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Aussies like Kiki are moving to Bali but can you live a cheaper life there?

We've crunched the numbers on a permanent move to the holiday hotspot.

Bali is a favourite tourist destination for many Aussies, thanks to its world-renowned surf, friendly locals and the low cost of just about everything. But one Aussie mum, who moved her family there, says her rent is "double the average Australian income", so we've done a deep dive to see if you can still avoid our cost-of-living crisis by taking up island life.

While we've all heard of people moving to South-East Asia for a life of luxury on a budget, Kiki McGrath, a mother to four kids, went viral after she revealed how much it costs her family to rent there. With an average Australian salary sitting at $90,000, McGrath's followers figured she was paying $180,000 in rent, annually - or $15,000 a month.

Kiki McGrath with her husband and kids (left) and Kiki with her daughter at a food market in Bali (right)
Kiki McGrath moved her family of six from Perth to Bali. (Source: Instagram) (Instagram/kiki.mcgrath.xo)

The clip, titled: "If you're asking me, you can't afford it", has since been viewed more than 37,000 times.

"Every single day, someone sends me a message or leaves a comment somewhere saying, 'tell me how much it costs you', 'just give me a ballpark figure', or 'tell me how much your rent is'," she said in the TikTok video, before laying it out: "Our rent is probably double the average Australian income per year in Bali."

Some of her viewers were quick to suggest she must be staying in an upscale villa that costs a lot more than the average home and, while $180,000 will get you a whole lotta home in most countries - including Bali - rental costs for luxury villas on the island can be surprisingly expensive.

But does that mean it's too expensive to live there? Let's take a closer look at how far your Aussie dollars can actually go?

Cost of living in Bali

Rent

At the top end of the scale, a year's lease for a four-bedroom villa in Canggu - a resort village on the south coast of Bali - will set you back anywhere from about $56,000 to $100,000. Prices range from $43,000 to $70,000 in Seminyak - a popular beach resort area also in the south.

However, according to comparison website Numbeo, you can rent a three-bedroom apartment in the city centre for just a touch more than $3,000 per month. That's less than half what you would pay for a similar property near the centre of Sydney. In fact, renting in Bali is, on average, 68 per cent cheaper than in Sydney.

In Sanur - a seaside town in Bali's southeast - a four-bedroom villa is listed for as low as $13,000 - just over $1,000 per month. In Ubud - in Bali's rainforest region, which is known as one of the cheaper places to live on the island - a two-bedroom villa is listed for $21,000.

And, of course, if you're not bringing the whole family and you're happy to rent a private room, prices can sit around $450 a month.

So, like most places, the cost of renting in Bali depends very heavily on the type of property and its location.

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But what about other living costs?

Bills

Beyond accommodation, you'll also have other monthly expenses, such as utilities. According to travel website The Broke Backpacker, other regular costs - per person - include:

  • Electricity - $70

  • Mobile phone - $15

  • Internet - $15

Food

In another video, McGrath said she spent about $700 a week on groceries in Bali. The Broke Backpacker puts the number at $226 a month for one person. McGrath added that, unlike Coles and Woolworths, items are never on sale at Balinese supermarkets but she can buy a whole chicken for $4.

Here's a comparison of costs for regular grocery items:

Item

Bali

Sydney

Loaf of white bread

$2.16

$4.17

A dozen eggs

$2.09

$5.92

Chicken fillets (kg)

$6.26

$13.74

Beef steak (kg)

$14.92

$23.76

Bananas (kg)

$2.67

$4.17

Bottle of wine

$29.20

$20

Beer (500mL)

$3.03

$8.05

When it comes to eating out, The Broke Backpacker estimates a total monthly spend of $120-$250 per person.

Travel

With public transport almost non-existent in Bali, getting around on a scooter is a great option. A month's scooter hire can cost anywhere from $50 to $250. Petrol is quite cheap too, at $1.25 per litre.

So, what's it all cost?

If we exclude rent, even at the top end of the spend, a single adult could live in Bali quite comfortably for a month and still get some change from $850.

In Australia, the average living cost for a single person - excluding rent - is $1,687, according to Numbeo.

Cost of relocating to Bali

Flights

February is the cheapest month to fly to Bali because it's in the wet season and the tourists tend to stay away. Budget Direct suggests booking your travel for then. Currently, a direct flight from Sydney or Melbourne to Denpasar will set you back about $300 to $400 per adult, while a family of four with two kids under six can expect to pay anywhere from $900 to $1,400 all up.

Getting a visa

There are a range of visa options for Aussies intending to stay long-term in Bali, according to PNB Immigration Law Firm in Indonesia.

The $75 single-entry visa allows visitors to reside in Indonesia for six months at a time and is a favourite among digital nomads working in remote jobs. However, while foreigners can apply for a new visa again and again after a six-month period, they may face scrutiny from immigration authorities if they repeat this process too often.

For those who travel frequently outside Indonesia, the $150 multiple-entry visa may be the way to go. This one is valid for 12 months and allows foreigners to stay in Indonesia for up to 60 days per visit. However, the multiple-entry visa can only be sponsored by Indonesian companies.

The limited-stay permit (ITAS/KITAS) from $73 is the best option for foreigners who want to live in Bali for a number of years. The permit lasts for two years and allows for in-country extensions, as well as all the travel anyone could ever want.

Sponsors or foreign nationals must apply for a visa through the Indonesian government's online visa approval application process.

Aussie tax implications

If you're an Aussie resident for tax purposes, you'll still need to declare all of your worldwide income in your Australian income tax return, according to the Australian Taxation Office. However, if you've already paid tax in Indonesia on this income, you may be entitled to a foreign income tax offset based on the tax you've already paid in Indonesia to help reduce the tax you'd need to pay in Australia.

Storing your stuff

Can't bear to sell off your furniture at home? Or maybe you've got boxes and boxes of sentimental items that you'd like to keep in Australia. A storage unit may be the solution, but it'll cost. Prices range from $50 to $1,000 a month depending on how much stuff you have.

Where can you work in Bali?

With more and more Aussies packing up their homes to head to Bali to work the nomadic lifestyle in the wake of COVID, expats would easily fit in with a remote job. But, for those looking for local work, there are plenty of opportunities - from English teachers to yoga and scuba diving instructors to a role in the hospitality industry.

JobStreet by Seek has a host of jobs going in Bali, including an area manager for a digital tech company, a head distiller for a Bali-based distillery, and a travel consultant.

The verdict

Going by her figures, McGrath and her family are living a very comfortable lifestyle in Bali but they're also paying top dollar for it.

If you're thinking of relocating to the famed holiday island, it's clearly very possible to do so on a much tighter budget and still live very comfortably.

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