Staying safe in Bali
Bali is a beautiful island, with natural habitats ranging from sprawling rice fields and beautiful rainforests, to tropical beaches and even volcanoes. People flock to this island to enjoy its environment, see its animals and revel in its nightlife. With such a busy tourist trade, it may be a surprise to learn that there are actually many risks and dangers to watch out for in Bali.
Like many places, the very features that are responsible for much of Bali’s beauty also pose potential risks. Indonesia is prone to volcanic eruptions and earthquakes because of its position on the ‘Pacific Ring of Fire.’
If you are in Bali and something happens, your accommodation provider should have information about natural disasters and the procedures in place to deal with such an event. We recommend keeping up-to-date with local weather warnings or advisories before and during your trip.
Always check the government’s international travel advisory before booking any travel plans. Once you’ve booked your flights or accommodation, buy travel insurance so that you’re covered if the unexpected happens before you depart. For example, if an earthquake results in your travel being cancelled before you set off, we can reimburse you the difference between the amount you are able to claim from any other source (i.e. service provider) up to the total value of your unused, prepaid costs.
Many surfers travel to Bali in search of its famous waves and tropical waters. If you’re planning a trip to surf Bali’s breaks, here are a few tips:
- Bali is a small island and its tides can be very strong and unpredictable. If you’re new to surfing, it’s probably not the best place to learn.
- If you do want to learn to surf in the tropical waters of Bali, we recommend you book in with a professional licensed surf school, who can ensure you’re learning in a safe environment.
- Some beaches are marked by flags or signs as being especially dangerous, so as with all warnings, pay attention and steer clear!
- Most beaches in Bali aren’t staffed by lifeguards.
- Reef cuts need proper medical attention, so don’t leave them and risk infection. See a doctor as soon as possible.
Animals and insects
There are some incredible creatures to be found on Bali, from elephants and monkeys, to exotic birds. Bali even has its own turtle rehabilitation centre. There are plenty of beautiful bird parks around the region that you can visit, but as with many wild animals, obey the signs and keep your wits about you.
Bali is also well known for its wild monkeys which can be found throughout the island, particularly at the Ubud monkey forest and at the Uluwatu temple. They’re cute little critters, but there are a few things to keep in mind around monkeys:
- Don’t smile at them. Showing teeth is a sign of aggression in primates and can be seen as a threat.
- Playing tug of war might seem like a game, but if a monkey grabs something of yours, don’t try and pull it back out of their grasp. You’re far better off replacing your sunglasses than risking an attack.
- On that note, keep any valuables securely zipped in your bag, or avoid taking them with you if you’re planning to visit monkeys. These little primates have very sticky fingers!
- Don’t offer them food. In fact, keep your hands out of reach and avoid any unnecessary contact.
- Monkeys can carry rabies and they do bite. If you get a nip, seek medical attention immediately. Don’t risk infection by leaving the bite untreated.
When walking in rural areas or at night, it’s a good idea to always wear appropriate closed in footwear, just in case you come across some of the less pleasant fauna. There are snakes in Bali, some of which are poisonous. Bites can happen easily at night if you accidentally step on one, so carry a torch and wear covered shoes. As with monkey bites, if you receive a snake bite it’s important to seek medical attention immediately.
Bali has a tropical climate and is home to many insects, including the ubiquitous mosquito. These are known to carry diseases like malaria and dengue fever, so always spray insect repellent before venturing outdoors and sleep with a mosquito net if you’re keeping windows open. Bali is also home to several types of scorpion, so keep your eyes peeled and keep your distance if you see one.
As with any trip, do some research into what animals or insects may pose a threat to you in the particular area you’re visiting, as well as related to any activities you’re doing (e.g. ocean encounters, mountain hikes).
Although Bali is a beautiful and popular holiday destination, petty crime is common and corruption and scams do occur. We recommend a few simple precautions to help keep yourself safe.
- There have been cases of bag snatching so remember to keep your valuables out of sight, close to you and zipped up.
- Don’t carry a lot of cash on you at one time. Distribute it between the hotel safe, your wallet and a pocket so that you won’t lose it all if your bag is taken or you are pickpocketed.
- Do some research or ask someone you can trust, such as the hotel concierge, if there are any dangerous areas you should avoid in the district where you are staying.
Some police in Bali are known to be corrupt when it comes to extorting unwitting tourists. The best way to avoid paying bribe money is to not give them any reason to stop you. Whether you’re driving, out on the town or in a popular tourist spot, stay on your best behaviour. Follow any local laws or customs and don’t flash the cash – or the attitude!
Going out at night
Bali has become a popular party destination with many tourists and you’ll find plenty of bars around the island, especially in Kuta. If nightlife is where you’re at, there are a few things you should keep in mind.
- Avoid going out by yourself at night to quiet or unlit areas, especially when you don’t know your way around. If you’re in a group, don’t let yourself become isolated, even on the beach.
- Always leave your valuables locked in your hotel safe if you don’t need them with you.
- Know how to get back to your accommodation if you’re going out at night. If you’re in a group, take turns at staying alert and sober.
- We recommend that you never leave your drink unattended when you’re out, and never accept any food or drink from a stranger, unless you can see the barman pouring it or the waiter serving it.
- Avoid letting people know where you are staying and be very cautious of anyone asking for your personal details without sufficient cause.
- Try not to talk loudly or obviously about your plans or where you’re staying when you’re in public places. You never know who’s listening!
You may come across a traditional local spirit known as Arak, which is made from toddy palm trees and is widely available around Bali. Unfortunately, there have been multiple reports of dodgy Arak being contaminated with methanol and causing severe illness, or even permanent blindness. We recommend avoiding this drink completely, since there is no guarantee it can be drunk safely.
There are a few surprising laws and customs in Bali that some foreigners will not be aware of. Here are a few basic rules to follow to avoid landing yourself on the wrong side of the law:
- Keep an eye out for no smoking signs. In many areas of Bali, smoking in public is illegal and can result in harsh penalties.
- The legal drinking age in Bali is 21.
- Public affection is frowned upon and public nudity, including topless sunbathing, is considered unacceptable behaviour.
- Gambling is illegal and carries harsh penalties if you partake. There are multiple known gambling rings operating in Bali, many of whom have deals with police for turning in foreigners. Stay well clear of gambling in any form!
- Indonesian law does not have a set blood alcohol limit for driving, but police are known to be very harsh on foreign traffic offenders. If you’re planning on driving, don’t consume alcohol at all. It will not only give police an excuse to fine you, but it will invalidate your insurance.
- It is illegal to drive without an International Drivers Permit, which must be carried on your person anytime you’re driving.
- Drug laws in Indonesia are extremely strict and can carry penalties of life imprisonment or even death. Police are known to raid popular tourist clubs in search of drugs. Stay away from narcotics of any kind, or you can easily find yourself in a lot of trouble.
- The death penalty is still enforced in Bali for certain drug offences.
- Some prescription drugs that you purchased at home could be illegal in Bali. If you need to take medicine into Bali with you, bring your prescription note from your doctor and a letter explaining why you need the medication. Because the drug penalties here are so harsh, we recommend thoroughly researching all regulations around any medication you’re taking to ensure you can take it with you.
Volcanoes and earthquakes have resulted in some travellers being stuck at their destination for longer than planned, or even being unable to reach their destination at all! You can prepare for this type of disaster by purchasing a Single Trip policy as soon as you book your flights and accommodation. Or if you’re buying an Annual Multi-Trip policy, set the start date of your insurance to the day you make any travel bookings.
If your travel is interrupted for more than 12 hours and you’re stuck overseas as a result of an unexpected event, we can reimburse you for your accommodation and other expenses to enable you to continue you original planned journey.
Animal bites are common in Bali, mostly from stray dogs or wild monkeys. However, there have been cases of snake bites too. While it can be an amazing experience seeing these creatures in the wild, dogs and monkeys are known to have rabies and their bites can become infected quickly. Many of the snakes in Bali are poisonous, so any bites need to be treated immediately. Remember, don’t get too close to any wild animals overseas and don’t make contact, no matter how cute they are.
We see many claims for items that have been pickpocketed from travellers’ bags. When you’re out in public, keep your eyes peeled and ensure your valuables are zipped into your bag. Don’t let your bag out of sight and whenever possible, wear it across your body within eyesight. That means backpacks should be worn on the front in crowded areas and satchels are safer across your body, not over one shoulder where they can be easily lifted.
We often see claims for travellers who have had to seek medical care as a result of a surfing or swimming accident. As well as medical costs, there may also be the costs of cutting the trip short to return home early for treatment. Avoid adding any stress to a situation like this by getting travel insurance cover so you don’t have to fork out thousands of dollars to be airlifted to a hospital!
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