Working in Bali

Many people dream of moving to Bali and finding a job. Legally and realistically its not hard. You can get hold of any type of visa you like simply by hiring an immigration consultant and the government does not come sniffing around individuals for tax purposes. The main problem for new arrivals is what do you do. I get emails from people on a regular basis who ask me, 'do you know how I can make money?', 'what is your suggestion for me?' My suggestion is that you figure out how to make money at home, then when you come to Bali you will know what direction to go in. The expat newspaper, The Bali Advertiser, carries ads offering jobs and requesting jobs. I see the same requests month after month.

Basically Bali is a tourist island and your best chances of making money are in this industry, or serving the growing expat market in some way. Opening your own business takes money and know how, besides the fact that you are not allowed to actually work yourself (you are allowed to manage but not to work). Working for someone else (hotel manager, production manager etc. ) means that person will have to pay you western wages and you are competing with locals who can speak 3 languages and have ton of local knowledge.

Exporting is an avenue many people try. At first impression this would seem an easy way to go. You look for interesting artwork, furniture etc. and ship it overseas to sell at a massive profit, spending your down time lounging in the hotel sipping Mai Tai's. The reality is that its not a 3-step process (buy-ship-sell), it's a multi-step process that has pitfalls the whole way. The last step, selling the stuff is also the hardest. Back in Australia and the US the market for Balinese handicrafts is saturated as the 'barrier to entry' for this kind of activity is low. All you need is a few hundred bucks and some time on your hands to get started.




Bali is a funny place, you can live cheap and well, but there are a lot of people chasing the opportunities and lots of other people looking to trap people who chase to hard.


17 thoughts on “Working in Bali

  • Barrie

    G’Day Nick,

    Well written article with tremendous advice for those people contemplating a business venture into Bali.

  • Jan

    Hi Nick,

    very interesting information. Thanks also for the exchange rates and the details on your visa run. I too am one of the dreamers that would love to live over there, but I think its really hard to get to make money, as you say I’d have to compete with the locals so employment seems difficult esp. because the salary is I believe low and the employer had to pay (I think its about 2m rp per month) tax for a foreigner. So it is about qualification, finding something I can do but no or little other people can… Another way would be setting up a company or work for some years in good old europe trying to make enough savings to put up an investment and try to live on the earnings of that. If you make a reasonably safe investment you might get 5% p.a. out of it without risking to loose your money because of some economic crisis. If you’d get to having 500.000

  • Nick

    I talk to many business people over here. I hear their stories and their difficulties. Its a unique market (bars, restaurants, hotels, nightlife, property) and knowing how to navigate your way to a sustainable future takes smarts.

    Old school businesses often get left behind over here. You can’t just open a shop and expect to sell stuff. In Bali new businesses open and grow like the bamboo, a foot a day. If you look like you are doing well others will sprout up in no time, your own employees might even start up down the street doing the exact same thing.

    Keeping your finger on the pulse, figuring out where the market in heading, what people want, what makes you different. If you don’t do this you will blend into the tidal wave of mediocraty and be old-hat before you know it.

    There are opportunities though, and having a grasp on business and the strength to push away some of the bullshit artists who dwell here, will get you on the right track.

  • Natasha

    Yes working in Bali or anywhere else you’d need legal papers if you’d like to work legally. Of course people would always to try to find ways… Bali immigration however is still very soft compare to most of European or other advanced countries. This is one the positive side of the corruption! (if you think on the benefit side). I don’t think that those foreigners realise or want to realise how lucky they are to be able to stay on a long term basis based on their social or business visas notwithstanding that lots of them are actually working illegally in Bali.

    What is hilarious is those holding only social or business visa dare to proclaim themselves as EXPATRIATES! Yes, luckily this “Expatriate label” worked & believed so far among the ignorants (foreigners or locals) because it might sound good and upgrade their visitor status…

    They seem to forget that an Expatriate is someone who LIVES outside the country that issued their passport and has a LEGAL RESIDENCE STATUS to reside in another country.

    Having read an article where you proclaim yourself as an Expat, Nick, I’m sorry to say that it seems you are not really qualified to be an expat in Indonesia (in the truest sense of the definition of the word). You are just a long term visitor. I would consider any foreigner holding a KITAS or KITAP to be a REAL EXPATRIATE and therefore pay tax in Indonesia like it should be anywhere else in the world.

    Sorry if I offend anyone but I just want to put things the way the are and I would understand if anyone prefers to call themselves what ever suits them for what ever reasons..

  • engineerfg

    I have the best business idea in Bali.

    Think of it – imagine a stand, that sells t-shirts! We can set it up near jl. legian. or poppies – you know what they say – location location location! and you know tons of australians and bulais’ walk by that location daily. This is a sure winner!

    oh i was also thinking of making these shirts to sell at the stand. they’re white on the front and back, but they say ‘fuck terrorists’.

    i have another t-shirt idea, but i can’t give all my secrets out at once in a public forum. but i’ll give youa hint – think shirt + beer brand…

    Anyways, what do you think of my chances man?

    Does anyone here wanna invest in my venture?

  • engineerfg

    I have the best business idea in Bali.

    Think of it – imagine a stand, that sells t-shirts! We can set it up near jl. legian. or poppies – you know what they say – location location location! and you know tons of australians and bulais’ walk by that location daily. This is a sure winner!

    oh i was also thinking of making these shirts to sell at the stand. they’re white on the front and back, but they say ‘fuck terrorists’.

    i have another t-shirt idea, but i can’t give all my secrets out at once in a public forum. but i’ll give youa hint – think shirt + beer brand…

    Anyways, what do you think of my chances man?

    Does anyone here wanna invest in my venture?

  • Bob

    Hey Natasha, which bug crawl up into your panty?
    As far as I’m concern Nick has done a lot more to promote Bali and Indonesia than your usual expats in Indonesia. I’m sorry to say even among Indonesian Expats all over the world, few have done what Nick has done in term of promoting our country in such a short time. I can even argue that the same thing is happening with the Indonesian Consulate/Embassy staff whose one of their job suppose to be promoting Indonesia.


    I like your idea about the t-shirt. The problem is too many people in Bali already think that’s a good idea also.

  • Nick


    I call myself an expat, not because I want to hang out with some of the useless sacks that are long-term expats, but because I live here.


    v. intr.

    1. To give up residence in one’s homeland.
    2. To renounce allegiance to one’s homeland.

    n. (-t, -t)

    1. One who has taken up residence in a foreign country.
    2. One who has renounced one’s native land.

    adj. (-t, -t)

    Residing in a foreign country; expatriated: �She delighted in the bohemian freedom enjoyed by the expatriate artists, writers, and performers living in Rome� (Janet H. Murray).

    I don’t see anything about visas or taxes.

    Some of the ‘Real Expatriates’ I meet coudln’t wipe their own ass if they had to go back to their own country. Baliblog does more to promote the tourist industry here and thus help the local economy, than some poncey ‘Real Expat’ who sells furniture and spends his time at Ku De Ta.

    Regarding ‘Real Expats’ who pay taxes. There is not a single business on this island who does not cheat on their taxes. In fact most businesses have 2 sets of books. Let anyone stand up and say that’s not true. Don’t bullshit a bullshitter.

  • Barrie

    G’Day Nick,

    I applaud you on your comment mate.


    Ain’t that the truth!. My sentiments exactly.

  • Greg

    Hi Nick,

    Let me add my appreciation for all that you are doing to make it more fun, interesting and easy for those of us considering a move to Bali. Thanks!

    You said: “ can get hold of any visa that you like simply by hiring an emmigration consultant..” My question: Will you please recommend one for my situation? Or, would it be significantly better (or worse)for me to do it myself with the consulate here in Honolulu?

    I’m married, 57, currently living in Maui, Hawaii (Maui is the “magic” island but I read that Bali is the “ultimate” island. 🙂 I’m self-employed, my wife also has her own income. I’m a seminar leader, empowerment coach and Tantra teacher. Currently, money is not a problem and I am doing some writing, some music (electric guitar).

    What I would like is to stay in Bali for 6 months to a year, writing, maybe doing some empowerment coaching and teaching work but not necessarily or not illegally, if hat is a big factor, and then if we realy love the place consider getting what I have heard exists as “a retirement visa.”

    Also, I heard that Indonesian is a relativey easy language to learn, Your opinion?

    Thanks much, have a wonderful day. … greg

  • Nick


    I think a Social of Business visa would work best for you. Not sure if you can set that up from overseas but you can definitely set it up here. After your tourist visa expires you leave the country for a day to process the paperwork then come straight back.

    Contact Arjuna immigration or Kantor Kita by email for the exact details.

    I’ve never been to Maui but think there are big differences. Maui is probably naturally more beautiful and well taken care of being a state in the US. Bali is a third world island and gets abused like many others. The pluses here are the cost of living and the culture.

    You can probably save money by living in Bali for half the year compared to Maui. You can definitely eat out every day for not too much.

    There is a retirement visa and Arjuna and Kantor Kita will love to help you set that up.

    Bahasa Indonesia is not considered a hard language to learn. I am retarded when it comes to languages so am not a good person to ask.

    Hope things work out for you.

  • Greg

    Hi Nick,

    Thanks much for the info.

    If it’s ok, here are the next few quesions.

    One short visa question and then I’ll go to the consultants. …. Is the tourist visa 30 or 60 days or optional? I seem to hear and read both?

    I heard that a nice size house, 150-200 m2 in the Canggu area goes for around 3000 US per year? Is that representative, good, average, hi, lo, hard to find easy to find?

    What would I expect to pay for a car, basic, dependable transportaiton?

    And, does the average temperature drop by much if you go up-hill? Say, Bedugal?

    In Maui 3000 US gets you around 90 m2 near the beach for a month on a long term lease! Also, last time I filled the tank in my Jeep Grand Cherokee (a bit larger tank then most) it cost $50. (currently gas is $2.80 a gallon.) Also,it seems quite difficult to get out of a nice restaurant for less then $100 for two. As they say “Maui-Wowie!” It is indeed gorgeous and also gorgeously pricey. … I lived in Vienna,Austria for five years, had a fantastic time but people there are pesimists in the extreme. Austria has one of the highest suicide rates in the world. Go figure….. always trade-offs.

    I imagine it’s tough in Bali to watch the land and nature take a pounding. I’ll get ready for that if I go.

    If you want language support I can totally recommend Rosetta Stone.

    They have some free on-line demo lessons that I think are a knockout. You need headphones and a microphone and then they hit you multi-sensory immersion as fast as you can click your mouse. Pictures, native voices, written wrords, speech recognition feedback to help your pronunciation. I tried a few French lessons and was very happy with the vocabulary retention.

    I did a three level Pimsleur series in German when I was in Austria and I thought that was great at the time but nothing compared to this.

    Thanks again.

  • Brad

    Hey, I was just wondering about a visa. Whats the process I go through and where do I get in contact with a visa consultant? I just want to go to a country where its hot all the time, you can surf, work and made a decent wage, and just have lots of fun. You know anything about Surfer’s Paradise, Australia? If you know of any kool places that fits my description, let me know… Thanks


  • Nicole

    Hi Nick,
    I’ve recently enrolled in a TESOL Course {Teaching English Overseas} and even though the company i’ve enrolled with finds you jobs once the course has been completed, they wont find job placements in Bali due to the Bombings and travel warnings Australia has on Bali.
    So I was just wondering if you would know of any useful links that would help me in finding a job in Bali! I’m hoping to move to Bali by the end of this year! Thanks
    Kind Regards

  • tushar

    hi nick,

    hope u could help me with this…i have seen conflicting information on different bali sites in regards to the Visa on arrival service(V.O.A).I hold an indian passport and me and some mates are looking to come to bali for the new years.Could ya tell me if V.O.A is applicable for Indian passport holders.Thnx bud.

  • Aino

    Hello Nick,

    thank you for this site!

    I’m a shiatsu therapist and trained masseuse. Could I work as a independent worker or should I try the hotels? Here in Finland I have my own massage place and that kind of work suits me. But if it’s impossible there do you think the hotels would hire a shiatsu therapist?

Comments are closed.