A Digital Nomad’s Guide to Living in Ubud, Bali

Ubud has overtaken Chiang Mai as our favourite digital nomad destination in the world. Where else can we afford to rent a house with a pool and rice field view? Add to that beautiful scenery, an incredible vegetarian food scene, plentiful yoga classes, a fascinating culture, and friendly people. It’s a very easy place to live and a difficult place to leave—we kept extending our stay and eventually left after nearly five months (longer than we’ve spent anywhere else except Chiang Mai). We know we’ll be back.

If you are considering living in Ubud, here are some tips to help you get settled.

Visas

Most nationalities (including UK, USA, Canada, EU) can enter certain airports and seaports in Indonesia (including Bali’s Ngurah Rai airport) without a visa for stays of up to 30 days. This visa waiver is NOT extendable, so if you think you might want to stay longer, you have two options:

1) For stays up to 60 days  Get a 30-day Visa on Arrival at the airport for $35 (in cash)—just go to the Visa on Arrival counter before going through immigration. This is extendable once for another 30 days.

2) For longer stays – Apply for a 60-day tourist visa before you arrive in Bali. We got ours from the Indonesian Embassy in London—read how to do so here. The London Embassy is stricter than most (we needed onward flight tickets, bank statements, and confirmation of employment/self-employment). Asian embassies are easier—many people get visas in Singapore or Penang, Malaysia. 60-day visas can be extended four times for 30 days each time, for a total stay of 180 days.

Some digital nomads in Bali apply for social visas, but I can’t see the advantage over a tourist visa. A social visa allows you to stay for the same amount of time, but you need a local sponsor.

As for most countries, make sure your passport is valid for at least six months after your arrival date.

To extend your visa in Bali, you need to pay three visits to the Denpasar immigration office, which is an hour from Ubud. To avoid this, most people pay extra for an agent to do it for them. We used Elizabeth, who has an office opposite Alchemy in Penestanan, and found it very easy—read the details at the end of our visa post.

When to Go and Weather

The best weather is from June to September—it’s dry and not too hot, with cool evenings. July and especially August are the peak months, and Ubud’s centre can get congested. The rainy season is from November until March. We visited from the end of August until mid-January and didn’t find the rain a problem. We had a few days of rain in November, and occasional heavy showers in December, but they didn’t last too long, and our last few weeks were dry. We found ourselves wanting it to rain as a relief from the heat. We’re so glad we didn’t let our concerns prevent us from staying. Obviously, this may differ each year, but as Christmas is peak season for visitors to Bali, I can’t see that it’s ever that bad.

It became much hotter as the months went on. October felt noticeably warmer, and it got worse by December/January, with daytime temperatures increasing from 28ºC to 33ºC, and night temperatures from 20ºC to 24ºC. The humidity made it worse, and by the end of our stay, we couldn’t face cooking in our outdoor kitchen. Air conditioning is a must at this time of year.

Getting There

We used Skypicker to find cheap flights to Bali. It turned out to be much cheaper for us to travel from London to Amsterdam and then get a Singapore Airlines flight to Bali (via Singapore).

Most people arrive by air at the Ngurah Rai International Airport (DPS) which is about 1.5 hours from Ubud. Your hotel can arrange a driver to pick you up for about 300,000 IDR ($22), or you can arrange a taxi when you arrive.

Uber is available, but only in southern Bali, so drivers might not take you to Ubud. If you can use it, it’s much cheaper—when we left, we paid 79,000 IDR ($5.90) from the beach town Canggu to the airport, rather than the 200,000 ($15) taxi drivers charge.

Getting Around

Living in Ubud -riding a motorbikeThe centre of Ubud is walkable, but the nicest places to live are in the rice fields outside the centre. The best and cheapest way to get around is by motorbike. There are many drivers in town, but a short taxi ride costs 50,000 IDR ($3.70), the same as a one-day motorbike rental. Monthly rates are even cheaper—we paid 550,000 IDR ($40) a month to rent an automatic Scoopy scooter. We rented from a travel agent next to Bali Buda restaurant—there are plenty of places offering rentals, but not all are used to giving monthly rates. Ubud Scooter Rentals seems like a good option, but they had no bikes left when we went. Renting is simple—just fill out a form with your passport number and hotel address. You don’t need to leave a deposit or show a driving licence.

Technically you need an international driving licence to drive in Indonesia, so get one from your home country if possible. If police stop you, and you don’t have one, you can pay an on the spot “fine” of 50,000 IDR ($3.70) or so. Police never stopped us in Ubud, but it could happen if you head out of town. We did see police stop foreigners who drove down the one-way section of Jalan Raya the wrong way (which is a common practice for motorbikes), so avoid doing this.

Petrol is cheap—about 10,000 IDR ($0.70) for a one-litre bottle by the side of the road, or even less at petrol stations. It cost about 20,000 IDR ($1.40) to fill our tank.

Money

Living in Ubud -money

We were millionaires in Bali

The currency is the Indonesian rupiah. Exchange rates fluctuate but are currently US$1 = 13,600 IDR, £1 = 19,700 IDR, and €1 = 15,200 IDR.

Most ATMs have maximum withdrawals of one or two million rupiah, and many charge fees. The best ATMs are Permata and BII, which let you withdraw three million without fees. There a BII Bank on Jalan Raya Ubud heading towards Jalan Raya Andong. There are Permata ATMs near Casa Luna and next to Delta Dewata supermarket.

Cost of Living

The cost of living varies widely. You could manage on $500 a month per person if you rented somewhere simple and stuck to local food. We spent $1000 per person because we rented a beautiful house with a pool, went to yoga classes most days, and ate out frequently—often at more expensive restaurants. This does include our monthly visa extensions and a side trip to the Gili islands. We think it’s good value for money considering our quality of life. You can see our Ubud budget for a detailed breakdown.

As always, we use our Trail Wallet app to track our expenses. If you need help staying on budget on your travels, you can try it for free in the iTunes store (full version $4.99).

Accommodation

Cost of living in Ubud - villa rental with pool

The pool of our house

If you are staying for a week or more, it’s worth renting a house as there are plenty available. It’s much cheaper to look around when you arrive—we spent five days searching, but if you are less fussy than us, you can find somewhere in a day. Prices range from three million ($220) a month to 12 million ($880)+ for a two bedroom with a pool and view. Read my post how to find a house to rent in Ubud.

Although I usually recommend visitors stay outside of the centre for a more pleasant experience, it was a convenient base while we house hunted. We stayed in two good guesthouses, both of which we booked on Booking.com. WiFi was slow at both, which is typical in Ubud guesthouses.

Gerhana Sari 2 Guesthouse – A quiet but very central location set back from busy Monkey Forest Rd. Superior rooms are quite plain but clean, comfortable, and well-equipped with large bathrooms and A/C. Breakfast is served when you are ready on the couch on your balcony overlooking the garden. We paid 400,000 IDR ($29) a night. They do get booked up (which is why we moved).

Corner Guesthouse – A good option if you want to experience a Balinese family compound. It’s on a quieter, less touristy street, but the kids in the family meant it was a bit noisier. There’s no garden or view, but the room is spacious, with a bedroom upstairs and a sofa and bathroom downstairs. The breakfast was tasty, especially the green pancakes with coconut and banana. We paid 300,000 IDR ($22) a night.

If you are staying for a week or two but don’t want the hassle of house hunting, there are plenty of rooms and villas on Airbnb. Sign up here for $25 off your first stay, and read my Airbnb guide for tips on finding the best places.

Internet

The internet in Ubud has improved dramatically in recent years. Although we found the WiFi slow in most guesthouses and cafes, fibre optic is becoming more prevalent, especially in house rentals, so speeds can be good. In our house we had 4-7 Mbps download speeds and 2 Mbps up—it worked well most of the time and Netflix was no problem, but sometimes Skype could be flaky, and everything was a bit slower on Sundays. Other house rentals have 10 Mbps download speeds. We found using a VPN helped speed things up and prevented ad injection by the ISP.

Seniman coffee shop has excellent coffee and is a popular place to work, but we found the WiFi quite slow. A better option is vegetarian cafe Kismet, which has comfy seating, power sockets, and fast speeds (we got 7 Mbps down and 12 Mbps up). Vegan restaurant Sage also has fast WiFi (9 Mbps down) and is quiet in the mornings (and has delicious breakfasts), but it could sometimes be unreliable.

If your accommodation doesn’t have fast internet, your best bet is a co-working space (see below).

Mobile Data Plans

If you are staying somewhere with slow internet, tethering is an option as 3G speeds are good, and data is cheap. You can buy a Telkomsel SimPATI SIM in Circle K shops for 10,000 IDR ($0.70), but they don’t have the nano size we need. Avoid buying SIMs in the centre of Ubud as they overcharge—there are many phone shops just outside town on Cok Gde Rai, which sell them for 15 or 20,000 IDR (possibly including some credit). They didn’t speak much English, but they cut down the SIM and set it up for us.

We bought phone credit in Circle K and then data by dialling *363#, choosing the Paket Flash option in the menu, and selecting a data plan. It costs 80,000 IDR ($6) for 2 GB of data valid for a month; larger plans are available. This included a certain amount of 4G when we had speeds of 9 Mbps down.

Co-Working Spaces

We prefer to work at home, but there are a number of co-working spaces in Ubud, all of which have fibre optic.

  • Hubud – By far the most popular place to work and a good place to meet people. It’s a beautiful wood and bamboo building overlooking the rice fields, there’s a raw cafe onsite, and there are lots of events. Prices start from $60 a month for 25 hours.
  • The Onion Collective – There’s a cool vibe, pool and restaurant onsite, and they have live music in the evenings. Rates from 85,000 IDR ($6.20) a day.
  • Outpost – A new space opposite the excellent vegan restaurant Sage with two pools and a riverside cafe. There are currently soft opening rates from $10 a day (usually $14).

Laundry

Rentals don’t usually include washing machines, but there are plenty of cheap laundry services. They either charge per kilo (we paid 10,000 IDR/ $0.70) or per item—we found it worked out about the same either way.

Water

The tap water isn’t drinkable, and after getting sick when we first arrived, I didn’t even use it for brushing my teeth. You can buy reusable 19-litre jugs at local shops for 16,000-20,000 IDR ($1.20-1.50).

Homeware Shopping

Our kitchen wasn’t well-equipped, so we bought extra things at Delta Dewata supermarket on Jalan Raya Andong including a rice cooker for 225,000 IDR ($16.50). We later found Kitchen Kingdom on Jalan Raya Sanggingan which has a better selection and prices—we bought a decent chef’s knife for 47,000 IDR ($3.45).

We bought cushions from the central market on Jalan Raya (make sure to bargain hard). On Jalan Andong past Delta Dewata, there are homeware shops selling bean bags, cushions, etc. We bought a mattress chair for 300,000 IDR ($22).

Finding a coffee maker was difficult. Seniman sells some (including AeroPress and Italian moka pots), but they are quite expensive. Simon asked a visiting friend to bring him an AeroPress (which he is now experimenting with travelling with, as he loves the coffee so much).

Don’t be tempted by the cheap guitars—they don’t stay in tune.

I found the Ubud Community Facebook group helpful for asking questions about where to buy things.

Food Shopping

Supermarkets

There are three main supermarkets, and you’ll probably go to your nearest one: Delta Dewata is east of the centre on Jalan Andong, Bintang is west near Penestanan, and Coco is south near Yoga Barn. They are good for imported food and basic supplies, but I wasn’t impressed with their fresh produce.

Fresh Produce

Living in Ubud -where to shop

Ubud Central Market

You can buy fresh fruit and vegetables at the main market on Jalan Raya, but the prime shopping hours for locals are 4-6 am! After 9 am it turns into a souvenir market, so you need to get there early. You also need to bargain as they overcharge foreigners.

We preferred to shop at the organic farmer’s market at Pizza Bagus on Saturday mornings. It’s quite small, but you can find high-quality vegetables from local producers at reasonable prices, including unusual things like kale and rocket. You can also buy red rice, nuts, seeds, bread, honey, etc. There’s a smaller market on Wednesday mornings at Warung Sopa Garden in Nyuh Kuning.

Sari Organik has an organic produce shop in Penestanan.

Health Food Stores and Imported Goods

I found the Pizza Bagus deli had the best prices for things like oats, cashews, and cheese. They have lots of imported foods (especially Italian products), and we liked their hummus and bread.

Bali Buda was the health food shop we went to the most. They have quite a big range including seeds, nuts, lentils, beans, kombucha, sauerkraut, bliss balls, bread, and baked goods. The bulk section is helpful if you only need a little.

The shop at Earth Cafe has lots of health food products, but I found them more expensive than other places. Raw restaurant Alchemy also has a shop and is a good place for raw snacks.

Bread and Pastries

Pizza Bagus has an excellent wholemeal loaf if you can get it before it runs out. We also bought rye bread from Bali Buda and sourdough from Kue.

Monsieur Spoon has the best croissants and pastries, but try to get a fresh batch as they lose their flakiness quickly in the humidity.

Daily Baguette sells good croissants and baguettes and will deliver for free (minimum order 100,000 IDR), which is a lovely morning treat. They even found our house despite its lack of proper address.

Coffee

Seniman sells a range of quality Indonesian coffee beans and will grind them for you.

Jam

Confiture de Bali is a tiny shop that makes low sugar jams using local produce. There are many unusual flavours including soursop, spicy mango, and jackfruit. Prices are reasonable, and you can try before you buy. I don’t usually eat jam, but I loved it here.

Eating Out

Living in Ubud -learning to cook

The delicious meal we made on a cooking class with Payuk Bali

Ubud is a foodie heaven, especially if you like healthy, vegetarian, and vegan food, although there are plenty of treats too. Here are our picks for the 30 best vegetarian-friendly restaurants in Ubud, plus our favourite sweet treats.

Yoga

Living in Ubud - yoga

The walk to the yoga studio at Taksu Spa

Ubud is a major yoga destination, and there are dozens of classes to choose from every day, all in beautiful settings with views of tropical gardens and rice fields. The Yoga Barn is the most popular studio, but with class sizes of up to 60 people, you might want to consider one of the smaller studios. I’ve written a comprehensive guide to yoga studios in Ubud.

Running and Gym

It’s difficult to find a place to run away from traffic, so it’s best to head out early. I ran at 6 am and even by 6.30 am traffic started to pick up with kids driving to school on their motorbikes. I ran on Jalan Tirta Tawar in Junjungan village as it’s where we lived and then turned down towards Petulu village.

If you are staying in the centre, your best bet is to head north along the Campuhan Ridge (see Things to Do below) or along the rice field path towards Sari Organik.

If you need a gym, the Ubud Fitness Centre is the best option.

Healthcare

The Toya Medika Clinic is professional and has English speaking staff. You don’t need to make an appointment—I waited about 15 minutes to see someone. The downside of this system is that I had a different doctor on each visit. A consultation costs 350,000 IDR ($26), and follow-up visits were 160,000 IDR ($12), not including treatments and medication.

The ubiquitous Guardian pharmacy chain doesn’t sell prescription medications—it’s more a place for toiletries and vitamins. Kimia Farma is a reliable and affordable pharmacy. There’s one on Jalan Raya heading towards Jalan Andong.

Travel Insurance

Travel insurance is essential, as if you need serious surgery, you’ll need to be flown to Singapore. We used our usual travel insurance, True Traveller, which we’ve found is the cheapest option for long-term travellers from the UK and Europe. World Nomads is a good choice for travellers from elsewhere. Read my travel insurance guide for more information.

Things to Do

See my Things to Do in Ubud post for some suggestions.

More Resources

Our Ubud Posts

Ubud is a fantastic digital nomad destination if you like being in nature but don’t want to miss out on the good food of a city. On the surface, it can feel touristy and over-developed, but give it time and the magic reveals itself. I hope you end up loving it as much as we did.

Are you planning a trip in 2017? See our Gear and Resources page for our favourite tools to help you plan the perfect trip. 

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18 thoughts on A Digital Nomad’s Guide to Living in Ubud, Bali

  1. What an excellent comprehensive guide!
    I visited Bali and Ubud several years ago, when I still had a regular job, and although I did not have much time, I was enchanted by Ubud.
    I also found it interesting because everyone writes about Chiang Mai as a favourite destination for digital nomads but somehow I’m not sure Thailand is a place where I would like to stay for a long time.

    • We love Chiang Mai and have happily spent months there. But in Ubud we get a house with a pool amongst the rice fields as opposed to an apartment in a city. Either places are great for extended stays in our opinion.

  2. Hi Erin,

    Such a great timing! Your blog post comes in just at the perfect time. We’re headed to Ubud in less than four weeks.

    Thanks for sharing and all the useful tips. Looking forward to our stay in Ubud.

    All the best and have a great time in Vietnam,
    Reni

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  5. Thanks a lot guys, we always find your blog quite informative and interesting, we do read a couple of blogs, and your always give us the best info, we do plan to stay in ubud when we plan it and will use this as a base for our planning.

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  7. As digital techies travelling the world freely, your blog appeals to me massively for a number of reasons. One, because it’s inspiring and scarily makes you want to leave everything behind and take the plunge into the backpacking network, but also because it relates very much to a project I’m working on at the moment.

    We’ve currently developed a travel site & app which is different to any other. Users can be as specific or as vague as they like when choosing a destination but once they’ve narrowed down their search to suit them, they’re able to see the hotels they’re looking up using street view. This is something that no other hotel search is capable of and we’re hoping it’ll really take off so I’m currently asking experienced travellers and bloggers like you to take a look and review the site for me.

    The website is: http://www.triporia.com/ and I’d be so grateful if you could get back to me and let me know whether this is something you’d like to take a look at.

    Thank you 🙂

  8. Of course you guys would come up on my digital stalking of Ubud too ! I am looking for my next work / live location ( about a month on this one ) for after Chiang Mai and I keep getting drawn to Bali. Thank again for all the detailed info on Chaing Mai as well. I can’t remember if I commented a ” thanks ” on those !

  9. Ubud was my favourite place we went to in Indonesia, it looks like a very affordable place to hang out for a few months, definitely a good alternative to Chiang Mai. I loved the massages on offer in Ubud, they were some of the best I had in Asia.

  10. Thanks for a great write up on Ubud! Is Ubud small enough to get around on foot/public transport or do you recommend renting a bicycle (I’ve never ridden a scooter before)?

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