Updated: Jan 26
Bali is finally reopening, slowly but surely, and now is the time to start planning your extended stay! (If you want information on who can get in and how, read this post first.) If your visa is sorted, continue on!
Things have changed so much in the past two years. Many businesses didn't make it. Prices have changed drastically. And some areas that used to be bustling, are almost non-existent. But the Island of the Gods is emerging from post-pandemic chaos, and it's a better time than ever to visit as new visa options begin and quarantine restrictions lessen. So let's talk all things moving-to-Bali.
There's a ton of options here, ranging from resorts to villas, guesthouses and hostels. There really is something for every budget, and right now hotels and resorts are offering major deals that you can purchase in advance to use in the future. If you're not ready to commit to that, you can book something through the usual sites: Airbnb, Booking.com, Hostelworld, etc. Guesthouses are a great low- to mid-range option, and usually offer you a single room to yourself with ensuite bathroom, and often offer a communal space with a shared kitchen and pool. Sometimes these are listed on booking sites, but you can definitely get better prices if you have a look around in person, or search Facebook listings (Canggu Community Housing is a great place to look). You can find a nice villa the same way. People are often searching for roommates, or you can rent with your own group. Of course you're going to pay a little more for a villa, but you can get something really nice anywhere from 400 – 600 usd /month (per person/room).
If you're planning to stay a few months or more, I would definitely recommend booking something short-term when you arrive, and finding a more permanent place in person. Things to keep in mind when looking for your spot: construction noise, roosters, and safety (unfortunately hard times have led to more petty theft). Wifi varies widely from villa to villa, but you can definitely find a reliable connection with strong speeds at least in the Canggu/Seminyak area.
There's so many different areas of Bali with their own little personalities. Pre-corona a lot of tourists preferred to stay in the Kuta/Legion area, partially because of it's proximity to the airport and partially because of the many beautiful beaches, hotels, and restaurants. Kuta had a reputation of being where the young partiers go, but it is fairly empty at the moment. So although there are practically zero drunk tourists, there are also a lot less shops and restaurants still open. Seminyak still has a wide selection of food choices, nightclubs, and of course, beach access.
Just up the road you'll find the Canggu/Berawa area, where a lot of more “permanent” expats live, whether it be semi-longterm like a few months, or several years. Canggu has a less touristy feel than Kuta and is full of cute cafes and coffee shops, as well as beach shacks where you can grab a drink or get a surf lesson. Full disclosure: the beaches here are not the best.
Now let's go inland. Ubud is in the middle of the jungle and surrounded by amazing waterfalls, rice fields, and home to the famous “Bali Swing” as well as the Monkey Forest. Ubud is a haven for hippies, vegans, and yogis. It is literally the jungle though, so don't expect the best Wifi on the island.
All the way south in the “bukit” is Uluwatu. Uluwatu is home of the more serious surfers and has some of the best beaches on the island. It's much more quiet than the northern spots, aside from maybe Ubud, and is great for a peaceful retreat. The cliffside views are absolutely spectacular - the multiple wedding venues down there should be proof.
Of course there are many more areas of the island, including Amed (diving), Lovina (dolphins), and Sanur (quiet family area) but this gives you a general idea if you are a first-timer. There are also the nearby Nusa islands, which are technically part of Bali, but you will have to ferry to get there.
Getting around Bali is actually really easy despite the fact that there's basically no public transport system. Gojek and Grab are the Uber of the island, and are super cheap and reliable. You can order a motorbike or a car, and travel for several miles for under 10 dollars. For example, from the airport to Canggu is about 7 miles, but can take anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour depending on traffic. A GoCar (which is more expensive than the bike) will be around 7 dollars. I do NOT recommend taking any other kind of taxi from the airport unless you have something arranged already with your accommodation - you will most likely get screwed over. If you want to arrange with your accommodation it might save you some hassle and headache, but you will be paying more.
If you're comfortable driving a scooter (be warned the traffic can be chaotic) you can easily get a rental daily, weekly, or monthly. Expect to pay 30-60 usd / month depending on what kind of bike you get. It is illegal to drive without an international driver's license, and you will be charged an on-the-spot “fine” if you get caught. That being said, many people do it. Be prepared to pay anywhere from 6 dollars to 60 dollars, but you can usually negotiate. I'd recommend carrying small bills in your wallet and keep the rest put away somewhere, and always wear a helmet to avoid being pulled over. Or you can just get the Indonesian driver's license, which is the easiest solution.
Pro tip: ALWAYS keep your belongings under the seat of your bike. It is extremely common for bag thieves to rip the bag from you while driving, or simply lift your phone right out of your hand and speed off. Bali is not a dangerous place in general, but if you make yourself a target, you will be one.
If you want to take a day trip and are not comfortable driving, there are plenty of drivers that will be happy to give you a tour of the island and a full-day fee is very reasonable. It's always a nice gesture to pay for their meals, especially if you choose to eat somewhere that may be above a local's salary, which can be as low as 150 usd/month.
Working in Bali is a very touchy subject. You are not allowed to work in any capacity if you are not on a Kitas (chat with your visa agent for more details). This includes working online and even volunteering (even if you're not being paid, you could be taking a paid job from a local). Being caught can mean fines and deportation, so be careful about the choices that you make and conversations that you have.
That being said, there are many digital nomads in Bali, and there has been talk of a digital nomad type visa in the works, but I don't think it's the country's priority at the moment with all the visa chaos currently going on. If you are permitted to work, there are tons of cafes and co-working spaces that cater to digital nomads, and fast/reliable wi-fi is super easy to find - even on the beach!
Now the good stuff! Bali is quite known for having an amazing cafe culture. There are a plethora of cute cafes offering smoothie bowls, healthy food, and vegetarian/vegan dishes. There's Mexican, Italian, Asian, Mediterranean restaurants. If brunch is your thing, you will be in breakfast and coffee heaven. And of course, there's the local warungs serving up the typical nasi goreng (fried rice). A meal at a warung can cost as low as a dollar, or pay anywhere from 4-7 dollars at a more “Western” style cafe. Go to a market or fruit stand for super fresh fruits and veggies for next to nothing; I usually spent a whopping 7 dollars for my weekly veggie run at the local market. As for drinks, a Bintang beer is around a dollar at the supermarket or smaller warungs, and cocktails can range from usually 50k to 100k (3-6 dollars depending on the place).
Having pets in Bali is another tricky situation. Although it's possible to bring your pet here, I would really not recommend it unless you're planning to stay here. That goes for adoption too. A lot of foreigners come here and adopt a pet, then leave the pet on the streets when it's time to go. So many people did this during the pandemic and it is heartbreaking. There are already so many street dogs without proper care or a loving home, so if you want to have a pet and cannot commit to long-term, please consider fostering through one of the many organizations already in place. Karma will thank you. Also, please note that Bali is a rabies zone (watch out for the monkeys!), and it's technically illegal to take your pet out of Bali when you leave. There are ways to do it, and yes, people do, but I'm not here to condone animal smuggling, so do with that information what you wish. If you'd like to help out the animals of Bali, from near or afar, here are just a few of the organizations doing great work here: Villa Kitty Foundation, I Love Bali Dogs, and Bali Animal Welfare Association.
Bali, Here I Come!
The Balinese people really need tourism to return to ensure a stable income for their families. It has been a tough time with tourism at a standstill, so hopefully with new visas being issued and the reopening of the Bali airport for international flights, we can see a glimmer of hope for people who rely on this to feed their families.
If you can't make it to Bali just yet, but would like to contribute to keeping Bali afloat in the meantime, there are several organizations providing food packages and other necessities to those in need. You might be surprised at the difference you can make. Check out Feed Bali, for one, and see for yourself just how far your $30 can go. Other organizations helping the community (*not necessarily food-based) are Lettuce Give Back and Bali Street Kids Project. Did I leave anything out? There's so much more to know about Bali, so ask your questions in the comments, or DM for the inside scoop. Now go book your flight!