This post is also available in: Dutch

Latest update: 17 January 2023

Shhhh… it’s Silent Day in Bali. The streets are deserted, the airport is closed, the shops are closed, the lights are off, and the ATMs are unavailable. Bali welcomes the new year with Nyepi.

New Year in Bali

My taxi driver drives me from Kuta to Canggu. That’s about an hour’s drive through busy streets. Our conversation quickly comes to a halt because he hardly speaks English. He’s trying to tell me something. I smile when he repeats it a third time, but I have no clue what he’s talking about. The following days the penny drops: he was talking about Nyepi. There is no escaping it in Bali. According to the Balinese Saka calendar, New Year falls somewhere in March. This is celebrated with Silent Day and many ceremonies and parades preceding it.

Welcoming Balinese New Year with ceremonies

We welcome a date from the 20th century. The Saka calendar uses the moon as a benchmark, which is why it lags behind our era. With Nyepi, there is a black moon, or: no moon. The first rituals start three days in advance. Colorful processions where the Balinese dress up in yellow and white and walk from a temple towards the beach. At the beach ceremony, they place offerings along the water, such as flowers, which the sea then washes away. Some people walk the procession as if they are in a trance. Others quietly smoke a cigarette and cheerfully shout and wave hello to tourists who are watching in fascination.

The silence before Nyepi

The staff of my residence says that everything will turn quiet from four o’clock. No taxis, no food, no shops. Everyone starts preparing for New Year’s Eve, Nyepi. Everything is closed from then on. However, that is not entirely accurate. There are still plenty of places where you can get food for evening activities, and some supermarkets are also open.

Ogoh Ogoh parade

The evening before Silent Day, the Ogoh Ogohs appear, starting at seven o’clock. They are giant monsters or mystical figures made of paper mache. They look like they’ve taken weeks of work to create. People carry the figures through the streets, past the temples, and to the beach. There is music, occasional fireworks, and lots of smoke. Thousands of people are out on the street. The evening continues until two in the morning.

Nyepi Ogoh Ogoh

Bali is ‘uninhabited’ during Nyepi

Silence begins at six o’clock the next morning. The four Nyepi “commandments” are no fire, travel, activity, or entertainment. People are strict about this. Tourists are also required to participate. Although there are less stringent requirements for them. For example, we still have electricity and wi-fi in the evening. The religious employees are not working today though. A non-Hindu does the honors and has enlisted his entire family to help.

The idea behind the day of silence is that evil spirits will think that Bali is uninhabited. They will therefore leave the island so that we will be free from evil in the coming year and can enjoy the Indonesian island carefree.

More Bali inspiration

  • Accommodation. My all-time favorite remains Booking.com. Would you rather stay in a hostel? Check Hostelworld.
  • Activities. You book the best tours and activities with GetYourGuide and Viator. And Baja Bikes offers excellent bicycle tours.
  • Attractions and museums. Check out Tiqets for museum and attraction tickets (and get a 5% discount with discount code KIMOPREIS22)
  • Car rental. I often rent at EasyTerra because of their all-inclusive / worry-free offer. Or otherwise, compare prices at Discover Cars.
  • Flights. Compare all your options! Definitely check out Momondo, Skyscanner, and Kiwi.
  • Money. Your debit and credit cards may not get accepted everywhere. You could opt for a Revolut card as an additional card when you travel. 
  • Package deals. Rather go on a catered trip? For the Dutch readers, please check out these organizations: ANWB vakanties, Sawadee, Tui, Corendon, Shoestring, D-Reizen, and Vakantie Discounter.
  • SIM card. Beware of unexpectedly high calling and internet costs. Buy a local SIM card when you arrive, or arrange one online via Airalo.
  • Train, bus, and boat. Reserve busses, trains, and boats in Bali at Busbud, 12Go, or Omio.
  • Travel gear. Buy your gear at Bever or Decathlon, or simply at Bol.com.
  • Travel guides. Are you getting all excited about your Bali trip? I understand! To add to your anticipation, you can order a travel guide, for example at Bol.com or Amazon.
  • Yoga retreat. Or treat yourself to a yoga retreat in Bali.

Some of the links on this site are affiliate links. If you buy something through these links, I might receive a small commission.

First published: March 2017 The article has been updated since.

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