Whether you have been there loads of times and stay at the same Balinese retreat, or it’s your first time overseas with the family, you may find it surprising to know EVERYONE needs to pack the same travel health information.
Because bacteria doesn’t discriminate. A few years ago, an Australian news presenter, Kylie Gillies, fell severely ill alongside her entire family in Bali. Despite hiring a private chef at their villa, Kylie says it’s still “a country with different health standards and conditions” than Australia – and also Canada.1 The most common health issues facing any travelers to Bali are usually associated with local hygiene, safe water and food, diseases transmitted by mosquitoes, and close contact with animals.2,3
While $3 cocktails can be a temptation hard to resist, spend the extra dollar or two and get the bottled variety with a seal that needs to be broken. Otherwise, you could be getting far more in your mojito than you bargained for – traveller’s diarrhea, cholera, schistosomiasis, hepatitis A, and typhoid fever are just some of the infections found in contaminated food or drink.2 Also, only ice made from purified or disinfected water is safe.3 There’s another, even more sinister reason. What you think is a pure alcoholic spirit poured from a bottle of name-brand alcohol could include harmful substances such as methanol. This chemical can cause severe illness, blindness, brain injury or even death. “Arak” or “Bali Moonshine” is a cheaper substitute bars use in place of or mixed with brand-name spirits.4 If you suspect you, a family member or friend may have been poisoned, you need to act quickly and seek urgent medical attention.4
Sampling street food can be fun for kids and adults alike, but stick to fruits and vegetables that require peeling (ie. no prepared salad please!) AND ensure any food you eat is piping hot. Usually the busiest street carts indicate not only that the food is tasty, but also a high turnover means you will be getting the freshest food possible – just make sure you can see it cooked in front of you. If ever in doubt, don’t risk it!3 Poor sanitation and hygiene standards mean that even the cuisine served in five-star restaurants could be risky business if food is uncooked, undercooked or reheated. Steer clear of salads, as ingredients may have been washed with contaminated water and – sorry to disappoint – it’s also widely recommended to avoid raw (oysters) and undercooked shellfish.3
“I don’t need to see a doctor; I don’t plan to leave the resort.” If this sounds like you, unfortunately you have it wrong. Routine immunizations such as tetanus, diphtheria and measles should be checked to ensure you are up to date, along with travel-specific vaccinations such as hepatitis A and B and typhoid.2
While a red-eyed, salivating beast might come to mind, rabies can actually be hiding in that cute stray you pat on the way out of the hotel each morning. Dogs, bats (often seen when exploring caves) and other mammals in Indonesia are common carriers of rabies.2 If bitten or scratched, you should immediately wash the wound with soap and water and then seek urgent medical attention, even if you have been vaccinated against rabies prior to your trip.5
In some areas of Indonesia, certain insects carry and spread diseases like chikungunya, dengue fever, Japanese encephalitis, lymphatic filariasis, malaria and Zika virus.2 Mosquito-borne illnesses such as dengue fever occur throughout Indonesia, including Bali, and are particularly common during the rainy season. There are common sense precautions to help protect yourself. While your five-star hotel should be mosquito-proof, be sure to keep windows shut and take care to avoid insect bites, including using an insect repellent at all times and wearing long, loose fitting, light-coloured clothing.6 While it may seem there’s a lot more to consider for Bali than which bathing suit you should pack, don’t let it be overwhelming. Take a trip to see your doctor six to eight weeks before travelling and discuss your upcoming plans.7 Also, know the health basics and pack some common sense.
Now enjoy Bali!