Should I live in Bali with my baby?
Many families want to move to Bali but are hesitant if they should bring their very young children. Hygiene, safety, transport and health care are at the top of the list of concerns.
So many of my expat friends arrived in Bali with 6 month old babies and haven’t had any problems. With that said they would make sure their baby has had his or her immunisations before coming. Then for further immunisations they would get them in Bali, Singapore or Australia. Other than that they don’t do anything else that they wouldn’t do back in their home country.
On the topic of bringing your baby to Bali, I thought I would ask the best person I know to answer this for you and that is my very dear friend Lee Anna who lived in Bali for 9 years with her daughter Shanti and Lee Anna is now five months away from finishing her Bachelor of Midwifery degree.
How old was your daughter when you arrived in Bali and how did you feel about the hygiene?
Shanti was 18 months old. We arrived with two suitcases and intended to stay for only a few months. At the time I was not worried at all about hygiene because we had been travelling to Bali for holidays regularly and knew what to do and what not to do. Luckily, I had some close friends who lived there and they had local connections. I stayed in a little Indonesian Hotel in the Umalas and negotiated a three-month rate. The hotel was extremely well run and very clean and immaculate. The Balinese looked after us like we were family. I found a delightful school called ‘Lollypop’ which was owned and run by Indonesians. The age bracket for attendance was 3 to 8 years. Shanti absolutely loved it and learned to speak Bahasa and learned a lot about the Balinese culture. It was clean and very affordable and one of the best prep schools I have ever sent any of my children to.
Would you have a baby in Bali and if so where?
I definitely would. I know the media in Australia gives Bali a bad rap for medical care, but I can only go by my experience. There are several options. Baby- Bumi Sehat is an amazing small birthing center in Ubud. It is run by midwives like myself who are trained in woman centred care and have a midwifery philosophy of natural physiological birth. Their model of care is continuity, so you attend antenatal appointments and then birth at their lovely centre. Up until recently they provided water births but unfortunately, they are now illegal in Indonesia. They can also introduce you to private midwives (expats) that facilitate home births. I have a friend who had a water birth with her first child at Bumi Sehat and just had her second child birth at home with a home midwife recommended by them. She was very happy with her care. If you prefer to have a more medicalized birth, I have three very good friends who have all given birth at Siloam. They were all expats and were very happy with the care they received.
So what do you think about Siloam? Have you had any personal experiences there?
My daughter had dengue twice and was admitted to the Siloam hospital and recovered well. We also had an amazing paediatrician who was Indonesian. Another situation was when Shanti had a burst appendix and was rushed there for an emergency operation and again, we were extremely happy with her care. They speak good english, the hospital is very clean and well maintained. The A&E is excellent and open 24/7 for any type of medical care.
Were you happy with your general doctor for Shanti?
Yes, our family doctor in Canggu was great with children and I felt her care was at a high standard. She was only ever a phone call away and came to our villa if we needed. The only thing I would caution westerners on is that in Bali there is lots of medications that are sold over the counter without prescription and it is easy to fall into the habit of self-medicating which can be very dangerous. For example, antibiotics are readily sold over the counter. As a health care worker, I now understand how serious this is. Always find a doctor you trust and follow his or her instructions.
What did you find frustrating or hard as a mum with a young one in Bali?
The one thing that Bali doesnt have is beautiful big open spaces with parks and playgrounds. However, cafes and beach clubs are now including some great play areas for young children so mums can eat and chat while keeping an eye on their littles ones. There are also some great kids clubs and a few indoor play centres too – great to get some relief from the heat! Additionally, the most important benefit for a mum is the fact that you can employ your own private Nanny that can live in or out of your villa for a monthly salary and her duties include cooking and cleaning the villas too. This is something we absolutely do not have in Australia and was a luxury I will never forget as a single mother.
How would you recommend getting around with a baby or young child?
When it comes to getting around safely you can either buy a second hand car or hire one and have the option of either driving yourself or hiring a full-time driver to drive you around. Second hand cars hold their value when you go to resell it and there are so many cars to hire as well. Although I had friends who would travel on scooters with their babies and young children, I would advise against it. Unless you are a competent bike rider with a proper international license and wear a helmet!
I know families think they should bring a stroller or pram to get around however the footpaths can be unsafe with potholes, uneven surfaces and navigating just the Balinese everyday life around you make it near impossible! The only footpath that comes to mind that has a long stretch is perhaps the boardwalk by the Sanur beach. Having some form of baby to child carrier is a much more practical way to get around and especially in the wet season you don’t want to be navigating footpaths in high water!
Any other safety tips?
Health insurance (different to Travel) with top hospital cover is a must and having the insurance to cover your whole stay (i.e. a year away). An absolute must is making sure you and your family have insect repellant on 24/7. My daughter had dengue twice and it was a really scary experience.
Keeping sun safe which you would for any age but having sunscreen that is for sensitive skin for young ones. Sunscreen is expensive in Bali, so I suggest bringing this with you. Other baby items like swimmer nappies can be hard to find so check on those specific items that may be difficult to purchase in Bali. For example, there are also limited toy shops and clothes for kids can be hit and miss depending what you are after.
Most villas will need some form of baby proofing and most pools have no fence. You can get a great bamboo pool fence made, and either hire or buy other baby equipment and other items. Often through Facebook groups you will find other expats selling these things.
What else did you love about bringing Shanti to Bali?
As I said before, taking advantage of the very affordable babysitting and nannies. The Balinese love children and you will feel very comfortable in their presence. Most speak relatively good English and are very experienced either with other expats families or through working in hotels. So many became like family to us!
We both learned a lot from mixing with Indonesian people. We immersed ourselves in their culture and learned the value of patience, kindness and true happiness. The Balinese people need little but are always up each morning to greet you with a big smile.
Did you ever feel unsafe in Bali with Shanti?
When we first moved there, we were living in a hotel that had really good security. After that we moved to a small villa. I did not feel safe there and soon after I hired my own private night time security guard. Once he started we felt much safer. Later I bought land and built villas and employed full time security. We did have one incident where we were broken into and had personal belongings and jewelry taken. Luckily, the ‘polisi’ were able to track down the robbers and they went to jail. There are dangers to expats with robberies and burglaries, so people need to use their common sense. Lock your valuables in your villa safety deposit box. Remember the Balinese do not have much so do not tempt them.
I was scared on occasion when we had earthquakes. That happens a lot in Bali. Once you have experienced one it isn’t as frightening as the ones that follow. The first time it happened the doors and windows shaked and the so did our bed. That was pretty scary, but we were not injured.
I would also caution you about swimming at the beach as there can be powerful rips and you sadly hear about tourists drowning. They do not have lifesavers like we do in Australia so again you need to use your common sense. Also, there are a lot of dogs roaming around in Bali. Some are friendly and some are not. So those with young children need to be careful and warn them that it is best not to touch the dogs. The situation with rabies has improved dramatically, but not every dog is rabies free and if you are unlucky enough to be bitten by a dog, like Shanti was, then you do have to get a series of three rabies injections and they are not pleasant!
It is quite common to have a gap year in Bali whilst on maternity leave or when your children are still quite young. As your children aren’t old enough to attend primary school, it gives you a lot more flexibility on where to settle in Bali and your living expenses can be a lot less too. International schools are expensive and that is one factor that stops families moving to Bali so take advantage and make the most it when you have little ones.
For a discussion on this and so much more please contact me and we can talk through your plans and our consulting service.