The struggles of living abroad in Bali

Living Abroad in Bali: The Struggle Edition

Hey there, your favorite digital nomad, coming to you live from Bali! The life of a digital nomad is not always an easy life, especially in Bali. WHAT? – I am sure that this was your first thought. The first thing I am going to hear- “But Justyn you LIVE in Bali”. Yes, yes I know. I am very lucky and I am not trying to discourage you from moving to Bali or living abroad in general. I was actually speaking with a good friend at dinner tonight about how lucky we truly are. It is still the best decision that I have made. However, we still chat about “how hard our lives are” from time to time and I thought I’d share the big reasons why!

Visa runs…. all the visa runs…

In case you didn’t know, you can only stay in Indonesia for 30 days. 30 DAYS. That is nothing. In the grand scheme of things, that means that every 30 days you have to leave the country, only to come right back. The little way around this is called an extendable Visa. That means when you land in Bali, you pay some money to get a sticker to then go through all this work to stay for a whopping 60 days. That’s right. So every 60 days you have to do it all over again. IT’S SUCH A PAIN. I picked the hardest place to be living abroad! But hey, I think I also picked the most beautiful!

If you don’t scoot, you don’t survive – if you do scoot, you might just die

Alrighty. So every day I tell myself that I am going to get a scooter. Everyday I chicken out. Listen up folks. You can’t get around Bali without a scooter! You just can’t. There is no bus that is going to pick you up. There is a thing called GoJek, or GRAB. This means locals will pick you up on their scooter and take you where ever you need to go. Sounds pretty nice eh? Yah if you can get someone to actually pick you up! Getting a grab can sometimes take HOURS.

Low Quality pic of a high quality time on the scoot with ma girls. (Yes I am the one in the helmet GO SAFETY)

The Po-Po

So you got yourself a scooter. Now you are a target. The Police will attempt to stop you daily, and sometimes they will succeed. Why are they stopping you? To get your money. It’s terrible. They claim to be stopping you because you don’t have an international scooter license. But really, it’s all a Bali scam. They want you to pay them off and then they let you on your way. So good luck handling that. Luckily – if we tell them we are living here in Bali they get very excited and let us go. They truly only want the tourists.


NEVER ENDING TRAFFIC. One day it took us 4 hours to go what would of been 15 minutes or less. Take this into account because you don’t want to miss you flight or ferry or anything else important. (A good way to avoid always being stuck in traffic is the scooter. You can just scooter past all the cars sitting in traffic. Beware because it’s chaotic and terrifying.)

The Taxi Mafia

I’m quickly learning that this so called Taxi Mafia can make your life very hard. They scare people out of helping to call you a cab, and a lot of times it is a miracle if you can get a grab or uber to come to your Villa. So you, better get a scooter. (Long story short- this blog post is basically just a why you need a scooter in Bali even though it’s terrifying. Also I am probably going to get one tomorrow mom. I LOVE YOU *sorry you had to find out this way* )

If you have any questions about living abroad or this specifics of living in Bali in general, let me know! You can drop your questions in the comments or send me an email.

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  • Rosemary
    August 4, 2017 at 8:59 pm

    Missed Bali on my recent trip to Southeast Asia and sounds like I totally missed out. That’s interesting about the traffic and the necessity to scooter. Regardless, from your pictures, it is simply gorgeous. Thanks for highlighting the scams as I do plan to visit Bali soon!!

  • Aarti Kamath
    August 3, 2017 at 2:29 pm

    I know that it can get tricky traveling in Indonesia – You cannot trust the police for sure! It is nice to read something so raw and real for once! … Oh yeah, did you by any chance travel to Mount Kelimutu from Bali (you need a short expensive flight as I see)? .. I see that the travel companies try to rip you off such tours.. Let me know if you have had such experiences…

  • Alice ford
    August 3, 2017 at 10:50 am

    I can only imagine how terrifying riding a scooter in Indonesia might be. We all have struggles no matter where we live, just be thankful yours is in such a wonderfully beautiful place.

  • Jamie
    August 3, 2017 at 4:11 am

    It’s always fascinating to hear the ‘real’ story of a place. I don’t enjoy traffic, or crowds, or taxi mobs (ha) so I may not put Bali on my list. I enjoyed reading your story, very engaging.

  • Katherine
    August 3, 2017 at 1:22 am

    Wow, just a 60 day visa? Do you ever get worried that they won’t approve your next one? Where do you usually hop over to for a visa run?

  • Leigh Dorkin
    August 3, 2017 at 12:49 am

    I love this post! It is so authentic. I have recently moved to Canada from South Africa and have written a post about the reality of moving overseas and I’m scared to hit publish! Haha. Something about reflecting on negative feelings makes me nervous about how others will react but I loved this post and hearing the ‘struggle’ so maybe I should be more open about sharing my ‘struggle’. Thanks for the post! And thanks for dropping by on my page! 🙂

    • justynjen
      August 2, 2017 at 4:56 pm

      You know, I thought the same thing but I decided recently to just write what I’m inspired to write and this was one of those things! Next of course will be the best things about my life here but I decided to share this one first. You should do it!!

  • Jen
    August 2, 2017 at 7:34 pm

    Thanks for the honest and we’ll written article. I am going to visit Bali soon but am a bit wary of the Police. If I say that I live there will they ask me to prove it or will they let me off. Also do you speak Indonesian with them? Or can you get let off paying only if you say you live there in the Indonesian language? Cheers!

  • Travelling Dany
    August 2, 2017 at 3:07 pm

    Is there anything you can do to have a longer, legitimate stay? Like a work permit or something? Because 60 days is such a short period of time!

    • justynjen
      August 2, 2017 at 3:52 pm

      Yah the next best thing is a social visa, 6 months but only single entry. You have to get a local to sponsor you though, in order to get that one.

  • Anshula
    August 2, 2017 at 3:03 pm

    This is such a great post! I didn’t know about the police in Bali trying to catch tourists for a pretty clever scam, or the traffic issues, or the taxi mafia. Lesson learned: when I visit Bali, I need a scooter 😉 On a side note, Justyn, I love your unapologetic writing style (so refreshing to read).

    • justynjen
      August 2, 2017 at 3:26 pm

      Wow!! Thank you so much! I really appreciate that! For a long time I struggled with writing how I wanted versus writing what I thought people wanted so that is so sweet!! And yah watch out for that! I am probably getting my scooter tomorrow finally….. hahahaha

  • Nuraini
    August 2, 2017 at 3:02 pm

    I can certainly vouch for the traffic… nearly missed my flight that one time.

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