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Nyepi – Bali Day of Silence

Wednesday 25 March 2020 06:00 AM — Thursday 26 March 06:00 AM

Nyepi is a Hindu ceremony only commemorated in Bali, Indonesia. It’s a day of silence, fasting and meditation for the Balinese, but non-Hindu and tourists must also observe the restrictions on noise and travel. This means being confined to your hotel or villa as no one is allowed on the beaches or streets, with all outside lighting extinguished, inside lighting kept low, and noise kept to a minimum.

What is Nyepi?

Nyepi is observed from 6:00 AM until 6:00 AM the next morning. This year it will occur on Wednesday 25 March 2020 06:00 AM — Thursday 26 March 06:00 AM. It’s reserved for self-reflection, and restrictions include no lighting fires, minimal use of electric light, no working, entertainment, or travelling. For some villages and parts of the island, this also includes no electricity, talking or eating.

But don’t worry, because tourists are exempt from these stricter practices, although you do need to remain indoors and lower the volume for a day.

The only exceptions granted are for emergency vehicles responding to life-threatening conditions and women about to give birth. I’ve heard the occasional car travelling fast down Sunset Rd on Nyepi and was told by my local friends they were ambulances – only without the flashing lights and sirens blaring. Not that they would be needed anyway as there is absolutely no traffic on the roads whatsoever.

The only people allowed outdoors are the Pecalang, traditional security men who patrol the streets to ensure the prohibitions are being followed.

The day following Nyepi is celebrated as the Balinese New Year’s Day, known as Ngembak Geni (Relighting the Fire). Daily life picks up again as family and friends get together to ask forgiveness from one another and to perform certain religious rituals together.

Does everything in Bali shut down for Nyepi?

The short answer is yes. All shops, restaurants, businesses…everything is closed. The only exception is the hospitals, but even they will have the surrounding cafes and amenities closed for the 24-hour Nyepi Day of Silence.

When do the shops and restaurants close?

Because all the local staff will be heading back to their home village for Nyepi, local businesses, including bars, cafes and restaurants will begin closing down a few days beforehand to give everyone time to get back home.

By the day before Nyepi pretty much everything will be closed. So it pays to stock up on food, drinks and anything else you may need beforehand.

Does the Internet really get shut down?

My first Nyepi experience (which I thoroughly loved) was in 2016 and the Internet was still operational, along with mobile phone service. There has been growing local pressure to shut down the internet over Nyepi, and in 2017 and 2018 it was partially shut down for several hours at a time and in 2019 it was shut down completely.

While at first, I was a little put off by this, I have now come to embrace it. Losing internet access for one day really doesn’t stop the world turning, and it forces me to not use the day as an excuse to work during Nyepi and enjoy what Nyepi is really all about – accepting the silence, introspection and quiet contemplation.

It is expected the internet will be completely shut down for Nyepi on March 25 2020.

Is it true the airport is also closed?

Actually, this is true. Bali (Denpasar) Ngurah Rai Airport is closed just like everywhere else. This is a great example of local cultural practices winning out over the financial interests of multi-national businesses by having such a major operation like an international airport completely shut down for the 24-hour Nyepi Day of Silence. To be clear, that means there are no international or domestic arrivals or departures from 6:00 AM at the start of Nyepi until 6:00 AM the following day.

Have a look of the travel booking websites for a flight into Bali on 25 March 2020 for proof. It really is true.

What can tourists do over Nyepi?

You can have a relaxing day in your villa doing nothing but swimming, soaking up the sun, eating and drinking (just make sure you have supplies beforehand) – but please know that you are expected to observe Nyepi by keeping the noise down and making sure no lights can be seen from the outside.

If you are staying in a hotel you will be well looked after, as the staff are well used to catering for tourists over Nyepi. The inside cafes and restaurants will likely be open, along with the pool, but the same restrictions apply regarding keeping the noise down and not be allowed outside.

Are the stars really brighter?

Yes, absolutely! While the stars are not as bright close to the equator like Bali is, as they are are in northern or southern latitudes, the complete lack of light pollution means the warmer, thicker air in the tropical climate doesn’t act as a mirror refracting the usual ambient light thrown up my street lamps and nighttime lights.

This means the stars definitely look brighter, so let’s hope to a clear night without any clouds!

Are there ceremonies we can watch?

Definitely. There are wonderfully colourful parades in the night before Nyepi when the villages parade giant statues around the streets. These are called Ogoh-Ogoh, and they represent the evil spirits that have been chased into the figurines in the days leading up to Nyepi.

Nyepi - Bali Day of Silence - Bali Holiday Secrets

They are incredibly ugly, scary and some of them downright twisted – which makes for a fantastic parade! At the end of the parade, they are burnt to ashes in a purification ceremony, ridding the village of evil spirits.

Ask around the area you are staying for where the closest parades with be. In Seminyak it’s down the main street (Jalan Seminyak).

When is Nyepi in Bali?

YearDate
2020Wednesday, 25th March
2021Sunday, 14th March
2022Saturday, 3rd March
2023Wednesday, 22 March
2024Monday, 11th March
2025Saturday, 29th March

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