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A Comprehensive Guide about Living in Bali

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Life in Bali

  • Balinese-Hinduism is the main religion which influences the culture on the island; festivals are a big part of it and are a must to experience.
  • Bali is safer than Jakarta when it comes to terroristic attacks; it is recommended to take certain vaccination before moving here.
  • There are a lot of international schools due to an increase in expat numbers in recent years.
  • Public transportation is becoming more common; it is possible to choose from traditional minivans or regular busses for longer distances.

Bali is famous for its beaches and vacation appeal. In fact, when Indonesia comes to mind, most people only envision Bali, where a fascinating lifestyle and beautiful scenery can be found on their doorstep. Rice paddies cascading down rolling hills, crystal clear water licking at white sands, an array of exotic fish, volcanoes piercing the clouds, and landscapes dotted with temple ruins, are all things you will get to experience while living on this tropical island.

Every year over 3.3 million tourists visit Bali. With a population of 4.2 million people, Bali is not only one of the largest islands in the Indonesian archipelago, but also the one which sees the most visitors — almost as many as actual inhabitants. The locals living in Bali are often considered to be some of the friendliest hosts in the world. Welcoming you with open arms, most Balinese want you to feel as comfortable on their island as they are. Therefore, most expats in Bali quickly adapt to their new lifestyle; after all, who wouldn’t want to call this beautiful spot home?

Bali: Culture and Art at the Center

When Bali became Indonesia’s tourist hotspot in the 1970s, the local population was afraid that the large amounts of travelers arriving daily on its shores would spoil the island’s traditional lifestyle. The government took preventative measures to avoid this — by making culture the main point of attraction for foreigners coming to or living in Bali.

Society in Bali is largely influenced by its religious background, namely Balinese-Hinduism. Contrary to the rest of Indonesia, where most citizens are Muslim, the majority of people in Bali — approximately 90% — practice a form of Hinduism. Expats in Bali will also notice that it is a very community-oriented society. Contrary to the practice in many Western countries, young married couples in Bali continue to live at home.

Art is also a large part of life in Bali. Those living on the island will be familiar with its cultural heritage, which includes song and dance as well as drama and sculpture. The language of Bali does not recognize the word “artist”, but one could say that art is simply a part of everyday life. Many people in Bali are able to create some form of art. Most of these objects are a type of religious offering and can be seen throughout cities, temples, homes, and workplaces.

The Culture of Festivals You Cannot Miss

Due to the mix of Bali’s different cultural traditions, expats in Bali will experience quite a few vibrant and vivacious street festivals. The local population in Bali is an extremely close-knit society and values their culture highly, of which festivals are one of the main ingredients.

Listing all festivals that take place regularly as part of life in Bali would require more space than this article allows. Foreign residents should know that there are three types of calendars used in Bali. The saka calendar is a Hindu calendar that follows the cycles of the moon, and the wuku calendar is the Balinese festival calendar. Additionally, there is also the Gregorian calendar used to schedule daily life in Bali.

The Galungan Ceremony, Bali’s most important festival, is celebrated every 210 days and lasts a total of 10 days. The festival celebrates the victory of virtue (dharma) over evil (adharma). The highlight of this ceremony is the famous Barong dance, during which dancers move from one temple to the next supplying offerings to the gods. Once you are living in Bali, you will see that great importance is also attached to other festivities, especially wedding, birth, and burial ceremonies.

Expat Info Bali: Health, Education & More

Staying Safe and Healthy in Bali

First and foremost, it is important to mention that Bali is a fairly safe location. In the past, terrorist organizations sometimes targeted hotels, resorts, and other venues frequented by foreigners, but there have been no major incidents in Bali since 2005. Petty theft is the most common sort of crime, but most expats in Bali have never experienced any sort of issues with the local population. Be aware, however, that regardless of your nationality, you will be subject to Indonesian law if you are accused of a crime while residing in Bali. It is very important to never leave your bags and suitcases unattended, since drug dealers may try to smuggle narcotics into the luggage of unaware travelers.

You should also keep in mind that Bali is located in a region with volcanic activity as well as a subtropical climate, meaning average temperatures are 30°C and up. Register with your embassy or consulate-general in Bali, just in case of emergency, and take good care of yourself during the hot hours of the day.

Although there are no direct health hazards, certain vaccinations are recommended if you plan on living in Bali for a longer period of time. In addition to standard immunizations (DPT, MMR), these include hepatitis A and B, typhoid fever, Japanese encephalitis, and rabies. Contact your general practitioner at home for information regarding how far in advance you need these done.

Most medication can be purchased over the counter in Bali without a doctor’s prescription. Pharmacies in Indonesia are called apotiks. If you are required to take certain medications while living abroad, be sure to see your doctor before you leave your native country to get the medical name for the drug you need, as it may be sold under a different brand name in Indonesia!

No Shortage of International Schools in Bali

Due to the language barrier and the sometimes lower standards of local education in Indonesia, most expats in Bali prefer to send their children to private international schools. The demand for international schools in Bali has grown in recent years, partly due to an increase in expats as well as wealthier Balinese wanting their children to get an international education.

Most of the international schools in Bali use English as a medium of instruction, so your child should ideally have at least some basic English skills. If you prefer an alternative holistic type of education, Bali also has international schools and preschools based on the Montessori and Waldorf teaching methods.

The Most Distinguished International Schools in Bali

Traditional Bemo or Comfortable Bus?

Getting around Bali can sometimes be seen as a little adventure. Although private car ownership has increased somewhat in the past decade, it is more common to use public transportation, especially considering that many of the roads are unfinished.

Public transportation in Bali is composed of various smaller motor vehicles called bemo, a kind of minivan or minibus that can sit a very cramped 12 people. _Bemo_s are not only relatively inexpensive and efficient, but they are also a great way to get in touch with the local population.

If you are planning on going longer distances, it is wise to take a regular, larger bus, a special shuttle for tourists (e.g. by Perama Tour), or a car. When you drive, please be aware that not all roads are paved, that there are lots of motorcycle drivers, that road safety awareness tends to be low, and that some places are simply not accessible with any kind of vehicle. Whatever you do, please remember that the time it takes to get from A to B may be significantly higher than in your country of origin.

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  • Ben F. Bagley

    The mututal support between InterNations members is really impressive. Glad to be part of it!

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    Coming from Montreal/Canada, I was searching for a French-speaking housekeeper. Advice from other Bali expats helped me to find the right person.

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