If you’re over 40, Ubud Bali might just be the perfect place to set up a new nomad life. Read why this spiritual town is so special and how you can make the most of it.
Ubud is a small old town, situated one hour inland from the south of Bali. With traditional architecture nestled amongst rice fields and lush jungle-clad hills, it’s a delightful part of the world to live for a while. I spent 7 weeks living as a digital nomad in Ubud in late 2019. It inspired me so much, I’m planning to return in 2020.
Ubud has a thriving foodie scene and an active yoga and meditation community, which overlap with the digital nomads and vacationing couples who gather there.
The nomads in Ubud are a little older than the ones in Canggu (the other nomad hotspot in Bali). I’d say they’re mostly 30 or over. Conversely, Canggu has more of a millennial hipster vibe. You can’t walk ten paces in Canggu without coming across a tattoo parlour or a barber shop. In Ubud, you’re more likely to come across a raw food restaurant or a yoga wear shop.
What sets Bali apart: the mindset
I chose Bali to be my first destination on my next 8 month long nomadic trip in 2019/20, and I’m glad that I did. There is a supportive and active nomad community here. Networking and business events take place on a weekly, if not daily, basis.
It sounds like a cliche, but the nomad scene in Bali has an unwritten code of conduct which revolves around the idea of an ‘abundance’ mindset. Central to this way of thinking is the concept that there is more than enough resources and opportunities in the world for everyone to benefit. People can access these through working in a collaborative and non-competitive way with others. If you give, you will receive, so to speak.
Of course, that doesn’t happen all the time, but that’s the general impression I left with. Whilst I was in Bali, I gave my time freely to some entrepreneurs. I was rewarded in kind through business and networking opportunities which will help me in the future.
How this mindset is influenced by the Balinese culture
I can’t help but think that this culture has arisen as a result of the Balinese people, who have a very positive, graceful approach to business. The Balinese are not afraid to ask for your business. However, they do it in such a natural, unpushy way, with an assumption that it could benefit both you and them. So in the end, you feel charmed by the interaction.
This graceful attitude is a reflection of Bali’s traditions and culture. The Balinese make dozens of offerings – called canang sari – every day to the Hindu gods. Each offering features a bamboo basket, flowers, incense and sometimes food.
Offerings are laid around the family compound, and the incense is set alight. In that very moment, the Balinese offerer gives thanks to the gods for the abundance around them. This gratitude mindset, and the idea that if you give thanks and offering to others, you will receive, permeates the culture on the island. My hunch is that it has influenced the nomad community too.
The western ‘conscious’ community also has a heavy influence in this town. Fancy exploring meditation, yoga, healing, massage, sound baths, ecstatic dance and cacao ceremonies? You can fill your boots in Ubud! It’s easy to see how this scene has sprung up as a direct result of the Balinese culture, with its focus on mindful moments and gratitude.
I enjoy yoga and meditation, so I spent some time doing that in Ubud. Some of the classes can be a little pricey in my view (compared to the rest of living costs in Ubud). So I went occasionally, in addition to practicing at home. On the whole, they shaped my experience in a positive way.
What sets Ubud apart: the lifestyle
There are other things that set Ubud apart, too. It is possible to live in very high quality accommodation with gorgeous views and to eat like a (vegetarian) king for not a lot of money. The only thing the town lacks is close proximity to a beach, so if you want to surf or dive, Ubud may not be the right place for you.
As an example, I managed to negotiate a beautiful modern apartment near Ubud, overlooking rice fields. It had a kitchen, water dispenser, balcony and sunbed, air conditioning, my own desk and private bathroom. There was a yoga studio on site, where I could undertake my own practice. A scooter was included in the deal as well. Everything came to just over £10 a night.
The food scene in Ubud is incredible too. It’s almost as cheap to eat out all the time as it is to buy your own food for cooking at home. For those on a budget (as I was), the Balinese warungs are perfect: supper costs $2 per person. But there’s a huge range of other restaurants with a wide variety of different cuisines, priced at $4-10 per evening meal. The price of alcohol in the restaurants is the same price as it is in the supermarket (relatively expensive).
All of the above makes Ubud a fantastic place to be very healthy. Most nomads who stay in Bali over the long term become interested in surfing, yoga or dance, (or all three). They take care of themselves, they don’t drink too much and they develop a positive mental attitude to both life and business.
10 tips I learned as a digital nomad in Ubud Bali
1. Bali tourist visa – get the longest possible
Bali is quite far from other airline hubs in SE Asia. With this in mind, it’s worthwhile getting one of the following two visa options:
– A Visa on Arrival which lasts for 30 days. This can be extended once for another 30 days, giving you a 2 month stay.
– A Social Cultural Visa (B-211) which allows you to stay up to 60 days. You can then extend it another 3 times, for 30 days each time, giving you up to 6 months in the country.
The Visa on Arrival can be purchased when you arrive in Bali. The Social Cultural Visa cannot be purchased upon arrival, you must apply for it in advance from an Indonesian embassy in another country. I write about what’s involved in applying for the Social Cultural Visa (B-211) in my other post, the best long term tourist visas for digital nomads in 2020.
In both instances I advise getting the support of a visa agent within Bali (it’s easier to extend your Visa on Arrival using an agent, and you will need a letter of sponsorship for the Social Cultural Visa which an agent can help with). I used this agent to get help with my Visa on Arrival extension and it worked well, but there are plenty more out there.
2.Avoid visiting during the high summer period, and January and February
Bear in mind that whilst the climate in Ubud is fantastic from June to August, hoards of tourists descend during these months. This creates very bad traffic congestion and causes accommodation to rise in price.
I would also avoid the rainy season in January and February, as the downpours can last for up to 4 hours a day. Having said that, you might be able to secure better accommodation deals during these low months. The south of the island doesn’t quite experience the same level of rain during this time, so it’s possible to take shelter down there for a while, too.
3.Secure a mid term (1 month plus) accommodation deal
If you’re really interested in all Ubud has to offer, it’s worth staying for a longer period of time and securing a mid-term accommodation deal. There are significant savings to be had through doing this. The quickest and easiest way is to search for ‘Ubud rental groups’ on Facebook. I joined a few groups, posted an advert up specifying my requirements, and found a place within a day.
Accommodation in Ubud is amongst the cheapest on the island. As I mentioned previously, I sourced an apartment overlooking rice fields for 5,700,000 IDR per month, which equates to around £10 per day. You can check out the standard of my accommodation in the video below. My landlord was called Ambara and he can be contacted via his facebook profile here. Other apartments and villas had swimming pools and gardens, but I opted not to have these, as I didn’t think I would use them very much.
My apartment was a 10 minute scooter ride outside Ubud, but I was happy with this arrangement as it allowed me to be based next to the rice fields, which I loved. Every day the rice fields brought a different natural delight: frogs, bats, ducks, herons, cockerels, humans, geckos, toads, you name it – they all hung out in those rice fields. I heard an orchestra of animals every day.
When you find a place you like the look of, hire a scooter and actually go and visit the places before committing to spend money online. Inevitably there will be some places that have construction going on right beside them, or are a bit further out than advertised, and you need to be sure that an apartment or room is exactly right before parting with your cash.
Once you visit your accommodation, remember to check the internet signal to ensure it’s fast enough for your needs. Also consider noise levels nearby,and whether or not bottled water is included in the deal (or can be purchased cheaply).
4.Rent a scooter
Renting a scooter is required in Ubud, as the town sprawls over a large area and it takes 1 hour to walk from one end to the other. There are also lots of sites of interest which are just outside Ubud: rice fields, mountains and temples.
It’s worth reading the small print on your travel insurance to check what the requirements are for cover, should you have an accident. Some insurances specify that you have a license to ride a scooter in your country of origin (UK). I took a British CBT course before I arrived in Bali, which greatly improved my confidence on the bike.
Remember to purchase an international driving license before you leave for Bali and bring your normal car driving license too. The police stop foreigners to check licenses – I was stopped once – so you need to have them with you at all times.
Driving a scooter in Bali is a unique and strangely enjoyable experience. People don’t observe rules, apart from accepting the general idea that everyone drives on the left-hand side of the road.
It’s quite common to see an entire family loaded on one scooter, without helmets. Everyone merrily undercuts and overtakes dangerously all the time, and yet there’s a collective understanding that no one wants to crash. The answer to this condundrum? Scooter drivers just ‘go with the flow’ and use their horn to let other people know they are there. After a while you get used to it and start doing the same.
When renting a scooter, take the same approach as renting accommodation – opt for a mid term deal where possible. It’s always cheaper.
5.Consider purchasing membership of a co-work space
Here are 5 reasons why I think purchasing membership of a co-work space in Ubud is a good idea:
– Ubud can be a noisy place to work, particularly if you’re based in the centre. Co-works generally have quiet spaces and skype booths for making calls and recording podcasts.
– You can’t always be guaranteed a fast internet connection in your accommodation. Conversely, a cowork will always guarantee that.
– You can’t rely on using cafes to work in Ubud, as café owners don’t take kindly to nomads staying for hours without buying anything. In a co-work, you don’t need to buy anything other than membership.
– As a location independent freelancer, remote worker or entrepreneur, it’s easy to become isolated working for hours on your own. Co-works almost always have networking and social events which an help you to integrate with like minded people quickly.
The 2 main co-work spaces in Ubud – Outpost and Hubud – are well run, quiet and comfortable. Membership is not cheap, but can be deducted as a business expense. Both offer social events to help you get in touch with other like minded souls.
However, there are other places in Ubud which are worth checking out too. I enjoyed a month long membership at Titi Batu, a private members health club just outside Ubud. In addition to a well equipped gym, sauna, steam room and a beautiful swimming pool, it had restaurants and a co-work space as well. It was relatively good value at around $49 for the month.
6.Connect with other nomads and like minded souls
If you’re hoping to live and work in Ubud with the aim of randomly bumping into nomads, be aware that it may not happen. You will notice that most of the people who are walking about are simply on holiday. Effort is required to meet people you’re more likely to connect to. In addition to co-work events, there are a number of well established Facebook groups which run events and meet ups across the island, including the following:
– Bali Digital Nomads
– Ubud Digital Nomads
– Bali Nomad Girls
– B.I.G Tribe Bali
7.Get healthy and do something you wouldn’t normally do
Ubud encourages you to take care of your physical and mental wellbeing. In terms of sports, yoga (including acro and aerial), dance (ecstatic and salsa), pilates, gym and HIIT classes are common here. Running is slightly problematic, owing to the amount of stray dogs everywhere, which can be terrifying at times. Further in the south, surfing, stand up paddle boarding, snorkelling and diving are readily available.
Massage, meditation, sound healing and sauna ceremonies can take care of your mental and emotional wellbeing. If there’s one thing that Bali left with me it was the inspiration to think with a greater open mind about trying new things. The island invites you to move out of your comfort zone in Bali, and I intend to explore that more when I return in April 2020.
8.Take time to get to know the food and drinks scene
The international food scene in Ubud is outstanding. As well as the Balinese warungs, there’s a large array of vegetarian, vegan, gluten free and raw food cafes and restaurants. There’s also a huge amount of international food on offer, including an Argentinian steak house for those who crave meat.
“My tip for a great place to eat and work in Ubud is Oasis Yoga and Café, which is set in the middle of a rice field. It is super quiet, has a great egg benedict and a yoga shala upstairs as well.”Sascha Win, entrepreneur
Alcohol is pretty expensive owing to the Balinese government’s import tax, which is 90% of the value of the wine. As someone who is partial to a good quality glass of wine, I discovered there are two ways to get around this. Many visitors choose to bring their own alcohol into the country, purchased at duty free. I witnessed firsthand the lengthy queues at customs, and could not be bothered to do that.
Another tip I picked up was to buy Two Islands wine from the supermarket. Two Islands is a brand which imports wine from Australia to Bali, then bottles it on the island, thereby reducing the import tax implications. The name Two Islands comes from the fact that both Australia and Bali are islands! I found their Shiraz and Riesling wines to be excellent – certainly more expensive than the wine available at home in the UK – but nonetheless worth if for an occasional treat with a friend.
9.Buy electronics equipment before you come to Ubud Bali
OK this tip is rather dull, but necessary if you rely on the internet to work. There are no Apple stores on Bali, only a few licensed outlets who carry their accessories, and many who sell poorly made knock offs. Finding even a decent pair of headphones is a challenge. I could not source a splitter for my microphone despite searching for days. In short – only buy electronics equipment before you come here, as there is not a chance in the world of buying decent quality gear when you arrive.
10.Bring at least two Revolut cards to handle ATM withdrawals
Cards regularly get ‘skimmed’ at ATMs in Bali, and on occasion, swallowed up by machines. I had a very positive experience using Revolut, a smart bank which allows members to switch off cards in between using it. They also guarantee that they will replace your card anywhere in the world within 3 working days. When my card was swallowed by a machine in Ubud, I ordered 2 replacement cards (a tip relayed to me by another nomad – have one as a back up) and sure enough they arrived a few days later.
Do you have comments or tips about Ubud you’d like to relay? Get in touch through the comments below. I’d love to hear them.
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