Bali is such a beautiful island that I would return to at any time. After we have already presented in other articles the most beautiful Bali attractions, Bali travel costs and the best Bali accommodations, one more question must be answered: Is a Bali vacation dangerous and how to avoid tourist scams in Bali? In this article, we want to get to the bottom of those questions. Therefore, we will take a closer look at Bali’s Security, give safety tips and look at the most common Bali scams and easy ways to avoid them.
What to find out in this post
- 1 Is it safe to travel in Bali?
- 2 The most common Scams in Bali
- 3 Bali Security
- 4 Natural Disasters in Bali
- 5 Terrorism in Bali
- 6 Is it safe to drive a scooter in Bali?
- 7 Is the traffic in Bali dangerous?
- 8 Are Food and Drinks in Bali dangerous?
- 9 Are there dangerous animals in Bali?
- 10 Are there dangerous health risks in Bali?
- 11 General Safety Instructions for Bali
- 12 Is Bali safe for Solo Female travelers?
- 13 All in all, is Bali dangerous?
- 14 More Bali
Is it safe to travel in Bali?
To answer this question, we’ll first have to look at the different security aspects of a Bali trip. Let’s start with the most common thing thread about visiting Bali: tourist traps.
The most common Scams in Bali
In Bali, a whole lot of smaller, but also larger tourist traps, so-called scams, take place every day. Let’s take a look at the most common ones so you can easily avoid them during your Bali vacation.
False or overpriced taxis
Probably the most widespread tourist scam in the world: fake or overpriced taxis. You’re especially likely to fall for this taxi trick when you have just landed in Bali and want to get from the airport/port to your accommodation. Especially in these areas, you can find some sort of taxi mafia, which has agreed to overcharge tourists and travelers.
How to avoid this scam
- Don’t get in any taxi without taximeter or predetermined price
- Check (online or in your accommodation) in advance what the normal price for your taxi ride is and don’t pay more than that
- Use only official Blue Bird Company Taxis
- If possible, use Grab
Scams about Renting Motorcycles
Many travelers rent a scooter during their Bali vacation to explore Bali on their own. I have to say, it was a really nice experience to drive through Bali, past rice fields and not rely on public transport or taxis (we’ll talk about the overall safety of these scooters later in this article). However, unfortunately, there are some tourist traps waiting for you regarding scooters.
Getting billed for damage you didn’t cause
Everything is going well and you spend a nice day in Bali on your rented scooter. But as soon as you return the scooter, alleged damage, bumps or scratches get “detected” and charged for by the owner. In some cases, the owner even keeps your passport until you agree to pay for the damage to the scooter that you didn’t actually cause.
How to avoid this scam
- Never leave your passport with the scooter rental company, give them a copy or let them make a copy of your passport/driver’s license
- Before you go, take photos of the scooter from all angles so you can prove that scratches or damage to the vehicle was already there before
Before you set off, you took pictures of your scooter to avoid nasty surprises. However, around the corner lurks already the next tourist trap. A police officer waves you out and charges you with various offenses. The only choice they give you is whether you want to pay immediately or to go to the police station and pay there. Even though you aren’t aware of doing anything wrong in order to be charged those fees. This trick is not only found in Bali. In Chiang Mai, Thailand, we were also stopped along with other foreigners at traffic control and had to pay a fine for no actual reason at all.
How to avoid this scam
- Try to give the police as little as possible to criticize, the fewer the fees he can fine you with
- The best is to pay right away, you will not get around it and yes, most likely the policeman will put the money in his own pocket
- Always wear a helmet!
- Always have your international driver’s license with you
- The amount of the fine can sometimes even be negotiated
- In Indonesia, left-hand traffic prevails: stick to it
Extra tip: If you carry an extra purse with significantly less money/ no credit cards, payments are often lower
In Indonesia, as in other parts of Southeast Asia, gasoline is often sold by the roadside in old plastic or glass bottles. But take care – Often, the gasoline here per liter costs much more than in official gas stations.
How to avoid this scam
- If possible, rather fill up your tank in an official gas station
If we have learned one thing on our journey through Southeast Asia, then free tours or services are usually never actually free. At the end of the tour, the guide is waiting with an open hand expecting some sort of tip or donation. Often they tell you along the way about their little children, for whom they have to provide food in order to push you into giving them more money. It’s truly hard to say no at this point.
How to avoid this scam
- Do not accept free tours, even if the guide insists
- If you want a tour, be aware that in the end, you have to pay for it
Rice field Donations
The rice fields of Bali are simply worth a visit and are for many THE stunning landmark of this amazing Indonesian island. But especially those who visit the touristic rice fields of the island (I’m looking at you, Tegalalang), may be annoyed by this tourist trap.
In addition to the normal entrance fee, every few minutes you will be approached by a local who requests a donation from you. Although you may be able to choose how much money you leave, those donations add up of course so that you, in the end, pay almost the same amount as for the entrance fee. Strolling around the rice fields of Bali could surely be more enjoyable than that…
How to avoid this scam
- Instead of visiting the typical touristy rice fields, how about visiting some that are a little bit more off the beaten path?
Money Changing Scam
As in many other places in the world, you can be ripped off in money exchange agencies in Bali. While some Currency Exchange offices offer you an extremely poor exchange rate, others just drop some of the bills behind the counter before handing them to you after they’ve counted out loud.
In other cases, they might charge an unreasonable high commission of up to 15%
How to avoid this scam
- Change your money always and exclusively at Authorized Money Changers
- Count your money as soon as you receive it before you leave the Currency Exchange Office
Tour Guide/ Driver Scam
Many drivers or tour guides in Bali have contracts with various souvenir shops or restaurants. When taking a tour with this kind of tour guide or driver, he brings you specifically to the places with which he has previously made arrangements. Here he usually receives a commission. Accordingly, the prices for you are often far higher than elsewhere.
How to avoid this scam
- Think about where you want to go in advance and don’t let your driver plan the route (you can use our Bali itinerary as a little inspiration)
- Before booking, look at your driver’s reviews, e.g. on TripAdvisor or Facebook
- Book your tours with reputable sources, such as GetYourGuide or Viator
In the following, therefore, we would like to talk about general security in Bali.
Natural Disasters in Bali
Indonesia is located in a clearly unfavorable place in the world – a seismically very active zone, in which natural disasters take place more often than in the rest of the world. While many of us may still have in mind the images of the 2004 tsunami, which caused incredible damage, especially on Sumatra, there have been recurring incidents lately.
The active Mt. Agung volcano has been a major concern since November 2017. Since February 2018, there is a restricted zone of 4 km around the active volcano, which spits ash and smoke again and again. During our stay in Bali and Lombok (November/ December 2017) some days, the airports were closed due to the volcano’s activity, so that we could only arrive by boat. But if you keep away from the restricted area, you are in a safe zone and you don’t have to worry about Mt. Agung as they are early-warning-mechanisms. (As of May 2019)
In Indonesia, unfortunately, there are also often earthquakes. Just recently in July – September 2018, heavy earthquakes took place, which also affected Lombok and the Gili Islands. Also in Bali, some damages occurred. Before you travel, you should familiarize yourself with the security processes in the event of a volcanic eruption, tsunami or earthquake.
Terrorism in Bali
As in any other place in the world right now, there is also a certain possibility of a terror attack on Bali. As the only island in Indonesia that is not primarily influenced by Islam, Bali stands out among other places in Indonesia and can, therefore, be seen as particularly vulnerable. Since 2005, however, no terrorist attack has taken place in Bali. The last attacks there occurred in 2002 and 2005 in Kuta. During Christian, Islamic, or national holidays special care is advised. Anyway, the chances of a terror attack taking place in Bali are not higher than in Western destinations, such as Berlin, London, Paris or Barcelona these days.
Is it safe to drive a scooter in Bali?
This questions might be difficult to answer in such a general way. Let’s say it’s never completely safe, but it actually depends on different factors. Are you an experienced scooter driver or are you sitting behind the handlebar for the first time? Bali is not the best place to learn how to drive in our opinion. In Indonesia, you drive on the left-hand-side which is not a common practice for most Westerners (besides UK-citizens, of course). However, the road’s quality is not exactly the same as in Western countries, either. You won’t get around discovering potholes, broken roads and poor quality of streets in Bali. In addition, insecurity and nervousness when driving can make you become a possible danger to other drivers, but also to yourself.
Another factor is the weather conditions. Heavy rains and flooding are not uncommon in Bali, especially during the rainy season. As a result, you not only lose grip, but there is also a sometimes severe limitation of visibility. During the rainy season, the weather can suddenly change within minutes.
So, is driving a motorcycle in Bali dangerous?
If you’re not an experienced driver, we definitely advise against it. Eduardo has been driving a scooter in our hometown of Barcelona for almost 10 years and has been able to drive us safely through Bali. But in Southeast Asia, it almost took even us off the scooter when we got stuck in the mud with our wheels when a sudden but heavy rainfall occurred. However, if you trust yourself and don’t tend to get nervous in chaotic traffic situations, there is nothing wrong with going by motorcycle. Be sure to stick to the following precautions.
- Be sure to wear a (good) helmet that covers your entire head and fits well
- Only drive with an appropriate driving license (international driver’s license)
- Try to avoid rain, if possible
- Check in advance about the road conditions on the way
- Take pictures of the rented scooter before you start your trip
- If you get scared or nervous, don’t drive
- If you pass someone or drive around tight bends, horn, so that oncoming traffic knows that you are coming – that is how the locals do it
If you aren’t confident enough to drive yourself, but still don’t want to miss out on the scooter feeling, you can just take a motorbike taxi, of which there is plenty in Bali.
Is the traffic in Bali dangerous?
The traffic of Bali can’t be compared with that traffic in most Western countries. It is much more chaotic and the security measures are also not comparable to ours. Accidents often occur, often ending in a hospital or even fatal. Even if you are not the driver yourself, you may experience accidents by bus, car or boat. Therefore check in advance on the internet for reviews before you buy a ticket or book a tour.
Are Food and Drinks in Bali dangerous?
If I miss one thing in Indonesia, it’s amazing food! Nasi Goreng or Mie Ayam are just two of the dishes in Indonesia we just couldn’t get enough of. Only at the thought of it, my mouth is watering.
We simply love street food and think that this is the best way to get to know the culinary side of a country. Therefore, we encourage every traveler to try at least one street food dish during your trip. Here are a few tips on how to avoid getting an upset stomach or even a food poisoning in Bali.
Go where to locals go
Can you spot a street food stand or local restaurant (Warung), where many locals are eating? Then there you will find most likely, high quality and delicious food. If a place is popular, it usually is promising good quality.
Does a place seem dirty or unhygienic to you for any reason? Then you might want to rather avoid it. In Bali there are a lot of great places to eat, so keep looking, the perfect place is probably just around the corner.
Know yourself – and your stomach
Do you have a sensitive stomach? Then maybe you shouldn’t start immediately with very spicy or unfamiliar food. Get started slowly and start with something simple like fried rice or noodle soup and you’ll see what you and your stomach tolerate and from what you might want to keep your hands off. By the way, there is a reason why an upset stomach while traveling is called Bali Stomach. 😉
Water in Bali
The tap water in Bali is not drinkable. Water should, therefore, be bought in bottles. However, make sure that the bottles are closed and not damaged.
Ice Cubes in Bali
After a long hot day, an ice cold drink? Sounds great, don’t you think? You don’t have to worry about ice cubes in Bali in general, as the government is making sure that only ice from safe sources is used for the ice cubes and crushed ice. If you feel uncomfortable after all, just order your drink without ice. (And without a straw, because that way you can avoid plastic waste when traveling as well)
Alcohol in Bali
A cozy beer in the evening is totally doable in Bali. However, if you want to try the local alcohol Arak, you should be careful and consume it only from reputable sources. Recently, some tourists suffered methanol poisoning after consuming cheap Arak since it has been illegally produced. Consuming methanol can lead to blindness or even death.
Are there dangerous animals in Bali?
When I think of dangerous animals I usually first think of lions, tigers, and big animals along those lines. Surely you will not find those Bali. Probably the most dangerous beasts you can deal with in Bali are mosquitoes. And if you now think “Oh, a few small mosquito bites cannot harm me …” – Unfortunately, they can. The mosquitoes in Bali can often transmit diseases such as dengue fever or malaria (more about those diseases in the following section). Therefore, it is important to always carry a good mosquito repellent with you and to re-apply it from time to time, especially after swimming.
But also other animals can be dangerous to humans due to the possible transmission of diseases. You should be especially careful with street dogs and monkeys. Through bites, scratches or saliva, diseases such as rabies can be transmitted. If you have been attacked by an animal, you should visit a hospital as soon as possible. To be on the safe side, a rabies vaccination before traveling can be useful. Let your doctor advise you before the trip. Note, however, that you must visit a doctor despite vaccination after being attacked by wild animals since the vaccine doesn’t protect against rabies, but only gives you more time to see a doctor and get treated as soon as possible.
The only animals that are actually dangerous in Bali are snakes. Among other types of snakes, Bali is home to the king cobra. However, the chances of you actually running into one of them are actually quite small. That being said, most snakes that inhabit Bali are not poisonous. The animals are at home on the forest grounds far away from the tourist crowds and try to avoid people as much as possible. So don’t worry too much about them.
Are there dangerous health risks in Bali?
Before you go on your Bali trip, you should definitely get advice from a doctor about important vaccinations (definitely have your vaccine documentation with you so they can check which ones you already have). Before our trip to Asia, we visited a doctor here in Barcelona who specializes in travel vaccinations and tropical diseases. Before you get scared of how many diseases are listed below, be aware that the risk of infection in Bali, Lombok, and Java is usually much lower than in the rest of the country.
There is a risk of following diseases in Bali
Dengue fever is a viral disease transmitted by diurnal mosquitoes. Above all, its symptoms are high fever, limb, and joint pain. This disease can take several weeks to heal. Deaths are rare. Unfortunately, there is no vaccine or prophylaxis. That means a good mosquito repellent is important. Reliable mosquito repellent offers e.g. Deet
Chikungunya fever is very similar to dengue fever and is also transmitted by diurnal mosquitoes.
Malaria is the most common infectious disease in the world, which can lead to high fever episodes, chills, and cramps. Not infrequently, a Malaria infection ends, especially in children, deadly. Even if there is only a small risk of infection in Bali, you should definitely protect yourself from the mosquitoes. Talk to your doctor about possible malaria prophylaxis. Malaria can also break out weeks or even months after the holiday. If you feel unwell, you should tell your doctor that you have been in a malaria area previously.
As already mentioned in the previous paragraph talking about dangerous animals, animals, e.g. stray dogs or monkeys on Bali might transmit rabies. Rabies is an infectious disease that almost always ends in death. Accordingly, beware of wild animals. Try to avoid street dogs and monkeys as much as possible. Discuss with your doctor if a rabies vaccine is recommended before your trip. Note, however, that you must visit a doctor despite vaccination after being attacked by wild animals, since the vaccine does not actually protect against rabies, but only gives you more time to see a doctor and get treated.
Food poisoning occurs after consuming unclean or bad foods. Try to eat where locals eat to avoid it. Also, avoid peeled fruit being sold on the roadside.
This is a brain infection, which is caused by viruses and usually comes with serious long-term damages or can even be fatal. These viruses are caused by nocturnal mosquitoes. That’s why a good mosquito repellent is also important at night. How about a mosquito net? But you can also get vaccinated against the Japanese Encephalitis before you travel. Discuss this option with your doctor first. However, the chances of getting infected with these viruses are relatively low in Bali.
HIV is widespread in Indonesia. So don’t forget to use protection if you meet someone. If you get a tattoo, definitely make sure that a new clean needle is used – the same with syringes or similar.
Hospitals in Bali
If the worst happens, and you actually get sick or injured and need to see a doctor, don’t worry. Most private hospitals in Bali are full of modern equipment, high-quality standards, and great English-speaking doctors. There are actually quite some hospitals in Bali, so you don’t have to worry about your health and the hospital conditions – as long as you have travel insurance, of course.
We definitely have seen much worse places throughout Southeast Asia when it comes to hospitals. – Read our hospital horror story from Myanmar here.
General Safety Instructions for Bali
- Really Important: Under no circumstances let your belongings out of sight
- Try to show your valuables as little as possible – so leave your laptop inside your bag and your expensive jewelry at home
- If you are approached on the street, do not blindly trust anyone in the first place
- Learn the local police numbers before arrival
- Use the official taxi company Blue Bird or Grab
- Have a bag/backpack that cannot be opened without your knowledge, e.g. a theft-proof backpack
- Try to avoid stray dogs and wild monkeys as much as possible
- Keep an eye on possible warnings about earthquakes, volcano outbreaks or sudden weather changes
- Protect yourself from the mosquitos, e.g. with Deet
- Wear as little valuables as possible with you
- Take only as much money with you as you need for the day
- Make copies of your passport/ ID card or other important documents and keep them in different locations
- Be sure to get good travel insurance before your trip – World Nomads, e.g. also insures you against thefts while traveling
Is Bali safe for Solo Female travelers?
Bali is also suitable for women traveling solo and relatively safe. But it also depends on where exactly you are accommodated. The highest security risk is probably in Kuta. Especially after a night out, the way back to your accommodation may be a bit uncomfortable for women. So try not to go out alone at night or make sure someone is bringing you home safely.
However, also in the other parts of the island, you can hear women telling repeatedly about catcalls and similar. It can help to wear a fake wedding ring. Because many local guys accept being married as a reason to leave you alone. Even though it’s annoying, you don’t actually have to worry about serious safety issues in Bali as a solo female traveler.
All in all, is Bali dangerous?
In general, Bali can be classified as relatively safe. But you need to keep a certain level of precaution and common sense with tourist scams or pickpockets as described above. In addition, you should definitely always keep the weather and environmental conditions in mind. That being said, there is nothing really speaking against a trip to Bali regarding its security. Therefore, you can book your trip to Bali without further worries.
As you can see, there are (as in almost every tourist destination) some tourist traps waiting. Anyway, with a little caution and a general common sense, you can easily avoid them. In our experience, the tourist traps and scams in the tourist area of Java (e.g., Mount Bromo) were much more frequent and intrusive than the ones in Bali. But also in the rest of Southeast Asia, you will find many tourist traps. We also have fallen for the scams in Vietnam and still wouldn’t call it an unsafe country and would never think of advising you not to go. Anyone who drives carefully doesn’t walk around alone during the night and covers himself with mosquito repellent usually has nothing more to be worried about than you have in your home country.
Make sure to read also our other helpful Bali Guides that help you plan your perfect trip to Bali.
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