How to Avoid Bali Belly Like a Pro

One morning living in a Balinese compound in Tabanan I woke up to go to the toilet, where I saw my ex-boyfriend’s grandmother squatting in the river obviously doing her business. She smiled and laughed and I went back to bed. When I got up a couple of hours later she was washing the dishes in exactly the same spot in the river…

And this my friends is why you might want to be aware of the possibility of Bali belly. We’ve all had it at one time or another; my first experience with it was in my very first week as a volunteer in Bali. I’d traveled and I’d been sick before, but I’d never be hit so hard, so quickly as I was taken down by the evil lurking in one of the ‘clean’ restaurants in Ubud.

Trying to pin down the culprit was impossible and completely useless as at that time it could have been absolutely anything I’d eaten just about anywhere despite choosing to eat only at full, western-looking places. I’m sure they weren’t washing their dishes in the river but I think back then river water and the government water were probably one and the same.

After a few days of hanging onto the toilet, puking in the bath a couple of times, and basically missing out on the whole orientation of the volunteer program I was with, I was back to normal. I carried on drinking plenty of Bintang beer, eating in small warungs and roadside stalls and drank plenty of the local spirit arak, which no doubt kills all bacteria in seconds.Over the years I’ve had Bali belly, typhoid, and one pretty nasty bout of amoebic dysentery, but this is to be expected living in a bacteria friendly tropical climate. However, I’ve also noticed the number of people who come to Bali and get Bali Belly seems to be decreasing. I’m assuming this is thanks to better education and awareness about how to handle food along with more ‘westernized’ restaurants, especially raw and health food places.

Nowadays, your salads are most likely being washed in purified water and your ice is definitely clean, but the prices at many restaurants are much higher than before. Locals are unable to (and usually have no desire to) eat at most restaurants that serve avocado toast, kale juices and coconut nice cream, but more and more travelers to Bali are expecting healthy, clean food and are willing to pay the price. This is not to say that local warungs are dirty. There are loads of choices for good local warungs that also serve great food and you are much less likely to get sick eating in them now too.

I still see street food sellers washing their dishes in the roadside gutters and the carts that come around have a bucket and a dirty cloth that they wipe their few dishes with before serving the next customer. If you eat at these places you should be aware you may get deathly ill, but the food is usually the most tasty so sometimes it’s worth playing a little street food Russian roulette isn’t it? If you’re at all worried, perhaps visit some of the mid-range warungs that serve local food but are more likely to be aware that gutters aren’t great places to wash dishes.I definitely recommend eating local foods to get a real taste of Bali and definitely recommend ask locals where the tastiest food is; they’ll be happy to show you where they eat. You’re more likely to get a great meal than Bali belly, and if you do get a bit sick it’s usually over in a day or so. It’s not always 100% avoidable, but here are my key points for avoiding Bali Belly:

– Drink bottled water (I know duh…but I’ve known plenty of people that get up in the night thirsty after a number of beers and forget they can’t drink from the tap)

– Brush your teeth with bottled/filtered water

– Make sure your dishes are dry before you eat from them

– Keep a stash of activated charcoal with you. You can get the brand Norit from most convenience stores and pharmacies and it’s great for soaking up food poisoning.

– Many people swear by taking probiotics before they travel. I’ve never tried it but it’s worth a bit of extra belly protection.

Are you still worried about getting Bali belly but want to taste the local food? Try:

D’Waroeng or Mangga Madu in Ubud

Warung Bu Mi and Warung Varuna in Canggu

Babi Guling Pak Malen in Seminyak

Warung Makan Campur – Campur in Jimbaran (on the way to Uluwatu)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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