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Lounging on Bali's beaches | © agus santoso / Pixabay
Lounging on Bali's beaches | © agus santoso / Pixabay

8 Indonesian Phrases You Need to Know

Picture of Edira Putri
Updated: 24 April 2017

Travelers fly across countries to enjoy local attractions, eat local foods, and experience local cultures. But what about local languages? Learning local phrases would not only make traveling easier, but also express genuine interest and respect for local people. Here is our selection of the most useful expressions to know before you visit Indonesia.

Permisi (excuse me)

Permisi (per-mee-see) is a very important phrase to get people’s attention. Just like “excuse me”, say permisi when you first initiate an interaction with someone. The same phrase can also be spoken at the end of a conversation and if you want to say goodbye.

Terima kasih (thank you)

The best way to express gratitude to local Balinese is to say thank you in their own language. Don’t forget to say terima kasih (te-ree-ma ka-seeh) after asking for directions, buying from a local shop, or getting a service from the locals. Almost everyone will understand “thank you” but locals will like you more if you put in the extra effort!

Enjoying Bali's Beaches

Enjoying Bali’s beaches | © Michel Bertolotti / Pixabay

Sama-sama (you’re welcome)

When someone says thank you or terima kasih, you can reply with sama-sama (saa-maa saa-maa), which means “you’re welcome”. It’s optional to reply terima kasih, but it wouldn’t hurt to do so and be polite.

Di mana… ? (where is… ?)

Maps and online navigation can only go so far. At times, you might need to ask for directions to a destination, nearby restaurant, or even to the toilet. Ask the question di mana (dee mä-nä), followed by your destination. It will also help to learn words for common public places. The good news is that Balinese has the same or phonetically similar word to English for “hotel”, “restaurant”, “bank”, “toilet”, and “museum”.

asking for directions in Bali

Asking directions with a map | © Unsplash / Pexels

Apa kabar? (how are you?)

Balinese people rarely ask apa kabar (ä-pah kä-baar) to people they interact with casually, but everyone appreciates it from tourists. It shows friendliness and respect. If you wish to have a conversation with a local person, it will go a long way.

Maaf (I’m sorry)

In Indonesia, maaf (mä-äf) can be understood as both “I’m sorry” and “excuse me”. Say maaf when you need to apologize, either for doing something wrong or when rejecting an offer.

Enjoying Bali's Scenery

Paddy fields in Bali | © Sasin Tipchai / Pixabay

Tolong (help/please)

Tolong (toe-long) works as an exclamation like “help!” or as the equivalent of “please” in a sentence. If you ever need an urgent help, just scream the single word. It can also be used when talking to locals. Say the word before making a request or asking for a favor.

Berapa harganya? (how much is this?)

Most local shops and traditional markets in Bali will not have a tag or label that displays a fixed price. It’s always better to ask berapa harganya? (ber-ah-pah har-gah-nyä) before you decide to purchase things or services, especially for tourists traveling on a budget. Many people are in the habits of answering that question in English especially to foreigners, but if you have extra time, it will help to learn basic numbers, like one to 10, and hundreds, and thousands.

Shopping and asking price in Bali

Shopping in Bali’s local shops | © Kisane Slaney / Pixabay