Find out all you need to know about staying safe while you’re in one of Australia’s favourite destinations.
A developing country sitting in one of the most active volcanic regions in the world, it's common for travellers to have reservations about their holiday plans to Indonesia. But the good news is that yes, Bali is still safe to travel to for all kinds of travellers if you take the right precautions.
We dive into more details and get down to the nitty gritty, letting you know how you can travel around Bali safely and how travel insurance can help you in all types of emergencies.
Safety considerations for Bali
If you're adventurous with street food or may forget not to drink tap water, make sure you have emergency medical expenses in your travel insurance plan.
If you're planning on scooting around, make sure you get Bali travel insurance with scooter cover and check your plan to see the engine size limits - some many be as low as 50cc.
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Is Bali safe now?
Historically Bali has experienced natural disasters, as well as terrorism. While these are not common, it is always a risk when travelling to Bali. The active volcano, Mount Agung, has shown signs of activity and erupted in 2017. The threat of terrorism is constant but more common in Java. The last major threat was in 2002 during the Bali bombings.
Parts of Indonesia have a travel advisory but not Bali as it is relatively safe. Like all destinations, petty theft, sexual assault and taxi scams can occur. Pedestrians are sometimes the target of criminals on motorbikes driving past so always wear your purse on the opposite side to the road. The most common scam in Bali is ATM skimming, so be sure to check the machine before using it to see if a skimming device is present.
Travel insurance covers petty theft up to a certain amount. However, whether you have cover and for how much will depend on your policy. Most policies will also cover you for medical.
Is food and drink safe in Bali?
How do I know where it's safe to eat in Bali?
While many restaurants in Bali are up to western standards when it comes to handling food, some parts are still lacking. But there are some things you can do to better your chances of dining somewhere safe.
- Find somewhere that's busy and full of locals. No one would return to a restaurant that's known for making people sick.
- Eat at middle - to high-end restaurants in hotels if you don't want to eat local foods, they tend to cater to international tourists
- Check restaurant reviews on sites like TripAdvisor, Lonely Planet and Zomato. There's very little chance anyone would leave a good review if the food made them ill
- Avoid eating uncooked foods that are often washed with water before serving, like lettuce leaves and other salad items, in case they're just rinsed with tap water
The dreaded Bali belly, the most common type of food poisoning in Bali, is relatively common and usually comes from drinking unsafe water, but it can also come from food. If you happen to get Bali belly just remember to keep yourself hydrated, eat bland food if you can eat and only use anti-diarrhoea medication as a last resort. If it doesn’t stop within three days then see a doctor, which your travel insurance should be able to help you with.
Is the water safe to drink?
Water in Bali is not safe to drink unless it’s boiled, which is fine for tea and coffee. Many restaurants and accommodation have purified water in large jugs and bottled water is available everywhere so there is no need to bring water purification tablets.
A few things you can do to keep safe while drinking water in Bali:
- Only consume tap water if it's been boiled - like when drinking tea or coffee
- Don't brush your teeth with the tap water in case you swallow any
- Be careful with ice in your drinks. Unless you know it's been made with boiled or bottled water, it may be best to just avoid it altogether.
A drink to avoid in Bali is arak, a distilled rice spirit that can be deadly if you drink from a bad batch. In the past, it has killed travellers who unknowingly drank from a batch that contained methanol.
If you're planning on drinking alcoholic beverages in Bali, stick to commercially produced drinks.
Is Bali safe to travel alone?
Yes, Bali is safe to travel alone, even as a female traveller. It’s very common for travellers to make their way around the island solo. Take care of your safety as you would in Australia and exercise a degree a caution when it comes to your personal safety.
Some tips to follow are to
- Watch your drinks so they don’t get spiked
- Arrange accommodation before you arrive
- Book transport in advance or only with official transport companies
- Avoid unwanted attention by dressing appropriately. (Although this is not a major concern in Bali, it is still respectful.)
Is it safe to take the whole family?
Yes, Bali is safe for families and is a popular tourist destination for them because of its well-established tourist facilities and attractions for all ages. Taxis and private drivers are the safest ways to get around and they’re affordable. Babysitting services are available and baby equipment can be rented.
Streets can be very busy so be aware of your kids when you’re walking around. The beaches, though a popular attraction, can be quite dirty with a lot of garbage washing up onto shore, including items such as needles. Keep an eye on your kids while at the beach and wear shoes.
Is it safe to travel to Bali while pregnant?
It is not recommended that women who are pregnant travel to developing countries, such as Indonesia. If you choose to travel to Bali while pregnant then be aware of the risks. Many immunisations that are recommended for travel are not safe for pregnant women to take and some medications, such as ones used to prevent or stop diarrhea or food poisoning, are also unsafe. Food poisoning is a risk for pregnant women and is common in Bali.
Hospitals are available in Bali specifically for western travellers with western standards and doctors who can speak English.
If travelling to Bali while pregnant it is safest to travel during your second trimester so long as you are not having any pregnancy concerns.
Before travelling while pregnant always consult a doctor.
Travel insurance should cover you for any unforeseen pregnancy complications that may arise. Most plans will not include a normal childbirth and some will not cover you if you’re travelling after 28 weeks (it’s also not recommended to travel if more than 28 weeks pregnant).
Do you need a vaccination before going to Bali?
Before travelling to Bali all travellers should make sure routine vaccinations are up to date and speak to a doctor about other travel vaccinations.
Smartraveller.gov.au and a doctor can advise the risks of any other diseases/viruses, which can include:
- Hepatitis A
- Hepatitis B
- Japanese encephalitis
- Dengue fever
While malaria doesn't have a vaccination and isn't prominent in Bali, some mosquitoes may carry the disease. Nearby islands do have a higher risk of malaria, so if you're travelling beyond Bali you should take precaution.
Speak to a doctor at least eight weeks before your departure to find out what vaccines you will need, and always protect yourself from mosquitoes.
Remember, if you do not get the recommended vaccines and fall ill while abroad your travel insurance may not cover you, which could leave you with high medical bills.
Is it safe to drive in Bali?
Accidents in Indonesia are common, especially for motorbike drivers, and it is three times more likely for Australians to be involved in an accident in Indonesia than in Australia. It is recommended to drive defensively.
Hiring a car in Indonesia isn't quite as strict as it is here in Australia. It's common for companies to hire out vehicles without the required international driving licence. If this is the case and you're involved in an accident, your travel insurance won't cover you.
If you're planning on hiring a motorbike to explore the island, make sure, first, that your insurance covers motorbike rental in case anything goes wrong, and that the bike you're hiring fits within the engine size requirements. Many companies limit the engine size of motorbikes hired while overseas to as low as 50cc. Renting one outside of the limits can also void your insurance.
If you are involved in an accident in Bali you will be blamed for it but your top priority will be to find medical assistance first, if needed. Gather as much evidence as possible about the accident and contact your travel insurance company with the information. The Smart Traveller site provides contact information in case of an accident.
Is transport safe in Bali?
It is common for travellers to use Uber, Grab and GoJek, and other driving apps that provide a low cost method of transportation.
The official taxis to use in Bali are Blue Bird, which are known for their good reputation for fare prices and safety. These taxis are light blue and have blue bird symbols. Other taxis can be corrupt and may try to charge you more.
Aside from the known Aussie carriers, the Australian Government has approved Garuda Indonesia, Indonesia Air Asia and Batik Air for flights between Australia and Bali. Following the 2018 crash involving a Lion Air flight, travellers are not recommended to use the airline.
Is it safe to live in Bali?
Living in Bali is safe as long as you take the same precautions that you would back home in Australia such as not walking down dark streets by yourself, locking your doors and being aware of your surroundings and personal belongings.
What do I need to do to stay safe?
- Get vaccinated. Visit your doctor well in advance of your scheduled departure date to have a general check-up and make sure your vaccinations are up to date. Hepatitis A and B vaccinations are strongly recommended as are vaccinations for typhoid, tetanus, pertussis and diphtheria. Check with your doctor about the shots you need before you go.
- Take care on the road. Balinese traffic is chaotic, congested and crazy. Exercise extreme caution on the roads and if you're hiring a vehicle, consider travel insurance that provides rental vehicle insurance excess cover.
- Be wary of thieves. Protect yourself against petty crime by watching out for card game scams in tourist areas, exercising caution when withdrawing cash from an ATM and making sure not to carry large sums of money on your person. It's also recommended that you keep your money and valuables close to you to avoid being targeted by thieves on motorcycles.
- Watch your drinks. Drink spiking and poisoning of drinks with toxic substances have been reported in Bali and is a risk you need to be aware of when visiting nightclubs.
- Avoid getting sick. Protect yourself against food-borne illnesses by practising good food hygiene at all times. You can also avoid a case of the dreaded Bali belly by drinking bottled water and steering clear of street food.
- Be safe in the water. Don't venture out too far even if you're a competent swimmer as dangerous surf and riptides might not be signposted.
- Stay alert. The terrorist threat level throughout Indonesia remains high, so keep your wits about you at all times.
- Register with Smartraveller. Let your loved ones know where you are in the event that you might become uncontactable while on holiday.
- Don't do drugs. This may seem like a no-brainer, but not a year goes by when there isn't news of a foreigner getting in trouble for drugs in Bali.
- Watch out for wildlife - even if it looks cute. Rabies is another common risk in Bali and throughout Indonesia and is most commonly spread by animal bites and scratches. Make sure you don't feed or pet any animals anywhere in Bali.
Other issues to consider