Are you wondering if it’s safe to travel to Bali right now? Should you cancel your travel plans after the devastating earthquakes in Lombok, Sulawesi, and now Java? This post explains what it’s like in Bali right now and helps you decide.
What’s in this post about travel safety in Bali?
1. Present Tense. Future Perfect?
2. Heed the Travel Advisories
3. It’s Business as Usual on Bali
4. How to Prepare for an Earthquake in Bali
5. Don’t Forget Travel Insurance
6. How You Can Help Earthquake Victims
7. Were the Bali Earthquakes Scary?
This year has been 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 are left homeless after the quake.
Then, a couple of months later, an earthquake and resulting tsunami has wiped out entire towns on the island of Sulawesi. Deaths are in the thousands and rescuers are still working to find thousands of missing people.
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 earthquakes are over for now, the impact will be felt for years to come.
With all this upheaval so nearby, it’s easy to understand why you might be worried about travelling to Bali.
Is it safe to travel to Bali right now, or should you cancel your trip?
We were in Bali during the Lombok disaster and were shaken and rattled by eight earthquakes and aftershocks while we were there. In this post, we shed some light on what it was like to be there and if it’s safe for you to travel there now.
Read on to find out…
Is it Safe to Travel to Bali Right Now?
Present Tense. Future Perfect?
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
Having said that, I wouldn’t be in a rush to book a ticket to Bali right now (although you could undoubtedly get a great deal!). And honestly, I am relieved that we have now left the island.
We are planning to return in December though, and the earthquakes will probably not keep us away.
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 is warning against all but essential travel to northern Lombok, including the Gili Islands, and central Sulawesi. The UK has lifted its restriction on the Gili Islands but still warns against travel to Lombok and Sulawesi. Neither has any warning in place for Bali.
Australia advises a high degree of caution for Bali but because of personal security, not earthquakes. Lombok and Sulawesi have a more serious caution of “reconsider your need to travel”.
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. I guess they have other things on their minds right now!
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.
How to Prepare for 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.
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. 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!
How You Can Help 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.
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.
If you do decide to go to Bali, don’t miss:
♥ 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.