What Is The Cost Of Living Like In Bali?
That all depends on what your lifestyle is like. The more Western you get, the higher your overhead will be. Electricity and telephone charges are relatively high. If you plan on having a large house with lots of lighting, you are going to be paying out some serious money. If you crave a lot of Western foods and material items, you will be paying more for them than you would back home. On the other hand, if you blend your lifestyle in with local realities, shop in local markets, and keep the overhead down, you can get by on a relatively modest income. For example, my family of six and a ravenous German Shepard gets by comfortably on about $1,500 a month.
Most expatriates have at least one Balinese employee, a pembantu (maid); many also have a driver and gardener as well. The cost of household help is quite reasonable. You can expect to pay between $40 to $70 a month for each person. Many employers supplement their staff’s pay with contributions to their children’s education, gifts for ceremonies, and help with medical expenses when necessary.
What Kinds Of Material Goods Are Available?
Bali has a variety of shopping opportunities. You can get all of the usual Asian fruits and vegetables in Bali like durian, rambutan, and jackfruit. Seafood is plentiful if you live by the coast although the cost for things like prawns has gone up a lot over the past decade as more and more of the catch goes to hotels and restaurants. The Balinese aren’t supposed to eat beef, and the Muslims aren’t supposed to eat pork. Both are available for the expatriate. If you regularly eat local dishes like nasi goring (fried rice) and mie goring (fried noodles), you’ll find that your food bill will be quite low.
Bali has the superstore, Makro (http://www.makro.co.id/makro), which sells just about everything. It’s a supermarket with a stock similar to what you would find in a Western supermarket. It also carries electronic goods like televisions and microwaves and music systems, tools, toys, clothes, and office supplies. You’ll find it full of Westerners buying items in bulk. Bali now has a number of computer stores, and it is cheaper to buy your computer and peripherals here than bring them in as customs charges an excessively high duty on imported electronics. If you really have the shakes and need to do some Western shopping check out the new malls down in the Kuta tourist area – there is even an Ace Hardware store there now.
While Bali doesn’t have cable tv, it does have a subscription satellite company, Indovision, which receives approximately 40 channels. You can buy inexpensive televisions or the more expensive large models. We recently purchased a 43-inch television for approximately $1300.
Transportation is another expense. The motorbike is the most common vehicle on the road. A 100cc Honda goes for around $1200. Make sure that you get an international license before you leave your home country. Automobiles are relatively expensive in Bali, although several new inexpensive models have been released and can be purchased for as low as $10,000. Driving in Bali can be a harrowing experience, and if you are not a skilled driver, it would be worth your money (and your life) to hire a driver.
Can You Get Internet Access In Bali?
Yes, there are a number of ISPs in Bali. Generally, telephone lines in Bali are of poor quality and do not transmit data quickly. Internet access is relatively inexpensive. Some Internet Service Providers are: Wasantara net, Indosatnet, Meganet, and Indointernet. Internet access is best in the south of Bali. Additionally, there are many internet cafes in Bali.
Are There Employment Opportunities?
There are very few opportunities for employment in Bali. The Indonesian government is very strict about allowing foreigners to take jobs that Indonesians can do, and with the high level of unemployment that is only as it should be. That being said, if you are a hotel professional, an English language teacher, or a certified teacher from one of the Western countries, you may be able to find employment in Bali. My experience is in the teaching field, and positions for teachers are few and the competition is very stiff. The compensation is also considerably lower than what you would expect in your home country or another less desirable place, but it is more than enough to get by on.
Excerpted from “The Practicalities Of Moving To Bali” in Escape From America Magazine, Issue 69.