Bali Pandemic: From Lockdown Struggles to Rejuvenated Paradise
As an expat living in Bali for years, I have witnessed the island’s extraordinary journey from the height of the COVID-19 pandemic to its current state of resurgence.
These are my experiences of Bali during the pandemic, how the island adapted to the challenges, and the remarkable transformation it has undergone since then.
The Pandemic’s Impact
When the pandemic first hit, Bali, a paradise heavily dependent on tourism, faced unprecedented challenges. With international travel coming to a halt, businesses shuttered, and the bustling streets of Bali fell silent. The island’s usually vibrant atmosphere, characterized by lively beach clubs, bustling markets, and thriving restaurants, gave way to a somber and uncertain reality.
The busy streets that once caused so much traffic were open freeways. In certain parts of Bali, literally every single shop was closed on certain major streets as if the island evacuated to mainland. The more tourists a village had, the more of a ghost town it became. Locales where expats and nomads lived such as Canggu, Seminyak and Berawa still clung to life.
The featured image is of Jalan Poppies 2 in Kuta during one of Bali’s international lockdowns. Pre-corona, this street would be so full of people and motorbikes that walking through it would be like an obstacle course – day and night, weekdays and weekends.
Locals and expats alike had to quickly adapt to new regulations and restrictions, including mask mandates, curfews and the temporary closure of non-essential businesses. Many people lost their jobs or faced reduced income and the island’s economy struggled as a result.
Despite the hardships, the Balinese community demonstrated remarkable resilience during the pandemic. Locals and expats came together to support one another, with community initiatives like food drives and donations to help those in need. Businesses pivoted, offering delivery services, online classes and take-away options, ensuring the survival of many beloved establishments.
Petty crime did rise, mostly theft of mobile phones, premium helmets, motorbikes and the occasional handbag. However, violent crime barely moved the needle. Any kind of crime is wrong but everyone has to eat.
In any case, Bali during this time was exceedingly peaceful (maybe too peaceful?) to the level of profound serenity, admittedly because I’ve already retired and didn’t have to rely on a normal job to survive. But as for the locals, they could write a pandemic survival guide on how well they’ve thrived through the most difficult time the world has seen since World War 2.
The Return of Tourism
As the pandemic began to subside and vaccinations became more widespread, Bali slowly started to reopen its doors to international travelers. The government implemented strict health protocols, including pre-travel testing and quarantine measures, to ensure the safety of both tourists and locals.
A Rejuvenated Paradise
Today, Bali has emerged from the pandemic as a rejuvenated paradise, having learned valuable lessons from its ordeal. The island’s natural beauty has been revitalized, with cleaner beaches and greener landscapes. Many businesses have adopted more sustainable practices, focusing on local produce and eco-friendly products.
The island’s unique culture, which was once at risk of being overshadowed by mass tourism, has found a new appreciation among visitors who now seek more authentic and immersive experiences. Bali now offers a more refined and conscious form of tourism, allowing visitors to connect with the island’s rich heritage and traditions.
The notorious traffic is back however. But like anywhere else, that’s an excellent sign of a healthy and robust economy for Bali.
As an expat who has witnessed Bali’s transformation during and after the COVID-19 pandemic, I can attest to the island’s incredible resilience and adaptability. Despite the challenges it faced, Bali has emerged stronger, more vibrant and more conscious of its unique identity.
Now, as the island welcomes visitors once again, it offers an even more enriching and unforgettable experience for those who choose to embrace its beauty, culture, and spirit.