If you are considering Indonesia as your digital nomad or retirement base, then we recommend the small tropical island of Bali as a place to call home. Indonesia is the world’s largest archipelago and Bali is one of the country’s provinces in the westernmost landmass of the Lesser Sunda Islands.
In total this archipelago has more than 17,500 islands and you could retire to one of them! Indonesia is the largest country in Southeast Asia and shares borders with Malaysia in the northern part of Borneo and Papua New Guinea and maritime boarders with Vietnam, Thailand, the Philippines amongst other countries. As of 2021 around 110,000 expatriates and digital nomads are currently living in Bali. So, why retire in Bali? There are a multitude of reasons why you may want to pack up your life and start your retirement in Indonesia.
With pristine beaches, coral reefs, imposing mountains, dense jungle, tropical underwater delights and active volcanoes, Bali is an incredible place to retire too. There’s just something about Bali that enchants visitors but it’s hard to put your finger on what it is! There’s this holistic, bohemian and ethereal vibe to Bali that is unparalleled. Perhaps that’s why they refer to Bali as the Island of the Gods.
Retiring in Bali is suitable for all kinds of people. Whether you want a peaceful retirement or something a little livelier, Bali has a town or village for you. If you are an outdoor adventure lover, then pack your bags now! Bali is littered with spectacular waterfalls like GitGit in Singaraja (northern Bali) and NungNung in Petang.
When you are not chasing waterfalls, you can go island hopping and hiking. And you can’t forget about Bali’s incredible beaches and oceans. From snorkeling to jet skiing, wake boarding to surfing, Bali has it all. Exploring underwater will leave you in awe of nature. Bali and the surrounding area have some of the best snorkeling around. Head to Nusa Dua and Amed to see the most colorful fish and even some sea turtles.
Perhaps you are more interested in culture, local life and history, well Bali has you covered on that too. Bali has an unreal number of temples, more than 20,000 in fact! The beautiful Ulun Danu Beratan is a remarkable floating temple right in the middle of a lake. Indonesia is home to plenty of natural resources, and therefore throughout history experienced a variety of human migration. This resulted in Indonesia having an array of languages and ethnicities, including influences from colonizers Portugal and the Netherlands.
Bali also offers up some incredible food dishes to try. Head to your local warung (a restaurant) for the best food. Food in Indonesia is cheap and absolutely delicious. Try the famous Nasi Ayam which is an ubiquitous Balinese dish. Shredded chicken, boiled egg, satay, roasted peanuts and steamed rice. It sounds simple but it will soon become your favorite dish!
Because Indonesia is close to the equator, Bali boasts a warm tropical climate. This is one of Bali’s most attractive features and makes a trip to the coast very enticing. Year-round temperatures average at around 78-80°F, with humidity at around 85-90%. Bali’s central mountainous area typically experiences cooler temperatures with more rainfall. In the highlands around the volcanoes temperatures at night can drop significantly.
The rainy season is from November to March and the dry season is from April to October. Bali’s dry season is more like a “drier” season as rain showers can still occur during these months. Rainfall in the lowland area of Indonesia averages at around 70-125 inches annually but is double this figure in mountain areas.
Move to Bali and you’ll be living on an island! An island life sounds like it’s going to be laidback and fun and it is. Though island life comes with its issues, the pros of living in Bali far outweigh the cons.
Retirement in Bali will feel like a permanent sun-kissed holiday. Head to the beach, grab some fresh fruit and then stop for some amazing street seafood on your way home. You can spend your free time island hopping, exploring Bali’s mountains, and discovering hidden cultural gems.
Because the cost of living is cheap, you’ll also find yourself with plenty of extra money to splurge on travel and other interesting experiences.
Safety and Security
Indonesia and Bali are generally very safe. Of the Global Peace Index’s 163 nations Indonesia came out as the 47nd most peaceful country in the world.
There are three safety concerns that you need to be aware of in Indonesia: road safety, petty crime and natural disasters.
Bali has a bit of a reputation for road traffic accidents. One of the major causes of death or injury in Bali are motorbike accidents. Like many places in Asia there doesn’t appear to be many road traffic laws in Bali, which can get inexperienced riders into trouble. It’s definitely a good idea to have medical insurance as well as taking all the necessary safety precautions when riding in Bali.
People living in Bali generally feel safe, but it is important to be aware that petty crimes can happen. Always make sure your belongings are secure and never store cash at home. Touristy areas of Bali should also be explored with a bit of caution because of potential pickpocketing.
Even though Indonesia is modernizing its infrastructure at a fast pace, power outages are common and the internet is generally slow.
Natural disasters are a big safety concern in Indonesia. Indonesia sits on not one but two of the world’s most seismically active regions. There’s the Pacific Ring of Fire (an ominous name in itself) and the Alpide belt. Retiring in Bali you will get used to the frequent rumbles and earthquakes. If earthquakes weren’t enough, Bali also has two active volcanoes. There’s Mount Batur and Mount Agung, of which the latter erupted in 2017. Usually when an eruption occurs people wear face masks and stay indoors. Air quality can be a problem and ash clouds too, but with previous eruptions they have usually blown over the island quickly.
Cost of Living
There is no denying that Indonesia is a poor country and Bali -even though is better off than most of the country- is no exception. And if you choose to retire in Bali your money will stretch a lot further as the cost of living is on average around 47% lower than in the US. In most areas of Bali two people can live a very good life on just under $1,500. If you eat at local warungs, then you’ll save even more money. Shopping at local markets will save you a ton of money compared to shopping at the supermarket.
Most people in Bali choose to buy or rent scooters rather than buying a car because it can be rather expensive. You can purchase a second hand scooter for around $300 or a new one for around $900. Renting a bike in Bali costs between $4 and $8 a day, so before you make your final purchasing decision you can move around cheaply.
Bali has become a popular destination for tourists and as a result many attractions and foreign-style restaurants are more expensive than local choices. Once you’ve settled down and lived in Bali for a while, you’ll find yourself able to discover the best local hangouts.
A U.S. expatriate living in Bali is still required to file US expat tax returns annually. You are considered a resident of Indonesia if you stay in the country for 183 days during a 12 month period. Residents of Indonesia are taxed on their worldwide income, but if you are a non-resident, you are just taxed on your Indonesian income. Indonesian income tax rates are progressive (up to 30%) and based on total income.
Visas and Residency
If you are wanting to retire in Bali, you will need to apply for the Bali Retirement Visa. There are a number of requirements that need to be met in order to obtain it:
55+ years or older
Have a health and life insurance policy
Rent a property with a minimum of a 1 year lease that costs $380 or more a month
You must have a pension of $1,520 a month or an income of $18,000 a year
You are not allowed to work
You must hire an Indonesian domestic worker
Citizens from Afghanistan, Cameroon, Guinea, Israel, Liberia, Niger, Nigeria, North Korea, and Somalia are excluded from this scheme
In order to enjoy your retirement in Bali you’ll first need to arrive in Indonesia on a social visa and then look into completing the Bali Retirement Visa application. The application can definitely be completed independently, however it’s often easier to engage an agent.
Healthcare in Bali is not up the standards of U.S. medical services, but it’s trustworthy and good quality. Indonesia is ranked at No. 92 globally among the world’s national healthcare systems by the World Health Organization. There are both small clinics and fully equipped hospitals. There are these “group-practice medical clinics” that many expatriates utilize instead of using private hospitals. These clinics are usually run by specialists who can cater to an array of routine medical check-ups and procedures.
If you are retiring in Bali, then you will be expected to have both health and life insurance. Your policy will therefore influence which healthcare services you have access to.
Though property prices are very affordable in Bali, certain areas are more expensive. Renting a villa in Ubud or Seminyak will be more expensive because they have better services like hospitals and shops and are more popular among tourists. If you are looking for places where your money will go further, then try Sanur or Uluwatu.
In addition, unlike other countries in the region, like Thailand, it is quite difficult and complicated to buy property Bali. Indonesia has two types of property rights, the “right to own” and the “right to build”. Both of these are technically prohibited to foreigners. In 2015 some terms were added to make real estate more attractive for foreigners. The “right to build” otherwise known as Hak Guna Bangunan allows you to build a property for up to 80 years. Under the “right to own” you can also buy and use the property for 25 years with the ability to renew for up to 70 years.
Best Places to Live in Bali
For some of the best places to retire in Bali on a budget or in complete luxury check out these destinations. From destinations you will have heard of to some incredible hidden gems, Bali, is a treasure trove of natural beauty and culture.
A Bali destination you’ll definitely have heard of is Ubud. Ubud is bohemian, health conscious and artsy. If you want your retirement in Bali to be slow paced, healthy and inspirational then this is the perfect place for you.
Another top Bali retirement destination is Seminyak. Seminyak is a small beach town with an unparalleled cosmopolitan atmosphere. There are plenty of expatriates living here with an uncanny number of Aussies! Many retirees are attracted to Seminyak because it’s a good place to buy property.
Though many retirees search for expat communities in Bali, you may want to retire away from the crowds. Uluwatu on the southernmost tip of Bali is a breathtaking place to live. It’s rugged coastline, green foliage, and secret beaches really do make you feel as if you’re living the life of a movie. Whilst retiring in Uluwatu isn’t for everyone due to there being fewer amenities (like shops and hospitals) if you are looking for peace and seclusion this is the place to be.
Proximity to the United States
A mighty 16,300km from New York, traveling to Bali isn’t exactly a quick trip across the Pacific. Flights from New York are anything from 25 hours to 35 hours depending on the amount of stop overs. Often flights from the States have a stopover in Dubai, Doha or India.
Activities and Recreation
The activities on offer in Bali will allow you to live an enthralling outdoorsy and cultured life. You’ll soon discover all of the hidden gems that Bali has to offer away from the tourist crowds but in the meantime expose yourself to some of Bali’s best attractions. From beaches to temples, markets to waterfalls there’s something for everyone in Bali.
Here are some of the top Bali activities that will get you nicely acquainted with the island:
Banyu Wana Amertha Waterfall
Nyang Nyang Beach
Ubud Monkey Forest
Tegalalang Rice Terrace
Gunung Kawi Temple
Sukawati Art Market
Pura Lempuyang Luhur
There’s no doubt about it, your retirement in Bali will be fantastic. Indonesia as a whole and Bali in particular are incredible places bursting with character, flare and a ton of things to do. If you want a laid back place to live that’s affordable, then living in Bali is a great decision. If you are searching for a more wholesome lifestyle, then there’s no question that retiring in Bali will leave you fulfilled and happy.
Here is a list of the Pros and Cons of traveling, living, moving and retiring in Indonesia
Low cost of living
Incredible and diverse natural landscapeAmazing cultural and nature activities
Laid back, holistic, simple lifestyle
Natural disaster zone
Complicated property regulations
Power outages are common and the internet is generally slow
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