Welcome to the Island of the Gods.
If you look to your right you’ll see rice paddies, farmers, chickens and cows, if you look to your left you’ll see a hustling expat and digital nomad scene.
On our tour of being a digital nomad in Bali today, you can expect to find out things such as
- Where the best co-work spaces in Bali are
- How to avoid being skimmed
- How to eat in full confidence despite the 90% chance of contracting Bali belly
- The best way to avoid disappointment or conflict due to cultural differences
- A guestimate of $$$ you’ll be spending on your stay
- How to navigate taxi mafia and safe transport
First of all, I'll introduce myself.
Hi, I’m Sarah, I recently lived in Bali as a digital nomad for 6 months. Now, I’m aware 6 months is far from qualifying me as a local, however, in those 6 months I immersed myself in the sociology of Bali to an extent that I’m extremely proud of.
Still, saying this, what I have to offer is merely a guide based on my personal experiences.
So with that out of the way, let’s get this tour rolling.
First stop…Co-working spaces! The digital nomads second home.
There are co-working spaces popping up like mushrooms all over Bali. Many of them call themselves co-working spaces because they feel it's good for business but aren't really equipped properly. Then there are some that are average, so I've only included what I deem to be the best!
The alternative is to find a café or restaurant that's quiet. It is possible, especially outside of peak hours and nearly all hospitality business have public wifi. You'll struggle to download any huge files on general wifi, but it's more than acceptable for emails and Skype calls.
The best way to find a suitable work friendly café is to network with other digital nomads in the area via the likes of Facebook groups or Meetup.
If you are going to Bali to do some work, then you can not pass up working from the Dojo.
While it is a wee expensive for a day pass, the monthly packages with a choice of 20hr, 50hr, 100hr or unlimited hours are more feasible. Plus it’s a tax write off!
The community aspect of the Dojo is the quality that sets this co-working space apart from the rest. Every week there are talks, meet ups, skill shares and speed networking events.
Around 5pm every Friday, a staff member goes around with a bell and tells everyone to stop working and come have beers by the beach (which is only a few hundred meters away).
If you ever need help with something there’s always someone in the vicinity that knows the answer and coconuts or cake tend to be the choice of trade.
- Swimming pool
- Office equipment – scanner, printer, etc.
- Board racks
- 24/7 access
- Chill areas
- Air conditioned rooms
- Skype booths
- Pet cat and dog
- 5 business loaded fiber optic networks to ensure fast, reliable internet
- Backup power sources (generator etc.)
Nestled in the hub of Ubud within walking distance of the chaotic monkey forest is Hubud co-working space.
Dojo and Hubud are the two most popular places to work and the aspects of the community events, networking and socializing are the same.
The choice between the two comes down a personal preference of location, and perhaps the answer to this question: outside of working what is it that you like doing?
The main appeal of Canggu (where you'll fine Dojo) is the surfing and paddle boarding opportunities, so basing yourself in Canggu suits the surfer/party/hipster nomad. Surrounded by wild jungle and lush waterfalls, Ubud is more in line with yogis, health conscious and perhaps hiking types.
- Swimming pool
- Outdoor working areas
- Air con rooms
- Skype booths
- Partner spaces (same membership) all over the world
- Office equipment – scanner, printer, etc.
- 24/7 access
- Co-living option
- Bamboo meeting rooms (these are super cool!!!)
- Member discounts in other partnered Bali businesses
- Fast and reliable internet
Another beach suburb, Legian hosts a slightly more affordable co-working space. Its location is smack bam in the hustle, so you need not to be bothered by crowds. Saying that, the co-working space itself is the quietest of the three.
The services aren’t as high quality as the other co-working spaces, for example, the private desk is not comparable to the soundproofed Skype booths, but depending on what business you are doing, this may or may not matter.
The cool part is that this co-working space is settled in a resort, so you have access to a huge pool and resort services. Legian also boasts the best co-living arrangements, resort style rooms with laundry services, wifi, satellite TV and much more!
- Swimming pool
- Co-living arrangements
- Indoor/outdoor workspaces
- Air con rooms
- High speed/reliable internet
- Private office option – personal use of own photocopier, printer, private desk etc.
How to Avoid Being Skimmed
First of all, what is skimming?
If you’ve heard the expression “I’ve been skimmed!” it means someone had their bank card details copied from a transaction and the “skimmer” is now on a shopping spree. The most popular way skimmers make you their victims is by installing hardware on ATMs that read your card, and Bali is rife with them!
Fortunately, there are a few simple things you can do to avoid these nasty ATMs.
- Only go to big bank ATMs. Ones like BNI and Mandiri that have guards posted at them as well as a bank attached.
- If you need cash ASAP and can’t get to one of these pre mentioned big banks, check your ATM for signs of tampering. Things to look for are large plastic boxes protruding from the card inserter that don’t look like they particularly belong.
- Shield your pin!
- Only keep small amounts of money on the card you intend to pull cash out on so that if you do get skimmed, they won’t have anything to use!
How to Eat Safely
It's possible to be in full confidence of eating safely despite the 90% chance of contracting Bali belly, though it can be tricky! It’s almost unavoidable to contract some kind of stomach bug that could leave you titled the next captain thunderpants!
I NEVER got sick..not once!
I would have, except for one trick.
Anytime I felt even slightly queasy, I’d pop a handful of about seven charcoal tablets. I’d fast for between half a day to a full day, only allowing myself said charcoal tablets and coconuts.
I figured it was better to be a little hungry than spend 3 days getting to know the rim of your toilet bowl…from both ends.
Other things you can do to try to keep the thundering Bali belly at bay are
- Talk to expats for where is good to eat, use sites like Tripadvisor for reviews
- Check out how they wash their vegetables, if it's from the tap, think again! Most Bali belly occurs from waterborne disease
- If the ice in your drink looks like it’s come from their own freezer and not a bag of ice, remove it and politely ask for no ice for future drinks
- Take charcoal after drinking spirits – a lot of the alcohol is watered down
- It’s okay to brush your teeth from the tap! You just need to be sure to spit profusely at the end.
The Best Ways to Avoid Disappointment
It is possible to avoid conflict due to cultural differences, and avoid being disappointed at the same time.
Forever there will be differences in cultures that we find infuriating, insulting, disrespectful or substantially weird.
Though these differences are also the reason we travel no? To escape the norms of our lives and experience the differences. Without the lows, you have no highs!
So instead of complaining about them, learn about them before you go (anywhere; not just Bali) and be empathetic to the fact that it’s just their culture and nothing personal.
Some of the big differences I learned:
- Island time. Bali is an island, so it runs on island time! If you wait a half hour for your food one day and five minutes the next day, it’s normal. Again, don’t take it personally and become rude. In a western country, there are certain expectations around hospitality, but it doesn't apply in Bali. Island time applies for EVERYTHING. Food, drinks, service, handymen, replies to your texts or tours. Click here to find out more about it.
- Community comes first. You might think your small town weekly get-togethers around a bonfire with marshmallows show a great sense of community but it's nothing on Bali. Knowing this relates back to the first point too. Taking care of their community comes first, so ceremonies for the well being of their and their neighbors family, for rain, for good food, for…I don't know all of them, but they happen almost weekly on the streets. All these ceremonies are for their community and will ALWAYS be more important than your need to get to the beach quickly.
- If they aren’t smiling, smile first. It can be intensely intimidating when the locals have grimaces on their face as you're walking past. I’m not sure why they stare the way they do sometimes, maybe fear, maybe anger…all I know is that every time I smiled and said hello, those grimaces turned to the flashiest happiest smiles with eye wrinkles and all.
- There are no road rules except to wear your helmet. This is simple, if you get on your high horse about having the right of way after getting cut off or a collision, you will be laughed at. Be accountable for your driving, left, right, front and back.
An Estimate of Costs
Just the same as anywhere in the world what you spend entirely depends on what lifestyle you live and the area you’ll be in. Note: all these prices are in AUD. (Currently 1 AUD = 0.66 EUR)
This is a vague guide to costs with variables to do it cheap or live it up!
Places like Ubud, Seminyak and Kuta that have been gutted time and time again by tourists so have higher prices than places like Canggu, Uluwatu and Amed.
Heavily touristy areas meals are generally about $12-$15 for a main.
Quieter areas are around $8-$9.
Local warungs are the cheapest, and you can get a full meal for around $3 (30,000 IDR).
Coconuts, as a standard, are $1.50 – $ 2.50 no matter where you go!
Beers and spirits are so variable I’m not even going to attempt an estimate. It can range from $3 for a bintang and $5 for a spirit to $8 per bintang and $12 per spirit. The only way you’ll ever know is by looking at a menu!
There can be a vast difference in cost according to the area and what type of accommodation.
My homestay in Canggu cost about $15 a night for a long-term price.
My partner and I had a villa that made us feel like someone famous, and it was $600 per month.
The best way to is walk and talk, everything is open to bartering especially if you plan on a long-term stay.
Gojek is the cheapest, most reliable, and in my experiences, safest transport service. Of course, recommendations from fellow travelers and expats are fantastic too!
If you are game enough to jump on the back of a bike to get a lift you’ll pay about $8 to travel 20 mins.
Get in a car and it’ll cost you three times that.
You can use those figures to work out long distances too.
Navigating the Taxi Mafia and Safe Transport
You have services like GOJEK, GRAB and UBER for transport, but of course, there is also every man and his street dog operating a private driving service too. And then there’s the taxi mafia.
So it’s not hard to get transport, it’s just difficult getting reliable, fairly priced transport.
My advice is to download the GOJEK and the GRAB app. Between the two you'll always find a driver and the price is set before they pick you up. I never used GOJEK as a car service, but I used it to get food delivered, a massage lady delivered and drive my drunk friends who were visiting home by scooter.
Keep in mind you need an Indonesian sim so they can call you when you book a service. Many won't pick up without being able to call. I explain this below.
The downfall is they aren’t allowed to pick up (only drop off) in some areas because of the taxi mafia. Sometimes they will if they can call you and verify you are a westerner needing a lift and not a fake job that will end in a beating. Heavy reality of the underground politics in Bali.
If you are in one of the no-go zones, it's normally only a few kilometres you must go before they'll pick you up. Keep your driver's number if you like them and use them again and again! It's better for them and it's safe for you!
THAT’S ALL FOLKS…
Alas, our tour is coming to an end. It’s been my absolute pleasure to be your guide.
Remember, every experience you have is what you make it. Every opinion you have is merely a perspective. And when all seems at it’s worst, it only means it can better.
Being a digital nomad has amazing benefits that also come with testing hardships. We can travel for extensive periods because we make money no matter where we go but it also can result in feelings of being unstable, insecure and lonely.
The best cure for any digital nomad diseases is prevention.
Get networking the moment you land so when you do have a low period at least you won't feel completely alone. Try move into a shared house with fellow nomads or expats who understand the pains and gains.
Learn a little of the language so that you and that grandma who always has her boobs out can become best friends even though the same three sentences are the only thing spoken for 6 months. (Yes, that is my own personal story!)
Good luck and happy times my friend!