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What is happening in Bali (especially in Sanur)?

What is happening in Bali (especially in Sanur)?

Old Oct 30th 2022, 1:52 am
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Default What is happening in Bali (especially in Sanur)?

We were enjoying life in a villa in Sanur until 03.2020 when Covid turned into a true-blue crisis and Australians were told to get out of wherever they were overseas and back home, pronto. By a superhuman effort I got everything sorted out and securely done in less than two weeks and made it back to Melbourne.

Two years and four months later I was able to return to Indonesia on the "new" 30 day tourist visa, which I then easily renewed for a further 30 days without leaving the country and at a reasonable cost. Which gave me enough time to up all the pieces, fix the loose bits, and make a sort of basic plan for us to return to Bali. Which wehope to do, early 2023.

Indonesia's visa system appears to have greatly changed. The old pre-Covid tourist visa is now for 30 days only and costs Rp500,000 (at the latest exchange rate AUD$54) but can be renewed for a further 30 days through a registered agent, at a cost of from Rp1.5 mil to Rp2.5 mil, depending on where you are, and more importantly without having to leave the country. For this visa Bali seems to be cheapest, even if in the last week the visa price went up by Rp1 mil, obviously it's now tourist high season. Even then it's far cheaper as an option than flying to Singapore (which I hated) or Malaysia (nicer, if still expensive) and then back to Indonesia to kickstart the process. For an 70+ year old all this to'ing and fro'ing is to use a polite word, tiresome, and I hope there must a better way.

Pre-Covid there were many Western expats in Bali. Now, I'm not so sure. I was there for three days last week, and while I found that much to be found there is the same as it was pre-Covid - sadly, the Cafe Batujimbar, my old hangout, was demolished and the site is being redeveloped, and it may well be that it will never again resurface in whatever avatar the future may hold for it - much has changed.

Prices now are higher for most things, especially transport, fares to go anywhere by taxi or hire car have mstly floated through the roof, but bargaining is still possible and some Balinese drivers are still decent about charging as close to the old prices as they can afford. Which is good. I revisited old hangouts, renewed old relationships, shopped at Hardy's where I found the staff much improved, and the pace of day to day life remains mostly as serene as it was. All most reassuring to this old duffer whose fondest hope is to be able to return to Bali to spend some quality time doing enjoyable things at affordable prices, before the time comes for my eventual, I hope, cremation and scattering of my ashes in the southern ocean.

Without woofing on too much, are there still any foreign expats who were there pre-Covid, now in Bali? If yes, please would you care to comment on how things in general are there, about the cost of living, ease of getting around and doing things, and generally the day to day scene for expats?

I am particularly interested in Sanur, with Denpasar a close second and Bedugul (yes I know, hardly a place where foreign tourists congregate longer than a visit to the lake temple and then/or a smorgasbord Bali lunch), Kuta-Legian-Seminyak-Kerobokan is of so-so interest (I mean, consider my age) but I am still curious, Ubud before yes, now not so much, as a two hour visit last week rekindled my old notion that more than ever it's a poo-bah mix of Kuta without a beach and Denpasar the traffic jams. It took us 50 minutes to travel less than a kilometer from the town limit to the Monkey Forest Road and along the Main Street to the Campuhan bridge, and I'm sorry, but my life is too short for such annoyances. The Cafe Lotus is till there but there was a lineup several meters long waiting to get in and we decided to give it a miss. Old pleasures die hard, but such is life.

I will be interested in the comments others will post. Also I have several other stories of interest to share, but for now I will keep them to myself and await the response from this thread.

Again, many thanks to those who will post.

Last edited by christmasoompa; Oct 30th 2022 at 2:00 am. Reason: Removed name of third party, as they may not want it posted on a public forum!
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Old Jan 21st 2023, 6:50 pm
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Default Re: What is happening in Bali (especially in Sanur)?

Hoo, the silence in response (well, after all isn't "no comment" a comment in itself?) to my post has been nothing short of deafening - which to me says one of two things, firstly that we no longer have the expat population in Bali that was there pre-Covid, or secondly there is very little interest in Indonesia these days. Or as I quite suspect, a bit of both.

The recent news regarding the latest Indonesian long-term resident's visa (for the super rich) and the so far near-total lack of interest in those who are able to afford the ridiculously high amount of money required to secure this new visa, leads me to believe that few expats now consider Bali to be a desirable location. Gone are the heady days when the long-missed David and a few other dedicated members would post regularly about their lives and ongoing events in this once-fabled isle. Pre-Covid I knew some two dozen expats in Sanur, but with the advent of the Covid crisis in early '20 all of us left, and I am now told that none have returned.

I will be back in Sanur next week and I wonder if I will be the only one from the Good Old Days to return. Certainly our first visit to Bali will be 60% to catch up with friends and 30% to check up on things there to see if we will be returning or not in the next 12 months. I rather suspect we won't - other destinations are easier to move to and live in, visas in Thailand and the Philippines are far from being as seemingly idiotic as this latest scheme by Jakarta to grab yet more cash from expats, and I'm told that sadly, costs for tourists in Bali are now so high that even casual tourists are avoiding the place. A friend who stayed four days in Sanur last month has told us that taxi fares from the airport to his hotel in the center of the town, which were AUD$6-$8 in 2020, are now a whopping AUD$25 with some taxi drivers actually hustling for up to AUD$50 for a 12 kilometer trip if they think the suckers who have just landed at Ngurarai Airport know sufficiently little as to be prepared to pay this ridiculous fare. Hotel and food prices too have gone up by up to 50% but the same friend said there are still budget options to be had if one has the time and the nous to seek them out, tho' even the big-name hotels have cut their standards (notably in food) and reduced staff and the differences are very noticeable.

Not good news for those of us who are on budgets. So it may well be that we will be looking at Thailand or the Philippines or even Malaysia (the free 90 day visa there is still alive and well and apparently immigration and customs now have a very relaxed attitude to new arrivals intending to stay longer term) as a bolt-hole for my retirement. My plan to be in Asia for 3-4 months and then fly out to Australia again is still on the cards for us, but Indonesia is now charging top dollar for short-term tourist visas - the free 30 days visa in place pre-Covid has now been replaced with an AUD$50 fee visa which can be renewed for a further 30 days but at a cost of from AUD$150-$250 depending on where one buys it and how well one knows to bargain.

Not good news. It's now time for savvy tourists to look for new travel options, and Indonesia may have gone down a fair few notches on the Desirable Destinations In Asia list. Which is sad, but as we all know, time passes and all things changed. So be it.
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Old Jan 23rd 2023, 9:57 pm
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Default Re: What is happening in Bali (especially in Sanur)?

Originally Posted by JDWoowoo50
... or even Malaysia (the free 90 day visa there is still alive and well and apparently immigration and customs now have a very relaxed attitude to new arrivals intending to stay longer term) as a bolt-hole for my retirement.
You are correct about the 90 day tourist visa. But I don't know where you got that second part of your statement from. Malaysia relaunched their MM2H "retirement visa" program last year, under new rules and regulations. Especially the financial hurdles to overcome have been raised. For example: new applicants have to proof that they receive a monthly income exceeding RM 40,000 (approx. 9,000 USD). Also the bond which needs to be deposited in a fixed deposit account with a Malaysian bank has increased: it is now 1 million MYR.
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Old Jan 26th 2023, 12:03 pm
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Default Re: What is happening in Bali (especially in Sanur)?

Many thanks, SushiFan. About Malaysia first.

My few remaining friends there now all want to leave BUT the logistics of selling up, disposing of possessions not able to be taken out of the country, then packing up and moving on, are proving to be too much for most of them. As well, financial considerations are impacting on their decision to go if they can. The process of selling a property in Malaysia can be daunting, and post-Covid offers are not as generous as they were when some perhaps wiser friends saw the light in 2018 and 2019 and left the country. They were able to negotiate better prices for their houses and apartments, altho' most have told me, they lost on average US$50,000 on the deal. But they wanted out, and they paid the price.

Sad indeed, but in this strange world we now live in, it seems to be the way.

A few observations about Sanur now.

We have been back for about one week. Our first impression on returning (for me this is a second visit in the last six months, so we are both not entirely "virginal" expats new to the Bali scene) so far has been, is Sanur still the place for us. Many aspects of living here continue to appeal and attract, but on the whole, we tend to the "gut feeling" that Bali or perhaps more so Sanur, is no longer the place for us. Too much has changed. The tourists are returning - our driver from the airport told us he was informed that 14,000-16,000 new arrivals are turning up every day, which has meant overcrowding in the tourist areas and fierce competition for the Balinese for tourist services, notably driving which is now regarded as a small gold mine. Certainly our driver (we've used the same local man since I more or less settled here in 2014) has done well out of us so far, Rp250,000 from Sanur to the tourist ghettos Kuta-Legian-Seminyak, Rp12,000 to Denpasar (the usual price is Rp15,000-18,000 but we do this trip every second day, so Komang kindly gives us a discount), up to Rp1 million (US$70) for a day rate for a car and driver tho' again, our driver is much kinder and often heavily discounts when he has no other business.

Food costs (this in Sanur) are much the same as pre-Covid but some aspects of service have changed. Menus and plate portions are smaller. Drink prices (for those who want alcohol) vary up and down, but imported wines and spirits have disappeared from the bars of many establishments. Supermarket prices are more or less holding the line but seem to be about 20% higher. Utilities cost more. Villa rentals have gone up by almost 50% but my local friends say these can be negotiated as there seem to be many thousands of unrented properties.

Chinese tourists are everywhere, also Australians who are returning at the rate of several flights every day.

The Balinese, bless them, seem to be much the same. Friendly, outgoing, and still in most cases, as we used to say about the Thais in the '70s and '80s, the best friends money can buy. Everywhere we have been we were greeted like old friends or even returning family. It was good to see familiar faces and to be remembered, the Balinese quite excel at this.

Flights in and out of Indonesia are also more expensive, but oddly, we flew out of Melbourne on Jetstar for AUD$200 less than we paid in 2019 and 2020. The flight was full and Jetstar managed to leave two hours behind schedule due to a variety of reasons told to us by staff, none of which really sounded like the real situation. (It seems Jetstar switched planes at the last minute to a smaller jet which had no Business Class, which severely annoyed a dozen passengers who had paid the BS surcharge.) Late arrival in Bali meant some delays at the airport due to reduced immigration and customs staff, but there were no hassles. We paid Rp500,000 each for our 30 day renewable tourist visas (we will be renewing in Surabaya, where it's apparently cheaper). Out of the airport the drivers were all demanding ridiculous fares from the suckers (who mostly seemed to be coughing up the cash, perhaps not knowing any better) but we had Komang waiting for us and were spared all that.

In the summing up, what? So far our thoughts are running to how to short-cut the ridiculous new visa regulations, as we are not rich and haven't the huge amount of money now required as a so-called "security deposit" to be able to stay here long term. I am well aware that other Southeast Asian countries (notably Malaysia and Thailand) now have the same high deposit requirements for expats. We have thought about the Philippines, for purely personal reasons (so I won't go into those) the Filipino culture doesn't really appeal to us. So Indonesia is still the contender for us.

We have now decided to look at other destinations, possibly in East Java where we have long-standing friends. Costs are lower but services are less Western than Bali.

Another week to go in Sanur, then we will be off to Surabaya. If anyone here is interested in longer term residency in Indonesia, I will be happy to report my observations at that later time.

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Old Jan 27th 2023, 12:34 pm
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Default Re: What is happening in Bali (especially in Sanur)?

Hello from me again. Am I the only BE member in Bali this year? It feels that way.

Anyway, a new update on our wanderings in Indonesia

We are now in Surabaya. Just arrived, staying for a few days with Indonesian friends in their lovely (circa 1916) and lovingly restored Dutch colonial bungalow with a separate "granny flat" (for us oldies), resident cats, good food and cold beer, even an established garden with no less than six Australian eucalyptus trees, beautifully matured and casting most welcome shade on our small digs, plus a small frog with the loudest frogs I've had the pleasure to listen to in the evenings and at night. Where and how they survive the dry season, well...

I was in Surabaya for some years, so it's like a second home to me. Unlike Bali which, now overcommercialised, overcrowded (mobs of seemingly crazed Chinese racing around everywhere, many coughing their lungs out but one hopes, not spreading Covid germs), armies of tour buses spewing blue diesel fumes in the streets, all the popular bars, cafes and restaurants overpriced A few days there and some serious conversations with friends (expats and Indonesians) and we opted to ileave early and look further afield for a new hidey-hole location elsewhere for me.

Sanur post-Covid is in some ways unchanged, in other ways markedly different. My fave hangout, the Batujimbar is being "redeveloped" which in Indonesian terms could mean a new avatar for this beloved old establishment, a mini-mall of shops peddling gewgaws and tours, or yet another villas-with-pool development modified for cashed-up Asian buyers as Western expats look to be rather thin on the ground in Bali this year (I write this with caution as of course this may change as '23 moves on).

I did read somewhere that from about 60,000 expats living in Bali pre-Covid, there are now "about 6,000 permanent residents" and many are greatly concerned at the economic impact on them of the new Indonesian visa regulations. Not sure where these stats came from or how they were determined, so again I write with a degree of "maybe". Certainly apart from the obvious Aussie tourists in the bars from mid morning and Dutch families in the hotel pools or walking everywhere, Sanur looks thinly populated with tourists, overlooking the shopping places popular with bus tours. The beach was deserted during the one walk (= trek) I had the time to do, from the area of the Le Mayeur Museum in north Sanur down to the end of the boardwalk, some 5 kilometers. Domestic tourists, yes. Locals aplenty. A few foreigners. That was it.

I have to say our decision to travel on to Jatim (= East Java) was to meet up with friends from Europe who will arrive on Sunday, by train from Yogyakarta and Solo. They are keen to travel with us (by car and driver, amazingly inexpensive in Surabaya or even in Bali if one has the right contacts there) and see the less visited country areas, the small and sleepy country towns, the lesser known Hindu and Buddhist temples, the old city of Majapahit, and the rice fields in the south which are terraced and irrigated differently from Bali and, I'm told, produce different varieties of rice.

I'm keen to meet these friends again, show them around, and collect their impressions of being in Central Java, in two cities, one heavily into tourism, the other quiet, more cultural, far less crowded. Solo appeals to me as my next hidey-hole, at my age I crave peace, quiet, fresh air, time to read and write and take long walks to see and photograph new sites, an occasional glass Bintang or Heineken with ice cubes (boiled water so entirely safe) and a twist of lime at a roadside stall or a small cafe, and the good basic services I want in my retirement years, all no more than a casual walk from my home. Food in Solo is traditionally more Javanese and super good, unlike Yogya where tourists end up dining in the major hotels or hanging out at McD's or KFC for their sustenance.

So yes, Yogya and Solo are possibilities. As are several places in Java where all the small luxuries this old buleh has a need for can be obtained. Solo has the advantages of being more centrally situated, easier to get to Jakarta or Bali, and low cost of living, even if it's rather too quiet for younger visitors and visibly traditional Islamic. Yogyakarta has tourists, meh! food, all the usual (to me overpriced and overrated) attractions and shopping, pesky locals who try to haul you off to the latest "art exhibition" of junk paintings, and Japlan Malioboro where everyone eventually ends up, if only to dine in Western luxe at McD's. In a nutshell, for me that's it. The road to Solo and other points eastward, greatly appeals.

The adventure goes on. SO will stay two weeks more and in mid-February fly Denpasar-Melbourne, so a second visit to Bali is on the cards.

Then what? Left on my own and well beyond the usual mass tourist attractions of wine/women/song, I rather fancy returning to Java by bus (Denpasar to Gilimanuk in Bali), a ferry to Java (one hour and a delightful break from road travel), then by train to Surabaya (five hours, comfortable, cheap). A full day of travel, but with pleasant scenery to look at and take candid photos, and I hope pleasant talk with Indonesians. Win-win. Slow living is the best life...
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Old Jan 27th 2023, 4:10 pm
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Default Re: What is happening in Bali (especially in Sanur)?

I've a question please.

What about health services if needed?

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Old Jan 28th 2023, 10:18 am
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Default Re: What is happening in Bali (especially in Sanur)?

Health services are there if needed, at a price of course. The general situation with better medical clinics, hospitals, access to more specialized care such as pathology, services for the aged, even renal facilities, as well as greatly updated pharmacies with a vastly improved range of medications. Nothing like we take for granted in the western countries like Australia, if much better than during the dismal crisis of 20 years ago when the Bali bombings destroyed so many lives. I lost several friends and acquaintances at that sad time because urgent care was not available in Denpasar or the Kuta-Legian-Seminyak tourist strip. All this has changed much for the better now. There is a modern hospital on the Sanur bypass road, not far from Kuta, and GPs/clinics are well aware and prepared to send urgent cases there for immediate treatment. So one can get by.

At my age, I now think seriously about what I would do in places like East Java if I came down with a sudden urgent condition. Gone are those heady days of the past when I had dreams (or maybe illusions?) of renting a small lot in a country place and building my dream bamboo and thatch house overlooking the rice fields or with a Mountain view. This never happened and I'm now 75 and at the stage where my life's early fantasies are dropping quickly from my eyes. As well my SO is still employed (fortunately for me, as a specialist in aged care in Australia) and intends to work for a few more years to early retirement, which means I would be more or less on my own - overlooking a handyman-driver and maybe a day housekeeper, who being country folk wouldn't be able to do much to help me beyond calling in someone to assist me to the nearest hospital if I had a fall or came down with a serious condition like a stroke. All this to say that my long-imagined life of ease by the rice terraces of East Java, sitting in my pendopo with a glass of good strong Java coffee and watching a local farmer plough his fields with a pair of water buffalos, is now well beyond me. So be it. I enjoyed the fantasy while it lasted, but I realize it was just that, a cherished fantasy. (Altho' to me the realities of living here remain as pleasant as ever, or am I fantasizing yet again?)

My overall health is 8.5/10 which my GP tells me is much better than the average for my age, and I'm still reasonably fit and quite active, but I have to face the obvious that I'm no longer 50 or even 60 and I will never even see 70 again. Time passes so quickly and takes its toll.

Bali does have some added advantages over most cities in Java. Air pollution levels are much lower. Food is fresher, tho' fresh produce comes daily from the agricultural areas of Trees and Bromo. My diet is mostly plant-based now and I seem to be eating more like a vegan-vegetarian than a carnivore ('tho the term "vegan" is one I would never, ever admit to). I avoid most meat and stay well away from any fish I suspect was caught in the Java Sea or anywhere from Madura island with the high human waste pollution levels from the cities of Java) but fresh fish from the much cleaner southern Indonesian Ocean is widely available and those two delectable proteins, tempeh and tofu, can be bought everywhere. My friends live in an inner city suburb with access a few minutes away to several very clean depots (a small explanation here - in Indonesia a "warring" is a food stall on the street or in a laneway or most often in a small food court, many of which are provided and maintained by the municipality) with spotless kitchens and an amazing variety of good food. One has a superb all-day buffet with a good range of vegetable dishes and well-prepared protein dishes and we eat good lunches every day for less than A$2 a person, far cheaper than I've found almost everywhere in Bali. One can't get much better than that.

I do apologize for having digressed a bit from the original health services question. SO and I have made a health plan for me to cope with any illnesses I could come down with while here on my own - as I may have written before my plan is to stay 2-3 months in Indonesia and then return to Melbourne for a month or two months of the good Australian life and, more importantly, consultations with my GP, then back to Indonesia for more leisurely living. We have worked out this plan for me over the 26 years we've been together and so far (touch wood!) it works well for us. If my good health continues I hope to have more years of enjoying it.

I hope this answers your question. If you would like information on more specific health issues and services in Indonesia, please ask, and I will try to make enquiries to my friends here in Surabaya and and Bali (including two GPs and one specialist medical academic). It's good to have such friends here and they are always happy to help with advice and recommendations. In this I'm so very lucky!
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Old Feb 3rd 2023, 12:45 pm
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Default Re: What is happening in Bali (especially in Sanur)?

Here I am again, continuing my one-man show from Indonesia...

Back in Surabaya now, after a three day tour of the regional centers of Jatim (= East Java).

In all, an interesting experience. Some larger towns and even smaller cities (Tulungagung, Trengallek) look unchanged from my previous visit some 20 years ago. Others (Blitar, Kediri, Madiun) have moved ahead in great leaps, mostly to do with manufacturing and technology. Interesting that transport (notably rail), essential utilities (all government owned and some price controlled), internet and telecomm services in Indonesia are light years ahead of Australia's - which made us wonder at times which of the two is now more a Third World society...

Anyway, here we are again in Surabaya, back in our comfortable small apartment in an old colonial home (circa 1916) owned by the family of our Indonesian friends. Wondering what our next move will be. To Solo (a place I always enjoy, with more than enough to see and do to make me want to stay longer) and Yogyakarta (about which I have mixed feelings, mostly good and rotten, too many tourists, annoying locals out to make a fast buck in any way they can, poor facilities, lousy food and shopping, the two major attractions of Borobudur and Prambanan not far away but now asking so much in admissions (foreigners arriving at Borobudur are now asked to pay in US$ to get in and a further hefty fee to climb the temple and touch the celebrated Buddha at the top) and "other" fees as to make budget-minded visitors think twice about spending so much money. Grab The Cash looks to be the new way of dealing with tourism in Indonesia, but we are well aware that this isn't exclusive to this country and others in SE Asia are following similar income-generating paths.

Or back to Bali? This is tempting. Another friend has a travel service and offered a return trip (five hours an excellent highways to Banyuwangi, an hour crossing the Java-Bali strait by ferry, then four more hour on a good road to Denpasar and Kuta) in air-conditioned comfort and entirely on our own in a pleasant minibus (this agency's services are mostly to do with transporting and delivering confidential documents to destinations in Bali for private businesses, including banks and financial agencies - their passenger travel is a sideline) with one or two stops as we like along the way to see pleasant attractions, plus the prospect of leaving in the morning enjoying a nice lunch on the way and being in our hotel in Sanur in time for a drink and to enjoy the sunset.

Bali is more expensive than Java but it offers the colorful Hindu culture with its myriad ceremonies and traditions. We are still of two minds about my settling again (I was here for some time pre-Covid) in Indonesia. I crave quiet periods and space for my creative outlets but also the advantages Bali offers and the ease of flying to and from home in Australia. I can do this almost as easily from Surabaya (daily flights go from Juanda airport there via Bali and also to Singapore, Malaysia and other Asian destinations, less so from Solo - and for me, alas, Yogya is not on my radar as I just do not enjoy the place.

Surabaya still appeals, if more so for its proximity to other more pleasant places in Java (and not too far from Bali, whether by road or rail or air) and the availability of services, reasonable shopping and surprisingly good food (something it was not particularly noted for even in the recent past). The fast food industry here is alive and well, even more so than in Bali. Costs are low. New toll highways make travel to almost anywhere quite easy, even if escaping the city center can often be a small nightmare of traffic congestion and confusing roads. A few shopping malls keep SO's consumer urges satisfied even if the store prices for better quality items are now quite close to those in Australia). And there is enough of the "old" city left for me to enjoy daily walks with my cameras and satisfy my urge to record some of the passing life, a lot of it much as it was a quarter century ago or even longer.

Sadly a return to Australia after Bali is now looming on the cards. ​​​​​​I will probably extend my stay by up to one month with a brief escape to Malaysia for a new Indonesian tourist visa, but I too will be home again in the not too distant future. Without (at least at this point in time) having made any firm decision about whether or not to go on staying in Bali medium-term (long-term now seems more remote to media to high costs and the complex tourist visa situation.

​So at this time for me, it's all rather a conundrum...
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Old Feb 8th 2023, 2:04 pm
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Default Re: What is happening in Bali (especially in Sanur)?

Going back to Bali on Saturday, for a few days of R&R&R in Sanur. SO will then fly back to Australia. After which I may or may not return to East Java, and go on with my seemingly unending saga of deciding whether or not to stay longer-term in Indonesia.

Certainly the complete lack of silence on this forum indicates to me that one of two things seemingly applies. One, there is no longer much interest from expats in living in Indonesia. Two, there is no longer much interest from expats in living in Bali.

Long gone are those heady days now past when David was there, and posting regularly from his hacienda in IRRC, Sanur or somewhere around Nusa Due - which by the way is an area I'm starting to develop a greater interest in, as it seems many small (< two bedrooms with tiny gardens but no pool, mostly in "open" = not gated complexes but in close walking distance to what passes for a shopping center in ND, so useful for walkers like me) villas there are empty and rents are "flexible", which knowing the Balinese and Indonesians in general with their attitudes to money is saying a lot.

So I may be looking at Nusa Due next week.

For now Surabaya even with its enervating climate of too hot days, too high humidity and too much rain, suits us. Family have been good, we have a small separate apartment of three rooms with AC and all utilities on a separate meter (so far our electricity costs for more than two weeks have been about AUD$25, which is saying a lot), a cleaning lady, a nice garden and room for our rescue cats, continues to please. In many ways it would be better for me to just bite the bullet and stay here longer term, as I can easily fly out and back in again from Surabaya's Juanda airport when my visas run short and I decline to run the maddening gauntlet of the six or so immigration agents (those supposedly licensed criminals) who always double the visa processing costs when they see a buleh coming into their office. Bali is cheaper for renewing 30 day tourist visas by about AUD$100 but that saving easily gets eaten up by expensive taxi fares to and from the immigration offices - I get around this in some ways by booking a car and river for the day from a reliable tour agency, but still the cost can be high. Occasionally a grinningbureaucrats finds a way to ask for "a gift" with the clear implication that "a problem" can always be found in a visa application if a civil servant decides to be "diligent". This sad, asking for money is nowadays the exception rather than the norm in Indonesia, so some things have changed for the better.

To sum up all this, on the whole and from much experience I can safely say the entire visa process is uncomplicated and polite, but it's definitely not cheap.
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Old Feb 8th 2023, 7:59 pm
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Default Re: What is happening in Bali (especially in Sanur)?

Keep up the good work, I've enjoy reading your updates on what's going on in Indonesia.
Other than a few brief working-holiday visits 10 plus years ago, I've always been a bit gun shy about Indonesia. Perhaps the immigration headaches are over exaggerated, but I've always heard that their are way too many hurdles to jump through to consider Indonesia for anything more than a short visit.
Where are all the Expats...Perhaps the global economy, Mainland tourist invasion (???), or very poor government advertisement that Indonesia is open for tourist - long term visitors. This might be keeping many on the sidelines waiting for better signals.
As for myself, I've pulled up stakes at Penang (for now), and headed up north to Thailand for a change of scenery.
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Old Feb 8th 2023, 8:27 pm
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Default Re: What is happening in Bali (especially in Sanur)?

I continue to read your updates about Indonesia and Bali. Like you mention, I noticed that the forum has become rather quiet. Not only the Indonesia section, but also the Malaysia and Philippines sections. I don't know about the Philippines, but in Malaysia many expats and retirees have left the country during the corona pandemic. And there is hardly any interest in the "new MM2H" retirement visa: the financial hurdles have been raised so high that only a few can meet these requirements. Those that can meet these requirements have better alternatives available. Resulting in very few people actually moving into the country. Maybe these trends explain why there is less traffic on this forum in the Malaysia section.
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Old Feb 9th 2023, 11:39 am
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Default Re: What is happening in Bali (especially in Sanur)?

Many thanks, WiredTight and SushiFan. three may not make a quorum, but between us we maybe can keep this going, and exchange some useful data while we write.

I've had personal and cultural connections with Indonesia since 1970 when I first visited Bali. I stayed away for a decade (1975-1985) but in the mid-'80s I returned at least one time every year and some years even two times. Mostly to see old friends, do my photography, and travel to try to see the fast-vanishing traditional culture in the more distant islands, in those heady now long gone days when I was younger and had more energy to get about and travel from Australia was cheaper than it is now. My interest then lay mostly with Islamic Java but as I edged closer to retirement and read more deeply into the Hindu traditions Bali with its unique blend of India and Indonesia attracted me more. I sold my (architectural) business and retired in 2012 and for the last ten years Bali has claimed most of my time and my travels. It's still a very unique place, tho' one now has to dig deep beneath the all-encompassing surface veneer of mass tourism to find the "old" Hindu culture. Happily for me, it's still there.

We have now been almost two weeks in Surabaya. I've seen very few tourists here - a few come and go, mostly by rail to Gubeng train station, where they bargain ineffectually with the local hustler-drivers for an affordable fare to Bromo or overland to Bali. Maybe one or two in every 100 stay one night, long enough to discover the budget hotels of old are no longer cheap and life here happens mostly in the massive shopping malls of the city center.

Now and then I see foreigners in the malls, I don't know them so we don't talk. They are often with Indonesian partners (mostly women) and have children, so they may be expats living here. Pre-Covid I had an American neighbor who had a Madurese wife and two children, he had converted to Islam and was living long-term in Surabaya to study the religion with hopes of maybe becoming an imam somewhere in the West. We used to chat over coffee in a local warring but I've not seen him since 2020 and none of the locals can tell me where he is or has gone. I thought maybe Bali but it's unlikely. Possibly to his wife's kampung (rural village) in Central Java, but again this seems unfeasible for him as he had a degree in languages and was hoping to land a senior position in one of Surabaya's many language schools. I miss his company and our talks as he was very keen on Java culture and knowledgable on Surabaya. I do hope he has done well but unlike other foreigners living here he wasn't as an expat in a company or a civil servant, he was living locally on a modest budget and Covid may have undone his life plans.

I no longer know any long-term expat stayers in Bali. They all seem to have gone and not returned. Maybe to Thailand like so many others. Or to Malaysia, altho' as WiredTight has written Malaysia is now no longer as affordable as it was. This may change with the new government. We'll see. Thailand is too hard going for me but I like Malaysia and it could easily be my second home in Southeast Asia.

Madura island immediately to the north was once accessible only by slow ferry and one then had to endure a bone-jarring journey of several hours in a series of old buses or clapped-out demos to the cultural haven of Sumenep at the eastern end. Now a more radical fundamental Islam has taken hold there, when we were last in Madura in 2019 we were heckled and made to feel unwelcome as visitors, so I no longer bother to go. Recent visitors to the island say this is now more prevalent. This I believe is sad as many things there are worth traveling to see and in the past the Madurese were always kind and hospitable to tourists. Now it seems it's no longer so.

As for Bali, it seems mass tourism is finally returning after a three-year absence but the expats are no longer flocking to their old home grounds of Sanur, Kerobokan or Singaraja. Plans by Jakarta to build a new airport somewhere near Lovina or south of Singaraja have apparently been put on hold. Ngurarai airport is still crowded and after only a few years appears to be inadequate to deal with the numbers of casual visitors (mostly Australians and ever-growing numbers of Chinese) arriving every day at the rate (so says my regular driver there) of up to 20,000 or more. Prices for everything have skyrocketed, especially transport. Hotels did raise their room rates but apparently these are dropping.

I gave up hanging out in Kuta or Legian or Seminyak many years ago after I met my current partner, who prefers to avoid those areas as overcrowded, noisy and too dirty. Traffic everywhere in the tourist quarter can be a nightmare even late in the day. Even in Sanur a lot has changed. The old cafes (one or two like the Batujimbar were legends in their day) have closed. Many hundreds of villas are no longer tenanted by foreigners staying long-term and can be rented, but the prices are now much too rich for my pensioner's budget, the small but adequate two bedroom one I rented for two years until Covid drove me out is available again but for three times what I paid in 2020. It lacks a pool, it's located on a side street close to the noisy traffic of the bypass road, local services are inadequate and the five other villas in the complex are now rented out to domestic tourists including groups of unmarried Javanese men who play loud music all night, sit outside all day and smoke like chimneys and like partiy with prostitutes, so the peace and quiet we enjoyed pre-Covid has entirely disappeared. Food prices in Hardy's supermarket where I once did our shopping have dropped by a little but everything is much more expensive than in Java. Sadly the small sellers who came to us with their stocks of fresh and cooked food have all gone, which surprises me as after all even the Balinese still have to eat, Covid or no Covid.

As I wrote earlier, Nusa Due now appeals more to be. Not too crowded, affordable even on my pensioner's budget (with a little caution), adequately well serviced, close to the big tourist areas and the airport, and the beaches are still pristine and not overused. So it all looks like win-win. I will be exploring all that in 10 days after my SO flies off to Melbourne. If I like what I find we will both be back again at Easter time to try to finalize a longer term rental. The price has to be right, and I'm told by local friends there that some bargaining is possible. Time will tell and I'll see.

Immigration and visas are not a problem in Bali as the Balinese are used to seeing and dealing with foreign tourists. A few agencies specialist in arranging easy visa renewals. the current tourist visa is available on arrival and costs Rp500,000 / AUD$55) and can be renewed one time for 30 days more at a cost of AUD$150-$250 depending on who and where does it. The Surabaya price is higher, the visa takes three to four working days to process and involves one trip to the immigration office for photos and fingerprints, which adds to the cost, especially in Bali where going anywhere by taxi is now much like buying gold.

So much to think and write about. Life plans take such effort and so much time and energy, but to those of us who function best as expats, it's the way.
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Old Feb 9th 2023, 12:38 pm
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Default Re: What is happening in Bali (especially in Sanur)?

Originally Posted by SushiFan
I continue to read your updates about Indonesia and Bali.
I do also. We are now both retired these past 3 years - MrBEVS is younger than me - and I am considering how to best shape our lives and lifestyle given our pension budget. We've been to Bali twice and very much enjoyed the place. I realise that a few weeks holiday is not the same as living somewhere for months at a time but it might be something that works for us. Currently in New Zealand . Originally I had planned that we make a UK return and then soujourn sur le continent but that was and is not to be.
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Old Feb 10th 2023, 1:09 pm
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Default Re: What is happening in Bali (especially in Sanur)?

Our travel plans have changed yet again, so we are not yet in Bali - we will be this time next week. Airfares domestic and international to and from there, are a fair bit higher from this week, likely due to an influx of tourists.

We are considering travel by train to Banyuwangi (5 hours), across the Bali-Java (or Java-Bali, depending on which end you board the boat from) Straits, then by minibus to Denpasar (3-4 hours). In all, a long day's travel, but with splendid scenery all along the way, especially the East Java countryside seen from the large windows of the Banyuwangi all-stops. we will leave Surabaya early and arrive in Sanur late, so an dvance hotel booking will be essential (many thanks to you, Traveloka!). Inevitably, the most expensive part of the journey will be a taxi fare from the bus terminal in 'DPS' to our hotel, at most 10 kilometers, but a small fortune by taxi - booking a car and driver from the agency we use often will save on this, but not that much. The Balinese are experts at picking foreign pockets...

Now over to you, BEVS. Let me tell you about my usual travel itinerary, which may give you some ideas about how to travel "off the cuff" and save money from the usual pay-thru-the-nose-for-everything attitude sadly so prevalent nowadays in mass tourism.

Planning is important. I try to fly out off-peak when fares drop quite dramatically - compare AUD$600-$900 one way during high season to AUD4300 off the grid and at times even cheaper. I try to research everything well and above all I read the complaints online. In the past the Australian airlines were by far the best to go anywhere from "our island" to almost anywhere in Asia, but sadly this is no longer the case. Jetstar was once at the top of the heap but is now prone to all sorts of silly behavior, flight delays, last minute changes in aircraft resulting in crammed flights, late departures, poor in-flight service and more important, late arrivals in places like Bali, at times well past midnight which means long delays for visas, immigration processing and customs, not to overlook inflated taxi fares to your hotel and most of a night wasted as one doesn't get into bed much before 2 AM and at times even later and most Bali hotels now turf you out at noon.

All this said, once there, things often improve dramatically. The tourist visa on arrival is good for 30 days and costs rp500,000 (+/-AUD$55 depending on which way the South Pacific peso floats on that day). The visa kiosk at Ngurarai airport in Bali is efficient and you will be past it and on to immigration in a few minutes - where the long line-ups begin. Indonesian immigration have reduced staff and 20-45 minutes to get your visa stamped is nothing new. Depending on how "efficient" your immi officer is, you may or may not be asked to produce all the usual documents. On occasion I'm asked to show my air ticket out but most often the harassed officers don't bother. I travel with a 60 day outbound ticket and I've always had a few anxious moments worrying if some officious official will challenge this and refuse me entry as I don't have a 30 day "out" ticket, but so far this has never happened. Touch wood...

Onward! I stay 30 days but at the start of the third week I contact an immigration agent to have my new 30 day visa extension processed, which usually takes from three to five working days and will involve a trip to the Immigration office wherever you are (Bali or Java) to have your photo taken and fingerprints taken. In Bali this will cost about Rp1,500,000 (+/-AUD$150, or so all the agents insist, the usual Indonesian promise) and involve two predictably expensive taxi trips so add a further AUD$100 for all this travel, initially to the visa agency and then to the immi office and back to your hotel. In Surabaya I pay Rp2,500,000 (+/-AUD$250) for all this and the agent comes to me. I then book a car and driver for a half day (AUD+/-$35 plus a tip and lunch for the driver, so in total AUD$40-$45)) for the inevitable social call to Immi, their offices are a close spitting distance from Juanda airport and that means a cross-city trip through suburbs I have no wish to ever visit. Immigration service is always friendly and whoever is processing my paper work always speaks excellent English and usually wants a social chat, which is pleasant. We then have lunch at a good wrung or cafe. Bearing in mind you will never ever get a car and driver in Bali this cheaply, you can make an excursion half day out of it and go somewhere pleasant. We usually go shopping for an hour after the immi visit.

So in all you get 60 days. After this I decide if I want to go home to Australia for some good Aussie tucker and cultural benefits (= nice red wine at affordable prices, to see friends, country trips, soaking up the cool after the torrid heat and humidity of Bali and Java) for a month or two months, and then repeat the process. Or if I want to stay longer, I fly from Surabaya to Malaysia with Air Asia, a bucket airline with all the usual problems (usually late departure or last-minute flight cancellations tho' they always auto-rebook me without charge) but the flight is between two and three hours and even at my age I can survive it. KL is not my idea of a perfect travel destination but its a cheap and convenient destination. I stay overnight and then plan a visit to somewhere smaller and more congenial. Being me I avoid Melaka and Penang as they are now tourist traps, but there are many smaller cities (Ipoh is one) where the locals are friendly, the food is good and pleasant hotels are affordable. Four days to a week in Malaysia and I fly back to Indonesia, pay for a new 30 day tourist visa at the airport and start the cycle all over again.

That's how I travel. This has suited me well since 2012 when I retired and decided to spend more time in Asia. Luckily, I have an understanding partner who has a life other than at home and our living situation doesn't require me to be there tending gardens or looking after children, grandchildren or pets (not minding our three rescue cats) or other commitments requiring me to be longer-term in Victoria.

Medical services are adequate in Bali and excellent in Surabaya or most other Indonesian cities. An Indonesian friend recently had a major operation on his leg to fix up polio damage, he was one night and two days in a modern and fully equipped hospital in the city his room cost AUD$100 a night for everything and the operation was AUD$800. Follow-up appointments with a specialist cost him about AUD$40. I have a GP and a top dentist and a plan on call here, also a GP in Bali, and I can be referred to specialist care the same day if something major happens and I suffer a health downturn.

I should maybe add that there is a good all services health care plan available in Indonesia for about AUD$50 a month. It is available online and seemingly it's supported by several major Indonesian banks, so it's good. I have it but haven't had to use it so far, again touch wood. As for Australian health plans, I would never ever consider one in Australia as to my mind they are almost all high profit making scams.

I will tell you about hotels and other basics of being in Bali longer term in another post. I hope all this information is useful to you.
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Old Feb 12th 2023, 12:06 am
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Default Re: What is happening in Bali (especially in Sanur)?

If you travel on a 60-day outbound ticket, do you mean the return leg is 60 days later? If so, what do you do if you decide on a side trip to Malaysia? Tickets can be flexible, but they are generally not the cheapest option.

The problem of not having a return ticket within the prescribed period can be less Immigration on arrival (although it can happen), but the airline check-in desk on departure - if you don't have either a visa or an onward ticket within the prescribed period, they won't allow you on the flight. One solution is to buy a "throwaway" onward ticket, i.e. a one-way onward ticket, from any airport in the country to any destination and on any date within the prescribed period. This works well in most SE Asian countries as there are budget airlines operating between them offering cheap fares. It's well worth the +/- £20 cost of a throwaway ticket to avoid the risk of a check-in desk or Immigration problem, or even the worry that one might occur.

My view is that now many SE Asian countries have introduced or (significantly) increased the cost of long stay visas, often with conditions attached, e.g. medical insurance, they will restrict the visa run option, i.e. there is an increased risk of being refused re-entry after a short visa run. I've no proof this is or will happen, it just seems a logical step that if they make it expensive to obtain a long-stay visa, they will make it difficult to stay long-term without buying one. Indonesia may (or may not) be slightly different in that the 30 day visa and especially the 30 day extension is expensive, i.e. a good money earner for the authorities and general community (taxi drivers, agents, etc.). If I were you though, I would be vigilant for any clamp-down on visa runs, and have a Plan B ready in case of refused re-entry.
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