Having lived and worked in Bali myself for over 23 years, I have met many people from different areas of Bali, each chose their area due to their own personal preferences, personal habits, interests, and the social scene they enjoy.
In this guide, I have tried to put together things to consider when choosing where to retire in Bali. It's important you find a suitable area that matches your individual interests, habits, and activities. It’s important to remember; in the South of Bali it’s never too far to get from one place to another (traffic permitting) so for example, if you wanted to play golf once a week then you don’t need to live on the South Peninsula however if you were planning on playing 3 or 4 times a week you might be looking at settling closer to the golf courses on the South Peninsula!
It’s all dependent on your personal habits and desires. If you ride a motorbike then a highly congested area might not be a problem for you, if you have kids, then near a good International school might be a high priority. If you surf; then a surf break nearby might be important. If you like to be at one with nature and away from the maddening crowds then the jungle or a more remote location might be your best choice. Bali really has everything to suit every taste and you're never a million miles away from another place that you are not able to go there and visit.
The whole idea of Bali Insight Living is to give potential retirees an insight into living in Bali by trialing the Bali lifestyle. We give our clients an opportunity to move around different locations and really decide which one they most prefer before making any long-term commitment to retiring in Bali. We carefully select accommodation in secure clusters where they will meet similar like-minded expatriates.
We know that living in Bali is totally different from holidaying in Bali and an important consideration is that you don’t want to necessarily settle in a highly populated tourist area, with a transient crowd, where you are not going to make those same long terms friends and relationships and the cost of living will be considerably higher with Tourist prices.
Our Retire to Bali Survey results from 2021 showed that from our demographic, of mostly over 55 years of age, the following destinations in order of ranking were the most popular in Bali:
3. Nusa Dua
9. Other outlying areas of Uluwatu, Bukit Peninsula, Candi Dasa – North Bali, and west Bali
Sanur Beach Picture
Sanur generally attracts the older or family-orientated crowd and is where the Sun rises in Bali. Sanur has a 6 km long boardwalk of which a lot is sheltered by the trees. The beach is also sheltered by the reef and when the tide is in an excellent place to swim with no waves. As you stroll along the beachfront you may enjoy an array of beachfront markets, local warungs, and restaurants. Often referred to as “SNORE” by the many expat locals, the nightlife is limited, but the village vibe with an up-and-coming foodie scene offers an excellent choice and value compared to other areas of Bali. Easily accessible with the bypass running South to Nusa Dua and connecting Kuta, Legian, and Seminyak and just 25 minutes from Ubud. Sanur offers an international standard supermarket and a variety of Delis. Sanur is host to the recently completed Mandala Hospital and current developments to further enhance the surroundings are; the new “Mayo Clinic” international hospital on the site of the former golf course and a large beachfront shopping mall (Icon Mall)as well as a new Marina.
If you are looking for a slower, unpretentious pace of life then Sanur could be your best choice to plant your feet in the soft golden sands whilst enjoying the fresh sea breezes during your retirement in Bali.
Seminyak Boat House Shops Picture
Seminyak is a real favourite for the tourists and has an amazing choice of trendy restaurants and bars, beach clubs, clubs, boutique-style shopping. If dining out, crowds and partying is your scene then Seminyak is probably the place for you. The Seminyak beach stretches for miles and with its compacted sand makes it a perfect place for exercising stretching to the airport in the South and Echo Beach and beyond in the North. Conveniently located at the end of Sunset Road, Seminyak has a famous supermarket called Bintang where you can get most conveniences and is accessible to most other popular destinations; however once in Seminyak and heading north towards Canggu, Berawa, and Pererenan, the infrastructure is lacking with small streets and alleys causing easy traffic build-up.
If you are into being in the centre of all the action, with all the hustle and bustle and enjoy eating out and socialising and scooting around on a motorbike, then Seminyak is possibly the most suitable place for you to settle in your retirement.
3. Nusa Dua- Tanjung Benoa - Bukit
Nusa Dua and Tanjung Benoa to the North boast long white sandy beaches with protected inlets for swimming and snorkeling. A long boardwalk in front of all the 5-star hotels stretches for over 10 km enabling you to take in the fresh sea air. The Bali Collection, a shopping and dining complex within the Nusa Dua complex caters to the 5-star tourists of Nusa Dua. Although Tanjung Benoa has a strip of restaurants; most restaurants are located within the 5-star hotels and are very popular for their weekend brunches amongst the expats. Nusa Dua also boasts an award-winning 18 Hole golf course and is also within easy reach of two other golf courses (Pandawa and New Kuta). Nusa Dua also boasts BIMC, an International Standard hospital, and is easily accessible on the bypass or Mandara Toll road to other tourist destinations.
If you are into golf and quiet days on the sun-drenched white sands and cooking a home-cooked meal in your villa or apartment then perhaps Nusa Dua is a perfect location for you to settle for your retirement in Bali.
Over the years it’s been difficult to sometimes distinguish the borders between Kuta, Legian, and Seminyak. Legian is a favourite with the Australian tourists; and although might be considered a bit more down-market than Seminyak, boasts an excellent golden sandy beach with the Beachwalk, a popular beachfront shopping mall. A warren of small roads leads both westwards from the beach and north to south. After 23 years living in Bali, it was only during the pandemic on a bicycle that I discovered this intriguing side to Bali with an abundance of homestays, tattoo parlours, bars, restaurants, and art shops, and a lot more yet to discover.
If you are looking to be in the centre of the hustle and bustle and with stunning sunsets, an array of mid-range eateries, bars and clubs then perhaps Legian is the place you should choose for your retirement.
Ubud is seen as the “arts” centre of Bali with its’ rich culture, art museums, traditional artisans, and tropical rain forests, Ubud offers a cooler climate. Once popular with the “hippy” set, further accentuated by the Movie “Eat, Pray, Love” Ubud attracts an abundance of tourists following the trail to find their inner selves with yoga, plant-based diets, and healthy living options. There are still areas that offer stunning views across un-touched tropical ravines; although rapidly being dwarfed by new construction projects. Ubud, and even the drive there, with its stunning scenery, really makes you feel like you are taken back in time to the old Bali and gives you an appreciation of what it must have been like. Ubud boasts a popular Culinary scene with some world-class restaurants offering more attractive pricing than high-class restaurants of Seminyak or Canggu.
Once a popular centre for expats, Ubud’s small streets have become more congested with coach loads of day-trippers causing congestion and forcing a few established expats away. The heavy price of progression experienced anywhere.
If you are looking to experience the real Bali, prepared to live a little bit more remote (a little away from the centre) therefore probably self-drive and sometimes put up with more "rustic" and traditional styled accommodation, then Ubud could certainly be your pick for your retirement in Bali.
Canggu Beach Picture
Not so long ago, a few kilometers north of Seminyak, Canggu was but ricefields. Today it’s a different story. It’s probably the No 1 tourist hotspot. Canggu has seen a property boom with ever-increasing land prices and the disappearance of those beautiful paddy fields adding to the ever-increasing congestion. Even during the pandemic, there was little evidence of anything untoward with a constant buzz in the air. Canggu has boomed and is dominated by a younger expat scene of digital nomads, swarming the abundant co-working spaces, funky and hip eateries, bars, and clubs. Canggu has a different vibe however the lack of infrastructure makes a motorbike the most appealing option as a mode of getting around. Canggu’s black sandy beaches are famous for their surf and some popular beach clubs from which to watch the amazing sunsets.
If you are looking to stay forever young, pamper yourself in one of a multitude of Spas, be seen in the hippest of places, and party the night away, then Canggu might be the place for you where anything goes and you don’t even seem to have to wear a mask or a helmet when out on your bike!
Kuta was one of the first places developed for Tourism in Bali. From Kuta’s first hotel, just south of the existing Hard Rock Hotel nothing had developed North of Kuta and Kuta was it. Kuta is a famous tourist destination, particularly popular with Australians for its relaxed atmosphere, perfect surf breaks for learning to surf, long white sandy beaches, and a warren of small streets back from the beach, including the famous Poppies Lane, all filled with value homestays, art shops, tattoo shops, massage parlours, and bars, restaurants and clubs filled normally to the brim with tourists. BIMC and Siloam Hospital are both within close proximity to Kuta and several Pepito /Popular supermarkets offer the basic needs at a premium price.
If you are looking to live amongst the hustle and bustle of Kuta, enjoy a laid-back lifestyle, sensibly priced food and drink, as well as enjoy amazing sunsets on the Kuta Beach, then perhaps Kuta is the best choice for your retirement.
Jimbaran Bay Sunset Picture
Jimbaran is synonymous with its’ long white sandy beach, seafood restaurants, and seafood markets. Still possessing that “fishing village” feel, Jimbaran still possesses that heartbeat of traditional Balinese life continuing on and not just something put on for the tourists. Not as developed as Kuta, Legian or Seminyak, Jimbaran has somehow managed to maintain that traditional charm and lack of development with its traditional market as a centerpiece of the village life. A few international standard restaurants and 5-star beach clubs stand out from the many overpriced (for what you get) beachfront warungs that attract 1000’s of tourists at sunset each day. Jimbaran boasts a great “boutique” supermarket with international produce and a great restaurant. BIMC Hospital is easily accessible just a few Kilometers to the north in Kuta or to the South in Nusa Dua.
If you are looking for a more laid-back lifestyle with a mixture of modern amenities mixed in with tradition and culture, an amazing white sandy beach, and beachfront warungs to enjoy a beer with your feet in the sand at sunset then maybe Jimbaran is a good choice for your retirement in Bali.
9. Outer lying areas of Bali
As Bali rapidly expands and with the talk of new infrastructure with the North-South toll road and ring road for the Bukit Peninsula some places that might seem a long way away today might be very accessible in a few more years. In the 23 years, I have lived in Bali, The Bukit Peninsula has changed beyond recognition, mini villages have sprung up with some chic little eateries and bars. If you choose to be more remote, prefer to be more isolated and at one with nature and are prepared to stock up at regular intervals on essentials so you don’t go hungry, have your own transport so you can get around (tolerating the Bali road rules that is!) then there are a lot of advantages in living in non-tourist areas being at one with nature and living a much cheaper and simpler existence.
Bali Insight Living is focusing on assisting potential retirees to settle into the Bali Lifestyle with a personalised and tailored set of services to match the needs of our clients.
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