well written and informative article. I am British (63) and currently living for the past 3 years in the Philippines. I have been self-employed for the past 30 years and had my share of successes and failures! In recent years I have made my living designing complex websites and online marketing.

My Filipina wife and I want to relocate to another Asian country and up until now, have favored Nha Trang in Vietnam. Now I am intrigued by Bali as a possible alternative. I have always associated Bali with expensive resorts, but maybe living in an apartment is not so expensive. Certainly Nha Trang offers VERY low prices with a good standard of amenities – the problem is the language is so difficult, English is not widely spoken. I read widely varying reports about English being understood in Bali. I accept that learning the basics of the local language is essential, but that takes time (at my age). I think my wife will find that much easier than me, and LOTS easier than Vietnamese!

Our monthly budget for a 2 bed home, fully furnished, is US $450 plus utilities – is this acheivable in an area that is not too far from amenities like supermarkets and restaurants? It seems paying a year in advance is the norm! Having read through your excellent “Bali on the Cheap” ebook, it seems like maybe Legian/Seminyak or parts of Sanur might be places to start looking. I think that Obud is probably too far away from things (in theory) and maybe too cool at certain times of the year. I have poor circulation and my feet turn to ice when the temp drops below about 25 degrees C. My wife is an exceptional cook so we would only be eating out a couple of times a week. Our total budget is just US $1750 per month max – are we looking for the impossible in Bali? In Vietnam we could live VERY well for that kind of money.

Martha 08.18.12 at 12:33 am

Hi Tom
You’re such an inspiration! We’re planing our retirement in 2 years and Bali has always been my number (hubby prefers Penang, Malaysia) one place to spend over winter. We’ve been visiting Bali for the last 12 years and enjoyed every minute of our stay. We’ve recently (Jun12) discovered Lombok and the Gili islands and love it! Our next trip would be this Nov. We’ll be spending more time in UBUD (trying out a village life) and later down to Canggu to inspect some places to celebrate our 30th wedding anniversary next year.
Do keep us updated with your latest Bali activities, truly enjoyed your writing.

Tom 08.18.12 at 9:38 am

Hi Adrian– thank you for the comment!

I think you have to come take a look at Bali; I have a feeling you’ll find what you’re looking for. I see so much variation in the way expats live in Bali that it’s a good place for almost any budget or lifestyle.

Saigon or Chang Mai are two alternatives favored by lots of people I know, but especially if you like the beach Bali is at least worth a look. I can offer a couple of opinions regarding points from your comment:

Prices: It is possible to find a place to rent or lease for $450/month, but yes, your options will greatly increase if you can pay a year or more at a time. I know people who have 10- or even 25-year leases and their per-month cost can be very, very good value for money IF you are financially and psychologically capable of paying up-front. Having said that, if your total budget is ~US 1750/mo, it should not be a problem for you to live very well indeed in Bali esp. if you mostly cook at home. (And as I say in the guide, even in the tourist areas your favorite restaurants will be fairly inexpensive and imo excellent value for money). One caveat: alcohol is heavily taxed and can will really eat into your budget, especially drinking at bars or restaurants. I know drinking the way I did in my youth would completely change the math for me; I would’ve been heading quickly back to Thailand!

Language: English is so widely spoken that many expats live here for years with only very basic Bahasa Indonesia skills (not that I recommend not learning at least some!). The language is not at all hard to learn, but really shouldn’t be an issue.

Where to live: do take a look at Ubud. It is cheaper, and that it’s a few degrees cooler than the beach areas will probably be a relief frankly Adrian! It never feels ‘cool’ to me there. The rolling green hills are gorgeous and personally I’d have no problem living there if I didn’t need my daily sunset beach walk so much! There is a large expat community in Ubud and plenty of infrastructure & terrific restaurants too. I don’t think you’ll find it too far away, and after the hustle and bustle of Seminyak you might just prefer it. Aside from that, yes, I would look around Seminyak and Sanur.

The best strategy might be to get a place by the month at first and rent a bike to look around. Check the bulletin boards that I mention in Bali On The Cheap, and put your own notice up. Head down interesting little alleys and talk to people. I’m sure you’ve done this elsewhere. You can look at the online version of Bali Advertiser, but you’ll find better deals once you are here, as you’d expect.

Please let me know what you think when you get to Bali Adrian! Thanks again. —Tom

Tom 08.18.12 at 9:58 am

Thank you so much for the comment Martha! You’re really making a good time out of choosing a retirement destination; with your attitude I predict you two will be happy wherever you settle!

One thing that I’d remind you-and you know this- is that distances are such in SE Asia that regardless of your base you can get to dozens of great places in a few hours, for very little money if you plan ahead. I signed up for Air Asia’s email newsletter, they’ve got incredible deals if you don’t mind reserving a few months out.

Anyway, I hope you find your place in the sun Martha, do let me know how it goes!

Lee 08.23.12 at 3:12 pm

Thanks for the info. You sure you aren’t working for the Bali tourist agency? Just kidding.
I’m very interested in looking for a place to live in Bali and will be going to The Conrad Hotel sometime this year. You mentioned looking on a bulletin board to find homes, where would be a good place to find out about housing using Conrad as my base? As for the numbers you gave for rent in Bali, does this include furnished apt’s?
Also, my wife found online some info about expat retirees being able to get an extended visa if they have an income over a certain amount, do you know anything about this.
My wife and I are looking sooo much into Bali as it seems a place we could retire for a couple of years.

Lila 08.29.12 at 11:53 pm

Hi Tom,

Lovely entry — your perspective resonates well with me. Thank you so much for generously sharing so much with us. I too experienced ultimate Liberation on Bali and now, I am planning to move to Ubud next year for an indefinite amount of time.

After 6months, what can I do if I would like to stay longer? Also, would you kindly send me Bali on the Cheap?

Terimah kasi!
Lila from LA

Jennifer 09.03.12 at 1:25 am

Hi Tom

Thank you for your thoughtful post. You beautifully articulated the need for many of us to question our traditional career tracks at home, grab hold of our futures, and then slow down and enjoy the unexpected riches that show up when we do. My husband and I are ready to end long careers in San Francisco and try life in another country. We plan to start with a year and see where things go from there. Your great descriptions are strongly tipping the scales in favor of Bali, which was a front runner anyway.

I’m very eagerly awaiting your list of the top things you don’t likening Bali, to glimpse the other side!

Jayne 09.05.12 at 1:53 am

Great to read I have not been to Bali for 15 years, last visit got off the plane in W.A & had a heart attack (just got blockage & had a stent put in )
I loved Bali the people the culture the shopping
BUT the question is at 70 yrs. of age do you think I would be safe to live there & where is cheap rent, as I have no savings & just live on an Australian old age pension, which I believe we can still get if we live in Bali
So would really appreciate your answer, I have not had trouble with my heart since I was told that if anything happened you cannot get help at Hospitals for heart trouble plus my 94 yr old dad would love to come as well he has never been sick a day in his life, but has to use a walker to get around
Will wait to see what you think
Best Wishes

Pierre 09.11.12 at 11:32 pm

Hi there,
your quote: *** not spending time trying to convince myself that to defer life is to live. Get ready, here’s a heavy idea that I didn’t invent: in dreams begin responsibilities. Execute and come to a place where you are (finally) without reasons why you can’t act , today, and you will find if you are worthy of this dream of yours, and all the effort that it took to get you here in the first place.

You can fall into a deserved retirement when some arbitrary timetable finally allows you to, but if you decide that it is time to live today, making an equally arbitrary decision that’s fundamentally different because it is of you, that you deserve to pursue living as you define it, the onus will be on you to act. I think of it as having time to pursue my projects, and simply to breathe. Of course you can do it anywhere; being in Bali was a catalyst for me, a freedom metaphor.

sums up exactly how i feel, and i find very few who think the same. hopefully one day i will be on the same path as you. all the best

Brandon 09.14.12 at 10:22 am

Hi Tom, Thanks for the helpful information on Bali. I’m origionally from South Africa and uprooted at a young age to Canada. I don’t think my body/soul ever really adjusted to the northern hemisphere. You can take the boy out of Africa but you can’t take the African out of the boy. I have a longing for the ease of living in a temparate climate and maybe reconnecting me with the earth. In my business life I travelled to the far east frequently, spending most of my time in Taiwan with visits to China, Indonesia and Thailand also.

Is it possible to live full time in Bali as an expat?


Tom 09.15.12 at 3:15 pm

Hi Lila, thanks. Rather than answer your question as to staying in Bali (or elsewhere in Indonesia) for more than six months, I made a separate blog post about it so it wouldn’t be buried in the comments. Here’s what I know about the Sosial Budaya/Social Visa for 2012 (click the link), which would enable you to do just that.

Also the easiest way (for me) to get Bali On The Cheap to you is if you’d enter your email via the box at the bottom of the post. It will be sent automatically to you, immediately!

Let me know if I can answer any other questions for you Lila.

Tom 09.15.12 at 3:28 pm

Hi Lee– I go into some detail about prices and different accommodations options one has as an expat or upon retiring in Bali in my free E-Guide ‘Bali On The Cheap’. I do cover bulletin board locations in Seminyak/Legian too. The easiest way (for me!) to get it to you is if you’d enter your email via the box at the bottom of this post. It will be sent to you automatically & immediately! Prices for furnished apartments would vary widely, starting at probably a few hundred dollars/month US up in the hills or away from the ocean. Big discounts if you can rent/least by the month or year.

I know Indonesia offers a retiree visa, and I have several friends who have one. I’m not sure of the price nowadays, but with it you won’t have to leave periodically as you would with even a social visa (which is extendable to six months maximum). If there is an minimum income requirement I haven’t heard about it…

Thanks Lee (and btw no affiliation with any agency at all, I’m just a Bali expat who loves sharing info)

Tom 09.15.12 at 3:32 pm

Hi Jennifer, and thanks a lot. I’d just remind you that once you’re in Bali you can very easily check other expat enclaves in SE Asia like Chiang Mai, Phuket, etc., etc. before you really commit to Bali, Air Asia all the way. Best of luck to you and your husband, Asia awaits; I love the idea that ‘unexpected riches that show up when we do‘, it’s so profoundly true.

Tom 09.15.12 at 3:37 pm

Hi Jayne– I think your doctor in Australia is the best person to ask about living in Bali; health care is obviously so critical for us as we get older. I would say that if he OKs it the lower stress levels here can only help! My best to you and your dad.

Tom 09.15.12 at 4:10 pm

Thank you Pierre — if that strikes you then I think you already are on the same path, just coming along at your own pace, as we all are.

One thing I found out when I let go was that places like Bali (and so many other places!) are where many of those people who ‘think the same’ as you put it, already are. Everyone is here waiting for you Pierre. It’s ironic too: having the courage to strike out on your own shows that you can live untied to the Familiar, and then you find so many kindred spirits in faraway places!

I found no encouragement to wage freedom among people who–decent as they might be–do not wage freedom, then I saw that I needed only to give myself permission. It starts with a feeling. All the best to you too Pierre.

Thor Castaldo 09.23.12 at 7:49 pm

Hey Tom im 19 years old and have so many questions about bali and how things work its crazy, ive been doing alot of research and learned so much, it seems like the more i read the more anxious i get to start my move, it just sounds so perfect and beautiful i can hardly sleep at night here in ny. i feel like everyday here is wasted, i just want to learn how to start my journey, im mostly concerned how to earn income, your blog is awsome by the way… if you could shoot me an email i would love to learn more.
-Thor Castaldo

Ann Steyn 11.04.12 at 6:10 pm

Hi Tom ,

Thank You for taking the time to write your post . I thoroughly enjoyed reading with a smile constantly beaming on my face .

I am planning to spend a lot more time in Bali in the near future .

I have been travelling to Bali for 25 years now and look forward to each visit .

Kindest Regards


Dr Claudia Bell 11.12.12 at 7:56 pm

I am a social researcher eager to talk to Westeners who have retired to Bali!
I am visiting late November – all of December.
If you are willing to have a friendly chat about making this life change, and living in Bali, please send me an email and I’ll arrange a time to visit.
Priacy respected, of course.
I’d love to hear from you

Dr Claudia Bell

shera_m 11.27.12 at 4:04 am

Hi Tom,
your articles gave me goose bumbs, my husband and i visted bali a few months back and we got home with a promis to self that we gonna go back to live in bali.

We are both bankers with a very settled life, we are thinking to make the move in 2014. we are also thinking to start a business in bali (probably service type or trade as we dont have much capital to invest) . but we are not sure where to start the search. can you give us some guidance. how to get information about the market, legalities, visa issuance, good lawyers…etc.

anyway you can shed some light where we can start our search? Thanks a bunch

peace and light

Tricia 11.27.12 at 8:03 am

Great post, thank you. I’d be grateful if you could send us a copy of ‘Bali on the Cheap’.

Many thanks

Tricia & Dayne

Tom 12.01.12 at 1:51 pm

Hi Lila and thanks for your comment. Glad to hear that you enjoyed Bali well enough to maybe make it a base for yourself. It has been better for me than I’d hoped. I do have a post that directly answers your question of how to stay in Bali for longer than six months, simply click this link:

I hope that Bali On The Cheap helps you plan; I’m biased but I think it’s a good place to start for longer stays. It would be easiest on my end if you’d enter your first name and email in the box on the right sidebar or at the end of the article: the guide is set to automatically come to you as an email attachment when you do that. Let me know if you have any problems with it. Let’s have coffee when you return to Bali! Thanks again.— Tom

Natascha 12.02.12 at 11:36 pm

I’m a single female and I’ve decided to move to Bali for a few months, approx 3-6. What area/neighborhood should I explore? I don’t want to be removed from society and people and of course I’ll need access to the internets. Also is work abundant in Bali? I’m a skincare professional and a writer as well as a social media marketing guide. I appreciate your time and your blog, it is incredibly well-thought, well-written and the flow is great. Thank you!
Best, Natascha

Tom 12.09.12 at 12:53 pm

Hi Natascha- congrats on your decision to come to Bali; I looked at your site and I have a feeling you’ll meet a lot of kindred spirits!

Most Westerners start out either in the southern end of the island in places like Seminyak, Petitinget, Legian, Sanur, etc., or up in Ubud, a little bit north of Denpasar. There are still plenty of very nice living situations you could find for yourself in Ubud, and if the beach isn’t a priority for you you’ll find it much less hectic than the other places I just mentioned, and probably a slightly lower cost of living there too.

Working in Bali as a westerner is possible, certainly many people have started businesses locally or do business in export etc. Also, the internet has opened up a million ways to work as a entrepreneur from anywhere obviously, and many people maintain businesses that are not location-specific. Spending much less to live in SE Asia has a way of making online businesses that might not be viable back home worth pursuing here…

I cover lots of the details of getting started in Bali in my eGuide Bali On The Cheap, and if you don’t mind leaving your first name and an email in the box on the right sidebar, it will come to you automatically once you opt in. Good luck Natascha!

Nardia Peos 12.17.12 at 5:16 am

Hi Tom
Just came across your site after reading horror stories and warnings about off shore business relationships with Bali.
Im a designer that has been entertaining the idea of manufacturing small runs of garments shoes and leather ect in Bali. I have dabbled with some manufactureres already and all though you have some wins and some loses the loses are starting to get me down, I have spent alot of time holidaying in Bali and recently visiting to set up business relationships. One thinks one is on the same page to be completely blind sided with the realization that some one has mis understood the other and now there are ill feelings. Not intended on my part at all…is this just the nature of the territory when dealing with the balinese peoples? I have had a store owner tailor my designs to then have her hanging them in her store with her label on for sale!
PLease tell me this is common place so I am not completley horrified!
You pages have given me hope where I was ready to settle for numb despair. I have invested time and money for the last 6 months and require renewed optimism to dust myself off and surge forward.
Any words of wisdom experience and practical advice will be greatly appreciated.
My intentions have been to manufacture a clothing collaboration twice a year to sell to retailers in Australia. I hand craft my own jewelry.
look forward to hearing from you.
Velvet Sparrow

Rusty 12.29.12 at 9:52 am

Do you think it would be easy enough to set up with a young family? I’m recovering from illness and we could really do with some r and r for six montjs.. Backpacked a bit in my youth but the family makes this not an option now(toddler is 2
Tapping this out on my mobile with cold fingertips.

FAITH LEE 12.31.12 at 5:22 pm

Hi Buddy,
I’m moving to Bali in Feb and Iwanted to recieve a copy of living in Bali cheao (I think thats what its called!).

Awesome article.


Marianna 01.07.13 at 12:32 am

Hi Tim,
Great reading all your stuff, but even nicer to see how you take the time to reply to everyone! Must be almost a full time gig!
Anyway after having been an expat in Rome for 8 years, then returned to Melbourne for 7 years, I will arrive in Bali on 15 Jan to stay.
I already have my 60 day visa and will apply for a Retiree Visa when I get there. I run an online business so it’s great as I can work anywhere in the world.
I am young at heart even though a touch older and am so looking forward to the challenge and enjoyment of life in Bali.
I look forward to receiving “Bali on the Cheap” updates and perhaps meeting up for a coffe/juice and a chat.
Keep us the fantastic work.

Tom 01.12.13 at 7:54 pm

Thank you Fai– I emailed you but it came back as undeliverable.

For my Bali on the Cheap ebook, if you wouldn’t mind the easiest way for me to get the guide to you is for you to go to and sign up in the box either on the right sidebar, or at the end of the article, simply leaving your first name and a working email address.

The guide will come to you automatically when you do that, please check your spam folder, and don’t worry I will never spam you. Please let me know if this doesn’t work for you so I can fix it.

Thanks again for your interest Fai, and if I left any of your questions on getting started as an expat in Bali unanswered, please do let me know. I will be releasing a updated edition of the guide in 2013.

Tom 01.12.13 at 8:38 pm

Hi Velvet Sparrow — I have some anecdotal experience with getting clothes and leather goods made in Bali, though I’ve never done any exporting myself. My wife did quality control for an Aussie clothing label years ago, and one of her main hobbies in Bali is getting clothes/bags/shoes/jewelry made by local craftsmen. I’ve heard horror stories, but I know of many business relationships and transactions ongoing for years, and obviously there is a huge volume of merchandise getting produced in Bali.

A couple of things: I think people underestimate the amount of time it might take to find a manufacturer who does good work in a timely manner, for a reasonable price. Also I think that larger orders often will take precedence, regardless of deadlines. Look at it from the perspective of the locals: they’ve probably heard of promises of recurring business many times from people who don’t show up again after an initial order. I think the loyalty that you naturally hope for from a manufacturer takes a back seat to a ‘bird in the hand’ approach sometimes. Might also explain your designs hanging in a shop with someone else’s label on them… I know I’d be upset.

Maybe starting with small runs from several different manufacturers is one way forward; expect little and give everyone time to prove themselves. I think in time you’ll find good relationships, and I understand it’s taken awhile for you already, but there are skillful honest manufacturers out there and I hope you find them. Good luck and please let me know how it goes.

Tom 01.12.13 at 8:55 pm

Hi there Rusty and thanks for visiting. I’m biased I know, but think that Bali is a terrific place for a break for whatever reason. Having a toddler wouldn’t dissuade me at all, I certainly know many Westerners raising kids of all ages here, and the Balinese certainly are too! In fact, you will have help caring for your toddler from your pembantu/maid or a dedicated minder for your child, and Indonesians really dote on little kids, it’s great to see.

Even if money’s a bit tight, and even with rising prices in Bali you can definitely find a place for yourself that’s comfortable. Obviously the further you are from the beach areas in the south part of the island the less you’ll pay for rent and everything else. I’ve often thought that if I was coming to get set up nowadays I’d look harder at Ubud, because while it isn’t too close to the ocean it is very nice, with it’s rice terraces on rolling hills, and good restaurants and most other amenities.

Good luck with your recovery Rusty, take a look at my Bali on the Cheap ebook–it is free–and please hit me up if you have additional questions about particular areas of the island or anything else.

Tom 01.12.13 at 9:37 pm

Hi Marianna– Thanks for the kind words. It does take me a little while to respond sometimes but I do try to!

Great to hear that you’ll be getting the retiree visa and putting down some new roots, departing tomorrow! Bali is a stellar place for the young at heart of all ages IMO. You’ll find many, many people who make their living online too. Please let me know how it goes. I’m in the US at the moment but should be back in a couple of months.

If you have time I’d love any feedback you can give me regarding Bali on the Cheap, I’m planning on putting an updated version out in 2013. Good luck Marianna! –Tom

Michelle 01.20.13 at 11:36 am

Tom, enjoyed your site and had a couple of questions I thought you may help me with. I live down the road in Perth WA and have no purpose to my plans as yet other than to more fully experience the Balinese culture and look after myself a bit (I have been unwell and have come to the conclusion that it may be a case of, Physician, heal thyself).

I’ve been to bali a few times both in kuta etc and ubud. I am looking to lease a villa for a yr initially but would love the serenity of Ubud and theabouts with access to Seminyak and its delights. Do you have any ideas of anywhere suitable or must I choose one or the other.

Also I am planning a trip in a month or so to try organise accommodation etc. Do you know of any individuals or agencies trustworthy and to the point who could assist me in my search? Would a week be enough time?

Lastly the visa question is a social visa difficult to arrange. I do not have anything organised as yet but am a registered nurse and not averse to helping out preferably with newborns as that is where my skill set lies?

Sorry to bombard you but any help given would be much appreciated.
Thanks again

Alandra 01.23.13 at 2:51 pm

So many friends and family members admonish my “foolish decision” to come to Bali–I know that I am right on track!! Thanks for your added inspiration and for your Bali on the Cheap.
Relaxing into freedom,

K 01.30.13 at 6:26 pm

we have been going to Bali for many years now and have imported for our business from there and many other asian countries….we are now retired,not young but not too old,we will be staying in ubud for two months in july and august this year,now heres the question,do you know of any charities that may need a hand a few days a week?

Tom 02.02.13 at 4:25 pm

Hi Alandra– too bad if some of your friends and family aren’t on board with your decision to come to/live in Bali, but I’ve found that regular bombardments of Skype video chats from idyllic beachside restaurants and cafes bring them around eventually! I mean that literally too, I can’t count the number of people who have come to visit over the years, many of them for longer than they’d intended… Well anyway, I hope it’s working out for you.

I’m glad you found Bali on the Cheap helpful Alandra! Stay tuned, I’m planning on doing an update for 2013!

Tom 02.02.13 at 4:59 pm

Hi K– well there are no shortages of charities, orphanages, animal welfare organizations you could help, depending on you interests.

A word about orphanages though; there are scams on the island. This article from Bali Advertiser explains it well, and it has a list of places that are reputable at the bottom, you could contact them even before you leave Australia:

In Ubud you’ll have no problem finding opportunities to help as it’s so full of expats as you know; you’ll find up-to-date leads very quickly talking with Western restaurant/bar owners. I’d head over to my friend Mark’s restaurant Delicious Onion in Ubud, he’ll have suggestions I’m sure.

Tom 02.02.13 at 5:18 pm

Hi Mish– since Ubud is 90 minutes or less depending on traffic from Seminyak you’re not far. I’ve always thought that if I wasn’t so addicted to my sunset beach walks I’d be very happy in Ubud, it’s much quieter and generally cheaper too. I think even though it’s smaller I find restaurants that are every bit as good as Seminyak/Keroboken, just my opinion. Again, since quiet is a probably easier to find in Ubud, living there and visiting Seminyak etc. might be better than the reverse. Odd thing for me to say maybe, since I live in Seminyak!

I suppose you could find a local agent help you, but in my opinion spending a couple of days exploring Ubud or Seminyak for opportunities is the best way to go, along with talking to expats you’ll meet quite easily. You also could start even before you leave by looking at the Bali Advertiser online for current properties available. And yes, I do think a week would be enough to at least narrow down your search.

Social visas: I covered the process pretty thoroughly in this article at the following link; if you haven’t looked at this post please do, and let me know if I haven’t answered all of you questions: Social visa/Sosial Budaya process.

Good luck to you Mish– let me know how it goes for you.

Andy 02.04.13 at 2:09 am

Hi Tom,

First of all thank for an amazing article. It resonated with me in so many ways and my Indonesian wife and I are planning to move to Bali in the next 12-18 months where I can comfortably trade stocks for a living.

I would appreciate a copy of your book and would like to thank you for your efforts on this website.


(the email address obviously doesn’t have the xxx in it).

Karen 02.19.13 at 8:40 pm

I really enjoyed your inspiring article. I just visited Bali for the first time a couple of weeks ago after wanting to visit for over 15 years. I fell in love with it and felt so at peace wen I was there. I am thinking of retiring there. Thank you again.

Riz 02.23.13 at 12:54 pm


Wonderful blog. We can’t wait to come check out Bali. It’s high on our list as a possible place to live as expats in the near future.

Tom 02.23.13 at 4:17 pm

Thank you so much Karen, and I hope you are able to retire in Bali as you hope.

My e-book Bali on the Cheap has plenty of timely, ‘boots on the ground’ (flip-flops on the ground?) advice on how to get started as a long-term visitor in Bali– the easiest way for me to get it to you is if you’d leave your name and a working email in the box on the sidebar; it will be emailed to you immediately, automatically. Let me know if you have questions after reading it please, I’m planning an update for 2013 and I’ll incorporate readers’ comments and questions into it. Thanks again!

Tom 02.23.13 at 4:23 pm

Hi Andy and thank you for the kind words. Day-trading (night trading if you’re trading the North American markets) is certainly a way to make the relatively low amount of money you’ll need to live in Bali, and I wish you luck in executing your plans.

I have an autoresponder set up for automated delivery of Bali on the Cheap; please leave your first name and a working email in the box in the sidebar and it will be mailed to you immediately. I promise not to spam you. Please let me know if I’ve left any of your questions unanswered; I’m planning an update in 2013 and I’m incorporating reader comments into it. Thanks again Andy.

Tom 02.23.13 at 4:27 pm

Sounds great Riz, there are lots of places in Asia one might choose for retirement but you could do much worse than Bali in my opinion! I’d suggest getting my free ebook Bali on the Cheap as a starting point; just leave your first name and a working email in the sidebar of Wage Freedom , and the ebook will come to you automatically. Thanks again Riz!

Geoff 02.26.13 at 3:32 am

Long time part time resident of Bali, and Sumba. Love your blog.

Now, where can I get that authentic masala dosa, you mentioned in the opening paragraphs, I usually have to fly to Singapore or K.L. for the indulgence.

Help a brother, out, Kasi Tau.

Tom Mullaly 03.03.13 at 5:43 pm

As far as I know there is nothing like an authentic masala dosa to be found in Bali– and if someone would tell where I can find one I’d be grateful!

I think I wrote that I had to go to Kuala Lumpur or Singapore to find one unfortunately, but at least Air Asia makes it pretty inexpensive to get there!

Eddie 03.06.13 at 8:38 am

Hi Tom,
I am a expat living in Bali more then 2 years. I am on a visa run in Bangkok and came across your blog when searching for details on my social visa.
I read your 19 best reasons, everything you said was true.

One Friday night in Oct. 2012, I had a blackout at my house in Seminyak, no big deal, I ran out for Padang in my favorite place on Jl. Legian. While sitting and eating I realized that I had nothing keeping me in Bali, so why not travel and see if there might be a better place to live.
I thought that I would go to Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam, and Thailand as it was dry season there and rainy in Bali.
After more then 4 months, I find myself in Bangkok, of course I have been here before. I come to Bangkok annually for health care and check-ups.
I have truly enjoyed this time, traveling alone, meeting people and seeing some beautiful place. What I have discovered is that there are wonderful place to visit and if one hasn’t seen So. East Asia he should, but I must say I can’t wait to get back to Bali. Bali really has it all. There is no better place for me.

I don’t know if this is the right forum but I have a quick question.
As you know health care in Indonesia is at best poor. I am insured but it is very expensive, and I have a very high deductible, so it is for catastrophic illness or accident. I pay for my own doctor appointments and drugs, still with the cost of insurance included it is still less then I would pay back in NY.
I was wondering do you have any leads for reasonably priced health insurance?

I will be back in Bali in 9 days, I am counting the minutes until I am home.
Thank you for all the work you put into you blog, I look forward to being a devoted follower.
fondest regards,

Tom Mullaly 03.10.13 at 5:33 pm

Hi Eddie– thanks for sharing your story! It sounds like we think similarly about quite a few things. One of the things that drew me to Bali as a base was that it’s so close to so many interesting places, and with a little flexibility and planning Air Asia will get you to them extremely cheaply. Bali rainy season is a great time to do a SE Asia tour, definitely, and we’ve turned a few of my visa runs into longer trips over the years.

As to your question about health insurance: we also have gone the high-deductible route via a US insurer, and that means that we’ve had several visits to doctors in Bali (for minor things), and Singapore and Bangkok the couple of times I’ve wanted to visit better hospitals, the cost for all of which came out of my pocket.

I was told by my insurance company when I asked at one point that I should save all receipts for health care for which I paid abroad, that these expenses could probably be applied toward my deductible, but since my medical expense so far haven’t approached my deductible, I’m still paying full price. I inagine this is the boat you’re in also Eddie.

When I talk to people about the Bali expat lifestyle I’m always careful to include a disclaimer about health care in Indonesia. If one needs to see doctors frequently and expects Western-style medical attention, it might not make sense. (Mind you, I have met VERY COMPETENT, CARING DOCTORS IN INDONESIA as well, who unfortunately are often without the most up-to-date equipment/facilities. I’m sure this will change over time.)

I do have an older friend who has a policy that will pay for evacuation to Singapore in the event of an emergency; I don’t know the name of the company but it was one of the companies that advertise in the Bali Advertiser. If memory serves the cost was around ~$300/year. This would at least save thousands of dollars (I’d imagine) if you used it.

The real goal though is long-term coverage that doesn’t break the bank, and ‘travel insurance’, is simply not affordable for open-ended stays of more than a few months, I.E. for expats in Bali.

One place to start Eddie, is BIMC’s ‘membership’ program, which you can read about here:

The price for a single person is just IDR 1.935.000 at the time of writing, but digging into it here , you can see that it gives you discounted prices at BIMC of between 10% and 30%, which is not as comprehensive as we’d like. Also, I wonder if you need a KITAS to be considered an ‘expat’ for coverage.

In any case, it’s a start. I’ve thought about doing some real research into the insurance issue, as I get a lot of question about it, and turning it into a large blog post. Not sure how much I’ve helped you with this but stay tuned Eddie, and if you find a solution that works for you please let me know.

Ben M.C 03.22.13 at 12:16 pm

Hi there, what a wonderful site you have put together. I love your passion for Bali and how helpful you are to those interested in living there. Do you have any insight on what a young person could do to get by in Bali. My family is not wealthy, so I can’t just live off some allowance or trust fund and I don’t have much savings considering I’m only 28. I would have to work, which I hear is hard for foreigners in Bali.
Any advice would be most helpful.
Thank you

Henny 04.01.13 at 3:05 pm

Hello Tom,

I just stumbled onto your website this afternoon and am so happy I did! I was born in Indonesian (Surabaya), but have lived in the U.S. for over 45yrs. I have visited Bali a few times and every time, I’ve fallen in love w/the place more and more. I think a deep seeded longing in my heart to move back to my birthplace has helped me make the decision to eventually retire there. This won’t happen for another 12 years but your blog has given me a new inspiration to make this dream come true. I look forward to reading more of your stories in the meantime. Thank you so much!

Heidi 04.04.13 at 8:18 am


I like many other people that have replied are about to embark the journey of a life in Bali, I am looking into hair and make up for weddings, I did it for ten years in Australia but for the last 3 have been a flight attendant with many Bali trips.. And each time never wanting to go home.
Currently researching and googling everything-legalitys, visas, rentals etc its overwhelming to say the least, but refreshing to come along something like this to reiterate.. It can and will happen!

I’m so looking forward to it.

So thank you!

Tom Mullaly 04.04.13 at 6:31 pm

Thank you so much, comments like yours make my day! I certainly hope that you’re able to make Bali your dream retirement spot–I think it’s hard to do much better than Bali for retirement for Australians, Americans, Europeans, and people born in Indonesia too! Thanks so much again.

Tom Mullaly 04.04.13 at 6:38 pm

It can certainly can happen Heidi, I’m always amazed at the range of working situations that expats in Bali have created for themselves. I’m pretty sure that no two are identical actually.

Anyway, wedding-related businesses are huge now in Bali as you know, and especially if you are catering to the Aussie market you’ll have success I’m sure. I’d suggest polishing up your online presence, as most people will want to make arrangements before they leave home. It’s also the best way to market oneself nowadays, low-cost, etc. For visas, you could start with a VOA but if you’re sure you want to stay I’d suggest looking into a social visa, which you must get before you come and which lets you stay for a total of six months without having to leave.

Anyway, all my best to you. Good luck!

victoria 04.13.13 at 12:53 pm

Hey Tom,

I’ll be visiting Bali this summer to determine if I’d like to retire there in a year. I’m specifically interested in the Australian retiree community, even though I’m American (lived in Sydney once and Aussies are super fun).

What can you tell me and where do I find them?


p.s. That’s not to say I’m not interested in the Balinese culture as well.

Robert Nowill 04.29.13 at 7:03 am

Hi Tom,

Could you please send me “living on the cheap in Bali please.



Geoff sewell 05.07.13 at 3:14 am

Copy of Bali on the cheap please. Thank you. Geoff

Arty Santini 05.07.13 at 5:53 am

Interesting article but no broad view perspective. You fail to mention the lack of infrastructure in this place, the dishonesty of many of the ‘locals’, the commonly accepted unhygienic practices in nearly all the eating places (including the up-market and trendy ones), the increasing pollution, the filthy beaches, the lack of amenities, (ever tried to find a clean public toilet), the lack of road rules. Astaga, I’m getting writers cramp, maybe its time I moved on, after 53 years, I think I’ve seen it all in Bali. Don’t lose your rose tinted specs….(or get them stolen).

Michelle J 05.13.13 at 6:44 pm


I am planning on moving to Bali hopefully Ubud but my mom is coming as well. I have info on visa’s and such but cannot find anything on health insurance that can be purchased there can you give me some advice?

Gini 05.16.13 at 2:39 pm

Hi Tom
Your blog is quite inspirational, exciting and timely. I have been dreaming of living in Bali for years ( been there already about 14 times) and am about to retire there! Woohoo :-) I will come to stay ( Sanur, Ubud & Canggu) for a couple of weeks in July to check out where I want to live. Do you know if the retirement visa requires you to rent a villa, or can you just stay in a (family run) hotel for the long term? Cheers and thanks again

Laura 05.20.13 at 9:59 pm

Hi Tom,

Could you reccomend places for expats to look for work? are there any websites?

How do i also get a copy of your book?

Many Thanks,

Sarah Lawson 05.26.13 at 11:17 pm

Hi Tom,

I just want to say that you truly are an inspiration. I’ve just gotten back from Bali and I loved every single minute of it. The food, the people, the smells and the experiences!I wish i could go back in time and a longer vacation. I am really full of envy that you can visit all these exotic locations.

Zaher 06.08.13 at 12:36 am

Cld you please send n the e news letter…living cheap in Bali that yo have put together
Would really appreciate it

Mike 06.08.13 at 8:15 am

Fantastic entries, would love a copy of On the Cheap, and
think insurance info would be really useful.

Steve Rossell 06.14.13 at 11:37 pm

G’day Tom and thanx for your blog. I just stumbled across it today and felt the urge to write to you. In 18 hours I’ll be leaving Melbourne, Aus’ for my first extended stay in Bali in nearly 30 years. Over the intervening years I have travelled Indonesia, from Medan in the north and Nias to the west. South through the Mentawii Isles. Sumbawa, Timor. I guess you could say that I love Indonesia. But Bali has always remained a special place for me, in fact I proposed to my wife on Nusa Lembongan with a ring that I brought over from Australia. Back then there was only a handfull of losmen and warungs with the headland being completely bare of developement. Alas, I no longer live with my wife but enjoy and maintain a close relationship, however, I too am now looking at a life in Bali. This trip will be my first trip in a series of trips I am planning over the next 12 months. Two weeks this time, to explore the variety of locations that I think may be, well…me. From the North coast, the N’th east and N’th west coastal area’s as well as the more central area’s that surround Ubud. In Jan/Feb’, I plan to return for 4-6 weeks to re-visit some places during the wet season and then, (maybe June/July ’14) I plan to take 12 months ‘leave without pay’ from my job and spend that time in Bali and surrounds. As you can see, I have a more cautious approach to moving my life to Bali. After working in the work that I have always loved for 40 years (20 of those for myself) and been lucky enough to have work that’s paid me to travel the world. I’ve always managed that time to have a life with my family rather than possessing the latest car or a “McMansion”. The reason for posting this is, I’m really just convincing myself that this is the path for me at this point in my life. I know that the Bukit and surrounds now swarm with people and development but I’m okay with all that and accept that things like a busy road now runs along the fore shore of Kuta (and has for some years now). After all, anyone that visit’s Bali is bound to carry an urge to re-visit for the rest of their lives. As have I. I’m blessed, I have options and I suspect that when I step through that airplanes door on arrival at Denpasar International Airport and I feel and smell Bali once more (avgas and all), my long term plan might be replaced with a much shorter one. My apologies for being so long winded with my message but I hope it adds another perspective for the folks that might be hesitant to make the leap of faith.

Tom Mullaly 06.15.13 at 8:38 am

Thank you so much for sharing your story Steve. I think with your attitude you would find happiness anywhere, but it sounds like you’ve thought through your move to Bali very well and I’m betting that it suits you fine.

It certainly has changed over the years but in some ways for the better in my opinion, and it’s still quite easy for an expat to create a comfortable and enriched life for themselves.

Please look me up, via this site or Twitter (@wagefreedom) when you come, it would be great to swap a few stories! All my best Steve.-Tom

Tom Mullaly 06.15.13 at 8:55 am

Hi Sarah, and thank you for taking the time to leave a comment. I hope you can create a way to travel more if that’s what you want, and even to make a base for yourself for part of the year in a place that suits you, again if that’s what you want.

I know so many people in Bali and around SE Asia who have done this, and it’s less about being wealthy than it is about making a specific plan to do so. Certainly it’s easier to do that than it’s ever been before.

Hey remember too–for many people Australia is a dream, exotic location! All my best and good luck to Sarah.-Tom

Tom Mullaly 06.15.13 at 9:01 am

Hi Gini and thanks for leaving a comment. I don’t think the retirement visa requires any longer-term commitment to a specific residence at all. I’m sure an address will be required, but if you are staying with a family or even long-term at a guesthouse I’m sure you could use their address. All my best and good luck to you Gini.-Tom

Rens-NL 06.19.13 at 2:33 am

Hi Tom,

Nice articles you’re writing down here..!
Happy I found this website.

Hopefully you will reply me at my mail, unfortunately I lost yours..

Kind regards, also to D.

Rens V.

Judi Manley 07.07.13 at 3:29 am

Hi Tom
Wonderful post- touched my heart and yearning for a similar way of life- I would love a copy of Bali on the Cheap if you would be kind enough to share
Thank you

Kerrie 07.15.13 at 3:34 am

Wow!!!! Thank you do much for this amazing resource! Your writing style is amazing and so inspiring! I am at a turning point in my life and reading this is so encouraging thank you I will likely have Few questions in the furture bu for now I just wanted to say thanks ;)

Jill Dobrowolski 07.16.13 at 1:32 pm

Hi Tom!

Thank you very much for this great information! I really appreciate the insight. I am a hotel sales professional looking to make the move to Bali with a friend (I’m from California and she’s from Spain). Do you happen to have any insight on getting a work permit / hotel job in Bali? I’m basically wondering if they will ever hire an American over a local..i do have several years of experience though. Any advice/tips would be awesome! Thank you Tom :)


Tabetha 07.18.13 at 5:43 pm

Hey, Tom……why the cat? And, who cares for the wonderful, furry, companion when u r away?

mahalya middlemist 07.21.13 at 5:52 am

Hi Tom, thanks for your inspiring post. I am at a cross-roads in my life right now and have been dreaming of living in Ubud and sending my daughter to the Green School while I take time to figure out my new direction. Your positive words make me feel the this might actually be achievable . All the best Mahalya

Desley 07.30.13 at 6:44 pm

Hi Tom,

After swaying back and forth about making the move to Bali, you have helped me make my mind up to GO!!

Would you be so kind as to send me your e-Book? I would be so very grateful.


Dom 08.08.13 at 2:30 am

Great article, thanks for that

Have you written a similar one on the drawbacks of Bali living…? Be good to get a picture of both sides of the coin



David 08.16.13 at 9:29 pm

Hi Tom

I am considering a move to bali with my wife and young son.

I will commute to Singapore each week for work. Nobody will work in Bali.

I have been recommended by a immigration consultancy a 12 month multiple re entry business visa which is renewable.

Does this sound ok?



Siu lin 08.20.13 at 12:28 pm

Hi, Tom

I was born in Indonesia and been living here in US for the past 25 years. I stumbled to your blog this morning and can’t stop reading ….and wiped my tears. (I was in the cross roads to make a bold move /decision). You see, me and my husband who is a native Californian has been dreaming to live in Bali ,to live a simpler life or simply living a life that matters to us ,away from hustle n bustle of a rat race here in LA.
Every words that I read just nailed it ,not just an inspiration well received ,but an encouragement as well. We went to visit Bali this march, and my heart was aching when we were about to leave, especially being an Indonesian, I always hold a sentimental feeling whenever it’s time to depart motherland.
Thank you so much for your deep appreciation about living in Bali , Indonesia and Gracefully told.
We will be returning to Bali this coming January to stay for 5 months and also to prepare living there by 2015. I hope we could meet with you in Seminyak for Kopi and Pisang goreng. Terima kasih!!

Ann 08.20.13 at 1:53 pm

Bali on the cheap…would really help my decision ….can I live as a single d female at around 700. Per month? Room share? And can pets come to Ubud? Small dog under 7 pounds? Thanks so much!

Simon Sayer 08.21.13 at 10:00 am

Hi Tom. My wife and myself ask ourselves every day if we should experience
More in life. We have two children together and I have a son whom I see regularly too.
We question the importance of schools here compared to life elsewhere and the experience we will get. Can you put me in touch with people there if similar situation?
What advice do you have? Life is too short to miss.
Thanks, Simon

Lori 08.24.13 at 9:20 pm


Thank you for sharing the beauty of Bali. I’m at that place in life where I know its time for a change and that theres more to life then (the proverbial) “this”. I want a simpler life but don’t feel that I’ll find it here in Columbus, Ohio. I was in Bali on business this past June and fell in love with the people. Ever since then I’ve thought a lot about what it would be like to live there and have the peace and happiness that my soul is craving. The biggest thing I’m stuck on is how I would make a living while I’m there. If you could provide any information on what I might do to be able to live as an expat in Bali I would be eternally grateful. With gratitude…..Lori

John 09.01.13 at 5:08 am

Please email me your new blogs?


lisa flower 09.02.13 at 6:06 am

Hi Tom,
I enjoyed this article SO much… My husband and I are around 50 (Im just under, he is just over) and we have raised our 7 children but as man makes plans and the gods laugh, we now have another 2, coutesy of family, 5 and 3, who we adore but sometimes find a challenge. I have been travelling to Bali for medication for the past few years and before the blessing of the girls, was considering the move. Lately, I question why our plans should change? I cant think of single reason! I met up with some expats during my last visit but they were unwilling to talk to us as they were not happy and thought they would give us a poor impression….I wanted to talk to them badly, as many visits has shown me the wonder of Bali, perhaps some negative feedback would help me make a better decision. Did you ever write the flipside of this blog? Nothing could stop my love affair with the cukture and the people of Bali, but as I am travelling with chidren now, I thnk I need to be more realstic…. can you point me on the right direction please?
Thankyou for your writing, I enjoyed every syllable

Jordi 09.08.13 at 5:22 am

Hi Tom,

Great thoughts!
Please could you send us your eguide ?


Lem 09.11.13 at 2:05 am

I have fallen in love with Bali and would like to relocate. I also know the area where I would like to live. I wonder how much money you would suggest one SAVE prior to going to Bali. Do you think that if one had about $350,000 in retirement, that one could safely check out of the west at the early age of 50? ? I am ready to BAIL on the west and go BALI.

Bellé Flora 09.16.13 at 7:44 am

Hi Tom,

great pleasure to read your reflections. I am originally from Germany and live since 17 years in Brazil. Astonishingly once again I feel I have to move on. I never have been to Bali, not even to Asia, but something is calling me. I do know that we all are Co-Creators of a New Earth. I want to help creating more beauty through music and dance inspiring and helping to transform. I am selling basically everything, my apartment, my furniture, most of my cloth, electronics … etc. I won’t lie it is quite scary sometimes, but we all are invited to manifest our life-purpose. So I feel I don’t have the permission to hesitate anymore. I will enjoy very much getting your E-Guide since I am looking for a beautiful place where I can settle as long as it feels right. Also there are some things, besides my music equipment, I want to bring along (mainly books and some objects which have an idealistic worth for myself), so it would be important having already the place rented, before I take the trip from São Paulo to Ubud. As you suggest I will apply for the Social Visa. I think I will get in touch with your friend denny to assist me with that. Since I do Yoga for many years, I decided to do first a Teacher Certification Training. Also there is the Music Spirit Festival coming up, where I hope to get in touch with the sacred and healing music and dance community and find like minded artists. If you have any advise on that, like people I should get to know, I am grateful. Your input is very precious.
Thanks for your generosity and the sharing of your experience with such a welcoming and light-hearted spirit.

Blessings and Love from Brazil


Catherine 09.18.13 at 6:06 am

Hi Tom,
Thanks for writing and sharing…:)
I travelled 3times (10weeks) to Indonesia, including Bali, fall in love with this country ans I am about to take one year off to get closer to my dream life, beginning with some trainings in India and Thailand and planning a first 6months stay in Indo in 2014, in order to organize maybe a permanent life there for the future…

I am wondering what Visa I should use if I want to stay 3/4 months in Bali and travel around Indo 2/3 months without restrictions…. (Sulawesi, flores, sumbawa, sumatra, mentawai, java, nias). What if I then want to settle down and open a wellness “business” there and be open like 6/8 months a year and in Europe the rest of the years/ is that possible to do? Whith what kind of visa and do I need help from a local indonesian to open something? What do you think?

Thanks for sharing your experience!
Thanks for your advice!!!


F Krue Krueger 09.19.13 at 11:07 am

My wife and I are already retired and at age 73 seem to be “stuck” here in Florida.

I’ve found that I need more information! Like what is a reasonable amount of money per month to live on there where you are? What kind of a home is available to rent and at what cost. You say that most restaurants have Wi-Fi but is high speed internet available in most homes? How much? What kind of health care is available (National?) at what cost. Our USA Medicare and supplement policies don’t work there. Is satellite TV available? Phone service other than cell? Crime rate?
Car Insurance? I guess what it comes down to is how much is it to live a nice relaxed life and not have much stress about money.

Bendigo 09.23.13 at 8:39 pm

Well written and very informative. I visit Bali (Seminyak) about 3-4 times a year but have never considered living there as I fear getting bored without some sort of business to keep me occupied, but who knows one day !!! Perhaps the only disappointment I have when I go to Bali is the lack of social activities for 40+ singles and couples. Maybe there is a business opportunity staring me in the face :-)
Thanks again for taking the considerable time to reply to all those who have responded to your article. Keep living the dream.

Tom Mullaly 09.23.13 at 9:10 pm

Thank you very much for your comment Bendigo. I like your idea about creating social activities for people in their 40′s and up. The club and bar scene in Bali is busy but rather one-dimensional maybe, especially for people who don’t drink (like me). Drop me a line if you like when you’re in Bali and we can brainstorm it!

Tom Mullaly 09.23.13 at 9:19 pm

Hi Catherine–It sounds to me like the social visa is what you need, as it allows you to stay for up to six months without leaving Indonesia.
If you do start a business then you’ll need a Kitas, or Indonesian residence and work permit. I’d suggest calling a couple of agents when you’re in Bali to get a good idea of the process as well as how much they will charge to help you. Certainly many, many foreigners open businesses in Bali, and staying for only part of the year is quite common as well. You’ll find no shortage of Indonesians who would love to help you run your business, and in my experience many of them are very well-educated and have good English. Good luck to you Catherine.

Tom Mullaly 09.23.13 at 9:30 pm

Hi Lem— I’d guess that would be much more than you ‘need’ to gets established, but I’d suggest taking an extended vacation in Bali and see for yourself just how much you spend.

One thing to consider is that after some months (depending on the person) sitting poolside, at the beach or at the pub might feel a little bit monotonous. Having achieved the goal of “living the dream”, the question of what to do with the rest of your life becomes very real. Most people I know have some sort of a business in Bali or else are back in their home countries from time to time. Not only does this give you something to do, but it will most likely provide an income as well.

As you know, you don’t need too much when the sun is shining and the food is cheap. Good luck and let me know how it goes.

Tom Mullaly 09.23.13 at 9:37 pm

Hi Lisa– Thanks for your comment. I haven’t written the article about the downsides of Bali, thank you for reminding me! For what it’s worth, in my opinion the positive aspects far outweigh the negative, and of course we ourselves largely determine our experience of a place, beyond the objective facts. Bali, like anywhere is probably mostly what you make of it, but for me, despite the traffic, the rising prices and minor inconveniences, one could still do a whole lot worse than Bali. I know I have!

Good luck and please let me know how it goes if you do decide to spend more time here.

Tom Mullaly 09.23.13 at 10:12 pm

Hi there Lori— Well this is a huge question because it’s really about more than the practicalities of making money in Bali, it touches on what you would want to do with your life if you seized overt control and redirected yourself. The good news is that as large and imposing as the question is, its very scope implies that the answers might be just about limitless too. That’s an exciting prospect, If you look at it the right way.

Years ago, I rationalized it like this: pursuing interests you have and creating businesses or cash flows around them, whether as ‘brick and mortar’ enterprises or online endeavors, won’t have to necessarily make anywhere near as much money in Bali as they would in the Western world, because of the lower cost of living here. Assuming you come with a certain amount of money saved, you’re essentially buying yourself time to simultaneously decide what it is you’d really like to be doing with your life, as well as what sort of business might suit you. There will be overlap between the two after all and in my experience just addressing these questions feels exhilarating and liberating enough to come up with some initial ideas, at least.

I know I’m not being specific, but really I can’t be without knowing you. I can tell you that thousands of foreigners have come and created restaurants, bars, yoga studios, worked at hotels, in orphanages and other charitable organizations, taught at international schools… Well you get the idea. Another fairly large segment of ex-pats has been able to translate expertise in their current professional fields to viable internet-enabled freelance businesses doing the same type of work. Developing entirely new skills and turning them into businesses can also be an interesting new beginning, especially if you’re not particularly excited about what you currently do for work.

One thing I can guarantee you: if you want to make it happen, you really can. I know too many people who have, of all ages and backgrounds, to doubt this.

I’m thinking of creating a workshop to help people address these issues, since so many people have approached me on this subject, and because I also grappled with these big questions years ago. When I do, I’ll be sending out invites to the email addresses left by people who have ordered the Bali on the Cheap e-guide.

Best of luck to you Lori.

Steve 09.30.13 at 1:37 am

How do we finance living in your beautiful country?

James harbot 10.02.13 at 8:43 am

Hello Tom, last year I was in Thailand for 3 month, sitting in a bar a British ex-pat asked if I have been to Bali, I replied NO, isnt that an expesive place to go. He replied, go to the back of the island away from the tourist parts, its where the ex Aussie service people retire, you can get a hotel for £5.00 a night and a beer for 25 pence. Unfortunatly, I did not write down this info. I am now destined to be in Bali early Feb for 3 month and kicking myself for not writing down that info. Can you throw any light upon this – please. I have also just finnished reading the book Bali Raw, I think if I read the book before booking my flight I would have been giving this trip a second thought.

Many thanks for any info, James.

Ryan 10.07.13 at 7:00 pm

Hi Tom,

Could you please send me a copie of your Bali on the cheap’

Thanks mate

shirley damazo 10.10.13 at 8:25 am

Quite interesting the article that gave me a clear idea of life in island since I’m planning to move to Bali. I’m currently living in France to see if it is worth the move from Greece but started suddenly dreaming of a life in Bali (have considered it before but never did it). I am a freelance and hope to move in the next two months.



Jose-Antonio 10.20.13 at 6:17 pm

Hey there Tom1
Thank you so much for your blog, it’s been really enlightening! I’m a very big fan of changes and pursuing life’s dreams. That’s one of the main reasons why I’m studying Life Coaching and why I moved to Miami about 4 years ago. I was born in Ecuador. I really like Miami and I’ve been extremely blessed and happy over here but I’m always open to new experiences and challenges. That’s what life is all about, right? Besides, I’m single and in my mid 30′s.

I spoke this weekend with a friend who recently moved to Bali and it kinda sparked my attention. Then I read your blog and things suddenly got more interesting… I could consider going a year or so somewhere like Bali and do an online masters / post graduate course in Life Coaching and / or Biblical studies. I am a very active Christian and I know the island is very spiritual but with a vast majority of about 84% Balinese Hinduism and just 1.7% Christianity. Could you please help me understand the reality of this matter a little better? Do you have any Christian friends living there and do you know if there are any active Christian churches around with weekly English services?

I had other questions about health insurance and extended visas but your previous posts already gave me a good idea about them! I read as well your comments about the cost of living but I noticed they were for couples and / or different kind of priorities. Could you please be so kind to guide me with the estimate monthly expense for a nice 2 bedroom villa or condo in a nice and safe community / neighborhood close to major touristic attractions and services? Remember I would be moving from Miami, single and mid 30′s so I rather stay close to the entertainment instead of retiring in a secluded pacific part of the island, haha. Beach could be a plus; I’ll finally be able to take surfing classes!

God bless and thank you very much in advance dear Tom

Justin westbury 10.23.13 at 5:27 am

Thanks mate.
Awesome write up answered a lot of question and create a sense a bliss to living as you so truthful told it that living was never ment to be 9-5 work to live slave away so you can taste whats living feels like.
I am I builder/carpenter in Australia and have done some travelling to Bali myself also my partner has been going there since she was very young, and with her uncle owning a susscess resort in Bali ( voiceroy) , very much sparked and idea change to why I get up in the morning.
We are in the process of finding a place to live a work Bali
If you could help It would be muchly appreciated , thanks justin/annie

Art 11.09.13 at 9:47 pm

My partner and I have been looking at making the move to Bali, I’m wanting to know what sort of finances are needed to completely set up home, staff and then if there are groups you can join for expat workers? Is there an email address I could grab off you?


Tara 11.21.13 at 11:00 am

Your blog about Bali is terrific. However, with all of the exact blogs and such that I’ve read, rarely does anyone break down the method to the madness of moving overseas. How much money did/does it take? How do you make a living over there? Are laws friendly for driving, owning your own business, buying a house? Yes, the mentality part I get. The language I can learn. But what are the rules for survival without winding up broke and going back to your home country because you need to make a living? I guess how do I plan some kind of move like this? That’s what I’d really like to know from a blog. I realize I have a huge hole inside of me, a yearning for more than the “American dream” can provide, but I don’t know anything else… It’s all an intangible dream at this point. Any advice would be much appreciated.

Jo 11.30.13 at 10:09 am

Hi Tom
Please could you email me a copy of your Bali on the cheap guide, Thanks :)

Tom Mullaly 11.30.13 at 9:00 pm

Hi Tara — I haven’t forgotten about you. Your question is one I get several times a week. It is clearly the ‘pain point’ for many people and I want to address it. I have some time to devote to Wage Freedom and I’m going to address the practicalities with a series of interviews with people who have made the jump to supporting themselves as digital nomads or expats. The first interview is tomorrow. If this interests you then please stay tuned; you might drop a working email into the box on the sidebar of

Ruby 12.08.13 at 2:02 pm

Hi Tom
Brilliant article thank you.
I’m 32 years old and have never been to Bali, but will probably make my first trip there next year. I have a big feeling/dream that I will want to stay and work long term, would you say its easy for me to network and find a good job whilst just on holiday there – by good job I mean corporate type? I have a degree in business/marketing with a wealth of experience in Sales and am living in NZ, I’m just never content wherever I go and want to live the dream. Is it easy getting a working holiday visa? Financially how flush would I need to be to come over and job search over say the course of 1-2 months? I am from the UK and dropped everything there to come to NZ and am now applying for residency – even though I crave to be elsewhere. I know you are not a career advisor or life coach but I just need some guidance…any advice would be much appreciated.

Girts Millers 12.10.13 at 11:59 pm

Hi Tom.

My Name is Girts.

Recently from two week holiday in Bali-Kuta. Very impressed with people, culture and weather. I am Really Considering to jump it to Asia. But I may need some assistance and help with advice. Would you be in position to help me a little? I am Latvian, been living in Ireland – Dublin for last 12 years. looking for adventure and change of lifestyle. Please send me email, or other social network contact so we can make a contact.

Many Thanks in advance.

Martha Lundmark 12.20.13 at 12:54 am

hi there, Thankyou for your inspiration. Would love any further info on living in Bali!
I too believe there are better ways to live…in the now…and felt incredibly supported creatively and spiritually in Bali. have visited several times and recently for 5 weeks. Am missing it very much. would be so grateful for any advice etc, I am a solo mother with 2 young children that also love Bali. Would need a job that fits in with a homeschooling lifestyle….? Best regards,

Martha 12.20.13 at 12:56 am

Hi Catherine–It sounds to me like the social visa is what you need, as it allows you to stay for up to six months without leaving Indonesia.
If you do start a business then you’ll need a Kitas, or Indonesian residence and work permit. I’d suggest calling a couple of agents when you’re in Bali to get a good idea of the process as well as how much they will charge to help you. Certainly many, many foreigners open businesses in Bali, and staying for only part of the year is quite common as well. You’ll find no shortage of Indonesians who would love to help you run your business, and in my experience many of them are very well-educated and have good English. Good luck to you Catherine.

Malcolm 01.04.14 at 3:16 am

hi really enjoyed your blogs and my wife and I are pensioners in Perth Australia and would love to rent somewhere in Bali and hope to fund our selves just on the Aussie pension for longish periods of time. Is that possible?
Cheers Malcolm and jan

Samantha Mudge 01.09.14 at 4:52 am

Hi I’m relocating to bali for 3 months to design & make bags etc for my online business with 2 children. I’m wondering about visa’s I was under the impression I could I could organise a sponsor and visa once I was in Bali . I would appreciate your feed back . I’m an Australian citizen

Jonathan Roberts 01.09.14 at 8:25 pm

Hi Tom,
Love your article, well written and in a easy to read style. I’ve started planning on a move to Bali and will follow your writing with interest. Perhaps a Move to Bali Guide should be on your list… :-)
Oh and happy 2014!

Monica 01.14.14 at 1:33 pm

Love your blog. I have come to a crossroads in my life and am seriously considering a move to Bali. Are you able to send me your book please?

SteveD 01.14.14 at 4:34 pm

Hi Tom, I found your advice and descriptions refreshing and encouraging. I know it’s not all “good stuff” over there, but it was nice to read such a positive perspective.
I have a wonderful wife and kids, but I am lacking personal passion, drive, definitely lacking any urge to play golf. My longest time in Bali has been just over a month in a “less touristy” mode. The taste of that simpler, relaxed lifestyle hinted at the possibilities that could be built on – both as an individual, and as a husband/father. After being dutiful all my life, I now don’t know what I want or how I want to live, but feel that Bali could throw me a lifeline and give me a different slate to work from. Thanks for some inspiration, including “It suggests a life that you might–being still alive–still live”.

Tom Mullaly 01.14.14 at 11:14 pm

Hi Steve, thanks so much for your comment, glad if you found some inspiration here.

I think we can attend to duties with which we find ourselves, as well as other ambitions we might have, but it does take effort to make it all work. Bali has been ‘a different slate’ as you put it for lots of expats here, and sometimes relocation is also a means to a psychological reset that can help us change things.

It does still take a plan, and work, but I know too many people here for whom Bali has been a part of positive change not to believe that it’s possible to make it happen.

Tom Mullaly 01.14.14 at 11:16 pm

Hi Monica, thanks for the kind words, good luck with your next step whatever it turns out to be. Let me know if you had any trouble with the Bali on the Cheap download.

Nicole 01.17.14 at 3:54 am

Hi Tom,
Interested in moving in the middle of feb . Am pretty well traveled working as a flight attendant for 6 years. Would love to work in an orphanage. what do you recommend on living and do I need a visa for that type of work?
Thanks! Nicole

Bob Allen 01.17.14 at 10:12 am

Just found your site.. and just felt like I needed to jot something down. As I write I am sitting at my desk at work and pondering life.
I retire in two weeks after 30 years in the Police, I am still young, 52!. I’m a liver of life, musician, thinker and conversationalist. I’v been thinking of coming to Ubud and living for a time, I’m attracted by the weather, people and culture. I want to walk, run and share a meal and a beer with likeminded locals and expats. I just thought I’d tell you!. Very excited by the prospect of maybe coming to Bali and thank you for the site. You obviously recommend Bali very highly, do you recommend Ubud?

Tom Mullaly 01.17.14 at 11:13 am

Hi Bob, thanks for sharing your story! I’m biased but I do think Bali is a worthwhile place to try something new or to entirely redefine your life. I think you’ll find plenty of kindred spirits here, Ubud is a beautiful place with a surprising amount of infrastructure and comforts (great restaurants etc). Be sure to drop me a line when you’re coming and we’ll have a coffee. Good luck to you Bob.-Tom

Tom Mullaly 01.17.14 at 11:21 am

Hi Nicole, actually I’m not sure if you need a visa to do volunteer work or not, I would ask around when you get here, talk to an agent. I have talked to many ex-pats over the years to have done all sorts of volunteering, including working at orphanages, so I’m sure you’ll have no problem finding a place that needs your help. Come to think of that they will probably help you with any special visa you need, my guess. Good luck Nicole.-Tom

Bob 01.27.14 at 9:55 pm

Tom…Really enjoying your site! I’m, at 75, considering retiring in Bali, and I’d love a copy of your ebook. Also, since I’m retiring on about $20,000 USD/year, what sort of accommodations can I get for, say $400 to $500 USD? I’m healthy and fit, so I wonder if there’s any part time work available. I did a Ph.D. program in English and worked as a psychotherapist for 37 years. Thanks in advance….B.

Maffioletti Diego 01.31.14 at 8:39 pm

Very very good blog you got here Tom.
We-re going to get to Bali by the half/end of march and be there throughout april, but if things go well and we get attached to the lifestyle, we could be thinking about something more long lasting.

Life in Europe is damn stressful and not as easy these times, i think this month in Bali will recharge my batteries.

I think that your e-book will come in specially useful to get the maximum experience within reasonable expenses. Especially for what regards the place to stay at.
So please, if you could spare a copy…

After having read your posts, I think that we’ll move to one of the ocean closer. Which one would you recommend?
The one you live into, the one starting with S that I keep failing to remember (silly me) would seem the best suited for our needs and probably one of the best serviced.

Of course suggestions are more than well accepted.
Great job anyway, we wanted to come there out of curiosity, now that curiosity has been spun’d over tenfold.

Nick 02.03.14 at 12:49 am

Hi Tom,

Very interesting article. I enjoyed it thoroughly.

I look forward to reading your guide’s.

Kind regard,s


Alejandra 02.04.14 at 8:30 pm

Hi tom and thank you for your excellent post. I am seriously considering a move to Bali. I have been an ‘expat’ for the last 18 years and have been lucky to be living in Venezuela, Bahrain, Istanbul. Bolivia, Indonesia (Balikpapan) and now China. I have been an art teacher most of my career and am ready for a change. I am done teaching in a school however still want to be involved with art and coaching or who knows, do something totally different and reinvent myself! I have an 11 year old son and was wondering if you know much about the schools and which ones are the best. I have narrowed my choices down to AIS, BIS and the Green school.mwhat do you know? A big reason for leaving China is it’s horrid air quality. What is it like in Bali? People there tend to burn their rubbish along with plastics etc.. Thanks for your help! Alejandra

Kely 02.07.14 at 12:15 am

Hi Tom,

Your writing is inspiring. This is one of my favorite Bali blogs.

I have a small fashion company, which I plan to operate from Bali instead of the US. I’m preparing and organizing a move to Ubud in a few months. I’ll be visiting this summer to look into renting a place, etc.

I plan to return the US every few months for my business, but would like to spend most of the time in Bali. I was wondering if you, or anyone, has an idea of the amount of money needed for a small move of about 15 boxes and a sewing machine from the East Coast to Ubud?

I’ve been told that $1,000 USD per month is enough to cover rent and living expenses. Does this seem correct? I’d love to work from home, and hope to hire a local seamstress to assist me.

Any information or suggestions would be welcome.
Thank you for creating this blog, the guide, and for all your advice.


Daryl 02.07.14 at 11:34 pm

Hi Tom,
Excellent weblog thanks.
My wife and I are planning to spend 3 months in Bali from June, with our 1yr old baby. I was there as a backpacker 25 yrs ago, and Lee and I had a week in Seminyak a couple of yrs ago – v different but we loved everything about it.
We’d like to find a place near a beach, not far from cafes and restaurants. Lee’s a writer and will sit in cafe’s while the baby and I hang out.
Your advice on a good area and how to find accommodation would be really appreciated.
Daryl and Lee

Steve 02.11.14 at 5:46 pm

Hi Tom, great site, very disillusioned with life in Sydney and would love a change of pace in Bali maybe Sanur? Would mean breaking my 40 year marriage as my wife is not interested in retiring early and moving overseas! All your reasons really resonated with me at the moment especially the travel opportunities once you are in Bali! The Balinese are great people. “Your time is limited, so dont live somebody elses life” is a famous saying of the late, great Steve Jobs. Another one that motivates me is “Dont collect Stuff, collect Experiences!” I love my wife and family dearly but I have this overwhelming desire of “Wanderlust”. Any suggestions Tom?

Justin 02.20.14 at 6:41 am

From UK, currently living in Tokyo but saving for my next port of call. I visited Bali last year and fell in love with the place. I’m determined to live there for a stint, not working apart from on my own projects. IT. WILL. HAPPEN! Thanks for the encouragement.

Tom Mullaly 02.20.14 at 7:35 am

Thanks for sharing your story Justin— I’m sure you will make it happen, and good luck to you !

Aghila Hill 02.21.14 at 2:28 am

Hi Tom
Great article. My sister and I just love Bali. I have been there five times and always stayed in Nusa Dua. I always wanted to have my own place in Bali but also to be able to generate some rental income. I love the idea of being close to the surf spots of Bukit but I also love being close to restaurants and bars etc. What would your advice be to buying a freehold villa in terms of location?

Preethi 02.21.14 at 1:07 pm

Hi Tom, really enjoyed reading your article. You are so generous with your time in answering questions! I fell in love with Bali 20 years ago whe I first came there. I live in England now but am originally from India. I also lived in Malaysia and speak some Malay. I have a five year plan to move to Bali after my sons goes to university.

I am a physical therapist doing massage, reflexology and acupuncture. I would like to mainly concentrate on doing acupuncture when I move there. Is it a therapy that is accepted in Bali? Can you make a living with it? Thank you in advance for your help. Preethi

Nicola 02.25.14 at 4:21 pm

Oh no!

I am filled with jealousy while reading your blog Tom!

I was born in Bali to an Indonesian mother and British father , I spent a great part of my childhood growing up on the beaches of such a glorious island! Truly miss paradise so much! From the sunsets to the night food markets, to the permanent smiles on the faces of the “locals” and to the smell of the rain on the hot ground. All of these memories imprinted in my head from such a young age. Now in the UK and as miserable as ever I am truly considering a move back to Bali. I’m studying a nursing degree here at the moment and hoping to qualify before I make any major decisions but I’m coming to Bali this summer to finally visit after being away from my motherland for 12 years! Even more special as I shall be taking my 3 year old son to visit this magical place. I would give an arm to give him the childhood I had in Bali and your blog has made me feel even more strongly about it.

Ahh I’ll be unable to sleep tonight thinking of potential plans and reminiscing!

jack 02.27.14 at 7:09 am

I was wondering what happens to your overseas pension if you retire in Bali. From my understanding I would be required to file a tax return with my pension and it would be taxed, regardless of the fact that the money comes from outside Indonesia. Any tips on this?

Alex 03.15.14 at 5:55 am

WOW!!! This made me smile a lot! Such an inspiration. I’ve just spent a month in Bali and can’t get the place out of my head. Planning to move within the next couple of months. You are definitely a person I could see myself having a bintang with, whilst watching the sun go down and having conversations that would be sure to inspire and last a life time :)

Tom Mullaly 03.15.14 at 9:36 am

Thanks Alex, glad you found some inspiration here! Drop me a line when you get back, I’d be happy to meet up.

Dawn 03.27.14 at 4:25 pm

Thank you for sharing your experiences. I visited Bali a few summers ago to volunteer to teach English in Keramas. I have never felt so enlightened and so much more of myself. After returning to the US, a day does not go by where I long to return to Bali either to volunteer another summer or return as an expat. I am not by any means monetarily rich, I am a teacher by trade, but I feel living in Bali would be beyond riches ~ just the self-awareness, appreciation for what is around you, and those moments where you find the perfect time to do everything you would want to do and as you said, to “deserve to pursue living as you define it.”
I would appreciate a copy of your guide to living in Bali. If you have any other guides to employment (especially for teaching) I would greatly appreciate that as well. My husband is a nurse, do you know if it would be difficult for him to transition to a nursing job in Bali?
Thank you again and many blessings to you ~

stan 03.31.14 at 2:43 am

hi tom,

very inspiring article. my gilrfriend and me are planning to visit bali for those great reasons your talking about, as much french peoples we’re leaving to find an other way of life. i’ve been in sumatra coupele years ago but will try bali wich is maybe more easy to find job or opportunities.. looks pretty difficult to find something stable without network ?
i’d be interesting about your article “the means to move to Bali” that you’re talking about. maybe you will not respond to my post but thanks in advance for your information.

did you start surfing there ? an other way to taste bali differently.

have a good day

cheers from france

Tom Mullaly 04.04.14 at 12:25 am

Hi Stan, thanks so much for the kind words.

On one hand I get so many emails and blog comments about how to support oneself as an expat in Bali, and on the other hand I know so many people here who have found ways to do so.

Among friends/acquaintances here it seems like no two solutions have been exactly the same–all expats seem to take different routes to financial viability….. I wish I could get everyone together to share info, maybe a Google Hangout every few weeks is the answer. I hate to leave questions like yours hanging, but there’s so much to tell.

(As to your question, I’ve been surfing since I was a kid in Hawaii, less nowadays as I’ve gotten very picky when it comes to waves for some reason!)

Tom Mullaly 04.04.14 at 12:38 am

Hi Dawn– if you enter a working email in the box on the sidebar you’ll automatically receive a copy of ‘Bali on the Cheap’.

As a start, your husband might check BIMC and the new-ish Siloam Hospital here for nursing jobs: Good luck and let me know how it goes!

Jonathan Mostert 04.05.14 at 5:33 am

How to become a Bali expat?

rob 04.08.14 at 10:00 pm

Hi Tom, I would love a copy of your book, I am 25 year old fifo worker looking to setup in Bali!

Tom Mullaly 04.09.14 at 12:02 am

Hi Rob — please leave your name and a working email in the box on the side bar and the book comes to you automatically– I wrote it exactly for people like you, any feedback you have would be much appreciated!

Suzan 04.13.14 at 6:52 am

Thanks Tom for putting the reality of living here on paper. I jive with what you explained about having the ability to challenge your dreams. I tell visitors to be cautious of what they think, say and do here because of the ability of it manifesting right before you. Tossing dreams and watching them unfold has been a big part of my time here over the last decade. So very exciting…and, well perhaps could be addictive. Rationalizing the fundamental negative aspects we humans have to deal with such as greed, is worrisome as Bali quickly becomes an expat heaven. Looking forward to reading more from your point of view as I feel you are experiencing clearly the way it is.
Lost in the Sawah,

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