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Tropical Paradise? Being a Digital Nomad in Bali
When it comes to living the dream, Bali, the tiny tropical island in Indonesia, seems to check a lot of boxes.
You can work amid the tranquil rice fields outside Ubud, a popular nomad-ing destination. You can take time out to surf on the breaks of South Bali, dive world-famous sites such as the wreck of the USS Liberty, indulge in yoga and spas, or eat fantastic international cuisine.
And, in most parts of Bali, the locals speak not only Balinese and Indonesian but plenty of English as well. Plenty of expats spend decades in Bali without acquiring more than very basic Indonesian, let alone Balinese.
Many digital nomads who base themselves in Bali do so on a tourist visa, of which there are two kinds. The visa on arrival is valid for 30 days but extendable only for 30 days more.
So it’s worth going to the effort of securing a 60-day visa in advance, as these are extendable for a further 120 days, each in 30-day increments. As so often, the application process is easier in South-East Asian consulates than it is via consulates in Australia or the UK (there’s a fairly comprehensive list here).
The extension process in Bali requires three separate visits to the immigration office for each 30 day extension, and an Indonesian national is required to act as sponsor, so most opt to use an agent to help them with this. The most popular visa run is the quick, cheap AirAsia flight to Singapore, though most Malaysian consulates offer a fast turn around as well.
The main alternative to a tourist visa is the KITAS, which enables you to live and work legally in Indonesia, and entitles you to discounts on attractions, but is expensive to acquire. This requires an Indonesian sponsor and a company to employ you, and you will need an agency to help.
Visa regulations in Indonesia can change rapidly and different offices can interpret the rules in very different ways.
INTERNET IN BALI
Internet access is one of the low points about digital nomad-ing in Bali. Restaurants catering to tourists in Ubud and the south often offer internet access, but wifi can be painfully slow and Skype is often barred. Indonesian internet cafes are overwhelmingly dark, smoky, noisy and unpleasant.
Island-wide internet outages have been known to happen, while power cuts are not uncommon, and domestic and dongle internet speeds are typically fairly low.
That said, it’s perfectly possible to be a digital nomad in Bali, but if your work involves transferring large quantities of data or being regularly online for scheduled Skype meetings, Bali may not be the best choice for you.
FINDING A PLACE TO LIVE IN BALI
Bali has a fantastic range of accommodation at every price point under the sun, from luxury villas with enormous swimming pools and hand-carved furnishings through to simple one-room cottages in the rice fields, from cheap guesthouses to international five-star hotels.
Many nomads gravitate to Ubud, where a good source for the higher end of the market is Ubud Property. The foreign-language press, including Bali Spirit and La Gazette de Bali, as well as occasionally the Jakarta Post, Jakarta Globe and the Bali Times, also have small ads, although these typically tend to the more expensive: the Bali Advertiser has the best range across the island.
At the budget end of the market, it’s worth pounding the streets, talking to touts and looking at notice boards. The Bintang supermarkets in Seminyak and Ubud have boards with accommodation offers, while the boards at Pizza Bagus, Bali Buddha and the Pondok Pekak library on the football field all have accommodation on offer for Ubud and the surrounding villages.
BALI AS A DIGITAL NOMAD – THE VERDICT
If fast internet isn’t key to your location independent business, and you can cope with crazy traffic, then Bali makes a wonderful place to live, with simple accommodation available for a couple of hundred dollars a month and surprisingly luxurious pads available at great prices for longterm rentals.
Theodora Sutcliffe blogs about life as a digital nomad at EscapeArtistes.