How to Stay Safe While Vacationing in Bali
About a week before my husband and I jetted off to Bali for the first time, I felt myself go into panic mode. Though I was overjoyed for my trip, I was also overwhelmed with worry about the various "dangers" I'd heard about in Bali.
How could I protect myself from mosquito bites (which could lead to things like dengue fever or Zika virus, both of which were prevalent in Bali during the time I was travelling)? How could we avoid getting "Bali belly" (an acute case of stomach flu, which many travellers get when travelling to Bali)? What if someone stole our things, or cheated us out of our money when doing an exchange, or slipped something in our alcoholic beverages?
You hear horror stories about things like this happening in Bali all the time, and yet millions of travellers visit there every year with no incident. I tried to remind myself of that, but I also searched the internet (particularly the Trip Advisor forums) for as much info as I could find, prepared myself and my husband, and we ended up having a wonderful time and an extremely safe trip (with only a little bit of Bali Belly at the end).
Here's the things I learned (and other useful tips I found) to keep safe while travelling in Bali!
Before You Leave: Travel Insurance
Travel insurance can be obtained fairly easy and even fairly cheap. You can get it as a one-off for this single trip, if you want to- so don't worry if you're running out of time or don't currently have travel insurance.
If you're travelling from Australia, for example, check with your private health insurance- like Medibank or NIB- and see if they offer travel insurance (most do). There are tons of other options, as well- everything from your bank to airline. You can compare quotes online and even sign up easily- I think the whole process took us about 10 minutes.
Travel insurance can cover a lot, anything from lost cash (up to a certain amount), lost luggage, emergency services, even time lost at work should you fall ill while on vacation.
It'll definitely give you peace of mind to know that you don't have to worry should anything go wrong- though hopefully it doesn't!
Register Your Trip Online
In addition to getting travel insurance, I also recommend registering your trip online with your local government. Doing so will give you free alerts of any emergencies while you're overseas, update you on terror alerts, give you easy access to your nearest embassy while travelling, and will also help the government get in touch with your family, should any emergency happen while you're overseas.
For Australian residents: http://smartraveller.gov.au/
For American residents: https://step.state.gov/step/
If you're coming from another country, just Google, "Register overseas trip" and look for the relevant website.
Be Prepared: Pack A First-Aid Kit
Available In Bali?
DEET Insect Repellant
Yes, but not usually with DEET.
Yes. Look for Entrostop.
Yes, though it's more expensive in Bali.
Yes, but it's far more expensive (nearly 2x the price). Buy it back home.
We used this before eating any meals, might also be why we didn't get sick!
Maybe, but not that I remember seeing....
In case you get any bites or scrapes.
Possibly, but it's better to take what you're familiar with if you have allergies.
No, but you can use Pocari Sweat as well.
In case you get Bali Belly!
Protection Against Mosquitoes in Bali
The best way to protect against mosquito bites in Bali, is to focus on prevention. Before you fly to Bali, make sure you stock up with some good mosquito repellents. Try looking for ones labelled "Tropical Strength", as they have the highest concentration of DEET and work well for climates like Bali.
I think it's also a good idea to get a container of waterproof mosquito repellent, particularly if you're going to be spending a lot of time in the water or at beaches. You can pick up some that also contains DEET. You can use it for your entire stay, but we opted to have both the regular repellent and the waterproof one, for extra protection.
When you get to Bali, most of the hotels and Villas you stay at will probably have mosquito spray or plug-in repellents which you can use. Spray the mosquito repellent each time you leave your room, particularly before dinner at night. If you have a private villa with an outdoor area or pool, I highly recommend buying mosquito coils and burning them while outdoors.
You can find coils in most little markets in Bali, or the Bintang supermarket. They're about .25-.40 cents AUD for a pack of 4, and each one lasts about half a day. We stocked up on 15 boxes or so, and burnt them day and night while in Bali (we had a private pool and our bathroom was also partially outdoors).
We always sprayed as much repellent on as we could before leaving outdoors, applied some after swimming and burnt our coils...and never got a bite!
Wear Shorts Without Fear!
Some people will tell you to cover up with long pants and sleeves to keep the mosquito bites away, but I don't recommend that, as you'll be EXTREMELY hot. Instead, just make sure you cover up with lots of repellent (and sunscreen of course!).
How to Prevent Bali Belly
Preventing Bali Belly really comes down to two things: watching what you eat and watching what you drink.
Generally speaking, tap water in Bali shouldn't be drank. Bottled water is aplenty in Bali (for very cheap, usually about .20 cents AUD for a 600ml bottle), and the hotel or villa you're staying at will usually provide you with bottled or filtered water as well.
When you're brushing your teeth, use your bottled water to rinse your mouth and even toothbrush. Do not swallow any water in the shower.
As far as eating goes, the biggest tip I can give you is to stay away from street food. If the locals aren't eating there, you shouldn't either. There are many local Warungs (restaurants) littered on the streets of Bali, but be dubious of ones that sell street meat, or anything that looks unclean or possibly containmentated. Also, if you have WiFi or internet access, look up places before heading out for reviews. We ate out every day for breakfast, lunch and dinner, and were just fine.
Some people say to be careful with overdoing it on fresh fruits and greasy foods. If you have a sensitive stomach, the rich fruits and oils in Bali might take your stomach some getting used to. If you do get sick from having too many fruits or trying some of the local foods, you probably don't have actual Bali Belly- just traveller's diarrhoea. Continue on for some tips on what to do if you do get sick!
Don't Worry TOO Much
If you accidentally swallow some water in the pool- don't panic- it should be filtered. If you swallow a bit of water here or there, anyway, you'll probably be okay, but try not to. Things like ice should also be okay. Just use common sense!
So How Did I Get Bali Belly?
I'm not sure. It could've been a few things. I got lazy about not using tap water on our last days, and I used it to brush my teeth. The night before, I had a bunch of cocktails, so maybe it was that. I also had a hamburger with mayonnaise for lunch, and it had been delivered to our villa...mayo + hot sun = no good (or maybe the beef wasn't cooked properly, who knows?). It could be a mixture of all three, or maybe it was just regular upset stomach, but thankfully, I got better in 24 hours!
Bali Belly Symptoms
Bali Belly usually consists of diarrhea, mild fever and sometimes vomiting. Monitor your health and if it gets worse, call the doctor.
I Have Bali Belly- What Do I Do?
If you do find that you're sick, there's a few things you should do. First and foremost, make sure you drink lots of bottled water and stay hydrated. You should also buy something with electrolytes in it to replenish the nutrients you're losing. Pocari Sweat is a great local sports drink (similar to Gatorade or Powerade) that you can find in most markets/Bintang.
Hopefully you brought anti-diarrhea tablets with you- start taking those after your first loose bowel movement. I have also heard that activated charcoal tablets help, but I haven't used them, personally. Eat mild things like crackers until you're feeling better.
Have someone monitor your health and especially your fever. If your fever spikes or if you're still feeling sick after 12 hours and nothing is helping, please call a doctor or have someone in your hotel or villa call one for you. You may have something more serious than Bali Belly.
I did get a small case of Bali Belly on our second-to-last day; I treated myself with the above steps and was just fine in about a day.
In Case Of Emergency:
Dial 112 in Bali to be connected to the main emergency services. You can also dial your local emergency number on your cell phone (like 911 or 000) and it will automatically direct you to a local dispatcher.
Money, Money, Money
Some quick tips for handling money in Bali:
- Take some Indonesian Rupiah with you before you leave your home country, for paying for things at the airport or paying your taxi driver.
- It isn't customary to tip in Bali, but it's certainly nice. You can give 10,000 to 20,000 ($1-$2 AUD) at your hotel or restaurant. Just round up when paying for a taxi, the drivers don't always keep change.
- Exchange money only at trusted vendors or from ATM machines. Check to see if your local bank has a connection with any banks in Indonesia to save on ATM fees.
- Familiarise yourself with the exchange rate before going. Don't mix up 10,000 with 100,000 notes (that's the difference between $1 AUD and $10 AUD)!
- Because you get a lot of IDR to the Australian dollar (and pretty much any currency, really), you'll be swamped with notes when you exchange $100 or $200. I got in the habit of counting out my cash in $10 lots and putting it in different parts of my wallet. That way, I always knew exactly what I was spending, and never overspent on accident or gave out the wrong bill.
- Many locals will be honest and tell you if you give them too much money, but you might run across a dishonest person, just like anywhere in the world. Always know what money you're giving and what change you should get back. Don't be afraid to calculate things on your phone if need be.
Staying Safe on the Streets of Bali
There are unsavoury people like pickpockets and thieves anywhere, and Bali is no exception. There's no foolproof way to prevent crime from happening to you- really, it's just being in the wrong place at the wrong time- but there's a few things you can do to prevent being targeted or to lessen the damage:
- Try not to carry more cash than you need with you during the day. Keep the rest in the safe deposit box in your hotel or villa.
- Leave valuables at your hotel/villa. Keep the passport and expensive jewellery in the safe deposit box, too.
- If you're carrying cash, keep it somewhere safe. Carry your wallet in the FRONT pocket, not the back (it's much easier for someone to swipe your wallet from the back pocket). Carry a crossbody bag, and strap it across your chest. Turn the bag away from the street. There are biker thieves that will come up alongside you on the street and snatch bags- this will prevent your bag from being snatched.
- Be careful with cash in markets. Don't flash all the cash you have when shopping. Only take out a few notes at a time, so it looks like you only have a little bit of money. You never know who is watching you. Same goes for counting money at ATMs or currency converters; count discreetly and be aware of who is around you.
- Take a torch with you at night. Most smaller streets don't have street lights and can be very dark. A torch can allow you to see what's ahead and behind you, and will also give you a way to signal cars and bikes.
- Walk facing the traffic. Many streets in Bali don't have sidewalks. Walk facing the traffic so you can see what's coming.
- Look for the crossing guard. Traffic lights and pedestrian crossings are few and far between in Bali, even in the main cities. However, busy streets will usually have a crossing guard (wearing reflective gear, might also be a police officer). Signal to him, and he'll stop traffic for you both ways so you can safely cross the street!
- Look for Bluebird Taxis. Taxis are the main way of getting around if you don't want to rent a car or bike. Bluebird Taxi company is a genuine, metered service which you can trust, and the drivers usually speak English fluently. If you get in a non-Bluebird Taxi, just make sure they turn the meter on once you get in. Some untrustworthy drivers will not run the meter, then try to haggle with you (AKA rip you off) when you reach your destination. The meter should always start at RP 7,000 (.70 AUD).
- Only exchange cash at trusted vendors. We exchanged our cash at BMC Money Changer and highly recommend them (they are in many locations in Bali- there's a big office in Seminyak). They're inside a large, well-lit building that looks similar to a bank, everyone speaks English fluently, and there are even security guards at the doors. Try not to exchange at smaller places or places that offer an outrageous conversion rate- they are probably slipping themselves some of your cash for profit!
Staying Safe While Partying in Bali
To be honest with you, my husband and I didn't indulge in any crazy nightlife while in Bali (we're a bit over the age for that, plus it was a romantic anniversary trip), but many people go to Bali just for the nightlife.
I don't have any special tips since I didn't experience the nightlife in Bali, other than be careful with mixed drinks and only drink at trusted bars/restaurants.
I've found this informative and short video, though, which covers the fun and potential dangers of nightlife in Bali:
Relax, and Have Fun!
Above all else, relax and have fun! Bali is a beautiful place- rich with culture, kind and generous people, delicious food, gorgeous beaches, the best massages you can get (and very affordable at that), brilliant markets, awe-inspiring temples, and breathtaking views. We had an amazing time when we travelled there and were perfectly safe- and chances are, you will be too.
Just follow these tips, keep your wits about you, and enjoy your stay!
© 2017 Brittany Brown