Tropical Living for $1,800 a Month in Bali

Name: Ron Piltzer
From: California
Living in: Bali, Indonesia
Renting a: Villa with a pool on a tropical island

Ron Piltzer’s house has a perfectly manicured front yard and patio. The 1,200-square-foot house has two large bedrooms, a large, Western-style kitchen, a gorgeous tiled bathroom, and a large living room and dining room. The attractive, high-quality furnishings are rich with tropical hardwoods. The backyard comes with a swimming pool and lounge area, and it’s surrounded by trees and a privacy wall.

The price?

“We have it on a two-year lease and pay just $460 per month,” says Ron.

Ron, 70, and his wife Cilvia live in Renon, a quiet neighborhood on the island of Bali. Bali is one of the more than 17,000 islands that make up Indonesia. And as Ron has discovered, it’s a very affordable place to live. The couple’s low rent leaves them with lots of money to spend on the other luxuries this tropical island offers.

“We have a housekeeper that comes about once every two weeks. I pay her $11.25 for a six-hour day; that’s above the normal scale, but she is like family to us. Our landscaper redid our entire garden, including plants and new grass, all planted by hand, for about $240. He comes to do maintenance once a month. I pay him and a helper $25.50 for a full day’s work, and I’m really happy with the job they do for us.”

Dining out is an affordable indulgence in the nearby town of Sanur. “I love the fantastic selection of restaurants, and I especially love lazing in one along the beachfront promenade. When we go out to eat, we usually try to stay at $5 or less per person, which isn’t hard to do. I’d say I have about 10 superb mom-and-pop places where I feel right at home, and I always get a great meal at a good price. I can get a sumptuous meal, like a satay, for about $1.

Warung Odah Oning, which is right on the beach in Sanur, is one of my favorite places. An order of fish and chips costs just $3.75 there, and the full ocean view is great.”

Altogether, Ron and Cilvia’s cost of living is just $1,800 a month. “I’ve gotten into the habit of buying Western, imported foods such as peanut butter, marinara sauce, and so on, which I pay a premium for. We’re trying to cut back a bit on that stuff,” says Ron.

The benefits of Bali aren’t just financial. As well as stunning tropical beaches, it’s also home to some of the world’s best surfing; this has drawn thousands of English-speaking expats. Ron has more friends now than he ever did when he lived in the States. “When I want new friends, I go on the Sanur Community or Bali Expats Facebook page and ask if someone wants to meet up for a dinner on the beach. That’s how I’ve met a lot of my friends. When I first came, I photographed a lot of musicians, and after I got to know some of them, we were like brothers. I also have some good Indonesian friends.”

When Ron first came to Bali in 1988, he was amazed at how friendly the people were. At the time, he made and sold silver jewelry in San Francisco.

“One day I saw some Balinese jewelry and fell in love with it. The jewelry is amazing. So a little light lit up in my brain, and I thought, ‘Maybe I can buy these things less expensively if I go to the source,’” he says. “I immediately fell in love with the culture because of the Balinese people I met.”

Ron moved to Bali in 2013. He still enjoys making jewelry but no longer feels under pressure to work; his $1,800-a-month income, which comes from a pension and Social Security, more than covers his expenses. Instead, he spends his leisure time stretching out in his pool, fine-tuning his photography skills, and going out to dinner with his wife most evenings.

Temperatures in Sanur rarely exceed 95 F and seldom get below 73 F at night. The mild dry season runs from April through October. Though temperatures don’t change much from one season to the next, higher humidity and rain are more frequent during the winter months—up to 12 inches of rain a month in January and February. Ron says, “It’s hot and humid, but I’ve come to accept it. I’d say that I like the weather, now that I’m acclimated to it.

“I lead a very relaxed, retired man’s life and I cherish every minute of it. I’ve had so many wonderful experiences.”