In 2018, over 15 million tourists visited Indonesia1, and you can bet that a lot of them wished they could stay for longer. Living in Bali is like being in paradise. Diving in the Gili Islands is among the best in the world. Standing among 8th century Borobudur Temple Compounds feels otherworldly. With a diverse and rich culture and beautiful natural sites, it’s not a hard sell to explore what the world’s largest archipelago has to offer. Whether you already live and work in Indonesia or want to know how, this article will help you explore your living and working options and requirements for long-term stays.
Where to live in Indonesia:
If you plan to live and work in Indonesia, there are a few places that stand out.
Bali is a popular and well-known destination for retirees, expats, and digital nomads. Living in Bali can seem like a dream come true with its tropical weather, breathtaking nature, and relaxed lifestyle. A long-term stay allows you to explore hidden gems and truly get to know Balinese culture. There are many major cities on the island, such as Canggu, Sanur, and Ubud on the southern coast, which are popular among expats. Connecting with other foreigners and finding familiar amenities is easy if you find yourself missing home.
Other common destinations are Jakarta, Bandung, and Yogyakarta on Java. Jakarta is notorious for traffic jams worse than LA. But, as the capital city and business center of Indonesia, it can be easier for foreigners to find jobs compared to touristic places like Bali, according to an ALO7 tutor who lives and works in Indonesia. If you choose to work from home, Jakarta is an excellent choice for a home base as you have access to reliable internet and get to skip the commute! Bandung and Yogyakarta are big cities on the island as well but offer more peace, quiet, and less traffic than the capital.
Cost of Living in Indonesia:
Regardless of where you decide to go, the cost of living in Indonesia is much lower compared to big cities in the US or Europe. Monthly rent for a studio in Canggu, Bali, for example, is less than $400 USD per month.2 Prices can be much higher or lower depending on the city and your level of comfort.
There are many options for both short and long-term stays in Indonesia. Our Indonesian resident ALO7 tutor says there are plenty of cheap rooms, guesthouses, apartments, and even shared villas that can make your stay very comfortable. Before renting a long-term residence, it’s a good idea to book a short stay at an Airbnb or guest house so you can check the location first. Otherwise, you might be in for an unpleasant surprise when you find out you’re staying far away from the city or don’t have reliable internet access for work.
Dining out can be very affordable as well, with local fare costing as little as $1 USD. Fine dining is available and costs considerably less than a white tablecloth restaurant in the US or Europe. Of course, you can always cook your own meals, but with the delicious variety of Indonesian food, you may find yourself eating out often! While worrying about your wallet is less of an issue, you may find yourself on the lookout for a gym.
If you are moving with your family, many of the Indonesian cities mentioned here have international schools from which to choose. These schools range in their offerings, but there are schools available that offer the international baccalaureate IB program for students.
Ease of Working Online in Indonesia
Another reason Indonesia makes an attractive place to relocate is the ease of internet access. Working as an online ESL teacher with a company like ALO7 is a great way to add to your income while you’re abroad. And your money can go far due to the low cost of living in Indonesia and not having the expenses associated with commuting to work. However, not all countries make working online easy due to limited or unreliable internet. This is less of a problem in Indonesia. The larger cities mentioned in this article have reliable and fast internet providers. The 4G network is widely available, and data plans are cheap, so connecting while away from your apartment or cafe is no problem.
A bonus if you teach ESL online to Chinese students while living in Bali or another Indonesian city is the time difference. Indonesia is in the same timezone as China and also does not observe daylight savings time. Therefore, your schedule remains consistent year-round and you don’t have to wake up at the crack of dawn like US-based tutors. Meanwhile, you still have the rest of your day to do other work, travel, or spend quality time with family.
If you are feeling a little stir crazy sitting in your apartment all day, coworking spaces are becoming more popular in Indonesia. Coworking spaces in Jakarta or Bali give you the opportunity to talk and connect with others. Some are open 24/7 or have private rooms, which is great if you need to teach a few ESL classes in a quiet place. Renting a private room every evening can get expensive, but it’s a good alternative if you find out upon arrival that your Airbnb doesn’t have a good connection!
It’s important to keep in mind that parts of the country are still developing so not all places are suitable for working online. The further you get away from the major cities, the less reliable infrastructure, like roads, electricity and internet access will likely be.
Visa requirements for Indonesia
Visiting Indonesia is very easy as the majority of countries around the world can receive a free 30-day visa when you arrive in the country. However, if you plan to stay longer, you need to do some more planning.
One option is a Visa on Arrival, which costs $35 USD. You can get this visa in advance or when you land at the airport. Citizens from North America, Australia, and most European countries are eligible for this visa. It is valid for 30 days and can be renewed for an additional 30 days for $35.
If you’d like to stay even longer in Indonesia, one option is the Sosial Budaya Visa. This visa allows you to stay for 60 days and can be renewed for 30 days each time, for a maximum stay of six months. For this visa, you will need a sponsorship letter from an Indonesian citizen or work with a visa agent. For the most up-to-date information on this kind of visa, visit the Indonesian Immigration department website.
Other long-term options include a work or residency permit, but these have specific requirements. You can apply if you are a high-level employee for an Indonesian business, an investor, retiree over 55 years old, or married to an Indonesian national.
With its low cost of living, reliable infrastructure in the cities and relatively easy visa requirements, there is little to keep you from finding a second home in Indonesia. Online ESL teachers will especially find it an ideal location. If you are already employed in the country, online teaching can offer additional income, while a digital nomad can take advantage of the evening work hours and have the rest of the day for adventure. This article has highlighted only a few of the many locations Indonesia has to offer. With over 6,000 inhabited islands, you are sure to find one that fits your needs and lifestyle.
1 “Indonesia: Number of International Visitor Arrivals 2018.” Statista. Accessed August 26, 2019. https://www.statista.com/statistics/707633/number-of-international-visitor-arrivals-in-indonesia/.
2 “Cost of Living in Canggu in Aug 2019.” Nomad List, July 20, 2019. https://nomadlist.com/cost-of-living/canggu.
I started teaching English abroad after graduating from Wheaton College in Norton, Massachusetts with a degree in English Literature. Although I originally planned to teach in Cambodia for a year, I discovered I had a passion for helping students around the world achieve their academic, professional and personal goals through language learning. I’ve been an Alo7 tutor since April 2017 and am currently living in South America.
I am Chinese-Japanese American, but sadly, I’m not trilingual. I grew up in a relatively “Western” household–no Tiger Moms but plenty of fried rice and a healthy dose of Asian guilt. My favorite part of English teaching is getting the opportunity to learn about my students’ daily lives, traditions and customs, so I’m very excited to be writing about Chinese culture on the Alo7 blog!