Living in Ubud Series: Introduction, Visa, Accommodation

This is part 1 of a 5-part travel series on Ubud where I share things to note as a traveler living in Ubud and how to make the best out of your trip here.

  1. Living in Ubud Series: Introduction, Visa, Accommodation
  2. Environment: Nature, Climate, Villages, Animals
  3. Transport: Scooters, Taxis, Go-Jek
  4. Living in Ubud, Food: Vegetarian Restaurant Reviews
  5. Others: Insects, Language, Internet Speed, and More (Conclusion)

For the past 3 weeks I’ve been living in Ubud. Ubud is a small town in Bali, an island of Indonesia. I thought I should write a simple Ubud guide to share more about this amazing place and some pointers should you think of visiting next time. 🙂

Why I’m Here

Contrary to what many may think, I’m actually here to work. Not to attend business meetings, but to sit down and do my personal work. Singapore was killing me with the endless droves of people (we are now the third most population dense country in the world), the stressed up climate of the city, and the in-your-face commercialism/consumerism that’s everywhere. The “grow the economy at all costs” thinking was breaking my spirit and soon, I feel, the spirit of the nation as well if it hasn’t already. It didn’t help that my home is located right beside a 4-lane busy road with 24/7 traffic, and there is additionally constant loud construction everywhere around it in the past 2 years I’ve been living in it. The architecture of the city is also beginning to feel claustrophobic.


And it has paid off: in the past 3 weeks, I’ve been more productive than in my past 6 months in Singapore. Beyond the articles/podcasts I’ve written/published in the past 3 weeks, I have completed new articles scheduled for the next 6 weeks — and I plan to create more content in my last week here. After a long time of being suffocated in space and spirit, I finally have the space to think and let my consciousness expand — which I realize is paramount in my work of writing and creating high consciousness content for you.

Why Ubud?

After deciding that I needed to get out of Singapore and have some space to myself, I began to look for a getaway spot. My criteria are

  • Affordability in terms of flight and accommodation
  • It is at a neighboring country so I can easily return home should there be an emergency
  • I can find a private accommodation so I have the space to myself and get things done
  • There is nature and space, i.e. a manageable density of people. Honestly, coming from Singapore, any place other than Hong Kong would be an improvement.
  • Bonus: There is lots of nature and greenery

I thought of Langkawi but I’ve been there before and the lodgings are overpriced resorts, not meant for an extended stay. I thought of Chiang Mai but I read that there is some serious haze issue there recently; apparently it happens every March–April. Then I thought of Ubud. I’ve heard good things about Ubud before but never looked up on it. After researching and reading up about the place, I realized that it’s just the perfect spot. And indeed it is so!

Ubud: A Cultural Hub

Ubud is a quiet town that is rich in nature and known for being the cultural hub of Bali. It has a strong focus on yoga and arts with dense forests, small farms, and rice paddies all round the area.[1] With a population of about 34,000 people[2], there is absolutely no issue of space here.

Map of Bali Island

Map of Bali Island. Ubud is at the southeastern part (can you see it?)

Ubud shouldn’t be confused with the more touristy parts of Bali which are Kuta and Legian (famous for its beach) and Seminyak (famous for shopping, bars, cafes, etc.). These areas are south of Ubud. While some people may like these places, Ken and I have been there before during our honeymoon and I’m honestly not a fan of that region. We had 3 separate encounters of being conned in our few days in Seminyak — ranging from a taxi driver who silently pocketed the excess cash when we mistakenly gave him the wrong amount, to a K-mart store clerk who intentionally quoted a higher, false total for our purchases (which we caught in time). After researching online, I realized that tourist conning is a norm in Kuta/Seminyak, money changers included.[3][4] Search “Bali money changer cheat” on Google and you’ll know what I mean.

Don’t get me wrong: I’m sure Kuta/Seminyak are great with nice shops, nice cafes, and honest people there. The hotel we stayed in (Ossotel) had great staff, for example. I’m just not a fan of staying at a place where I need to constantly be on my guard to protect against scams/dishonesty.


With Ubud, people are more down to earth. Obviously you still need to be careful with your money: given that I’m not local, I notice that people deliberately quote much higher rates with me for services that don’t have a fixed price, such as motorbike/taxi transport, after which you need to haggle. When I was buying a prepaid SIM card, the clerk who initially quoted me a certain price told me to pay a different (higher) price after she installed the card into my phone. But I think the commercialism, profiteering spirit is much less dominant in here in Kuta/Seminyak.

By the way, since I’m here as a personal retreat, this guide has no information on tourist sites whatsoever. I’m not here to tour, but to rejuvenate, get close to nature, and get things done. Rather, you’ll find this guide helpful in terms of things to note when traveling to / living in Ubud. Perhaps next time for the tourist spots. 🙂

Length of Stay and Visa Policy

According to the Visa & Immigration page at, there are 3 options to enter Indonesia that apply to most travelers who come as a tourist or for social purpose:

  1. No Visa required (applies to majority of countries — FREE entry, valid for 30 days, NOT extendable)
  2. Visa on Arrival (costs $35 USD, valid for 30 days, extendable once for 30 days)
  3. Visa needed (you need to apply for this overseas before arriving in Indonesia)

To see which option applies to you, go to this link. Note

  • Your passport must be valid for at least 6 months from the date of arrival.
  • The day of arrival counts as one day while the day of departure counts as another day.
  • If you’re eligible for no visa (Option 1), your trip isn’t eligible for extension; you can only stay for 30 days and then get out. I couldn’t find any written rule about how long you must be out of Indonesia before you can return: supposedly you can technically visit a neighboring country (like Singapore) for a pit stop and then get back into Indonesia for another 30 days?? But it’s probably quite suspicious if you try to do that, so I’d personally not risk it since you may get turned away at immigration.
  • If you’re using Visa on Arrival (Option 2), you are eligible for a one-time extension. Read this page and this page on how to do so. Note that you should extend your visa at least 7 days prior to its expiry.

Since I’m on a Singapore passport, I fall under option 1 and don’t need a visa. I decided to make the best out of my trip and stay for 29 days and hence booked my flights accordingly. (I’m here alone since Ken needs to work!)

Upon arrival at Ngurah Rai International Airport (also known as Denpasar International Airport; it’s the only airport in Bali), I simply went to the immigration desk, got clearance, filled out a customs declaration (mandatory for all foreigners), got my bags scanned one last time, and I was done. The officers were nice and friendly. None of that crazy experience like at the US customs (geez)– I swear that experience has permanently scarred me and how I view immigration checkpoints today.


Since I’m here to get alone time for my work plus I’m staying for a month, the quality of my accommodation is crucial. It would be really ironic to travel all the way from Singapore only to be in a worse-off situation!

So I spent the largest chunk of time researching on accommodation. I searched and realized they only let guests book accommodation for a maximum of 14 days for whatever reason. And booking a hostel, even if I get a private room, would mean constantly having to hear footsteps along the corridor, dealing with a high turnover of guests, and hearing people talk loudly at night. Having stayed at many hostels in my 20s, I wasn’t keen on that.


Hotel was definitely out — staying for a month at a hotel would be way too expensive.

I suddenly thought of Airbnb. After a quick search, I realized there is actually a healthy selection of accommodations at good prices! For example, you can get a whole villa unit to yourself, complete with a balcony, a living room cum bedroom, a kitchen, and a private bathroom from $550 USD/month (including 10% Airbnb charges). Including utilities. And aircon. And cleaning fee. Crazy, huh??? In Singapore, you can at best rent a small bedroom only at an off-center location with that price, plus squeeze and jostle on a tiny island with millions of people.

After exchanging some messages with home owners on Airbnb, I decided to book a one month accommodation at a particular villa. Here are the pictures!

Ubud Villa: Water fountain

Water fountain at the entrance of the villa

Ubud Villa

The ground floor of the villa. This is where the owner stays; I stay at the 2nd floor.

Ubud Villa: Bedroom

The bedroom / living room (that’s elmo on the pillow; he’s been with me since I was born and goes everywhere with me even when I travel)

Ubud Villa: Work desk

Work desk. I would have preferred a bigger desk for podcasting, etc. but this was sufficient to get my writing done.


Ubud Villa: Kitchen

Kitchen. I ended up doing a fair bit of cooking in my later weeks because it’s quite difficult to get out if you can’t ride a scooter.

Ubud Villa: Balcony

Balcony with a great view

Ubud forest — View from the balcony

View of a nice forest with lots of nature sounds from the balcony

For those of you new to Airbnb, it’s a website for you to list, find, and rent good lodging without break-neck hotel prices. Registration is free, and you only pay when you do the booking. With 1.5 million listings in 190 countries and 34,000 cities, you’ll definitely be able to find something no matter where you’re going! I used Airbnb when I lived in New York City for 2 months back in 2011, and it’s thanks to Airbnb that Ken and I were able to secure a last-minute accommodation when we went to Edinburgh for our pre-wedding photoshoot in 2013. Whether you are looking for a low-budget option or a high-end suite at affordable prices, Airbnb has all of that. In fact I think Airbnb are already starting to give hotels a run for their money.[5]

If you don’t have an Airbnb account, register under my link here (aff) and you will immediately get a $30 USD free credit that you can use for your next booking. This offer is only valid while Airbnb is offering it, so I recommend to register for your account first to lock in your free $30 credit, lest they terminate or reduce the referral bonus next time. There is no expiry date and you can use the credit any time you travel.

Airport Pickup

Besides lodging, I also booked airport pickup with my host, who got his cousin to pick me up. The cool thing about Airbnb is that some of the home owners also have ad-hoc services like airport pickup for a fee, especially in places like Indonesia etc. where homes are hard to find and transport is not reliable, so just check with them.

The one-way ride cost 350,000 Rupiah or $26 USD which I later realized was a little pricey, though it’s the standard rate quoted among all the Airbnb owners I inquired with. Since I was arriving late in the evening and (1) homes in Ubud can be hard to find if you’re not from that area, (2) there are errant drivers who quote you bloated fees, plus (3) there is a language barrier, I didn’t want to take a chance and just booked transport with the host. It got me to the villa safely after a 1.5 hour ride and I’m happy.


For my return flight, I’m going with the host’s transport service again as it’s just more convenient and easier to coordinate, plus I’m having a morning flight. The return ride will be 300,000 Rupiah or $22 USD (as I asked him for a discount).

If you’re getting a cab straight from the airport, I think you should be able to easily negotiate for a 300,000 Rupiah fee from airport to Ubud. The ride is about 1.5 hours long. If you’re traveling from Bali airport to Kuta/Seminyak, the rate will of course be much cheaper (Ubud is further north).

Read Part 2: Living in Ubud, Environment: Nature, Climate, Villages, and Animals

This is part 1 of a 5-part travel series on Ubud where I share things to note as a traveler living in Ubud and how to make the best out of your trip here.

  1. Living in Ubud Series: Introduction, Visa, Accommodation
  2. Environment: Nature, Climate, Villages, Animals
  3. Transport: Scooters, Taxis, Go-Jek
  4. Living in Ubud, Food: Vegetarian Restaurant Reviews
  5. Others: Insects, Language, Internet Speed, and More (Conclusion)

Bali map from Bali Tourism Board; All other images © Personal Excellence

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