Bali is one of the 17,000 islands that make up Indonesia. While in Bali, be prepared to be inspired by the dancing, drama and artwork as well as the pervasiveness of Balinese Hinduism. If it's adventure you fancy, ride world-class waves, spend your time with the fish deep below the sea or trek up a volcano. For those who wish to meet fellow travelers, look no further than Kuta, the party and tourist hotspot. And everyone could benefit from a Balinese massage, followed by some delicious Nasi Goreng, just one of Indonesia's flavorful dishes. Made even more famous in Elizabeth Gilbert's novel Eat, Pray, Love, Bali is exotic, beautiful and compelling.
The most popular volunteer opportunity in Bali is teaching. Most schools are looking for English teachers, though you may find a few that are looking for teachers in arts, music, or sports. If you are interested in eco-volunteering, there are growing opportunities to do conservation work, as Bali becomes a bigger tourist attraction every year. For those hoping to work in agriculture, youth development, health, or poverty-alleviation, there are organizations doing work in these sectors, albeit more limited.
If it's adventure you're seeking, then Bali must be a top destination during your gap year. World-renowned for its waves, Bali has become something of a surfing mecca. Don't know how? Not a problem! Numerous companies offer surfing lessons daily. If you want to go below the surf, try a hand at snorkeling or get SCUBA-certified. The Gili Islands, just two hours away by boat, boast incredible marine life. For the experienced diver, you may be interested in involving yourself in coral reef conservation. For those who prefer land, Bali's three main volcanoes offer excellent trekking and breathtaking views. While enjoying the natural wonders of the island, no adventure in Bali would be complete without a day spent in touristy Kuta.
Looking to rejuvenate your mind and soul during your gap year? Head up north to Ubud. Originally known for its conglomeration of artists, Ubud now hosts yoga, meditation and cleanse centers for the novice to the experienced. The town even offers a number of vegan, vegetarian and raw food restaurants. Then soak in the vast amount of culture by visiting temples, learning about Bali's history and taking a drive into the heart of the island where you can experience the beauty without the clamor of tourists.
Residents of most countries can obtain a 30-day tourist visa on arrival for $25 and can extend it for 60 days. Apply for a visa through the Indonesian Embassy, which will give you the option to get either a tourist, business or social visit visa. All of these visas will come with the option for either single or multiple entries (up to 60 days). A social visa can be extended every month for up to 6 months but requires a letter of invitation from an Indonesia. It costs $15 every time you fly out of Indonesia.
Cost of Living
In the cities and towns, you will find ATMs and credit cards are accepted. But if you go out into the country, cash (Indonesian Rupiahs) will be expected. The cost of living ranges from $15-30 per day, depending on your lifestyle.
Culture and Etiquette
While Bali has been inundated with foreigners, the small island still holds fast to its traditional culture in many ways:
- Dress modestly, covering up when you are leaving the beach. When visiting a temple be sure to rent a temple scarf and sarong and cover bare shoulders.
- Don't use your left hand when giving or receiving. This comes from a hygienic, "left hand = toilet hand" custom.
- Don't enter a temple if you're menstruating or have a bleeding wound, it is considered impure.
- Don't touch people's head, as this is where the soul resides.
- Don't use your index finger to point/beckon.
- Don't interrupt a religious ceremony, procession or prayer.
- Don't step on the offerings on the ground (typically flowers and leaves).
Health and Safety in Bali
As with anywhere you travel, be sure to check with both a travel clinic and your country's travel advisories for up-to-date information on health and safety precautions. Here are some tips:
- Dengue fever is found in Bali and is not prevented by vaccine. Be sure to carry bug spray and wear covering clothing to protect yourself.
- Health facilities are substandard when compared to Western counterparts. If you need serious medical attention, you may opt to go to Singapore or Bangkok.
- Be wary of cons and make sure you keep your personal belongings securely with you.
- When swimming, be careful of heavy surf and strong currents, which are often not visible. Sometimes lifeguards are not on the beaches. Also, be aware of reefs.
- While you may expect to be offered drugs in nightclubs and on the streets, these offers often involve the police. Catching tourists for drugs has become something of an industry, with steep fines ($50,000+) and long jail times.
Contributed by Lindsay Denny
Gap Year Programs in Bali
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