Starting a Business in Bali
One of the questions Paul and I get asked most often is, “What’s it like starting a business in Bali?”. This question always gives us a bit of a chuckle because the answer is, like most things in Bali, rewarding but complicated. If you’re thinking of chucking it all in and setting up shop in Bali like we did, there’s a few things you should know before you get started.
Go Legal, Stay Legal
Paul and I both knew from the start that we wanted to build a life and business here, so that many setting up our business and our visas in accordance with Indonesian law. While there are lots of expats roaming around the island with “underground” businesses, doing visa runs every couple of months, we knew that wasn’t for us. And truthfully, if you really want to call Bali home, it’s probably not for you either.
I highly recommend talking to other expat business owners and seeking the advice of an Indonesian lawyer or agent who can walk you through the intricacies of setting up your own company. You can do it yourself, but unless you speak the language, the process will be very difficult.
You’ll also want to make sure you have plenty of cash saved, as the process is not cheap. Incorporating and obtaining the proper visas can cost anywhere between $6,000 - $10,000 USD. The fees and requirements are constantly changing though so be sure and talk to someone who is in the know.
Bureaucracy in Indonesia does not work like it does in the West. Bosses, rules, and fees are constantly changing and never clear. We often find ourselves greasing one palm only to find another held out behind it. Forms have to be filled out again…and again…and again… You’ll need to breathe deep and make your peace with the process; because that’s what it is, a process. Know going into it, it’s not going to be smooth, there are going to be delays, and things will never go quite how you expected them to. So allow for plenty of time. This is when it’s really great to have a business partner—you’ve got someone in the trenches with you.
With all of that said, I think I speak for both of us when I say starting and running our own business here in Bali has been one of the most fulfilling, rewarding, and fun things we have ever done. And I wouldn’t trade a single trip to Denpasar to have it any other way. The work and the wait makes the reward all that much sweeter.
So as much as you (and sometimes we) may not like it, set up your business legally. Incorporate properly, get a KITAS (working visa), and register with the Indonesian tax system. The great thing about incorporating in Indonesia is then you can sponsor your own KITAS which gives you a great deal of security.