Dealing with Bali Belly (Traveller’s Sickness)

You’ve heard all the warnings about food in Bali and taken all the recommended precautions to avoid the infamous Bali Belly, otherwise known as Traveller’s Sickness.

But, despite all that research and planning, you have ended up here. Likely meaning that it was all for nothing. Diarrhoea, stomach cramps, nausea, vomiting, aches and pains are pretty good indicators that you have got Bali Belly and are in for a few rough days.


What is Bali Belly?


Bali Belly occurs when an individual consumes contaminated food or water that has been exposed to pathogens, including bacteria, viruses or protozoans. This commonly occurs in the first week on the island as the body is exposed to an unfamiliar environment with a great swathe of foreign bacteria.

Some people are more susceptible to Bali Belly than others and everyone will experience it differently. But, common signs of Bali belly include:

  • Diarrhoea
  • Loss of appetite
  • Malaise
  • Stomache cramping and pain
  • Mild Temperature
  • High urgency to use bathroom

Secondary issues can include:

  • Dehydration
  • Headache

If blood is present in your vomit or stall, you have a high fever or significant abdominal pain, contact professional person ell as these symptoms indicate something severe.


Overcoming Bali Belly.


There is no way to sugar coat it: Bali Belly has no quick fix. The next 12-36 hrs are going to be hell. But, there are a few options that may help ease the whole ordeal.


Option 1: Tough-it-out

For most people, Bali Belly is discomforting but not severe. It will pass naturally within a day or two. During this time, your hotel room will be your only solace should you choose to tough-it-out.

Maintaining water levels and keeping up nutrient levels with small and frequent meals should be your main focus. Electrolyte drinks, such as Hyrdalyte, will help ensure you are hydrated – you are going to be losing a lot of fluids that need replacing.

No relief will be found in this option, but minimal money will be lost!


Option 2: Antibacterial tablets & water

For those above-standard cases of Bali Belly, it is best to gain access to some anti-bacterial medication. (Bali Belly is most commonly caused by Bacteria, such as e. coli). This will require a visit to the local doctors for a prescription – unless you have bought your own medication. The consultation and tablets will cost you upwards of $120 AUD.

For the good ol’ self-prescriber, consider these tablets or something of the sort:

Cedantron for nausea and vomiting; Buscopan for stomach cramping; Nexium for a gastric acid regulator; Paracetomal for headaches. And again, keep yourself hydrated and eat small amounts of food frequently.


Option 3: Visit the local hospital

If you are on deaths doorstep and a doctor has confirmed it, you will likely be requested to spend the night in the monitoring ward. Here, they will place you on an IV drip for hydration and nutrients; have a nurse check on your condition regularly; offer you a variety of medication based on your condition; conduct several tests for various measures of health.

This will speed up your recovery. BUT, it will cost you in excess of $1300 AUD. AND, depending on your insurance company, Bali Belly may be excluded in a ‘due diligence’ clause. You either want to double check with your insurance company or spend a sleepless night in your hotel room.


Avoiding Bali Belly.


By now it may seem redundant. But, there are some simple things you can do to reduce your chances of contracting Bali Belly. (These suggestions are also applicable to most developing nations). Things you can do to minimise the chances of Bali Belly, include:

  • Use bottle or filtered water. This includes, brushing your teeth, in your tea, frozen water products, water used in food, et cetera.
  • Avoid peeled and pre-cut fruits.
  • It is advisable to avoid meat altogether. Eating rare, raw and undercooked meat is particularly inadvisable.
  • Food at room temperature or exposed to the environment has an increased chance of contamination.
  • Avoid dairy.
  • Ensure that plates and utensils are completely dry before use.
  • Eat at popular and busy restaurants. These places will have a high turnover rate so food is more likely to be fresh.
  • You can’t be too clean! Always wash your hands with soap and get familiar with hand sanitisers.


While Bali Belly is synonymous with travel in Bali, it should not be a deterrent. The island is popular for a reason and there will be no issue if you are vigilant about what you eat and drink. And, you can find comfort in the knowledge that you will recover eventually.


What is your best tip for avoiding Bali Belly?



***After contracting a severe case of Bali Belly and being requested to spend a night in the hospital, this article is nothing more than a reflection of the writer’s experience and what they were recommended.

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