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Bali Retirement Interview: A Couple’s Move to Sanur for Sun, Sand, and Sea

In April 2022, I engaged in a detailed discussion with Steve regarding his retirement plans in Bali. Our conversation spanned various crucial aspects, including the retirement visa, housing, insurance, medical considerations, and more. Steve, anticipating retirement in approximately 16 months, opted for the Gold package, providing him with comprehensive information essential for his upcoming expat life. With our providers we organised the correct visas for both Steve and his wife Miri, as well as securing a yearly lease for them in Sanur.

The couple arrived in August, and it’s truly heartening to witness their successful transition into their new retired life in Sanur. Dive into this enlightening interview where Steve generously shares insights into his motivations to move to Bali, the vibrant Sanur community, a typical day in his retired life, considerations for retirement, and valuable recommendations.

Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and where are you originally from?

I am originally from England, and after seven years living in Australia, I now hold dual citizenship. Also spent many years living in California, so a permanent resident of USA too. My incredible wife, Miri, is Japanese and speaks excellent English from her worldwide travels.

What motivated you to retire to Bali, and how did you go about making the decision to do so?

Sun, sand and sea were definite considerations, but equally important was a more relaxed and affordable way of life, learning about new cultures, and exploring as much of the island as possible.

Retired couple in Sanur

You decided to sell up in Australia and retire in Bali! Well done! How did you prepare for your retirement and the move to Bali? Did you encounter any challenges during the process?

We took about 2 -years doing research, much of it online. Not only for Bali but other possible locations such as Thailand, Vietnam, and even Malta or Greece as considerations.  We chose Bali for its proximity to Australia and Japan, and it seemed to have an edge in the cultural history we were searching for.

Medical insurance is challenging, although medical services are first class according to the local community.   There are many insurers with different packages available at wildly different pricing and coverage options.  We decided to move first and check with local agents and potential government coverage after we have been here for some time. Therefore, I took Australian travel insurance for 1-year as a safety net, paused my private coverage that can be reinstated within 2-years if we return for a period of time, and of course we retain Medicare coverage should anything major occur.

Finally, be very careful should you plan to personally ship any personal possessions.  That has been an expensive, long-delayed nightmare due to ineffective customs and Jakarta shipper agent.  We are hopeful it will be resolved soon.

What was it like getting the support and information services from Our Year in Bali?

Our Year in Bali was our first starting point and provided terrific information and many additional topics of consideration, contact names, and pros and cons of different areas in Bali. In fact, we rented our villa in Sanur for one year, physically sight unseen, based on a wonderful agent Simone put us in touch with. Similarly, a great contact for the KITAS visa process handled our visa application effortlessly, met us at the airport and took us through the customs and immigration process with ease.  A wonderful experience and we are grateful for Our Year in Bali support.  Even now we reach out to Simone with questions; highly recommended.

Where in Bali do you live, and what made you choose that location?

We live in Sanur, on the south east side of the island.  It is much quieter than the more party/tourist areas of Canggu, Seminyak, Kuta etc.  We live within 5 minutes of the beach and local warungs and restaurants. The beach is peaceful, not crowded and very well laid out with separate pedestrian and cycle paths.

Sanur is supposedly more of a retirement community but we haven’t found that to be wholly the case. Definitely an older crowd compared to the west coast but it’s as lively or as quiet as you want it to be.

Warung on Sanur beach

What type of housing have you decided to do?

We started with a 1-year rental villa.  We will look to buying a leasehold villa either in Sanur or perhaps further north. Sanur is our starting point to explore over the next year.   We have already met some wonderful maintenance, pool, and housekeeping locals through our villa here, and now we know what we will need should we decide to move later in 2024.

Sanur is about as perfect as we could have possibly imagined so it would take a very attractive alternative to move elsewhere.

What activities or hobbies have you pursued since retiring in Bali and looking forward to do?

Travelling and exploring are major pursuits. In just two months we have been white-water rafting, visited the scenic rice fields in Tegalalang, visited Ubud, stayed in Rijasa Agung overlooking Mt. Agung, visited the incredible temple at Tirta Gannga and the water palace at Taman Ujung, and spent a few days in Amed, an amazing snorkelling and diving locale; with beach front views, food, and many activities.  There is so much more to see here.

In my off-time Miri and I go to the beach, which is just a few minutes away and we sample each warung or restaurant for brunch, lunch or dinner.  You can spend a few dollars at a local warung or go 5-star at one of the finer hotel resorts, and anywhere in between.  The choices are limitless.

My hobbies: I like to work out and run 5-10Ks too. However, one needs to get up really early to run; it gets very hot and humid, which makes running challenging.

Miri is incredibly artistic and loves gardening with our many indoor and outdoor plants at the villa. She looks forward to our own place next year.  And she has recently enrolled in language school to learn Balinese.
Bali resort

What do you think are the biggest misconceptions about Bali, and how would you correct them?

Probably the news of rude and obnoxious western tourists is a bit of a misconception. Yes, there is a minority who do not respect local customs and culture, more so in the heavier tourist areas on the west coast. It can tarnish the reputation for all unfortunately.  Bali government has done a lot to educate and inform tourists of how to behave.

Traffic can be horrendous at times, particularly on the west side. We manage to get around very well on a motor bike.  When we travel, we rent a car.    Money exchange can be a problem too, as there are scammers.  But using the official money changing companies like BMC or a bank instead of being attracted to side-street high currency rates is just common sense.  If it seems too good to be true, it probably is!

Bali is growing fast; there is a lot of construction now and rice fields are being replaced at pace, which is a shame.  But tourism is also a major income for Bali. So, we are hopeful there will be a balance achieved of progress while maintaining local customs and culture.

How have you adapted to the local customs and traditions in Bali, and what have you learned from the experience?

As with any new country, respect for local customs and culture is critical. Adapting was easy for us because we were prepared, and it is what we hoped for.   We have watched in awe as many ceremonies of different types take place.  Balinese are polite and friendly people, more so than perhaps many expect, and also compared to western countries.   We try to speak Balinese and they appreciate the efforts.  We are their guests, not the other way around.

Cultural centre

How have you found the retirement and expat community to be like in Sanur?

We haven’t had much time yet to meet with a lot of the expat community.  We have made many local acquaintances and they have really helped us to settle in.  Local contacts of contacts, and it’s amazing what you can find out re better pricing, places to visit, even a fast-track method for driver licenses, etc.    There is a very active Sanur Community on Facebook too, which offers helpful hints and recommendations by expats.

Miri and Steve

How long do you feel it will take to settle in, what sort of things do you need to do to get in a routine?

We are approaching the holiday high-season, so we’ll likely reduce travel until that is over as it will be more crowded and prices will be higher in most places.  Rainy season is also nearly upon us until end-Feb or March; we need to experience that too and see how it affects our lifestyle.   We have a pretty good routine already but it will change as we learn more; we still don’t know what we don’t know, but so far it has been a wonderful experience. And of course, the island paradise of Bali means we will have many visitors and family members coming to stay with us and experience why we moved here.

Please share a day in a life in Sanur.

Early (6am) to work out or run. 1 day visiting different malls and browsing; another day for grocery shopping (excellent western as well as local supermarkets), beach for brunch, lunch or dinner and walks along the beachfront of Sanur is very pleasant.  Evening swims always.  If we are not cooking, then gojek food orders for dinner, which are very inexpensive; trying different cuisines before settling in to watch a movie etc. A VPN is a must to enable access to other countries for different streaming services.   And some of the coffee houses here and bakeries are second to none; we find new ones all the time.   Time just flies by!

Has your perspective on life and retirement changed since moving to Bali?

We probably should have done it sooner!  We are way more relaxed; our wardrobe is simple shorts and shirt and swimming attire, so dressing up when go to a more formal restaurant is a nice change.

Heading to the beach, to a bakery and coffee, or breezing down the bypass on our scooter (Miri drives!) to one of the many malls….and always jumping in the pool when we get home.   Cost of living is lower than Australia or Europe; you can live comfortably and always have great food choices.

White water rafting in Bali

What advice would you give to someone considering retiring in Bali?

Be patient. Move here first and experience different areas of Bali; get used to the lifestyle. Don’t invest in anything permanently until you have truly experienced each area and a lifestyle location that fits with you.   For us, peace and tranquillity were priorities and we have managed to find that quite early.  If you need expat communities to provide reassurances and guidance, they are here.  If you want to be more independent in your lifestyle, that is easily attained.  There is something for everyone here.

There will be negatives but just embrace them and smile.  “Bali time” is like no other…  a 10 minute wait can be 25 minutes, or 2 minutes : ).   Power can go out without notice as construction decides to connect new properties; it can get uncomfortable quickly when it’s hot and humid. Wifi is great but similarly has its up and downs re speed, but generally 90% fast and reliable.

Learn to adapt and embrace a Balinese lifestyle as early as possible, rather than bring a western lifestyle to Bali. We think that is very important for happiness.



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