What it’s Like to Live and Work on Your Internet Business from Bali, Indonesia

What it’s Like to Live and Work on Your Internet Business from Bali, Indonesia post image

So, you want to live in Bali? WHO DOESN’T nowadays. It’s got more charm and beauty than @AnythingIan, and its much cheaper!

I got a ton of emails after podcasting and writing about Bali. Perhaps people could feel our passion about the place, or maybe a lot of people remembering their own good memories.

All Pics on My iPhone, I Don't Have A Stand-Alone Camera, Or ANY Stock Photography :)

Since so many of you wanted to hear more specific information, I’m happy to have gotten in touch with Mike from BaliExpat.com (@BaliExpat) to help me create this quick guide to living and working in Bali. He’s also got a much longer free guide on his website that you can check out. If you’ve got more information on this stuff, let us know in the comments and I’ll eventually amend the post to be more detailed!

Okay, here’s Mike….


After reading and listening to the podcast about Dan’s adventure in Bali, I thought I could shed some further light on what it is like to live in Bali– I’ve been living here for the past year.

I have also spent some time in Thailand and I thought Dan did a pretty good job comparing the islands of Thailand with Bali [NOTE: also check out Chris’ great article on the topic, “What is the Perfect Place to Live and Work in South East Asia?”)] It should be pointed out, however, that Bali is just one of over 17,000 islands in Indonesia. Lombok and the Gili Islands, for example, are just a short boat trip from Bali.

There are many things to like about living in Bali. There are many different activities within a very small geographical area. The climate is great for outdoor living. If the heat becomes too much for you, you can always head to the central mountain areas like Bedugul, where the air is fresh and cool. The people in Bali are genuinely friendly and welcoming and there is a very strong sense of community with a truly fascinating culture.

I know of people operating software companies in Bali that employ local designers and programmers, so there is definitely the potential of locating a technology based business here. Internet speed is not great however and is relatively expensive (see the specifics below).

When it comes to find a place to live, you can use the services of an agent, but most good places are found by word of mouth. It is possible to find places on the internet, but they are typically more expensive. The best way is to drive around areas you want to live in and look for ‘for rent’ signs. Most landlords in Indonesia operate on a 12 month contract, where the rent needs to be paid in full and in advance. You might be lucky to find a western owner, who will allow you to pay on a monthly basis.

Many places have at least some furniture. For used furniture and appliances check out: http://www.baliadvertiser.biz/

If you are on a budget, you can stay in ‘kos’ which is best described as a boarding house. Some places will have rooms with private bathrooms and perhaps a shared kitchen.

If you get out of the main tourist areas in the south, you can experience a relaxed lifestyle. The cost of living is dramatically lower in the north and east parts of Bali. The only western level expenses you would have are internet and imported spirits (which are expensive in Indonesia). In general, there are huge differences in prices between tourist and non-tourist spots.


Most popular neighborhoods for expats. People generally live in the area which suits their interests.  Roughly:

  • Seminyak – for upscale bars/restaurants
  • Sanur – laid back beach
  • Bukit – for surfers
  • Ubud – for artists/yoga practitioners
  • Kuta – tourist central and active nightlife

Average internet download speed: Download speed: (source http://www.speedtest.net/) [DAN: this is corroboruated from my experience, also note speedtest.net is an essential website for any internet business person in SE Asia].

  • Indonesia Ranked 148 in the world.  1.13 Mb/s
  • Ranked 144 in the world 0.38 Mb/s

Average Monthly Cost for DSL Internet Service:

  • 1 MEG Down / .256K Up, $65.00
  • 2 MEG Down / .512K Up, $100.00
  • 3 MEG Down / .512K Up, $170.00 (Business use)

Average rent range for furnished 2br apt 12 month lease:

  • A reasonable place would cost around US$500 a month.  Of course you can pay a lot more than this and it is still possible to get a local Balinese house in a village for $500-$600 a year. (note that rooms, or floors within these houses, which are often MASSIVE, can go for MUCH less).

Average monthly expenses for food/dining out/entertainment:

As long as it is not too extravagant $100-200 a month.  There is also a big difference between eating at local restaurants vs. places geared for tourists.

Estimated salaries of average Balinese workers [DAN I often find it helpful to understand what local people earn and live off of].:

  • Average monthly salary for house maid (full time, live in) is $50.00 monthly at the low end.  The minimum salary is higher than this, but it is not enforced by the government.
  • Average monthly salary for fast food employee is round $130.00 a month.
  • Average monthly salary for web developer is around $150.00 a month.

Categorize briefly the expats in Bali by percentage: Retirees, escape artist bums, surfers, internet marketers, career breakers, NGOs, etc.

  • Very difficult to say.  A fairly recent thread on the Bali expat forum posed this question, which you can read here : http://balipod.com/bali-expat-forum-f2/budding-expats-please-share-t4539.html For example, “Im getting the feeling we have wandering surfers, retirees,rotation workers (month on/month off) and people involved internet/web based industries coming more often now.”

Thoughts on the Visa Situation:

  • I think it’s difficult to get people to answer honestly because of the situation with visas.   There seems to be quite a trend of families basing themselves in Bali where one partner flies in and out for their job in the mining or oil industry.
  • Visas generally comprise a significant part of expat’s budgets.  A visa extension for the social visa for example is $25.00 if you do it your self and around $70.00 if you go through an agent.
  • If you get a working visa for example you need to pay US$1200.00 per year, plus the administration costs to get the visa, which is at least another $500-$600.00.
  • The 30 day visa on arrival can be extended only once for another 30 days.
  • There is a ‘social visa’ which you need to apply for outside of Indonesia and is good initially for 60 days, but it can be extended on a monthly basis four times, for a maximum stay of 6 months. You need to have an Indonesian person to sponsor you for the visa and it does not allow you to work. If you want to stay longer than six months, it is just a matter of getting a plane to Singapore or Malaysia and repeating the whole process.

If you’d like more information about living and working in Bali, you can download my free guide here: (http://www.baliexpat.com/guides-and-ebooks/getting-started).

Thanks Mike!

Here’s some iPhone snaps from my time in Bali…

Published on 09.24.10
  • So on the Thailand vs Indonesia thing again.
    Thailand a pain in the arse, need to get a 60 day tourist visa, cost is free, can be extended for 30 more days for 1900 baht ($61), or go to Laos, Cambodia for another free 60 day tourist visa (need to pay, visa fees to enter these countries). Or sign up for an Education visa (one year Thai language course plus visa about 30,000), or if setting off from USA, Europe, Oz get a one year ‘O’ visa if you have a friend.
    Bali, even harder, need to fly to nearby countries to get a decent visa, needs to be extended every month at at least $25 a pop. Then another flight out.

    Thailand 5Mb, 470 baht $15, most guest houses have it for free, Wi-fi everywhere.
    Bali, 3Mb $170, Wi-what?

    Thailand, small apartment in Chiang mai, two rooms + bathroom, Cable Tv, Fridge, Microwave, Aircon, furnished, 5Mb Internet, 6700 baht ($220)
    Bali $500

    Mmh, I’m still seeing Bali as somewhere to go for a holiday, (perhaps a five or six weeks one).

  • Great insights from Mike, thanks guys!

  • Dan

    Deano, wifi speed in Bali is def not as good as Thailand, but I found it manageable to run my business (Skype, email, upload videos etc). Its not so great if you want to regularly download movies etc. I think the 500$ figure is really conservative, I was highly impressed with the value for accommodation in Bali. For example, I met a guy with a 3 BR place, views, indoor/outdoor architecture, roof terrace, high ceilings, pool in the house (he only had a part of the compound) gardens, 3BR, 2Bathroom, 15 minutes from Kuta center, very close to beach, for 250 bucks a month. Sooo… very good. In fact, one of the photos above was the view from his living room.

  • Dan

    :D !

  • Now that’s more my sort of price :-)

    It will be interesting to see how you get on after after a few months living there. I know that you are very strongly motivated so you will be fine; me I have a feeling that I’d be back to a 4 hour work month (never understood why anyone would want to do a 4 hour work week ;-)

    Actually if I remember my last time in Bali, I don’t think I’d manage to work at all!

  • Dan

    haha! sounds like a win-win experiment!

  • Thanks Mike for taking the time to categorize all of that information. The pictures are absolutely fantastic as well – definitley makes me want to go there even more. I’m curious as to where the locals live since the web designers only make $150/month. Obviously they won’t be paying for maids and internet access – but their cost of living must be significantly lower. Perhaps they live in a village, travel to a city to work (with internet access) and repeat each day?

    Thanks Dan for posting an update about the third semester. Again, I can’t wait to find out the details and to get working on my submission!

    Thanks guys

  • Dan

    Hey Richard, in general across Asian societies family support networks allow people to live on much less relative salary than their western counterparts (in fact the same kind of thing went down in the west as our economies were developing) so kids will live at home until they are married, etc etc etc. Thanks for the comment!

  • Definatly on my list of places to visit in the near future. No idea when but, I’ll be bookmarking this article for reference nearer the time.

    Cheers Guys

  • Dan

    Thanks Milt, hope to meet up again!

  • That’s a really good point. I always ‘knew’ about that but never really gave it too much thought. Thanks for bringing it to my attention.

  • Joe

    Just got back from a week on Bali. Loved it! Have a dream of going back one day for a month or so and doing a tour of the island on a motor bike.

    Lets hope its not a dream for too long!

  • Dmckeegan


    Just moved over to Bali. We should be here in Ubud for about 8 months or so, but will be heading back to NYC at Xmas. Heard on the lifestyle business podcast that you will be in NY around that time, it would be great to meet up for a beer. Or if / when you make it back to bali let me know and we can have a few Bin Tang.


  • Dan

    Wow thats great David! If you are there for 8 months I’ll very likely be swinging by sometime in that timeframe. RE: NYC let’s catch up closer to the new year and see if something works.

  • Dan

    Got that same dream.

  • Josh

    Hey Dan,

    Love the site and the podcast. I was thinking of visiting Bali and have heard some bad stuff about the air pollution and a chemical known as Dioxin. What has your experience been with the pollution. Also heard the beaches are full of trash, but I’m sure that may just be a certain part.

    beside this blog post is there any other resources you could provide? Do you guys have any other blog post on the topic of Bali. I’m looking to stay for a month and want a good hotel and good area, doesn’t have to be 5 stars, but I’m looking to spent around $800 a month. Any ideas or thoughts? Going for vacation purpose only at the moment.

  • Josh

    btw, below you mentioned a friend who got a great place for about $250 a month? How do you go about finding a decent place to stay? I have no problem paying $300 to $350 a month.

  • Dan

    Thank you Josh! I don’t have any resources or information about the environment, although it wouldn’t surprise me!

  • Dan

    PIck up the Bali Advertiser magazine when you get on the ground.

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