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Canggu, Bali for Digital Nomads and Travel

When I first heard about Canggu, my first thought was: "Wow, what if this is like Chiang Mai but with a beach?" Naturally I came to find out. Since it happens to be burning season in northern Thailand, it was the perfect time to take a trip to Bali. I've been here for about 2 weeks now and here is everything I've learned and what I would recomend, including how not to get scammed at the airport, and things you need to get before you come to make the most of your time here.

Also coming soon will be a write up about Ubud, the more popular destination in Bali for digital nomads and yogi's, but in today's post, we're talking about Canggu, a little surf town in Northern Kuta, just far away enough from the party crowd where long term expats have turned into a bit of a healthy living, surfer's paradise that reminds me of Pacific Beach, San Diego, only at a third of the price. Keep reading to find out why part of me thinks this place is paradise, while the other part can't imagine why any sane person would live here for more than a few weeks at a time. 


Canggu


How to Get to Canggu




From Chiang Mai there are currently no direct flights to Bali but you can either fly from CNX to KUL (Kuala Lumpur) to DPS (Bali) or you get a direct flight from Bangkok which is pretty convenient, making me wonder why more people don't choose Bali as a place to go for a week or two during visa runs more often. If you're on a tight budget, have no luggage, or don't mind terrible customer service, AirAsia flies from DMK, but I would recomend paying the extra $150 and flying Thai Airways if you can afford it.

Once you get to the Bali Airport, that's where it becomes a bit tricky and overwhelming as hundreds of taxi drivers will swarm you and throw out numbers like 300,000 which is a bit hard to calculate when you first arrive. My advice instead is to either prebook a pick up through your hotel, try your chances calling an uber, or finding the little taxi desk back inside the terminal and booking one through there. The journey itself is only 12 miles (20km) but because of the terrible road planning in Indonesia, it ends up taking about an hour. Actually getting around Bali in general via taxi is going to be difficult as the local mafia has Uber drivers scared for their lives as we found out during the drive from the airport to our hotel.

Because I was so put off by the taxi scammers at the airport, I bought an overpriced sim card at the airport, and attempted to call an Uber even though I had heard stories on how difficult they are to actually get. It turns out everyone was correct and that 95% of the time the Uber will never actually show up. Luckily, our second driver actually did, and he spoke English well enough to explain to us what was going on. It was the first time in my life an Uber driver turned his app off and insisted we pay cash. At first we thought it was a way to rip us off and charge double the fee, but during the 1 hour drive, we realized that we got a super fair price, and that the reason why they had to do this was because they can't pick up another passenger in Canggu and have to drive back empty, more on getting around Canggu later.  


The local taxi mafia banning Uber in Bali


Where to Stay in Canggu




The best place to stay in Canggu is anywhere within walking distance of "Old Man's Restaurant" as is generally the best location for restaurants, cafes, yoga studios, bars, and surfing. Other good ways to judge if you're within walking distance of the best stuff is to map how far you are from The Practice Yoga or Serenity Yoga. The further you get from the beach, the cheapest your accommodations will be, just avoid being north of the main street as the traffic, cops, and drivers there are insane. Also even though I love some of the restaurants, cafes and nightlife on Finn's Beach Club road, including Nude Cafe which is where I'm sitting right now, the only two options to get here from Old Man's area is either to drive across the sketchy rice paddy shortcut, or waste another 20 minutes driving up to the main road where you face insane traffic, drivers, cops, and other annoyances. 

That being said, we've booked a few weeks a block away from Batu Bolong beach where we can either walk or have a short, easy scooter ride to most restaurants and cafes. My suggestion is to book 3 nights at a hotel near old man's, then look for your dream villa or guest house once you're here in person either by driving around yourself on a scooter, or finding an agent to show you villas. My friends found an amazing 4 bedroom villa with pool including electric and utilities right by Shady Shack Restaurant for $2,000 a month by having a local agent drive them around. You can also use my map below if you're booking online through Airbnb or one of the facebook groups. When looking at google maps, if it looks like you can't drive across the river, you really can't and have to go all the way up to the big road. If you want to look at or book places online before you come, you can either use AirBnB or the local service Snap Stays.

Monthly rentals can range from $300 a month (for an old place, in a bad location, without good wifi) all the way up to $3,000+ for a villa. We're paying around $1,000 a month each to stay in hotel with a pool just a block from old man's beach. My buddy has moved into a just two 2 blocks away for $450 a month, and i've heard of places as low as $250 but aren't in the best area which means you have to deal with the insane drivers every time you want to get into town or go to the beach, and it's not worth it. If you plan on living in Canggu, plan on spending a minimum of $450 a month on rent, which is exactly double what you could get by paying in Chiang Mai for a similar apartment. 




Where to Cowork in Canggu



Most people work out of cafe's in Canggu as there's currently only one coworking space, the Dojo, Bali that has a monopoly and charges $200 a month which is overpriced for what it is. According to most digital nomads I've met at various cafes and asked why they aren't working from Dojo they all said it uncomfortable, overpriced and needs a competitor to open up as the owner is a lunatic and to break the monopoly. Not having a good choice of coworking spaces or alternatives to Dojo is one of the reasons why Canggu is currently a bad destination for digital nomads.

I ended up coworking out of cafes most of the time. In terms of comfort, power plugs, air con, and wifi Nude Canggu Cafe, which has great internet for Bali at 25mps down and 5mps upload speed was probably my favorite which Oka's Bakery being my go to if I didn't need A/C that day. Other places I've worked out of include Veda, Monsieur Spoon, and Recovery Room. But half of the fun is exploring on your own and finding a great new spot. Other places still on my list to check out are: The Nest, Savage Kitchen, Roti Canai, Roko Cafe, Gypsy Bali, Cinta Cafe, Deus Cafe, Betelnut Cafe, Bark, and Moya. Some are indoor outdoor which is nice to avoid being in A/C all day and get into nature, and most have mixed internet speeds. The next closest coworking space is Lineup Coworking in Kuta which looks awesome and is well priced. If you want to connect with other digital nomads in Canggu without having to pay $200 to join a coworking space, join the Canggu Digital Nomads or Bali Digital Nomads facebook groups here and schedule your own meetups at a coffee shop.

But here's a bit of secret, most people in Canggu aren't building six figure businesses and it's not the place to come, put your head down, bootstrap and launch a new income stream like Chiang Mai or Saigon is. Canggu is best for people with little internet requirements, and can just work a few hours a day from a cafe. It's a good place to come chill out and surf if you have sold your business like I have, have over $2,000 a month in passive income, or are just taking a vacation. I wouldn't recommend Canggu for those just starting out, bootstrap, or those looking to network with profitably successful entrepreneurs. All of the successful nomads (ones that make more than $3,000 a month) I hung out with in Canggu were just there for a month or two and all of them came from Chiang Mai because of the burning season. If you really want to meet other digital nomads in Bali, go up to Ubud, or better yet, go to Chiang Mai. 


Coworking at Nude Canggu Cafe
Coworking at Nude Canggu Cafe


Getting a SIM Card in Bali



You can either get one at the airport at the small, shady looking telkomsel booth for $30 which was the only option they had, which is overpriced but came with 10gb of 3G/LTE. Or you can wait until you get in town and buy a smaller package for less than $10. Either way, you'll need a SIM card to get around, and to tether when the internet is down as it often is. 

*Make sure have the provider turn on your tethering in your phone's settings as for whatever reason it defaults to off in Bali. The fix is to go into your "Cellular Data" options and copy and paste the APN from Cellular Data to Personal Hotspot. 





Money, ATMs, and Scams




One of the most annoying things about living in Bali is the hassle of doing anything simple like withdrawing money from an ATM or paying your bills online. There's a high chance some annoyance will happen to you while you're in town whether it's having your ATM card cloned at the machine (which has happened to multiple friends), your online bank locking your out of your account (which has happened to me), getting ripped off by the currency exchanger or otherwise not being able to access your cash.

The trick is to have options and backups. Have more than one ATM card with different banks, and have enough crispy new U.S. $100 Bills to keep you afloat for a week or longer if you can't access cash normally.

Most places in Bali still don't take credit cards, and usually charge 3% if they do which means you'll need a lot of cash. But even when you do find an ATM that actually works you'll often see a 1,250,000 withdraw limit which is only $93 which may only last you a few days if you're eating out, drinking, taking surf lessons or getting massages. The ATM fees end up racking up if you don't have a card that refunds them like Charles Schwab or Fidelity. So the trick is to look for an ATM that lets you withdraw more and keep going back there, or bring a lot of cash and hope you don't get it stolen.


Update: My best friend decided to stay another month in Bali, and even though he's one of the most careful and cautious people I know, he got both his credit card and his ATM cloned at the machine and $500 taken out of his bank account. This happens to A LOT of people who visit Bali and the government does nothing about it.





What to do in Canggu




So with all of the annoyances of Bali and Indonesia in general, why do people come here? It's because it's an amazingly place to be when you don't actually have to get anything done. They have some of the best surfing in the world and it's also a great place for beginners to learn. The water is warm enough where you don't need a wetsuit, and you can rent boards right on the beach for $4 or get a private surfing lesson for $30. You can rent boards at any of the beach shacks near Old Man's restaurant for 50,000 IDR for 2 hours. If you stay more than week and the shop gets to know you, they'll give it to you for 40,000 if you ask.

You can also go scuba diving like I did in the video above, check out the amazing islands, hike up volcanoes, or just lay on a beach. For us, we're in Canggu to chill out. Both my buddy that I'm traveling with and I just sold our drop shipping businesses and we want to take a break, learn how to surf, and enjoy some sunshine, good food, and the laid back vibes Bali has to offer before we head to Europe for the summer. Speaking of the food, if you're into eating gluten free, raw, vegetarian, or just really enjoy eating new age health foods, Canggu is a great place to be. This little square mile has been taken over by Australian business owners, the Swedish, and out has come a ton of organic cafes, coffee shops, and restaurants. All of which are instagram worthy. My favorite places for breakfast were Crate, Shady Shack and Oka's Bakery. And for lunch and dinner I liked Betelnut Cafe, Bro Restro, The Slow, and Warung Ithaka.

The local indonesian food is also tasty but really only consists of five dishes, so you end up getting tired of eating it until food in Thailand which has a lot more variety. I ended up eating at little Indonesian spots such as Warung Bu Mi or the other 5 similar spots where they have buffet style food laying out where you can point it at least once a day. It was tasty, cheap, but aside from the rice, the food was always cold which was annoying.






Indonesian Visa for Bali




The good news is as of a few years ago 30 day visa exemptions are now free for Americans, Canadians, the EU, and Australia plus most others countries.

However, even though we were planning on just staying for a week or two, we love having the option to stay longer without leaving the country to do a visa run and are happy to pay a bit extra for that. So if you think you might stay for more than 30 days or just want the option to be able to do so if you feel like it, pay the extra $35 at the airport to get a normal 30 day visa on arrival as that gives you the option to extend for an additional month without leaving the country.

It'll be a pain in the ass to extend as it involves up to three trips to the immigration office but it's still better than leaving the country. I plan on paying for an agent to streamline the process and will report back on how that goes. If you know for sure you're staying for less than a month, you can just show up and get 30 days for free. But trust me, there's a very good chance you might end up loving this country as much as we did and wish you would have paid for the option to extend.

Update: I successfully extended my visa and although it was still a waste of time, by using an agent that would pick up and drop off my passport, I only had to go to immigration once instead of three times. I used Visa for Bali as they came recommended by and was happy with their service.


Canggu Bali
Monkeying around at the beach in Canggu


Final Thoughts on Canggu




I'll be heading up to Ubud for a week or longer this afternoon, so bookmark this page for an update, or if I like it enough, maybe even expect a full blog post on Ubud vs. Chiang Mai as the two are often compared. But so far my impressions are positive. Sure it's a pain in the ass to get around outside out 1 square km of Old Man's Canggu, the entire country is lacking proper infrastructure. People tend to be cliquey and act like the "cool kids" from school, riding loud dirt bikes way too fast up and down the street, disturbing your meal just to show off. The only coworking space coworking space there, Dojo is overpriced, and the management sucks. The beaches are polluted with plastic and garbage from locals throwing everything in the ocean.

But even with all of the downsides, dangers, annoyances, I'm still waking up everyday happy to be here as long as I don't have any real obligations to go anywhere. It's a good place for a vacation but not to live. The local Balinese people are super friendly, most speak English so it's easy to make local friends and communicate. It's sunny, warm, the food is excellent, and as of 2017 the WIFI has finally started to catch up and is now actually usable! Even though it's a lot more expensive than Chiang Mai and no where as convenient, it has a beach...even though it's a dirty one. It has great surf. And for a lot of people, at least for a few weeks at a time, that's enough. Although there are plenty of people who have made Bali their permanent homes, for me and a lot of other location independent entrepreneurs I have a feeling that Canggu will just be a place that people will come and either love or hate. The ones that love it and stay longer than a month are usually the ones you see in videos like this below, if that's your thing.






How Much it Costs



Make sure you budget a bare minimum of $1,500 a month stay out here and enjoy a decent life and $2,000 if you want to be able to go out to eat without worrying about how much everything costs, stay in the best area by the beach, take surf lessons, have a gym membership, and take trips on weekends. My friends all spent over $2,500 their first month in Canggu which came as a surprise until we actually sat down and line itemed our expenses. Anyone living for less is not living in the best location and not taking advantage of cool things to do like scuba diving or taking private surf lessons here.

Compared to Chiang Mai (read my blog post about Chiang Mai) expect to spend around $500-$1,000 more a month, regardless of the budget of living you're used to. For me, I was spending around $1,200 a month in Chiang Mai living in serviced apartment in the best area, taking uber everywhere, eating out 21 meals a week, with a coworking space and crossfit membership. Here that would easily cost me double that as things like gyms, coworking spaces, and transportation are vastly overpriced and double what they should be. I spent around $2,500 a month living in Canggu, and could have gotten it down to less than $2,000  if I was staying longer and stopped going on weekend trips but it was no where as cheap as Chiang Mai if you want to have standard amenities like a decent gym membership, unlimited coworking space pass, an apartment in the center, and the ability to eat at places that aren't just the cheapest local warung.

P.S. You can of course live like a local Indonesian person for $600 a month as that's the average salary here, just like I did when I was living for $600 a month in Thailand which I wrote about here. But the entire point of the 4 hour workweek and being an entrepreneur isn't to live like a poor person in another country, but to be able to live an amazing life with western standards at a discount. That's the definition of location arbitrage.


Listen to this podcast episode for more info on Canggu, Bali vs. Chiang Mai


P.S. Make sure you read my guide to Ubud, Bali as you might find it a good alternative to Canggu.




Update: April 26th, 2017



After two months total in Bali, and doing one annoying Visa extension, I'm happy I finally left. It was tempting to make a visa run to Singapore and stay another month as I wanted to practice surfing a bit more, but the downsides of living in Bali staying overwhelming the upsides. It's a shame because after I arrived, a bunch of other friends saw that Chris and I were here and started heading over from Chiang Mai and even as far as S. America. It would have been nice to hang out with them longer but instead we decided to head to Spain and spend the summer in Europe.

Overall I had a decent time in Bali, saw some amazing things especially during my trip to Komodo. And as a side benefit, it was also there that I realized I don't actually need to be part of the digital nomad scene anymore and don't' need to build another business as I've already made enough money to retire these past few years building and selling my dropshipping stores and other online businesses. If Chiang Mai is full of people just starting out, Bali is full of people who are trying to find themselves or prematurely coaching others to do the same even though they haven't done it themselves yet and are just as lost. I have a love/hate relationship with Bali and Canggu in specific.

I love the idea of being able to surf, even though the waters are polluted and the beaches are dirty, and the energy of Bali in general. But on the other hand having been to Chiang  Mai and knowing how much better organized everything is, how much better life is there, and how much less daily bullshit you need to put up with. I can't understand why any rational, logical person would live here long term. I can see myself coming back to escape burning season each year from Feb 15th - April 15th to surf, but aside from those two months, you'll catch me somewhere better in the world even if it costs a bit more. The best thing about being location independent is having choice.

The best thing about being financially independent and making more than $2,000 a month is that you can choose the best places in the world to live, not just settle for the options you have and lie to yourself saying that Bali is amazing because it's your only option. Wherever you end up choosing, I hope you all of the success and happiness of the world! Remember, we only have one life to live. If you are truly happy somewhere, regardless of what I or anyone else thinks or says, go for it, that's all that matters. But if you secretly wish you could live somewhere like San Diego,  Gran Canaria, Barcelona,  Costa Rica, Portugal, Florida, or even Hawaii but think you can't afford it, then make it your goal so you can.


Canggu Beach, Bali - What it actually looks like.


Update: 


Here's a talk I did for Budapest Nomads on Bali as a potential Nomad Destination. Here's everything including the pros and cons of the place as well as alternatives. After leaving Bali and being back in a 1st world country and talking to numerous friends who also wanted to love Bali but ended up hating it, I realized how delusional most people living in Bali are.

To sum it up, Bali is a child's dream like place where anyone can become a life or alternative health coach and have safe spaces to cover your ears and ignore reality. I understand why Australian's go there for short 2 week vacations as it's the closest, and cheapest place for them to fly to, but for anyone else with alternatives, I would not recomend it as the downsides outweigh the upsides when you think about it logically and without emotion. Go to Thailand, the Philippines, South America or Europe instead.







Warm Regards,


Johnny FD


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  1. Hey Johnny, nice write up, you inspired me to leave UK last year and Canggu was my first stop and other than a few mini breaks I have not left, I love it here. There are some other places around if you wanted to see, I am always around and wouldn't mind buying you dinner for the help via emails you have continually provided me.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hey Michael, glad you're liking Canggu! I'm back in town next week and would be happy to meetup for dinner. Message me on facebook next week sometime =)

      Delete
  2. Hey Johnny, really nice write-up on Canggu, lots of nice tips! If people don't want the hassle of dealing with taxi drivers, SIM cards, cafe hopping and finding a decent place to stay, I'm organising an all-inclusive entrepreneurs retreat to Bali in May/June, lots of fitness, lots of focus, should be pretty good - https://www.liveworkfit.com/bali-2017/

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm sure a retreat package like that might be worth it for for some Entrepreneurs who want to see Bali but don't want to deal with the B.S. =)

      Delete
  3. Great recap! Still lots of cafes I need to check out, but I've been at Dojo Bali for a week now and fucking LOVE it.

    But I genuinely like the people and community and social vibes of it unlike Punspace in Chiang Mai that's awkwardly quiet.

    I agree if you prefer silence or need that for calls, this isn't the place.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Morning Johnny,
    Great post. Will be checking out that area later this year. I am currently in Chiang Mai and was wondering if you have a suggestion on a workspace here to meet online entrepreneurs. I am a chronic pain movement doctor but I can't work while I am on sabbatical this year and want to stay busy. Any advice I would appreciate.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hey Stephen, glad you enjoyed it! The easiest place to meet other nomads in Chiang Mai is through one of the weekly Coffee Club meetups: https://www.facebook.com/groups/nomadcoffee/

      Delete
    2. Thank you I looked it up and signed on thank you

      Delete
  5. Hi Johnny,

    I am in Canggu at the moment, arrived two weeks ago. And as far as I can tell already I will be spending 700 Euro during my month here...I'm not living in the "best area", but I have a really nice private room in a guesthouse with a beautiful garden, pool and Warung. Wirh my scooter I can go wherever I want whenever I want. I eat outside every day, but prices where I live are totally different than in the center – I pay around 20K in the warung in my guesthouse and 5-7K when I go to warung nearby (yep, I didn't forget another 0!). So I just wanted to add: It IS actually possible to live cheap in Canggu :)

    Thanks for the blog post! Especially the part with the visa was really interesting, since I decided to get an onward flight to KL already before I came to Bali. I didn't want the hassle of extending the visa...

    Cheers,
    Barbara

    PS: Where are you in Spain? I wrote two guides for DNs about Spanish cities: Tarifa and Las Palmas...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hey Barbara, glad you like it in Canggu and have figured out how to budget it for only $700 Euro a month. But for us we weren't willing to live outside the center as the traffic there is insane and it wasn't good for our health or sanity to drive through it everyday.

      Also we loved the cheap local indonesian food but couldn't eat it 3 times a day which is why our food budget was so high as the western restaurants in Canggu are much more.

      Enjoy your month there, it's the perfect amount of time to explore and enjoy it. I loved our first month there, it just isn't a place I'd live long term.

      P.S. I'm in Barcelona now. =)

      Delete

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