An Idiot’s Guide to Surviving Bali



Let me start by saying if you can’t handle brute honesty then don’t bother reading this post. Just jump straight back on that scooter that you’ve never ridden before, without a helmet and ride into busy Balinese traffic with no road rules. I’m sure you’ll be fine.

We’ve all heard the statistics. An Aussie dies in Bali every nine days. Let that sink in for a bit, because that’s not a small figure. That’s someone’s brother, daughter, friend or uncle. Someone who went for a holiday, an adventure of a lifetime but never came home. That could be you.

Over 600,000 Aussies travel to Bali each year. In 2011-2012 39 of those people didn’t survive the trip, a further 93 needed consular help, 36 were arrested and 18 were jailed.

The two most common reasons for people needing medical assistance in Bali are accidents relating to motorbikes and scooters or nightclub fights and injuries.

It can cost over $60,000 to medically evacuate someone from Bali. Travel insurance doesn’t cover someone who deliberately puts themselves in harm’s way, rides a scooter without an Australian license or is under the influence of alcohol. So basically, the most common reasons you would find yourself needing medical help and assistance.

Deaths from natural causes do occur. Accidents through no fault of the traveller do happen. But the fact remains that in a lot of cases these things were completely avoidable.

I get it. I get the appeal of Bali. It’s only a six hour flight away. Accommodation is cheap, even 5 star can be less than $80 a night. The booze is easy to obtain and costs a quarter of what we’d pay at home. The food is mouth-watering and the seaside restaurants are easy on the wallet. The scenery is a mixture of land, beaches, natural forests, lakes and volcanoes- to say the least it’s impressive.

The people are friendly and even more welcoming. The weather is beautiful all year around. The temples are as remarkable as you would expect. The Katu sunset really is special. There’s a lot to love about Bali.

I also get the feeling of a complete sense of lawlessness. The feeling that you’re in a playground and can do whatever you like without any consequences. A feeling you never get to experience in Australia with all these silly rules and laws to stop you from having fun.

For the 186 people mentioned above though there were consequences. Very real consequences for their actions and for the choices that they made. And so many of these could have been avoided.

Let’s talk about Scooters.

Road deaths are the single largest cause of death in Bali. 3 people die every single day and another 150 are involved in a road accident. The most common of these are caused by motorbike or scooter accidents with most deaths occurring in people aged 18-30.

It’s not recommended to hire a scooter in Bali. There are very little road rules, tourists are often targeted for bribes from the local police and if you have an accident you’ll likely be blamed and have to pay, even if it’s not your fault. That’s if you survive.

It’s not hard to hire a scooter in Bali. If you have a valid international drivers permit then you can just go right ahead and get one, not a problem. If not all you need to do is go down to Densapar police station and do a written test and if you pass which you most likely will, then your temporary permit will cover you for three months after issue.

For your travel insurance to cover you for riding a scooter you must have a valid Australian license and be riding a scooter of 50cc’s or less. The standard bike that is hired in Bali is a 100cc or 125cc four gear, semi-automatic Honda, known in Indonesia as a “Bebek”. I’m sure you can do the maths but I’ll just point out for the sake of it that hiring this scooter means you’re not covered by your travel insurance. To avoid this you must have an Australian Motorbike license to be covered for anything over 50cc’s.

The second most likely reason you’ll find yourself in hospital or death is related to nightclub fights and accidents. In most cases these are fuelled by alcohol related violence. The real kick in the shins is that if you’re intoxicated in any way than your travel insurance is unlikely to cover you.

Speaking of Alcohol- Bali is known for its counterfeit items- knock off handbags, designer clothing, DVD’s, you name it. All pretty innocent enough and unlikely to kill you- with the exception of one. There have been several recorded cases of alcohol in Bali found to be contaminated with methanol. Methanol is poison. It’s not just homemade alcohol sold on the streets, even some international brand name spirits are also being contaminated with it. It’s already killed two Australian tourists and seriously injured many others in the past year alone. 19 year old Liam Davies died after ingesting methanol. He was drinking with friends on the island of Lombok on New Year’s Eve and thought he was drinking vodka with lime. He wasn’t even intoxicated.

The problem with methanol is that you can’t taste it or smell it. The body is unable to absorb it, and poisoning can lead to brain damage, blindness and death. A lot of these recorded incidents victims were drinking in popular tourist nightclubs and bars. The only way to completely avoid this risk when going out is to stick with bottled alcohol only.

Bali is a party destination and with that comes party drugs and illegal substances. It’s common in the tourist areas, nightclubs or along the beach and you can expect to be offered anything from pot, ecstasy or shabu shabu (methamphetamine). You should never rule out the fact that the person offering you this is could be in cahoots with the police. In Southeast Asia governments are known to impose the toughest drug laws on the planet and Indonesia is no exemption to the rule. If you are caught in the presence of drugs, using drugs or dealing drugs you can find yourself facing a lengthy stint in the famous Kerokoban Prison, or in the worst case death by firing squad. Surely common sense would prevail here, the risk is certainly not worth the reward.

Since we are speaking of stupidity, why would you jump off the Nusa Ceningan cliff in Bali that is 13m high if you weren’t an experienced cliff jumper? Do you think the risk of injury just doesn’t apply in Bali? Do you think your spine won’t get hurt because the scenery was so nice and lovely? Spine injuries actually do occur frequently on this jump and if it does happens to you don’t expect a spine board or an ambulance to take you to the nearest hospital. You’ll be climbing back up those rocks with your injured back and then most likely riding on the back of a scooter to get to one. It’s the worst thing you can do for a back injury.

Why would you take drugs in a country well known for its tough stance on it? Why would you jump on the back of a scooter intoxicated? Why would you do anything to endanger yourself?

It’s not rocket science. You’re not invincible, and you’re definitely not invincible in Bali. Just because there seems to be less laws or less restrictions doesn’t mean you should let common sense fly out the window. There are consequences for your actions, especially in Bali. Most people that go there have a great time and arrive home safely. Use your brain and act sensibly. Don’t become another statistic.