Are you wondering if it’s safe to travel to Bali right now? Are earthquakes and volcanoes a problem? How about dengue, traffic, scams or other hazards? Read this post for the latest new and help deciding.
What’s in this post about travel safety in Bali?
Common Dangers on Bali
1. Snatch Theft in Bali
2. Balinese Traffic
3. Drugs in Indonesia
4. Monkeys in Bali
5. Watch out for Diseases
6. Volcanoes on Bali
Earthquakes and Tsunamis
7. Earthquakes & Tsunamis
8. How to Stay Safe in a Bali Earthquake
9. When’s the Next Earthquake?
10. Were the Bali Earthquakes Scary?
11. How You Can Help Earthquake Victims
Final Safety Tips for Bali
12. Heed the Travel Advisories
13. Don’t Forget Travel Insurance
14. It’s Business as Usual on Bali
15. The Best Travel Tools & Companies for Your Trip
Before you read this post about the dangers of travelling to Bali, let’s look at the big picture.
Bali is a relatively safe place to visit.
Millions of tourists have happy, healthy, safe trips to Bali every year and return sporting that inner and outer glow that you can only get from travel.
So yes, it is mostly safe to travel to Bali!
But, of course, just like any country on earth, Bali has its share of hazards that you should be aware of before you go.
We’ve been to Bali several time and have experienced many of those hazards first-hand.
On our first trip, we both got dengue fever, which, quite frankly, sucked. We also almost got mown down by a careless driver near Ubud on the last day of our two-year cycle tour! And then, we were in Bali for the worst of the earthquakes in 2018, which really shook our confidence.
(We go into full detail about our experiences with earthquakes in Bali below).
With all these dangers to think about, and more, it’s easy to understand why you might be worried about travelling to Bali.
So keep reading to find out…
Is it Safe to Travel to Bali?
I just want to repeat, Bali is relatively safe. Every country has their hazards though, so the point of this post is to make you aware of what could happen and give you tips on keeping safe.
Snatch Theft in Bali
Theft is not a huge problem in Bali, but it does occur, especially in the busiest tourist areas, like Ubud and Kuta.
The most common thefts in Bali are drive-by snatch thefts done by men on motorbikes. Motorbike thieves target pedestrians and tourist on motorbikes.
The key is to avoid becoming an easy target for snatch thieves. Don’t hold your phone loosely in one hand while you’re walking around and avoid holding your camera out in one hand while you’re driving in busy areas.
If I have to check my map on my phone while I’m walking around in busy areas, I usually step into a shop doorway or at the very least, stay away from the roadside.
Keep your valuables in clothing with zipper pockets or in a hotel safe.
If you carry a bag or a purse, don’t dangle it off your shoulder or arm. A secure travel purse is great investment because you can totally use it at home and be safe there too.
If you don’t look like a target, chances are the thieves will pass you by.
Traffic in Bali
The most common pitfall for tourists in Bali is the traffic.
Driving a scooter in Bali is going to be, by far, the most dangerous thing you do. Traffic is crazy on many parts of the island (no, it’s not the serene paradise you’ve seen on Instagram) and drivers are often unlicensed and always unpredictable.
If you’re not totally secure driving a scooter, Bali is not the place to learn. Not long after riding our bicycles onto Bali, after 20 months cycling around the world, we got into a very close call. We never felt safe on the roads there.
Don’t drive a scooter in Bali, especially the crowded areas, unless you are totally confident, licensed, and wearing a helmet.
As a pedestrian in Bali, you also need to watch out. Just keep your eyes and ears open for scooters driving against traffic, scooters turning corners, scooters riding up onto the sidewalk, taxi drivers who don’t feel like stopping, etc, and you should be OK.
Drugs in Bali
Buying and doing drugs in Bali is just not safe, OK? The drug laws in Indonesia are super-harsh and just not worth trifling with. You will get offered illicit substances as you’re walking down the street.
The only safe (and smart) answer is a smile and a polite “No, thanks.” Scams and stings on tourists buying drugs are also common in Bali. And then, you never know what’s in said drugs that you buy.
Just say “no” to drugs in Bali. Stay present instead and enjoy your time that way.
Monkeys in Bali
Monkeys? Really? Are they a threat to your safety in Bali? Well yes, they can be. If you go into Ubud’s Monkey Forest don’t be fooled. The monkeys look cute but they are conniving little guys and smarter than you’d expect.
Try not to take anything with you that doesn’t fit snugly inside pockets when going to the Monkey Forest. This includes backpacks, food, shiny objects like your phone, and water bottles. If a monkey decides it wants what you have, it will come and take it.
Do not encourage the monkeys to come to you, to take food from you, or to climb on you. If they bite, you’ll be spending part of you holiday time in Bali at the medical clinic deciding whether you need rabies shots or not. As someone who has been to the clinic in Bali a lot, I can assure you that it’s not the ideal holiday activity!
Diseases in Bali
Between Stephen and I, we have had 5 cases of dengue fever in Bali. Or maybe a couple of those were Zika. We’re still not 100% sure.
The first time we got dengue, it was definitely dengue. It shut us both down at the same time, for a week. We could barely drag ourselves out of bed. Stephen felt like his bones were being crushed by Gregor Clegane. I felt overwhelming nauseous 24-hours a day. The experience was horrible.
Dengue fever is common in Bali, especially in areas where tourists congregate, like Ubud. It is spread by mosquitos which bite one dengue-infected tourist after another, passing the fun on from one to the next.
Zika is also in Bali, so if you’re pregnant or trying to conceive or if your partner is pregnant or trying to conceive, you should think carefully about going to Bali. For other travellers, Zika is less dangerous than dengue, and you might not even notice if you get it.
You can prevent dengue (and zika) by ALWAYS wearing Deet– or Picardin– based mosquito repellent. It only takes one mosquito bite to become infected, so apply liberally and frequently. I prefer lotion repellent because I hate breathing in all those chemicals that float around with a spray.
If you start feeling like you have the flu, get to the nearest medical clinic.
Dengue just feels fluey when it starts out. If you ignore your symptoms and carry on as normal, dengue can be fatal. Unfortunately, the only treatment for dengue is to rest and drink as much electrolyte and water as you can. You’ll start feeling human again in a few, very long, very awful, days.
Volcanic Eruptions in Bali
Bali’s iconic Mount Agung isn’t just a pretty mountain — it’s also a deadly eruption waiting to happen. Since 2017, Agung has been rumbling and erupting on a regular basis. The most recent eruption happened just a few days ago, causing the authorities to issue a fresh warning for people to stay out of the Agung exclusion zone.
The night we arrived for our first 2018 trip to Bali, Agung erupted just a few hours after we got off the plane, closing the airports overnight and causing havoc with people’s travel plans.
A few days later, from our guest house on Nusa Penida, we watched Agung spew masses of black clouds and ash into the sky.
It was thrilling and scary. But, so far, the eruptions have been mild and caused little damage.
Of course, there is a risk of a major eruption at any time — it could happen tomorrow or not for 100 years. Nobody can predict it.
Stay away from the Agung exclusion zone. That’s pretty much all you can do!
Earthquakes & Tsunamis in Bali
Indonesia is a volcanic archipelago, so there are earthquakes ALL THE TIME in Bali. Most of these are not strong enough for humans to feel, but some of them are and it can be very scary when they happen.
Last year was a hard one for Indonesia.
First, the island of Lombok was rocked by a series of major earthquakes. Hundreds of people died and tens of thousands were left homeless after the quake. We were on Bali at the time and the eruptions shook our solidly built hotel like it was a kiddie toy. (Read about that later in this post).
Then, a couple of months later, an earthquake and resulting tsunami wiped out entire towns on the island of Sulawesi. A few days later, a 6.0 earthquake hit Java and shook Bali as well.
The series of earthquakes has been devastating for Indonesia — physically, psychologically, and economically. Even if the worst earthquakes are over for now, the impact will be felt for years to come.
Keep reading to find out what it was like during the earthquakes, how to prepare for an earthquake while you’re in Bali, and how to keep yourself safe during an earthquake.
How to Stay Safe in an Earthquake in Bali
If you do decide to travel to Bali – or anywhere with frequent earthquakes – you should be prepared for an earthquake to happen at any time.
Here are a few tips to help you stay safe in Bali:
- Always have a grab-and-go bag packed. At a minimum, it should contain: your passport and wallet, extra cash, a big bottle of water, warm clothes, your phone charger, a charged power bank if you have one, and something to eat.
- Look for safe spaces. When you enter a building, notice where your nearest escape route is. Look around for any heavy furniture or archways where you could shelter if an earthquake strikes. Decide ahead of time what you will do, so you can act decisively instead of panicking.
- Be aware of your surroundings. In many countries, you are supposed to stay inside if an earthquake strikes. It seems counterintuitive, but in a typical earthquake, your chances of being hit by falling windows, plaster, or palm fronds are greater than the chance of an entire building collapsing.In Bali, staying inside is not necessarily the right move.Most buildings there are poorly built and not made to withstand earthquakes. Because of that, people usually run outside when there is a quake.Unless you’re in an extremely solid building, be prepared to get outside quickly. You’ll need to get away from trees and buildings as quickly as possible and stand in a cleared space. Be aware of trees, powerlines, and other hazards.
- Don’t forget about tsunamis. If you’re at the beach, have an escape plan ready. In low-lying beach communities like Sanur there are tsunami escape route signs posted. Be aware of them and use them at the first tsunami warning. Don’t wait for other people to act first.In areas like Uluwatu, where the beaches are at the bottom of a cliff, be aware of the nearest stairs off the beach and use them immediately if there’s a tsunami warning.Your best source for updates after an earthquake, including the possibility of a tsunami is the Twitter feed of BMKG Indonesia.Look for the words “TIDAK berpotensi tsunami” or “TDK berpotensi tsunami” which translates as “NO potential of a tsunami.” If it just says “berpotensi tsunami”, get to high ground immediately.
When’s the Next Earthquake?
After the series of earthquakes and hundreds of aftershocks that have hit Indonesia, it seems logical to stay away from the area.
If several quakes have happened, surely more are on the way, right?
Well, not necessarily…
The truth is, no one can tell you for sure whether it’s safe to go to Bali right now. Earthquakes are unpredictable – they literally cannot be predicted – and they don’t follow any discernible pattern.
Just because there were several large earthquakes in Indonesia recently, it doesn’t mean there are more to come. Just because those earthquakes were only minor trembles in Bali, doesn’t mean Bali is necessarily safe.
The truth is, we just don’t know what’s going to happen next in Indonesia.
So, is it safe to go to Bali right now or not?
The answer is that it’s no more or less safe than it was when you first decided to go. It’s no more or less safe than when you booked your ticket or than when your friends raved about their “holiday in paradise”.
The truth is, if you’re scared of earthquakes, then you should stay away from the entire Ring of Fire — including Japan, Indonesia, New Zealand, western Canada, California, and western South America — at all times.
Earthquakes in this region are frequent and hit without warning.
Of course, we never recommend that you let fear of the unknown make your decisions for you.
“It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door.” – J.R.R. Tolkien
Were the Bali Earthquakes Scary?
We were in Bali for two months, which means we felt the three big Lombok earthquakes and many of the aftershocks.
Wake up and Shake Up
During the first big quake, a 6.4 magnitude on July 29, we were asleep in our hotel room in Ubud when the shutters started to rattle.
Stephen woke up first, thinking that our neighbours were just being excessively noisy. When he realized that the bed was shaking and our ceiling fan was swaying, he yanked me out of bed in a panic. By the time I fully woke up, the quake was over.
That afternoon, the building started to shake again, and we ran outside with the hotels employees.
Catch a Wave
A few days later, on August 5th, the devastating 6.9 quake struck.
As our room started to sway, we grabbed a big bottle of water and hid in our small bathroom.
Despite the solid stone construction of our hotel, it felt as if we were standing on a SUP board with waves gently rolling beneath us. The sensation, which lasted for almost a minute, was bizarre and more than a little terrifying.
Even though we’ve lived in earthquake regions most of our lives (Vancouver and L.A. both get hit frequently), this was the biggest, longest, and scariest quake we have ever experienced.
Just as our hearts had stopped racing, an aftershock hit, sending us into fight-or-flight mode once again. It took a few days for us to completely calm down.
While the residents of Lombok were mourning the hundreds dead and trying to piece their lives back together, things went back to business as usual on Bali. We joined hundreds of other tourists in restaurants, beaches, and tourist attractions. The earthquakes had very little effect on most people’s holidays.
Shake, Rattle & Roll
On August 19, we were waiting for our friends on a beach in Uluwatu, on the southern shores of Bali, when they messaged us to ask if we’d felt the earthquake.
We hadn’t, but we quickly got online to find that another 6.4 had struck. Being on the beach, we immediately checked for a tsunami warning. We were ready to flee but luckily there was no tsunami.
Later that night, just after we’d fallen asleep, I dreamed I was in a rocking boat. It took me a few seconds to realize that it was the bed that was rocking and the whole room was shaking.
I woke Stephen up, but by the time we had found the light switch and put on some clothes, the shaking had stopped. The news reports came in quickly, showing another 7.0 had hit Lombok.
We felt three aftershocks that night as we lay anxiously in bed.
These experiences left us feeling small, vulnerable, and extremely on edge.
Though the earthquakes had no discernible impact on the day-to-day lives of the tourists and locals we encountered in Bali, I still have to admit, I’m pretty glad we’re back in Europe now!
I hope this post has helped you understand the safety precautions you should take before travelling to Bali after the Lombok earthquakes. If you have any specific questions that we haven’t answered here, please ask below and we’ll answer as soon as possible.
How You Can Help Indonesian Earthquake Victims
While you’re worrying about your holiday, we’d also like to ask you to think about the earthquake victims in Indonesia.
Tens of thousands of homes have been destroyed which has left thousands of people sleeping under tarps. They don’t even have access to basics necessities, like fresh vegetables, rice, or tools to start digging out the rubble of their houses.
Please consider donating a portion of your holiday money to helping them get back on their feet.
They are working to help provide care for the people who lives have been devastated by these earthquakes.
There are more excellent suggestions for helping Indonesian earthquake victims here.
While the earthquakes will die down and news outlets will move on to the next big story, these people will be without homes for months or even years. If you can afford a trip to Bali, you can afford to spend a little to help these people in deep need. Please do.
Heed the Travel Advisories
As with any travel, you should always check the travel advisories your country issues before you go anywhere. If you travel to a destination with a travel advisory in place, you may find that it invalidates your travel insurance.
Currently, the Canadian government and the UK government is warning against all but essential travel to central Sulawesi and the exclusion zones around Mount Agung and Mount Sinabung.
Australia advises a high degree of caution for Bali but because of personal security, not earthquakes. They also advise staying away from central Sulawesi and the tsunami-affected areas of the Sunda Strait.
The US State Department’s website shows no warnings related to the earthquakes, and their latest Indonesia advisory is woefully out of date, having been issued in January 2018.
Don’t Forget Travel Insurance
The most important part of your disaster preparation, no matter where you’re travelling, is travel insurance.
While some insurance companies don’t pay out in the event of natural disasters, other freak accidents can happen any time.
While it is pretty safe to travel to Bali, I can’t count the number of travellers I’ve seen in Bali with bandages around legs, ankles, arms and shoulders — a byproduct of newbies hopping on motorcycles and surf boards.
Minor accidents happen all the time, and once in a while, those accidents can become major.
If you have to go to the hospital or go home early because of accident or injury, travel insurance can pay your extra expenses.
And if you don’t think it can happen to you…
Stephen and I have both had near-death experiences in the last year through no fault of our own.
I got malaria in Laos and ended up in the hospital. Stephen scraped his elbow falling off a bike. It became so infected he had to have emergency surgery! We were so glad to have insurance that paid for thousands of dollars of medical costs.
If you don’t have insurance yet, check out World Nomads.
They provide trip cancellation, emergency medical, and coverage for more than 150 adventure activities. More importantly, they are trusted by almost all of the travel bloggers and pro travellers we know!
It’s Business as Usual on Bali
I’m not going to lie and say the earthquakes we experienced in Bali were no big deal.
While they were happening, they were downright frightening. And the days following each earthquake were unnerving, too.
We became almost obssessively aware of safety issues whereever we went. We were spotting escape routes from beaches, looking for clearings to run to during the next quake, and we packed a bag with necessities in case disaster struck.
At the same time, our trip progressed more or less as normal. The Balinese seemed less affected than we were. Earthquakes in Indonesia are a regular occurrence and they are used to it, even if this series of quakes has been bigger and more damaging than any since 2004’s massive tremor.
At the moment, there’s no real reason to cancel your Bali trip.
But, of course, there’s no guarantee that nothing serious will happen while you are there.
We recommend these travel companies & resources
If you do decide to go to Bali, these are our favourite tools and companies for planning and booking your travels. We have used all of them and recommend them for their dedication to providing you great travel experiences.
- Best travel gear: Minimalist Packing Guide →
- Cheap flights: Kiwi.com →
- Hotel savings: Booking.com →
- Small group adventures: Intrepid Travel →
- Incredible bike tours: Grasshopper Adventures →
- Best cooking classes: Cookly →
- Bus & train: 12go.asia →
- Mindful journeys: BookYogaRetreats & BookMeditationRetreats →
- Convenient travel insurance: World Nomads →
♥ Happy mindful adventures, Jane & Stephen
It’s easy to help us keep this blog going! The insurance links in this post are our personal affiliate links. If you buy insurance using our link, we’ll earn a small fee at no extra cost to you. Of course, we would never recommend anything we didn’t 100% believe in! Huge thanks in advance! –S&J
Hi, I’m Jane, founder and chief blogger on My Five Acres. I’ve lived in six countries and have camped, biked, trekked, kayaked, and explored in 50! At My Five Acres, our mission is to inspire you to live your most adventurous life and help you to travel more and more mindfully.