Travel Diaries: Being Black in Bali

By Renika Williams The Black Lens Contributor

I traveled to Bali, Indonesia for my honeymoon in May 2023, and it was an unforgettable experience. The island is known for its stunning beaches and friendly people, but what really stood out the most was the lack of racism. As someone who considers themselves relatively well-traveled, having visited several countries in Europe and Asia including France, Italy, and South Korea, I’ve encountered a lot of subtle and not-so-subtle racism. In France, for instance, I was constantly followed around and watched in shops and dismissed socially as a “foreigner”. In Bali, however, I felt genuinely welcomed and integrated into the culture. I then found out that there is a growing population of Black expats and Black travelers that are making Bali their top travel destination.

Bali, part of the Indonesian archipelago, is home to over 17,000 islands and a rich tapestry of ethnic groups, languages, and cultures. Historical trade routes brought various ethnicities to the region, creating an open and diverse society. The Balinese, in particular, are known for their hospitality and openness to foreigners, deeply rooted in their Hindu-Buddhist traditions that emphasize tolerance and respect for all living beings. The concept of “Tri Hita Karana,” which means three causes of well-being (harmony with God, among people, and with nature), is a central philosophy in Balinese culture.

During my stay, I discovered the thriving Black community in Bali, an unexpected phenomenon considering the island’s distance from the U.S. (The flights were 20 hours total!) I came across “Black in Bali,” a community that started as a WhatsApp group for Black expats that has grown into a vital resource. On Facebook, the Black in Bali group has over 13,900 members. This group organizes events, provides support, and fosters a sense of community, helping Black travelers integrate smoothly into local society with initiatives like social gatherings, networking sessions, community service and even Juneteenth celebrations, ensuring that Black visitors and residents feel at home.

Personal accounts and travel blogs from other Black travelers often highlight the positive interactions they have had with the local population. I could say the same. On my trip, our local guide took me and my husband to a private temple for a special water ceremony to honor my mother and her passing. I was prayed over and blessed by my guides and other locals, who showed me the type of respect and caring that I had been missing at home in New York.

Never before have I felt so seen and valued as a person, irrespective of my race. In Bali, I was able to move freely and be myself without the constant awareness of my skin color. It was a refreshing and liberating experience, and I look forward to returning to this welcoming island paradise. I hope other countries take note.

For more information about the Black community in Bali and resources for Black travelers, you can explore the “Black in Bali” website and community groups. They offer a wealth of information and support for those considering a visit or a move to Bali.