How to Stay in Bali (Semi) Long-Term

by Rachel Story

A visit to Bali will change your life. No, seriously. It changed ours.

It was on our first trip to Bali in 2012. We were lounging by the pool when suddenly Sasha said:

“I don’t want to leave. Why do we have to leave?”

 “Because we have jobs and a nice apartment in Beijing.”

“What if we didn’t have those things?”

This happens to many people who visit the Island of the Gods.

I can’t tell you how many people we met there who were ready to cancel their flight, quit their job and set up shop in Bali.

Unfortunately, the powers that be don’t make this easy to do with their visa regulations. Sure, most visitors will get 30 days free on arrival, but that’s it. With the free visa, you’re not even allowed to extend it. Sorry if you found bliss in Bali; it’s time to leave.

This post is meant to show you your visa options for staying (semi) long-term in Bali.

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stay in Bali

Tourist and Social-Cultural Visa

I stayed in Bali for 8 months, only having to leave the country once. For those who are interested in a semi-long-term stay in Bali but are concerned with visa issues, here’s how I did it:

Tourist Visa on Arrival

As of October 2015 people from more than 140 countries are allowed 30-day visa-free stays. All you get is a stamp in your passport.

However, this can not be converted or extended. If you plan to stay longer than 30 days, you should purchase a Visa on Arrival (VOA) for $35 USD.

This can be extended for another 30 days with a trip to immigration. This is what I did for my first two months in Bali. You can do it yourself or you can pay an agent to do it for you.

When you arrive at the airport tell them you would like to pay for the VOA. You will likely get some funny looks since you are able to enter for free. Simply tell them that you plan to stay for longer than 30 days.

You will pay at the first counter and take the receipt to the officer checking passports and voila! You will have your visa in your passport.

VOA that can be extended 30 days

Extending it yourself requires three trips to the immigration office; the first time to submit all necessary documents, the second time to pay, take photos and fingerprints and the third time to collect your passport. The cost is 355,000 IDR. You will need:

  • the extension application
  • your flight itinerary showing when you plan to leave the country
  • a copy of your passport photo page and the entry stamp

Agents usually charge 650,000 IDR for their services. Using their services only eliminates the first and third step. You will still need to go to immigration for photos and fingerprinting. I did the extension myself and I never spent longer than 45 minutes at immigration. The earlier you arrive and the more prepared you are, the less time it takes. Be sure to dress appropriately. This is a government office, after all. You’d be surprised at how many people I saw there wearing tank tops, board shorts, and flip flops. I even saw one dude who was totally barefoot! Show up like you’re going surfing, and don’t be amazed if your application gets denied.

Visa Run to Singapore for a Social-Cultural Visa

When my first two visas expired, I headed to Singapore to get a Social-Cultural visa. Some people do this trip in one day, flying to Singapore on the earliest flight and coming back to Bali in the evening. This is only possible if you pay an agent quite a bit of money. As far as I know, Singapore is the only place you can get the same-day Indonesian visa. It’s not possible in Kuala Lumpur. For the same amount of money you pay the agent you can spend two days exploring the city-state.

Drop off in the morning, pick up in the afternoon.

It takes two working days to get the visa yourself. If you speak to an agent about this they will lie to you and tell you it takes longer in order to persuade you to use their services. Don’t be fooled! I booked a round-trip flight from Bali to Singapore with Air Asia for $114 USD (no checked bags). I departed Bali at the earliest time possible, around 6:30am on a Monday and left Singapore on Wednesday evening, around 8pm.

I went straight from the airport to immigration. This is crucial as applications are only accepted until 12:00 noon. I had all the necessary documents – application (link here), a letter from my sponsor, a copy of my sponsor’s ID, two passport photos with white background and a copy of my itinerary confirming my flight back to Bali. Check the Indonesian embassy’s website for a full list of requirements. The fee for the Socio-Cultural visa in Singapore is $63 SGD ($47 USD). I took a number and only had to wait for about 10 minutes before it was called. I paid the fee, they gave me my receipt and I was on my way. DO NOT LOSE THE RECEIPT!! The collection process was even easier, no waiting at all.

Make sure you are wearing the proper attire. They will not allow you inside the building if you are not dressed according to their dress code.

Make sure you’re dressed properly.

I had an amazing time exploring this Asian metropolis while waiting for my visa. Stay tuned for a post about what I did with my two days there.

Back to Bali for 6 Months of Uninterrupted Exploring

A Social-Cultural visa initially gives you 60 days in the country. After that it can be extended up to four times for 30 days per extension. This allows you a total stay of 6 months without having to leave. It is only single-entry, so if you do leave the country it will be canceled.

These are the forms you’ll get from your sponsor.

The process for extending your Social-Cultural visa is similar to extending the VOA (see above) except that it requires a few more documents. You should be able to get the documents from your sponsor.

You will need:

  • the extension application
  • the Surat Permintaan Dan Jaminan Form
  • the Surat Permintaan Dan Jaminan Form 2
  • the Materai stamp affixed to the bottom right of the first form with your sponsor’s signature on top (must be on top of the stamp)
  • a copy of your photo page in your passport
  • a copy of your first visa
  • a copy of the page with your entry stamp
  • a copy of each extension stamp if this is not your first

You only need to take photos and fingerprints for your first extension, making the last three extensions a little faster. As of January 1, 2016 your sponsor is required to be present for the application process.

I did all my extensions myself with relative ease. I had a wonderful sponsor who isn’t an agent, she’s a visa consultant. She only charges 300k for the initial sponsor letter and that’s it. She will do the extensions on your behalf for a fee if you do not wish to do them yourself. She is amazing and I highly recommend her services:

Anna Christy, +62 811 380 3060, [email protected]

For more information on Bali visas, check out these two informative articles from Wage Freedom and Bali Information Guide.

Study in Bali

One surefire way to stay in Bali for well over a month is to study there. By signing up for a semester or even a full year to study the language or something cultural like dance, you’ll get a residence permit for the duration of your stay and not have to worry about all of the visa runs and extensions. Here are your best bets for enrolling in an educational program in Bali:

Darmasiswa

Darmasiswa students

A mixed bag of people join the Darmasiswa program.

Every year, the government of Indonesia sponsors over 700 people from around the world to come and study the language and culture. Most of the participating universities are located on Java, but there are also a few in Sumatra and a handful in Bali. This is a scholarship program, meaning your tuition and residence permit are totally paid for. You even get a monthly stipend (around $200) to help with living expenses. Applications are usually due sometime in February, results go out in late May or early June, and you arrive in Indonesia at the end of August. Sasha joined the program for the 2015-2016 school year at Udayana University in Bali and wrote a post about his experience and how to apply, so check it out if you’re interested. There are other schools in Bali that participate where you can study music or dance, so be sure to research which programs are offered and where they take place before applying, as you only get one choice.

Asia Exchange

If you don’t get into the Darmasiswa program or you’d rather have a sure thing than hope and wait to see if you made the cut, you can still study in Bali through the Asia Exchange program. This program is also based at Udayana, and they’ve recently added additional courses at Warmadewa University. You pay for this program yourself (around $1900 USD per semester at Udayana and $1600 at Warmadewa), but you definitely get more out of it. In all honesty, nobody takes the Darmasiswa program that seriously. If you are truly interested in learning a lot about Indonesian language and culture, you’ll get your moneys worth by doing the Asia Exchange program.

Retire in Bali

Bali Beach

Who wouldn’t want to retire here?

Bali is a very popular destination for retirees, especially from Australia. With warm weather all year and a low cost of living, it’s no wonder many choose to spend their golden years here. As a couple who just turned 30, retirement isn’t quite on our radar yet, so we’re not the best people to ask about this. What we do know is that as long as you’re over 55 and can show proof of an income of at least $1,500 plus insurance, you can apply for a retirement visa. Retirement is many years ahead of us, but Bali is already one of our top choices.

With its sandy beaches, beautiful temples, towering volcanoes, delicious cuisine, and vibrant culture, it’s no wonder so many people fall in love with Bali. They don’t exactly make it easy on you to stay beyond the month that’s given to you on arrival, but with a bit of research and planning it’s possible to spend the better part of a year thereby making a few trips to the immigration office and a visa run or two. We had an incredible experience living in Bali for almost a year, and we’re happy to help you do the same if it’s something you’re interested in.

 

Feel free to leave a comment below if you have any other questions about relocating to the Island of the Gods.


teaching English online

 

27 comments

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27 comments

Irene November 16, 2019 - 6:23 am

I am an online school teacher with 3 kids. If they are enrolled in school in Bali, does this count as being enrolled as a student?

Reply
Rachel Story November 16, 2019 - 7:06 am

Hi, Irene! Sorry, but I don’t know the answer to that question. My guess is probably not. You should join either the Sanur or Ubud Community Facebook group. Someone there definitely has the answer. 🙂 Good luck! Let me know if you have other questions.

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renee irvine October 13, 2019 - 12:38 am

Hi Rachel, what’s the banking situation like in Bali? Can foreigners open a bank account on a VOA visa? Thanks,
Renee

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Rachel Story October 15, 2019 - 4:54 pm

Hi, Renee! I don’t think so. I’m pretty sure you have to have a KITAS or residence permit to open a bank account. I could be wrong, though. It would be best for you to ask in one of the community Facebook groups such as the Sanur or Ubud community groups 🙂

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fei Chow October 10, 2019 - 10:29 pm

Hello, this is an interesting article, can you tell about accommodation costs in Bali, a few months at least. I am a Canadian, would like to take my family there to learn Indonesian cuisine, of course, hoping to open an Indonesian in Canada down the road.

Your help will be greatly appreciated.

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Rachel Story October 12, 2019 - 4:43 pm

Hi! The cost of accommodation can vary greatly depending on the style of home and where on the island you are. We haven’t been there since 2016 so things could have changed during that time. The best way to figure it out would be to join some of the local community Facebook groups and see what’s available. There are community groups for Ubud and Sanur. We lived in Sanur. It’s a really laid-back seaside town with more expats than tourists. It’s less busy than Kuta/Legian/Seminyak area. Canggu is also an up-and-coming area that may also have a community Facebook group. Hope this helps! Let me know if you have other questions 🙂

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Paradine Conway August 5, 2019 - 11:18 am

HI – I am travelling on m own . I have been to Bali once but stayed in a nice hotel with partner and didn’t really get to see experience anywhere else. As I will be on my own and in my 40’s can you advise on where would be a good place to start regarding where to stay and rent an apartment etc it would be nice to meet other people/travellers. I have never traveled alone so this is all very new to me so a bit nervous and hoping it is safe if you follow some basic rules of being sensible 🙂 any advise as seasoned travelers would be appreciated. Thank you

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Rachel Story August 5, 2019 - 11:59 am

Hi, Paradine! Thanks for reaching out!

Not to worry, Bali is very safe if you use travelers common sense. I would suggest looking for a place in Sanur. That’s primarily where we lived and there are lots of expats there. It’s a bit quieter and has a more chilled out vibe than more popular areas on the island. There is a Facebook group called Sanur Community that you could join and get a lot of questions answered. There is also an Ubud Community Facebook group that you may also find helpful.

I hope this answers some of your questions. Let me know if you have more!🙂

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Grace Gabriella June 6, 2019 - 2:10 pm

Amazing help, thank you so much ✧

Reply
amelia February 13, 2019 - 9:06 pm

Hi Rachel,
Im loving your site. Im in the process of trying to talk my husband into the 3 kids (3,2,and 6 months) and 1 coming to Bali for 3 months. SO I’m thinking the way to go would be the 60 social cultural visa followed by a extension at local immigration in bali (taking a balinese sponsor). could you answer a few random questions for me to help get him over the line?

– Im thinking berawa? thoughts?
– Do most people have staff in Villa or just security?
– how do i go about finding a great nanny that would work regularly but often for 1 hour min (e.g. walk kids to day care).
– with 3 kids under 4 i obviously can’t jump on a scooter- would you live super close to walk or find an on call driver? How much would that set me back?
– Ive got a great mum circle here in Australia- do you know any mum friend making tools over there? i know in london there are great mum friend apps.
– any other specific tips for a mum of so many little ones would be much appreciated as well as any factual bits and pieces to get my husband over the line (the main issue being how much he will miss us.. but he owns a business that can’t be done remotely 🙁 )

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Rachel Story February 19, 2019 - 11:12 am

Hi, Amelia!

Thanks for reaching out! I’m so sorry for my delayed response.

I don’t have very good answers for your questions as we’re just a traveling couple with no kids. So these answers are based on my own experience.
– I don’t think many families live in Berawa. However, that could have changed since we were there. Sanur is a very family-friendly place to live and the ocean water is not as intense in Sanur.
– We only met one family living full-time in Bali when we were there. They had their driver and one maid living on the property and another maid that came every day.
– As per your other questions, I honestly don’t have the answers. I would suggest joining one of the local community Facebook groups and asking your questions there. There’s a Sanur Community Facebook group as well as an Ubud Community group.

Sorry, I don’t have the answers for you. I hope I’ve helped point you in the right direction!

Cheers 🙂

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Ru Travers December 18, 2018 - 12:30 pm

Hi Rachel, thanks for all this information. I will certainly follow it by the letter when I go to Bali next May.

My main concern is with the flight logistics!
I cannot find any airlines that sell open return tickets from London to Bali, so I guess…

1) I would have to get a single to Bali with a single to Singapore for 2 months later (As long as they accept my request for a VOA extension)
2) then entering Singapore I would need proof of a return journey to Bali while picking up the Socio-cultural visa.
3) then once I have the Socio-cultural visa, I would need to show a single returning to London when rentering Bali, after one month I presume (as the socio-cultural vias need extending every month) which I will have to cancel and change for a new scheduled time in 6 months, following successful visa extensions in Bali.

There are a lot of unknowns here regarding airline ticket policy. It sounds like you didn’t have too much to worry about in this respect, can you explain how you juggled the airline ticket issue.
I think it would be far simpler if I could find an open return ticket London – Bali and then just get a return from Bali – Singapore at my leisure within the 2 month VOA extension.

Thanks for your help in advance.

Reply
Rachel Story December 31, 2018 - 3:12 pm

Hi, Ru! Yes, you will need to get one-way flights to Singapore and back to Bali. I don’t think you need to have your ticket to Singapore booked when you enter Bali first. Point 2 is correct. However, I don’t remember needing to show a flight out when extending the socio-cultural visa. Hope this helps! We don’t normally book open-ended tickets. It’s easier to just book singles. Hope this helps! Let me know if you have other questions!

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Madeline Menzies-Miha September 7, 2018 - 6:53 am

Hi Rachel, thanks for your post – it’s really helpful!
I just have a couple of questions. I live in Sydney and plan to go to Bali for the first half of next year. My plan is:
– Contact Anna Christy to get a sponsor letter (300rp fee)
– Apply for the social cultural 60 day visa myself in Sydney (pay whatever fee is necessary)
– Fly to Bali via Air Asia (without a return ticket at this stage – telling them I will be extending the visa before the 60 day mark – I’ve heard Air Asia ok for this?)
– By 60 days, organise extension materials and go to the local immigration office to apply for first extension. At this point, is there an extension fee? Also my understanding from your post is that my sponsor would need to attend the immigration office for the extension? But Anna Christy doesn’t charge a fee for this?
– At the next 60 days, repeat above and apply for second extension. Is there an extension fee for this? Does the sponsor need to attend again?
– At the next 60 days, repeat above and apply for third extension. Is there an extension fee for this? Does the sponsor need to attend?

Also – I really don’t want to organise my return flight until I know exactly dates. Do they want to see return flight itinerary when applying for the visa or extensions? I’ve heard it’s not really necessary.

Thanks very much and any guidance would be much appreciated!

Thanks
Maddie

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Rachel Story September 8, 2018 - 10:06 am

Hi Maddie! Thanks for reaching out! Here are my answers:
– I’m pretty positive you don’t need to show proof of onward travel so a one-way flight should be okay.
– With a social-cultural visa, you get 60 days on arrival and then you must extend every 30 days. Yes, Anna must be present to extend it each time and she did not charge a fee for this at the time that I was there. You must pay the visa fee for each extension in cash.
– I don’t think you’ll need to show a flight itinerary when you are applying but I’m not 100% sure these days.

Hope this helps! Let me know if you have other questions 🙂

Reply
Patrick Malachowski September 1, 2018 - 3:56 pm

Hi Rachel, my wife and I are planning on some extended traveling for the upcoming future and we love Bali. My questions for you are this:

1) when you are extending your social cultural visa do you pay the visa consultant each time or does the fee cover all of the extensions?
2) we are planning on entering Bali with a social cultural visa from the get-go…do we need to just contact Anna Christy for sponsorship? How does that work if you are supposed to have the sponsor present?
3)I’m trying to budget for the visa expenses… is this a good breakdown?
Social cultural visa per person -$47 USD
Sponsorship fee / 300k IDR per person
Flights to and from Singapore- $150 per person. Round trip.
4) if you are entering Bali on the Social Cultural VISA… do you have to have a flight out of Bali within the 60 days the visa initially provides or can we have a flight booked to leave within the 6 month window of extensions?

Thank you so much for trying to help!
Patrick

Reply
Rachel Story September 1, 2018 - 4:05 pm

Hi Patrick! Thanks for reaching out! Here are my answers:

1) Yes, you have to pay the fee each time you extend.
2) Your sponsor does not need to be present in Singapore when you initially get the social cultural visa. She only needs to be present when you extend it in Bali.
3) Yes. You just need to add in the cost of the extensions.
4) I was never asked to show proof of onward travel but that may have changed. If it has, you’ll need to show it when you check in for your flight. If that happens, there are ways to rent a flight ticket.

Hope this helps! Let me know if you have other questions ?

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Jonathan E May 16, 2018 - 11:14 pm

Awesome!!! You managed to do what the Indonesian government couldn’t: Express their thoughts clearly. Thank you very much

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Rachel Story May 17, 2018 - 1:50 pm

Haha, yes, they can’t always communicate things clearly. Glad you found it useful! Let me know if I can help in any other way!

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Bridget May 14, 2018 - 2:53 am

Hello,

Thanks for this helpful article! I’m an American looking to move to Bali but just wanted to clarify- for the Socio-Cultural visa, does this require sponsorship from an employer? Thanks!

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Rachel Story May 14, 2018 - 11:19 pm

Hi Bridget! Thanks for reading! No, you do not need sponsorship from an employer. In fact, it’s really illegal to work on a Socio-Cultual visa. All you need is a local to sponsor it. Let me know if I can help in any other way!

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Marcus Meireles February 9, 2018 - 4:30 pm

Hi Rachel, thank you so much for responding so fast and for all the attention. I have a vision problem and I can only see it with Hi Rachel, thank you so much for responding so fast and for all the attention. I have a vision problem and I can only see it with one of my eyes. So I wanted to avoid getting a car or a motorcycle to do the same route every day. I imagined living in a place near the school to learn English and this place was not a center with much noise or with so many people. If there was something in Seminiac it would be good. Or to the direction of Padang padang. But if you do not have this school near the sea, it could be something like UBUD. The idea is in school I spend as much time as possible to learn how to speak and write the language. Anyway, thank you very much for your attention and willingness to help. Thank you, Marcus.

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Rachel Story February 9, 2018 - 6:29 pm

Hi Marcus! I did a quick Google search and found a school called Seminyak Language School. Here’s a link to their site: http://www.learnindonesianinbali.com/
They have English courses in Seminyak, Canggu, and Jimbaran. Hope this helps!

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Marcus Meireles February 4, 2018 - 11:13 am

Good morning Rachel, thank you so much for so much important and well written information. You can see your willingness to help and share knowledge. Well, I am (46 years old) and my wife (35 years old) live in Brazil and we are thinking about studying and learning English in Bali. We think of Bali as having a cheaper cost of living than studying in the USA. We were once like tourists and we love the place. Could you indicate any school, course or university in bali to learn English? The idea is simply to learn to speak and write fluently, the diploma does not matter. We do not know the cities of Bali where this is possible or how much it costs. If you know any information, thank you.

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Rachel Story February 4, 2018 - 12:39 pm

Hi Marcus! Thanks for such a nice comment! There is an English training center in Denpasar called English First. They have small group classes or even 1-on-1 classes that are meant for adults. I think that would be the best place to study because you will get the most attention from the teacher. If you want to live by the beach, Sanur is the nearest beach town to Denpasar (only a 15-20 minute drive). It’s very nice with lots of restaurants. It’s quieter than some of the other beach towns. Let me know if you have other questions!

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Aaron April 1, 2017 - 11:32 am

Awesome information! Thanks so much! I am moving there soon and had a lot of trouble finding this visa info on other websites!

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Rachel Story April 1, 2017 - 11:41 am

Awesome! I’m so happy we were able to help. Feel free to ask any other questions. We’re happy to help!

Reply

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