Are you wondering if it’s safe to travel to Bali right now? How bad is COVID-19 now? How bad is it going to get? Read this post for the latest info.
The World Health Organization finally declared the outbreak of novel coronavirus to be a pandemic. The US has announced that they’re restricting travel from Europe. Schools, restaurants, bars, and other businesses are closing down around the world.
Yup, this thing is real and it’s not going away any time soon.
And you’re wondering if it’s safe to travel to Bali, right?
We’re living on the island now and are updating this post frequently so we can help you decide if you should cancel your trip or come anyway!
So keep reading to find out…
Is it Safe to Travel to Bali?
Coronavirus Update March 20
In addition to the restrictions listed below, Indonesia has now added travel restrictions.
Indonesia has now suspended its visa exemption and visa-on-arrival for all visitors. Anyone coming to Indonesia will now need to get a visa from an Indonesian consulate before travelling. Applicants must provide a health certificate from their country of origin.
So with that, travel to Indonesia is effectively cancelled for the time being. The best option now is to stay where you are, practice social distancing and self quarantine, and enjoy the downtime!
Previous Update March 16
As of today, the best advice we can give is to cancel your travel plans. Not just to Bali, but anywhere. With much of the world grinding to a halt, country by country, now is not the time to be getting on a plane.
Bali has now announced that:
- All schools are closing
- No functions should be held
- Parties, social gatherings etc should be avoided
- Trips off of Bali should be postponed if possible
If your trip is scheduled to happen any time in the next month, you are better off cancelling.
Until today, there was very little response to the outbreak but it seems like the government here has decided to take action now (better late than never).
It’s time to check with your airline, your hotel, and any other operators you booked with to see what their refund policy is. We’d love you to just postpone your trip, not cancel it outright, which will help travel operators stay afloat while this crisis continues.
Previous Update March 12
Among the other safety concerns that come with international travel, I know most of you are wondering if you should come to Bali while coronavirus is spreading steadily across the globe.
Ultimately, this is a question you can only answer yourself.
While it is pretty business as usual on Bali, in the last week or so, things have been changing.
- Mask sales are restricted to one package per customer. Hand sanitizers are popping up everywhere.
- Grocery store clerks are wearing masks.
- Public businesses, like yoga studios and restaurants, are upping their game when it comes to mat cleaning and hygiene.
The rest of life is going on pretty much as normal.
There was a big school sports day near our house a couple of days ago. Tourists are hitting restaurants, bars, and the beach as much as ever though there are fewer tourists overall. Traffic is still pretty bad everywhere!
Despite this apparent normalcy, I am now of the mind that you shouldn’t travel at all right now.
Humanity’s best shot at containing COVID-19 has already passed.
Now all we can hope for is to slow down the spread to keep hospitals from being overwhelmed. You have a personal responsibility to practice social distancing — which is almost impossible when you travel.
While you might not be in a high risk group, you can still spread the virus to people who are, and your chances of doing this are greater if you travel.
Is there coronavirus in Bali?
As of this writing (Mar 12), there are still fewer than 50 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Indonesia. There has been one confirmed death, of a British tourist in Bali.
Keep in mind that this is only the cases that have been confirmed. The actual number is likely to be much higher.
What if I get quarantined or locked down?
Alongside the possibility of contracting the virus, there’s a very real possibility of getting quarantined or locked down while you’re travelling.
Ask yourself if you could deal with being stuck in your hotel room for 14 days. Could you afford to stay in Bali indefinitely if flights from here to your home country are banned?
There are already thousands of Chinese people stranded here, so it’s not a far-fetched scenario. It’s happening right now.
How is coronavirus spread?
Though there hasn’t been time to study it thoroughly, it is thought that coronavirus spreads in a similar fashion to other similar diseases, like the flu and SARS.
When an infected person coughs or sneezes, they expel droplets of saliva or mucus, which land on nearby surfaces. If you touch one of those surfaces and then, for example, scratch your nose or rub your eye, you could be the next one infected.
One of the most likely places for you to catch a virus while travelling is on the plane or in the airport, because there are so many people collected in a small space.
How to stay healthy on the plane
If you do decide to travel, there are a few things you can do to decrease your chance of getting sick.
In theory, a person infected with coronavirus who is not yet showing symptoms could board the plane with you. After that, if you touch a surface where they have sneezed and then, say, chew your nails, you could also become infected.
Happily, as this National Geographic article explains, even if there is someone with a virus on your flight, your risk of contraction is fairly low.
To lower the risk even further:
- Wash your hands. A lot. Make sure you wash your hands frequently and carry hand sanitizer for those moments when good old fashioned soap and water aren’t available
- Wear a mask. Masks are not effective at keeping airborne virus particles out. However, when I wear a mask, it reminds me not to touch my face, which is effective at preventing illness. You don’t need a special N95 mask for this use — any mask will work!
- Offer a mask to a sneezy seat mate. If your seat mate or someone sitting near you is coughing and sneezing on the plane, offer them a spare mask. Research has shown that masks do help prevent sick people from spreading their illnesses.
- Wear gloves. Instead of a mask, you might choose to wear gloves, which also serve as a reminder to keep your hands away from your face.
- Be a little obsessive. Wear gloves and use sanitizer to wipe down your seat, tray table, and entertainment system thoroughly as soon as you board. If it’s good enough for Naomi Campbell, it’s good enough for you!
Watch Naomi Campbell’s guide on how to keep healthy on the plane to see how the stars do it!
How to stay healthy in Bali
One of the great things about Bali is that most restaurants and public gathering places are open-air. That leaves you less chance of being in an enclosed space with an infected person.
But, as we learned in the previous section, it’s most likely that coronavirus is spread through droplets that stay on surfaces for days or even weeks.
The best prevention is to keep washing your hands and avoid touching your face. If you’re planning on practicing yoga, you might want to bring your own travel yoga mat, as studios are not great about disinfecting their mats!
And if you do happen to sit down next to someone who is coughing or sneezing, go sit somewhere else. Even if they only have the common cold, you still don’t want to catch it and ruin your trip.
Finally, make sure you stay hydrated, rested, and healthy.
It’s easy to get lots of vitamins in the form of fresh smoothies and juices in Bali. Make sure you’re getting lots of sleep each night and exercising each day.
Bali has lots of great places to practice yoga, which has been shown to help boost your immune system — so even if you’re not a yogi, Bali is a great place to try it out.
Will travel insurance cover me if I cancel my trip?
It’s very unlikely that travel insurance will cover your cancellation if you decide to cancel your trip because of coronavirus risk. There is a chance, if you bought the “cancel for any reason” option, that you will be covered.
But in all likelihood, you’ll be saying goodbye to the cost of your flight or paying some steep flight change penalties if you decide to cancel.
Some hotels are waiving their normal cancellation fees, but again, depending on where you booked, you may be on the hook for that too.
Who is at highest risk for coronavirus?
As with most viruses, the highest risk for catching coronavirus is among older people, young children, and people with compromised immune systems.
These are the people who are most likely to die from the disease too. Even if you’re not likely to catch it, there is a chance you could be quarantined if you have the bad luck to end up in an area where there’s an outbreak.
What else should you know?
The one thing that no one knows, is how quickly or how far coronavirus will spread. While travelling to Bali today is relatively safe, we don’t know what it will be like next week or next month.
In the meantime, flights, hotels, and tour operators are lowering their prices to entice you to come!
Because of that, we can’t tell you whether or not to book that trip to Bali — it’s a decision only you can make.
Routine Hazards 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.
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.
Don’t do it before you read our complete guide to staying safe on your scooter and avoiding scooter scams!
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? 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.
Volcanoes & Earthquakes
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.
In late May 2019, two major eruptions grounded planes and sent Bali residents scurrying away from the area. These aren’t the first eruptions in 2019 and Agung is currently a very active volcano!
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, even if it seems “safe” at the time you’re there. Volcanoes don’t give a written warning before they erupt.
There’s not much more 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.
We recommend Pituq Community Foundation, who run not only the best restaurant on Gili Trawangan, but also run a great, community-led charity.
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.
It is recommended that you keep clear of the exclusion zone around Mount Agung, although the last eruption was 8 months ago.
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!
More Bali Travel Tips
Use these Bali posts to help plan your transformational trip!
♥ Happy transformational travels, 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