How long is a piece of string? Measuring the cost of living in any place, not just Bali, is much like measuring string. A lot depends on where you want to stay, how you want to lead your life, etc.
However, it’s certainly possible to live in Bali for less than $1,000 a month (USD) and most lifestyles are affordable compared to Western countries.
However, there’s no doubt if you’re living in Bali, enjoying a high-end lifestyle and sending your children to international schools, the cost of living can skyrocket compared to someone eating local food in local markets and local warungs and ensuring that their average monthly expenses are markedly less.
So, let’s take a look at living in Bali and how much it might cost you to live here.
Why Would You Want To Move To Bali?
Before we get to the numbers, it’s worth examining whether Bali is the right place to live for you and your family.
The biggest challenge, for most people, will be employment.
Indonesia discourages the hiring of foreign staff and unless you have a unique skill that cannot be found in the local labour market, you won’t be able to get a work permit (or IMTA in the local immigration lingo).
If you intend to work as a “digital nomad”, then there are challenges regarding visas (visas for business or tourism purposes don’t make you legal to work) and legal work. There are also issues with internet speed and power cuts, while infrequent, are not unknown either.
So, you need to be certain, before you pack your bags, that you have a source of income for your time in Bali or you have cash in the bank to cover your costs.
Once you’ve got over this hurdle then there are pros and cons of living in Bali.
Pros Of Living In Bali
The upsides of living in Bali are often obvious if you’ve spent time here on the island:
Tropical climate – it’s warm and pleasant all year round, even if it does rain at times
Lower costs than in the West – not everything is “cheap” in Bali but things are generally affordable when compared to Western nations
Balinese culture – the island is home to a unique culture and a people who are friendly and kind
Beaches – warm sand, cold drinks and good surf hold a big appeal to many expats and digital nomads. FINNS Beach Club, the world’s best beach club, is a testament to the popularity of the beaches here.
Mountains and rice fields – the heart of Bali is home to cooler temperatures and attractive mountain ranges, lush jungles and verdant rice fields
Excellent food culture – Indonesian food may not have the cachet of Thai or French food but the food culture is exciting and varied and if you eat local food you can save money too. Bali has an amazing fine dining scene in addition to the local food culture.
Plenty of things to do – there are so many things to do from yoga to white water rafting to boutique shopping malls. There is no need to ever be bored in Bali.
Child-friendly – Bali, as with most of Southeast Asia, loves children and you can have a wonderful time with your kids here. There are plenty of schools available on the island too.
Safety – while Bali may not be “the safest place on Earth”, it’s reasonably safe and certainly safer than most cities in the West for day-to-day living.
Cons Of Living In Bali
That’s not to say that there are no downsides to living in Bali because there are and these can include:
Overcrowding – Bali is one of the world’s most popular tourist destinations and in the high season, the island’s best attractions can become very crowded. It’s important to remember how this benefits local people but it won’t stop it from getting annoying.
Traffic – this goes hand in hand with our first point but Bali’s infrastructure wasn’t designed with the volumes of people that the island sees in mind. The number one downside of living in Bali is the traffic and spending an hour in a car to travel 5 kilometres.
Poor public transport – if you don’t intend to get into a car or scooter rental, then you’re going to spend a lot of time in ride-shares or taxis. There are few buses, the bemos are gone and the proposed rail system is, at least, a decade away from becoming a reality.
Scammers – most folk here in Bali are lovely but both local people and foreigners can sometimes be involved in scamming unsuspecting visitors to the island. You need to stay vigilant to keep your stack intact here.
Health insurance is essential – the health care system is not great and it’s expensive. While there are moves afoot to improve the quality of care (including a brand new medical tourism centre in Sanur) you will need health insurance or you risk going bankrupt the first time you get sick.
Developing nation issues – power cuts, mosquitos, stray dogs, etc. None of these things is a big deal in their own right but put them together and some people are going to find living in Bali much tougher than living in their home country.
Internet – Indonesia has recently announced that it intends to have the fastest Internet on Earth in Bali, umm… by 2045. Today, it’s nowhere near the fastest and it’s also often unreliable. Some nomads and expats will find their plans of making a living online here will be far more challenging than they expected.
Petty crime – both burglary and pickpocketing are a real risk here and you need to make sure that you have insurance for any high-value gear that you bring to Bali.
Bali Belly – it’s real, it’s regular and it’s one of the harsh facts of life if you live here. You can go years between an episode of Bali Belly and then get it three times in the same month.
Tap water – this is not drinkable and you will need to either buy or filter drinking water.
Family pets are a problem – relocating animals to Indonesia is hard, rabies is real here and you may or may not be allowed to bring pets into Bali when you move. Worse, it’s almost impossible to take an animal out of Indonesia and you may be forced to part ways with your pet if you decide to leave.
The Cost Of Living In Bali 2024: Your Basic Expenses Each Month
To start with, let’s take a look at the approximate costs of being in Bali as a single person.
We’re going to take a broad look at the potential costs and what you might get in return for your money.
Note: We’re working in US Dollars here. If you’re thinking in AUD, you will need to multiply by 1.5 to get a rough number in Australian Dollars.
Monthly Rent In Bali
It’s quite possible to rent somewhere for $100 (or even less) in Bali if you’re prepared to live like a local and go without Western comforts.
However, for most people, the choice will normally come down to a room in a private guesthouse or renting a villa.
You will find that renting in Canggu is more expensive than renting in Amed, that renting in Lovina is cheaper than in Seminyak, and so on.
That means our numbers here are very loose, indeed.
But you should expect to spend a minimum of $250/month on a decent private guesthouse and up to $1,300 a month on a villa.
You may struggle to find a villa that accepts monthly rentals, there is a major trend here for villas to work with a real estate agent to extract a minimum of a year’s rent upfront and we’ve seen some villas asking for 3-5 years or more in advance!
Transport Costs In Bali
We don’t recommend using scooters in Bali.
We recognize that they’re the cheapest transport and they can help keep your cost of living low but we also know that you need health insurance if you want to use a scooter and that travel insurance won’t cut it (travel insurance is for holidaymakers and does not cover people in the country on long-term visas).
However, if you’re stuck on using a bike then the rental plus fuel won’t set you back more than $100 a month.
Grab or Gojek won’t set you back much more, mind you, for taxi fares – while, of course, these can vary greatly depending on the distances you cover, your author spends about $150 a month on these services and travels every day.
Car rental is going to cost more again and while a car of your own may be essential when visiting Bali, you might not need one on a daily basis when you live here.
The most cost-effective option for eating in Bali is to eat at home after buying food in the local markets. However, most people who are here for an extended period will supplement their own food with regular trips to warungs, restaurants and cafes.
Traditional dishes cost less than Western food but while prices do vary depending on cuisine style, mainly, food is very affordable in Bali. No digital nomad has starved to death, yet, anyway.
Bali offers an amazing dining scene and it’s much more affordable than in most people’s home country but taking part in that scene is going to substantially increase your cost of living.
A single dinner at Mandapa, for example, could cost as much as a month’s rent on a decent villa, particularly if you’re hitting the wine list.
One great thing about Bali is that the food delivery services are excellent value and it can cost as little as $1 (including tip) to get a meal delivered to your front door, rather than going out for it.
However, a reasonable budget for most people to make a cost of living calculation on would be $250-$750 a month for food.
The only thing worse than paying for insurance is paying for healthcare when you need it and you don’t have insurance.
Bali’s hospitals are not cheap. If you get bitten by a dog, then the rabies treatment you will 100% need may cost you $2,500!
Don’t rely on some Facebook groups’ account of how somebody got just a couple of minor scratches treated for a pittance, if you live here, then insuring your health is a smart move. Many digital nomads have learned this lesson the hard way.
We should note that travel insurance is not good enough. If you’re on anything other than a basic tourist visa, you’ll find that they will refuse to pay out and then your cost of living will go through the roof.
The cost of this depends on the level of coverage you opt for, your age and more. But expect to pay between $50 and $200 a month for decent health insurance.
Bali offers a few insurance options, but you may find that insurers in your home country can do a better deal than you can find locally.
Some older folk may find that obtaining insurance is simply too costly, they will need to keep savings on hand to dip into to pay for treatment when the need arises.
Bingin Beach is a hidden gem located on the Bukit Peninsula in Bali. Its crystal-clear waters and golden sand make it a popular destination for surfers and beachgoers looking for a more secluded spot.
This charming beach is nestled between towering cliffs, with charming guesthouses and surf hotels all along the cliffside.
Pantai Bingin is also a great place to relax and unwind, with plenty of sun loungers and beach umbrellas available to rent.
The beach is also home to a small selection of cafes and restaurants and is famous for its fresh grilled seafood.
Getting here requires walking down many stairs that wind through the cliffside. So watch your step and be mindful of the terrain as you walk.
For this reason, there are few crowds in Bingin Beach. But those who venture down the cliffs would say it’s worth the effort. Whether you’re a surfer or just looking to escape the crowds, Bingin Beach is a must-visit destination in Bali.
Amed Beach – The Jewel Of East Bali
We assume that even the most dedicated digital nomad isn’t going to spend all day, every day glued to their desk and is going to want to spend some time doing fun things.
Yoga classes, surfing, massages, temples, etc. all cost some money and we’d budget between \$75 and \$200 a month for having fun.
You will probably know if you’re going to bust this budget because you want to play golf every day or dive at the most exotic spots every week.
This is where everything else you might spend ends up. If you’re a digital nomad this might include coworking, for everybody else it will include phone costs, electricity, water, gas, clothes, cleaning, etc.
We should note that if you live in a guesthouse, you may find that your rent includes many or all of the utility costs, whereas if you live in a villa, typically, you will need to pay for all of your utility usage in addition to your rent.
These costs are deeply variable and can vary greatly depending on the month as well as your lifestyle. We’d recommend that you have a few dollars on hand for surprise expenses and budget between $100 and $300 a month for your miscellaneous costs.
One thing we haven’t included is school costs – if you have kids then a school like Bali Island School will add $2,000/month per child to your cost of living.
Local schools are a little cheaper and Bali offers a wide range of schools to choose from, but most parents aren’t going to want to scrimp on their child’s education. Bali Island School is thus a “typical” choice.
There are also universities and colleges here in Bali and they’re reasonably priced compared to those in the West.
However, it’s important to recognize that universities on the island do not have a particularly high standing in the rest of the world and that a degree gained in Bali is unlikely to open as many doors as a university degree gained in the West.
Bali offers so many different visas that this might look like “how long’s a piece of string” again, but… most people, at least to start with, will be on some version of a tourist visa and that means you will probably opt for a 6-month social visa via an agent.
That means your monthly cost is likely to be about $100/month for visas (paid in $200 instalments every two months). A standard business visa costs about the same too.
Total Monthly Costs In Bali
So, let’s get those numbers together and add them up:
Rent – $100 minimum, $500 “normal”, $1,300 maximum
Transport – $100 minimum, $150 reasonable, $300 if you want a car
Food – $250 minimum, $750 reasonable, $$$ the sky’s the limit if you want fine dining daily
Health Insurance – $50 minimum, $200 maximum
Activities – $75 minimum, $200 reasonable, $$$ you can spend more because we could too
Misc – $100 minimum, $300 reasonable
Schools – $2,000/per child
Visas – $100/month
That means if you opted to live in a very, very basic place a long way from the tourist areas and lead a fairly minimal standard of life with no children – you might spend $775 a month.
If you were to make some really hard choices regarding cost savings, you might get this down as low as $500.
However, most people will want to live better than that and we’d suggest that you will want, at least, $1,000 a month and we’d recommend $1,500 for a good time as a single person.
If you have a family, your costs will go up, though they won’t increase in a linear fashion – that is a couple can live comfortably on $2,000 a month rather than $3,000 a month and a family could probably manage on $3,000-$3,500 rather than $6,000 (excluding school fees).
Hard Realities Regarding The Cost Of Living Here
These numbers are based on expat lives rather than local lives. A Balinese person makes a minimum wage of about $200 a month.
A great Balinese salary might be $500-$700 a month.
However, you cannot live on sums like this.
The average Balinese person can find lower rents than you can (assuming they’re not living in their ancestral home and many are). Their children will not be going to Bali Island school.
They will get access to local healthcare, don’t have to pay for visas, etc. for low or no cost. And so on…
If you’re only living in Bali for a few months, then you’re not going to spend very much time worrying about Indonesian taxes.
However, if you’re living here long-term then sooner or later, it seems likely that you will become a tax resident of Indonesia.
You can be a tax resident here even if you earn all of your income offshore, the qualification is that you spend more than 180 days in any given tax year in the country.
While taxes in Indonesia are not punitive, they’re not nothing either. You may find that you need to set aside as much as 40% of your income to meet your tax obligations and we would strongly advise every expat and digital nomad to get advice from an accounting professional with respect to taxes.
If you are investing money in Bali, you may find that you’re facing property taxes, capital gains taxes and other taxes too.
Again, it’s vital to talk to an accountant to understand your obligations and how to meet them, while, of course, minimizing them.
Is It Expensive To Live In Bali?
It can be expensive to live in Bali. In theory, you could live a very basic life in rural Bali for $500 a month but in reality, most people will never get their monthly costs this low.
You can spend as much money as you like when living in Bali and your cost of living is very much going to depend on you.
If you allocate just a few dollars for local food and local beer, don’t send your kids to international schools, don’t use co-working spaces, etc. then your living expenses are going to be very reasonable.
But if you prefer a more upscale dining experience, need your kids in the best schools, want gym memberships, need to cover medical costs, etc, then you could easily spend thousands of dollars each month.
Bali is no longer the “budget holiday” destination that it once was but it’s popular with digital nomads and expats alike because you can save money when compared to living in your home country.
What’s The Cheapest Part Of Bali To Live In?
You will find that areas like Amed, Bedugul, Lovina, etc. are currently the cheapest to live in.
Prices in Ubud and Canggu, formerly the “desirably cheap” areas of the island have risen substantially in recent times and you will find that accommodation is as expensive now as it is in Seminyak, Kuta, Nusa Dua, etc.
Is It Expensive To Buy A House In Bali?
You should get specialist advice if you intend to buy a property here on the island.
Strictly speaking, foreigners cannot own land here and that means you will need to structure any purchase of a home very carefully.
The actual price of a home is likely to be reasonably affordable but vary based on the area, size of property and the quality of the building itself.
Can You Live On $1,000 A Month In Bali?
Yes. If you opt to live in cheap accommodation, eat mainly in local warungs and restaurants, and buy only other basic necessities, you could live on $1,000 a month in Bali.
You’re not going to spend too much time at parties, but for some people just engaging with the local community and the natural beauty of living in Bali is more than enough.
We would say that if you’re spending about \$1,500 a month, you’re likely to lead a very comfortable life if you’re a single person and don’t need a high-end luxury villa in the middle of popular spots like Canggu or Seminyak.
How Much Would A Meal Cost In Bali?
It very much depends. Balinese food at a warung is a very cost-effective option and you could pay as little as $2 for a meal.
But if you prefer international food, you’re going to spend a bit more, though you can easily get a meal for $3-$4 even in busy spots like Kuta or Canggu if you keep an eye on the special offers at your local restaurants.
At a fine dining restaurant, you could drop $200+ on each meal and then spend even more on wine and drinks.
For most of us, this kind of meal is a very occasional treat, but for some lucky souls, it might be a regular occurrence.
Can I Hire Local Domestic Staff In Bali?
Yes! In fact, many wealthier expats do hire local domestic staff. You should expect to pay these people, at the very least, minimum wage and the appropriate benefits under the law.
If you want English speakers with specialist skills (such as nannying) you may need to pay a substantial premium over the minimum wage to secure their services.
You may not import domestic staff from other countries into Indonesia, legally, as they will not be granted a work permit.
How Much Money Do I Need To Live Comfortably In Bali?
We can’t tell you that.
The thing is you need to know your estimated monthly costs and only you can tell how much health insurance, rent, international school, a co-working space, your needs for delicious food, etc. are going to come to.
We’ve given you the ability to use the information above to work out your own budget carefully and decide how much you’ll need to sustain the quality of life that you aspire to in Bali.
Is It Cheaper To Live In Bali Or Thailand?
It very much depends on where you choose to live in either country. Living the high life in Canggu is going to be more expensive than slumming it in Pai.
Similarly, you’re going to find that playing with the big boys of Bangkok is much pricier than chilling out in lovely Lovina here in Bali.
Your lifestyle choices and individual needs are going to make a difference too.
Your food budget won’t vary much between the two countries, nor will visa costs but medical procedures can be much cheaper in Thailand, for example.
Schooling isn’t cheap in either country but there are more schools offering international curriculums in Bali than in most of Thailand.
Why Is It So Cheap To Live In Bali?
We wouldn’t say that it is “cheap” to live in Bali anymore.
Sure, there are parts of the island that still offer low rental costs and a pleasant slice of island life for a low price, but mainly, the most popular areas are no longer bargain basement offerings and gentrification comes at a price.
However, food costs are low because local produce is produced by cheap labour and the service sector here is similarly competitive because of low labour costs.
Rent is cheaper than in the West but it’s worth noting that build quality isn’t usually as good and rental prices are constantly increasing.
Can Australians Live In Bali?
Yes. In fact, living in Bali is possible for everyone not just Australians. All you need is a visa that makes it legal to live here and there are many different visa options for Bali.
It’s not as easy to rock up in Bali and settle down as it once was, but, in general, Indonesia makes it reasonably easy to secure a visa, particularly for people from Western countries, who can demonstrate that they will benefit the country in some fashion.
Is It Worth Moving To Bali?
We think so. But then, everyone at FINNS lives here in Bali and we wouldn’t be here if we didn’t love this island, its culture, nature and people.
But we recognize that we aren’t everyone and that the Bali cost of living is only one factor in deciding whether it’s the right place for you.
Living in Bali is easier if you like to eat local food, are happy with the international schools on offer, enjoy spending time in local warungs, etc.
Living somewhere is never the same as going on holiday there. When you stay in a resort, the management and staff are bending over backwards to ensure that you have the best time possible in Bali.
When you rent a villa or a room in a guesthouse, much of the responsibility for day-to-day life falls on your own shoulders.
So, this isn’t a cop-out, we just can’t tell you if it’s going to be worth moving to Bali because we aren’t you and only you can answer that question for yourself.
If you’re not certain, you might want to try coming to Bali and spending a few months here before you commit to the move.
That will give you an insight into whether it’s the perfect place for you to live or whether you’d rather just come and enjoy a holiday here every now and again – we promise you that both of those choices are good choices.
Final Thoughts On The Cost Of Living In Bali
Living in Bali can be as cheap or as expensive as you want it to be, within reason. You will always find the cost of living to be lower than the equivalent in Western countries but that doesn’t make it “cheap” either.
You could probably manage on $500 a month if you were willing to cut out all luxuries and live a long way from the tourist crowds, but $750 a month would be more comfortable.
$1,000 a month is the bare minimum, however, that we’d want as a single person and for a good time we’d need $1,500 or more.
Couples and families won’t spend as much per person as a single person, though international schools will have a big impact on your cost of living in Bali, but two can’t live quite as cheaply as one, either.
While the cost of living in Bali can vary greatly depending on the nature of your time in Bali, one thing you can be certain of, the costs you incur while living here are very different to those you incur when you visit Bali on holiday.