27 Sep How to Move to Indo
So you’ve been to Bali and had your own life changing eat-pray-love experience. Biking through the rice fields in Ubud, hopping from one yoga shala to another and chillin’ at the hippest cafés in between. You’ve spent nights sitting on the beach under the milkyway talking with your new found soulmates from around the world.
Maybe you surfed your heart out everyday in Balangan and can’t imagine going back home to the concrete jungle and dreary grey skies. You can’t get enough Nasi Goreng and Cap Cay. Sunsets will never be the same without barrels and Bintang.
For whatever reason, you’re sure of it. You want to make the move, or at least stay a couple of months in your new found paradise.
Here’s how you can make the move:
First things first. Let’s get the visa thing out of the way, shall we? Then we can discuss the fun parts.
Extend your tourist visa a little longer
Most nationalities get a 30-day visa on arrival. However, the rules vary for different nationalities in extending it. More powerful passports such as Australia, New Zealand, Canada, United States and European Union may easily extend their visas at the nearest Kantor Imigrasi or Immigration office, usually close to the airport.
Citizens of ASEAN nations are unable to extend their 30 day tourist visa. You will have to leave the country and come back on another tourist visa or better yet…
Apply for a social visa, extendable up to 6 months
For most nationalities, the Indonesian Embassy in Singapore is your best bet for efficiency. I chose to apply in Manila but it only took me two short visits: first to submit all the documents, then to claim the visa after 5 working days.
Remember that their embassy follows two sets of holidays — the Indonesian ones and whatever local holidays are celebrated in that country as well. So that might be A LOT of holidays. Best to call first to find out when they are open.
Wear proper attire, no beach wear allowed! For men, a collared shirt, trousers and shoes. Women must cover up from their shoulders to below the knees. The first visit should take just over an hour.
Prepare the following requirements:
- One recent coloured photograph (white background) size 3 x 4 cm.
- Booking/Itinerary/Flight Schedule
- Sponsor letter addressed to the Indonesian Embassy, which explains the purpose of the visit
- Cash or Manager’s Cheque payable to Embassy of the Republic of Indonesia
- Requirements and fees vary depending on what country you are applying from
If the sponsor is an individual, additional documents must be submitted to the embassy:
- Photocopy of the Sponsor’s passport and national ID (KTP);
- If the sponsor is not an Indonesian, photocopy of the passport and a copy of the Limited/Permanent Stay permit Card (KITAS/KITAP)
While waiting for your turn to submit your documents, you may be asked to complete the following:
- Application form
- Resume or Curriculum Vitae
The socio-cultural visa is technically valid for 60 days when you get it. Then, it is extendable up to 4 times (30 days each) for a fee during your stay in Indonesia. You, or a representative will have to go to the Kantor Immigrasi every month to do this so they can stamp your passport. This gives you a total of 6 months.
Learn how to mentally convert the currency
The official currency is called Indonesian Rupiah. I know all the zeros can be overwhelming! The exchange rate has recently dropped to its lowest in history, $1 to IDR 16,000 making your currency even more powerful. Everything just got so much cheaper!
I hate math. So basically I just remove the last 4 zeros to roughly convert to US dollars.
IDR 10,000 = US $ 1
IDR 100,000 = US $ 1 0
IDR 1,000,000 = US $ 100
The maximum withdrawal amount in most ATMs is only IDR 1,000,000. Some machines allow double that amount. You will get charged $3 for every withdrawal unless you have an account with a bank that doesn’t charge you anything for international withdrawals. Let me know when you’ve found one!
Get a local SIM card
Make sure that you bring an unlocked phone if you want to use a local SIM card. Most mini-marts sell them for about IDR 25,000. Calling and texting rates are very inexpensive. The more popular networks are XL and Telkomsel SIMpati, IDR 50,000 for 450 MB and IDR 100,000 for 1 GB of internet data.
4 bedroom Mountain Villa for the price of two cups of coffee a day
Find a place to live
Whether you want to constantly move from homestays or rent your own place long term is really up to you. For my first two months in Bali, I moved around A LOT mostly exploring the southwest Bukit region. In the end I stayed at 14 different homestays and guesthouses for about IDR 100,000 to IDR 200,000 per night. Most of them included free breakfast of either banana pancakes, fresh fruit or eggs and toast.
When I moved to the next island, I shared a brand new 4 bedroom villa on top of a mountain with other roommates. We each paid $250 per month, a little high for Indonesian prices but it was a western-standard villa, complete with queen-sized beds, panoramic views of Mt. Rinjani and the south coast, a security guard and a cleaning staff daily. Surf checks from the kitchen!
WARNING: It’s very tempting to invest money in real estate because it’s so damn cheap! Indonesia does not allow foreigners to own land. PERIOD. Many expats have been able to find loopholes around that law, registering their property under a trusted local friend. Some have been problem-free since Day 1, but some have been totally f*cked. I’ll probably have to write more on that in a separate blog post…
Be yourself, find yourself
The best thing about moving into another country is that you can start all over again. You can be your own true self, or if you don’t know who exactly that is yet, this is the perfect time to start finding yourself. It’s such a cliché because it’s true! Follow your intuition, do the things you love and uncover your passions.
If you’ve never tried surfing, go ahead and book a surf lesson. I promise you, you will discover what it means to be stoked and get addicted to it! If you’ve never tried yoga, or have been wanting to finally take up a yoga teacher training course, go for it. There are loads to choose from, whether Hatha, Vinyasa, Acro, Yin, Aerial, Jivamukti, etc. If you’ve always wanted to learn Asian cuisine or make healthier raw vegan meals, there are also a number of cooking courses that will definitely inspire you.
Learn the language
A little goes a long way! Bahasa Indonesian is probably one of the easiest languages to learn because it doesn’t have a past or future tense. It does not have masculine/feminine words, except when you are referring to people, nor does it require conjugation. Your sentences don’t need to be perfect! Everyone speaks their own version of broken English mixed with some Bahasa. Plus, every local seems to be more than willing to help you practice it as well.
Make friends with the local surfer dudes. First they will hit on you, then they will treat you like a sister. I learned my Indonesian just by talking to the little bracelet vendors everyday!
Venture out of Bali
Bali has a bad reputation for being too touristy and overcrowded. But guess what, Indonesia has 18,000 more islands! So go and explore neighboring islands like Java, Lombok, Flores, Sumabawa, etc. Not only does it get cheaper as you go further from the main tourist destinations, but it also gets better!
Living in Indonesia will change your life. It will welcome you with open arms as long as you are respectful of their culture. I lived in a small surf island in Indonesia for two years and that experience will stay with me forever. In my dreams and daydreams, I always find myself there. Read more about my personal experience on “Finding Home”.