Preparing to live in Bali – things you must know before you go

As you know we are going to live in Bali for some months. The trigger for this move is Wood School Bali, which promises to be an ideal place to lay foundations for Big F to be a happy and confident adult in the future. You can read more about the school in my post announcing the move. We are very excited, but in the meantime we are working away like little ants, making sure our stay in Bali will be as smooth as possible. This post is all about things you need to know before you go to live in Bali.



By far the most important thing is making sure we all stay safe and healthy.

vaccinations –  we are all getting recommended vaccinations, though of course the kids can’t have all of the vaccines as they are too young. If you want to stay longer in Bali make sure to include the vaccinations cost in your budget. You may be lucky and get some from your GP, but our surgery stopped providing them on NHS, so it’s an additional £1000 cost. We have found that the cheapest way of getting vaccinated was in a pharmacy offering vaccination services. Here’s the list of vaccines we had, including prices:

Hepatitis A + B £60

Rabies (3 doses; course completed in 3 weeks) £50 each dose

Japanese Encephalitis (2 doses; course completed in 4 weeks) £85 each dose – we were told to get this vaccine once in Bali, as it is cheaper and there’s only one dose required. The vaccine was developed in Australia and is cold IMOJB

Tetanus/Diphtheria/Polio £30

If you’d like to know in more detail about travel vaccinations and health risks these two websites are excellent:

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Make sure not to make any plans on the day of your vaccination. It will leave you feeling very tired!


There is dengue fever in Bali, so precautions against mosquitoes are necessary:

cover up in the evenings

use lots of mosquito repellent (especially on your feet and lower legs; mosquitoes are lazy in the heat and don’t fly high). I don’t like the idea of using deet daily, especially with the kids. One of the school mums recommended natural neem spray*, though laboratory research stands by the deet being the most effective. And it is recommended to use on babies as young as 2 months. Maximum safe and effective concentration is 30%. The well traveled nurse at travel clinic also mentioned Incognito spray* and Avon Skin So Soft* (apparently sailors like to use it; it’s also supposed to be very good at keeping midges at bay)

use electric repellents at home

mosquito nets over bed, cot* and buggy*

If you’ve never heard of dengue fever, it’s a potentially fatal disease transmitted by mosquitoes. It is most common to experience fever and flu like symptoms for about a week or two. The feeling of tiredness remains for some weeks afterwards. Here’s some more detailed information.


There’s also sun protection to be considered. I am trying to live a zero waste life, but I don’t know if there’s a way of making your own sun lotion. For now I’ll have to stick with organic options. At least they reduce the amount of chemicals in the productions process and because they are not full of fillers a little goes a long way. I think I’ll get Green People Organic Children Sun Lotion* for the kids and Green People Organic Scent Free Sun Lotion* for Daddy and me, as I’ve recently read a very good review about them (I can’t find the website again though). We will take some lotion with us, but I’ve been told that there are good and cheaper options to buy once in Bali.



Make sure to get good insurance. Here’s what we took into consideration when checking out various offers:

low excess

covering all of us (family of 4) for the entire duration of our stay in Indonesia (we might want to do some trips, and there is visa run to consider as well)

the insurance allows us to return to UK for a set period of time (a lot of backpacker type policies are void when you return to UK, even temporarily)

Following UK government’s advice we also made sure that the policy includes:

”an air ambulance, in case we need to be flown home or to a third country for treatment

full medical cover (bills can be very expensive)

bringing the body home, in the event of a death

bringing your family home, in the event of your illness or injury”

In case you do need emergency help, the number for ambulance in Indonesia is 118. Here’s a few other useful numbers along with some phrases useful in an emergency situation.

I was planning to include all the insurance related information here, but the research and reading through the policies is taking me lots of time. There’s so much to consider and so many options available that it will take up a whole separate post to write about it (you can sign up at the bottom of this post to make sure you don’t miss it). When traveling with kids and staying for such a long time I want to make sure that all eventualities are covered. I’ll share all my findings with you to save you lots of time and nit picking at small print.



To drive in Bali you’ll need and international driving permit. There are two types, for Indonesia you need IDP1949. You can apply to get one in selected post office branches (here you can find your nearest branch). It costs only £5.50 and application process takes about 5 minutes. You can apply no longer than 3 months in advance. Once issued the international driving permit is valid for 12 months. Here’s what you’ll need to apply:

your full UK driving licence

passport size photo, signed on the back

proof of ID, for example passport

Here’s a helpful guide to help newcomers with easing into Indonesian traffic. It may seem like there are no rules, but they are just different to what westerners are used to.

There is no public transport in Ubud and the taxis are unmarked. There is an option of hiring a driver, full time or for specific tasks. A mum I was in touch with had a driver to take her kids to school and collect them, which cost her around £200 per month.

Booking your flights

Of course before you discover delights of Balinese traffic you need to get there first. We chose to book with Singapore airlines* for a few reasons.

they have many local flights, so if there is an issue with the plane it’s easy for them to provide a new one and avoid long delays

short stop off time in Singapore (there are 4 flights every day from London to Singapore and from there there’s lots of connection options)

good name for comfort and customer service

incredible choice of meal options; they seem to cater for all religious and dietary requirements!

I was surprised that for such a good airline their prices are pretty competitive. You can check out their rates in here*.


Do keep in mind that you’ll need to pay 250,000 IDR per person to leave the airport (£14 in today’s exchange rate).

Like anywhere else in the world taxi drivers will try to take you for a ride. It should cost about 300,000 IDR from Denpasar airport to Ubud, which is about 1,5 hours ride. Apparently it’s worth asking the driver to take the toll road, as it makes the journey 15 minutes shorter – the fee is 10,000 IDR.


Living in Bali – Ubud in particular

If, like us, you are going to stay in Ubud this is by far the best and most detailed information I came across. I’ll be writing my own guide once we are in Ubud, but for the moment we will rely on this information.


Living costs

Of course the key question is: how much does it all cost? We are a family of four and we want to have a comfortable year in Bali: a house with a pool, yoga classes, regular massage, eating out, some childcare. From all the research we have done all this can be achieved at £1200-£1400 per month. A lot depends on the exchange rate, which fluctuates wildly.

While doing research I came across this detailed breakdown of living costs in Ubud – compiled in February 2015. It will give you a good idea of what costs what, so you can decide what you want and don’t want and decide on your personal budget.


Visa to live in Bali

UK citizens don’t need a visa, as long as their stay is up to 30 days. If you are planning to stay longer you need to apply for a visa before you go or get one at the airport at $35. This type of visa can be extended only once for another 30 days, by applying to immigration office in Indonesia.

Because we are going for a long period (at least 6 months) we are applying for a social (cultural) visa – Sosial Budaya. This requires a letter of invitation from an Indonesian citizen. In our case it’s the Wood School Bali, as Big F will be attending. it.

This type of visa is initially granted for 60 days at around $60. It can be extended every 30 days after that for $25 and there is no need to leave the country in between extensions (that is go on a visa run). The maximum duration is 6 months, but of course after that you can apply for the next Sosial Budaya. The requirement is that you are outside of Indonesia while applying for Sosial Budaya, so we will need to stay in Singapore for example while we await for the second visa to be granted. This is what digital nomads do to live in Bali for longer.


Cherry on top

Bali is promising to be a wonderful place for my family to live. There’s a great school for Big F, Daddy can indulge in massages and Indonesian food, I can return to regular yoga and Little S can enjoy lost of nappy free time in the warm climate (not to mentioned being weaned on to tropical fruits!). But for me the cherry on top is pembantu. What, or rather who is pembantu? It’s a hired help who can help with cleaning, cooking, shopping and childcare for as little as £80 a month. This should free up lots of my time to spend more quality time with my family, have some relaxing me time, and of course more time to blog!


So here we are, all the things you need to consider before you move to live in Bali. Is there anything I’ve missed? Do  leave me a comment or get in touch on Twitter (@mumbalance).

live in bali expat indonesia digital nomad mumbalance


PS. All links marked * are affiliate links. If you click and buy I will receive a small commission, though you won’t pay anymore. My blog is my source of income and if I want to continue writing all things green and ethical I need to include links in some of my posts.