Extreme Nomads’ Guide
Bali is Asia’s original digital nomad hub, long favoured not just by nomads, but by backpackers, surfers, and honeymooners for its low cost of living, tropical weather, beautiful beaches, and chilled out way of life. Yet long before the digital nomad days began, Bali was known by trendy jet-setters as Southeast Asia’s idyllic island getaway.
Drool-worthy local food, fascinating culture, and picture perfect beaches are just the beginning. Year on year, Bali continues to draw a hodgepodge of interesting people from around the world to settle on its surf-washed shores.
Balinese culture is easy to identify for the simple fact that it is so unique. Unlike the rest of Indonesia, the main religion in Bali is Hinduism. The other religion- universal across the island- is art.
In keeping with the laidback island lifestyle, much of the adopted culture in Bali revolves around self-care and rejuvenation; you can’t throw a stone here without hitting a massage parlour, a farmers market, or a yoga studio.
But the best place to re energise is in Bali’s great outdoors. The island is brimming with outdoor adventure, from surfing and kitesurfing on those perfect Indo waves, to hiking and biking the hairraising jungle trails.
Internet in Bali
Bali’s top coworking spaces offer total bandwidth of 200 Mbps, while many cafes and apartments are kitted out with fiber optic speeds between 20-50 Mbps. If your digs don’t have it, it’s a simple procedure to get it installed- as long as you’re willing to fork over the dosh to do so. Biznet are the go-to company in Indo if you want super fast internet installed at home (see their packages here).
Unfortunately, the island experiences regular rolling power outs which can last up to 7(ish) hours. To counter this, many of the coworking spaces have their own power stabilisers and generators, and work with multiple ISPs (internet service providers) to ensure fast, reliable internet.
Local 4G SIM cards are cheap and easy to come by; you can pick up a basic monthly mobile package for around $7.50, and mobile providers like Telkomsel, SimPATI and XL offer large internet bundles (8-12GB). For a full guide on Indonesia’s sim card options, see here.
Black spots aren’t uncommon however, and if you plan on tethering your mobile 4G often it’s a good idea to consider buying a dongle. You may need to try different SIMs in your modem to see which works best for it. XL, Telkomsel, Indosat, and 3 all work on the same modem, but Bolt and Smart aren’t interchangeable.
Best Sports In Bali
Kitesurfing in Bali
Bali is a lightwind spot, with a season that runs from May until September and peaks from June-August. Pack your big kites for this one guys and gals! The average wind speed in Bali during high season hangs around 12-16 knots.
But just how much wind does Bali really get?
We went through the WindGuru archives from June, July, and August for the past three years (2015-2017) at Sanur, and the results show that 59% of days had 12+ knots of wind (for >3 hours).
Beautiful foiling conditions, right? Maybe so, but foiling still has yet to catch on in Bali- which makes it the perfect time to get out there and make the most of those super low wind days!
Now enough of the stats. Let’s look at the spots:
Sanur is the main kite spot in Bali, located on the southeast of the island. Flat-ish water and light onshore/cross-on wind makes it an ideal spot for some easy free-riding. The inner lagoon is protected by an outer reef. This keeps things calm at the shoreline but creates a few small (and sometimes big) waves outside. Be careful of the coral underfoot during low tide- booties might be a good option.
The two main kitesurfing clubs operating on Sanur Beach are:
Bali Kitesurfing: one of the oldest on the island, their club is kitted out with Cabrinha gear for rentals and lessons. We do recommend that you are confident with your upwind riding if you want to launch in front of the school as there are quite a few boats that anchor nearby. Otherwise, their instructors can guide you up the beach to a clearer zone.
Rip Curl School of Surf: Their IKO certified center offers lessons and rental, as well as beach facilities such as an air compressor and showers. They also enjoy a great central location on Sanur Beach.
Nusa Dua: One of Bali’s most famous beaches, Nusa Dua has similar conditions to Sanur (onshore wind and flat-ish water close to the shoreline). While a number of local expats prefer this spot to the more popular beaches, it’s not recommended for beginners since the conditions often mean kites are flying very close to the beach.
Canggu: For kiters ready to rip on the waves, Canggu is the place to head for. This is one of Bali’s most popular surf spots, and it often has pretty massive waves (and more than a few rocks too). Only kite here if you know your stuff! During dry season (May-September) wind is cross-offshore, which creates some cleaner waves.
Kitesurfing in Lombok, Bali’s neighbouring island, is also possible. Lombok often receives stronger winds than Bali. Considering the ferry between the islands only takes an hour and a half, it’s a good idea to keep an eye on both forecasts if you want to maximise your kite time.
Surfing in Bali
The surf in Bali is considered some of the best in the world for good reason.. Bali enjoys the full force of the southern ocean swells that come up from the Antarctic, and because of this the southwest and southeast of the island consistently get the most perfect corduroy lines hitting the shores.
Dry season (June-Sept) is the best time of year to clock in some surf sessions thanks to the easterly winds that bring big swells and clean breaks (this also means it’s usually the most crowded time, however).
Bali’s coastline boasts diverse conditions that change from spot to spot, meaning there’s plenty to pick from no matter what your level is.
If you’re a newbie to the waves, head over to Kuta Beach; thanks to the medium tide and soft rollers, it’s the perfect place to gain some confidence and work on your technique. Wave House Bali and Pro Surf School are the top rated clubs in this neck of the woods; they’ll have you up and riding in no time.
Once you’re a little more confident, you won’t need to travel far to find your next favourite patch of beach.
For wave-crazed digital nomads looking to get a good balance of keyboard and surfboard time, Canggu is where you need to head for. It’s a hip-as-hell town located right on the coast at Echo Beach- one of the Bali’s best surf spots. The coworking space Dojo is just a 5 minute walk away.
Though many beginners surf there, the sets at Echo Beach can be quite challenging at times; they tend to shift quite a lot throughout the day, and when they come they often come fast.
The great thing is though, there are tons of awesome surf spots around Canggu, so the best thing to do is rent a board and get exploring; companies like Kima Surf will even give their customers free use of a van to do just that.
Big wave boys and girls have a couple of solid options in Bali.
Located just past Sanur, Keramas Beach used to be one of Bali’s best surf hideaways. That’s the thing about secret surf spots… It’s hard to keep them secret- especially since Keramas has on of the few right waves in Bali.
However, its harder-to-reach location and challenging conditions mean it still isn’t packed- and for anyone who manages to make it down around sunrise, they’ll be rewarded with world class barrels before the onshore wind kicks in (just watch out for the sea urchins!).
Last, but certainly not least there’s the legendary surfing on the southwest’s Uluwatu and Padang Padang. These waves are world famous, and regularly play host to high level international events such as the Rip Curl Padang Padang.
In front of Uluwatu’s iconic cave you’ll find The Peak- possibly Bali’s most famous wave. Just be careful; surfers need to be on the lookout for shallow water and sharp reef here.
Wakeboarding in Bali
The first and only wakeboarding park in Bali opened its doors in 2015 and since then has garnered a solid reputation as one of the top wake parks in Asia. Built around a 5 hectare artificial lake, Bali Wake Park has a full sized system with obstacles as well as a two tower system for beginners.
Not only do they have a buggy service to pick you up after a crash and return you to the dock, they’ve also got an impressive collection of kit for wake surfing, skating, skiing, and kneeboarding.
Also on the premises is an infinity pool, a bar and restaurant, and an aqua park.
See their official website for prices and further details.
Suping in Bali
Sanur Beach is a popular spot for stand-up paddle boarding, and the team from Kitesurf Bali are there taking care of board and paddle rentals as well as basic instruction.
Sanur Beach enjoys really flat water by the shoreline thanks to the protective reef on the outside of the lagoon; so while beginners are getting to grips with their technique on the calm waters, more advanced riders can head out the back and catch the waves hitting off the back reef. Bali Stand Up Paddle have a club set up for board rentals and basic lessons.More information is available on their website.
SUP Yoga Bali also operate on Sanur Beach, and offer a mashup class that includes some basic paddle instruction as well as a guided yoga session out on the water. Strengthen your core, and enjoy the combined power of yoga and the ocean all in one go.
Hiking in Bali
Bali is a jungle playground. Where else in the world can you hike an active volcano, discover hordes of hidden waterfalls, see the sunrise over the jungle, and trek through protected mangrove forests?
Dry season (June-September) is the best time of year to hit the hiking trails and test your trekking skills, mainly because you can be sure the mountainside won’t have turned into a muddy, slippery mess (you’ll also be giving yourself a better chance of a clear view from the top).
Note: while many of the trails can be done solo, it’s strongly recommended you take a guide on the ones where the trail is unclear.
Bali’s highest peak, the active volcano Mount Angur, measures in at just over 3,000 meters and- up until very recently- was one of Bali’s top treks for adventurous nomads (it’s decidedly less popular since its eruption at the end of 2017).
Bali’s beautiful neighbouring island, Lombok, also has a beautiful volcano hike (Mount Rinjani measures in at 3,726 meters), and that one hasn’t erupted since…oh…2010.
Still Bali’s most popular hike, Mount Batur is a beginner friendly trek that takes you nearly 1,700 meters above sea-level to its massive volcanic crater. Do the trek at sunrise and you’ll be rewarded with one of the most breathtaking views you’ve ever seen- don’t forget to hit up the hot springs on the way down!
There are plenty of businesses who will organise a return private vehicle to Mount Batur (with or without a guide for the hike). Our extreme nomads community recommends Bali Eco Trekking.
West Bali National Park boasts over 190 square km of protected land with hundreds of species of wildlife, tropical birds, forests, beaches, and mangroves. The park is covered from top to bottom in hiking trails to suit all levels, with routes that can take anywhere from 1-7 hours.
Munduk is where you’ll find hordes of hidden waterfalls and Bali’s biggest and oldest banyan tree, as well as coffee and strawberry plantations. The climate in this part of the island is much cooler than the rest of Bali, which makes it very comfortable to climb in.
Tirta Gangga Water Palace in Karangasem is located in a remote easterly part of the island, where traditional Balinese culture still reigns supreme. There are dozens of gorgeous hiking trails in the mountains behind the water palace, and on your way back down make sure you take the time to get lost in the holy Tirta Gangga gardens.
Cycling in Bali
There are trails everywhere in Bali.
Whether it’s cross-country through the rice paddies, enduro adventures on the mixed terrain in the center of the island, or adrenaline fuelled downhill sprints through the bamboo forests and technical rides along rocky riverbeds, Bali’s stunning natural scenery promises every ride will be more addictive than the last. It’s no wonder some of the biggest names in MTB come to Bali to ride (see the pro videos here).
Bali Bike Park: They have a full range of Polygon bikes available for rent as well as ION protective gear. They regularly take customers out on cross-country, enduro and all-mountain tours.
Check out the Facebook Group Mountain Biking Around Ubud/Bali to hook up with more of the local MTB crew
Where to stay in Bali
Nomads planning to settle in Bali for the medium to long term have plenty of options in the way of accommodation.
Remember: Prices fluctuate between low and high season (low season starts mid-September)
The cheapest of the cheap options is to find a local style room in a shared house/guest house. Expect to pay $40-55/month for (no A/C and potentially no wifi). If that sounds a little too minimalist for you, you can step it up to the $250-450 range and easily find yourself a decent place with fast wifi.
House shares are also very common in the nomad community in Bali. Hop on a Facebook forum and see who’s looking for housemates (or create a post yourself!). A shared villa with a pool won’t cost you more than $500/month.
Co-working & co-living is a very Bali-esque choice. Outpost, Roam, and The Onion are popular choices for this kind of arrangement. Though keep in mind the prices of these places are pretty inflated compared to other rentals in the area. On the other hand, it is sort of a “gateway” to the digital nomad community in Bali and can be a good first port of call to get your bearings.
Airbnb has tons of listings in Bali, but this won’t always be where you find the cheapest option. It’s a good idea to book something for a couple of nights first, then explore your options in person when you arrive.
Belooga.co is a useful platform to find rentals endorsed by other digital nomads (and it has wifi speeds listed for each place).
Check out these Facebook communities for info on current rentals:
Working & Coworking Spaces in Bali
Thanks to Bali’s massive digital nomad community, the coworking wave caught on in a big way. There are loads of dedicated coworking spaces across the island, each of which has its own unique style, quirky culture, and special offers.
Here’s the low-down on some of Bali’s best coworking spaces, as recommended by the nomad community:
Dojo Bali Coworking: Located a couple minutes walk from Echo beach in Canggu, Dojo is one of the most well-established coworking spaces in Bali. They offer a range of different payment plans and facilities, which are overall pretty good value for money. Big plus for night owls and digital nomads working unsociable hours: they’re open 24/7
Coworksurf: An international brand whose sister space is in Portugal, Coworksurf are big embracers of the extreme nomad culture. Surf, work, and chill as one big family.
Hubud: These guys have cracked the code when it comes to creating a strong coworking culture. Offering much more than just a coworking space, Hubud also has a “coliving” arrangement, as well as “co-learning” seminars.
Outpost: Outpost screams “if Google had a coworking space, this would be it”. This is Bali’s biggest coworking facility, also offering coliving spaces on the same premises.
If you’re planning on spending a lot of time coworking in the area, make sure you check out this detailed list of must do activities for first timers in Ubud.
Rumah Sanur: This quirky coworking space has its own beer garden, concept store, and gourmet eatery. They also hold tons of weekly and monthly events. It’s a great place to network with other creatives and entrepreneurs.
Genius Cafe: This beachside coworking cafe in Sanur is much more than a place to pull out your laptop. They also serve up a mouthwatering menu of plant based juices and healthy grub.
Not the coworking type?
Not everybody is. In fact, many digital nomads in Bali still choose to work from cafes. As long as there’s wifi and coffee it’s all gravy.
While nothing beats strolling around and finding your own spot, we can recommend:
Cara Cara Inn: Located in Kuta, this is a super popular cafe/bar/boutique guesthouse. Chilled vibes, nice design, delicious food, and reliable wifi.
Markets & Food in Bali
One awesome thing about Bali is that you have virtually everything you could possibly need right on the island.
Market life is completely ingrained in Balinese culture. The real-deal locals have long embraced market culture as a way not only of selling their produce and wares, but also a place to socialise and connect with the rest of the community.
Bali’s expat community slot into this tradition naturally. The central hubs like Sanur, Seminyak and Canggu all have farmer’s markets and artsy bazaars a’plenty. Most of them are run by expats specialising in gourmet food, organic produce, quirky crafts, or vintage clothing.
Markets in Bali we recommend: Samadi Sunday organic produce market, Sanur Sunday Market, and Biasa+ Market.
Day-to-day shopping is a breeze in Bali, with organic farm-to-table style markets held all over the island throughout each week. These markets are the ideal place to pick up your fresh fruits and veggies, organic meats, free range eggs, and fresh catch-of-the-day seafood.
When it’s time to do a bigger shop, head to one of the medium-to-large supermarkets (practically every town has one). Hardy’s, Bintang, Canggu Station, Bali Buda, Frestive, Bali Deli, and Carrefour are all good options. Here you’ll be able to find all kinds of local produce, imported goods (cheeeeeese!), electronics, homewares, and clothing.
For those looking to reduce your footprint and engage in some responsible travel, Bali has a ton of fantastic zero waste shops worth checking out.
How to get there & around
Though Indonesia’s capital city, Jakarta, is the nation’s main port of entry by air, Bali does have its own international airport with dozens of daily flights from multiple countries.
Bali’s airport, Ngurah Rai International, is located 13 km south of Denpasar in the south of the island.
There’s a taxi rank at the airport which is operational throughout the day and night. There’s a standard price list on the counter at the taxi stand (see rates here), but very often you’ll need to negotiate a price with your driver.
Motorbike rental is the most popular choice (lest you be left a daily victim to expensive taxi fares). And walking around in Bali can be a bit nightmarish at certain times of the day when traffic is heavy since a lot of the central areas don’t have designated footpaths.
Average daily motorbike rental in Bali: $3.75
Average monthly motorbike rental in Bali: $40
There are motorbike rental places everywhere. So it’s really easy to find what you’re looking for, although prices vary from town to town. For example bike rentals in Kuta can cost up to 25% more. Just be prepared to check the bike thoroughly before you drive off, and you may need to haggle the price a little.