Most Balinese speak at some English

English is the common “third” language (after Indonesian and Balinese) and the most popular foreign language by far. A lot of Balinese speak a level of English that allows them to communicate with tourists on a basic level. Even so, you will come across many people whose English is quite good..

Australians continue to be the most frequent international visitors to Bali, accounting for nearly 30% of all foreign arrivals. Many have been returning for decades, and there’s a good reason for that. You’d be surprised at how many young locals, particularly in Kuta, will greet you with a solid “Hey Mate”, sounding very much like an Australian themselves. They are really kind people who seem keen to learn something about you.

Getting Around if you don’t speak the Local Language 

Anybody who can speak a little English should be able to communicate enough to get by in Bali. The hotels and restaurants you visit will all have no trouble communicating with you in English. Quite often the Balinese will use a “creative” translation, but you’ll still get the idea. Visitors of international hotel chains may frequently find employees fluent in the languages of the nations from where the majority of their guests come from. If you stay at a Novotel that is operated by the French company Accor, you may expect to hear French spoken by some of the Guest Relation Officers (GROs). At Grupo Melia, they speak Spanish and so on.

The menus at most restaurants are written in both English and Indonesian, while some may only feature one. You can try asking for a menu in your native tongue if you are Japanese, Korean, Chinese, or Russian in Kuta, Legian, Nusa Dua, or Seminyak.

Many foreigners have made Bali their permanent home, and among them are a strong and active expat community that has developed restaurants and small hotels. Customers from their own nation make up a significant portion of their customers. Those interested in learning more about the local community may pick up a “LOCAL” Gazette in French or a compact German newsmagazine. Typically, you may pick up one of these periodicals for free at a local grocery store, bakery, or eatery.

Multilingual signage and advertising fliers aimed to international travelers sometimes have translations into Chinese, Japanese, Korean, French, or German. Those fluent in either of these languages may be hired as tour guides to take you around and explain everything. They do, however, charge significantly more than guides who speak “only” English for their services.

Dutch, Japanese, Russian, Chinese, and Korean speaking tour operators are especially plentiful. There are travel agencies in the area that may assist you.

More and more people from China and Russia are visiting the Island of the Gods, therefore the Chinese and Russian languages are gaining prominence.

Many visitors, especially those who return, as well as some locals, now speak some level of the language well. Even if you can just speak a few words of Indonesian, your time in Bali will be much enhanced. You will feel more at ease haggling with shopkeepers and asking taxi drivers to turn on their meters. When you learn only 20 words of Bahasa, Balinese people will be much more open and welcoming to you.

Bahasa Bali & Bahasa Indonesia

“Bahasa” is just the word for “language” in Indonesian.

“Bahasa Indonesia” simply means “Indonesian Language”, just like “Bahasa Ingris” means “English Language” or “Bahasa Jerman” means “German Language”.

To ask “Do you speak Bahasa?” is to ask “Do you speak language?”

The language is called “Indonesian” It is also fine to say “Bahasa Indonesia” when speaking English. 

That being said, let’s move on. Most Balinese speak at least two, if not three, languages (Indonesian, Balinese, English). And almost everyone from Bali and the other islands will speak Bahasa Indonesia rather than their native language if they are employed in the hospitality industry.

Bahasa Indonesia, a language similar to Malay, is spoken and taught in all government institutions and schools. It serves as a universal language for all in a country with over 16,000 islands and 700+ languages and dialects, each with its own distinct culture. Indonesia is widely regarded as one of the world’s most linguistically diverse countries.

There are several different indigenous Balinese dialects, and there are various ways how to communicate between the casts and clan members. Balinese society has deep feudal roots, and in many ways, it’s even today still “quasi-feudal” and some social protocols and customs of the times of the kings are still in effect. Most Balinese belong to the Sudra caste (anak jaba, outsiders) and speak the common Balinese language among themselves. Outsiders, because they live outside the palace.

The high or HALUS Balinese is essentially the “language of the court” and derived from Javanese. Generally, one speaks to strangers and social superiors in high Balinese.

And then there’s KAWI, the language of ancient stories and plays revolving around the deities that are performed during priestly rituals. And then there is SANSKRIT, the language of Hindu scriptures and prayer.

But most Balinese will these days use the most widely spoken option: “modern Balinese”; some rules of how to communicate between the casts are ignored or altered.

Kawi and particularly Sanskrit are also commonly used by some Hindu priests.

Bali Translation Language
بالي Bali in Arabic
Бали Bali in Bulgarian
Bali Bali in Catalan
巴厘岛 Bali in Chinese
峇里島 Bali in Chinese (tradit.)
Bali Bali in Croatian
Bali Bali in Czech
Bali Bali in Danish
Bali Bali in Dutch
Bali Bali in English
Bali Bali in Estonian
Bali, Indonesya Bali in Filipino
Bali Bali in Finnish
Bali Bali in French
Bali Bali in German
Μπαλί Bali in Greek
באלי Bali in Hebrew
बाली Bali in Hindi
Bali Bali in Hungarian
Bali Bali in Indonesian
Bali Bali in Italian
バリ島 Bali in Japanese
발리 섬 Bali in Korean
Bali Bali in Lat. Am. Spanish
Bali Bali in Latvian
Balis Bali in Lithuanian
Pulau Bali Bali in Malay
Bali Bali in Norwegian
بالی Bali in Persian
Bali Bali in Polish
Bali Bali in Portuguese
Bali Bali in Romanian
Бали Bali in Russian
Бали Bali in Serbian
Bali Bali in Slovak
Bali Bali in Slovenian
Bali Bali in Spanish
Bali Bali in Swedish
จังหวัดบาหลี Bali in Thai
Bali Bali in Turkish
Bali Bali in U.S. English
Балі Bali in Ukrainian
Bali Bali in Vietnamese

巴厘岛 峇里島 Μπαλί באלי बाली バリ島 발리 섬 Pulau Bali بالی Бали จังหวัดบาหลี