Since I posted my Easter greeting from Bali, Indonesia yesterday I have had a lot of people ask what it costs to live in Bali for a month. The cost of living in Ubud, Bali does not have to be expensive, but how much do you have to spend? The flippant answer would be “whatever you want it to” and that would be accurate. Also, the cost for tourist visiting Bali and the cost for expats living on Bali differs greatly. There are places on the island going for 3,000 USD a night if that is what you are looking for and there are also shared dorm rooms going for only a few dollars a night. Meals can be had for under a dollar and I am sure if you wanted to completely sequester yourself away from genuine Balinese culture you could spend a few hundred dollars per head on a night out. But, I know that isn’t the information you are looking for so I will just give you my experience so far and how I am spending my money.
I am staying in Ubud, a small but growing town located in the gently rolling foothills of Bali’s central mountains. It is situated among swaying coconut palms, terraced rice paddies and deep fern and moss covered ravines. Ubud is also the cultural center of the island and there are a large number of art galleries, yoga studios and health food stores sprinkled about town. Because it is higher in elevation, it is also cooler than other tourist destinations on the island. It takes about an hour to get to a great beach and in about an hour you can be climbing mountains. Many people, however, come to Ubud and don’t leave. Some for YEARS!
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I am in a fully furnished, one bedroom, one bath villa with panoramic views of the rice fields located about four kilometers from the center of Ubud. It is apparently near the “Love” house from the movie “Eat, Pray, Love” but I haven’t located that yet. It has an open floor plan with a big porch that extends out into a garden right at the edge of rice fields. There is a fully equipped kitchen and the water in the bathroom runs strong and hot. From here, on a clear day, you can see Danau Batur, Bali’s largest active volcano and at night breezes are cool and the skies are filled with fireflies and a blanket of stars. (I had a great view of the Southern Cross constellation last night!)
It costs 700 USD to rent this place for a month. That includes daily maid service, utilities, and Internet. I have rented a small motorcycle for getting around at 150 dollars for the month. Although the specific items are different, local equivalent food items can be bought in western-style grocery stores for about the same prices you would find in the United States. Imported items, like everywhere else, are much more expensive. I haven’t cracked the local markets yet but I would expect once I have that my grocery expense will go down.
Honestly though, restaurants here are very reasonable and I have been eating at least two meals a day out. Ubud is full of nice places to eat and just about any cuisine you would want is available. Meals in nice, Indonesian style restaurants (warungs) run less than three dollars including a non-alcoholic drink and the most expensive dinner I have had (in an Italian restaurant) cost about 10 dollars including a glass of wine. I am sure after I find more of the “local style” restaurants my eating out bills will go down but I am already spending less than I would normally.
Overall I am traveling for a month in one of the world’s premier destinations for far less than I would have had to spend in the United States for a month on just ordinary living expenses and I don’t have to sacrifice too much to do it. This is what I love about living retirement as an adventure. Things are always different and sometimes challenging, but after enough stumbling around and learning how things work, nothing has really been that difficult.
And, here in Bali I even have a new cat! (Okay, she just wandered up yesterday but I think she has adopted me for the month.)