Tossing and turning in bed with abdominal pains and running to the toilet several times a day because you have to throw up or have diarrhea. No, a food poisoning like Bali Belly is absolutely no fun to have. Yet many tourists encounter it during their holidays in Bali and Indonesia. It’s a shame, because it can really ruin your holiday and no one wants to spend their time sick anyway. In this blog we will therefore explain to you what exactly Bali Belly is and more importantly, how you can prevent it!
Most people are familiar with traveler’s diarrhea and if you travel regularly you may already have some experience with it as well. The dreaded Delhi Belly is also known to many travelers and is one of the reasons why some prefer to avoid a visit to India. Hygiene is simply not the same everywhere and the worse it is, the more likely you are to be screwed anyway. But what about Bali Belly? Indonesia and certainly Bali are very popular to visit among tourists. From backpackers and digital nomads to people that are visiting Bali just for a short holiday. Apparently Bali Belly is less known among tourists or the fear of getting it is simply less than, for example, Delhi Belly. In any case, both belly diseases are no fun to have.
What is Bali Belly?
Bali belly is just like Delhi belly a cynical name for food poisoning that mainly affects Western tourists. And that’s a bit strange, because while many Western tourists are afraid to visit India because of Delhi belly, Indonesia and specially the island Bali does not seem to have any problems attracting tourists. The island is even flooded with tourists, mostly from Europe and Australia. However, a Bali belly should not be underestimated. Instead of having to rush to the toilet because you have eaten something that you are sensitive to for example, Bali Belly lasts a few days to a week with complaints such as severe abdominal cramps, throwing up and diarrhea. The main issue: hygiene. Because of ‘travelling locally’ we quickly take a seat in a traditional Warung where food is sometimes prepared next to an open sewer and where salads are washed under the tap with non-drinking water. This is of course not the case everywhere, but the hygiene standards are simply different there than in the west. This is precisely the reason why western tourists are much more likely to suffer from it. We are not used to much and that is why things like Bali Belly quickly happen. That is why it is good to pay extra attention to where you eat and what kind of food and drinks you consume.
Because even though we were very careful, things still went wrong and Niels and I both suffered from Bali Belly. Due to a visa run for Australia, we flew to Bali for a week. After spending months in Oceania, the hustle and bustle of Southeast Asia took some getting used to, although the island of Nusa Lembongan was fairly relax. The first few days we enjoyed the island life and the refreshing wind in our hair while exploring the island by scooter. Until one day I tossed and turned in bed all afternoon with severe stomach cramps. That same evening I hung over the toilet a few times to empty my stomach by throwing up. Not much later Niels followed and we took turns running to the traditional outdoor bathroom at night. Because we couldn’t keep food down and it didn’t get much better after a few days, we visited a local doctor who listened to our stomach. The diagnosis: Bali Belly. We were given a pack of anti-diarrheals and antibiotics (tip: this does not work against food poisoning) and we were sent away again. Fortunately, we stayed in a traditional accommodation of a super friendly family who took good care of us with warm cups of ginger tea and we eventually recovered. But it certainly wasn’t fun…
Prevent Bali belly and Delhi belly
With good preparation and a little attention, you can stay away from the toilet during your holiday. Therefore, below are 5 tips to prevent Bali belly and Delhi belly:
#1 Drink only clean water
It is not recommended to drink tap water in Indonesia and India (this also applies to ice cubes). Therefore, only drink from closed bottles of water and water that has been boiling for at least five minutes. This advice also applies to ice cubes and that is precisely where things could go wrong for many people. In restaurants and cafes, your glass of soft drink is almost always served with ice cubes. Therefore, it is better to ask for drinks without ice in them.
#2 Eat vegetarian
Eating meat is not good for the environment anyway, but meat including fish and shellfish are usually a risky source of bacteria. Especially if it has been left somewhere for too long (especially in the warm Indonesian climate) or if it’s not cooked properly.
#3 Avoid raw foods
It is better to avoid raw food such as salads, but also the popular Japanese sushi. It is often washed with tap water and in any case raw food is more sensitive to attracting bacteria. After all, it is not heated and not always kept cold enough to prevent the growth of bacteria. This also applies to fruit that is often washed with tap water. Therefore, preferably choose a type of fruit with peel so that you can peel it and eat it fresh and healthy without too much risk.
#4 Wash hands
In these types of countries where hygiene is not always that good, you cannot wash your hands often enough. Preferably do this with clean water and soap or a disinfectant gel so that you also have the opportunity to freshen your hands along the way.
#5 Eat where it’s busy
Unfortunately, this trick doesn’t always work, but you can reasonably assume that the food is at least fresher than at a restaurant where no one comes. After all, food needs to be purchased more regularly. Returning guests and locals also know where you can eat well, creating busy hotspots. It may not always be so ‘undiscovered’, but sometimes there is a good reason for that.