Seven Months in Bali


Mayumi and I decided to live in Bali for a while.  In May of 2002 we went there for two weeks to check out the possibilities.  We spent a lot of time looking for a house to rent and making absolutely sure we could get our two Golden Retriever dogs into and out of Bali Ė not a small consideration. 

We removed all of the very personal items from our home while leaving the place completely furnished and rented it to a family awaiting military housing.  We returned to Bali in early July of 2002 and remained there until the beginning of February">



Seven Months in Bali


Mayumi and I decided to live in Bali for a while.  In May of 2002 we went there for two weeks to check out the possibilities.  We spent a lot of time looking for a house to rent and making absolutely sure we could get our two Golden Retriever dogs into and out of Bali Ė not a small consideration. 

We removed all of the very personal items from our home while leaving the place completely furnished and rented it to a family awaiting military housing.  We returned to Bali in early July of 2002 and remained there until the beginning of February">



Seven Months in Bali


Mayumi and I decided to live in Bali for a while.  In May of 2002 we went there for two weeks to check out the possibilities.  We spent a lot of time looking for a house to rent and making absolutely sure we could get our two Golden Retriever dogs into and out of Bali Ė not a small consideration. 

We removed all of the very personal items from our home while leaving the place completely furnished and rented it to a family awaiting military housing.  We returned to Bali in early July of 2002 and remained there until the beginning of February">



Seven Months in Bali


Mayumi and I decided to live in Bali for a while.  In May of 2002 we went there for two weeks to check out the possibilities.  We spent a lot of time looking for a house to rent and making absolutely sure we could get our two Golden Retriever dogs into and out of Bali Ė not a small consideration. 

We removed all of the very personal items from our home while leaving the place completely furnished and rented it to a family awaiting military housing.  We returned to Bali in early July of 2002 and remained there until the beginning of February, 2003. 

You can see a brief slide show of a few (26) photos we took during this trip by going to  Once there sign in using my e-mail address ( and a password of hocuspocus.  Click on Bali 2002 and on the next page on View as Slideshow.

Toward the end of our stay I was contacted by a Brit who, with his Japanese girlfriend, was considering moving to Bali.  He plied me with lots of questions and I did my best to answer them.  Eventually, he compiled our e-mail exchanges and posted them on a web site dedicated to expatriates living in Bali.  The following is his compilation.  He and Akari eventually moved to Bali. 

At the time this was written the U.S. dollar was very roughly worth 10,000 Indonesian Rupiah. 


ďI have been exchanging emails with an expat based in Candi Dasa, Karangasem Regency. He has given me lot of practical and useful guidance about relocating to Bali.  At his suggestion, I am posting this advice as it might be of use to others contemplating a similar move. These are one personís views and opinions, based on his experiences. Please donít get uptight if you disagree or if they donít work for you. Doubtless, some others will have different views and they can post them if they wish. Like Akari & me, he is a diver so apologies if the stuff at the end about scuba and boats is not of interest.

OK, in no particular order ÖÖÖÖÖ

House Rental
Rented an attractive modern furnished house with a pool close to Candi Dasa at US$1,000/month.
You can pay a lot more or a lot less. A nearby place goes for $4,000/month and have heard of an expat who pays Rp 5M/year ($600/year).

Why He Chose Candi Dasa To Live
It is reasonably close to the eastern scuba sites on Bali but isnít as isolated as Tulamben, Amed, etc.  There are places to fill scuba tanks, decent restaurants, and what passes locally for a supermarket (youíll laugh when you see it).  Padang Bai would have been OK except that itís something of a congested backpackerís town with too many transients.  That sort of setting makes the local vendors too aggressive.

Living in a Remote Location
Tulamben and Amed are about three hours from the nearest real supermarket. Menjangan even farther. Items you commonly find in a drug store at home are unknown outside the tourist areas and sometimes even hard to find there.  I went to five apotiks in Kuta before finding hydrogen peroxide. Think real seriously about living in the boondocks.  And no matter where you live, even in Denpasar, ensure ahead of time that the place has an operative telephone line and adequate electrical service.  Some homes have a mere 2000 Watt capacity Ė thatís about one TV and one hair dryer.  Before shaking hands find out about the nature and adequacy of the water supply and what happens to the waste water.  How frequently does the power fail?  Donít ask the guy renting the place to you.  If you get much more remote than Candi Dasa youíd better buy a generator and forget about telephone service.

Domestic Staff
Our maid earns Rp 300,000/mo (roughly $32)
The cook gets 600,000 (about $64)
The gardener/pool man gets 300,000
The young man who brushes each of our dogs for 30 minutes/day and bathes them weekly gets 100,000/month ($11)
Before working for us our maid and the dog groomer had never tasted beef Ė too expensive.

Youíll probably have to pay a premium to get a cook who is actually willing and able to learn other types of cooking (e.g. Japanese/Thai/Chinese ) regardless of what they say about their willingness and ability.

I had considered a driver and security. Drivers get about Rp 700,000/month ($75) to drive a car you supply and their day runs to around eight hours.

I donít know of anyone who has a dedicated security staff although Iím sure there must be some. We havenít felt the need. But with our existing staff and ourselves itís unusual that the house is empty. When we take overnight or longer trips our maid stays in the house overnight and we give her about RP 20,000 (2.15) per day. That includes feeding the dogs as well.

Utility Costs
Phone, fuel and electrical prices all went up an average of 22% on 1 January of 2002.  There has been rioting and the government may back down. The IMF is really pushing these increases as
Indonesia needs a further $2B to get through this fiscal year.  Electricity Is quite high here.  Our electric bill is about 800,000/month ($86)

Internet Costs
The phone bill is quite high.  All calls I make to connect to the internet are ďinterlocalĒ to Denpasar cost about Rp. 100,000/hour ($11) during business hours.  Most homes donít have telephones.  Iím not sure of the satellite service cost, but it is quite expensive.  Further, I think you only receive from the satellite and send via phone lines.  I use the Centrin Internet Service Provider, and theyíre reasonably reliable.  Thereís a free service from the phone company but I never figured out how to use Outlook to send e-mail that way.  Itís also less reliable than Centrin.  Centrin is cheap enough, itís the phone charges that eat you alive.

US$400 Satellite TV System
Excludes the cost of the TV and will pull in over 100 channels.  Most will not be useful to you if you donít speak some dialect of Chinese, Arabic, Indonesian, French, Italian, Spanish, Portugese, etc.  But there are about a dozen with some or all English language programming including BBC, ABC Australia, Channel News Asia, Central China TV and some others.  No monthly charges.

Dharma Yasa Service
0812 3968311
Wayan - English is quite workable

Indosat Satellite TV System
A little more you can buy an Indosat system.  Has fewer but better selection of channels But monthly subscription fees.

Automobile Rental
Tel 0361 286066
No e-mail

A í96 Kijang cost 2,400,000 Rp/Mo ($265)
Treated us pretty well.  They are on the main road coming through Sanur on the left side about 30 meters before the Kentucky Fried Chicken intersection.

A car was necessary for several reasons
1. Weekly shopping runs to Sanur and Kuta
2. It would be impractical to carry all our purchases on bikes.
3. The rain is daily and heavy right now until about April

Buying a car may be the way to go for long term residence, but Iíd wait until having been here for several months before getting the hook set that firmly.

For our weekly trips to shop in Sanur & Kuta I struck a deal with hotels in each town.  In Kuta we stayed at the beautiful Santika Beach Hotel for US $70/night and in Sanur in the equally attractive but much smaller Parigata for $50.  It isnít absolutely necessary to remain overnight, but the church my wife likes to attend only has mass in English at 6 P.M.  on Sundays. Iím not enamored of driving at night here (and bet you wonít be, either), so we stay overnight.

Drivers License
Come equipped with an international driverís license endorsed for a motorbike.  It makes life much simpler.  The police regularly have checkpoints to check motorbike drivers for licenses because there are so many unlicensed drivers.

Bikers (Motorbikes)
I have frequent urges to run over some of the bikers.  They have no concept of rules of the road, basic physics (cars canít stop on a dime when a bike pulls in front of them), or self-preservation (pulling onto a road with not even a glance at oncoming traffic).  Iíve run like hell after witnessing two accidents and my wife is still fussing at me about that.  If you actually are involved in a personal injury or death accident DONíT STOP!!! Go to the nearest police station. Stopping can get you killed by an angry mob. This happens to locals from time to time, too.

If you need a driver for anything I highly recommend

I Nyoman Sundra (Tommy)

Weíve used him for many things since arriving here.  Heís a great guy with a good command of English.  Heís the sort of guy you can give a large wad of cash to, say please go to such and such a place and pick up so-and-so for me, and expect the job to be done correctly and with integrity and he returns with the correct change.

You can avoid some of the costs of visa runs to
Singapore by getting a Sosial Budaya visa. This visa is good for 60 days (just like a regular tourist visa) but may be extended as many as four times for 30 days each by a trip to the immigration office.  Hint: go to the immigration office near the airport rather than in Denpasar Ė less crowded.  You cannot obtain a Sosial Budaya visa once youíre in country.  You need a sponsor who must be engaged in business The sponsor completes a form and sends it to you along with a copy of their national identity card.  You take/send these items along with your passport and a couple of passport photos plus about US$60 to the nearest Indonesian embassy or consulate and they issue the visa. The visa issued this way is good for 60 days beginning with the date of your entry into Indonesia.  We didnít know anyone here when we went this route and so relied on a commercial ďvisa brokerĒ who charged us US$300 each for her services which included the four runs to immigration for extensions.  The service was spotty as the agent wasnít too bright and had no sense of urgency.  Asri (see below) told us sheíd have been glad to do it for us.  I expect sheíd be very pleased with $100 each.  You could make your own extension runs or at least those following the first.  After this thing dies its natural death at the end of six months, you then leave the country armed with a new sponsorís letter, etc. and go to a consulate in Singapore or wherever. Singapore is now taking three days to turn these things around but Iíve read there are agents who can get it done in a half day.  Youíll be ready for a taste of high-rise buildings, neon lights and clean restaurant kitchens each six months anyway.  You can also find tons of food items there which are unavailable in Bali.

By the governmentís own admission, the most corrupt part of officialdom.  They held us up for US$460 to bring our dogs in.  People bringing or shipping books in to donate to schools have had to pay exorbitant customs duties. They tried to tell Customs, ďOK, you can just dump the books,Ē but that didnít work either. Pay up or leave.  Having said that, Iíve been in and out of the country half a dozen times since arrival and have had no further problems with customs.

What To Bring - Clothing
Donítí bother with many extra clothes as you can purchase clothing here more cheaply than you can ship it.  You can have anything made to order quite cheaply from knockabout clothing to formal wear

Alus Tailor & Boutique
Jl Raya Kuta No. 408
Phone 0361-753646

Operated by a charming woman named Asri Mara.  Asri speaks English excellently.  My wife has had a ton of clothing made in Asriís shop.  Asri can be a big help in guiding you to other things you may need

What To Bring - CDís
In any quantity might be a problem with customs, but why bother?  You can buy all the CDís you want here as copies for practically nothing.  The exception is classical music. When I ask for that in music shops Iím offered The Beatles or Elvis Presley.  Non-pirated CDs cost the same here as in the

What To Bring - Kitchen Utensils
No need.

What To Bring Ė Conclusion
In short, bring only a change of clothes and your scuba gear. And a computer if youíre bent that way.

Thereís a book exchange shop in Candi Dasa.  Pretty old stuff and mostly romance novels, but the exceptions will help fill idle hours.  There are two bookshops in the Galleria in Kuta that are fairly good.

A poor manís WalMart.  On the bypass road between Kuta and Sanur.  Membership costs about US$2.50.  All the kitchen stuff you might need.  Electrical appliances ranging from crap to fairly good.
Office supplies, etc

Even if you only went there once each six months it would be worth the $2.50 membership fee.
Also, part of your orientation should be to find out whatís available there and elsewhere before driving yourself nuts looking for some little electrical adapter thatís readily available. Lots of common little things like that arenít available in the hinterlands. For me to drive from Candi Dasa to Sanur takes about 90 minutes. Macro is perhaps ten minutes farther.

Other Shops
Pepito Supermarket, Kuta,
Matahari Supermarket in the Galleria at the big traffic circle going out of Kuta
Lotus for delicatessen items located just south of the airport

Has been a significant expense for us. Produce in the local markets is not of very good quality.
Local beef is pretty poor.  Western packaged/canned food items only available to a limited extent in the supermarkets cited above at a pretty stiff markup.

Japanese Food
My wife bought so much Japanese food on our first trip to
Singapore we had to buy an additional bag. There is a Japanese food wholesaler located just two or three doors away from the Bali Plaza Duty Free shop in Kuta (not the same as the Duty Free Shoppers at the Kuta traffic circle).  They will sell to individuals and even gave us a list of all the items they carry complete with prices.  The prices werenít bargains.

We have had no incidents of theft or vandalism.  Iíve even gotten so careless as to leave the car unlocked with items of no very great value inside.

Sponsoring Local Families
Contributions of an intellectual nature or in the form of physical assistance would serve better than cash contributions.  You might want to consider trying to remain a little aloof from your neighbors.  They will view you as unspeakably wealthy and will (not totally unreasonably) feel that you have a social obligation to share your wealth with them.  Their idea of sharing fairly may well not coincide with your idea of fairness and that could lead to some enduring hard feelings.  A common occurrence here is for locals to invite you into their home and make a great and sincere effort at showing hospitality.  But somewhere in the course of events they will begin telling you their very real list of hardships and youíll find it quite difficult to extract yourself without making some sort of contribution.  Once the hook is set you will be reeled in continuously.
Lots of expats here find themselves in the role of sponsors of local families and arenít too sure of how it came about.  We made a policy of not accepting invitations into homes of locals by saying that we are very uncomfortable in imposing on their hospitality.  The few exceptions weíve made were to visit the homes of acquaintances who are more well to do.

I have been stopped a few times by police who made no bones about wanting me to contribute to their familyís welfare right in front of several of their fellow police.  Bribes are acceptable at all levels of officialdom.  Usually they neednít be very large.  If you apply for an Indonesian driverís license, for example, you will be charged an ďadministrative feeĒ that can not be found on the books.  There is usually a long line to apply for the driverís license, but a little tip in the right place will get you to the head of the line. 

In order to enter Bali a foreigner must have a ticket for onward travel.  I made a business trip out of Bali and failed to take my Bali-Honolulu ticket along.  On my return from this trip the immigration police gave me a hard time.  I explained that my return ticket was in Candi Dasa, but this didnít satisfy themÖsmell a shakedown?  I got my back up and said Iíd be happy to leave the country on the next flight back to Singapore.  At that point the police decided that a $5.00 ďadministrative feeĒ would resolve the problem.

And so life goes on.

Jakarta Post
Reading the only available daily English language newspaper, the Jakarta Post, will either make you laugh or cry.

An unsuccessful candidate for the governorship of Jakarta sued members of the city council because they didnít vote for him after he had paid them heavy money in bribes.

Bank officials who stole and misappropriated many millions of dollars were let off because they ďmade restitution.Ē

 In January of 2002 there was a big splash in the news about the heroic customs department confiscating three ultra-light aircraft being smuggled in from Germany.  In July the aircraft couldnítí be found.

In an unrelated story, the head of the customs department learned from the newspaper that his assistant was replacing him.  Editorials asked, tongue only partly in cheek, if the assistant were really qualified for the job as he only had a single conviction for corruption.

Itís a rare day when there isnít some such nonsense in the paper.

Be sure to bargain for EVERYTHING in
Bali.  This applies to anything you buy and especially to personal services.  Paying 1/3 of original asking price is quite normal if you bargain well.
But donít get confrontational in your bargaining or the sellers just refuse to play the game with you.

Exchange Rates
Are better in the Kuta/Sanur area than elsewhere.  Street exchange rates are much better than bank rates and far superior to hotel rates, but be cautious.  The most trustworthy places to exchange are called PT Central and are usually collocated with Kodak photo shops.  Last Saturday I got Rp 9,050/US$1.  Since we arrived the rate has fluctuated from a high of 9,900 down to 8,600.  Older
U.S. bills, those with ANY markings on them, or bills with any fading or tears are not accepted in exchange.

During our reconnaissance trip here in May of í02 I mailed a letter from
Bali to our home in Hawaii. When we left Hawaii to come back to Bali on July 10th, the letter still had not arrived.  Before leaving Hawaii on July 10th I mailed a letter to myself at our Bali address.  It hasnít come yet.
ĎNuff said on that subject.

Bank Accounts
If you anticipate the need to have funds transferred to
Bali, open an account here in your currency. Otherwise the bank will eat you up with the exchange rate if you have a Rupiah denominated account, a mistake I made.  Get your money from the bank here in your currency and go to a good money changer.  Be selective in the bank you use Ė many of them are about to collapse.

Thatís another Indonesian scandal.  Because of the theft and misappropriations mentioned above, the government created the Indonesian Bank Redevelopment Board (IBRA) to merge some of the insolvent banks.  The members of this board have also dipped into the till.

We used BCA which is the largest privately owned bank in Indonesia, but Iím not sure it was a particularly safe choice.  At any rate, donít use the small, local banks.  Seems simpler to just continue with your current account and arrange with your present bank to do a wire transfer to an account you establish here when you request them to do so. That worked well for us.

Massage In Candi Dasa
Of paramount importance:
Dewi Spa and Salon
Jalan Raya Candidasa, Candidasa, Tel. 0363 41982
Rp 40,000 for 1 hour
Ngungah does a great job.  She and Wayan came to our house regularly for this price.

Calling us in
Indonesia is pretty iffy.  My wifeís friends call her from Hawaii and Japan.  Have to try for days to get through.

On our reconnaissance trip here last May we made the acquaintance of a really neat guy who owns a scuba business in Candi Dasa:
Heís Japanese

0363 41660

Hiro also has another Japanese instructor named Noriko Fukuda working for him.
Noriko is a hoot to dive with. She lived in the
US for a while and gets along with English reasonably well.

I told Hiro Iíd like to dive with him for a while after coming here in July until I learned the dive sites and how best to exploit them after which Iíd dive on my own.  That worked out very well.  Hiro took me to the dive sites and gave me a good run down on them as well as telling me how much I should pay and to whom.  You'll be a little surprised about who gets paid although its only a few cents for some.  Subsequently I dived alone (my wife only snorkels) at these sites and paid reasonable prices for boats to take me out.  A jukung (outrigger canoe with motor) for a dive close to the point of departure will cost about Rp 70,000 for two dives on average.  Many dives may be made as shore dives.

A superb guide to the dive sites including good charts of each is

Bali by David Pickell and Wally Siagain
published by Periplus.

Hiroís wife Ime is an Indonesian from
Sumatra and she speaks English pretty well.  Sheís been of invaluable assistance to us several times and they have both become our friends.  Hiroís business as well as all others was hurt severely in the aftermath of the Bali bombing.

Scuba Gear
The best shop for scuba gear Iíve found considering price as well as selection is

Sanur Bypass
0361 289028

Ask for Diah.
There are no shops in the CD area selling gear although Hiro can usually help out with a short-term fix.

Scuba Air Fills
Iíve been asked to pay as much as Rp 50,000 for air fills but have never had to pay more than 20,000.

I had thought about leasing/buying/renting a boat while here but changed my mind soon after arrival.  Thereís no way to moor or slip a boat of any size except at Padang Bai or Benoa.
All boats here are dragged up on the beach when not in use.  Next, itís really rare to see a boat here suitable for personal use other than a jukung unless youíre interested in something of the live-aboard size.  That is to say, almost NO fiberglass or aluminum runabouts.  Then thereís the matter of mobility: if you have a boat in Padang Bai, what will you do when you go to Tulamben?  Thatís a 75 minute drive but would be a full day boat trip.  Iíve never seen a boat being hauled over the road here and for that matter havenít seen any trailers at all.  I sure wouldnít want to drive under local conditions with a trailer."