10 things I know about…moving to Bali

10 things I know about moving to Bali - our special guest Lisa McLean shares her wisdom

Today we have the very funny and very wise Lisa Wilson – aka Sawhole (don’t worry, she’s explains that below) sharing with us what she knows about packing up the family and moving to Bali. Don’t read this and tell me you’re not at least tempted…

When we announced in 2013 we were moving to Bali, the universal consensus was that we were insane.

People asked if there would be schools, they were worried about terrorists and, strangely, someone thought we were going to live in the infamous Bali jail because we had a house at Kerobokan.

Others felt betrayed and abandoned, whereas the more excited booked us in for catch ups on 66 Beach at Legian.

Ever fantasised about packing up and moving to Bali? Lisa McLean has done it, here she shares how easy it is - and how wonderful!

But we pushed on regardless. Here’s what we learnt:

  1. You can get whatever you want in Bali (except Violet Crumbles and decent, cheap wine). There are international schools, bilingual schools and local schools. Some of the hospitals are good and the medical specialists can be educated and professional. Ask around for recommendations. You can even get Vegemite if you are willing to part with 140,000 IDR (about $14 AUD). Sunscreen can be more than $20 AUD as well. This is where care packages from visitors can be handy. Hint. Hint.
  2. The traffic is far worse than anything you will see on Parramatta Road in Sydney. Hazards are everywhere and there is always someone pulling out from the side of the road and not looking. You will see kids on motorbikes, especially in places near Jimbaran, and sometimes they will have no helmet. You have to concentrate 100% when driving or riding over here. There’s no time to yell at the radio like you would when listening to Kyle and Jackie O in Australia.
  3. There will be unexpected costs. You need a visa to live here if you are Australian. If you are on a social visa, you will have to leave the country every six months to renew it. In our case, this usually means a 6am flight to Singapore, handing over $520 AUD to our immigration agent, and booking a hotel because we have an eight-year-old. It’s too much to ask her to be at Bali airport at 4am and then fly home from Singapore later that evening. The hotel can cost upwards of $200 AUD and then you have to entertain yourselves while you wait for your visa agent. This costs. There are also monthly costs to maintain the visa and you will need to be interviewed and fingerprinted at immigration at Tuban. It’s their country; their rules. I found housing almost always costs more than you budgeted for when you were planning the move. We pay about $1000 a month for a two-bedroom villa with a pool but, at one point, paid $1500 a month because the villa was in Seminyak, an upmarket area. You also have to pay for your lease upfront and this is usually for one year. So be very careful who you deal with and get a proper, written contract.
  4. If you have kids, school fees will be the biggest expense ($5000 to $20,000 AUD per student). That said, there’s a school here for every child. You can even have your child schooled at someone’s home by a qualified teacher if costs are prohibitive.
  5. You can watch the footy and cricket anywhere in Bali, so don’t fret. Sports bars are everywhere on the island. You can keep up with Aussie news and current affairs easily and a day-old copy of The Sydney Morning Herald can be obtained on the beach from a seller.
  6. It is a tropical climate but compared to the rest of South East Asia and Northern Australia, it is much more tolerable. The rainy season is lovely, everything is so lush and green.
  7. You will get sick, just as you do at home. I got a nasty case of bronchitis in Sydney in June. Here it has mostly been tummy bugs (no surprise). Antibiotics are available over the counter in Bali and you can sometimes walk straight in without an appointment and see your doctor. How good is that??? Expat health insurance, which is different to travel insurance, is essential here, unless you have enough money to medically evacuate yourself home. Also from what I hear, some of the big hospitals here charge like wounded bulls, so insurance is again essential. You can easily get knocked over by or off a motorcycle. There are also holes in footpaths everywhere, so be careful.
  8. You may not want to go back to Australia. We were meant to go back last October but I could not face it. Our Bali adventure was not over. There was nothing wrong with our life in Newcastle, it’s just that we like living here more.
  9. You need to take responsibility for yourself and your family. It really is a case of buyer beware and I have heard so many cases of people losing their life savings over here. Be careful who you trust, use due diligence, don’t overcommit and you can’t go wrong.
  10. Bali can be better than you imagine. Although just coming here will not automatically mean that you will become a free spirited guru (if you have issues at home you will need to work on them here just as much as you would have to in Australia). Although you can choose your own adventure. You can become that guru, beach bum, bar fly, international jetsetter or small business owner.

It’s all up to you.

Any questions? Contact me on Twitter @SawHole and I will try and help.


Lisa McLean aka SawholeSawHole is an unfortunate nickname. Instead of fighting it, I embraced it.

This is how it started –  my real name is Lisa. Yet I became Leesaw. Sawrie and then SawHole. I am the self-appointed Newcastle High Commissioner to Bali and can be found at various eating houses and bars across the island. My greatest achievement to date was being named the winner of the Lithgow Baby Show in 1974.  

Want more? I blog at SawHole Says www.sawhole.blogspot.com.

Written By

Carolyn is the editorial director of Champagne Cartel and a freelance writer. In her spare time she is a long-distance runner, peanut butter enthusiast, and single mum to three incredible humans.


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