As an expat living in Indonesia, I’ve had the pleasure of experiencing life on both Bali and Lombok. These neighboring islands, although close in proximity, have distinct differences that make them unique in their own right.

This is an expat’s take on these Indonesian islands, sharing my insights on the positives, negatives and commonalities of each island, helping you decide which paradise is right for you.

Some say Bali was at its most beautiful and wonderful 20 years ago before mass tourism struck. The same would say Lombok is what Bali was decades ago. But at the same time, tourism is what made Bali… to be Bali. Luckily, these two islands are close enough to reach by boat in a couple of hours or by cheap flights that take minutes. So experiencing both as a tourist or expat can be done with minimal planning and at low cost.

Double Six Beach at Sunset in Bali

Bali: The Island of the Gods

Bali, known as the Island of the Gods, is famous for its vibrant culture, stunning landscapes, and world-class attractions. The island offers a diverse range of experiences, from the bustling beach clubs in Canggu and Seminyak to the serene rice terraces of Ubud.

Some of the positives of Bali include its rich cultural experiences and stunning temples, a wide variety of restaurants, bars, and nightlife options, well-developed infrastructure catering to tourists and expats, and a large expat community providing networking opportunities. There’s so much to do and see in Bali it would take months to experience most of it, whereas Lombok would a week.

However, Bali also has its drawbacks, such as over-tourism leading to crowded beaches and attractions, a higher cost of living compared to other parts of Indonesia and traffic congestion, particularly in popular tourist areas.

Sunset at Lombok Beach with Hammock in Indonesia

Lombok: The Lesser-Known Paradise

Lombok, often overshadowed by its famous neighbor, is an island with pristine beaches, lush green landscapes, and a more laid-back atmosphere. With a slower pace of life and lesser-known attractions, Lombok is an ideal destination for those seeking an escape from the crowds.

The positives of Lombok include its uncrowded beaches and natural attractions, a more authentic Indonesian experience, and a lower cost of living compared to Bali. This also presents a moderately risky property / land investment proposition but with potentially significant upside, whereas Bali is a proven and safe investment haven but with much less upsiade.

However, Lombok also has its negatives, such as limited nightlife and entertainment options, lesser-developed infrastructure and fewer amenities for expats and a smaller expat community with fewer networking opportunities.

There is apparently more petty crime per capita here due to the how relatively poor (compared to Bali) the average local is against the wealthy foreigners living among them.

Bali vs Lombok Map

Commonalities between Bali and Lombok

Despite their differences, both islands share some common traits that make them attractive destinations for visitors and expats alike. Warm and welcoming local people who are proud of their culture and traditions characterize both islands.

They also share a tropical climate with year-round warm temperatures and a distinct rainy season. Furthermore, delicious local cuisine featuring fresh seafood, fruits, and Indonesian specialties can be found on both islands.

Both islands also offer much smaller islands that are even more “paradisey” than each respective “mainland” island. Bali has Nusa Penida Island and Lombok has the Gili Islands – all of which are stunning paradise islands that few other places in the world can match.

Finally, there are opportunities for outdoor adventures, including surfing, diving and hiking on each island.

Nusa Penida Island in Bali

Choosing between Bali and Lombok ultimately depends on your preferences and priorities. If you’re looking for a more cosmopolitan atmosphere with a wide range of dining, entertainment, and networking opportunities, Bali is the place for you. On the other hand, if you prefer a more relaxed pace of life, unspoiled nature, and a more authentic Indonesian experience, Lombok might be your ideal destination.

Regardless of your choice, both islands offer incredible experiences that will make your stay in Indonesia a memorable one.


The Bali Guide