Expat Stories

Life Of An Australian Living In Bali

After meeting her partner on the island of Bali and joking about starting their lives there together, the West Aussie packed her bags and made the big life changing move. Bree Mullins and her partner have now been living in Bali for 1.5 years, with every day being different and no return to Australia in the foreseeable future. It’s safe to say through her experiences thus far, she is an expert in what it’s like to live in Bali as an expat.

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What attracted you to a life in Bali?

We feel alive in Bali, living amongst people who live the simple life. Having less but being happier is what life is really about!

When you holiday in Bali, compared to when you’re living here, you see people behind the tourism. You see people who have far less than western societies but would help you without question. I love the community here and how all the expats help each other out.

You don’t get this kind of community in Australia. Most people don’t even know their neighbours. In Australia a lot of people are consumed with the materialistic world, it’s hard to watch. Living here you realise you do not need much to be happy.

Of course, where there is light there is darkness. There is a saying here in Bali; ‘the island gives you what you want, if you’re in line with its energy.’ I have experienced this myself and seen it happen to so many people. Bali can make all your dreams come true or continue to teach you lessons until you learn them.

Living in Bali

Do you need to speak Indonesian or Bahasa to live in Bali?

Sedikit (a little bit.) I am grateful, that I learnt Bahasa in Primary school, so I still remember bits and pieces from then. Bahasa, the local Indonesian language is actually a very simple language to learn and you definitely pick up things the longer you’ve been here. I am always asking our landlords how to say certain words in Indonesian.

The Balinese language is a little trickier to pick up. And it doesn’t help that Google translate doesn’t understand it. You have to go straight to the source!

Most of the locals speak amazing English. However, knowing some of local greeting can get you far and if you try to speak some Balinese, even better. The locals are very grateful for the effort but be warned if you start speaking bits and pieces, they will just start talking in Bahasa. That’s where speaking a little ‘sedikit Bahassa’ can come in handy!

What is an average day like in Bali?

There is no average day in Bali. That’s the best part about it, time doesn’t really exist here. Well it does but it’s called ‘Bali time.’ You go with the flow. As long as you get what you need to do done, the rest of your time is free for you to do as you please.

For example, today I met up with two of my girlfriends for coffee and breakfast. My friend wanted to go the markets, so we headed over to check out some jewellery. I came back to our villa afterwards to make some lunch, hide away from the sun and do some research. Later, I am going over to my girlfriend’s house in her lunch break to use her pool and catch up. I’ll probably head down and go for a walk along the beach tonight. And I might end it with having a coconut whilst watching the sunset.

What main cultural difference have you noticed between Australia and Indonesia?

There is a big pollution problem in Indonesia! It’s hard to see how much litter there is in Bali. It really comes down to educating the locals. Bali was always a throwaway society, but since they have moved from banana leaves to plastic, there needs to be a change!

The awesome thing about having our western influence, is there are movements and education on what the environmental effects are on littering. The younger generation really understand that things need to change, it just means getting everyone on board.

Both Bali and Australia are both multi-cultural. I find people are a LOT less stressed out and anxious here in Bali than in Australia.

Australia has amazing systems in place like health care, but sadly I feel like we have lost that connection to our culture due to our history. The Balinese have such a strong sense of who they are through their religion. They have an amazing community base and it’s not uncommon for 30 family members to be living in one space. Family is important, and they really care about everyone in their community.

Living in Bali

How did you go with getting a long-term visa for Indonesia? Was it easy?

I am on a 2-month social visa, so I need to leave the island every 2 months. Most of the time I go back to Perth to visit my family and friends or we plan a holiday away to another country.

You can enter Bali on a 6-month visa, which a lot of my friends do. However, it means if you leave the island before 6 months, you will need to restart the entire process again.

My advice, find out what will work for you and your situation, there are a few options to choose from. Personally, we like to take advantage of living so close to other Asian continents, so we try to get out and explore and it’s a great excuse to take frequent holidays.

Is it easy to rent in Bali?

Yes! There are so many places to stay in Bali. Check out Airbnb, as well as joining some of the expat Facebook groups. People are always advertising rooms or villas for rent.

How do you find the cost of living in Indonesia?

I have to say it is more expensive than we thought it would be, but a hell of a lot cheaper than living expenses in Australia. It does add up especially if you’re not mindful of what your spending.

We aren’t big drinker’s but if you’re into your alcohol it can get expensive. When you live here it’s good to have a budget in mind and be realistic with it. You really can spend as much or as little as you like, it really depends on what type of experience you want.

Eating local food are always going to be cheaper than the ‘Insta spots’, and there are some amazing local places to eat! We’ve tried them all, but tend to stick to the same places and rotate because we know they’re clean, fresh and cheap. Believe it or not, it is actually cheaper to eat outthan to make your own meals. We usually eat one meal at home and two meals out to break it up. It’s all a learning curve and you have to find what works for you.

How do you find the practical things in Bali?

Internet is amazing here!! Everywhere you go has free WIFI and a really fast connection. A lot of nomad’s work from cafes or co-working spaces.

Touch wood, I haven’t been sick since moving here. Boy, was it different when I used to holiday here. Every time, I would always get Bali belly! Nowadays my tummy gets sore from western food!! It’s amazing how your body builds up an immunity.

I know BIMC in Nusa Dua is an amazing hospital. A lot of my friends use a local doctor who has studied in Singapore and comes to your home if you’re sick, but fortunately I haven’t been sick once.

We only drink filtered water and I don’t swallow the local water. I do clean my toothbrush with the local water now and I am fine.

It’s good to invest in some mosquito repellent, especially during rainy season but it’s something you can easily purchase over here. We are lucky in the fact there aren’t many mosquitos in Canggu, but when we lived in Ubud I needed to use it more frequently.

I feel very safe in Bali, even more so than Australia! As long as you have your wits about you and use common sense, you’ll be fine.

Top Tips: Always wear your bag across your shoulder if you ride the scooter or put your bag under the seat. Be respectful, don’t flash your money around. Make sure you ask for the meter in a blue bird taxi and don’t drink and drive! Simple.

What are your favourite areas of Bali and why?

Living in Bali

I love Bali as a whole, it caters to all types of people. We actually did a road trip around Bali and it was amazing to see how each part looks so different.

Personally, I love Ubud for a getaway, to ground myself. And although it is quite busy these days, it does have special energy and the place to go if you’re wanting some healing. I love Canggu to live, because it has such an amazing expat community, it’s close to the beach and pretty central to everything. We found Ubud to be beautiful, but it takes so long to get to town and we were missing the sense of community that Canggu has.

Nusa Lembongan and Nusa Penida are so picturesque, have beautiful clean beaches, mantra rays and amazing diving. A recent new find and love of ours is Amed. It is located on the east side of the island, there is a Japanese ship wreck you can dive off, stunning beaches and awesome places to go snorkelling.

What tips would you give others wanting to move to Bali?

I say, if it is viable option for you or your family, don’t hold back! Don’t listen to other people’s fears about the move. Make the decision for you! People will always have something to say but no one knows what you need more than you do!

Top tips: If you’re moving to Bali make sure you stock up on western food items beforehand. You will find they are hard to find and really expensive in Bali. Some things that come to mind are wine, cheese, peanut butter, chocolate and sunscreen!!