There are a few things that you have no know and be prepared for when coming to Bali, so I will start with what you should do before you leave for the trip. The first step is to get all of your vaccinations. For Bali, this includes tetnus/ diptheria/ whooping cough booster, MMR, all hepatitis (especially A), and typhoid. Hepatitis A and typhoid are the shots that people typically haven’t gotten get. Typhoid you can get as a shot, which covers you for 3 years and generally has more side effects, or in a pill form (which is a live vaccine) that covers you for 5 years and supposedly has less side effects.
There is not malaria in Bali, which is a seriously good thing, but there is malaria on the surrounding islands (like Java, Lombok). So, if you are planning on travelling around a bit, make sure you get malaria pills too. There are mosquitos, however, and they can be nasty. There is a certain type of mosquito that isn’t as common but is found here that can give you Dengue Fever. There is no vaccine for this, and it can be very serious. The mosquitos that give you dengue are black and white striped (which is very obvious), and are out during the day as opposed to at dawn and dusk. Not all of the tiger striped mosquitos have the dengue virus, so if you do get bit by one don’t panic. But, if you are feeling any symptoms of fever, nausea, extreme fatigue, etc, go to a doctor immediately and make sure you do not have dengue fever.
To avoid mosquito bites altogether, it is a good idea to always put on bug spray/lotion. “Off” sprays and lotions are available at local supermarkets for very cheap. Try to apply this after waking up before even going outside, and maybe reapplying before dark when mosquitos are the worst. I typically try to wear light clothes that cover me up instead of wearing tiny shorts and tank tops that expose a lot of skin. But, you will still want to spray some repellent on your clothes, because mosquitos can bite you through them. You can also buy coils that burn and emit a light smoke that deter bugs. I would advise burning these in your room in the morning and at dusk. They are extremely cheap and well worth the effort.
As I mentioned before, the water in Bali is not clean. This means, under NO circumstances, should you ever drink the water. This includes brushing your teeth with tap water. Always use bottled water to brush your teeth. I had a friend who thought this was a bit of a joke, but seriously regretted brushing her teeth with the water after five days on the toilet. You can buy 1.5 liter bottles of water at the supermarket for about 30 cents, or get a five gallon bottle the dispenses through a ceramic tap put in your room for about $2. Its extremely cheap to get filtered water, so don’t take the risk.
What my friend got when she brushed her teeth with the tap water is the famous “Bali Belly.” This happens when you eat some food that has not been cleaned with filtered water, or that is not fresh or good. This basically means you get massive diarrhea and upset stomach for a few days. Before you leave, you should get some sort of antibiotic from your doctor that would treat this if it gets really bad (they call it travelers belly), which means blood in the stool or something like this. I received an antibiotic called “cipro,” which is good to have on hand anyways just in case of any infection or something like that.
I have also mentioned the many stray and uncared for dogs that are running around all areas of Bali. It may be hard to turn a blind eye to some of these dogs, but rabies is a HUGE problem. Do not touch any animals under any circumstances if you are not familiar with it. Any animal could have rabies, and not only is there a rabies problem in Bali, there is also a shortage of rabies vaccines. Unless you know that the animal has had its rabies shots (it’s a pet of someone you know, etc.), do not touch it. One way you can tell that an animal may have had its shots is that it will have a red ribbon tied around its neck. Even then, its not 100% positive that the animal had its rabies shots. If you do get bit by a strange animal that draws blood, go to the doctor straight away and start your rabies vaccinations. It is a series of four shots over a month, so you may have to start the shots in Bali and finish them in the states, which is a pain in the ass.
It is also a good idea to carry a basic first aid kit. If you fall and scrape yourself or especially if you cut yourself on live coral at the beach, it is extremely easy to get infected if you don’t have the right first aid. Bring hydrogen peroxide, antibiotic ointment, band-aids, and maybe a basic pain killer like Tylenol and you should be fine. Just make sure that the cut is completely cleaned out before you put a bandage on it.
If you read articles online and look into the general safety in Bali, they will tell you that people get robbed left and right, your tires will get slashed and your money will be stolen. I have found that this is far from the truth. Of course, you don’t want to walk into dark alleys with a blind eye, and you always want to exert caution when in a foreign country. However, I have found the Balinese extremely honest and non-violent, so I don’t think you have to walk around like your in the Harlem slums. My advice would be to bring a travel safe and keep all your valuables in it, locked in your room, somewhere discreet. If you are going to bring a computer, get a computer lock cable and always lock it when you leave your room. Only carry small amounts of money on you at a time, and keep your money in a place that is zipped closed and close to you. As you move away from Kuta (the main tourist city in Bali) areas will be safer and safer. Simply keep your eyes open and everything should be fine.