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Expat Family’s Insights: Comparing Life in Ubud and Sanur

I first spoke with seasoned expat Saskia (The Business Minimalist) back in October 2021, when she had already been living in Bali with her family for 2 years. Originally from Australia, Saskia lived in the Netherlands for over a decade before relocating with her family to Bali. Be sure to check out that original interview to get an understanding of why they moved to Bali, life in a Balinese compound, home-schooling, working remotely and so much more.

Since then, I have thoroughly enjoyed following Saskia’s Bali life over the last couple of years, including a great catch up together at Toastmasters in Canggu! Now we talk about her family’s decision to leave their Ubud home of 3 years, and move to seaside Sanur. We get some great insights into the positives and negatives of living in both of these very popular areas.

BONUS IG LIVE – I am excited to announce that I will be doing an Instagram Live with Saskia so we can expand on her interview and get more of an understanding of the pros and cons of living in Ubud versus living in Sanur. Be sure to join us on Tuesday 15 August 1pm AEST (11 am Bali time).

You have been living in Bali for the last couple of years, first 8 months in Canggu, and then 3 years in Ubud, and most recently, the last few months in Sanur. What have you seen change in Ubud over the last year?

Post-Covid Ubud has become super busy! Even busier than before everything locked down, which after a number of really quiet years was a big adjustment. There is a big influx of people not only coming to visit the island, but also moving here, so while we were used to the busy touristy seasons, at times it feels like there is no down season anymore.

Many Russians also have moved here to escape the turmoil back home and with them we noticed a huge increase in developments being built. Unfortunately the current infrastructure in Ubud does not feel like it can sustain the increase in traffic that comes with it.

I saw you loved spending your weekends in Sanur while you were living in Ubud. So, what made you want to move to Sanur?

In Ubud we lived in my mother-in-law’s family compound, but my husband was actually born in Sanur – he is named Renon after the town he was born in. We came down to Sanur often, and as Ubud got busier we opted to come down to Sanur most weekends and whenever we could we would stay a few nights at a guesthouse in town.

Off and on for years we had looked for a place here, but were never able to find something we liked in our budget. A few months ago while sitting on the beach we bit the bullet – it’s time to move to Sanur! That night we found a place online, the next day we viewed and the day after we got the keys. Everything seemed to fall into place. We have been here for 2 months and are loving it!

Family on the beach in Sanur

How would you compare the Ubud community to the Sanur local and expat community?

It’s completely different!

In Ubud the division between locals and foreigners is much more pronounced, and it attracts a younger crowd. Ubud is well known for its yoga and spirituality community, while in Sanur you find more of a mix between retirees and young families.

I find in Sanur the foreigners are much more immersed in local life and people are less surprised to hear me speak Indonesian here than they were in Ubud. There are a lot more long term stayers here, many of which are married into local life.

You can still make your way around Sanur just fine in English, but unless you are in the main tourist part of town, more often than not shops and cafes have their menus and signage in Indonesian.

What would you say are the pros and cons about Ubud to Sanur ?

Ubud’s nature is gorgeous – jungle meets rice fields – although unfortunately more and more is getting replaced by developments. Ubud has more on offer when it comes to ‘hip’ cafes, or the art, yoga & spirituality scene. But getting around is increasingly tiresome with all the traffic. There are so many great day clubs with breathtaking views as well as countless waterfalls to explore.

Sanur moves at a slower pace, which is usually the case for a beach town anywhere in the world. The beach is the obvious attraction here, and due to the reef just out from the shore, there are usually no waves, which is great with kids. There is less of a traffic issue here, partly due to less people and partly due to the by-pass. Sanur is definitely a lot less hip. So that can be a turn off for some people. We love that we are able to cycle everywhere!

What are your thoughts on schools in Sanur? Last time we last spoke, your daughter was being unschooled in Ubud, however, you mentioned since then, she has loved attending the Waldorf school in Ubud.

Our daughter transitioned into school a little over a year ago and we absolutely loved her small Waldorf school tucked away on the edge of Ubud. It was one of the only things that kept us in Ubud so long! So it has been a challenge to find something we love equally as much in Sanur. In Sanur there are a plethora of school options, however they are generally more traditional schools which is not what we were looking for. We opted for a Jenaplan school and she will be starting there soon.

What is it like raising a family in Sanur?

For us Sanur has felt much more family friendly. We love bike riding so have been enjoying cycling around town and on the boardwalk. And of course the beach is always great with kids. In Ubud we sometimes missed a place for her to play and now we are at the beach most days. We often will pack up our dinner or grab a takeaway meal from the local night market and eat it on the beach during sunset.

Do you find Ubud or Sanur to be more affordable to live in? Housing? Food? Eating out?

It really depends on how you choose to live. You can live in both places on a total budget or in absolute luxury. Sanur I used to find a bit pricier as beach side living generally is, but Ubud’s foreign housing market has increased dramatically this past year, in some cases doubling or even tripling in price.

For groceries I find Sanur more affordable as there are more supermarkets catered towards locals, and a lot of imported products are also slightly cheaper.

Eating out again depends on how you choose to eat. Ubud has more upmarket cafes which are also more expensive, but has a lot of local spots which are super affordable. In Sanur while some of the higher end hotel areas have pricey restaurants I find there are more affordable western restaurants here. We are fans of the night market which is super cheap.

Can you walk us through what a typical day looks like for you living in Sanur?

This obviously depends on if it’s a school day or not. Currently we have holidays, so we often get up and ride our bikes to the beach. We can easily spend the better part of the day there.

We also have a garden at home which we enjoy potting around in, and while the temperatures are a little hotter here, the sea breezes keep it cool.

We love to pop into our local cafe and always cart around our paints and pencils with us, as well as a deck of Uno and spend the afternoon sipping coffee, alternating between making art or playing a round of cards.

Give us your top 5 favourite things you love about Sanur!

The slow life.

The beach, obviously! Low tide is fun to look for shells and seeing if you can spot some starfish or an octopus.

Bike riding.

Cafe hopping.

The night market.

Any secret insider tips to share on the ground when it comes to everyday life in Sanur?

Pande Putri & Bintang supermarkets are really affordable and a great mix between local and foreign products.

We are a hop, skip and a jump away from Denpasar, so it is easier if you need anything from town.

There are so many great little spots on the beach, don’t just go to the big name places.

What advice would you give to other families who are considering life in Sanur?

Give it a whirl! Try out a few different places to see what suits your family.

Is there anything else you would like to share about your experience living in Bali that we haven’t covered yet?

Get some Indonesian lessons when you arrive. You don’t have to be fluent, but it shows respect that you have taken the time to learn.

Ready to get started?

Book a free discovery call to learn more about how we can help you feel confident about a move to Bali.

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