A visit to Bali will change your life. No, seriously. It changed ours.
It was on our first trip to Bali in 2012. We were lounging by the pool when suddenly Sasha said:
“I don’t want to leave. Why do we have to leave?”
“Because we have jobs and a nice apartment in Beijing.”
“What if we didn’t have those things?”
This happens to many people who visit the Island of the Gods.
I can’t tell you how many people we met there who were ready to cancel their flight, quit their job and set up shop in Bali.
Unfortunately, the powers that be don’t make this easy to do with their visa regulations. Sure, most visitors will get 30 days free on arrival, but that’s it. With the free visa, you’re not even allowed to extend it. Sorry if you found bliss in Bali; it’s time to leave.
This post is meant to show you your visa options for staying (semi) long-term in Bali.
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Tourist and Social-Cultural Visa
I stayed in Bali for 8 months, only having to leave the country once. For those who are interested in a semi-long-term stay in Bali but are concerned with visa issues, here’s how I did it:
Tourist Visa on Arrival
As of October 2015, people from more than 140 countries are allowed 30-day visa-free stays. All you get is a stamp in your passport.
However, this can not be converted or extended. If you plan to stay longer than 30 days, you should purchase a Visa on Arrival (VOA) for $35 USD.
This can be extended for another 30 days with a trip to immigration. This is what I did for my first two months in Bali. You can do it yourself or you can pay an agent to do it for you.
When you arrive at the airport tell them you would like to pay for the VOA. You will likely get some funny looks since you are able to enter for free. Simply tell them that you plan to stay for longer than 30 days.
You will pay at the first counter and take the receipt to the officer checking passports and voila! You will have your visa in your passport.
Extending it yourself requires three trips to the immigration office; the first time to submit all necessary documents, the second time to pay, take photos and fingerprints, and the third time to collect your passport. The cost is 355,000 IDR. You will need:
- the extension application
- your flight itinerary showing when you plan to leave the country
- a copy of your passport photo page and the entry stamp
Agents usually charge 650,000 IDR for their services. Using their services only eliminates the first and third steps. You will still need to go to immigration for photos and fingerprinting. I did the extension myself and I never spent longer than 45 minutes at immigration. The earlier you arrive and the more prepared you are, the less time it takes.
Be sure to dress appropriately. This is a government office, after all. You’d be surprised at how many people I saw there wearing tank tops, board shorts, and flip flops. I even saw one dude who was totally barefoot! Show up like you’re going surfing, and don’t be amazed if your application gets denied.
Visa Run to Singapore for a Social-Cultural Visa
When my first two visas expired, I headed to Singapore to get a Social-Cultural visa. Some people do this trip in one day, flying to Singapore on the earliest flight and coming back to Bali in the evening. This is only possible if you pay an agent quite a bit of money.
As far as I know, Singapore is the only place you can get the same-day Indonesian visa. It’s not possible in Kuala Lumpur. For the same amount of money you pay the agent you can spend two days exploring the city-state.
It takes two working days to get the visa yourself. If you speak to an agent about this they will lie to you and tell you it takes longer in order to persuade you to use their services. Don’t be fooled!
I booked a round-trip flight from Bali to Singapore with Air Asia for $114 USD (no checked bags). I departed Bali at the earliest time possible, around 6:30 am on a Monday, and left Singapore on Wednesday evening, around 8 pm.
I went straight from the airport to immigration. This is crucial as applications are only accepted until 12:00 noon. I had all the necessary documents – application (link here), a letter from my sponsor, a copy of my sponsor’s ID, two passport photos with white background, and a copy of my itinerary confirming my flight back to Bali.
Check the Indonesian embassy’s website for a full list of requirements. The fee for the Socio-Cultural visa in Singapore is $63 SGD ($47 USD). I took a number and only had to wait for about 10 minutes before it was called. I paid the fee, they gave me my receipt and I was on my way.
DO NOT LOSE THE RECEIPT!! The collection process was even easier, with no waiting at all.
Make sure you are wearing the proper attire. They will not allow you inside the building if you are not dressed according to their dress code.
I had an amazing time exploring this Asian metropolis while waiting for my visa. Stay tuned for a post about what I did with my two days there.
Before you travel to Bali, make sure you’re covered with travel insurance. We use and recommend SafetyWing, a company that specializes in providing insurance for travelers and digital nomads. Click here to check it out and sign up for just $42 for 4 weeks.
Back to Bali for 6 Months of Uninterrupted Exploring
A Social-Cultural visa initially gives you 60 days in the country. After that, it can be extended up to four times for 30 days per extension. This allows you a total stay of 6 months without having to leave. It is only single-entry, so if you do leave the country it will be canceled.
The process for extending your Social-Cultural visa is similar to extending the VOA (see above) except that it requires a few more documents. You should be able to get the documents from your sponsor.
You will need:
- the extension application
- the Surat Permintaan Dan Jaminan Form
- the Surat Permintaan Dan Jaminan Form 2
- the Materai stamp affixed to the bottom right of the first form with your sponsor’s signature on top (must be on top of the stamp)
- a copy of your photo page in your passport
- a copy of your first visa
- a copy of the page with your entry stamp
- a copy of each extension stamp if this is not your first
You only need to take photos and fingerprints for your first extension, making the last three extensions a little faster. As of January 1, 2016, your sponsor is required to be present for the application process.
I did all my extensions myself with relative ease. I had a wonderful sponsor who isn’t an agent, she’s a visa consultant. I highly recommend using a visa consultant if you can find one as they’re easier to work with and more affordable.
Study in Bali
One surefire way to stay in Bali for well over a month is to study there. By signing up for a semester or even a full year to study the language or something cultural like dance, you’ll get a residence permit for the duration of your stay and not have to worry about all of the visa runs and extensions. Here are your best bets for enrolling in an educational program in Bali:
Every year, the government of Indonesia sponsors over 700 people from around the world to come and study the language and culture. Most of the participating universities are located on Java, but there are also a few in Sumatra and a handful in Bali.
This is a scholarship program, meaning your tuition and residence permit are totally paid for. You even get a monthly stipend (around $200) to help with living expenses. Applications are usually due sometime in February, results go out in late May or early June, and you arrive in Indonesia at the end of August.
Sasha joined the program for the 2015-2016 school year at Udayana University in Bali and wrote a post about his experience and how to apply, so check it out if you’re interested. There are other schools in Bali that participate where you can study music or dance, so be sure to research which programs are offered and where they take place before applying, as you only get one choice.
If you don’t get into the Darmasiswa program or you’d rather have a sure thing than hope and wait to see if you made the cut, you can still study in Bali through the Asia Exchange program. This program is also based at Udayana, and they’ve recently added additional courses at Warmadewa University.
You pay for this program yourself (around $1900 USD per semester at Udayana and $1600 at Warmadewa), but you definitely get more out of it. In all honesty, nobody takes the Darmasiswa program that seriously. If you are truly interested in learning a lot about the Indonesian language and culture, you’ll get your money’s worth by doing the Asia Exchange program.
Retire in Bali
Bali is a very popular destination for retirees, especially from Australia. With warm weather all year and a low cost of living, it’s no wonder many choose to spend their golden years here. As a couple who just turned 30, retirement isn’t quite on our radar yet, so we’re not the best people to ask about this.
What we do know is that as long as you’re over 55 and can show proof of an income of at least $1,500 plus insurance, you can apply for a retirement visa. Retirement is many years ahead of us, but Bali is already one of our top choices.
With its sandy beaches, beautiful temples, towering volcanoes, delicious cuisine, and vibrant culture, it’s no wonder so many people fall in love with Bali.
They don’t exactly make it easy on you to stay beyond the month that’s given to you on arrival, but with a bit of research and planning it’s possible to spend the better part of a year thereby making a few trips to the immigration office and a visa run or two.
We had an incredible experience living in Bali for almost a year, and we’re happy to help you do the same if it’s something you’re interested in.
Feel free to leave a comment below if you have any other questions about relocating to the Island of the Gods!
Rachel & Sasha 🙂