October 2019 was my first month working and travelling remotely full-time. It’s also known as the digital nomad movement and something I’ve been building towards for the last couple of years.
I chose Bali because I loved it the last time I was there and wanted to go back. Plus, I wanted to get great at surfing.
I spent my last couple of weeks in Edmonton in October, which is where I grew up. As the weather started dipping down for the winter, I was excited to get into the gorgeous sun of Bali.
Since this is a personal finance site, I’m going to focus mostly on the finances of my trip so far.
I want to give people a good idea of what they will spend living month-to-month and working in Bali. I will exclude one-time costs like my flight to Bali or visa entrance fees.
Total Spend: $2010 for 30 days in Bali
It’s interesting going from a country like Canada, where I purchase everything on credit, to Bali, where everything is paid for in cash. Almost every place tacks on a 3% fee to use your credit card, so I avoided doing that.
It makes things much harder to track since there aren’t any electronic statements, and everything is in cash. Here’s a close estimate of what I spent my $2,010 on.
- Hotels and Airbnbs: $700 – I overspent on hotels and Airbnb because I wanted to see more of the country. I stayed in five different locations all over the island, Ubud, Canggu, Kuta, and two places in Seminyak. I’d say between $400 and $500, you can find something decent for a month. You can go even cheaper if you can stomach it or befriend a local who can show you the better deals.
- Transportation: $160 – I rented a little 125cc Honda Vario scooter as soon as I landed for about $120 for one month. It’s crazy how efficient they are. I drove it all around the island and put about 1,000 kilometres on the odometer, and I spent about $30 on gas only. The other $10 is from cabs and Grabcars (the Uber of Asia) when I was going to be drinking and didn’t want to drive.
- Food: $600 – This is a bit of an estimate, but I spent about $20 a day on food. This was eating out almost every meal as well. I spent a bit more because I had one or two cheap meals a day, then usually an expensive Western dinner. If you grocery shop and cook yourself, you could easily bring this down to $200 or $300 a month. Still, it was more expensive overall in Bali than in other countries in Asia, like Thailand or Vietnam.
- Dirt bike tour: $180 – I heard it was one of the best things you could do in Bali, and it did not disappoint. The tour started at 9 am, and I didn’t get home until about 8 pm. The tour started in the city, then we drove out to the rice fields, then a forest, then a jungle. After stopping for lunch at a beautiful restaurant overlooking Mount Batur Lake, we continued to the coolest part, which was the hardened lava fields, where we spent the afternoon dirt biking and learning tricks. Expensive, but totally worth every penny.
- Surfing: $60 – Surfing was super cheap. It costs $5 to rent a board at most places for a whole afternoon (they say two hours, but nobody really cares if it’s longer). I found private lessons for $10 each on Airbnb experiences and took two of them. I went surfing eight times in a month and got decent at it by the end.
- Miscellaneous: $310 – The rest of the money I spent on entertainment, like going for drinks at a bar and coffee shops when I was working. There was even a wakeboard park I went to check out for a couple of hours!
You can spend way less than I did
$2,010 might seem like a lot to some people, but when the cost to rent an apartment in downtown Vancouver where I used to live, will cost at least $1,500 per month, this seemed dirt cheap to me. Plus, I got to experience the whole country and do so many awesome things like surfing and dirt biking.
I was living large and kind of more like a tourist. If I were living in Bali long-term, I’d find a place for around $400 a month, buy a motorbike, and cook more. I’d probably spend closer to $1,000-$1300/month long term. I’ve heard of people living for way less even, but it’s not something I think I could do and still stay productive at work.
The minimum wage of workers in Indonesia is about $370/month. I spoke with some of them, and you can find places to rent for $100 to 200/month. I saw some of the pictures of the places available, and they actually looked decent for some of them. So who knows, if you can find a local deal you could maybe pay way less in rent and live way cheaper.
Best parts of Bali
I loved surfing the most, the ocean was the best. The waves are perfect for beginners and advanced surfers. As someone who lived in Alberta for most of his life, I can’t get enough of the beach and sun.
Seminyak was probably my favourite area to live, as it provides the best value and is not too crazy like Kuta. Ubud and Canggu I didn’t love too much; there are so many tourists that it didn’t feel like Bali to me.
Old Man is the best bar there, out in the open, and it turns into a beach party after it closes next door.
Working in Bali as a digital nomad
There is an abundance of coffee shops and coworking spaces. Both were great. I checked out coworking spaces like Dojo and Outpost, but they are really expensive at about $300/month.
The one I found to be the best value was Biliq in Seminyak, where if you pay around $700/month, you get to live in their hotel nearby and work in their coworking space which is really nice.
I loved Bali. It is one of my favourite places in Asia. It’s so unique for its amazing surfing, cheap cost of living, and just peaceful and friendly vibe I felt. I can see why so many lists have Bali as a top place for Digital Nomads. I’ll be back here again, I am 100% sure of that!