Most expats crave something from home once in a while. Bali is a very expat-friendly island, and you can find almost everything you need on the spot.
There are, however, some things that I miss that are always on the list for me to grab when travelling, or to order from friends who visit.
1. Quality alcohol at a reasonable price
I’m not the biggest fan of alcohol, simply because I hate headaches and hangovers. However, I love a glass of red wine with my beef carpaccio on Friday nights and a glass (or two) of Chablis on a cliff-picnic over the weekend. As a former mergers and acquisitions lawyer, signings and closings of transactions were often accompanied by a good glass of champagne; I won’t say no to a glass of bubbly when there’s something worth celebrating.
Unfortunately, for my taste, the favourite go-to beverage in Bali, that is both affordable and available everywhere, is beer. Finding a good wine at a reasonable price is tricky, and this almost made me reconsider my alcohol of choice. I even tried to push myself to drink beer occasionally. For nearly two years, I could not go further than half a bottle of San Miguel with a large slice of lime, and I’ve also dabbled in Bintang, Prost, 1944, etc.
Because of my work, I know why quality alcohol is hard to find and expensive. Indonesia only has a small number of companies with alcohol import licences plus very high import taxes. This is why a bottle of champagne that costs around 40 euros in Europe is almost three times as much here.
Another example of a challenge is finding your favourite French wines to enjoy in Bali, which you can sip in France for a couple of euros. You can only bring in one litre of alcoholic beverages when you enter Indonesia. When I have friends visiting, it is never black bread or mustard or any other weird foods that I ask for, but a bottle of good wine (or champagne if it’s a really good friend).
I’ve heard my friends complaining about the same topic. Some of them will always bring along a bottle of whiskey or vodka during their travels because their preferred brands are so much more expensive in Bali. You must watch out for the fake spirits that are on sale with more reasonable prices; they guarantee a headache.
All in all, I’ve started drinking less alcohol ever since I moved to Bali. Thus, the Indonesian alcohol policy is perhaps good for the general public’s health.
2. Food supplements and cosmetics
Bali is full of health nuts, and everyone has their own favourite powders and supplements. Natural supplements and roots are easy to find in Bali, but if you want to order your Sunwarrior protein powder from the States, then better beware since it’s probably going to get stuck in customs.
Getting your item cleared through customs will be expensive. You might end up paying a similar amount as you would if you travel to the States yourself and bring the supplements back with you. The same applies to cosmetics. If your personal order comes with a value of less than US$1,000, I’d recommend you to just save your nerves and leave it.
How do I know? I once asked a favour from a friend to send my favourite face cream to Bali. I never got it. I decided to learn all about the regulations in place. Food and cosmetics must be registered with the Indonesian FDA (BPOM) to gain access to Indonesia. This is one of the reasons why you cannot find many international cosmetics brands in Indonesia – each product and colour must be registered separately. This is quite an investment to make to come on the market and keep prices competitive. In fact, this may be the reason why some nail salons have such a limited number of colours.
3. Apple official reseller
I bought a new iPhone earlier this year. You know the thrill of taking it out from the box and switching it on for the very first time; precisely like Steve Jobs wanted us to feel. Some of you will roll your eyes and think that I should get myself an Android phone instead and delete this section. Nevertheless, I was happy until the touchscreen stopped working.
I didn’t expect any errors to occur this fast, I had only used my device for three months. My friend tried to fix the phone with help from some extensive googling, but it didn’t work. I was still hopeful, thinking that since it has a warranty, I will just drop it off at the nearest Apple store and get the help I needed.
I was advised to go to Singapore and fix my phone there. Apparently, there are no official Apple resellers who can accept the guarantee in Indonesia. I have not figured out what the reason is for them not being here, but I’d be happy to incorporate for them.
The list of things that expats miss in Bali is probably longer and different for every individual, but it’s definitely full of business opportunities. I have several clients who started their trading or manufacturing business just because they could not find the products they wanted in the market. What would you add to the list?
Triin Tigane is the Branch Manager of Emerhub Bali. She has been assisting people with starting their business in Bali for nearly 3 years. Having a legal background in M&A, commercial and corporate law, restructuring and insolvency as a lawyer, Triin has experience working with companies all around the world. She knows which challenges starting and expanding companies face, and which standard of communication and services are expected by international clients expanding to emerging markets. Triin Tigane holds a masters degree from the University of Tartu, Estonia, and has studied law also in France and Austria. Feel free to drop her an email: firstname.lastname@example.org