One of the main reasons young(ish), broke(ish) travelers like ourselves flock to Bali, and Southeast Asia in general, is for the low cost of living compared to other popular choices in our home countries, not to mention the all-too-tempting year-round warm weather, rich culture, yummy food, unique scenery, and abundance of outdoor activities. Bali in particular, much like Thailand, is a relatively easy, relatively common choice for those who work remotely or have saved up enough money to live off their savings for a bit.
As I’ve stated before, this is not a blog about how to live reasonably on your pension. We are not nearly old, wise or leathery enough to have earned the title of Southeast-Asia-retiree quite yet. And as with our similar financial breakdowns for Maui, and cost of living comparisons for Texas vs. Costa Rica vs. Maui, this is a very rough guide for what you can expect to pay to live in Bali once you arrive, should you arrive in the somewhat near future. Also be aware that you could very easily live cheaper than this, and way more easily live larger than this. We share a tiny ass studio apartment, and to me, that’s all good and fine as long as I still have enough money to buy beers on the beach and occasionally eat other things besides noodles and rice. Decide what your priorities are, what you can and can’t live without, and spend some time figuring out how to fit them into your budget.
Bali Financial Breakdown
Bali Expenses Breakdown
Rent in Legian, Bali = 5,000,000 IDR/Month (or currently around $380 USD/Month)
This includes the following amenities:
- Studio Apartment
- Fully Furnished – Double Bed, 2 Night Tables, Vanity/Desk with Chair, Armoire, Flat Screen TV
- Small Kitchen – 1 Burner Portable Stove, Mini Fridge, Sink
- Wifi (decently fast for Bali standards)
- All Utilities – Hot Water, Electricity, Cable TV
- Porch with 2 Chairs, Table & Drying Rack
- Complex Pool & Courtyard
Transportation = 700,000 IDR/Month (or currently around $50 USD/Month)
- 125cc Scooter with Surf Rack
Visa Costs = 560,000 IDR/Month (or currently around $43/Month)
- We paid the fee for a 6-month Social Visa B211 all at once, which included the Indonesian sponsor letter, visa fee, and 4 extensions for a total of 180 days. The cost through our agent service, VisaforBali, was approximately $260 USD each, or around $43 USD per month.
- *Note: This does not include the cost of our first 60 days in Bali, since we chose to get the Social Visa after our initial 60-day Visa on Arrival stay, which cost approximately $70 USD each. This also does not include airfare, accommodation, meals, transportation, visa fees and agent fees we paid in Singapore to get the appropriate single entry Social Visa and return to Bali, which cost another $300+ USD each.
Miscellaneous Expenses = 10,765,000 IDR/Month (or currently around $825 USD/Month)
- Gas – 80,000 IDR
- Groceries – 250,000 IDR. We do not cook. Ever. If you saw our ‘kitchen’ you’d understand why. Plus the water cleanliness kind of freaks us out after the whole Bali Belly thing, and honestly, I don’t really care to have our tiny apartment constantly smelling like whatever we just cooked. We do, however, buy drinking water every single day (since clean drinking water is not a thing here), and if you count hand sanitizer, mosquito zappers and toilet paper as groceries, that’s included too.
- Restaurants & Entertainment – 7,000,000 IDR, or around $500+. This may seem excessive, but keep in mind that we eat out every single meal of the day, go to the movie theater, take advantage of happy hour, occasionally pay to rent beach chairs and surfboards, get cheap massages or spa treatments, etc. If you wanted to spend less, this would obviously be the area to cut down on by cooking for yourself or eating only at inexpensive local warungs.
- Shopping – 600,000 IDR, give or take. Clothes, shoes, surf gear, sunglasses, sunscreen, DVDs, you name it. It’s all pretty inexpensive, and there’s lots of it.
- Laundry – 150,000 IDR. We take our laundry directly across the street to a place with same-day service, since we don’t have a washer or dryer in our complex. It is extremely cheap and wonderful.
- Student Loans – $150 USD
- World Nomads Standard Travel Health Insurance – $56 USD (or $335 USD for 6 months)
TOTAL = 17,025,000 IDR/Month (or currently around $1,305 USD/Month)
Bali Income Breakdown
There are several things to know about making money in Bali. First off, under stipulations of our Social Visa, we are not allowed to work or participate in any kind of business activity in Indonesia, which even extends to any type of volunteer work. Also, since we 1) do not wish to give up our U.S. residency to live here permanently, 2) are not sponsored by a local company for a specific kind of work permit or job, or 3) have plans to open a business in Bali, the opportunities for making money here are pretty much a solid nope.
Luckily for me, making money online through a U.S. based company is still a grey area – I’m not taking away a job opportunity for a local Balinese citizen, and am simply here spending money. Peter, on the other hand, isn’t so lucky. If he were to be caught doing any kind of illegal work activity, including photo shoots, soliciting customers, tour guiding, etc., he would very likely be caught, fined, and maybe even deported, with the possibility of jail time (have you read Hotel K?!). Hence the reason why he does not work in Bali at all. Just last year, a group of American and Canadian photographers participating in a photo shoot event were arrested and deported while holding a photo shoot in a private villa in Canggu. Simply put, the risk isn’t worth the reward. Better luck in the next country!
Copywriting & Blogging = $1,550 USD/Month
- Approximately 20 Hours/Week
Miscellaneous Income = $150 USD/Month
- Website Design
- Two Tank Photo Photography Print Sales
TOTAL = $1,700 USD/Month
As a final note for our budget breakdown, and this is important for anyone who thinks it’s impossible to travel or live abroad without making a lot of money, my total income was slightly less than $28,000 last year, $6,500 of which went directly to the federal government and state of Hawaii due to my independent contractor status. Peter made around $15,000 last year, bringing us to a total combined income (after tax) of around $36,500, which we used to successfully live in the most expensive state in the country (and aloha to you too, Hawaii), travel back to Texas for a month-long visit, and move across the world to start a new home base in Bali.
Now, by no means have we been able to save a lot of money this year – in fact, quite the opposite, which is why the next place we move will have to be somewhere both of us can work. But hey, we’re here, we’re not starving, and we enjoy our life on the daily. And you can, too.
Cheers, and happy travels. Suck it, money!