Bali. Cost of living a comfortable retired life

Cost of living in Bali, col Bali, BaliAfter spending 3 months on this popular Indonesian island I have a good grasp of costs to live here. All of these numbers are just for a single retired man. No dog. No wife. No kids. Just me. Here we go with Bali cost of living… 

The cost to rent on this island, in popular areas, can be absolutely amazing low and can go up as high as “are you kidding me”. For example I booked a few hotel rooms, normally referred to as a “home stay”, for as little as 7 USD per night and this included breakfast!! I normally use via for all my rooms. This was in the town of Ubud and the beautiful relaxing gardens were right in front of the large porch where breakfast was served to me each morning.
I then began looking for a bigger room with a kitchen to stay one month. Again in Ubud I rented a beautiful room with a large bedroom, dining room/office, large modern bathroom and larger nicely equipped kitchen. It included the electric for the air conditioner that I never used and had a swimming pool and fantastic views from the second floor balcony of rice friends. My rent was 380 USD per month.
I also started to look for an apartment or house, commonly referred to on Bali as a “villa” that had a living room with a comfy couch and a big screen TV. This is when prices soared!! These villas started at prices around 900 USD per month plus utility costs. Nope, this was not good value for money and a strange jump in price.

The thing I really wanted was a living room..with a big comfy couch and a big screen TV. Those places are considered “luxury villas’. the prices averaged about 1,400 USD.. a really big jump from my room for just 380 USD.. the only difference was the added living room and a house instead of an apartment.

The next biggest expense, and oftentimes in my travels bigger than how much I spend on housing, is meals out. Yes, I rented a place on Bali with a nice kitchen, but knowing what ingredients to buy and where to buy becomes a lot of work. Plus the initial outlay of spices and other long term consumable and cooking for one just doesn’t add up budget wise. I had to be very careful in Bali, several restaurant meal prices too me buy surprise. The place might not look much and a bit basic so I had assumed a low price. I was very wrong. Conversely a nice looking place with comfortable seating was oftentimes a nice surprise for menu prices. A basic meal of chicken friend rice, “nasi goreang” was on average 45,000 rupiah or 3.14 USD. But its not that tasty or filling. A more realistic meal consisting of spring rolls, fried rice with additional fish or chicken, a coffee or a small beer was often 220.000 or 15.38. Not at all “cheap” for SE Asia.
The wonderful thing about Bali is finding a comfortable place to enjoy a coffee or a complete meal. Compared to Thailand, Bali is “luxurious dining”, with comfortable adult size chairs, proper wooden tables, often with a table cloth and placemats. In Thailand most of my meals were eaten sitting on a silly plastic stool at a metal folding card table on a sidewalk next to heavy traffic. Bali is much more comfortable.

Added to every restaurant bill is tax and service. I hated this. The USA and England does this and so the menu prices do not reflect the true cost to buy. Ten percent for tax and 5 or 10 percent for service is automatically added to the bill. Not good. On the plus side table servers in Bali all speak good English and know how to take care of the customers. Thailand was TERRIBLE is this regard.

I massage in Bali costs 100.000 rupiah for one hour and in Thailand 200 baht. Making a massage in Bali more expensive by one dollar per hour. However the girls in Bali were much nicer and not as sleazy as the average Thai massage place. No happy ending were offered in Bali whereas in Thailand 50% of the massages had that option at some point in the massage process.

My Internet only data plan for my cell phone was 9.50 USD for 23 gb of data at 4g speeds. The cost of Indonesia made clothes here was very low and so I bought 6 t-shirts and 2 collared casual shirts all high quality an material and for 42 USD the lot.
Grocery prices are crazy high. In fact in my opinion criminally high. The cost of a small beer from a convenience is store is about 32.000 rupiah and the cost of that same beer in a restaurant is 25.000!!! Yep… it costs less to pay for a beer at a restaurant. Bali has taken the words “convenience store” to mean that the shop owner can conveniently charge a silly high price. Bread, fruit, tuna chips and everything else I bought was expensive…a much higher than the UK or USA.

Bottom line is that Bali can be an affordable place to live if you are careful. Of course cost of living is just one factor about finding your own paradise. I found Bali to be safe, the local people are very nice and interesting people, the culture interesting. The downside for me is that it was far too transient and finding a community to belong to just never happened for me in the months I was there. The infrastructure is not the best..roads ALWAYS choked with cars and motorbikes, lousy 4g and internet.

I hope you enjoyed and learned something here. Thanks and happy trails. 

About John Arnold