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10 dumb mistakes foreigners make moving to Bali


Bali has a certain appeal for many travelers, some of whom visit the island every chance they can get. It’s not surprising then that many then want to live here permanently. The move is a major one for most people, one fraught with emotion and not to mention, expense. Here is a list of some of the major mistakes I have seen people make since moving to Bali myself and hopefully you can avoid them too if you move to Bali.

1. Chasing the freehold property dream

Foreigners cannot own property in Indonesia. It is as simple as that. Many people will try to get around the law by placing the property in Indonesian friend’s name, but it still doesn’t make it legal.

2. Thinking you can find a job

Unemployment or underemployment is very high in Indonesia. There are also many highly skilled Indonesian workers whose salaries will be a lot less than what most expats will want to be paid. It is also expensive for a company to employ a foreigner, the visa alone is around $2000. There are a few English teaching jobs, but the pay is low and the competition is high, for the few jobs available. Most foreigners who don’t already have an outside income, try starting a business in Bali to survive.

3. Starting the wrong kind of business

I think one of the main reasons why expats fail at starting a business in Bali, is not having enough experience in the business they start. There is a huge turnover in the bars and restaurants all over Bali. Sure there are established places that seem to have been around forever, but it has taken the business owners years of hard work to get to there.

4. Getting in the wrong relationship

Going out to bars and clubs is a fun activity for many expats and making friends with other expats and locals. Having a relationship with a local whom they met in a nightclub is one thing, buying a property or business and using them as the nominee (Indonesian owner) is a recipe for disaster, which I have seen all too often.

5. Not learning the culture

When a foreigner recently got caught with drugs in Bali and received a hefty sentence, one of the newspapers in his home country said he wouldn’t even have gone to jail for the offense in his country. Indonesia has different laws, customs and language and it is up to foreigners moving or even traveling to Bali to be familiar with the laws and culture of their new home. There is nothing worse than expats who continually compare the way things are done “back home”.

6. Not learning the language

Indonesian is a relatively easy language to learn, but it still requires effort and practice. You will gain a great deal of respect by Indonesian people by communicating in their language.

7. Underestimating the cost of living in Bali

Generally speaking Bali has a lower cost of living than most western countries. Gasoline for example is subsidized by the government. Meat, fruit and vegetables is typically inexpensive and you can eat cheaply at warungs. This makes people think they can live very cheaply in Bali. The reality is that there are a number of expenses people don’t think about when calculating their budget. Visa runs to Malaysia or Singapore for example and health insurance or medical bills, if you don’t have any insurance. Imported items are generally more expensive and imported alcohol can be around 3-4 times the usual price.

8. Getting the wrong visa

Many people come to Bali thinking they can do some work on a social, business or even retirement visa. The only visa which you can legally work on is a ‘working visa’. If a potential employer offers you work, don’t even think about accepting the job unless your company will provide a working visa.

9. Not getting the proper legal advice

Bali forums and the internet are good for doing basic research and getting some ideas about how things operate, but it should not a replacement for getting proper legal advice from a qualified consultant, notary or lawyer. Just because a foreigner has started their own hotel in Bali, doesn’t mean they will know all of the legal aspects. How can you know if what they did is the right procedure to follow anyway?

10. Not making local friends

As difficult it is to imagine probably for most people, some expats who move to Bali only associate or make friends with other expats. Having many local friends will only make your stay in Bali more enjoyable and in many ways easier. Dealing with bureaucracy can be a real pain, but having a friend who can help you out makes everything so much smoother. At the same time I believe it is also healthy to make friends with fellow expats. Like many things about living in Bali, it’s all about finding a good balance.

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109 Responses to 10 dumb mistakes foreigners make moving to Bali

  1. EasyGoIn' February 14, 2011 at 4:09 am #

    Thanks for this Article

    You speak out of my heart when you say that many Expats don’t care about culture, language and the local people here. I follow the discussions in Switzerland about the bad integration of foreigners in my home country. I see that most Expats in southeast Asia don’t integrate at all into the culture of their country of choice.
    And this is another point: Most Expats could go home, many foreigners in our countries must live abroad to feed their family in their home country.

    Experiences from my Indonesian language school in Jakarta:
    There where some Expats from the mining Industry living almost a year already in Indonesia enjoying the luxury of drivers, gardeners, maids, etc. Their company pressured them to finally learn basic Bahasa Indonesia. They couldn’t even count to ten before this course! Our teacher also had to teach the “right hand rule” and he took them to their first visit to a local market after spending almost a year here!
    If a foreigner would integrate so little in Switzerland, the majority would like them being deported to their home country!

    • Baron Abraham August 13, 2012 at 1:30 am #

      Thanks for all the infor, I was married there in bali and wish to move over there, my wife is indonesian and i really wish to find something to do there..really dont care how much i’d’s just finding a job thats holeing me back right now..anywhere in indonesia would be fine for me and her..:)

      • Gary Smith September 20, 2012 at 12:53 pm #

        Hi Baron, im in the same boat mate as you, I got married in Indonesia and spent 5 months there and now living back in England with my wife and baby to be, I just want to get back to Bali…but like you said its finding work there so I can live there thats the problem’ good luck mate’

        • Ms: Debby June 25, 2013 at 7:48 pm #

          Hi Baron,
          Hope U r keeping in good shape of health I understand you gonna
          look for a job, here in Bali, if you still interested in flying back to Bali, just drope me few world, here is my email:

          Warm regards
          Ms: Debby

      • tudor January 15, 2014 at 6:59 am #

        i want move in Indoneasia. my girlfriend is from Bali . If my visa expired ,i will go in jail? I understand from manny people is hard to have a job there. with any price i will come there and meet my girlfriend.but i am scared about jail …so thank’s to who can respond me about that .

        • dingo February 16, 2014 at 4:24 am #

          You probably wouldn’t go to jail but its best not to let that happen you could go to jail but what would most likely happen is when you go to leave the country you will have to pay ALOT of overstay 20000 IDR per day extending your visa is simple you will see a lot of places around kuta that say visa extension they can do it for you or you can head to immigration on the bypass and do it your self there

  2. tempo dulu February 14, 2011 at 4:19 am #

    Bali is a great place to retire rather than a place to make money. As for property, you’re far better off renting IMO, especially given the legal (un)certainty issues in Indonesia. cheers.

  3. Talon-1Dad1Kid February 14, 2011 at 4:57 am #

    #5 is the one that drives me crazy the most from people. If where you come from is so much better, then go back there. The idea of living in other countries is to experience how THEY do things.

  4. louise February 14, 2011 at 7:03 am #

    hi mike, thankyou for your useful information, speaking for myself i am taking my time todo my move to bali, i have been studying bahasa indonesia now for 5 months and so much enjoy it, first language i have ever learnt other than english, i would not dream ov moving to a foreign country and not intergrating myself into their ways, isnt that why we move, for the more simpler lifestyle, to be happy and to learn, respect and enjoy… i am sooo xcited about my move later this year and am already in the process ov organising everything, it will not be an overnight move…..speaking in bahasa is sooo much fun, every x pat should learn….regards louise…:):)

    • Jolyn Hebert March 14, 2011 at 2:09 am #

      Hi Louise, my wife and I are actually looking for a land in Bali. We want to move there in 5-6 years. Two of my good friends are looking for us in Bali. Are you there for retirement or business? I’d like to have a land on the north of Bali, building 5 small cottages to rent to tourists. It’s kind of expensive on the beach, almost same has my country(Canada). So, if it’s ever possible, tell me the hard times and good times, you’ll get there, specially with ambassy and all that official stuff. Terima kasih banyak. Sampai jumpa. Joe

      • Peter Hoyles November 24, 2011 at 5:02 am #

        We have beach front land for sale in North of Bali. Its has 175 meters of beach frontage and is 42,000 square meters in size. The land is elevated above the beach on a 3 meter high cliff providing excellent views across the ocean to java Island. Its close to the village of Melaya about 6km south of the Bali/Java ferry port of Gillimarnuk. Price is US$130,000 ideal for small resort with power and water on site and at the bottom of a tarmac road.

        • Simone November 1, 2012 at 2:30 am #

          Hi Peter,

          Do you still have that land available?

          • Pedro January 2, 2013 at 2:34 pm #

            Hi Simone,
            I have 20 are(2000m2) land for sale in the rural part of Bali in Tabanan area. It has all rice fields around and adjacent to a pleasant running creek. Not near Beach but about 15 minutes from. I already sold a plot opposite this one recently to an English/Indonesian couple. Please email for more info.

          • Bang Ucup June 20, 2013 at 8:17 am #

            Hi Simone,

            I have few good land in Bali, quiet a big size though… if you’re interesting to buy the land, please email me at


        • Johannes Kelanadjaja May 20, 2013 at 8:50 pm #

          Hi Peter,

          Are you still live in Bali? I just saw your article in this website and would like to get in touch with you if you still reside in Bali. Let me know.


      • heny December 14, 2012 at 10:48 am #

        Hi Jolyn … have you find properties you are looking for ?
        My friends like to sell his properties in Jembrana area, one of them is by the beach. Suitable for private beach, cottage etc.
        if you like please contact me. Thank you. Heny

    • Rezia June 4, 2012 at 11:34 am #

      Hi Louise

      I have read your reply to mike and I am very interested to know where you will be moving from. I have currently in South Africa, trying to make plans to move to Bali and start the new year there. Please help, I’m clueless. I’m so excited too but need to get things moving.

    • michelle February 20, 2014 at 5:29 am #

      Hi Louise, goodluck with your move to bali. I have been travelling to bali for the last 20 years and have met some wonderful local balanese people over the years. it has been my dream to open a bussiness in bali for along time im seriously thinking about doing it in the next 2 years. Im just in the process now of looking in to it about aussies owning bussiness over in bali, do you have any advise for me as you are going to leave australia and live in bali. all the very best on your venture.
      Michelle from melbourne.

  5. jon February 14, 2011 at 7:39 am #

    This article could be titled “10 dumb mistakes foreigners make moving anywhere”. I live in Japan and at least 80% of that list applies equally here.

  6. Giovanni M. Mancini February 14, 2011 at 8:24 am #

    Thank you for your story. It is wise before moving to Bali to have a serious look regarding condition, regulation and legislations in Indonesia. Many necessary information can be provided by the Indonesian Embassy in your own country. Indonesian staff are willingly to guide anyone in personal requirements. For those of you who are 55 years and older having the intention to stay for a longer period may ask for the senior visa (KITAS). Additional information and criteria:

  7. Eric Sudardja February 14, 2011 at 2:12 pm #

    Hi Mike’
    Your 10 dumbest things etc article is spot on;
    #5 think about some dumb (or plain arrogant) foreigners; in particular Aussies who got caught by dealing drugs in Bali (after “Bali Nine” )then moaning about getting caught; they should be jailed for” extra long holiday”.They should remember Bali is not Australia where those spoilt bratt get away with anything .They should be banned from re-entering Bali once they served their time.
    They are just so embarrasing. I live in Sydney ; I know so well how spoilt these Australians are .Whenever they talk about Bali, they just rave about stupid things they do in Bali with no regard whether the locals get offended or not; if they do, they do not show it ; they just cop it ,after all is about making a living (money) . Life sucks for some Balinese (the ones involve in tourism industry). But after all the Balinese still hold their heads up high; unlike some tourists.

  8. Steve Bassett February 14, 2011 at 9:55 pm #

    Liked your artical, i have been to Bali many times due to the fact i met my Ana from Bali 3 years ago in England when she was on holiday. Back in November we had a Balineese wedding in Tabanan Bali which was very colourfull.My wife has two houses and her own business in Bali but im hoping to open some sort of business to as much as i love holidaying in Bali i have to do some sort of work too, so i went to a visa place in Kuta and had a meeting with a adviser and he tells me there is three ways i can own a business, ether in my bali wifes name, or her name and my name, or i can do just in my name, of course they all come at different fees, can you tell me if i get property in my name and my wifes name or just my name, will i be ok ?

    • laya June 16, 2012 at 5:57 am #

      Hi Steve. If you didnt sign the pre-nuptial agreement with a lawyer and the civil office before u married ur balinese wife then you and your partner have lost all rights to own any land in bali and when your wife wants to sell any business/land that she currently owns it will be almost impossible sorry to say so i hope you did! I have had many friends caught out with this same problem. Its different if u are a western woman married to an indonesian man. something to do with men and woman in indonesia not having equal rights…

      • Radi Juremi January 30, 2013 at 8:51 am #


        Just want to add the about the marriage discussion, well basically if the wife still holds the Indonesian Citizenship (as the new regulation already prevail that the wife can and may hold their citizenship – including the children citizenship – that affect marital property also), then it will be no problem to own property under her name. However, please note that Indonesian Land Regulation still regulate that foreigner cannot have the land (certificate of Land Ownership), but the foreigner may have the land under ‘Building Use Certificate’ or ‘Venture use Certificate’ and must be extended every 25 – 30 years.

        If you need further information, please do not hesitate me for consultation and discussion. Hope the information helpful.


    • any sitorus December 22, 2014 at 11:38 pm #

      Hi steve if you want start the business in indonesia the fist think you do speak to the lawyar can explain about your visa to have business in indonesia and your wright doesnt mean because you have indonesia wife or girlfriend can guarantee you safe from immigration rule or tax department, and try be cool people come to indonesia for lifestyle not to be rich.from my experience married with my husband and running the business so difficult sometimes even iam indonesia in my own country choose the wright people ,but indonesia not only bali alot you can do in another area out side bali good luck .

  9. Emma February 14, 2011 at 11:56 pm #

    Hi Mike,

    Excellent article, cuts through all the BS and tells it how it is! If it was so easy to live and work in Bali, I’m sure there would be many more expats over there, so as frustrating as it can be, I believe the restrictions are there for an excellent reason (ie: to protect the jobs for locals when unemployment/underemployment is already so high over there). My husband comes from Bali (an Indonesian national) and we would love to be able to live over there for a period to allow our children (and ourselves) a healthy dose of my husband’s culture. We have been racking our brains for years on how to do it, and have looked at (and passed on) all the same options you have listed. My husband had a steady government job which he could return to, but it only barely covered his own living expenses as a bachelor and he lived hand-to-mouth on that income. There is no way we could live together in Bali on his income alone!
    I’ve just begun studying at university with a hope to gain a teaching degree. I’m also including Indonesian language studies into this, so you never know… in 5-10 years we might finally get to live the dream… but with teaching prospects so rare in Bali, it’s still a long shot! But in the meantime, I’m lucky that we live in another beautiful country, Australia!

    In regards to starting a business in Bali, there are many other factors to consider too – for example, finding reliable and trustworthy management and staff, how to protect yourself from blackmail and extortion (and “black magic”!), and if you have a really great business idea, a contingency on how to stay ahead of copy-cat businesses (which will inevitably ensue!)

    To all those who have managed to successfully move to, and remain in Bali: congratulations, I am envious! To those who wish to: first think hard and be realistic, then if you still decide to do it, all the best, work hard, be considerate but think and act smart, learn the language and the culture, and good luck!


    • chris March 2, 2013 at 7:56 am #

      On todays values ( march 2013 ) what would the total costs per week / month ) year be if living in Bali ( emmigrating )

  10. Bali Homeland February 15, 2011 at 5:01 am #

    Very true about the 6th. Indonesia people will be more respect with foreigner who can speak Indonesia. But I think this is apply anywhere.

  11. Rich Polanco February 16, 2011 at 1:14 am #

    You nailed many key points in that post that would apply to any person looking to live abroad. Many expect things to be exactly like they were back home and for things to run the same way (or at the same speed).

    It is much easier if you move in with an open mind and seek to adapt to the culture, rather than try to change it overnight.

    Great post 🙂

  12. Nash March 20, 2011 at 12:54 am #

    Having lived in Thailand, Vietnam, China and Timor Leste, I would agree that these are the standard mistakes expats make all over the world!

    I am considering starting a business in Bali and I am looking for a reputable company that can offer legal assistance. Could you recommend one?



    • admin March 20, 2011 at 6:25 am #

      There some companies listed here that handle visas and company formation. You can also just contact a lawyer or notary directly. Sorry, but I cannot recommend anyone in particular. You could also post your question on the Bali expat forum:

    • Nick Tutty May 4, 2011 at 11:41 pm #

      Hey Nash, I was just browsing through some of Mike’s articles on and saw you are considering starting a business in Bali. I started mine about two years ago now and it has been tough. We have actually just “broken even” for the first time recently and we are positive about the future. If you are thinking this way I’m sure I don’t have to warn you on the tough parts or to tell you how fun and rewarding it is! The company I use for all my legal demands and they set up my company and I refer many clients of mine to them, they always look after people I send and do a great job. Your post was a few months ago so I’m sure you have found someone to help you by now. If not, email me at and I will point you in the right direction. Be careful though.. I don’t believe you will get burned if you are using a registered lawyer but there is definitely big differences in price between the companies doing it. My guy doesn’t just quote the cheapest but is very reasonably priced and no hidden costs. Also works fast. If you are underway with your business project, let us know how it’s going. I am still relatively new to it all and am always looking to meet people like yourself that perhaps we can support in some way also. Best Wishes.
      Nick Tutty

    • Simone November 1, 2012 at 2:35 am #

      CCI in Sanur is helpful and reliable – run by Indonesian and American partners.

    • rogier ymker January 25, 2013 at 6:38 am #

      i am rogier lived for 8 years in sanur and run a restaurant for 5 years what business would you like to start?i am looking for a job at this moment or maybe i can assist you with questions you have my tel is +6281338130328 and my email i am 46 years old dutch and married for 4 years to an indonesian woman.

    • Radi Juremi January 30, 2013 at 8:53 am #

      feel free for contact me for consultation and legal assistance.


      • Deborah May 14, 2013 at 11:25 am #

        Hello Radi,

        Cam you help me with advice about renting property in Bali? I am moving there for an extended stay for at least 1 year but would like to stay up to 5 years – and perhaps retire there as I am 52 years old. I would like to rent for 3-6 months at first and then when I find the right rental situation for me, perhaps negotiate a long term lease for 5 years.
        Any assistance and advice would be great.

        I look forward to a reply – thank you in anticipation.

        Warm Regards


        • Bobby May 22, 2013 at 4:14 am #

          Hi Deborah.. sorry for jumping into your case. Just to let you know, renting property in Bali is not so complicated actually. All you have to do is to have legal documents to stay in Indonesia.
          You may decide to rent the properties by weekly,monthly,yearly or even for a long-term rent.

        • I Made Widana February 15, 2014 at 3:35 am #

          Hi Deborah Sorry to jump to your question, i am a Balinese doing some villa and land sale from my friends and family with personal price no company price , if you haven’t got any property or any rental place yet i can help you to find as per your request drop me an email i will replay with in 24 hours or contact me here +6281288183502 for reference you my visit my property gallery web site.

  13. Stephen April 10, 2011 at 7:18 am #

    Good article and good comments! Learning Indonesian, as with any language, is very rarely accomplished solely by osmosis. Also, occasional classes really don’t get you up and speaking the language quickly. If you’ve been here a while and can’t speak Indonesian yet, then do yourself a big favor and look up Indonesian language schools in Bali or Yogyakarta. Cinta Bahasa is an Indonesian language school in Ubud.

  14. Ochie April 10, 2011 at 7:40 am #

    It’s sad because I have some expats friends telling me that they have difficulties in understanding Balinese people or working with Balinese after living in Bali for years! As an Indonesian, there’s nothing much I can say but c’mon, you’ve been living here for years but never have the intention to learn the language and culture? Indonesian people make the effort to engage with expats, especially in Bali, by learning English. And please, stop treating local people as “just staffs or maid”, treat them like friends, they will appreciate you more!

    • tami April 18, 2011 at 7:13 pm #

      This is a great article indeed. I retired to Bali because i knew it was where i wanted to retire.Obviously living is not the same as being a tourist and i was well aware of this before making my decision.As for starting a business in Bali I am quite concerned about the amount of Australians opening “sports” bars and taking over restaurants at an alarming rate and really i have no problem but there are certain spots where it is becoming over westernized and bordering on a smutty/slutty/sleazy environment similar to the Cross in Sydney and George street cinema area.I get to speak to many tourists who have been coming here for many years and who will never return because of the increased “western way”.
      Obviously holiday destinations change in many ways to please the tourist but it can also have the reverse effect and what really does make me angry is the way some of the owners of these places treat their staff, it is disgusting yet there doesn’t seem to be anything the staff can do for fear of losing their jobs….but as a poster rightfully mentioned if these people don’t like the way it is in Bali…please….go home….the Balinese are wonderful people and to see them treated this way infuriates me. As for the business people in property,textile,and other “non entertainment” areas, I applaud you for having the initiative to give it a go and to also give some Balinese a job….just my opinion.

      • henry April 2, 2014 at 6:56 pm #

        Oh Tami how right you are!
        The flood of the Aussie sports bars and the like are driving me mad……there is an area of Legian that has now been dubbed :Little Australia”…this is a sad reflection of how it is becoming too westernized.
        I moved away from that area for that very reason and I will not support these places. I have my own circle of Balinese friends…and only 2 westerners…and I like it that way….I avoid western owned and operated venues like the plague!

  15. Lorrayne Stacey April 23, 2011 at 4:52 am #

    I would like to ask one stupid question. How do I get the guy on my lease off as I found out he is the biggest crook in Bali well to me anyway. URGENT !!

    • August 31, 2013 at 2:00 am #

      just asking the local cops for move “that crook” away 🙂
      police is still exist in bali

  16. suzie robertson April 27, 2011 at 6:53 am #

    Having lived in Fiji for the past 12 years, all your points sound exactly the same as it is here. So, well said!

    My husband and I are curious as to the Boat transfer business to outer islands and day trips to islands. Is there much business for it? Very interested to know, as we need a move from here and would love to make it to Bali which we have both visited many, many times. Obviously having lived in Fiji for so long, we are well aware of the difference in holidaying in a place and living there.

    • admin April 29, 2011 at 2:33 am #

      There are many companies operating boat services. There is however probably still a market for some kind of niche business.

    • kai May 8, 2013 at 1:03 am #

      Im curious to know id like to work in Fiji im english im living in Jakarta at the moment as an english teacher how did you get to stay there

      • Ms: Debby June 25, 2013 at 8:12 pm #

        If you intend to work in bali, just drope me few words
        my email

  17. okaIslands May 12, 2011 at 5:42 am #

    Here we are one of real estate agent in bali base in ubud Areas.
    try to find your dream investment in bali especially for Ubud Area.

    Best Regards


  18. Jeremy June 6, 2011 at 3:04 am #

    Hi, great article. I’ve been to Bali many times over the years and its always been a dream to move there. And like others here, wouldn’t dream of not speaking the language and learning the culture, and having lots of local friends. See it so much in Australia, which is a real melting pot of cultures, but there are so many that like to call themselves Australian, but just don’t want to assimilate.
    I think the best way is to have your own business and move there. You can quite easily set up an income stream online that is not tied to any one particular country, which frees you up to move anywhere in the world freely. That’s my plan. With pretty good internet connections in Bali, you really can live the dream.
    Tidak Apa Apa!

  19. Tom K. June 8, 2011 at 2:33 am #

    Great list, Mike.
    I’ve been to Bali a few times and fell in love on my first visit. I have sister who lives in Java (20+ years–don’t ask) and I’d love to make the move after I retire next year. I started studying Bahasa thorough an online course but I’d really like to find someone to converse with where I live.
    I’ll definitely take your advice to heart as I begin to make my move.
    Terimah kasih

  20. Deborah July 24, 2011 at 8:57 pm #

    Thank you for this interesting article. We recently holidayed in Ubud for 3 weeks and took interest in moving to Bali and considered purchasing land. My husband detered me from taking it any further due to what you said about the legalities. I will of course rent for a month on my next visit . Your articles are very informative . There are a number of expats that are living there permanently do they have to leave and come back on a regular basis?

    • admin July 24, 2011 at 11:29 pm #

      Thanks for your comment. It depends on the visa you have. I have you have like a retirement visa, working visa, or spouse visa (married to an Indonesian) you don’t have to keep leaving the country. If you are on a social visa, which is the easiest to get, you have to go to say Singapore every 6 months to renew.

  21. Richard Wasserman November 11, 2011 at 8:20 pm #

    My wife and I are moving to Bali as soon as we sell our condo in Chicago. We set up a PMA corporation and our own company is sponsoring us for our KITAS. I wanted to be able to work if I chose to without worry of the imigrasi catching us. It took 10 days to set up the PMA. We used a well connected law firm in Denpasar. Contact me if you want to talk to our lawyer.

    • Nick February 7, 2012 at 11:34 pm #

      Hi Richard,
      Good luck on your move and business in Bali.
      My partner and I (non-indonesians) are looking to setup a simple guesthouse and from what I have read the way you have done it seems the most sensisible and legitimate way.
      I would like to know your opinion on how this is working for you and how much money you needed to invest in your company to allow for the KITAS visa etc.
      Also the name of your local lawyer you recommend would be greatly appreciated.
      Many thanks

    • Derek S. June 5, 2013 at 4:19 pm #

      Hi Richard,

      I hope things are going smoothly for you by now. I am moving to Bali in August with my partner as she landed a great teaching position in an international school in Kerobokan. Our place is included in her package so I have plenty of time to investigate starting a PMA. Could you pass on contact info for your lawyer?

      Thank you much!

    • Kay Shearn October 13, 2013 at 10:51 am #

      Hi Richard,
      Did you make the move? I’d be interested to see how it all worked for you, and would also like your lawyers details if you don’t mind.
      Thanks, Kay

    • Allan November 30, 2013 at 8:29 am #


      Saw your ad about moving from Chicago and setting up a PTE and sponsoring yourself for a job. Would really like the legal contact in Denpasar and also how are things going now.


  22. Rallentanda January 30, 2012 at 2:41 am #

    I am renting a house in Bali. It was new so I thought I would not have any problems during the monsoon season. I do. The house is uninhabitable because of wet walls mould and problems with the roof. As you know you must pay in advance. It is difficult to get owners to fix things once they have your money. So make sure you have lots of money set aside for house repairs. If you do not like Indonesian food and only want to cook with western vegetables and cuts of meat your food bills will be more expensive than at home.Learn Balinese. They are always impressed because so few Westerners or other Indonesians can speak their language.It is very difficult to find reliable and efficient management which becomes a problem if your are away a lot and not there to supervise.I think this is a worldwide problem anyway.
    I am an Australian so Bali is close to home and inexpensive to get to. I would advise anyone travelling or living in Bali to have medical insurance, funds for a recuperation stay in a hotel and an airline ticket out. I contracted pneumonia there a couple of weeks ago. If you get really sick ring BIMC in Denpasar and they will send an ambulance to collect you.This hospital is extremely expensive but everyone speaks English and is probably the best in this location. However I was prescribed some medication which has not been in use in the west for the past 15 years. Western doctors or nurses are not permitted to practise medecine in Bali. I have painted the worst case scenario but these are things one should be aware of when planning on living in the third world.

  23. I love bali March 4, 2012 at 7:36 am #

    It really surprised me that foreigners could not own properties in INdonesia unlike in the Philippines where foreigners can own up to 40% of a company.

    • Radi Juremi January 30, 2013 at 8:56 am #

      Do you mention about Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) for company? or Property Regulation?

      Foreigner may have share in FDI Company (depends on the business sectors) some may have maximum 67% and some business sectors may even 100%.

      But for properties (Land and House) there still special regulation about land ownership — it may also can be anticipated with ‘strata title’.


  24. red June 25, 2012 at 8:23 am #

    No to Bali! 20 years in prison for bali bomb maker Umar Patek…and 20 years for the powerful and evil “Ganja Queen”. The man who helps kills 228 humans vs. the woman who tried to bring in 20 lbs of strong weed. Sign me up for thsi great place NOW! Yes, the first place I want to visit is bali, where the society has their heads screwed on straight!

  25. vera mulliss August 5, 2012 at 6:00 pm #

    no foreigner is allowed to own land, how come they all want to gobble up the land by the sea and built villas to rent to other foreigners then employ locals at $50.00 per month who is exploting who all this development dosent help the locals the locals are happy with the roads their motorbikes the traffic dosent worry them and so what, what they spend on ceremonies its their culture, why do they have to change reminds me of somewhere else in this world. by the way its back luck to build a house facing the sea yes iam retiring to Bali some time in the new year 2013 for a much more relaxed way of life dont need the bells and whistles been there done that iam going to live in a village with my daughter and grandaughter and ketut lucky me

    • henry April 2, 2014 at 7:05 pm #

      Well said Vera….far too many developers buying up ocean frontage villas…and they are not even Balinese style and that is showing complete disregard for the Balinese architecture.
      All this building explosion was supposed to have been stopped a few years ago but I think the shimmering $ put an end to that!

  26. Nikki August 15, 2012 at 12:01 pm #

    I was planning to move to Bali next year learning the language as one would but reading your article it seems much harder than i expected the information you have supplied has been most helpful it has not however changed my mind & has given me much food for though……

    Thank You Nikki :)))

    • rose arnold January 24, 2013 at 1:18 pm #

      hi..,i`m rose,i merried with australian.have see your plant to move to bali.just wanna give you little information about my country,actually is not hard like what you said,all is easy here,all you need just have some local person to back up you and must that person is a good not cheat you.bcoz i`ve been help my foriegner friends when they visit me,i go with them,so they cant cheat it. i can help you for that,remmember my husband also a foriegner.

  27. DAVID COLLIER August 21, 2012 at 10:45 am #


    • Edwin September 11, 2012 at 8:58 pm #

      Take me with so i can take care of things for you so you can relax, I would like to move there as well. I am now in Redding, CA. The unemployment rate here is worse then Indonesia.

    • heny December 14, 2012 at 2:10 pm #

      David and Nikki too …if you like to buy some properties in Bali please contact me. I have some information of nice areas with good price. There is a place by the beach in Cupel Jembrana that suitable to build a cottage with private beach. 25,000 meters/square with reasonable price. contact me at Thank you. Heny

    • maiya October 31, 2013 at 5:02 pm #

      hi david, i like to help, maybe you need property or someting you need like visa. and i will finds all cheap for you

  28. Jane October 5, 2012 at 2:03 am #

    Great comments and much food for thought. A reminder that living in a place and going for a holiday are two completely different things. I am a huge fan of Bali and have been for years, but as some of the other posts list, it is sad to see the Bali of old disappear behind the grab for the western $. The vista from a villa I rent is slowly changing- being built out by others. The one thing that hasn’t changed are the people! Finding employment in Bali is quiet difficult and I recommend that volunteering for organizations while holidaying helps – but it’s all about who you know …. Good luck to you all…. Oh by the way this is written from Bali 🙂

  29. tarie November 2, 2012 at 5:38 am #

    dont look at with 1 eyes look at the whole pic dude … … u can see as well soooooooo many expat sucses in bali / indonesia . its because the local support u as well 🙂

    ok ,,,

    thanks …

  30. Gerald November 17, 2012 at 10:05 am #

    Can any one help me to find a job in Bali @ the moment I’m working in Dubai as f&b supervisor please let me no
    My e mail is

  31. Aries December 24, 2012 at 3:20 am #

    Here is a simplified summary of the real property rights under Indonesian law, relevant to foreign buyers/investors.

    Terms used in Sale of Villas and Land in Indonesia. We have not included information which does not pertain to foreign investment, whether individuals of companies.
    • Hak Milik — roughly equivalent to Freehold title of English common law jurisdictions
    • Hak Guna Bangunan — Building Rights Title
    • Hak Pakai — Right to Use Title

    To foreign as well as domestic investors, the most important titles to be aware of are Freehold Title (Hak Milik), Building Use Title (UGB or Hak Guna Bangunan) and Right to Use Title (HP or Hak Pakai).
    Freehold Title (HM or Hak Milik, Article 20-27)

    This is roughly equivalent to Freehold title of English Common Law. It is a property right duly recorded in the local real estate registries, and may be used as collateral for local mortgage financing. Freehold title may only be held by Indonesian citizens, or by Indonesian legal entities that are entirely owned and controlled by Indonesian citizens.

    Please be cautious of the use of the nominee system ,whereby the property is purchased using an Indonesian Nominee, with a series of leases mortgages quit claim deeds and Powers of Attorney meant to provide you, the actual buyer, with protection. These types of ownership structures can be very dangerous and illegal.

    Please keep reading for information on foreign investment.

  32. Pedro January 2, 2013 at 2:51 pm #

    Only legal way for a foreigner to have property long term is to lease.
    Indonesian nominee with power of attorney deeds and docs is all B.S. and will never stand in an Indonesian court if their were any serious issues with your Indonesian nominee eg. wife, friend, business partner. Just long term lease of say 5, 10, 15 or 25 years with extensions and the contract stipulating the conditions regarding the price etc.. I have yet to see any legal documentation to indicate actually how many years a foreigner is entitled to lease for.

    • Sasha July 31, 2018 at 1:59 pm #

      I bought a seaside property in Amed.
      Found a poor Man to be my Nominee.
      I felt sorry for him. He was living in a 3m X 3m room in his brother’s house with his wife and 1 son.
      I Kent him money with interest to improve his living space.
      He said it is all up to you of what you give to get your nominee. Just 2 years later he changed and became very greedy. I live in England. So I send money to this nominee and trusted him but he was inflating all the prices and took him g commission on everything he bought.
      I used a very big law firm to buy my property. They Arranged POA.
      This nominee demanded big money.I spend rp. 75 millions to pay for legal fees and POA with the same lawyers
      I worked so hard and created a lovely quiet retreat on Amed beach.
      I had to pay all the bills and tax using this crook’s name. He said some officers from Gianyar keep disturbing him for my tax. Si in 2016 December I gave him.rp22,800,000 to pay up to December 2016 backdated tax. I gave the money with 2 witnesses. At the time he was smiling and said he will get the receipt I asked for. But the receipt never came despite asking. After waiting 1 yr.5 months I arranged for an account to pay for the tax. She asked for this nominee’s ID and ref. Numbers.
      When asked he was getting very angry with me.
      I want to pay tax and do the right thing but he won’t help me.
      This is because from February 2008 to 2018 he had become a property magnet in that village. I stupidly employed his cousin in my hotel. Most of revenue were stolen to order because I only visit once every 3 months. When be I am not there most of money my hotel made they stole.
      The local always came to me and said your hotel is so full you must have a lot of money.
      I did not make any profit to take honr until 2014. They were caught tlrer handed not recording some guest we we sent. These crooked did not know we sent them. When check a week later no sign of a few millions these guest paid!
      When confronted they just walked out for good.

      Everybody who stays there comes back.
      When I did the building project the nominee Stole so much money by making me pay .Now he put a lawsuit because I asked for evidence of the paying the tax. He is now claiming he paid for the land in 2008 !
      The law in Indonesia is not favourable to expats. My original lawyers are asking a lot of money to defend me.
      I think this evil conman might tell lies and win my lawyers cannot guarantee a win for me.
      It is so upsetting. I am busy in England.
      I cannot run around.
      He wants to cancel my POA. How can this happen.
      The POA maybe toothless tiger.
      Please everyone of expats who wants to buy land in Bali and build house or hotel using a Nominee, don’t do it.
      I am very upset all my investment might be snatched by this evil person.
      If I lose I want publicise this fact and save other expats.
      Can me?
      Must not let evil people win.

  33. rose arnold January 13, 2013 at 3:01 am #

    So intrested join in this merried with
    Australian,and will move live over to look
    What this forum discuss about,i want to share my
    Exprience and also my husband as foriegner whenhe
    Live 1month with me in my own country indonesia
    At jakarta. For exactly you cannot do to much in indonesia
    If you not have own indonesia person for back up you as forie
    gner.coz the will cheat you alot,without nothing you on this case is same like
    What my husband faced before he marry me.and know he told me to help foriegner which they want open buisiness in indonesia,so local people cannot cheat them alot and have nothing.
    That bit about our exprerince.

  34. rose yanthie January 13, 2013 at 6:10 am #

    Hi,just want to merried with aussie and will move over.
    My husband as a foreigner have experience to live in my need someone locall
    People that you can trust for back up your self as foreigner.
    Or they will cheat you alot money without nothing.

  35. Aggie January 14, 2013 at 2:51 pm #

    Having retired at an early age (45) my husband and I are looking at living in Bali for a minimum of year without working and hopefully extending our stay for longer. Thanks for all the information with regard to visas and suchlike, I do have a couple of questions, if anyone can help – do you have to pay a year up front for the rental of a property? Are there any companies that someone could recommend for rental of a fully furnished property complete with linens and utensils? Any help would be appreciated as we are looking to move from Egypt where we are currently living to Bali in May / June this year (2013)

    • rose arnold January 24, 2013 at 1:23 pm #

      hi,anggie i`m yanti.remmember my husband is a foriegner,what can i help can contact me on my email you

    • First Juliandri July 12, 2013 at 5:32 am #

      we have villa for rental include that you need linens, utensils furnished too..
      its 3 Bed room with pool and garden,TV cable,internet acces… if you might can we get youremail address?…so I can send to you aour picture

      • Kay Shearn October 13, 2013 at 10:57 am #

        I’d be interested in those details please if it is still available.
        Thanks, Kay

  36. Lavida January 23, 2013 at 12:08 am #

    Lots of great, true and relevant tips.
    I have lived in Bali for 4 months now, and i can only agree on the post here.
    On a few sidenotes. I have calculated my daily living expenses to be around maximum 30USD pr day.
    Dinner from a local warung can be purchased for something between 1,4-3usd, and like mentioned gasoline is really cheap. To be precise 5000 IDR pr liter. Thats equivalent to 0,5 USD.

  37. Cassie A January 28, 2013 at 6:06 pm #

    Does anyone want to open a boutique yoga retreat sanctuary with me? Yoga Prof / Entrepuneure with gift passion for Bali and its people and gifted new biz development strategist.

    • Barry March 26, 2013 at 10:33 pm #

      Hello contact me on email I could be interested in doing something ?

      Kind regards

  38. Radi Juremi January 30, 2013 at 8:58 am #

    Thanks for the article btw, great!

  39. Zina February 5, 2013 at 3:02 am #

    This made me laugh because it’s pretty much the advice I would give to people moving to China. My personal favorite is the “Back home this wouldn’t be a problem!/But how come they can do (this or that) so much better back home??” in a petulant whiny 5 year old voice. I always wanna say: “Guess what Dorothy? You ain’t in Kansas any more. GET OVER IT!”
    Thanks for the article!

  40. erin March 19, 2013 at 3:58 am #

    thank you so much for the article.
    I was wondering- My boyfriend get income from the government due to military disability: what sort of visa do you think we would need if we want to live there for a year or so? Since we want to stay longer than a tourist visa but don’t need to work?? thanks for any feedback 🙂

  41. Sarah April 14, 2013 at 6:31 pm #

    I’m going over to the Gili Islands about two hours from Bali soon with friends to build a resort. There won’t be much revenue from that for the first year or two so I was playing with the idea of seeing if there is work in Bali for outside of the tourist season. Is there much hope of finding work in Bali? Or am I better off returning to england after the tourist season and returning in April? Any advice for this part of the world would be greatly appreciated.

    • Mike April 15, 2013 at 4:03 am #

      Not a lot of jobs for foreigners, unless you have skills that are in demand. So you might need to go back to England in the off season.

    • August 31, 2013 at 1:54 am #

      hi sarah, i guess about prospect in singaraja is better than gili (but gili is good also cause of its views),
      because 1 of another international airport will build in next year, so it will be one of most important gate in bali, and accomodation business will be great. and the price of land over there is still cheap, doesnt like denpasar,sanur,etc prices.
      and for ownership of land in bali are fully legal when you asking for the law agreement at PPAT (notary), but you must have a local person name(in case they cant selling or touching your land without any permissions from you)

  42. Kaiza Solza April 17, 2013 at 8:57 am #

    My wife and I are both Australian and are slowly working towards moving I absorb everything Bali, read the news, blogs etc. Your “10 dumb mistakes” needs clarification. No 10, Not Making Local Friends:
    It is sometimes hard to gauge the true intentions of the locals, if all they see is a “Walking ATM’. Sometimes it is hard to say NO.We are retired and trying to live on a fixed income. In Australia that is pretty hard, hence the move to Bali. We love the culture and the people, but always beeing looked at as an ultra rich ATM machine is upsetting

    • Mike April 19, 2013 at 6:25 am #

      If people are asking you for money, well that can’t really be considered a friend can they.

    • Bobby May 3, 2013 at 9:45 am #

      Hi Kaiza. Well, you may be right… There are lots of local people in Bali (not always Balinese) who take advantage from expats. But there are also locals who are kind & surely will help you without any rewards. You have to be more careful in making friends with locals then..
      Wishing you have a nice stay in Bali..

  43. NKSW May 28, 2013 at 6:41 pm #

    Greetings from Bali. As Balinese, we’re very proud of our island and culture.Being respect to our culture and environment will bring so many local friends to you. Like Mike said, quoted “Mike : April 19, 2013 at 6:25 am :If people are asking you for money, well that can’t really be considered a friend can they.” It’s so true. If you’re in Bali, better to do the legal process by yr self. Like immigration or others. They speak English.For “Trust”, pls be careful who you trust. For any kind of investments, strongly recommended to find a corporate legal consultant which mean this legal consultant is a legal company not individual. Better safe and sorry. 🙂 And you might need to check on your partner when you plan to make any agreement. As for sometimes I really don’t understand why they have to cheat on their partner, and the worst they deport their partner out from Indonesia. Don’t mean to scare you, but it’s really happen. Never put yr trust 100%.
    And for more info regarding business investment, you might need to go to (BKPM-Indonesia Investment Coordinating Board). And pls do remember, always respect for the culture and you will enjoy the real…

  44. Jose July 10, 2013 at 3:45 am #

    Hi, I’m a 28 years old architect leaving and working in Malaysia, planning to go and live in Bali for some time, any one knows or can help me about work possibilities in my area?

    • First Juliandri July 12, 2013 at 5:27 am #

      Hi, my name First, I am Indonesian was live I Bali for 10 years, I was work with an architect from France in Bali for 6 years to be his assistant or General manager, But he Died 4 month ago.
      And I know there is a good business to running architecture in Bali, because there is many construction building in Bali now,… I hope I can help you and working with you when you decide to work in Bali…let me know when you will visit to Bali and let me prepare all the things that you need here,
      also I have a villa 3 Bed room with pool in seminyak ifyou need accommodation here



      • Hi there what is the cost for your villa to stay there !? July 22, 2013 at 6:46 am #

        Just looking at options

      • Siu January 31, 2014 at 5:36 am #

        Hi, first

        I am planning to build a house in Bali and will be visiting Bali in March . I am interested to hear more about finding any architect or your service, for I will need one sooner or later.
        Please, kindly send any info to Saya bisa ber Bahasa Indonesia. Terima kasih banyak yah!

  45. Jo July 12, 2013 at 2:32 am #

    Hello there.

    I am Jo from Singapore. Had been looking for jobs in Bali for the longest time. Any way to direct me?
    Related in hospitality field 😉


  46. indo November 4, 2013 at 1:19 pm #

    Nice.. Hi, im indonesian.
    Maybe all of dat points r true 😀
    some of us afraid of forigner cause of diffrent cultures n d negative effects of globalism like prostitution, phedophillies. But i knw most of u r d good peoples. 🙂
    As u r, i ve a dream to go abroad, 4 studying.. But my english is very bad. If u need to learn bahasa, maybe i can help u n u help me in english conversation. I thk its easy to study grammar by myself, but i need friend to do conversation. Thx a lot. If u dnt mind, i m woman, moslem.. I thnk it s better if u r woman also o or or
    r if u r woman too, or good man. Thx

  47. ina November 4, 2013 at 3:33 pm #

    Absolutely true 🙂
    But bali isnt more dangeroust than dat thngs.. Sometimes its hard to be local people. Many peoples come to ur place with maybe negative thing, so we must protect ourselves. But, if u ve much tolerance, for our culture n how we live, trust, respect, maybe we can give u more than u can think. We r loasve friendship n understanding. Like u r, i ve dream to go abroad for studying. But my english very bad especially speaking. If u come to bali n need friend to learn bahasa, u can contact me @ If u dont mind i prefer woman or a good man.
    ,i thnk we can practice together. I can learn grammar by myself but i need friend to practise my english. Thx a lot.

  48. sandy November 18, 2013 at 7:45 am #

    hey there i am wanting to move over there next year with my family i am looking for some advice of where to stay and find a nice place to live. I am trying to see if i can buy a business over there or start one up but not sure as to where to start any advice would be good. thanks

    • Debby Sebastian December 25, 2013 at 10:53 am #

      Hi Sandy

      come to think, of moving in Bali, its good, but you gotta knw
      someone in a place like Bali,you can contact,him or she, email

    • I Made Widana February 15, 2014 at 3:44 am #

      Hi Sandy i just see your article , if i may suggest at least you have to visit Bali as a tourist at least for 30 days, so that you can explore and meat real undiscovered Balinese people, i mean that live in Bali is not expensive as what normally people think, as long as you now where to go and whom are you dealing with. as a Balinese and work as a tour and travel business in Bali I frequently got question as what you have stated in this discussion. if you already in Bali i more than happy to help you to get any thing you might need to know. here is my number : +6281288183502
      one more thing my English is not as expert foreigners but enough to understand 🙂

  49. Sileuro December 8, 2014 at 5:57 pm #

    do you agree with this?. Its a comment from someone I told I wanted to open a hotel in Bali:

    “my experience is that when a white person goes abroad to start working, running, controlling or managing, the challenge is with the locals, the language, their ways of beings and seeing. remember that everywhere else in the world people are still very much together, they look after each other, and this ties with your desire to work an live in place where peace and unity can be felt. language is huge but of course knowing English is enough. people in Africa and Asia appreciate when a foreigner puts the effort to learn their language even if its small amounts. as you said, small villag es in Spain are the same. they too have their old fashion traditions”.


  50. Bella December 20, 2014 at 3:34 am #

    Great article! Cannot agree more with you! I’m Indonesian & my husband’s French…we have noticed that the so-called successful expats in Bali are mostly very arrogant and rude to the locals…it’s ironic since they will not reach what they have now without the support of the locals. ..lucky there are
    still good and humble ones.

  51. Klerk December 29, 2015 at 10:34 am #

    Jl. Cempaka Putih Barat XXVI No. 18A, Cempaka Putih, Jakarta Pusat –

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