First impressions of Ubud, Bali, Indonesia Bali / Indonesia / Travel

Bali is amazing! In many respects, it has exceeded my expectations, while in others, I’m a bit disappointed. But despite its flaws, and even though we’ve only been here a week, and we’ve only partially explored one town, I think we’ve found where we want to settle for the next year or two. Ubud has been dubbed the cultural and art center of Bali and has so much to offer those who visit and live here. It’s a small town, but it has so many of the things that are important to us, from being surrounded in nature, to an interesting culture and amazing food, to seemingly progressive people and lots of learning opportunities (I’ve never seen so many yoga and meditation class advertisements). Yes, it’s a bit hippie, but I think that adds to its charm.

The view we enjoy daily

Of course, our desire to stay here has probably been helped along by the fact we’re spending the month in a luxury villa overlooking rice fields, with our own private chef (incredible food!), housekeeper, nanny, and occasionally, a driver. I’m in absolute heaven in this beautiful house, and I only wish we could stay here permanently. Fortunately, there are an abundance of options in Ubud for both short and long-term furnished rentals, many of them including service staff, pools, and amazing views for reasonable rates.

The villa we're staying at in Ubud, Bali

I continue to be in awe of the natural beauty that surrounds this town, the friendliness and smiles of the people here, the high quality of service I receive everywhere I go, the ornate temples and intricate architecture visible at every turn, the Hindu and Balinese rituals constantly being performed around town, the delicious and varied food, and the low prices on almost everything. Food is even cheaper than in Penang, Malaysia, in many cases, although Internet is slow and very expensive.

Here are some examples of prices, estimated to their USD equivalent at the current exchange rate of about 9100 rupees to the dollar:

  • Magnum ice cream bars (our favorite premium ice cream snack) are less than $1 USD here. We’ve seen them for $2.50-$5.00 in Malaysia and Singapore. (Not sure what they cost in the states, as they’re fairly new there).
  • Men’s haircut: 76 cents USD. (rp 7000)
  • 1-hour massage: $6-15 (and these are very good massages!)
  • Our chef bought a whole live chicken for about $5 which she cooked for us that same day. (By the way, she does all our grocery shopping for us, too. So nice!)
  • 10 organic chicken eggs: $2.15 cents
  • 1/2 kilo (1 lb) of avocado: 70 cents
  • 1 kilo (2.2 lbs) of zuccini: $1.40
  • 1 kilo of Tomato: 86 cents
  • Fresh baguette: 85 cents
  • You might pay $3-6/plate at a nice restaurant with a great atmosphere and amazing food, although we haven’t eaten at very many yet because of our incredible in-house chef, Ketut.
  • A full-time nanny or housekeeper might cost around $100-150/month USD.
  • However, you may pay $75/month for a 1mb Internet connection and $150/month for a 2mb connection, and you’ll often only get half the speed you pay for as it’s a shared connection. If you want a dedicated 2mb connection, expect to pay over $400/month, and it’s only available in some areas. Ouch!

Fresh mint juice and broccoli. Mmm...

Besides the slow Internet, the biggest down side for me has got to be the roads. Wow. It’s chaotic! I thought I got used to crazy roads in Costa Rica and Penang, but they were nothing like this. Yes, there are pot holes and narrow roads with no sidewalks and pedestrians and dogs everywhere, but there are also swarms of motorbikes constantly trying to overtake someone, and so little room to squeeze though without hitting something or someone, and very few of the drivers seem to be paying attention. I’m also driving a clutch on the left hand side of the road, which I guess I’m still getting used to. There are a few two-lane roads that have been converted to one-lane, one-way roads, which are okay. But it’s still scary to be a driver or a pedestrian on most of the other roads. I do not like driving here. It’s a white knuckle ride every time. So I think I will employ a driver when we find a long-term place.

Typical side street in Ubud

The other downsides for me are small things like mosquitos (I’m being eaten alive!) but you’ll find those just about everywhere that’s green. Also, there is quite a bit of garbage lying about. Some beautiful areas on the side of the road have been turned into neighborhood garbage dumps. I assume there is some sort of garbage collection and disposal service here, but it looks like it could use some improvement. And despite the apparent poverty of some of the people here, most seem genuinely happy. But this is definitely wild country. There are no perfectly manicured streets like Singapore and no massive shopping malls like Malaysia. Actually, I think there are some malls near the beach towns, but that’s over an hour away. And I’m okay with that. I prefer real nature. It feeds my soul.

One other thing that held me back from wanting to live here was the visa requirements, which I thought required us to leave every 30 or 60 days. But it sounds like it’s possible to apply for a 60 day visa which you can extend each month for up to 6 months. I don’t fancy standing in lines to renew visas each month, but I do like the idea of being able to stay here for 6 months without having to fly to another country for paperwork.

Intricate fences and temples are everywhere

We’re still getting oriented in many ways, and are still planning to go to Japan in April, but probably won’t stay as long as we thought. We’re ready to settle down for a while, as we’ve been traveling at a pretty fast pace for the past few months. We’ve started taking daily lessons to learn the language, Bahasa Indonesia, and hope to meet some more friends here soon.

We also looked into a couple of interesting schools here, which I hadn’t heard of before, but which are apparently quite famous for their pioneering of more environmentally focused education: Green School and Pelangi School. We’re still not sure if we’ll send our kids to a school or continue homeschooling them. We’re really enjoying homeschooling, but we think the kids might benefit from the chance to mingle more with other kids and other adults on a regular basis, work in groups, and have a more structured schedule. But if not, there are plenty of classes like art and dance they could take in the community. We’re still weighing our options.

Green school campus

We’re also excited that my mom will be coming to visit us at the villa next week! The kids are counting down the days until Grandma comes. We plan to have a lot of fun with her, as well as spend time just relaxing, which is one thing that Bali makes very easy, as long as you’re not driving.

Brandon is a location independent entrepreneur, musician, worldschooling father, and the principal author of this blog. He's all about reaching his potential and enjoying life to the fullest in each moment.


  1. I can’t wait to explore this beautiful country with you. I still can hardly believe I’ll be there within the week….

    And looking at the girls leaping into the pool makes me smile. Remember how terrified they were of water? The screaming and crying at the thought of swimming alone in a pool? I love how they (and you) are embracing life’s experiences with abandon.

  2. Such beautiful pictures… I love your new camera :)

    That place looks so magnificent. It seems like such a relaxing and grounding country to live in (and visit). Are you enrolling the girls in some yoga classes? That would be great! I’ve actually thought about getting Kennedy and myself into some yoga.

    Maid? Cook? Nanny? Driver? Pool?? I will do all of those things for you. And you don’t even have to pay me. Just let me live with you.

  3. Kristin Says: March 6, 2012 at 9:39 pm

    What a fabulous house! The area looks so beautiful. I’m glad you are enjoying it there. Strange, and disappointing about the piles of trash…

    Darling picture of Marie with her Mint. I had to laugh because when I first read “Fresh Mint Juice & Broccoli”, I didn’t notice the broccoli on the plate. I was trying to figure out why anyone would want to make a drink out of mint & broccoli! :)

    I look forward to hearing more and seeing more pictures.

  4. Wow wow wow! What a beautiful place! You are living a dream life Brandon. It’s an inspiration to all of us, calling us to raise our sites and embrace adventure now. I love experiencing these areas through your eyes. What an awesome experience for your kids!
    Allison is super excited about the trip. The room you have saved for her is perfect!!
    I acknowledge you for some of the difficult decisions you have made in the last couple of years. I see the expansiveness that has come into your life as a result. INSPIRING !! Enjoy…

    • Thanks Margie! You’re so sweet. We’re so glad my mom could join us down here, too.

      We’re also happy for the changes that have come into our lives and are thoroughly enjoying life as we try to grow even more. Thanks for all you do.

  5. US Prices: Magnum Ice Cream Bars
    Suggested retail price: $3.99 for a box of three bars

  6. Jennifer Pearce Says: March 6, 2012 at 11:10 pm

    It is so nice to be back to nature again. Loving the help. Loving the culture and community. Loving the food. Not loving the driving or the mosquitoes, but who says paradise has to be perfect? Seems like a great place to settle down for a while. :)

  7. What a great post! The place where you are staying is wonderful! We are kind of following behind you (now in Costa Rica) and will be in Thailand and Malaysia in 2 years… I am quite disappointed to hear that Internet is so expensive (we need a fast and reliable connexion for our work)… maybe it will be different in two years! It looks so gorgeous!

    • Yes, the slow Internet has been a bit frustrating, but not too bad. I’ve been surprised how sufficient 700kb can be for most of my needs. Yeah, I can’t do video chat and I have to wait for videos to load, but it’s only torture when I’m trying to hurry, a state I’ve been trying to avoid. :) Still, when we book a longer-term place here, I think I’ll upgrade to a faster connection.

  8. How much do you pay for the villa, chef, etc for the month?

    I’m jealous!

    • The place we’re at charges USD $500-600/night, but we got it for $3,500 for the month (a little over $100/night). Good price for a vacation rental, but a bit expensive for long-term. You can find decent villas for rent here with pools and some staff, etc. for under $1,500/month when rented long-term. Yesterday, we saw a large 5 bedroom house with pool, two maids and gardener, for $700/month negotiable (I bet they’d take $500). The architecture and furniture was too modern and sterile for our tastes, and it looked more like a hotel than a house (even had a reception desk), but you can find some great deals here.

  9. This post, some comments and advice you gave on the Families on the Move thread and your enthusiasm about Ubud are making us reconsider where we would like to set base in Asia – not in the very near future, but soon … I hope. How is access to health care there, esp for small children? In case you know … . Thanks for the inspiration.

  10. Pearce, hmnnn can’t remember how i got here (guess its through cody or so)

    Lovely website, nice articles and the topics make me stay glued opening one page to the other (now you ain’t gonna lemme complete my work)

    I’ve dreamt of living in such a wonderful place and i am planning that this year but the report i kept on reading and hearing about internet in Bali keeps me reluctant to start planning my journey.

    I hope the govt or private investors will find something to do about the internet because much more people (digital nomads) are tripping to Bali.


    • There are places in Bali where you can get a high speed fiber connection (like 15mb, I think), but that’s only down by the beach on the main roads, and of course you’ll pay top dollar. I hope that comes to Ubud soon also. Until then, I’ve learned to deal with 768kb, and it’s really not that bad. Can’t do Skype video very well, but it’s fast enough for audio.

  11. Hi, I was on another site something matt,and came across your reply about Costa Rica. I am not teally a web or internet person but after reading almost everything you have writing on C.R., Panama,and your new home that would be something I have dreamed of my whole life and am 53. I have been to C.R. 5 times and to panama for a 2 week pack packing trip. Canada twice for sking and all over the U.S. I went to the philipines in 2010 in feburary and was suppose to be there for 3 weeks but got in a motorbike wreck and 3 operation’s later I can get around pretty well. I hope nothing like that happens to your nice family because it will change the way you think I promise you that. I am thinking about moving out of the states because of some of the things you said in your reports.I am scared because most of the third world country’s have bad heath care. Most people would love to do what you are doing but they want someone else to do the planing for them. You make it sound real easy but I no it’s not. You can speak some spanish and you want to learn another language that is amazing. I will stay in touch with you and see how things are going in the future. Maybe I could get some information from you,if you dont mind.I live in Louisiana. You are a very good writer. There’s only a few thousand people that can do what you have done.You make it sound easy but I no it’s not that way. later for now.

    • Hi Frog. Thanks for your comment. Sounds like you’ve enjoyed some great places already. Yes, a lot of things are getting bad in the states, and health care is one of the things we’re so glad we don’t have to deal with there. As for health care in the “3rd world” if you’re referring to Ethiopia or Uganda, yes, be careful. But Costa Rica, Panama, Malaysia, and just about any other modern country will have health care just as good as the US (or better) but cheaper. Certainly don’t let that be a factor keeping you from traveling! That’s one reason we don’t want to come back. See my post
      I’ve been lucky to meet hundreds of other individuals and families doing what we’re doing (most of them digitally). It may not be easy, but if you really want to do it, you can probably figure out a way. Good luck!

  12. Hi Brandon,

    Been enjoying your blog – found a link to it on Tim Ferriss’s site. I’ve been living / traveling abroad for almost a decade now – similar method ;). My wife, daughter and I came to Bali in January and have been living in Ubud for nearly two months now. Have fallen in love with the place and plan on staying for a while longer. Would be great to catch up some time – send me an email if you’d like to connect.

  13. Hi Brandon,

    Enjoyed reading your blog. I to have been living abroad for years and work independently from anywhere. I recently left Koh Samui and now searching for a new place to relax and recharge.
    I am here now (April 18th, 2013) and looking for a long-term rental home with a budget under $800.00 per month. It is for just me and my fiance as a second home (we live in the Philippines as well). Would you be able to direct me to a real estate agent or anyone looking to rent a nice villa in Ubud area from May 2013 for a year or more?



  14. Hi Brandon,
    I am looking into moving to Ubud with my 2 sons from the US and am wondering how you are able to live there? Do you have a visa? If so how did you get it? Thanks for any help!

    • Easiest way is to get a visa on arrival (tourist visa) for $25 when you get here. Good for 30 days, extendable up to 60. You can also apply in advance at an Indonesian embassy for a Social visa (good for 60 days, renewable up to 6 months, single entry). Or a business visa, good for one year (multiple entry, but must leave every 2 months). More info on these and the requirements here:

      • Thanks Brandon! From what I read on your site you leave and come back every 30 days? Your whole family walks out, turns around and walks back in? At the airport?
        and you pay $25 x 5 each time? I am a single mom with 2 boys 4 and 9 years old and just want to be more sure about this before we get there. I’s not cheap getting there so I want to make sure we can stay at least a year if we choose to. I also tried to click over to your daughters views on Pelangi and the link didn’t work. I’m so glad I found your site!!
        Thanks for your help!

        • If you get a visa on arrival, you can extend after the first month to stay for a total of 60 days. Extensions can be $30-60 depending on who does them. Then you have to leave. (Also, no walking across the “border” — it’s an island. You have to go to another country).

  15. I spent five weeks in Ubud with my girlfriend many years ago. It was, quite possibly, the best five weeks of my life. We hardly left Ubud to see other parts of Bali because we were so happy there. I will never forget those Mango Lassis….. Tom

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