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long term travel

Long-term living in Ubud, Bali – The foreigners

When we first arrived to Ubud, Bali, we didn’t have a place to stay and the only thing I had looked up before was Hubud (a co-working space in Ubud) and that generally Ubud was a nice city to stick around in for a while – away from the very touristy and crowded Bali beaches.

The first two nights we spent at a run-of-the-mill place near the airport as it would just serve as a base to find our actual long term place in Ubud, Bali about 40km’s north (or about 1½ drive on motorbike). The first two days were spent running around looking for places, renting a motorbike and a lot of transportation time between Ubud and Denpasar. For those interested in how we found a place and what the prices were/are in the area for housing, motorbikes etc. please drop me a comment below or contact me here and I’ll be happy to help.

Without beating around the bush anymore, here are some semi-random observations I’ve made over the last two weeks.

The (foreign) tourists in Ubud, Bali

The crowds are noticeably older and much different from the typical teens, early 20’s backpackers so infamously present at the islands of south Thailand for example. In fact, most of them aren’t even backpackers but here for longer term (1+ years). They are not travelling only on budgets but have jobs of some sorts that they can work on from Bali which lets them keep on going for much longer than what a typical vacation budget can sustain. You also get a much more pronounced week rhythm like in “normal” cities with more nightlife in the weekends and less during weekdays because people actually work on weekdays. With islands like Koh Phi Phi (south Thailand) everyone’s on vacation and you have no idea what day of the week it is – the party is there every day all year around.

hubud co-working space in ubud
The Hubud co-working space on an early monday.

Why is this? I think the answer is simple – the beer is expensive and there are no beaches. With an hour to the nearest beach and beer at about 30000 IDR ($2,5) this is not where the typical tourist heads. Especially not when you’re already on Bali – an island overflowing with famous beaches. Ubud has lots of drowsy but pleasant rice paddies though and because the city is a bit up the mountains the temperature is more tolerable (~30 C). At this point, the city also has a reputation for having a good work environment and networking potential which further attracts more digital nomads.

ubud frisbee team
Part of the Ubud frisbee team. Serves well to illustrate a sample of the Ubud crowd

Lastly, you also get your richer Australians looking for a get-away, honeymooners and other such types but they keep mostly to themselves in resorts or private villas.

Yoga, vegan food and organic food

Expanding on the previous topic about the types of people you see here there is an abundance of alternative lifestyles walking around. If having quit your stable 9-5 job and uprooted your life to work location independently – either freelancing, e-commercing or likewise isn’t “alternative” enough for you, you come here. When we were looking for a place to stay we saw many offers of, for example, yoga collectives where meat is banned and yoga instruction is free with the rent. Everywhere out in the rice fields you see these villas turned collectives.

yoga, meditation cacao ceremony ubud
A “cacao” ceremony in Ubud. 4 hour long circle ceremony with all things spiritual. Quite an extraordinary experience

There are lots of vegan/vegetarian restaurants and organic alternatives. Most of the menus (except the local shops) boast gluten-free alternatives or are organic only. The shops are flooding with high quality (and expensive) wares made using sustainable materials and definitely cater to a more demanding crowd than your typical “whatever is cheaper” type of person.

This also stems well with the fact that everyone’s a bit older here and have a bit more buying power. Most people here aren’t just teenagers on a gap year but are fully submerged in whatever lifestyle they chose. Prices on housing is given in monthly and yearly rates rather than daily.

The local market in central Ubud

A funny thing to remark is the local market. From 5:30am to about 7:30am the central market in the city is booming with locals buying fresh, cheap and overall delicious fruit and vegetables. Many small trucks turned stores come rolling in with fresh produce every morning. Then magically around 8am all these stalls vanish and the whole market turns into a tourist trap with cheap china jewelry, bintang (local beer) t-shirts, clothes and all other kinds of trinkets. At a bloated price. If you’ve got the morning constitution to get up early it’s an exciting transformation to witness.

This concludes part 1 of the series about Ubud, Bali – part 2 is ready here!

Playing house for a month in Bali

Those who have followed the blog will know I’ve been travelling fairly fast. In fact, during the first half of 2016 where I roamed the countries of SEA (South East Asia), the longest I stayed in one place was 5 nights. You could say I had a restlessness in me – or in more colourful terms: I was footloose and fancy free, free as air. I was living off savings from my last 4 years of employment where I’d been droning away with a 9-5 job. Alright, to be fair the job was a good one and had a lot of perks and although I thoroughly enjoyed my time I had realized that 9-5 just wasn’t for me at this point in time.

Now, dear reader, why am I telling you all this? I’ll tell you. It’s because this time the cards are different. When you dive into it there are three major differences from my last go on the merry-go-round of travelling:

  1. Money aren’t unlimited. This time I’m part time working to finance it (doing mobile app development with a dash of blogging).
  2. I have a girlfriend, My, who I met 6 months ago. So it’s now no longer solo travelling.
  3. I’ve seen enough temples and museums.

These three above reasons are why I’m now trying a different type of travel. This time we’ll get a place for a longer period of time. We’ll pay a monthly rate and we’ll get to know our neighbours and the area. We’ll get into a routine, we’ll cook. This way it’s cheaper and much more relaxing. The downside, of course, is that we only get to see one place and if we’re unlucky that place isn’t very good and we’re stuck for a while. 6 days in since we arrived and I’m as happy as a monkey with a banana (there are monkeys with bananas just outside my window and they look happy).

We’ve found a nice place in the centre of Ubud, Bali with a bedroom, bathroom, terrace and a kitchen (pictures at the bottom of this post). Anyone travelling who’s been travelling longer term probably agrees that a kitchen and a fridge is particularly joy-inducing. The landlady is the sweetest old Indonesian lady. She lends us a rice-cooker and takes My to the local market to get fresh goods at “Bali prices” vs tourist prices just to name a few of the things she does.

first breakfast in new place
Our first breakfast in our new place

I’ve rented some co-working space at a fairly famous place called Hubud (short for: Hub-In-Ubud). A co-working space is a place where small teams and individuals can rent some office space so they can work. Typically, it sports a good internet connection, a pleasant work environment and a coffee machine (oh dear Lord, don’t forget the coffee machine). This one is filled to the brim with creative, entrepreneurial, location independent amazing people and besides giving me a place to work it’s outstanding for networking.

Lastly, and importantly we’ve rented a scooter. Although I live in walking distance from Hubud a scooter is needed for everything else – and at $46 for a whole month (including repair and service) why would you not do it? There is no public transportation at all and the only other ways of getting around is by taxi or walking.

Well, that’s the initial setup. I’ll get back to ya’ll a while in to let you know how I feel further down the road!

view from terrace over rice paddys
The view from our terrace over the nearby rice paddys
better view of rice paddys
A better view of the rice paddys
the kitchen
The kitchen

Long term travel Insurance

You’ve decided to go long term travelling and you are looking at long term travel insurance. This can be tricky and is something I spent some time on. First of all there is the difference between travel insurance and health insurance.

Types of travel insurance

  • Single-Travel travel insurance is something you get for a set period of time. You have health insurance in your home country but it doesn’t cover worldwide travel so you need to expand your insurance. Usually your normal insurance company offers a solution for this. What it covers is smaller immediate healthcare needs (like medical attention when you get food poisoning) but also and more importantly – your trip home. You will then be getting taken care of in your home country.
    • Pros: You can take care of everything before you leave and not worry about it again (unless you overstay your pre-set period of time).
    • Cons: You both need to know (roughly) how long your travel is and you need to pay up front. It is hard to extend and in general less flexible. Just offers a plane ticket home unless it’s a small illness. Moderately Expensive
  • Yearly based travel insurance is running continuously all year through your normal insurance company and covers all travels you go on and you pay even if you don’t leave the country. This type of insurance usually covers all travels you go on – short, long, extreme and you don’t have to deal with insurance every time you go travel. There are, however, usually restrictions so that your travel cannot be longer than 2 months before you have to return home and just like with single-travel travel insurance you get a plane ticket home unless it’s a small illness.
    • Easy, simple, always active, cheap
    • Travel restrictions for travels over a certain period of time (usually around 2 months). Just offers a plane ticket home unless it’s a small illness.
  • World wide health insurance is the full deal, not just a plane ticket home but actual health coverage worldwide. With this you won’t be getting a ticket home paid by the company but the actual hospital bill wherever you are. You can also extend it on a monthly basis.
    • Pros: You won’t need to know your return date or length of trip. You also won’t have to end your trip unwillingly if you extend your stay longer than originally planned or need hospital care half way through.
    • Cons: Expensive, you might have to deal with two insurance companies (home and worldwide)

Which travel insurance to recommend?

For trips shorter than a month or two, or for trips where you know your end date I would recommend normal travel insurance. Call your current insurance company and ask what a travel insurance costs. Personally mine is about $100 year and I’ve had that for many years. As long as I don’t travel more than 60 days (on one trip) I will always be covered on my travels and I’ve always travelled a lot making it an easy decision to maintain this insurance.

For longer trips it get’s tricky. My current trip is without an end date meaning that I will pass my 60 days. This means I will need actual worldwide health insurance and not just “travel insurance”. Alternatively I could come home every 2 months and keep the cheap insurance as I would technically start a “new” trip every 2 months (note: I don’t know if all insurance companies sees it this way but for mine: I just need to be home a day to “reset”). Seeing as my travel insurance is $100/year and worldwide health insurance runs at about $100/month it actually almost makes sense, moneywise, to just go home every two months. However, personally, I don’t want to deal with the hassle of interrupting my travels all the time. Ultimately I’ve chosen to have both yearly travel insurance and worldwide health insurance.

If I do decide to visit home I can use my yearly travel insurance for the first two months after I leave again and save the money I would have otherwise spent on the worldwide health insurance. After two months I activate my worldwide health insurance again and travel as long as I want. I save a lot of money but the downside is that I will have to remember cancelling and activating my worldwide health insurance. Also it requires a company that allows this type of behaviour and World Nomads allows just that which is why I’m recommending them.

Overview chart

For other travel insurance companies and for a great overview (no really), check out this chart:

Conclusion

There are many choices out there for you and the topic is not easy to wrap your head around. I’ve written about some of the problems you will run in to and what I’ve consequently ended up doing. It offers the cheapest solution while maintaining flexibility.

Please don’t hesitate to contact me or comment on this page if you have any questions!

Note: this post includes affiliate links meaing that if you buy travel insurance though these links I get a slight commission, however, the words in the above article are entirely my own and have in no way been censored or altered.