Bali rocks. And I feel like the luckiest digital nomad every single fucking day.
I live in a villa in the middle of the ricefields. It’s a 5-minute scooter ride to the beach. I have a pool (in which I swim naked every day), an open-living environment (I’m only inside when I sleep) and I watch the sunset every night on the beach or my rooftop terrace.
I go to yoga or for a surf in the mornings.
It’s beautifully warm every day, I haven’t worn shoes in ages, my daily outfit is boardshorts and a singlet.
Healthy food is plentiful, Internet speeds (finally) pretty good and it’s hard to imagine a life without coconuts in it.
My co-working space is 50 meters from the beach and has a pool. Beat that.
I can live in a quiet, rural environment and yet have all the amenities and infrastructure of a big city readily available around the corner.
So, to get things straight:
Bali is waaay more than Kuta and drunk Australians. I know so, because it took me a long time to fall in love with the island of the gods, because all I knew was exactly that. Once I got a glimpse into the real life as an expat here, I was hooked pretty immediately. However, in my case this took me 5 years and many visits. For you, it might only take this blogpost.
I have lived in Bali on and off since January 2015, in total about ten months. Four of them I spent in Ubud, the rest in Canggu.
I get so many people asking me about Canggu and Bali - so I finally compiled a little mini-guide for digital nomads and freedom junkies.
So if you are considering to come here for a while, then this is the information you need for now.
Why choose Canggu as a digital nomad?
I already outlined bits and pieces of my life in paradise above.
But here once more in a nutshell:
- It has an upcoming start-up and online entrepreneur scene
- A great co-working space: Dojo (and Hubud in Ubud)
- More and more great cafes with good wifi connections (and great coffee)
- 2015 has been the year of the Internet in Bali. It is now finally good enough to actually work online efficiently
- Life in nature and outside: beaches, ricefields, mountains… I mean, fuck, it’s beautiful here.
- Amazing, high-quality restaurant scene for every taste and budget.
- Many vegan/vegetarian places and health shops available.
- Hotspot for surfing.
- The tastiest and freshest tropical fruits and vegetables (also available organic).
- You can’t help but have a healthy lifestyle here: lots of great yoga studios, very good gyms, very affordable spa treatments (e.g. massages etc) and alternative healing options.
- Bali sunsets are spectacular.
- Unlimited adventure: Diving, biking, hiking…
- You can live cheaply or enjoy a badass standard of living - 1000 USD or 3000 USD, anyone will find their budget’s worth here.
- Well connected airport with cheap flights.
- Super-friendly locals and fascinating culture.
- Indonesian is an easy to learn language, but you also get by easily with English.
- More paradise nearby: Gili Islands, Nusa Lembongan, Lombok, Flores..
- Service-oriented: easy and affordable to employ staff and get everything you desire delivered to your front door (from restaurants, shops etc.).
- Easy visa situation to stay for two or six months without having to do a visa run.
- Where else do you get open-living house architecture and almost every house with a pool?
All in all, I am having the best lifestyle I have ever had here in Bali. It beats any other place in terms of standard of living for digital nomads and infrastructure.
Ok so we have all the good reasons out of the way.
Why you are not going to like Bali
And just to warn you, here a few reasons you’re not going to like Bali, because not everyone does. And that’s fine.
- Internet speeds are definitely workable but the system here is not perfect. If you get frustrated too easily with cut outs and the like, Bali is not the place.
- Riding a scooter is essential and Bali traffic is intense in the beginning. If you’re too scared to give this a shot, don’t come. There is basically no real public transport on Bali and you will be stuck in your house without a scooter and miss out on all the good stuff.
- You think Bali is Kuta and Monkey Forest Road. You need to get out of tourist Bali to find out why Bali is so special. You need to know where the magic spots and paradise beaches are, because the good stuff needs to be discovered. And you have to be open for Bali to receive it. Many people find Bali too loud and crowded and leave jaded.
- Canggu is too hipster/surfy for you and Ubud too hippie. Well, sorry about that.
Canggu is located just north of Seminyak and about 45 minutes from the airport.
In the beginning, getting around town is extremely confusing. Everything is really spread out and doesn’t make sense.
The main street is Batu Bolong, which leads to the main surf beach by Old Mans, a bar/restaurant institution in Canggu.
Canggu is also well known for Echo Beach, one street up from Batu Bolong.
The main action, restaurants and shops are along Batu Bolong and Echo Beach Road.
There are many cafes, restaurants and a good surf spot also in Berawa.
There is a shortcut (ricefield highway) over to Berawa and to Pererenan. Bascially, you need to get to know all the shortcuts to navigate around Canggu and to Seminyak efficiently.
The big road Raya Canggu leads to Seminyak and on to Sunset Road, which is the “highway” that goes to Kuta and the airport.
Another landmark people talk about besides Old Mans is Canggu Deli/Canggu Club. It’s on the way to Seminyak from Berawa.
Here are the four options:
- 30 Days for Free: Many nationalities can enter into Bali without a visa and at no cost. However, you only get 30 days, which you cannot extend and there is no other way than to leave the country.
- Visa on Arrival: 518.000 IDR (you pay at the counter just before you go through immigration). It can be extended for another 30 days, which is easily done through an agent (e.g. Bali Business Consulting on Jalan Berawa), costs about 600.000 IDR and you have to go to immigration once for fingerprints and photo. I wouldn't do it without an agent, as it saves you two extra immigration visits. After 60 days you have to leave the country.
- Get a tourist visa at a consulate before coming to Bali: This gives you 60 days and can then be turned into a social visa through an agency in Bali without having to leave the country and you get four extra months (so six months altogether). It costs about 50-80USD per month.
- Use a visa agency (see above) in Singapore or Kuala Lumpur to obtain your social visa there by meeting one of their agents. He will then organise a social visa for you within a day or two (depending on how urgent it is for you and how much you want to pay extra for “express”).
Important: You MUST get the tourist visa at a consulate and you CANNOT extend your Visa on Arrival for more than 60 days or turn it into a social visa. So if you know you want to stay in Bali for longer than two months, then get a tourist visa before you arrive.
It is really easy to stay in Bali for six months or longer. You just do another visa run, get another social visa and come straight back in. This is what expats do for years on end. Many people do one-day visa runs: fly to Singapore or KL in the morning and fly back to Bali the same evening.
If you overstay your visa, you will be charged by the day - roughly 20 USD, which is ok for a couple days, but not for longer.
I generally recommend using visa agents, as they accelerate the process and you only have to go to immigration once for fingerprints and photo (rather than DIY, then you have to go to immigration three times to save yourself a few dollars. Not worth it in my opinion.)
I use Bali Business Consulting for all things visa in Canggu.
Here is a good post about Bali visa you should read.
The airport is in the South of Bali, close to Kuta and Jimbaran. The new international terminal only opened in November 2013, so it’s all pretty nice finally.
The old terminal now serves as the domestic terminal.
The best way to get to Canggu is this:
After you pass customs, you will see a taxi counter before you enter through the Duty Free Shop. Here you get the cheapest fares without having to deal with the five million taxi drivers when you exit.
Transport from the airport to Canggu/Berawa is 250.000 IDR and takes about 45 Minutes.
In any case, if you booked an AirBnB or a hotel before your arrival, your host will usually organise an airport pickup for you - which also makes more sense, because house addresses in Bali are often times hard to find.
Tip: Get some Rupiah (maybe 1 or 2 million for starters) at a cash machine before leaving the airport.
Ubud vS Canggu Discussion
It keeps coming up and here is my take on it, if you are unsure which one to choose:
I personally have lived in Ubud and Canggu (where I reside now) and I believe them both to hold the best opportunities and lifestyle for digital nomads.
Ubud = yoga, hippie, vegan/vegetarian restaurants, spiritual and cultural hotspot of Bali, ricefields, the happening co-working space Hubud and lots of online entrepreneurs in a thriving startup scene, more long-term digital nomads...
Canggu = beach, surf, hipsters, more peaceful, Seminyak’s infrastructure nearby (restaurants, shopping, clubs…), more transient short-term digital nomads..
I LOVE Ubud. I spent several months there this year. And yes, it has a great coworking space, Hubud, and a pretty established digital nomad/online entrepreneur community there.
I love the yoga and amazing restaurant scene there. I'm a total hippie myself. So yeah, definitely an awesome place. And one, that needs a while to get to know, so as a tourist not as fun, but to live really great. There are lots of events and things happening there all the time, it’s great.
But: You are an hour scooter drive away from the beach and surf. It rains much more in Ubud in rainy season. Traffic is a bitch most of the time in town and it’s loaded with tourists especially in high season. Internet is still a bit to be desired for in comparison to the South of Bali.
Canggu is just more chilled out in general. It has a very different vibe, which is hard to compare to Ubud - they are like two different planets.
But it guess it's a matter of preference. I don't think one is better than the other.
The way I keep it: I live in Canggu and then go to Ubud every few weeks or so. Best of both worlds.
A great resource on Ubud is this post:
A few days, weeks to a few months
AirBnB is a good place to book a few nights or couple weeks before you arrive, otherwise it is best to look for places and negotiate longer deals on the ground.
You can get monthly rentals in most homestays and there are tons of them.
I wouldn't commit to a one-month lease via AirBnB or from far away in general. You always, always have more, cheaper and better options once you are actually in town (which is the case for basically any place around the world).
So don't panic and think you need to secure a place in advance. It's maybe a bit trickier during high season (June - August).
Here are some recommendations for homestays and hotels:
Also look out for advertised rooms in shared houses by other expats/digital nomads in the Canggu Community FB-group. I see some every few days.
You can usually get by with 3-6 Million IDR per month for a room. Rent is always paid upfront.
You will get the best deals the longer you rent. Most good places will rent out for 12 months minimum, some also 6 months.
It’s more difficult to find good places for just a month or a few months. I recommend using Facebook-Groups and AirBnB for that. Your best bet is to be on the ground for that, chat to locals and expats living here. There is no point in trying to organise a place to stay for a month or longer from a distance, unless it’s via AirBnB, but then you end up paying ridiculous amounts.
Rent is ALWAYS paid up front in Bali - no matter how long you are staying. 12 months contract means your pay 12 months rent upfront.
Prices for a nice 2-3 bedroom villa start range from $800-2,000 per month. If renting by the year they can be had for $8,000-$20,000 per year. This all depends on size, build quality and pool/no pool.
If you’re on a serious budget, I wouldn’t go with a an agent, and instead connect with locals in your area. Real estate agents make more sense if you are looking for a nicer place and know what and where you want it.
So just start talking to people, Balinese are friendly and always ask questions anyway, so just tell them you are looking for a place.
On top of that you usually have electricity, Internet, and staff to pay (maid and possible gardener/pool maintenance).
Facebook Groups for Canggu:
When Is a Good Time to Come AKA WHAT'S UP WITH Rainy Season?
It's ALWAYS a good time to come.
Best time is from June to September - which is also high season. It starts to heat up in October and rain usually slowly hits in November/December. The wettest months are January, February and March.
The advantages of the rainy season:
- less tourists
- less surfers in the water
It doesn’t rain all day every day. Usually we get a heavy downpour for an hour or two sometime in the afternoon or evening.
It will be more overcast, but usually also sun in the mornings.
It is definitely hotter and more humid during rainy season.
You can also have days with sun only.
However, it definitely rains more in places like Ubud than at the coastal areas.
I am typing this during rainy season here in Canggu and we have mostly had sunny mornings, followed by some clouds around noon, and then some rain later in the day.
Now and again we always have days without any rain and pure sun.
If you need more info on the weather in Bali, then definitely read this post.
Cafes and Restaurants
Here is my ultimate favorite selection, however I am vegan:
- Avocado Cafe - veggie, vegan, Paleo
- Peloton Cafe - The only true vegan cafe in Canggu, simply awesome
- Green Ginger - Vegetarian Thai/Vietnamese
- Eden Cafe - Breakfast, lunch, smoothies and juices, lots of veg/vegan options
- Ithaka - Salads, juices and smoothies
- La Baracca - Badass original Italian food
- The Shady Shack - Fully veggie/vegan, from the Betelnut peeps
More good stuff:
- Betelnut - Canggu’s institution
- Crate Cafe - Breakfast
- Serenety Alkaline - Vegan and veggie
- Banana Leaf - Vegetarian Thai
- Warung Dandelion - Fancy Indonesian
- Warung Bumi - Cheap and good Indonesian warung
- Warung Varuna - Cheap and good Indonesian warung
- Oma Jamu - Breakfast, smoothies and juices
Most cafes and restaurant also deliver, which comes in very handy during rainy season for example. I also sometimes get food delivered to the coworking space.
If you are at home and in need of booze, then check out Warung on Wheels and get it all delivered. Great service, usually pretty quick.
The bar/club scene has not arrived yet in Canggu. Gladly.
Sunday is your one big night out here. Old Mans, followed by Deus, followed by Sandbar.
There is also Pretty Poison (a skate pool & bar with live bands sometimes).
If you want to party for realzzz, head to Seminyak or Kuta.
Subscribe to this newsletter for all things clubbing in Bali.
Internet & Getting Shit Done
Bali has come a long way in terms of Internet. It can’t yet compete with Thailand speeds, but we now have 4G and a stable connection at co-working spaces.
Getting a SIM-Card is super easy. My recommendation is the provider Telkomsel Simpati, it has really good reception here in Canggu and best coverage in Bali. The card will cost you a few Rupiah and mobile Internet is super cheap too.
There a couple of mobile phone shops on the main road Raya Canggu up by Batu Bolong. Takes a few minutes to get set up.
Almost all cafes and places to stay have wifi, but speeds vary greatly. Good cafes to work from are plenty, but most times it’s the noise from loud music or traffic that can be annoying.
I recommend investing in a co-working membership at the co-working space Dojo on Echo Beach road if you are serious about getting shit done. It has a cafe, a pool, aircon rooms and Mike, the owner, organises workshops, events and member BBQs.
Otherwise, tethering from your phone’s mobile internet connection is always a good option if wifi is not good enough.
Here are some other good places to work from:
- ODD Cafe & Work
- Milk & Madu
- Little Flinders
- Eden Cafe
- Satu Satu
- Frii Hotel Rooftop
- Hungry Bird
- Boardriders Cafe
- Grocer & Grind (Aircon)
The two main ATMs in Canggu are on Batu Bolong before Old Man’s and on Echo Beach Road before Dojo. There are also more down at Canggu Deli.
Many ATMs only give out 1.5 Million, some up to 2.5 Million, in rare cases 3 Million.
Many people report that their cards get copied at ATMs around Bali. Your best bet if you want to be supersafe is to use ATMs that are inside of banks. That would be on the main road Raya Canggu and on the road after Canggu Deli at Permata Bank.
Some Western upmarket places accept credit cards - such as the bigger supermarkets (Canggu Deli, Pepito) or Western shops (Billabong etc).
Other than that, it’s cash only in most cafes, restaurants and shops.
There is lots of good yoga around town. I also did my yoga teacher training here in Canggu in 2015 and generally really enjoy my time here as a yogi. Great variety of classes for all levels and styles.
My Top 3 Yoga Studios:
- The Practice
- Desa Seni
- Samadi Bali
There are a few more places that offer yoga, e.g. Serenity, Ecosfera, The Chillhouse.
Canggu got popular mainly because of the surf. It basically has waves year-round, although the dry season sees the best swells.
The main breaks are between Berawa, Batu Bolong, Echo Beach and Pererenan.
Batu Bolong is best for beginners (but also more advanced!). You can rent boards at the shacks by the parking area for 50.000 for two hours or negotiate daily/weekly prices.
There are showers at Old Man’s and down by the car park next to the warung.
Echo Beach is for more advanced surfers and cool to watch some "Surf TV" for sunset. Berawa Beach is mostly for intermediate and up.
Surf Instructor & Schools
- Bali Local Surf School
- I can totally recommend Ayok, I have taken several lessons with him. Contact him through Instagram.
- You can also go to the board rental guys at Batu Bolong and they can also easily organise a surf instructor. They usually charge about 350.000k for two hours including board.
Where to Buy a Surfboard
If you are in for your own board, then you have many choices.
There is a very active group for second-hand boards on Facebook called Bali Surfboards Buy and Sell.
If you are looking for a new board or want to get one custom shaped, then head to these shops:
- Luke Studer
- Channel Islands
- Dylan Surfboard
I can also recommend a local shaper Danu Sworo, who is very popular among the surf expat community here in Bali and I had a board made by him as well.
- Bali Ocean Surf on Batu Bolong towards Old Mans
- Ding repair on Berawa close to Hungry Bird
- Warung Repair next to Little Flinders
Facebook Groups for Surfer Girls
- Bali Fit
- S2S Crossfit
- Canggu Club Gym
There are lots of little shops around but if you are looking for a proper Western-style selection, head to:
- Pepito on Raya Canggu
- Canggu Deli in Berawa
- Popular in Berawa
- Canggu Shop on Batu bolong
- Samadi Sunday Market on Jalan Padang Linjong
- Bali Buda in Kerobokan or Minggu
- Earth Cafe in Seminyak
Wellness & Spas
The three best spas for massage and manicure/pedicure:
- Goldust on Batu Bolong
- Therapy on Echo Beach
- Maria Curau on Jl. Munduk Kedungu in Pererenan - the first vegan, cruelty-free nail spa plus awesome ricefield views and social events (comes highly recommended!)
They are a bit on the pricey side (e.g. 250k for 60 minute massage or deluxe pedicure), but well worth the money!!! #selfcare
There are also many other smaller and cheaper spas around:
- Canggu Day Spa
- Spa Manis
- Your Time
You can get your clothes washed all over, there are many laundry places on Batu Bolong and Jalan Padang Linjong.
Hospitals & Clinics
The two best hospitals on Bali (I have been to both):
I also really recommend Puri Medical Clinic on the way to Seminyak in case you don't want to travel so far. They also do house visits, their doctors speak good English and are very competent.
There is also a wonderful little clinic for natural medicines and therapies, BSI International.
Also, check out Bali Healing down on Batu Bolong.
If you intend on staying a few months or longer, I really recommend learning a bit of Bahasa Indonesia. It’s a pretty easy language to get your head around and the Balinese are so appreciative of every single word you can say in their language. Well, technically, Balinese is its own language and Indonesian the general official language in the country.
For starters, check out these two podcasts:
I also took 1-1 Indonesian lessons and can totally recommend my teacher Wulan.
If you are in need of English-speaking legal and business advice, then check out Bali Lawyer.
How to Get Around
Bali traffic is pretty intense, better get used to it.
You basically need a scooter if you intend on being here for a while. It’s the fastest and most efficient way to get around. There is also hardly any public transport on the island. Canggu is so spread out, walking is pointless and riding a bicycle will only get you so far and you will miss out on a lot of places.
You can rent a scooter from 600.000 Rupiah a month, depending on the condition of the bike. Newer and nicer ones go for 800.000 to 1.000.000 a month.
Daily rates are usually around 50.000 IDR.
My go-to scooter dealer is Nyoman on Batu Bolong No 22. His number is 0817351787 - he has both Varios and Scoopies, surf racks and delivers to your house (like most places).
I can also recommend Gede from J & D Bali Rental. He's super friendly and cheaper than Nyoman, also delivers. You can contact him through his Facebook page here.
If you book through AirBnB, your host will be able to arrange a scooter for you normally.
I usually opt for a Vario 125cc.
Officially, you need an international driver’s licence from your country. I have never been stopped around Canggu or Ubud, but there are a lot of police checks in Kuta, Seminyak… If you don’t have one,
Make sure to wear helmets! Seriously. I know some people think it’s not cool or messes with their hair, but be cooler and wear them. For your own safety and because it’s mandatory on the main roads (police will stop you without helmet). I have had two little scooter accidents and am glad I always wore a helmet.
The rental helments are usually crap, so I recommend to get a better one at one of the small shops on the main street Raya Canggu or at Helmet Gallery in Denpasar. Prices from around 200.000 IDR up.
Also: I recommend wearing long sleeves and long pants when driving further afar out of town. For sun protection, but especially for skin protection in case you do have an accident and fall off your bike. I speak from experience - those scratches are nasty and take ages to heal.
Petrol is cheap. Small shops by the side of the road around town have racks with vodka bottles outside (one litre around 10.000 IDR) or go to a petrol station (usually cheaper).
I sometimes take a driver with a car for longer trips or when I don’t feel like riding my bike. They usually charge 350.000 for half day and 600.000 or more for full day.
I can recommend this guy as he has many drivers and does fair pricing: Bali Tirta Harum. His name is Gentos and he has access to many more great drivers.
Otherwise you always have the option to use taxis with meters, just call 03617899990 or 0361701111 or stop them on the street.
Uber, GrabTaxi and GoJek are all prohibited in the Canggu area as they try to protect local drivers and control pricing.
General Living Expenses
Bali is suitable for everyone’s budget. It is more expensive than Thailand, but also offers you a higher standard of living and better quality in terms of food and housing.
You can easily get by with 600 USD - living in a cheap homestay and eating a lot of local Warung food.
With 1500-2000 UDS you will have a fancy life incuding accommodation, regular yoga classes, massages, coworking, Western-style food, mobile phone, scooter etc.
A few more tips and infos for your life in Bali
- Most Balinese have the same names: Waya, Made, Nyoman/Komang and Ketut.
- You will get lost, a lot. GoogleMaps only helps in rare cases. It will take you some time to understand how directions and street navigation work here.
- Maybe, maybe you will get Dengue Fever here, but it won’t kill you (I had it before). There are good hospitals on the island and the only thing you can do to prevent it is wearing long clothing and using mozzy spray.
- Respect Balinese culture and traditions. They are fascinating.
- You will see a lot of ceremonies all the time. That’s just what they do here and it’s quite fascinating to learn about. My favorite day is Nyepi, Balinese New Year.
- There are some swimming pools you can use if you consume at these places: The Chillhouse, Nyoman Bagus, Frii Hotel. You can also find a public swimming pool and swim some laps up on Batu Bolong.
- The tap water isn’t safe for drinking, but fine to brush your teeth with - I personally never had issues.
- Whatever question you might have that I didn’t address in this guide, use the designated Facebook Groups (first use the search function, then ask!). They are extremely active and helpful (except for the usual trolls and debby downers).
- There are a few shops in Canggu, but if you are looking for some proper shopping time, head e.g. to Seminyak around Seminyak Square.
What ELSE to do in Bali
- Go to Ubud
- Go down to the Bukit and Uluwatu
- Go to the Gilis
- Climb Mount Batur
- Go to Amed
- Visit Tanah Lot at 6am in the morning
- Go to Nusa Lembongan
- Spend a view days at the Bali Silent Retreat
- Do a juice cleanse
Here are some Facebook Groups you might want to check out:
Did I miss anything or got something wrong? Maybe you know some thing better than me? Please let me know!
Have fun and enjoy Bali!